Monday, June 20, 2011

I cried in church again yesterday

I cried in church again yesterday.

It's been awhile since I've done that. It used to happen all the time because the pain of my life was ubiquitous and my gratitude for God's love overwhelming.

Now the pain has shifted into new forms and combined with hope, and His love feels more like relationship than tidal wave.

I cried for another reason.

DiDi and I have been trying to find the parish that is meant for us to attend. Little towns and villages are clustered here like grapes, and we've been giving each Catholic church several visits to get a feel for what they are like.

Yesterday was the third visit to a lovely small church with a quaint seaside name in a beach town north of us. The service started at 10:30. We exited the building at 11:07, after 90% of the recessional stampede abated.

I called it the Drive Thru Mass.

It was Trinity Sunday. The homily lasted about 3 minutes.

He devoted 3 minutes to helping us understand the Trinity.

3 minutes.

There is only one way to address the majesty of the Trinity in that little time, so that's what he did. He said it was a mystery and that we should accept it as an article of our faith.

The lay reader must have been coached about speed as well, because the prayers of the people ended like this:


No pause. No moment for reflection. (I'd intended to pray for the church and its congregation, but no time for that.)

DiDi and I looked at each other with grieved hearts and disbelief.

Words of the consecration prayers also ran together into a nearly incomprehensible stream.

But it was the Eucharistic hymn that finally broke me.

DiDi and I plan to enter RCIA once we find our home parish. Until we join the church officially, we honor its teaching about reception of the Eucharist and abstain, going up to simply receive a blessing from the priest when practical.

There is pain in that abstention. Hunger. Thirst. Longing.

We refrain from receiving out of respect and reverence for the incredible gift that it is. That He is. We do it as a way of honoring Him and His body, the church.

But it hurts.

And so sitting among a body who didn't seem to mind their shepherd rushing through the mass as if it were homework was an affront.

The Eucharistic hymn was "I am the Bread of Life":
I am the Bread of life,
He who comes to Me shall not hunger,
He who believes in Me shall not thirst.
No one can come to Me
Unless the Father draw him.

And I will raise him up,
And I will raise him up,
And I will raise him up on the last day.
The words broke my heart, wondering if this flock would try to lift Him up, when their last day came. I tried to sing but couldn't through the tears.

The Catholic church offers a treasury of gifts. It carries with it the fullness of relationship; understanding the role of Mother within the Holy family. It provides the richness of all the sacraments, with Eucharist as source and summit. It holds the deposit of faith transmitted from Peter.

And yet...

During concluding announcements, the priest looked at his watch and said to the congregation "See how good I am to you?" because the service had been so short. The body responded with a round of applause.

It was the Feast of the Holy Trinity, which fell on Father's Day. The priest stood in the person of Christ to offer His body and blood, poured out for us. Such richness. Such an opportunity for spiritual and intellectual and emotional feeding of God's people.

And yet the priest, our Father, thought that being good to us was getting us out the door in record time.

I repeat Moses' words from yesterday's reading:
"This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own." (Ex 34:9)
Lord, send us to a parish that loves you, respects you, and wants to worship and receive you. In the meantime, may every tear we cry be used for the restoration of your Church.