Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Truth, The Whole Truth... or Shut Up?

It's been a long, long time, but an email reminded me that I should be keeping up with this blog.

Besides, a recent event - and a rather sad one - made me think again of the old Catholic belief that at least part of what marriage is about is to get one another to heaven - and I realized that I had something I needed to share.

A friend and I, discussing the sad event, were going back and forth about the benefit of "total honesty" in a marriage. Ok, you get the drift of "the event," by now!

I know that this concept of being completely honest with one another in a marriage enjoyed a lot of popularity for a while. And I know that, as Catholics, honesty is demanded of us.

But I was reminded of a trick my mom, a very Catholic lady, used to employ. When someone would call and my dad didn't want to take the call, she would politely say that he was not available. Or if someone asked her how she liked something she didn't, she would find a way of not being cruel and not lying at the same time.

I was reminded of that as we discussed the "right" thing to do in this case.

After all, in marriage as in any other relationship, too much information can be deadly, just as can too little.

What, after all, do we owe one another? The truth, surely, when nothing else will accomplish the same purpose. Careful truth, perhaps, when the full truth will serve nothing but what is gained in the confessional - a baring of our conscience?

I am reminded of St. Thomas More, and the delightful play, A Man for All Seasons, when Thomas plays cat-and-mouse with the English crown, who would have him admit his guilt and thereby condemn himself to death, and his family to a life without him, disgraced by the name of traitor. Thomas attempts to sidestep - to be truthful, if not honest - or is it the other way around? He is honest by his conscience and by the law; but careful in how much of the truth, and to what end, he bares his soul.

He cannot tell Henry that he supports his marital game-playing. This would be to go against his Catholic obligation, and his belief that divorce, under the circumstances, would be wrong and sinful.

He can, however, serve God in the "tangle of his mind," that is to say, play the game to the greater good. Henry will do what Henry will do - Thomas is clear that he is not going to talk his old friend out of his path. Thomas can, however, try to protect his family from ruin and save himself from the chopping block. He does this, until, his back against the wall and his immortal soul in the palm of his hand, he must admit before man and God that Henry's path is wrong.

So I wondered - if a person in a marriage slips, and does not intend to do so again - has that person an obligation to confess all, and in so doing perhaps assuage his guilt (the role of the Confessional?) or to stay still and protect the innocent? Of course it's a calculated risk: will the offended party feel more or less anger should the truth ever come out? Somehow I believe that a penitent spouse who has lived spotlessly ever since will be forgiven. Now, if it's a pattern of offenses, that's another story...

But, harking back to that idea that we, as Catholics, are supposed to try to get one another to heaven. In this case, what is most likely to help bring our spouse - not ourselves - to a heavenly reward? Silence, I think. Silence, Confession, penitence, reformation, and a sincere effort to make the marriage work for both parties. Recognition that perhaps your sin is a signal that something is wrong, and, knowing that, an effort to make things better.

It's a difficult call, to be sure. But that was what the fine old art of Examination of Conscience was all about. A skill that needs to be resurrected.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Me and Evelyn Waugh

I've just ordered a book, A Bitter Trial, about Evelyn Waugh's struggle to remain faithful after Vatican II knocked the stuffing out of the Catholic tradition. I couldn't agree more, nor could I have expressed my feelings more perfectly.

"Every attendance at Mass," he wrote, "leaves me without comfort or edification." Further, "I find the new liturgy a temptation against Faith, Hope and Charity but I shall never, pray God, apostatize." Shortly before he died, he wrote, "The Vatican Council has knocked the guts out of me... I have not yet soaked myself in petrol and gone up in flames, but I now cling to the Faith doggedly without joy. Church-going is pure duty parade."

This so well expresses how I feel when I attend a Novus Ordo Mass! While I feel joy, comfort, edification, peace, and a fullness and nearness to God at the traditional Mass, I feel a temptation to sneer and find fault and doubt when I attend the Novus Ordo liturgy. I know I should not do it; I know it is wrong-headed and prideful. And I know I should be grateful to God that I have been given the gift of a traditional Mass close by me which I can attend when I am at home.

But one of the great joys of my childhood was that no matter where I was, I could always find a Catholic Mass, and it was always the same, and it was always beautiful and predictable and comforting and true. Now, I never know what I'm going to find - it all depends on the parish's self-proclaimed "liturgists."

At least, in reading Waugh's words, I find comfort in knowing I'm not alone in my feelings, and that greater minds than my own have been subject to the same temptations.

I have been attending Mass, even when not at home, and participating - with however heavy a heart. There must be a reason for all this, as God always has a purpose.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I'm Still Whining

Just cruising around some favorite Trad Catholic blogs; one was addressing the "shock and awe" nature of the changes made to the liturgy, and I'd have to agree. The changes were swift, sudden, and shocking.

Now that Pope Benedict XVI is moving glacially back toward a more profound and literal translation of the Mass, it's interesting to see/hear what some churches have adopted and what some have not. A couple of recent examples:

I attended Palm Sunday Mass with a friend at an NO church. All the statues were, as far as I could tell, undraped. I asked about this, and it was pointed out that there was, indeed, a purple drape on everything, just  not covering the statue - the drape was loosely tossed around the figure. So, what is the point? Isn't the point of the drape the symbolic death and mourning? But anyway. In this particular Mass, the priest did read the Lord I am not worthy wording according to the re-translation; the congregation falteringly responded with "and with your spirit" as opposed to "and also with you." And the priest spoke the words of the consecration "for you and for many" and opposed to "all." There were also three altar servers (all girls, all sloppy); six Eucharistic Ministers (they don't even bother with the Extraordinary any more, do they?), a lector, and a cantor.

Easter Sunday was at my mom's NO church. The congregation was about half and half on the "and also with you" response. The church was, as always, beautifully decorated. The choir was, is horrible too un-Christian of me?  Father did not recite the new "Lord I am not worthy" prayer, and he spoke an "alternate" consecration (that one, I have to admit, deeply bothers me). Oh, and just as an aside: nobody sang at all; about half the people held hands and did the orans posture during the Pater.

In both cases above, "participation" was limited to responses ("We pray to the Lord," and so on), which, of course, were always part of all Masses for as long as I can remember.

It occurred to me, and I mentioned it to my mom, that one of the reasons given for the liturgical "renewal" of the 60s was that people sat in Mass and "said their beads" because they couldn't understand the Mass and couldn't follow the (very clear) Missals or Mass Cards supplied in every pew. I was only about 12 or 13 when they started messing with the Mass, and I already knew it by heart. How hard could it be to understand? I was given a Missal at my First Communion. We were instructed in the parts of the Mass during religious instruction. I'm not sure what went on in other parishes, and I have been told my experience was "unusual," so I can't say one way or the other. But the whole idea, I was told, was that the Mass was to be made more comprehensible, more participatory.

In my little Traditional chapel, everyone participates in the Mass, and I've mentioned on this blog before. We sing, we perform the Credo, Gloria, Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, as well as the opening and closing hymns. The choir "performs" only the sung readings, such as the Introit, or the Gradual, and the priest alone sings the Epistle and Gospel, as well as the Pater Noster and the main parts of the Mass. But looking around me, I don't get the feeling anyone feels left out. Granted, we're a self-selected bunch: we're there because we specifically love the Mass.

But I've had this discussion with a friend who is more in favor of the NO Mass than I am; he insists that my experience with the Mass as a child was unusual. I keep wondering, if it could happen at my ordinary parish in Buffalo, NY, why not throughout the church? Wouldn't it have been better to try teaching the great legacy of the Mass first, and really instructing Catholics in their faith, rather than going straight to dismantling a 1500 year old ceremony? Each word, each gesture of the Traditional Mass had layers of meaning - and once you understood them, each time you saw them you were filled with all the layers; you didn't have to think about them, they were there, like pulling out a Christmas ornament brings back not just one Christmas, but all Christmasses you have enjoyed over the years.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Physical Defects: Always Troubling to my Faith

I happened across a post on an odd website today, stumbling across it for no particular reason. One poster on this same forum made it clear that "God doesn't micromanage," but I will also acknowledge that for me, as a Catholic trying to make sense of it all, this was a blessing:

"John 9:2
And his disciples asked him, saying, Rabbi, who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind?
John 9:3
Jesus answered, Neither did this man sin, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."

Why I had never found that particular quote in the Bible before I don't know, but I am grateful that it was brought to my attention. My brother was born with cerebral palsy, and was profoundly retarded, and it has troubled me all my life why God would allow the height of His creation to be so sadly "imperfect." Interesting, my family always contended that Mike wasn't our burden, but our blessing, and we felt sure that his soul was already saintlike. For whatever reason he had to endure his earthly life with limitations - and in doing so, brought so very much to all of us in terms of love, and compassion, and understanding, and yes, joy.

We have become so unhappily despairing in our view of life: if it's not just the way we want it, to hell with it - and maybe that's exactly right.

I'm still not totally clear if our family was right in the way that we dealt with Mike's situation. I can only imagine that Jesus was telling us all that God reminds us of His presence and our fall in both the perfection, and perfectly imperfect of His works.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rick Santorum Throws Up

I had an interesting conversation with a friend last night.

He's a Catholic.

He didn't know Rick Santorum is a Catholic.

He didn't understand why Rick Santorum had objected to Jack Kennedy's famous "I won't be a Catholic President" speech.

Wow.

I had to back way up and go through the whole history of Catholics in the U.S.; Catholics being first subject to God (and the Church) and then to the United States as citizens; Catholics understanding Christ's teaching of "render unto Caesar," and being able to distinguish your duties as a citizen from being asked to do what the Church considers immoral and sinful (abortion); and Kennedy's going one step too far, though granted, understandably, given the anti-Catholic sentiment that was still pervasive in 1960, in his speech about how he could and would govern as a citizen first, and a Catholic - well, not as a Catholic at all.

Yes, at the time, there was a fear (and there is a whole backstory of the Masons vs. the Church that gets lost in the weeds of conspiracy theory and fact, and I won't even go into it here, because, frankly, I have no idea which is fact and which is craziness) that a Catholic would take marching orders from Rome, and would try to make the United States a "Catholic" country, an arm of the Vatican.

We can see this now as pretty silly, but at the time there were still many who were convinced that would be the case, and they were absolutely sure that we could never elect a Catholic president. Kennedy had  to make that speech, but in many Catholic's (certainly in Rick Santorum's) minds, he went just a little too far in distancing himself from his faith. All he really had to do was say that it would not be his intention, nor was it the intention of Rome, to turn the U.S. into a papal state. That he could and would govern as a citizen of the United States. He might have stopped there.

Rick Santorum freely admits that as a man he is informed by his Catholic conscience, and there is nothing wrong with that per se. We are all informed by the lives we have led, the principles we hold, our beliefs, our education, where we grew up and when, our faith (if we have one), even our ethnicity. It's all part of the person we are at any moment in time. Absolutely, something can come along and change our minds - a good argument, a new event, a discovery, a book, deeper thinking into a subject.

Rick Santorum wasn't saying anything wrong when he said he would govern as a man informed by his Catholic faith (and hence, would be opposed to abortion and the death penalty, among other things), but he went just a little too far in the whole "sick to my stomach" thing. If you don't know what hyperbole is, Santorum's statements in this case are a good example.

However, I was nevertheless amazed to learn that a well-educated man, a Catholic, a voter, could know so little about who's saying what, the belief systems of our candidates, and even the now-famous 1960 Kennedy speech to the Baptist ministers in Houston.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Thought for Today


I am not skilled to understand
What God has willed, what God has planned
I only know at His right hand
Stands one who is my Savior

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Sanctity of Human Life

It's been a while. It's difficult to maintain the spirit, and I recognize that some of it was Father Pfeiffer at the BVM Priory, whose soul really was on fire with the love of God and the saving of souls. He infected everyone he met, and I was certainly ready to be infected. I just need to keep trying, and I guess that's all any of us can do!

I read something to day, though, that made me both laugh and cry. A quote from 365 Ways to Drive a Liberal Crazy: "Celebrate the 1995 repeal of the 55 mph federal speed limit by taking a liberal for an 80 mph spin through Texas and Utah—the highest speeds currently allowed anywhere in the United States, though of course there really should be no limits at all. As the wind blows through your hair, laughingly quote Ralph Nader who said at the time of the repeal, "History will never forgive Congress for this assault on the sanctity of human life."

Naturally what got to me was Ralph's concern for "the sanctity of human life." Now, I grant, Ralph Nader's central issue isn't abortion, and he leans more in the direction of "leave it out of the public discourse" (with which idea I don't entirely disagree). But that anyone would call upon "the sanctity of human life," and NOT be also anti-abortion (or shall I say, pro-life) is simply idiotic on its face. You either respect human life or you don't.