Not long ago, I was made to feel I was one. At first, I wondered if it was an insult. I guess I never thought of myself that way. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s. I don’t really consider myself old fashioned. I am a baby boomer and happy to be so. But when it comes to my Catholic identity, I find it difficult giving up the teachings of my past. So, does that make me a conservative Catholic?
As the Church evolves with the times, that also brings about changes in the Church, especially visible ones, which I find difficult to wrap my brain around. Let’s focus on the Mass. I love Mass. I love coming to Mass. I love participating in The Mass. I love Mass. There is no changing that for as long as I will live. I am happy to proclaim it and find it a challenge to accept those who call themselves Catholic, who don’t love the Mass and the teachings of the Church to attend every Sunday. The Mass encapsulates everything about our faith in God.
Pride in being Catholic
I realize life is all about changes and how we ask Jesus to help us with those changes. My sense is that the world generally thinks of Catholics as conservative. Actually, my politics generally lean left, with some very specific exceptions, obviously. But there is a respectful feeling I get when I talk about being Catholic. I feel like it is a badge of honor. A badge I am happy to proclaim to anyone who will ask.
….So, what do I do?
And with that respectfulness comes some absolutes I cannot let go of. When I enter a church, I am dressed appropriately. I know what time Mass begins, and I am on time, out of respect for Jesus and others attending Mass. Arriving late is not an option for me. I genuflect before I enter the pew. I kneel when I arrive and say a prayer before Mass. I go to Communion at every Mass, unless for health reasons, it is best, for the safety of others, I choose not to. I remain in my pew until Mass is over and don’t leave early. When I walk in Church and pass by a cross, the altar or the tabernacle which contains the Blessed Sacrament, I bow or genuflect.
Yea, I know. I don’t expect all to agree with me. But that is where that “conservative Catholic” moniker comes in. Hey, am I happy that we have set aside the need for Mass to be said in Latin? Yes, of course. Do I believe it is wrong for men and women to participate in the Mass as lectors, Eucharistic Ministers, and servers. No, I don’t. I think some of these changes allowed many to become closer to Jesus and have an active participation in the Mass.
Conviction of heart
But will you convince me that it is perfectly fine to come to Mass wearing shorts or look like you just cut the lawn, or just came from the swimming pool? No, you won’t. Is it alright to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and not genuflect on two knees? In my world, no, it is not.
I guess I would say it is the level of reverence that I miss. Being in the presence of Jesus demands it. There is no question, I am happy when the Church is filled with parishioners and guests. I am thrilled when I see families come to Mass together. It brings me great joy when I see our elderly parishioners come to Mass even when it is an incredible challenge for them to walk into the church. And those crying babies…cry away…they are God’s children, and I am happy they are there. But if I can beat the drum of respect, I will.
When we go to weddings in Church, we dress up. When we attend a funeral in Church, we dress up. Even at Easter and Christmas, many come to Mass in their best clothes. Why is that level of respect different any other time of the year? Some will say, Jesus doesn’t care what I wear, as long as I attend Mass. All I am saying is, “can’t we do both”? Jesus died for our sins, can’t we shower and dress nicely for him at Mass?
Maybe I am that conservative Catholic. Not just based on how we behave when we attend Mass and what we wear. A previous article I penned; I reminisced about how Mass was celebrated 50 years ago. I am no prude. But I love the Lord. If you were invited to be in the presence of the Pope, wouldn’t you dress up a bit? Well, Jesus is there at every Mass. And last I checked; He was at the top of the Catholic org chart.
God is in charge
Let me say before I end, I am not in the judgement business. It is not my place to judge how others love Jesus and how or if they attend Mass. It’s God job to tend to that task. It is, however, my choice to share my thoughts regarding how I choose to behave and long for the days of the past when it wasn’t an option as to how to attend Mass.
I guess there are parts of me stuck in the teachings of Catholicism of the past, but that is okay. I am not likely to change minds with this article, and a friend of mine may still say I am that conservative Catholic I was made to feel like a few weeks ago. But if that is the worst he can say about me, I’ll take it any day of the week and twice on Sunday. But on that Sunday, I’ll be at Mass, early, in my nice clothes, spending time with Jesus until the end of Mass. Jesus…He deserves the extra time I take preparing to be in His presence and the behaviors I exhibit once I arrive. He died for me. That’s gotta’ be worth a little extra time and effort from me.