I have had two conversations this past week with lapsing Catholics – people that consider themselves to be Catholic even though they find the most basic and simple of all Church teaching – attendance at Sunday Mass –to be bothersome. One of these individuals is even sending her kids to Catholic schools. I just don’t get it. I find this exasperating.
Mass is the highlight of my week. I try to go as much through the week as I can. I love Mass. I have recently returned to an office of music ministry as a choir member after a brief sabbatical. What I seem to be finding through observance and casual conversation, is that most of us Catholics, just don’t get it. As I sit before the tabernacle and try to meditate and prepare my heart, I am distracted by chit chat and idle conversations occurring throughout the Church, as I try to listen to the Liturgy of the Word, I am disturbed by my fellow music ministers who have decided now is an appropriate time for a conversation. As I try to engross myself in the Eucharistic Prayers and Transformation of the Bread and Wine, I am met with rattling of papers as those around me fiddle with their books and papers. Really? Father is in the process of presenting to us the transubstantiation of Bread to Body, and Wine to the very Blood of our Lord, and it’s time to look through a music book? If you truly reflect on this, you realize how ludicrous it is. So yep, most of us just don’t get it.
I think that my generation was a victim of the pre-Vatican II stir. What I mean by that, is in a very post-Vatican II environment, much of what we were taught was watered down a bit. Much of the Catholic Orthodoxy coming out of that event was misunderstood and misrepresented. As we emerged from Vatican II, lots of false and erroneous dissemination of information shaped an environment that lacked some of the substance and accountability that we all really needed. That is what I lived with for most of my life. I knew that it was a sin to skip Mass on Sunday, but God would forgive me, and I really didn’t even need to go to Confession for that. There was a general lack of accountability for the dogmas that shape are Faith. To a certain extent, Cafeteria Catholicism took on a whole new dimension and fervor. I genuinely believe that most Catholics think all of this is okay, but it’s not; and the Church is suffering because of it, and more importantly, so are a lot of people.
I have been very blessed recently with a new pastor to our parish; he has brought with him a zeal and enthusiasm for Catholic Orthodoxy. He teaches and holds us accountable for Church Dogma. I find it to be something that I am ready for and thirsting for. Some of the tools now available to me have increased my zest for more knowledge of the faith; and elevated my relationship with God to a whole new level. I have been challenged to learn and to practice Church traditions that I have always known about, but somewhere, somehow the importance of them had been lost. My soul and spirit has been set afire with the Faith, and it has transformed my life. It has been a transformation that has invigorated my spirit and really propelled me to new plane of worship and prayer.
I find though a need to share and evangelize this to everyone out there. I want everyone to know what a true gift their Catholic Faith is, and the more we learn about it, the better it gets. There is a true treasure to be found in our tradition, our Bible, our practices, our prayers, and our ceremonies. These are all very miraculous occurrences, and once we can truly appreciate that; everything in life begins to change and you are able to see things in a much different and enlightened way. So many of us, are just going through the motions, we are not immersing ourselves, like we should be. If we actually start living our Faith, life becomes so different and so beautiful. We can begin to marvel in so much more, and we are able to recognize evil more effectively as well. We’ve got to be “all in” though, we’ve got to start “getting it”. That does take time and effort, but really the most vital and important aspects of life do. Our God is the sole basis of life, so that elevates him to a whole different level, we need to recognize that and embrace it.
Once we submit all that we are to the Lord, as our Faith requires, we are forever changed. Once we give up that control and turn over the reigns to God, we are in for quite the ride. Is it easy? Heck no! The best things in life never are, but Jesus says, in all four gospels; Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, John 12:25 and Matthew 10:39 “ if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it”. “if you want to save your life, let it go”. What I know undoubtedly is that Mass and the Eucharist give us the Grace we need to do this. Eucharistic Adoration and the Rosary are also valuable tools that lead us into the Presence of God. Whenever we place ourselves into the presence of God, we are changed. We may not feel it, but we are. If we are chit chatting, and having conversations, and rummaging through our purses or papers, we miss it. We miss it all, and what a tremendous loss. We’re there, we need to grab it, \realize what a miraculous occurrence we have the true honor to be a part of. We need to immerse ourselves in it. If we do, God will become immersed within us, and our lives and everyone we come into contact with will be too. Let's re commit ourselves to God in a fully way as we enter into the Advent Season.
So, to my friend that rationalizes her lack of Mass attendance, to the notion that religion is a very personal thing. She is right! What can be more personal than becoming immersed in God and him becoming immersed in us! I’m not sure that I personally can get that from sleeping in a few extra hours.