A Glass of Chianti

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Catholic stuff

I don't normally talk about my parish here. One of the reasons is that doing so can put me in a funky mood. There's nothing overtly terrible that happens there, but the atmosphere isn't very reverent (which discourages me) and it is very much focused on the gathering of the church community and finding God in one another rather than finding God in the Eucharist. I understand that the reason they do this is that there is a temptation to get caught up in the artifice of worship and forget to look below that. There's another post for another (smarter) author...

Anyway, I bring all of this up because part of the homily today got under my skin. In the middle of an semi-incoherent (par for the course) exhortation to be a "welcoming parish" (which is the homily we get every week*) Father started to talk about how much he loves our parish. He loves the parishioners because they make visitors feel welcome.** He loves the diversity. He loves the variety of families that worship here. He loves the dedication of the youth group.... it went on for a while. There's no objection from me on this. It's wonderful to hear people talk about why they are happy, and it does needle me into being less negative, which is a regrettable tendency of mine.

But then he said that he loved the fact that we weren't "married to rubrics" and that we didn't have anyone in the parish who was "one of those types that thinks receiving Holy Communion in the hand is sacrilege." The first part was delivered with a little sideways glance (met with a smile... because I'm just that kinda girl) in my direction and the second was really not directed at me, even though I'm the only one who does receive on the tongue. I started thinking about the super-devoted awesome Catholics I "know" through St. Blog's. I couldn't think of one of them who would think that receiving Holy Communion in the hand is sacrilegious. I've read a few who think that it's improper. I know a few who would think that it's irreverent, but I couldn't think of one who would think that people who receive in the hand are sacrilegious. Other than schismatics, who thinks this? It just seemed an unnecessary knock at a straw man.

Look, I'm not one of those traditionalists who camps out at the rectory to tell the priests how to run the parish. I don't pout about the fact that people are holding hands during the Our Father. I don't complain about how much the Haugen stuff really gets on my nerves. I don't walk out of Mass in a huff because the General Intercessions are yelled out by congregation members impromptu Baptist revival style. I walk out of Mass incredibly happy that I was able to be in the presence of Christ - body, blood, soul and divinity. I start looking forward to Sunday Mass (and not just for the donuts afterwards) around... oh... Saturday afternoon. I've not given up on my parish, I just am convinced that we could be doing so much more. When I go to Mass there it feels as if we are offering out best selves to each other and not to God. The focus is so much on the "welcoming community" that it seems that God gets lost in the shuffle. I know that I seem a little standoff-ish and probably a little cold to my fellow parishioners. The fact of the matter is that I'm not at Mass to see them, I'm at Mass to take part in something that's bigger than all of us, and it is so easy to get seduced into thinking that the Mass is about us when everyone is so "welcoming" all the time.

Ugh. I feel a little better. This is a talk I've been needing to have for a while. :)

*There was a wonderfully cute baby being baptized today, so the topic was at least tangentially related to the goings-on of the Mass. But we do get this homily every week. *sigh*
**Truly, visitors and regular parishioners do feel welcome. There are lots of very nice, well-meaning welcomers in the pews on Sunday. It is a very friendly church.