What’s the rush?

On Sat­ur­day last I was lis­ten­ing to the Nation­al Pub­lic Radio pro­gram “Car Talk” with my wife (in our car, of all places). The broth­ers Magliozzi spent some time swelling on the fact that gas mileage is opti­mal when we dri­ve fifty-five miles per hour, accel­er­ate smooth­ly and grad­u­al­ly, coast down­hill and crawl uphill — in short, slow and steady wins the race to bet­ter fuel effi­cien­cy. Not rock­et sci­ence, but it was nice to hear it so clear­ly stat­ed. I shall make a sin­cere effort to keep a sense of this in mind when I am dri­ving from now on. There is real­ly no great hurry.

With that thought still orbit­ing in my mind, we attend­ed Mass the next day. I have worked hard the past five years to not allow myself to fret over litur­gi­cal prac­tices that are out of synch with my under­stand­ing of how things “ought to be” — with mod­er­ate suc­cess. I am not as angry as I once was after every Mass I attend­ed, and I guess that is worth turn­ing a blind eye, at least for now. I just don’t have enough room in my soul for the amount of pas­sion and ire that I know I am sus­cep­ti­ble to.

But every so often some­thing sneaks past my self-imposed blind­ers and ran­kles. This par­tic­u­lar Sun­day the litur­gi­cal peo­ple had decid­ed to dou­ble the num­ber of extra­or­di­nary min­is­ters of the Eucharist, set­ting up dis­tri­b­u­tion sta­tions half-way up the main aisle as well as at the very front. This way, wor­ship­pers in the back half of the chapel would not have to stand in line more than twen­ty sec­onds, and it spared them that long walk all the way to the front — a sav­ings of at least fifty feet, round trip. And I saw this and I thought, real­ly, what is the ubiq­ui­tous and burn­ing need to turn the com­mu­nion rite into a express lane? I say ubiq­ui­tous, because this is hard­ly a nov­el­ty; it was just the first time I had wit­nessed the prac­tice at this par­tic­u­lar space, and the per­haps six­ty peo­ple present made the ridicu­lous­ness of the deci­sion excru­ci­at­ing­ly obvious.

The Catholic Mass is many things: it is first and fore­most the prin­ci­pal from of cor­po­rate wor­ship for believ­ers, being a re-pre­sen­ta­tion, in an very real and mys­ti­cal way, of the sac­ri­fice of the Cross and a pre­view of sorts of the spir­i­tu­al ban­quet which we believe awaits us in the eter­ni­ty of Heav­en. The core of this expe­ri­ence, then, is the actu­al shar­ing in this sac­ri­fi­cial ban­quet, when each mem­ber of the con­gre­ga­tion comes for­ward to receive ful­ly the Lord Jesus under the species of bread and wine. Ridicu­lous to con­dense so much into two sen­tences, but I am no the­olo­gian. My point is that this recep­tion of com­mu­nion is a very sacred moment for the Catholic Chris­t­ian, or it should be. Is it so incon­ceiv­able, then, we might spend at least as much time with this process as we do to buy a bag of pota­to chips at the cor­ner store? Should there not be some sem­blance of won­der and awe attached to this moment?

My will­ful blind­ness to the sad state of cor­po­rate wor­ship in the Catholic Church today (so far removed from my long-accus­tomed vig­i­lance on that front) is obvi­ous­ly slip­ping. I feel the pas­sion­ate pro­tec­tive­ness that was such a hall­mark of my ado­les­cent years, form­ing the foun­da­tion of my youth­ful spir­i­tu­al­i­ty, build­ing up once again. Should I try to stop it, sti­fle it? Or should I seek and find a way to embrace it as a vital part of who I am, and chan­nel that pas­sion toward some action that befits my cur­rent state in life? I know the answer is the lat­ter, but where that choice will lead me is terrifying.

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