Deacon Greg Kandra is an old-school newsman; his decades at CBS News has honed his ability to sniff out a story — particularly a human-interest story sure to tug at the heart strings or impart a universal lesson — that someone else (like me) would pass over with a sigh (if the story is sweet) or an eyeroll (if it is sour).
The deacon hates confrontations; if he had his druthers, he’d live on a straight path between Disney World and Rome — between innocence and glory — and never mind the rest. That said, however, in a few years of blogging he has developed a knack for finding stories guaranteed to get passions ignited, and the comboxes roiling.
Yesterday he did it again, by sharing a story about a priest who has decided that blessing children at communion is inappropriate
This is a story I saw and thought, “hmph, okay, that’s another way to think; mildly interesting”; I found the priest thoughtful, some of the responses thoughtful, but on the whole, this should not be a big issue, right? Not an issue of major doctrinal import, it’s something a parish should decide on individually.
I’ve seen priests make the sign of the cross on kid’s foreheads and wondered if that was a smart thing to do when they would then be dipping back into the ciborium to further dispense the Body, but really, I have no other feelings about it. Parents want everything, these days, particularly if it makes their child feel “special.” But on the other hand, it’s just a blessing; why be stingy with a blessing? Can we agree that there are valid points on both sides and move on, or must there be a battle, with victors and losers?
A naive question; this is the Catholic blogosphere. Deacon Greg had closed his comboxes for Holy Week, and on Easter Monday, he opened them back up, posted a story and cries of “Battle”! did issue forth.
Joanne K. McPortland, a fairly new revert to Catholicism and a good writer, having traipsed into those comboxes, felt like all of the warmth and sweetness of Holy Week had suddenly been doused with ice-water:
But today, getting back to the real world and the newly-reopened comboxes of Catholicism, I have a big case of the letdown blues. From being “so inflamed with heavenly desires” on Saturday night, it’s back to the combox flame wars today.
Mostly, that’s how it goes; one has a lovely retreat, gets back on the highway and very quickly starts muttering under the breath about the way people drive; the sweetness of the retreat is quickly lost, and one pulls into the driveway wondering, “why am I such a wretch.” It’s the old reminder that any grace we enjoy comes from a source Other than ourselves, and that we are forever in need of it.
Here’s the thing, though: spiritual warfare is real, and before we know it — perhaps sooner than we think — we are going to be called on to stand up for our faith in ways we could not have imagined twenty or thirty years ago, and to perhaps suffer for it; to endure separation from our loved ones, and other deprivations. Are we going to be ready for that? Will we be able to come together, at that time, or will we still be squabbling factions crying “hypocrite” toward each other for the failings common to us all, or “heresy” toward the ones who do not conform to a particular position that, in the end, is merely a day’s issue fluttering by?
Some believe that this 2012 elections are going to make a big difference to the nation, and to the future of believers — that if only “Obama loses” or “Anyone but Obama wins” America will soon enough find her footing; the march toward totalitarianism will abate, threats to personal and religious liberties will dissipate, and soon enough we’ll again be all about “baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet”.
I doubt it. The culture is spinning toward something different; narrative thrust moves forward, not backward; the government is peopled by “leaders” and “civil servants” who are looking out for themselves. That doesn’t mean we just throw up our hands and not vote, of course, or disengage from discourse, but it does mean we oughtn’t build up our expectations. I have zero faith in our secular leadership, present nor future. “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14)
I love my country but I do not believe she is eternal or that she is destined to last forever, because governments and nations do not. They go away. Paul’s letters are written to churches long gone, residing in nations also extinct. Things expire or evolve, and they do so at the will and the timing of an Eternity we cannot understand.
Our job, then, is to be ready. Not merely ready, but ready-in-love, like our Blessed Mother, even if — like Mary, the young betrothed in Nazareth or the stricken mother in Jerusalem — we do not understand it all, and would rather things be very different from the reality before our eyes.
Even if, for that matter, we have very strong opinions, on very many things, and endless platforms from which to express them.
Increasingly, I wonder: are the comboxes training us for clear-eyed battle, or are they distracting us and giving us a deluded sense of strength? Are we better off with or without them?
As to the Battle of the Blessings, perhaps we should consider imparting Communion and Confirmation at baptism, like our Orthodox brothers and sisters and then the issue goes away. Spiritual warfare, after all, does not begin when one is seven. But it does last and last.
And now, having contributed to the post-Easter dolors, I make amends with a little gift: