On (Not) Going to Every Mass, and Responding to the Absurd
One of the biggest learning curves I've experienced from writing at OnePeterFive has been dealing with absurd, non-human, inane comments from a very small section of readers. Perhaps you know the types. They comment on Catholic blogs, postings, and videos with shocking "insight" into every subject. Like an ultramontanist-of-self, such a person can never err on the subject of faith, morals, prophecy, politics, history, science, child-rearing, chess, Chesterton, and which way a toilet paper roll should be placed in one’s bathroom. Often these people are called trolls. This is an apt term, because it seems impossible to engage in an ordinary, human discussion with such a person.
|Meme-makers can't spell|
Here are a couple of examples. I once wrote that, until the Church declares otherwise, I believed Francis was the pope. I was labelled, among other things, a "snoot", "prophet of despair", and "Freemason". When I once stated that I bought a copy of the Catechism of Trent, and that I was enjoying reading it, I became a "jerk", "clown", and "schismatic". Normal people do not talk like this. But I suppose the "new normal" is a real thing for many.
Ok. Deep Breath. I'm good now. I say all of this in relation to some of the comments I received concerning a recent piece I wrote titled: Our Family Struggle of (Not) Attending Sunday Mass. Briefly, I explained that our family has not been to a Sunday Mass since November (there is no Sunday obligation), and gave a range of unfortunate reasons why (i.e. not just masks). Tragically, any given Sunday there are 95% of Catholics likewise not attending Mass, and so I wrote my piece simply to tell just one of, I am sure, millions of stories. Now the reaction of many readers to the piece, whether they agreed or not, was kind, thoughtful, and charitable (I've gotten to know so many wonderful Catholics via this website). But alas, there were comments made which were unkind, thoughtless, and a piling-on towards my family (already going through a difficult time).
I have no time for the people who cannot respond in a civil manner. However, as to the comments actually quizzing me on the content of what I wrote, I offer a few responses:
Comment: The Mass is Jesus! I would do anything to get to a Mass! Regardless of how bad it may be. Response: Any Mass? And with children? I asked some people to consider the absurd: Given no obligation, would they attend a clown Mass? Or what about this Mass?
If you can admit that not every Mass might be best to take your children to, then we can at least initiate a thoughtful discussion. If not, I'm afraid we most likely are done here.
There is a horrible saying, born out of ignorance (to put it charitably): The Mass is the Mass is the Mass. We are humans, with soul and body. What we see, smell, hear affects us. The Mass is Christ's Holy Sacrifice. It is not a 5-minute Communion service. Rather it is intended to form us. Most especially, it forms young children. But more on that later. For now, I would encourage everyone to read Dr. Peter Kwasniewski’s book, Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright. It is a beacon of light and clarity in an ever-darkening world.
Comment: If the early Christians could risk death to go to a Mass in the catacombs, surely we can put up with anything for the sake of a Mass! Response: There is a flaw in the analogy. The earliest Christians, I am sure, did not risk their lives to attend a sing-song with Dan Schutte, while social-distancing out of fear, and acting as if Jesus was not at all present. Risking one's life is serious business. They risked their life because the Mass was serious. Would I risk my life to attend a reverently said Mass? I... don't want to think about that... yet. The time may come in my very lifetime, however. God grant us the grace to make this sacrifice!
Comment: You can't become a saint without the Mass! Response: Absolutely speaking, that is correct. We need the Mass. We need the spiritual benefits of all the worthy Masses being offered, at every moment. The Mass is the source and summit. But in terms of attending a particular Mass... We all know that many saints have not always had a Mass available. It was difficult, but they survived, or even thrived. Bishop Schneider writes well about this. So I ask, which Mass? Two-plus generations of Catholics have been going to Masses which have increasingly focused on Man (and now Health), and less on God. Where are all the saints hiding, who have been attending said Masses? Again, the Mass forms us. The Church needs to take this seriously. Otherwise (I repeat), this 5% attendance rate will continue to slide (take note: traditional Latin Mass attendance has doubled or even tripled in most places since the pandemic began). So to answer the query, yes we need the Mass. But we need reverent Masses. Comment: So you're quitting the Church... Response: NEVER!!!
Comment: Maybe it's ok to stay at home if you're single, but definitely not if you have children!
Response: ...Says the person with no children. Now I know we cannot shelter children completely. But we cannot keep lying to them either. "Kids, kneel down, Jesus is here!" we tell them. They look up and see people walking and talking everywhere. Standing during the consecration. Not genuflecting towards the tabernacle. Receiving Communion on the hand. Kicking out the 31st person to enter for Mass. Not being able to pray. Worrying excessively over germs... This is not spiritually healthy. Comment: You need the Sacraments! Response: Yes we do. We still attend daily Masses, and go to Confession. We are sinners in need of Christ. Having said that. I do know that my wife and I have to continue working to get them/us to Mass. Especially when the weather/travel conditions improve, it will be on us to sign up for the TLM (and become "regulars"), regardless of the difficulty and distance. Without a doubt, it is a grave responsibility being a parent. We can't afford to mess up! We must all be willing to sacrifice greatly for the spiritual wellbeing of our children. Can I say it one more time: I love being Catholic! This current difficulty too shall pass. I would like to end with three final points. 1) Though things are admittedly difficult, I want to emphasize that my family loves our priest dearly. He is a solid confessor, and even gives us Communion on the tongue when we attend our daily Masses. I apologize if I made him sound disingenuous. 2) Tough times are ahead for us all. The heart of the battle may very well concern the Mass. The post-Vatican II Catholic approach has been a disaster. I do not say that lightly, but challenge you to prove me wrong. Tough questions need to be grappled with honestly. I draw special attention to the notion of quality over quantity in regards to receiving the Eucharist. For instance, the Church seriously needs to consider returning to not just the three hour Eucharistic fast, but the fast from Midnight (though with water permitted). 3) Returning to my original point, I admit I puzzle over the issue of un-human interaction online. It is escalating too. There is an ominous feel to the world and Church right now. A Godless feel. It is not simply a case of bishop against bishop, but Catholic against Catholic, and “father against son” (Lk. 12:53). “The Church is leaving me confused and hurt,” says one. “Then I shall kick you while you’re down,” replies another. I think of Rod Dreher’s book, Live Not By Lies, where he interviews many survivors of Communist persecution. They all offer the same advice: Stick together. Our response is: Stick it to the other. Let us pray for one another.