Sunday, October 25, 2009

A call to thoughtful research, or, a long ramble that eventually tells you something about me!

Ever had one of those times where a topic you had thought was passed and not going to be a problem, came back up and smacked you upside the head when you weren't prepared for it? And worse yet, people you respect and like are on the opposite side of the thought process?

Yeah. I had one of those kind of moments last weekend after Mass. Our altar servers 'class' is just getting started for this year, and the call was out to the entire congregation to bring your children (3d grade and up, having received their First Holy Communion) at 330 Sunday afternoon. Well, there is a considerable amount of debate amongst the faithful, as to whether female altar servers ought to be as standard as they are, or if they ought to be (as I believe) a rarity, something only in extreme and exceptional circumstances (as in, there are no boys in the parish of age/mental capability, etc). Some friends/neighbors of ours, *wonderful* people, have two teenaged children. A son and a daughter. Both of whom serve at the altar. I haven't thought less of them, or, honestly, much about it at all--what they decide for their children, is their decision for their family. But they approached me about #1 joining the class. Ugh. I had honestly hoped to avoid this conversation. So many people, when you take a stance opposite theirs, get their hackles up and think that you are disparaging their choice..

Fortunately, these friends are/were not like that. They may not have agreed with me, but they didn't disparage my opinions on the matter. I explained why our daughters won't be serving at the altar during Mass. That the serving at the altar, being *that* close to the the moment of the changing of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ (while maintaining the "accidents" of bread and wine, they are completely and totally, the flesh and blood of Our Lord), that the soul can be touched. A vocation can be called...heard...sensed in the depths. As I explained it to #1, "Do *you* hear better when you are right next to the person speaking, or do you hear better in another room, or even outside, when they are inside? Think on it...when Christ is made manifest in the Eucharist, could a young man hear the call to the priesthood better if he is right there, close to the altar, serving the priest? Or would he hear it better if he was sitting in with the congregation? If a boy is chased off from serving at the altar because there are too many little (or not so little) girls serving already, are we doing him a service? Are we helping him? Yes, God will still be calling him, but will the young boy/man hear the call as easily, away from the side of the priest?"

There are many many ways for individuals to serve the parish, to do the work of God. But for me and my house, we chose to let the boys/men serve at the altar (and preferably, only them within the sanctuary--sanctuary meaning something different to Catholics and Protestants)...and let we ladies serve in many other ways. I will have no problem with the boys serving when they come of age, provided that they are interested (and it is an interest I will strongly encourage, mind you). I would have no problem with any of my children having a religious vocation, or one to Holy Orders. I would rejoice, in fact. But I know that the call to the service of God, as a priest, may indeed come easier if one is exposed, early on, to the work of God at the altar. In seeing some of the work of a priest, in assisting him in his duties...a young man may gain a greater appreciation for that which he receives in the Eucharist, and for the work of a priest.

For my non-Catholic readers, let me give you a bit more background on's where it gets long, but I think it is worthwhile... :-)

I was raised in a non-denominational protestant church, in the Deep South. I married a laid-back, not-really-actively Catholic man from lovely fly-over country. I decided that I had better research what it was that the Catholic Church taught, so I could better discuss things with my husband (perhaps with the intent of turning him in the direction of my church--to be honest, I don't remember). If nothing else, I learned "know your enemy" from my study of history (which I *love*, lol). How best to know where to pick away at a weak point, than to learn what your 'enemy' believes?

Problem was...I didn't find any points to pick at. Oddly enough (you can insert a sarcastic eyeroll here), I didn't find what I expected, at all. I had had several questions, throughout my (albeit, short--I was only 21 when we married) years...when it came to certain particular scriptures...and no one answered them. Even when asking directly. No one could explain why, in a church that believed "When the scriptures speak, we speak, where the scriptures are silent, we are silent", we didn't believe that there was a way to have the Body and Blood of Jesus, "today". Why it was a one-time only deal, that the bread and wine were changed into the flesh and blood of Our Lord. And yet, He never said it was a symbol, He never turned it around into another parable (as He did in other instances, where folks weren't getting the meaning of what He had to get across) He instead let them leave. That He knew it was a hard thing to hear, much less believe.

When I started finding the answers to my questions, well, first off, I was concerned. I mean, after all, Catholics believe in all this man-made nonsense. I mean, really! A POPE?!? Celibacy for their priests? NUNS?!?! The whole fol-de-rol of the Mass? But my research led me (over 6 years of on-again, off-again research--hey, I did three pregnancies in there, and multiple 'geographically single' periods when my darling El-Husbando was deployed), to the point where it seemed like domino after domino would fall...and soon enough, I realized that my arguments were for naught. It was pretty obvious where the Truth was. And I wasn't there...and frankly, who wants to be on the wrong side in *that* fight? Really?! There really was a reason behind priestly celibacy, behind the liturgical aspects of the Mass...a reason for a pope, and yes, that he actually does have a mandate, handed down from St Peter, to lead the Church (a job no man who ought to have the job, would want, let me tell you)...that Catholics don't worship idols, just because they have statues and pictoral representations of the saints...that 'praying' means two totally different things, depending on whether you are speaking to a Catholic, or to a protestant. That respecting the role the Mother of Christ plays in the role of our salvation is not putting her above, or even on even footing with Christ and His sacrifice. Talk about some earth shattering, mind blowing revelations! I knew maybe two or three Catholics in my southern suburban up-bringing. It wasn't as if I grew up surrounded by them in Little Italy, or anything! :-) I just came to a few realizations....

I realized that historically, the mass is very very similar to the services in the synagogues of old...that the Church doesn't bend and sway with the whims of a given era, but instead, quietly (or sometimes, less quietly), investigates, ponders, researches, and debates internally...the 'experts' very very thoroughly research through the scripture, through the writings of the Early Church Fathers, before ever saying anything on a given subject...the fact that the first Mass we still have a copy of, was written in, get this--the 160s, AD? Not 1600. Not 1000. Not 600. No, the Year of Our Lord, 160 (ish). I mean, hello? No findings whatsoever for any protestant forms of...well, anything!...that far back, but yet, we have a mass from St Justin Martyr written, from that long gone time--130 yrs, give or take, after the death of Christ. And there was sooo much more, in early writings of the Church...from the men who were the spiritual sons and grandsons of the apostles and disciples of Christ...they got their spiritual education at the feet of the men who walked and talked with Christ...and their writings, taken as a whole, are terribly Catholic.

I know so many folks who have dismissed, out of hand, the claims of the Catholic Church. Who have done no research (and remember, research isn't simply reading something from someone who already holds your view--I wouldn't go to a Baptist to learn about being a Buddhist, or a Muslim to learn about being a Methodist--so why would I turn to Calvinist to teach me about what the Catholic Church teaches, and why? It makes no sense...but I digress a bit...)...

So I highly recommend (and not just in this area, mind you--although it is one near and dear to my heart! :-) ) that whenever you are doing research, don't just look at sources that back up your perspective, but actually look for sources that run counter to your view...see WHY they argue that particular may not change your thoughts on the matter, but if nothing else, you will come out with a better basis for why you hold your beliefs.

Believe me, I read many "the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon", "Catholics are simply misguided, and aren't really Christian", "101 reasons to be any sort of Christian but Catholic", etc. Between that and my upbringing (and believe me, I was a champion Bible Bowler!), I knew the arguments. And found them baseless, when I did my research. It nearly made me ill, to be honest with you. There is plenty of false-flag type information out there, supposedly proving that the Catholic Church is nothing but some trumped up man-made nonsense. I've btdt, got the doggone teeshirt, thank you very much. LOL. I do wish, however, that all of those who want to convert me, by reading their Chick tracts (Lord, have mercy on us all...ugh), would stop for a minute and actually find out what the Catholic Church teaches before they try to hand that poorly written nonsense into my unwitting children's hands.

I know that this is rambling. And I hope that I have not offended anyone...just trying to explain where I'm coming from...doing research on these sorts of issues is something definitely up my alley. I am, after all, the same woman who, in spite of being able to exempt out of her college US history requirements (I took AP US History in high school, and got a 4 out of a possible 5 on the exam), went ahead and took more than two US History classes in college. Yes. I am pathetic. I had more history credits when I left college, than I needed for a major--but it wasn't my even my declared major. I am that bad. Bear with me, if I push the whole "research, research, research!" tack. :-)

Sorry that there has been no Diva for the last two days. I tried to put up a new post yesterday, but it got lost somewhere...and then I spent the rest of the day, trying to put a different background for the blog, and it didn't work. All that work, for nothing. Grumble. I promise, tomorrow, to link you to one HECK of a Diva! I absolutely LOOOOOVE her house--shoot, I even like her friends' houses! I know my DH would absolutely have a conniption if I did some of the things I see in her house (and I have also accepted that this is not a season in my life where I will have a coffee table, or decorations on lower, horizontal surfaces). Two year olds are not friendly to bric-a-brac, or breakable objects of my affections (milk glass, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways....). I don't have empty spaces on my bookshelves to make displays *except on the very tippy top, and even there, it is more books*. My home is currently decorated in 'distracted homeschooling mom chic' crossed with 'early marriage broke NCO family', combined with 'Oh Please God, let me do *something* in this house that is not by the book/box store'...kind of an eclectic look, that is for sure.

Maybe tomorrow, I can show you the latest kitchen windowsill look. It is really the only window sill that #4 &5 cannot reach. So I am trying to prettify it...a little milk glass, a few candles, a doily or two (I absolutely LOOOOVE old linens!), some papier mache apples I got at the city-wide yard sale a few weeks back, and I've got a good start on a look. Now I want some small plants. An asparagus fern. SOMETHING living, besides the science experiments that we have occasionally going in the fridge.

But until then, I hope you have had an absolutely blessed Sunday. May it mark a great start, to a fresh week.

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