Reawakening my liturgical passion

As I men­tioned in my last out­burst, I have a fierce­ly pas­sion­ate atti­tude toward the cel­e­bra­tion of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. (That state­ment itself may well call for a lengthy expla­na­tion for read­ers unini­ti­at­ed in such seem­ing-arcana; if your com­ments indi­cate this is so, I shall oblige with an appro­pri­ate elu­ci­da­tion short­ly.) How­ev­er, for the past five years I have labored hard to sti­fle this same pas­sion, to sup­press it. Why? Because it is so much eas­i­er — on an emo­tion­al lev­el — to just not care than it is to allow myself to re-engage with the world that I dropped out of when I left sem­i­nary for­ma­tion at the end of 1999. 

Many, many times in recent years, when I am at Mass and can see that some litur­gi­cal silli­ness, if not a down­right aber­ra­tion, is approach­ing, I close my eyes, always with the same advi­so­ry run­ning through my mind: “Close your eyes, Bean­er,” I tell myself. “If you don’t see it, you can’t get upset about it.” But I still know what is hap­pen­ing; this is just a shal­low cop­ing mech­a­nism. And I still get upset; I just push that upset down and lock it away in the closed rooms of my soul, in those messy rooms that I have left unvis­it­ed and neglect­ed since I left sem­i­nary — the rooms where my vibrant, reli­gious self was used to live, long ago as it seems.

I love the Catholic litur­gy, the man­ner in which our pub­lic wor­ship is cel­e­brat­ed. I grew up believ­ing the Mass was the cen­tral expres­sion of my Catholic faith, and noth­ing that has hap­pened in the years since has shak­en that con­vic­tion for me. After years of ever-increas­ing involve­ment in the week­ly cel­e­bra­tion of the Mass — as I pro­gressed from earnest lit­tle boy on my knees in the front pew with my par­ents to earnest altar boy kneel­ing a few feet from the sac­ri­fice, to sem­i­nar­i­an study­ing to one day bring about that very same rit­u­al sac­ri­fice with my own con­se­crat­ed hands — I found myself out in the pew once again, no longer a boy but a young man, earnest­ness shat­tered by my fall from the ide­al I had set for myself, all alone before God.

In those months after I left the path I had long assumed would lead me to ordi­na­tion and a long life in the ser­vice of the peo­ple of God, I was lost, try­ing to reimag­ine myself to fit an even­tu­al­i­ty I had fore­seen but nev­er planned for. I strug­gled to keep my soul intact, and the litur­gy pro­vid­ed both the com­fort of sta­bil­i­ty and a con­stant stab­bing reminder of all I had left behind. There was no eas­ing away from the inti­mate involve­ment in the litur­gy that I had grad­u­al­ly entered into over more than a decade of altar ser­vice and then sem­i­nar­i­an sta­tus. No, I was out in the cold with the laity again, look­ing in from the out­side at a world I loved with all my heart, nev­er to enter again. Is it any won­der, then, that I found it nec­es­sary to forcibly alter my atti­tude toward the litur­gy? I need­ed to close my heart tight to keep it from falling apart from the grief. And now, after years spent lost and wan­der­ing, I am feel­ing con­fi­dent again in who I am as a Catholic, and with that con­fi­dence comes, at last, both the oppor­tu­ni­ty and the need to revis­it my litur­gi­cal pas­sions, and make them part of my renewed Catholicity.

How I will go about doing this remains unclear to me. For starters, I guess I am going to let myself get upset again by litur­gi­cal silli­ness, and to then direct that anger into artic­u­late state­ments such as this was intend­ed to be. Once I find I can con­sis­tent­ly artic­u­late my thoughts on this top­ic, then I will look for the next step to take, where I can best use that artic­u­la­tion to serve God and the Church, some­thing I have nev­er doubt­ed I am still called to do. The details are still just fuzzy, though.


  1. I under­stand, a lit­tle, the bat­tle here. It is frus­trat­ing (and refresh­ing, on my part, to hear this frus­tra­tion shared). I too have tak­en at times to wear­ing blind­ers at Mass, some­times in the name of tol­er­ance, some­times mere­ly for my own san­i­ty. It does not change the abus­es though… it mere­ly kills my soul a lit­tle, and makes me begin to won­der if there is any point in going to mass at all… I guess what I am try­ing to say is, the beau­ty of our litur­gy is worth fight­ing for, even if all we can do is unveil the abus­es and edu­cate the igno­rant. Best of luck to you in your endeav­ors, big bro — your writ­ings are most appreciated!

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