01 February 2009

The circus was in town

I'm a cradle Catholic. I like to say my family, in a large part, has been Catholic since St. Patrick converted Ireland. But, for a time I was a CINO Catholic.

No, not that I disagreed with the teachings of the Church. Even considering how poorly catechized I was, I never doubted the Church. I was a CINO because I didn't attend Mass for several years when I lived in Seattle. Still considering myself Catholic, but not keeping the basic and most critical commandments. I was Catholic enough to know the grave state of my soul, but ignorant enough to figure God wouldn't "call me home" while I was separated from the Church in this way.

I didn't see that I was exercising my own free will and would be held accountable for it. God's plan for my life would go on as planned, it was my choice to be in a state of grace, or not, when "my time came." A very risky and fool-hardy game to play given I'm not a gambler.

On one occasion when my father was visiting, he asked me, being the good dad he was, when was the last time I had been to confession. I told him it had been awhile. It had been years.

Guilt can work wonders and my dad had unintentionally pricked my conscience enough that I was ashamed at how far I had drifted, how long I had been away from the Church. Undoubtedly, it was the prayers of my father and many others that had kept me on the straight and narrow during the time I was "outside" or "separated" from the Church and no longer in the state of grace. Now that I keep myself in the state of grace through frequent reception of communion and confession, I see how utterly important and essential that grace is, and am humbled in the realization that someone, many someones, must've been praying for me to have kept me from falling into any of the many pitfalls that are out in the world.

After I went to confession with a priest who was very liberal (it was hard to find one that wasn't liberal in WA at this time), the repulsion I had at my sins and not wanting to have to go through the emotional ringer of purging everything and coming back to the Church again, I resolved I would get my back side back to Mass every weekend.

The abuses were the primary reasons I drifted away from the Church. My husband and I couldn't find a parish we could half-way agree with. It was irritating. It was frustrating. Eventually, I figured that if I was just going to be angered and upset each time I went to Mass, then I might as well not go. This wasn't a sudden decision, it happened gradually as I became more and more angry at the abuses going on, even in the "conservative" parishes.

I did struggle a great deal after I came back into the Church to find a parish I could deal with. We spent a lot of time parish hopping, hoping that each weekend we would find a "home." Parish after parish, abuse after abuse. It was bad, it was almost disheartening.

However, I did come to realize that I was there to see Jesus and the early Christians gave their lives for this privilege. Despite the abuses and the upset I felt, I realized there was some pride on my part underlying all this contentiousness and finally saw I was there for Jesus and could put up with an hour of irritation and sometimes a circus atmosphere to be with Jesus and to receive Him in the Eucharist. Pride finally aside, I saw that I was the one hurting my relationship with Him by dictating the terms and only wanting to attend Mass if the conditions were perfect and to my satisfaction.

And Catholics around the world were grateful to even be able to attend Mass. Some were risking their lives to practice their Faith and here I was wanting things my way.

Attending Mass then became as it should: a privilege and honor to be with God. I was able to tune out so much of the rest of the bunk around me, offer up whatever distracted or angered me, and just concentrate on the reason I was there.

NOTE: Thank you Chris for bring a hugely awful typo to my attention! You are a saint. For the rest of you that read this and didn't say anything, if God doesn't get you, I will :) Hope you all had a good laugh...such an apropos error. I didn't hardly sleep last night and I wrote the post every early so that's my excuse!


mum6kids said...

I have to admit that after my reversion around 2000, I too went through a bit of "please don't make me sit through the abuses" phase. Before my reversion I wasn't bothered about liturgical abuse because I wasn't that bothered about Mass really. I went-but I wasn't bothered.
Once i managed to ditch my pride, I too have managed to get the most out of Mass.
I am fortunate in that the abuses are not terrible.
I went to Mass on holiday once and it was so bad I was not even sure it was valid!

Ray from MN said...

It's amazing how even "poorly catechized" Catholics are able to see the abuses in the Mass these past 40 years.

Obviously, Jesus is pointing this out to you as he requests that you return to the fold.

swissmiss said...

It made a world of differnce to just be happy to receive Jesus in the Eucharist instead of focusing on the problems going on around me.

Granted, we shouldn't have to "put up" with abuses, but we also are commanded to attend Mass without any exceptions for these abuses. We need to get our butts to Mass and then work to end the abuses.

RayL I think you meant as he "requested" that you return to the fold since this was more than a decade ago.

Ray from MN said...


True for you, but I was attempting to have it apply universally. Probably could have worded it better.

Christine from Maryland said...

Just out of curiosity, what were some of the abuses that you observed? Did you ever mention them to a bishop as we are obligated to do? Some liturgical abuses are more flagrant/serious than others and, by the GIRM, invalidate the Mass.

swissmiss said...

I can't remember anything specifically, but the problem was actually with the Bishop and quickly filtered down to the parishes. No, I didn't mention it to the Bishop (Hunthausen) because I didn't know my faith well enough at the time to form a coherent argument and because I figured I would be ignored.

Some of the abuses...priest chewing gun on the altar (while setting up before and after Mass), Extraordinary ministers who wore dirty sweat shirts or other very casual items while distributing Communion. No kneeling, making up prayers, changing prayers, inclusionary language added, priest who comes down off the altar to hold hands with the congregation to say the Our Father, constant talking and socializing throughout Mass, general lack of reverence, altar servers who didn't know the basic prayers of the Mass, singing and dancing in the aisles etc. Nothing that I could tell invalidated the Mass, just a collection of things that were irritating. I did have the gum chewing priest add sins to my confession for me once...social justice things like, "Sins against my fellow man for failing to see him on the street." I had done my own examination of conscience and unless he was Padre Pio and could read my soul, he should've handled it much differently than to assume the state of my soul!

Charlotte said...

Great post! I may link to it in a blog entry of my own.

Lisa said...

I can vouch for Swissy on Archbishop Hunthausen..he was a nut! I lived out there too during that time and boy, was it hard to find a decent church.
Great post!

mum6kids said...

Good grief Swissy! That is a catalogue if horrific liturgical abuse!
Nevertheless as you say-sometimes we have to get through Calvery to reach our Lord on the Cross!

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Readers of Swissmiss' blog: Please pray for Swissy. She's really hurting these days. She received the Anointing of the Sick today.