Punk Catholic Thought of the Week XI
Some readers of this blog might remember a nasty piece of business from a few months ago, in which I suggested that cradle Catholics shouldn't let converts tell them how to act or what to believe--because, you know, it should actually be the other way around.
Well, thanks to that, I decided to "walk the walk" and not just "talk the talk." After all, since I am a "revert" myself, I have nothing on those who never left the Church, do I?
A new habit I've worked into my prayer life is spending least fifteen minutes before the Blessed Sacrament each day. I started doing this at the start of the month, as part of my novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and I just kept doing it because it felt right.
Last First Friday--three days deep into my new devotion--I found myself irritated by several women whispering loudly at the back of the Adoration Chapel. I felt like turning to give them a sharp look--or even putting my finger to my lips and going "Shhhhhh!"--just like I would in a library or a movie theatre. And then for some reason, I heard a voice from my memory snapping, "The Mass is not a movie!"
Now, that was totally out of context, for I certainly was not at Mass. And Mass was what the unforgettable Sister Mary Goretti, one of my old Religion teachers, was talking about when she told my class that if we missed part of the liturgy because we were late, we shouldn't think to make up for it by waiting for the next Mass of the day and staying only as long as necessary for the parts we had missed. That is how one watches a movie, yes, but that is not how Catholics fulfill the Sunday obligation.
And it's relevant because while it is perfectly all right to hush people when one is at the cinema . . . or at the library . . . or at the symphony . . . or wherever there is an unwritten social rule about being silent for the sake of others--well, it is not perfectly all right to hush people when one is in church. Yes, they should probably stop chattering on, but then again YOU should probably offer it up for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. You know?
Besides, just as the urge to turn back and give them the evil eye was at its strongest, a more humbling thought came to me:
and for all you know, these other women are here every day,
at hours when you can't show up or won't show up.
You have less right to tell them to be quiet
than they would to tell you to respect your elders.
So I paid no heed to the whispering behind me--which turned out to be my special grace for the night. For as I found out later, they were part of a faithful prayer group that meets every First Friday for a Holy Hour; that they are usually very quiet but that a minor emergency had come up that evening; that the leader of this group is handicapped and has trouble making herself understood if she can't speak above a whisper; and that the whole group wanted me to join them for the next First Friday meeting.
I may have "passed," but that was just the first test. The second test came this evening.
There were two middle-aged ladies in the adoration chapel when I entered, and they were having a bright discussion. One of them was kneeling right in front of the Blessed Sacrament and had twisted her torso back in order to face her companion. They were talking about a certain politician ("I prayed and prayed that he would win the election . . .") and the factors that had contributed to his loss ("I don't want to be unfair to his wife, but the voters don't like her!"). And I thought, O Domine, ad adiuvandum me festina!!!
When they saw me enter, the woman who was kneeling near the front got up to sit next to her friend in the back. But they kept right on talking politics and gossip. I could barely concentrate. But as I was struggling, the same thought came again:
not only long before you fancied you'd do the same,
but also long before you were born.
If anyone has earned the right to be comfortable here,
it certainly isn't you.
So I kept my mouth shut.
And when I got up to leave, one of them said, with a kind smile, "We're sorry if we bothered you too much, dear."
Now, I'm sure that if I had written this on my now-defunct (Yes, it's dead! I promise!) Catholic blog and allowed comments, I would have provoked at least one person to write back, "Well, okay, but that doesn't change the fact that it's wrong to make small talk in the adoration chapel!" Which is: a) admittedly technically true; b) the sort of definite, challenging statement every Catholic needs to hear; and c) politically correct enough not to offend
But is getting the letter of the law exactly right--or worse, being clear about the letter of the law--the best we can do? And more interestingly, during all those years when books by converts were being promoted with testimonials from cradle Catholics claiming that they had never understood the faith of their fathers until the converts took them to school . . . did you hear any cradle Catholics complain at such a blanket condemnation of our class?
I've always been able to get away with being politically incorrect because people in the PC-obsessed world consider me part of a "minority." (Bwahahahahaha!) So it took me some time, after the one instance I didn't get away with it, to figure out exactly why people were so unbelievably upset. But now that I know . . . well, I can finally let it rest. The case is closed; I don't need to keep feeling around with more words.
I could leave this punk post at that, but I like boiling things down, blocking them up, and making them red. And so . . .
We have more to learn from the worst cradle Catholics in the world than from the best converts. And don't give me any of that "We all have a lot to learn from each other" waffling as if I don't know that there are exceptions--which I do--because then you'll clearly have missed the point and succeeded only in embarrassing yourself.
By the way . . . If we met through my Catholic blog and you send me an e-mail about this (or about anything, really) and don't get a reply, that's probably because I blocked your e-mail address.
Image Source: Eucharist in monstrance