Grumpy Old Catholics

Today in Mass, I sat next to a lady who has an issue with the new Missal. As the mass progressed, her ‘and also with you’ got louder. She also seemed to enjoy looking around while the rest of us responded with the correct ‘and with your spirit.’  And it wasn’t just this response.

She also doesn’t seem to want to take ownership for sins that she committed ‘through our fault, through our fault, through our most grievous fault.’  The Gloria? Naah. The Creed? Again, loud and proud – and wrong.  I have to admit it was disturbing and more than a little annoying. Mass should be about a choir of believers speaking in one voice, not a cacophony.

If it weren’t for her defiant looks, I would have chalked it up to confusion or perhaps a lack of attendance. Recently, I heard someone ask when ‘they changed everything’ at Mass, so I guess it’s not that uncommon. No, she knew what she was doing and she was goading people into calling her out, reveling in her disobedience.  I don’t see where such a thing is good – after all, Lucifer was one of God’s top angels before his disobedience cost him everything.

I wasn’t about to disturb my enjoyment of partaking in the Blessed Eucharist by indulging her, so I said a quick prayer for her, another for the resentment I felt (I usually ask Joseph to help give me patience, and he is always willing to lend a hand), and restored some measure of grace before I left. Besides,  I couldn’t have confronted her if I wanted to – she was one of the ‘grab and go’ folk…those who treat communion  like it’s drive-though food and make a beeline for the nearest exit.

I did leave wondering what her problem was. So I did a bit of digging. And I found that she is likely not alone. Here are a few gems I uncovered from discontented Catholics.

“It’s a huge mistake.”

“Consubstantial? What is that word?”

“It’s ridiculous. I’ve been a Catholic for 50 years, and why would they make such stupid changes? They’re word changes. They’re semantics.” This same woman also was quoted by the AP reporter as refusing to “learn the damn prayers.” Nice.

So what is the problem? Is it that some people fear change? I don’t think so. We have seen change before without such controversy. No, brothers and sisters, I think it goes deeper than this.

A half century ago, a ecumenical committee wrote the English missal. Yes, indeed, ecumenical – this means that non-Catholics had a hand in our Missal.  There was a lot of emphasis on ‘feel good’ and ‘gender non-specific’ language.  The new missal used a translation that cleaves much closer to the Latin.  So “Lord have mercy” became “for we have sinned against You’. Oh my.  How dare the new Missal actually impugn the community of being sinners?

‘One in being’ was replaced with ‘consubstantial’. Isn’t that just word-smithing? Nope. The ‘one in being’ is very ecumenical, lot’s of things are ‘one in being’ with God. That is what we all hope for, isn’t it? Isn’t that what Heaven truly is – a state of being one with the Father? Of course it is.  Because God the Father is the source of all Creation, all things are ‘in being’ with Him. So, if all things are in being with the Father, why is Christ anything special? He is, which is why the committee fixed the sloppy – and wayward language to consubstantial. Consubstantial comes from the Latin consubstantialem which means ‘of the same substance’. So, they could have said ‘, begotten, not made, of the same substance with the Father’ – but that doesn’t just have a good meter.  Inevitably, people complained about using a word ‘nobody’ understood. Well, I actually did, and I am sure I wasn’t alone, but that’s another story. What did we used to do when we had a word we didn’t understand? We asked someone or looked it up. How sad that people have become so accustomed to having everything – even the Liturgy – spoon-fed to them that a little mystery was intolerable.

One older gentleman made a cogent remark:

Being that this is only the third time in our church history that a new Roman missal is being issued, it tells me that we are truly blessed with the treasure of always growing in the faith and the Holy Spirit is guiding us to deeper and deeper for Christ and his church.

So it’s not wholly a case of ‘Grumpy old Catholics’ – though a nationwide survey conducted in 2011 indicates that this sentiment was not universal among older Catholics:

  • 62 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds say they are “excited” about the new missal, compared with 39 percent of single Catholics who are 51 and older.
  • Twice as many Baby Boomers as Gen Yers say they are “disappointed” by the change in missal: 9 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds vs.18 percent of those who are 51 and older.

Overall, the sentiment for the new Missal was as follows:

  • 48 percent of single Catholics are “excited,” saying, “It’ll deepen our understanding of the sacred liturgy.”
  • 34 percent of single Catholics are “neutral, trying to keep an open mind.”
  • 14 percent are “disappointed,” saying, “Why scrap something so deeply ingrained in us?”
  • 4 percent say they “couldn’t care less.”

I would love to see this survey duplicated by Catholic Match. I wonder if the Boomers and older are still somewhat more disaffected. And  – while surveys never really answer these questions – I wonder why? Could it be that the ‘liberalism’ of the Catholic church in the United States emanated from the adoption of Vatican II by some left-leaning bishops? Could it be resentment over the recent steps to correct the fundamental flaws that have become endemic to practically two generations of American Catholics – lay and religious? This probably has a lot to do with the refusal to be obedient. Too bad  – because ultimately, Catholics are called to be obedient to the Magisterium, to the Catechism, and to the great and glorious traditions of our Catholic faith.

Like it or not, brothers and sisters, this is our Liturgy, and as that lovely quote asserts, it is an opportunity to grow in faith and to be ‘guided…deeper and deeper for Christ and his church.’ So, pray for the dissenters that their hearts might turn to the beauty, elegant simplicity, and grace of this liturgy.

Me? To misquote Dick Clark…”I give it a ten…you can pray to it.’

God bless you all!



“Why do you wership Maary?”….A Response

First and foremost, the Citizen wishes to apologize for the spelling in the title. It was an attempt to recapture that drawl of the fundamentalist who has been indoctrinated to think of Catholicism as a cult. The nuances of that phrase has stuck with me for better than two decades. With the news of the impending beatification of Pope John Paul II, this question seems to be coming back in conversations, tweets, blogs, comments, posts, and other venues of communication. While on twitter no one can hear you drawl, those slow, sonorous, contemptible words ring again in my mind.

Catholics pray to God. Period.

2654 Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ. It is the action of God and of man, springing forth from both the Holy Spirit and ourselves, wholly directed to the Father, in union with the human will of the Son of God made man.

Christ taught us all how to pray, giving us the ‘Our Father’. In the Garden, his prayers were desperate, fearful, sorrowful, and – finally – accepting of the burden of our sins. In those prayers and the Passion, Christ served as the perfect example for how we need to look for strength, for comfort, for guidance, and for grace from the only true wellspring of all that is good, holy, and pure.

Then why do we have medals and statues, prayer cards, books, icons, and shrines to men and women? Why don’t we just pray to God and cut out the middle man? The answer is simple, actually.

Sainthood is the goal of every Christian. It is the pot of gold at the end of that rainbow of life. It is – or should be – the passionate goal, the earnest desire, the most cherished pursuit of every Catholic. According to the Catholic Church, a saint is simply someone the Church is sure has achieved this grace and dwells in Heaven. So, many of our deceased friends and family members – hopefully – are saints. The rest are working on it.

Think of a saint the same way you would think of an alumnus. My wife and I receive newsletters and calls for donation from our respective colleges on a regular basis. They expect that we may be willing to donate time, talent, and money out of fond memories of our time at our alma mater. Perhaps there is a school or a group or a program that has special significance for us. And in many cases, the college is right. Alums often are generous and attentive patrons, eager to help those students who follow in their footsteps.

This is why there are saints for every imaginable profession, disease, cause, nation or region…the list is endless. We approach the Saints in our prayers because we feel a connection to them. They suffered what we are suffering, they cared about what we care about, they felt the pains and trials of spirit we feel. They are the alums of this university we call the world.

When we call on the saints, we aren’t praying TO them; we are asking for their help – Catholics call it intercession. Why not just pray directly to God? Most of us have had problems we felt reluctant to bring to a parent. So we turn to a friend, a teacher, a counselor, a pastor…someone we are more comfortable approaching. As a teacher, I often find myself becoming a link in a chain. Students approach me with a problem. Sometimes I can just listen. Sometimes I can offer advice. Sometimes, I kick it upstairs, contacting parents, administrators, or counselors. Saints serve the same function.

“Why do we worship Mary?” We don’t. She – and the vast choir of other saints – serve as sources of inspiration and comfort. They represent an avenue to God that may be more comfortable for us. They are people who we can more readily identify with – they shared our pains, our weakness, our fears. They are important links in the chain.

God doesn’t need saints – He is perfect and omniscient. Those of his children who have achieved the grace of Heaven are our prayer warriors. Our exemplars. Our heroes. Our inspiration. Our alumni.

I look forward to the recognition of John Paul II to the ranks of alums who have ‘made good’.

Charity and Tolerance

Charity is a Christian virtue. The Gospel is full of examples of the charity that Christ showed those considered to be ‘unclean’ or ‘outcasts’. This is not to say that he was tolerant of their behavior. Christ, through His works and sermons, demonstrated an emphasis on redemption. Redemption is different from tolerance. Tolerance implies that He – and by extension – we as Christians should accept all behavior. This is a commonly held fallacy that is touted by what I refer to as ‘Revisionist Christians’…and it is far from the biblical truth and the Catechism of the Catholic church.

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