Monday, December 10, 2012

The Church and Calamity: Prescription For Truth

I've noticed a ripple of change going on in my parish, good change. Over the last two years my parish priest began a subtle shift in the way he celebrated Mass. It's become more...reverent, not to say his Masses were lackadaisical in the past. He seems to put more emphasis in his prayers, especially the Eucharistic prayers, and his movements are more deliberate, calculated, and with a force of determination in leading the faithful to see what the Mass is: Worship of God. If there was a sense that Mass was leaning toward a communal get together rather than the worship of God through the Eucharist, it no longer exists.

His homilies also seem to have gone through a subtle change. If anything, Father D very often dealt with the Gospel's subject matter in a generalized, "safe" way so as not to offend certain sensibilities in the pews but without pandering, especially in a PC manner. I would have desired a more to the point offering from him during his homily, but overall I liked them and usually could extract something from them that benefited me in some way.

Before his assignment at my parish, Father D was the Dean of Catholic Schools in my state and a bit of a free thinker for lack of a better word. I had a chance to listen in on conversations he's had with other parishioners at social events in our parish at times and he seemed to have a certain "progressive" bent to the way he thought about society in general. I suppose I have always thought him to be a liberal, but certainly not to the extreme that seems to pervade our culture. No, not at all, but it was there, just below the surface. But one thing is certain though, he never let his politics or even his free thinking invade the sanctuary during the Mass.

It was during the last presidential campaign that I began to notice his shift from safe homilies to a more direct trajectory on moral issues in our society, especially in the culture war we are now engaged in such as abortion, homosexual/SSM, the HHS mandate that we as Catholics face and the precarious position our Freedom of Religion has found itself. Though I never heard his opinion on national healthcare, I would have to think that his thoughts on this issue ran along the same lines as the bishops in general, that healthcare should be a right and all of the people should have access to it no matter their financial position. I understand all this and empathize with them, but I believed them naive in trusting the government in doing things in a morally acceptable way, healthcare included.

It seems clear to me that the position the bishops have on national healthcare was never really thought out. I have a distinct feeling that the bishops and some of the priests believed national health would just descend on this country in a non-confrontational manner where peoples rights and freedoms would not be impaired and all would be hunky dory. The 2008 presidential election seems to have slapped the Church back into reality about government and how it is run. This administration was no friend of Christianity or constitutional freedoms. I believe my pastor felt the sting of that slap and began to see what was coming down the pike.

What has really been missing in many homilies across our nation is the direct teaching of the Church on all issues from the pulpits, especially the controversial ones, and it has been no different in my parish over the years until recently. Sometimes teaching a Truth requires no more than affirming the truth rather than condemning an action that is contrary to the truth. With SSM for the future now becoming a reality in many states, Father D has begun to promote traditional marriage as between a man and a woman in all its glory. He never has to condemn the SSM movement that is occurring for the truth about marriage is doing that on its own. His homilies leave absolutely no doubt as to what the Church teaches about marriage without even having to mention SSM. Promoting the good without having to condemn the bad.

This past weekend was no different. Citing the annual secular war on Christmas, Father D spoke of our responsibility to speak out as Catholics, not only with our words but our actions also. He was not ambiguous in any manner as he encouraged all to defend the faith as we profess it, both within our families and in the public square. He acknowledged that many of us, including himself, have not been fervent enough in our faith to teach the public the truth and how we now find ourselves with the very real possibility of losing our religious freedom. Our apathy in faith is what has brought us to this precipice. He encouraged us all to use this year's Advent as an opportunity in not just changing ourselves, but in turn, our society as well. Yes, his homilies are very encouraging to say the least.

Is all this too late? Some may say yes it is, but I say no, it is never too late to speak the truth, though some may have fallen by the wayside because of the lack of hearing it from our Church. Our Church history is rife with calamities that endangered its mission and life yet God has always produced saints to come to the rescue in these times. Heroes of the faith.  We are in dire need of heroes right now that will produce a faithful and pious Church. I know it is the turn of events in the last two elections that has helped Father D along in preaching the Truth more explicitly, but sometimes calamities such as our society is finding itself in is the right prescription to our healing. Painful? Absolutely. Redemptive? Oh yes!. It doesn't stop with the priest at the pulpit however. After every Mass we are exhorted to go forth and spread to others what we have received at Mass. We, as the faithful need to step up to the plate also. We are all to speak the Truth no matter the consequences.

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