Sunday, July 24, 2016

Man's plan and God's plan

Yesterday we went to vigil Mass at Holy Innocents Catholic Church which, sadly, will close next Sunday as a result of consolidation. We had our first experience there two years ago, when we attended Stations of the Cross, and I immediately fell in love with this beautiful parish. Going for the last time before the doors close created more grief than I had anticipated.

I had told DH how "beautiful" the parish was and, while there are parts that are truly stunning, it is fairly typical of the churches created at that time. Reflecting more after Mass, I realized it was the people we met, the priest who said the Stations, the full faith experience that made it beautiful to me. That's why I got more than a little stirred up as I sat and listened to the first reading when Abraham was pleading for God's mercy to save the innocent people in Genesis 18.
But he still persisted:
"Please, let not my Lord grow angry if I speak up this last time.
What if there are at least ten there?"
He replied, "For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it."

Surely the "sins" of the people in this parish can't compare to those of Sodom and Gomorrah? As I watched the 70- and 80-year-old people serving at the altar and worshiping at the pews, the worst mistake I could see was their refusing to flee to suburbia with the rest of the Catholics who once worshiped beside them (if not fleeing the Church completely). Is it because they failed to instill the faith in their children? Perhaps. Being a parent has created great empathy in me, though...I see that you can try mightily to instill the faith in your children but if there is little leadership to educate and society pressing in on all sides, it becomes a very difficult task.

The church was not air-conditioned (remember when none of them were?) and our little ones were less than happy to sit and swelter. How kind of God to send a Missionary priest to talk about his life on the Amazon, preaching to people who see a priest perhaps a few times each year. "Because they see us so rarely," Father said, "I spend as much time as possible with them...administering Sacraments and just talking to and being with them." It did provide a wealth of discussion for the ride home but it also stirred up some anger in me.

When did we become such a self-centered, spoiled, arrogant people? Why are the churches in the "poor" neighborhoods closing while the "not-poor" neighborhoods are building mega-churches or pouring millions of dollars into their showplaces? Church hopping is all the rage, have you noticed? "To which parish do you belong?" is often met with "Well, we're registered at St. X but we go to different parishes depending on the priest and the Mass times" or, and I was told this directly, "My envelopes go to your parish but I go somewhere else." Now it is especially poignant to shop for the places with air-conditioning or padded seats. Of course, Mass has to fit a time that is convenient with our other Sunday activities.

Before you think it's a preachy thing, we attend our home parish about 65% of the time for Sunday Mass. Holy days, Holy hours, weekday Masses are almost exclusively there. So, we do it too. Clearly not for padded seats or ac though. Why then? I suppose because "everyone else does it" and I'm unclear that "sticking it out with your home church" is beneficial in the long run to my children's spiritual well-being. There are the faith-filled people (who attend weekday Mass and holy hours) and staff that keep us from leaving completely but there is also a sense of and focus on worldly things that should be tempered by sitting in a hot church listening to a Missionary priest with an elderly population that comes because they want to, not because they are required. Redemptive suffering doesn't seem to be talked about much these days so we are making sure it is brought into conversation whenever possible. Christ didn't have a padded, air-conditioned one let him ride a donkey to Calvary and get a parking space up front before He was crucified. Heaven help us when the persecution begins in earnest. How many of us will run away to a more comfortable, convenient situation?

God is good in all things. I took this picture before we went in for Mass
It wasn't a rainbow after the thunderstorms but the "God rays" as we call them were abundant...the lines from Him to us, always reaching out to bring us back to Him. Looking at that and talking to DH about the morning's activities (he went to a local college with #s 1&2 son for a vocations talk) has calmed me a great deal.
An excellent father-son afternoon

and swag too ;0)

In the end, like the election, I feel it's beyond most anything for me to do except pray. Pray that everyone (including us) will release the need for the world and allow the need for God to be all-consuming. I pray that we can continue to see, experience, and discuss with our children so, even when the education from the outside is lacking, we are doing all we can to help them learn and understand the faith (it's so important...a very good Catholic person was wondering aloud recently why we can't have a couple of outdoor Masses every month in the the church next door. Ug. Simply a lack of Catechesis there.) I pray that we can find a loving way to act as a witness to others we meet (at least when we're working to learn and grow in the faith). I pray that God will lead us to opportunities, like the vocations talk, that will keep us moving in the direction of Him. Ultimately, I want to do all we can to be those ten people (and I hope there are so many more than ten!) that will stir God's compassion to save everyone. Join us, won't you?

We are blessed.


  1. Some good reflections here.

    I do support the idea of people attending their local neighborhood church. And I agree that things like air conditioning or padded seats (or convenient parking!) are not good reasons to choose a certain church to attend. That said, there was a time when a Catholic could walk into virtually any Catholic church and expect a reverent Mass, an edifying atmosphere, beautiful architecture, an orthodox homily, and sacred music fit for the worship of God. Sadly, that's not the case anymore. So if one needs to go elsewhere to find *those* things, I think it's appropriate to do so. Especially when there are children involved that you are trying to educate in the Faith, it becomes so important to seek out the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.

    1. Clearly I agree but then I think if there are enough people who stay who want those things, it will change, rather than letting that parish continue in error. Also, homilies and music change with the person in charge and that creates an opportunity to leave again once the person in charge does. Unless there is flagrant liturgical abuse, the liturgy is the liturgy. In my limited experience, the biggest churches aren't necessarily the most orthodox.