How Do You Leave the Catholic Church?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Robert Cheaib https://www.flickr.com/photos/theologhia/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Robert Cheaib https://www.flickr.com/photos/theologhia/

How can you leave the Catholic Church?

I ask this question and give my answer at the National Catholic Register.

How can you leave the Catholic Church?

The question was rhetorical, not literal. I asked it of the air, more or less, as my husband was driving the car. At the same time that I asked it rhetorically, I meant it absolutely.

I recently talked to someone I know who told me that she’d “left” the Catholic Church. She’s now attending one of those smorgasbord mega-congregations where they serve you Jesus-as-you-like-him. I felt as if I was listening to a person who’d told me that they had decided to give up eating balanced meals and ingest nothing cotton candy and donuts.

I get as aggravated with the Church as the next Catholic. I don’t mind at all saying that I think this bishop or that has gotten it wrong. I’ve been very outspoken about the failure to stop child sex abuse by priests. Very. I’ve been equally outspoken about the failure in some quarters to take a strong stand on basic Church teaching, and the propensity of some bishops for throwing hapless underlings under the proverbial bus so the bishop can pander to the crowds. I just recently wrote a rather strong series of posts on the question of the Church and rape.

Our wonderful Church gives us great freedom to think and let think, and I exercise that freedom.

But … leave the Church?

I mean, how does one do that?

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/rhamilton/how-can-you-leave-the-catholic-church/#ixzz3fVe8nwAU

 

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10 Things You can Do to Save Your Family and Change the World

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Lars Ploughman https://www.flickr.com/photos/criminalintent/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Lars Ploughman https://www.flickr.com/photos/criminalintent/

I’m going to launch into the political ramifications of the Supreme Court Decision destroying marriage as a legal construct in a day or so.

But before I do, I want to make a simple point: Conversion of the culture does not begin at the ballot box or changes in the law. It ends there.

Conversion of the culture does not even begin with bringing your family and friends to Christ. That’s a mid-point.

Conversion of the culture begins with yielding your own self and your life to Christ in an absolute way. That is the beginning. Everything else – everything else — flows from that.

St Paul did not jump off his mule and start preaching. He was knocked off and into the dirt and left blind. He had to come face to face with Christ and his own sinfulness before he became the Apostle to the Gentiles.

We will not convert this culture by excoriating and condemning sinners, for the obvious reason that we are all sinners. Many of the people who are condemning gay marriage have trashed their own marriages and dumped their own children.

If they are divorced, they don’t spend time with their children, or they spitefully try to keep their children away from their former spouse. They don’t pay child support and they spend their days going over and over how they were wronged.

If they are married, they sleep around, or talk to their families like they were dirt under their feet. They harangue their children and spouses, or worse yet, they are physically violent with them. How many of the people who loudly proclaim the sanctity of marriage commit adultery? How many of them sit in front of the tv and ignore their families? How many of them ignore or even abuse their elderly parents? How many of them do not show up for school plays or be a trusted best friend when their spouse is in distress?

If we want to convert the culture, we have to begin with ourselves. It’s that simple.

Here are 10 things you can do to save your family in this family-despising, family-attacking culture of ours:

1. Go into marriage with the idea that this is your only spouse. If remarriage is off the table, divorce is not going to be such an easy option.

I know that there are times when divorce has to happen. If somebody’s beating up on somebody, if there is adultery or chemical abuse with a refusal to get help, then divorce may very well be the only door open. But divorce is a civil solution to a moral problem. What God has joined together, man can not put asunder.

Go into marriage with the knowledge that this person is your life’s partner, the only one who will walk with you through your days. That viewpoint will immediately raise your spouse’s value in your eyes. Keep that viewpoint in front of you, and remember: This person’s happiness and your happiness are bound with a life-long cord.

Hurting your spouse is hurting yourself. Never forget that.

2. Put Jesus Christ on the throne of your life and your marriage. Do not do this lightly. Prayerfully consider the option of a formal enthronement of Christ as the Head of your home. I have not done this, but my husband and I are talking about it. I have friends who have done it, and I’ve seen the fruits of it in their lives. For more information, go here.

3. Get on your knees and pray together every night before bed. My wonderful Aunt Tid and Uncle Ozzie did this every day of their married lives. They had a list of people and problems that they lifted up to the Lord together before they went to bed each night. This is true communion of spirits between a man and a wife. It is a powerful uniting of life and soul. Everyone I know who does this has a marriage that is filled with mutual devotion, love and happiness.

4. Do not harangue your family members who have fallen short of your Christian ideal, even those who have fallen far short of it. Love them, continue to be family to them, and pray, pray, pray.

Remember also the things you’ve done. I worry about my kids — a lot. But I know that they are much more together than I was at the same age.

My parents never stopped loving me and they never pushed me away. Love them. Love them. And pray. And remember St Monica. And pray some more. Then, trust Jesus.

If the Holy Spirit wants you to speak up, He will open the door. I’ve had this happen, and when I speak in His time and with the words He gives me, it never fails to be the right thing. Just … trust Him.

5. Go to mass. If you can, go to daily mass. But at least go to mass every Sunday. Every time you take communion, Christ heals you. I feel it, and so will you. I need it, and so do you.

6. Be loyal to the pope. Don’t follow internet popes who attack the Holy Father. Do not be so foolish as to make a little pope out of yourself.

I hate to say this, but the bishops are all over the map on a lot of things. The same politician will be told during election years (It always seems to be during election years.) that he or she may not take communion, in, say, Sioux City, but can take communion in, say, Dodge City. It’s the same politician; the same sin. But a different bishop.

What are those of us in the pews to make of this? Does it confuse you? It certainly confuses me.

We need the pope. The pope is the only world leader of his type. He alone speaks for over a billion people who live under every government, in every clime. His voice reaches from pole to pole; dateline to dateline.

That is why the press goes ga-ga over his every utterance. It is why politicians of every persuasion alternately revile and pander to him.

But it is not why we should be loyal to him. His temporal reach has nothing to do with our call to loyalty to the pope. We must be loyal to the pope because he stands in the shoes of the fisherman. He is Peter. And Jesus Christ said that on Peter He would build His Church.

Be loyal to the pope.

7. Pray the Rosary. Pray the Rosary in a meditative way, thinking about the Scriptures the decades represent and what they mean to you. Take your fears and problems, rejoicings and griefs to Our Lady and pray with her to Jesus. If praying with your spouse binds you to one another, think how praying with Jesus’ own mother will bind you to Him.

8. Ask God to show you your sins. We are all blind to our own faults. Everyone of us is capable of the intellectual sophistry which allows us to proclaim our sins a virtue and condemn those of the person next to us. That is the nature of our nature. It is a manifestation of our fallen state. It is us, listening to the devil without the slightest awareness that this is what we are doing.

The Holy Spirit is a loving guide to our own hearts. He will reveal your self to you to the extent that you are capable of comprehending and reacting with grace to this painful truth. Trust Him. He will not dump all your sins on you like an acid bath that destroys you. He will show you what you can take at the time. And then He will be with you as you face it and convert away from it.

The Holy Spirit is a great teacher of willing souls. But you must be willing. Ask God to show you your sins, then accept and repent of the sins He shows you. Realize that this is a life-long process. Be grateful for it. He is fitting you for heaven.

9. Forgive others. This is often the toughest one of all. It’s easy enough to forgive those you love and who love you. It’s not too tough to forgive anyone who sincerely admits they hurt you and asks for forgiveness.

It gets more difficult when you are dealing with a person who has hurt you and who continues to hurt you and who claims that you deserve the hurt. It is impossible under your own power to forgive certain violations of your humanity such as violent rape or torture.

In these areas, forgiveness is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and it does not come cheaply. The cost is letting go of the great defense of anger that has freed you from victimhood.

Too often, people practice a phony forgiveness, a premature rush to proclaim forgiveness, which does not allow them the dignity of proclaiming their own worth and value in the face of what has been done to them. This is particularly true when they have suffered soul-destroying attacks on their humanity that can actually cause a kind of psychological death such as violent rape, torture, slavery or child sexual abuse.

Before we forgive, we must first know and believe to our depths that we were wronged, that we are not the receptacles for other people’s trash they these people have reduced us to. This is difficult if the world around us will not affirm this with us.

Anyone who faces this should read the book of Job. I don’t think the book of Job is, as is usually claimed, about suffering. I don’t think it is about suffering at all. I think it is about victim-blaming.

That’s what Job’s “friends” did to him. It’s what happens to any victim who is among those the culture proclaims may have “asked for” the evil that was done to them.

Forgiveness in the face of this is only possible when it comes from God. God alone can give us the certainty of our own humanity and worth that is so rock solid and absolute that we are free to lay down the defense of our humiliated rage and forgive from the heart.

This circles back to earlier points. Scripture tells us that if we “seek the Lord, He will draw near to you.” Everything I’ve listed above, including #1 is a way of seeking the Lord.

10. Accept God’s forgiveness. I’ve had a real tussle with this one and more than once. The most dramatic and public of these situations was after God showed me the full horror of what I had done by being pro choice.

I was plunged into grief, shame, remorse that went beyond the graces of confession. Long story short, after a long period of intense grief, I finally realized (this was probably from the Holy Spirit) that I had to have the humility to accept God’s forgiveness.

It is a kind of narcissism to think that your sins are bigger than God’s mercy. Nothing we can do is beyond the mercy of God.

There are times when it takes humility and trust to accept God’s forgiveness. But those moments plunge us into what He told St Faustina was the “ocean of my mercy.”

No matter what you have done, confess your sins and accept His forgiveness.

These are 10 things that you can do to save your family. Notice that not one of them is political. Not one of them involves any of the solutions that are usually recommended for marriages and families in trouble.

Every single thing I’ve mentioned is about you and your spouse, getting right with God and trusting Him.

That is how Christians change the world. We do it by giving ourselves without reservation to the One Who made us and loves us and who will be with us the end of time.

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Who is Jesus? Come and Kneel Before Him Now.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon https://www.flickr.com/photos/4thglryofgod/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon https://www.flickr.com/photos/4thglryofgod/

It’s been a while since I posted this. I think it deserves another look.

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… and this one from Downey, California.

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… and Market Square in Knoxville, Tennessee

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I Chose Christ, and He is There on All the Altars of All the Catholic Churches in the World.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Robert Cheaib https://www.flickr.com/photos/theologhia/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Robert Cheaib https://www.flickr.com/photos/theologhia/

The Catholic Patheosi are writing about why we chose to stay in the doomed Catholic Church.

I mean, it’s been in all the news lately that the Catholic Church is on the way out. We’re supposed to be over and done for, or at least going down for the count. Catholic teachings are irrelevant to the world today, or so we’re told.

So why would anyone stay in the Catholic Church? Is staying Catholic a twisted desire for irrelevance and being out of step with the world? Do we stay because we have nothing better to do with that hour each week?

Here, in three sentences, is why I stay.

1. Christ in the Eucharist called me to the Catholic Church.

2. Christ is in the Eucharist.

3. Christ has not told me to leave.

That’s it.

To the best of my ability, and according to the grace that I am given, I follow Jesus Christ and Him crucified. If you want to find Jesus Christ and Him crucified, go to a Catholic Church. He’s there, on all the altars of all the Catholic Churches in all the world.

The priest may ride with Jesse James, and the bishop may be as confused as the priest. The people in the seats around you may be all kinds of sinners. You may be all kinds of sinner yourself.  But Jesus Christ the Lord is there — body, blood, soul and divinity — on that altar. And He’s there for you.

You can reach out and touch Him. You can partake of Him. You can be blessed, healed and loved by Him in a concrete, direct and completely reliable way, just by going to a Catholic Church and taking communion.

You hold out your hands and Christ is laid on your upright palm. You taste the wine and the blood of God Who died for you enters into you. You partake of His Passion, and you share in His triumph. He rose so that you may live forever. He died so that you can enter into God’s great ocean of mercy and forgiveness. He cleansed you with that blood you taste, saved you with the flesh hidden in bread on your palm.

I am not leaving the Catholic Church, because Christ in the Eucharist called me to the Church. I am not leaving the Catholic Church, because Christ is in the Eucharist and I partake of Him and His blessings in communion. I stay in the Catholic Church because my Lord and my God put me here and He has not told me to leave.

I chose Christ, and He is there on all the altars of all the Catholic Churches in all the world.

 

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I’m Triaging My Life for Thriving, Not Just Surviving

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

I volunteered to host my book club at my house tonight.

Then, life piled on and I made a decision to move the book club meeting to a local restaurant. My fellow book-clubbers were not only gracious about it, they seemed delighted with the prospect of dining while we talk.

I could, if I had been stupid, have soldiered through, putting together snacks and polishing my house so I could play hostess. But that would have been, as I said, stupid.

I had plans to write a blog post today about a topical issue, taking my own slant on the subject. I’d done some research, filed the links in Omnifocus and had it ready to put together. That was going to be today’s big post.

Then, Mama’s hallucinations came back and I need to spend the day going from doc to doc. I could, if I had been stupid, have skipped my early-morning aerobics class and put that post together. But that would been, as I said, stupid.

Both these things would have violated the triage I’ve set up for my life. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to establish iron-clad priorities and stick with them, even when it stings. That’s the life of every successful elected official. I would never have been elected without the ability to do this, and I could never have passed all the legislation and taken care of my district and still had a happy home life without it, either.

I thought I was past that kind of self-discipline when I walked out of the House. I ping-ponged around for months, while the exigencies of Mama’s dementia made hash of my life, my health and my state of mind. I wasn’t managing these things; they were managing me.

It all came to a resounding crash a couple of months ago. Mama’s dementia tripped over into active 24/7 hallucinations of the ugly kind, and then, right on schedule, I got sick and couldn’t get well. Suddenly, I was out so deep in the deep that I couldn’t touch bottom, and I was so tired, that, try as I might, I was swallowing water and dipping under.

Enter depression, a big shot of despair and anger. It was miserable.

I prayed and prayed and I didn’t think I was getting answers. But God was answering me, He just wasn’t telling me about it. Help came in the form of new medications and healing in my own body. Help came in that small still voice that told me that I wasn’t going to be able to do this perfectly, but doing it in a messy way with lots of mistakes was alright. It was ok to just muddle through.

God gave me something I didn’t pray for but which has helped me more than I can say. He gave me peace with my own weaknesses and faults, acceptance of my failures and stumbles. He gave me His love and His acceptance and His assurance that imperfect was good enough.

I didn’t hear voices, and I didn’t get specific direction. What I got was a gentle attagirl and a loving Peace, Be Still.

The rest came from me. God gave me courage and peace. He freed my mind from the depression and anguish and that let me find my own way out of the woods.

Robert Frost said that the way out is through. In this case, he was absolutely right. The way out is through. I’m not the perfect daughter doing the perfect job of caregiving. I am just me, seeing my Mama home the best way that I can.

The first rule of going through is to make sure that you get through. What that means in direct terms is don’t get sick. In the new triage of my life, I have a husband, a mother, and my own self to tend to. My precious children are adults who can and do take care of themselves. Not only that, but they’ve come on board big time in terms of Mama, or as they call her, Amah care.

My first priority isn’t taking care of Mama or even being a wife to my husband. My first priority is taking care of me. By that I mean two simple things: Don’t get sick spiritually and don’t get sick physically.

A couple of the Catholic Patheosi are pretty much saints. I won’t embarrass them by detailing their life of prayer and worship. It’s enough for the purposes of this post to say that I ain’t them. For me, not getting sick spiritually depends an awful lot on God’s mercy. I pray, and I pray often. But many of my prayers are said while I’m driving my car or loading the dishwasher or giving Mama her bath or throwing out her dirty diapers.

One constant prayer is simply that God will save me from my inner jerk.

I go to mass, but only once a week. There was a time when I went every day, but not now. I probably should start going more often, simply because every time I take the Eucharist, it heals me, and I do need healing. But it’s tough to start something new right now.

My first area of triage is simply this: Get 8 hours sleep (I’m not doing so good at this one), go to aerobics class and ride my recumbent bike on the off days, stop eating junk. This is number one. If I crater physically, I can’t do anything else.

Right next to this is pay the bills, keep the car and house maintained. This isn’t time consuming, but it must be done.

Still in the first area of triage is say a prayer, read the Bible and play some music on the piano every day. The piano soothes and heals me almost as much as sleep and exercise. Ditto for prayer and Scripture.

Then, my next first area of triage is take care of Mama. This is huge. It’s hours and hours. It’s unpredictable and crazy making. It’s why I have to stay prayed up and exercise, sleep, eat right. I can not take care of Mama unless I do those things.

The other thing in my first area of triage is my husband. He’s my other half, my life’s partner, my lover and my love. It’s a joy to spend time with him. I can’t let him and our relationship be shoved out of my life by other things.

Spiritual and physical health, Mama, hubby: These are first priorities.

Second priorities are the book and the blog. The blog comes after the book in priorities.

Third is everything else. That includes keeping the house clean, doing laundry, etc.

So, the reason I haven’t been blogging as much is simple. The blog got bumped to second place of second place. I blog after I take care of me, Mama, hubby, pay the bills, change the oil in my car, get the air conditioner serviced and write my book. The blog still comes in ahead of running the vacuum and doing the laundry. Fortunately, those things fit easily in odd moments.

When I need to stand up and take a break, I vacuum the living room or empty the dishwasher.

What I don’t do is skip aerobics to blog or short-change my husband to work on the book.

That, my friends, is the new triage of my life. It seems to be working, but as I said, Mama’s hallucinations are back. That may well force a whole new paradigm on me. I’m doing doctor duty today. And that’s why this is the only post you’ll see from me until tomorrow.

Prayers and blessings to each of you.

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5 Ways to Do Holy Thursday for Shut Ins and Shut Outs

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Word https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Word https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Go to mass tonight if you can. You will be blessed.

If you’re sick or you have to work or for some other reason you cannot go, try to take a moment to think on Jesus. You may be so busy or in such a problem that finding time for worship or contemplation of any sort is difficult. On the other hand, you may be flat on your back with nothing but time, dripping slowly by.

Here are 5 ways you can do Holy Thursday if you are shut in from illness or shut out because of other imperatives.

1. Pray. 

For those with time, pray the Rosary. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. If you are sick, offer up your pains for conversions.

If you are pushing through a day with no rest stops, pray the Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Or, pray a Hail Mary.

Or, just stop for a moment and think about Gethsemane and say “Thank you Jesus.”

If you are in your own, personal, Gethsemane today, ponder what He faced there and remember that God understands what you are going through. He knows with the knowing of having been there Himself.

2. Read the Bible. Read the transfiguration (Mark, chapter 9) or the Last Supper (Mark 14) or the story of Gethsemane (Mark 14.) Read Psalm 22.

Better yet, read them all.

When you read, ponder for a moment the power of this story. I could write many thousands of words discussing these Scripture readings and never touch their full meaning. This is the promise of our redemption, the New Covenant which fulfills that of the Old Testament, and the all-too-human suffering of abandonment and The Alone.

Read it and pray over it. Put yourself there, in the disciples’ sandals, with Jesus as He prayed to let this cup pass from Him. Let God show you the understanding of it that you need for today.

3. Watch something edifying on tv. So much of what we see in the media at this time of year is a thinly-disguised attack on the faith through bogus scholarship presented as an “investigation” into the “real Jesus” or “what really happened.”

The simple fact is that these are deconstructions of Scripture based on little more than the fantasies of the “scholars” who put them forward. Most of the time, if you backcheck these “experts” you will find that they are people with an agenda, usually having to do with their dislike of the Church’s stand on things such as gay marriage and abortion.

They are attacking Christianity because Christianity poses a barrier to the universal acceptance of their viewpoints. However, they are not doing this in a forthright and honest way. They are using phony “scholarship” and an anti-Christian media to unfairly and inaccurately bash Christianity in hopes of weakening its ability to oppose them in the marketplace of ideas.

I had all but given up on tv.

Then, I found some edifying videos on Amazon Prime; lives of the saints, Church history, inspiring stories of faithful Christian witness. I suggest you seek them out and watch them. I’ve looked for similar things on Netflix and couldn’t find them. If you find good ones in other venues, please share them here.

4. Sing or play music. I’ve been under the weather for the past three weeks, and I haven’t felt up to playing my piano. That’s a huge deprivation for me. I’m going to change that today, at least for a while, and tap out a hymn or two. I have lots of Christian music of all genres on my iPhone. I play that and sing along in my rusty voice.

Music is worship with wings, especially, playing the piano. If you pick the guitar or bow the fiddle or pound the ivories, make a joyful noise to the Lord. If you don’t play an instrument, or don’t have access to one, sing a hymn, and if all else fails, just listen to Christian music for a while in your car or at your house.

5. Talk about Jesus with your Christian friends. I don’t mean making a speech or trying to convert someone. I mean just talking about the events of this week 2,000 years ago with a fellow Christian.

Don’t try to be profound. Just fellowship by talking about Our Lord with another Christian.

I know there are many other ways to “do” Holy Thursday if you can’t get to mass. I also know that even if you do go to mass, these are also important things to do.

A Christian can never engage in too much prayer, Scripture, and private worship in the guise of watching good Christian entertainment, making a joyful noise unto the Lord and talking about Him with other people who love Him.

Build yourself up in Christ today, step by step, brick by brick.

This is Holy Thursday. No matter your circumstance, you can find a moment and a means to love Him today. It will be your blessing if you do.

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Is the Liturgy Really That Bad?

Photo Source: Flickr Commons. Uploaded by Michael 1952.

Photo Source: Flickr Commons. Uploaded by Michael 1952.

We’ve recently had a dust-up here on Public Catholic because I had the temerity to (1) disagree rather strongly with Cardinal Burke, and (2) come out in support of altar girls.

You would think that I had  barbecued a kitten.

I deleted a ton of hate-women comments in the course of this discussion. I also deleted another ton of hate-Rebecca comments. According to a good number of commenters, I’ve got myself a ticket to a first-class seat in that proverbial hand bucket headed to hell, all because I think we should have altar girls.

I had to delete that claptrap. If I had let it through, any self-respecting woman would have walked away wondering why she, or any other female person, would want to be part of the Catholic Church. At the same time, someone who didn’t actually go to mass on a regular basis might think that we’re running a carny show, complete with clown suits and balloons, behind the altars of our churches.

Of course, both assumptions would be off the mark. I’m going to set aside the woman question for a moment. That will give time for all those folks who dislike the fair sex so very much to draw a breath and gather themselves for the next attack.

I am instead going to stick my head into the liturgy hay bailer.

My question is simply this: Is the liturgy really that bad?

I mean, I go to mass on a regular basis and Jesus Christ the Lord is there every single time. You can count on it. He is there.

I remember wandering back into the sanctuary after Holy Thursday service one Tridium;  after we’d stripped the altar, removed the Host and doused the flame. The difference was stark. That sanctuary, which had always held a warm Presence every time I entered it, had been transformed into an empty, echoey room. There was no Jesus in that place, and the lack thereof was palpable.

So now we have a Cardinal, a prince of the Church, telling us that the liturgy is all messed up and driving men away from the Church because it has been “feminized.” Evidently, there are a lot of people out there who agree with him.

Public Catholic was deluged with angry commenters, swooping in to announce that the liturgy at our masses — the same liturgy that soothes my soul and brings me in direct contact with my Lord — is straight from the infernal regions. It makes me wonder if they and I are members of the same Catholic Church.

As I’ve already said, and will be happy to say again at any time, I think the Cardinal is playing the blame game. I think that for a Catholic Cardinal to blame anything about the liturgy on women, is, well, almost comical. He is the cardinal. If there is a problem with the liturgy, it’s his responsibility, not that of the womenfolk who sit at the back of the hierarchical bus.

Now, I’m going to take on those poor sad Catholics who seem to live to criticize our Church and its liturgy. As I said, I go to mass on a regular basis. I’ve also gone to mass in a number of places. I’ve never attended mass on the East Coast of the United States, so maybe that’s where the priests in clown suits and tap-dancing altar servers show up to do their do. I don’t know.

All I know is that I’ve never seen it. I have gone to mass in (gasp!) San Francisco, and (another gasp!) Seattle. What I encountered there was the same mass — about half of whose attendees were male, btw — that I saw at various points around the globe, as well as here in God’s country, otherwise known as Oklahoma.

Every mass has had some sort of fumble or titter from the pews. Sometimes a cell phone rings and is then hastily silenced. Babies cry, babies crow, little old ladies belch, the priest gets the words slightly wrong, or the altar server stumbles. I’ve seen people drop the Host and people keel over in a faint and priests trip.

I’ve seen priests who couldn’t stand, sit throughout their homilies and then totter to the altar and, ever so shakily, consecrate the Host and barely lift it up.

I’ve heard applause, and seen people hold hands during the Our Father, and other people get all sniffy about holding hands during the Our Father and transsexuals looking downright odd in their wigs and lipstick and truck driver arms and tattoos. I’ve seen women in saris and men in golfing shorts, and knelt in pews beside folks who needed a bath. I’ve heard mass in Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean and English. I’ve attended quick daily masses that took about 20 minutes, and full-on masses that lasted for an hour and a half or more.

Every liturgy I ever attended was unworthy of Christ the Lord. I know that every liturgy I ever attend will be unworthy of Him, as well. What I have never seen, not once, was a liturgy that was unworthy of me.

I’ve attended mass in living rooms, hotel basements, and once, on a mountaintop with the ocean spread in a 360 degree arc at its base. Every place I’ve gone, every mass I attended, I encountered Christ the Lord.

I didn’t encounter a Django Jesus, standing beside the altar with a baseball bat, ready to smack down the unworthies who try to approach Him. The Jesus I meet in the Eucharist of every Catholic mass is the Good Shepherd, the Jesus of the Cross, Who lays down His life for His sheep.

I have never walked away from the Eucharist feeling condemned. In fact, that encounter with Christ washes away the self-condemnation I so often bring with me when I approach it. I reach out and touch the living Christ, hiding in a wafer, and I walk away feeling accepted and loved.

Considering what sinful people we all are, I don’t see how anyone can approach God with hearts seething with condemnation of the people around them. Do these folks really go to mass and sit there, pick, pick, picking away at the priest, the liturgy, the music?

That is a horrible thought to me. Do you folks of the liturgy cops really, truly enter the Presence of the Lord with hearts full of rage and condemnation?

Don’t you know that you can not enter into the Presence of the Lord that way?

That, and not whether or not people hold hands during the Our Father, or the mass is in Latin or English, or if the people around you are properly reverent, is what can separate you from God.

I feel sorry for these people who spend all their time gnashing their teeth and getting all lathered up over what they see as the terrible liturgy. They are not only missing their blessing, they are taking their blessing and throwing it back into Jesus’ face.

I thank God that we have priests who bring us Jesus at every mass, who consent to be conduits of grace. I have no desire to pick at them over how high they lift the chalice, if they allow applause and whether or not they pray the liturgy with the “proper” amount of gravitas.

I don’t go to mass to find fault. I go to find Jesus.

The truth of life is that no matter what the situation, the occasion, or the event, if you want to sit back and find fault with it, you always can. If you want to go to mass and sit there, ready to carp and complain and pick away at the seams of the thing, you can do it. But if you do that, Jesus Christ will pass right by you and you won’t see Him.

On the other hand, if you go to mass to find Jesus, you will find Him. Because He is there.

My question is this: If Christ the Lord deigns to come to these imperfect masses and give Himself away to the even more imperfect people who worship there, then who are we to criticize?

If the mass and the liturgy are good enough for Jesus to be there, if we, with all our imperfections, are good enough for Him to love us and share Himself with us, then what’s our complaint?

I go to mass to find Jesus, and — this is the miracle — I find Him.

Every mass is a miracle. It is not a miracle of silk, lace and candles. It is a miracle wrought in suffering and blood.

Before we get too worked up about the particulars of the mass, we need to remember that Our Lord uses the most common things to do His work. He began with spit and dirt.

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The Hard Teachings: Are You Going to Leave Me Too?

 

If you do not eat of my flesh and drink of my blood, you will no have life within you. Jesus Christ

The Eucharist was a scandal. Many of Jesus’ followers left Him when He explicitly told them I am the bread of life. 

It is popular today to cast Jesus as a Casper Milquetoast god thingy of our devising. According to popular cant, Jesus’ sole purpose in becoming human was to tell us that, hey, I’m ok and you’re ok. Do what feels good and so long as it doesn’t kill somebody else — unless of course it’s euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research or abortion, in which case, it’s a “human right” to kill somebody else — so long as it doesn’t kill somebody else that you’ve decided it is a denial of human rights not to kill, it’s fine by me.

Jesus’ living teaching about the mercy of God toward the weak and helpless, in particular women, when He said let him who is without sin cast the first stone has been transmuted to mean I can commit any sin I want and the Church is sinning if it says my sin is a sin.

The Eucharist was a hard teaching, a scandalizing teaching, on that day when Jesus first taught it. Many people left Him because of it.

But Jesus didn’t follow after them and try to smooth things over. He didn’t say C’mon back. I didn’t mean it that way.

His reaction — if you have deluded yourself into believing in the Casper Milquetoast Jesus of modern pop theology —  was downright unChristlike.

Stop grumbling among yourselves. He said. It is written, They will all be taught by God.

Then, he doubled down on his teaching about the Eucharist: My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink … Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. 

Finally, He turned to His disciples and said, Are you going to leave me too?

Not, notice, please, please don’t leave me; I was only speaking metaphorically.

He looked at them and without equivocation acknowledged that they were as scandalized by this teaching as those in the crowd, but, again, without wavering one inch on that hard teaching, asked them the real question that He asks each of us: Are you going to leave me, too?

It was a line in the proverbial sand. Stay or go, He was saying, but the teaching will not change.

He asks us, all of us, including our cardinals and bishops, this same question today.  Are you going to leave me, too?

Will the hard teachings of our Christ Jesus, Who was anything but a Casper Milquetoast, be too much for you?

Today’s Catholics wuss right by the hard teaching of the Eucharist. We’ve got that one down.

But the other hard teachings about the sanctity of marriage and human life, about the reality of hell and the fact that yes, Virginia, there is a satan, are too difficult, too embarrassing, too demanding of us in this post-Christian world.

We want to whittle Jesus down, to wear away His rough edges like a bar of soap, until we have a slippery little g god who won’t make things so tough on us. We want our silly addlepated little wimp of a self-made god who won’t trouble us in our desire to be accepted and loved by everybody, including those who are unknowingly following satan when they attack Him.

We want Christ without the cross, eternal life and salvation without redemption and conversion.

It hurts me! Sinners cry. It hurts to be “judged” a sinner just because I break these eternal rules. It rankles and angers me that anyone would think that the things I want to do are wrong.  So, stop saying that. In fact, tell me that what I want — whatever I want — is good and virtuous.

If the Church obliges, it will condemn these people to hell.

It will also condemn itself to inconsequence.

It is one thing to teach that this Church of ours is the cornerstone, that it was built on Peter the rock and that Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against it. It is quite another to arrogantly assume that the Church may change the basic teachings of the faith and teach that which is contrary to what Christ taught and that it will be A-Ok because Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against us.

The first is faith. The second is presumption.

Jesus did not mean whatever this Church does is holy because the Church does it. His great Apostle, St Paul, said quite clearly, God is not mocked. 

John the Baptist told the Pharisees, when they went into the wilderness to refute him for his preaching, that everyone — including them — was in need of redemption. He then smashed their self-justifying claims of exemption from following the laws of God. Do not say we are sons of Abraham, he told them. God can raise up sons of Abraham from these very stones. 

Jesus said it best, of course, when He said, A servant is not greater than his master.

That applies to those who wear the mitre just as it does to the rest of us.

Perhaps the hardest teaching in that day of hard teachings when Christ the Lord made clear beyond misunderstanding what the Eucharist really meant, was the answer He gave to those who walked away. It is written, they will all be taught by God. 

We have been taught by God made flesh. This is not some wimpy, politically correct little g god of our devising. This is a God who was reviled and attacked, mocked and betrayed and yet did not yield. This is a God who consented to be beaten, tortured, mocked, and horribly murdered; Who took on the bottomless alienation of all sin, Who became Sin, in order to buy us back from our perdition.

Are you going to leave me too?

That is the question.

It’s up to each one of us to decide what we will answer.

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Conversion Story: Anna

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Pope Francis Explains the Power of the Eucharist

 

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