Seattle vs. Saginaw

A reader writes:

I was in Seattle last week for a seminar for work. It’s a gorgeous city. I really hope I get the chance to come back for a real family vacation some time. A trek to Mount Rainier seems like fun.

I was there during Assumption and I had the pleasure of attending Mass at your cathedral. It was a beautiful liturgy. I really felt like I was there worshipping the Lord. The music was beautiful, the reverence was beautiful and the homily was good. Besides the priest not saying “man” during the Creed, it was great. I wish that zeal were present more often.

Unfortunately, later that week, I had to attend a mass in the diocese of Saginaw for the first time. The kneelers were ripped out of the pews, the priest told us that Jesus’s comments to the Gentile woman were “close-minded and unfortunate” and I can’t hardly describe the music. The we/us to God ratio was rather high, if you know what I mean. They also had some cheesy “mood music” during the prayers, etc. Strange. So, I had both ends of the spectrum within a few days’ time and I must say, the people of Seattle are blessed and we should pray for those who have to go to mass in the Saginaw diocese every week. It would be spiritually tough.

Anyway, I’m thinking of writing a letter to the pastor there. I tend to complain about bad liturgies but I’m sure the priests during liturgy properly would appreciate the support, since the pressure from the liturgist community is probably great.

I agree whole-heartedly with your assessment of the glories of Seattle. There is no place on earth more beautiful in the summer especially.

It’s a strange thing to hear Seattle held up as a model of Catholic orthodoxy. This tells me how bleak it must be in Saginaw more than anything else.

Apropos the close-minded and unfortunate exegesis of your homilist. A priest (not at my beloved Blessed Sacrament parish) also gave the strong impression that Jesus was a racist at the homily I attended. He allowed as how Our Lord permitted himself to be “converted” and that we need to imitate that.

No Padre. We need to be converted in order to conform to Christ who does not change, not in order to go along with an imaginary Christ who conforms to the opinions of the NY Times editorial board. Jesus was not “converted” from racism because he was not a racist. Remember him? He’s the guy who shocked his racist and sexist countrymen by talking with women, Samaritans, and Roman centurions. He did not have his consciousness raised by the Canaanite woman. He challenged his Judean countrymen (and his bigoted disciples) by joshing with her and then honoring her faith (read the whole passage, not with the voice of Charlton Heston in your head, but with the playful sparring of a culture that highly values verbal ingenuity and it has a very different feel).

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Remember, such passage cannot be read in isolation. Matthew locates this encounter in the middle of a long series of passages which show Jesus challenging the preconceptions of the Pharisee (and of his disciples) about just who was “in” and “out”. Jesus has already made very clear that furriners are not the “dogs” that the common parlance of his countrymen thought they were. He does not suddenly don a Klan hood in this passage. He is playing. And playing with a woman who has a lot of moxie. Such women are not strangers in Scripture. They turn up in the Old Testament a number of times, often to challenge very important figures indeed with pleas to Do the Right Thing. She stands in a long biblical Tradition of women who pled their just case before everybody from Judah to King David. And Jesus, so far from recoiling from her, thoroughly likes her.