Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Living in Denial

Trad Catholic
Catholic Socialist
Catholic Libertarian
Normie Catholic
Weird Catholic
Leftist Catholic
Catholic Republican
Catholic Democrat
Communist Catholic

This one has a little car.
THAT one has a little star!
Say! What a lot of Catholics there are.

When I was at Cal, I colluded with a fellow student to bring a contingent of students into contact with the extraordinary form of the Mass. We'd drive them over, help 'em get used to the weird missals, and whisper warm encouraging things when their eyes glazed over at the 1 1/2 hour mark, surreptitiously dabbing away the drool trickling from their slackened mouths.

That's little exaggeration - going to a completely new (to you) liturgy can be draining. When a friend brought me to some Eastern Rite Mass, I practically fainted. He helpfully clutched my elbow for awhile in case I decided a reverent face-plant was in order. So many new sensory inputs, so much difference, is daze-inducing to the detail-oriented.

After one Mass (we'd made this a regular offering to students, and I think we went for maybe 4 months in a row, 1x/month?), a regular approached me with a smile asking if I was thinking of becoming a regular, too. Her mantilla-framed face froze as I told her that I was happy with the Ordinary Form. She *turned her back on me* and left without another word (perhaps she mumbled an "oh"? Maybe.), leaving me a solitary stunned outcast.

Literally bringing people to the extraordinary form of the Mass couldn't satiate her - I must conform to just and only this, leaving no room in my heart for anything else. It certainly felt like there was no space in that woman's heart for me à la Ordinary Form - or maybe she had IBS and I totally misinterpreted her frozen face of horror as she had a bowel movement and one of those LITERAL "CRAP!!! I'M NOT WEARING DEPENDS!!!" moments and had to waddle away. MAYBE.

That didn't stop me from bringing people to the extraordinary form, but it remained with me as a formative perception.

I hate being labeled and often hate labels. Flannery O'Connor hated labels. She's good company. Sort of spicy and acerbic but with a warm pulse - leaves you feeling like she's trying to shove your begrudging body in the right direction with a wry grimace-smile.

Catholics have a different kinda substance. The indelible mark(s) that we're sealed with re-configures our soul and thus our form and thus our body and thus our substance. They remain with us in the afterlife (so I've read). What that really means in theological terms, I'm not entirely sure, since I studied philosophy not theology, ya know? But it suggests to me that in some sense being a member of the Church is what we are and not an aggregation of the things we have done or what Mass we attend or what political party we adhere to.

Living up to our baptismal vows, remaining in communion with the Church, is a different matter. If you do not say "CREDO" to the fundamental truths, if you assent in intellect but spurn in will, if you deliberately face off against the Catholic Church like a forçado, well, then, you're still under her authority but not necessarily in communion.

I KNOW this is a pretty poor blush on the whole thing and that writers from Saint Bellarmine to John Paul the Great deal with the Church as the mystical body and make profound observations regarding its body and soul / being of the body / being of the soul of the Church, and how people fall into those categories. But bear with me - I'm aiming at something so don't focus on where I go wrong or where I'm the equivalent of a kindergartener spouting things about Kierkegaard -- I'm trying to wave my hand at something. Focus on that. Kthxendaside.

Probably, I would be identified as a Leftist Catholic, but would never and have never identified myself as anything but "Catholic." I suspect some might also say I'm a normie Catholics, perhaps. (I'm still not quite sure what the extension of that term is, but it seems pejorative.) To be Catholic is enough for me. The additional descriptors aren't substance-y enough but we often treat them as if they were, tho. You must BE a Republican if you are to call yourself a Catholic. You are CATHOLIC if you attend the extraordinary form of the Mass. Etc.

Then, armed with these descriptors, some of us stand shoulder to shoulder with our associates and get all down and tribal and funky. All who agree with us are within a protective bubble of civility. All who are outside are open to the worst epithets. What this person says is not just reasonable - the person himself is obviously erudite, has a good character, deserves standing applause. What THAT OTHER PERSON says is not just unreasonable - the person himself is obviously a peon, lacks any semblance of internal thought processes, and should be cursed unto the nth generation. Plus, their kids are ugly. And fat. And he looks like a goat. HA HA, OH SNAP.

What some (many?) people really mean by such requirement statements for Catholicism is: in order to be in union with the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, you must be x/y/z. We also see the phrase: "You cannot be Catholic and a/b/c" which has similar shorthand except it deals with the denial of a conjunction.

"You cannot be Catholic and pro-choice." Fine.
"You cannot be Catholic and support euthanasia." Fine.
"You cannot be Catholic and deny the divinity of Christ." Fine.
"You cannot be Catholic (in the USA) without being a Republican." Er.....

The first three things are not a positive affirmation of a position with an identity, but a denial. I'm ok with denial. I live in denial. What makes me uncomfortable is when identity statements are made about human institutions, transitory forms of liturgy, or political ideologies -- and that is the basis used for grouping ourselves within the Church and FIGHTING WITH EACH OTHER.

I'm not saying that these labels are without use -- but that some of the ways in which we use them are less than helpful and fuel for unnecessary division. We're members of the same Church, the mystical Body of Christ, claimed for Him through the same waters of baptism. To be Catholic defies, in some ways, defies such descriptors - it is so grand and there are so many rooms.

My, how we Christians love each other, eh?

[Thanks to mah friend Dr. Tan from Divine Wedgie who looked at this post to make sure I wasn't saying theologically unsound stupid stuff.]


Warren Postma said...

"I must conform to just and only this, leaving no room in my heart for anything else"

-- You just crystalized what I had unconsciously realized myself. After several years attending an Extraordinary Form mass (TLM) in Toronto, but being uninterested in our local loud-mouthed and disrespectful-of-the-local-ordinary traddie community, I felt something is wrong, and I left.


Deirdre said...

It's a real shame when that mentality is pervasive in a community -- the liturgy itself is so gorgeous! I *think* there's less of it now then there used to be, since the extraordinary form is more widely available, but I'm not sure.