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.
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!
Beaner, where are you?