My world

A Catholic Parish

Sunday morning, like so many Sunday mornings, we went to mass at Holy Rosary Parish.  A lovely little gem tucked right in the middle of Portland.  Not far from the Rose Garden, not far from the river and just a little ways from the freeway.  But here it is, our parish.  Arguably the most traditional Roman Catholic Parish in the area.

Mass with four children under the age of nine is always an exercise in herding cats and divided attention.  On one hand I am there for me.  I am there to participate in the mass and worship God.  I am there to receive the Eucharist and be part of this wonderful thing that is ever ancient and ever new.  I am also there to teach my children the importance of being there.  To help school them in the Mass so that it will become part of who they are.   Then of course as part and parcel of parenting is the aspect of teaching my children to behave appropriately and not to be disruptive to others.

So Sunday mass, this past Sunday, was like so many other Sundays.  God blessed me with a few moments of uninterrupted prayer.  The children were actually very good.  The mass was lovely and the homily was informative.  Father Carl spoke on the readings of the day, applying them to our lives.  He explained some things we might not have known otherwise about the context of the gospel,  those subtle ways that our culture looks at things somewhat differently than they were 2000 years ago and this might lead us to judge the situation differently.

But the most interesting thing happened while I was leaving.  There were two women, visitors to the parish, and they were gushing. “Did you see the communion rail? No one has one of those anymore, when was the last time you saw one?”  “The veils!” “Most the congregation received on the tongue” “Look at all the children!” 

Being only a couple of feet away I turned and smiled, “So you like our parish?”.

“It’s beautiful!”

And it is beautiful.  Not just beautiful in that it has preserved it Catholicity, but beautiful in that it is alive.  The people are the true treasure of the Church.  The old people, the small children, the pregnant women and blushing youths.   When I look at my parish I don’t really see the beautiful tall stain glassed windows, I don’t see the heavy wood of the confessional doors or the communion rail.  I tend to forget the beautiful stone the altar is made of.  I see the crucifix, I see the tabernacle and I see the people around me.  Some friends, others I barely know but see week after week.  We have a beautiful parish.

Faith in Action

“A tribal faith”

Yesterday was the beginning of CCD for our parish.  We have a wonderful program that draws not only from the parish families, but from the Catholic homeschool community as well.  The tradition has been that the first class is short and the children all attend mass together. 

DS4 and I sat at the back of the church while DS8 and DD6 were sitting with their classes.  The homily was really interesting.  Fr spoke about  St Januarius’ blood in Naples and how the miraculous liquefaction was such an important thing to the people of that city.  While we (just about anyone who isn’t Neapolitan) might view it as superstition and tut-tut it to them it is faith enhancing and faith promoting.  He used a very interesting term to describe it “Tribal”.  I think it is a very good term and it brought to mind several of the descriptions of faith in the later Dune books.  That faith, human faith, is a powerful thing.

There is something about Catholicism that seems much more real than many other forms of Christianity (ok yes I see my own bias here… but at the moment I don’t care I am emoting) We are a faith of blood and flesh.  We worship a god, a sacrifice.  “Lord God,  Lamb of God: You take away the sins of the world.”  It is this essential aspect to Catholic worship that makes a Catholic mass very different from other Christian Worship services. 

The non-Catholic worship services I have been at have usually been very uplifting types of event.  I mean absolutely no disrespect in this.  To gather to praise and worship God is a wholly good thing, a holy thing.  And I have certainly enjoyed the protestant events I have attended.  But they aren’t mass. 

I have heard too many Catholics complain, and too many non-Catholic visitors wonder, at the rather subdued nature of the mass.  In fact we are only slowly recovering from the “mass should be more entertaining” post-Vatican II debacle of the past three decades.  Mass isn’t supposed to be entertaining.  This isn’t about going and sitting in a pew and having church functionaries get up and put on a show for you.  Mass is about going and re-becoming part of the sacrificial meal, the Eucharistic event, the moment in time that is for all time, the offering of the Lamb of God.  That is mass.

We have surrounded that moment at the alter with ritual that has become rite.  We read, we sing, we light candles and incense and most of all we pray.  We do things in a certain order and with tradition and meaning to nearly ever gesture, to every item, to the colors we use and songs we sing and the art work on the walls.  It all matters. 

I think it is somehow sad when I walk into the bigger suburban parishes that have attempted to modernism the mass.   While their motive are good and genuine the results are disaster.  In wanting to appeal to a population seeped in a culture of entertainment, where if something doesn’t grab their attention in five minutes they become bored and disconnected the obvious answer seems to be to change the mass.  Make it more fun, liven it up a bit… bring in dancers and a lazar show (I wish I was kidding there I really do).   This hasn’t worked, it can’t the nature of the mass forbids it.  They inevitably have lost the very nature of Catholic identity and as a consequence unhitched themselves from the universal Catholic experience.  While universal the Church is also primordial and tribal, the rite is primal and tribal.  While it might vary slightly from place to place it doesn’t depart far from its origins and rite without also losing its authenticity.   It is exactly that authenticity that become so very important in a world where the superficial is so important in every other sphere.  People turn to faith to reconnect to the primal, the tribal, the Real.  When that is removed or decentralized in an attempt to entertain the mass looses all relevance.

The nature of the mass is sacrifice.  One can not take the offering of Jesus, His death and His resurrection the connection with our Creator in the intimate way of partaking of His Body and His Blood and turn it into something light and fluffy.  No matter how many whiz-bang ideas you try to superimpose on the mass you aren’t going to make it fun.   God, become flesh offering His very self for our sins and the sins of the world to reconcile our fallen natures to His perfect love is not “fun”.  It is important serious and real.

 Mass can be the best experience of the day or week.  It can lift us up, give us hope, take away our pains and fears, give us the opportunity to leave our sins at the foot of the cross and the chance to wait quietly in the special and real presence of our Savior.   It sends us out into the world renewed and prepared to make a difference if we are willing to go there.  We have to be wanting to make a difference in ourselves we have to actively participate in the mass with our hearts, minds and prayers.  

Faith in Action

Too much to say

…and no words to say it.

 I have been a bit quiet lately.  Not because I have nothing to say, but because there are so many things I am thinking about but I am having a bit of trouble getting it all written down.

So I will start with something easy.  Girl’s clothing.  Slate (of all places) has a very funny take on shopping for you 10-14  year old daughter.  In Lolita’s Closet Emily Yoffe describes a recent shopping trip in which she tries to outfit her daughter in clothing that is fashionable, comfortable and not screaming “Please molest my daughter.”  A tough thing to do as any parent of a pre-teen will tell you. 

Every parent out there has been in Ms. Yoffee’s shoes.   There are only so many options when looking to clothe our children: you are either given clothing, you buy clothing or you make it.  Most of us head to the mall or department store where things start to go wrong some how.  Ms. Yoffee and myself look at these racks of suggestive and sometimes downright scandalous clothing and steer our little girls to the least offensive options we can find.  But SOMEONE is buying this stuff.  Someone has to be or they wouldn’t sell it.   Who is buying it?  Why the parents next door or down the street or sitting next to you at the ball game.  The “why” is what I find interesting.  I am still working on that one.  But I can tell you it was a serrious shock to me when one of my daughter’s classmate’s mothers made the remark “If you got it I guess you should flaunt it.”  This about her own 12 or 13 year old child…  What a weird world we live in.