Tuesday, July 19

The Empire Strikes Back

Captain-No-Funs have been complaining about (how did NCR put it?) "biretta-topped" seminarians ever since our generation came of age. Eucharistic adoration?? The Rosary?? Weekly confession?? Isn't that what we invested so much time trying to stop? Fr. Jim gives us another attempt to end peoples' piety.

Obviously, these individuals are not malicious: they really don't understand the draw. OK, fine, whatever. But many of our very lives have been absolutely changed by these precious forms of prayer--which is, afterall, why they exist anyway.

And here's the reason they'll never go away--not even after an eclipse of 20-30 years, during which peoples' piety was persecuated far more agressively than sexual abusers:

Only having the Mass is boring.

I DIDN'T SAY THE MASS WAS BORING! I love the Mass. I go daily. But my love for it and my attendance at it is solely the fruit of a decision 7 years ago to pray the Rosary every day.

Now, I don't know this experientially, but my health teacher sure did harp on about how sex is only fulfilling in a committed relationship ("when you feel ready...", blah blah blah). That says a lot: the defining moment of marriage, the source and summit of marriage you might say, is (according to public school health teachers!) only really meaningful as the summit of a pre-existing relationship.

The Mass -- a not un-similar commmunion of two persons which also marks the summit of a covenant -- is the same way: unless you have a relationship with Our Lord outside of the Mass, (in my experience) Holy Communion is pretty empty, and the ceremony is pretty boring. I did not discover that there was such a thing as Benediction until I saw it on ETWN in highschool: until then, I thought the only thing that Catholics did together was the Mass, and I thought they (and their Mass) was pretty boring.

Once you know the Person Whom you consume in the Mass, however, the Mass actually does become what it should be: the source and the summit of your Christian life. But you don't build up that sort of intimacy attending Mass once a week, even once a day: you really, or at least I really, had to encounter Him outside the Mass before I discovered Him in the Mass and in the Blessed Sacrament. The Blessed Sacrament is the thing I love most in the world!! But that is only because of the pedagogy, and the inter-personal contact with Our Lord, that grew out of my private prayer and participation in popular devotions.

And so many Catholics my age have had the same experience, that I know I'm not a freak. And for just that reason, ritualized forms of private prayer (such as popular piety) will never be eradicated. Instead, it seems clear that the Holy Spirit will continue to use them to convert Christians to worthy participation in the source and summit of Christian life, the Liturgies of the Hours and of the Mass.

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