Choosing A Church in Fear and Trembling

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Okay, now that I'm over my regular quarterly meltdown, it's time to get back to business.

The first item of business--Parish Hopping.

I have fought and fought the idea of going to "my parish" church. The first time I was there I saw some really awful liturgical dance. The decoration is abyssmal, and the ambience is not what I best appreciate. That said, I went there today, really asking God what to do. I doubt my willingness to drive nearly twenty miles to cart Samuel to and from CCD. This church is so close that if I oversleep but still have 20 minutes I can get there in plenty of time.

So I asked God to speak to my heart, to tell me what to do. After all, He seems to have ordained this week as a week of blessings for me. I went to Mass this morning, with the idea that this should be my home. I wouldn't walk into my own home and start judging the decor etc. After all decor is secondary even if quite important.

What I noticed was that unlike the Church I really like, this church was truly and wonderfully diverse. I saw several families with mixed race children, a great many African Americans, hispanics and Phillippinos, as well as a white population of all ages. The other parish I go to is on the wealthier side of town, it tends to have a smaller diversity and the pastor, somewhat understandably, tends to cater with those who will give large sums of money to the Church.

At the time of the homily, an African American Deacon came forward and gave the best homily I've heard in a long time. He blessed me and blessed me again because I've been longing for some of the dynamism that is the basis of protestant preaching but with faithfulness to Catholic Doctrine. Here I have it all in one person. But more than that, he launched a direct assault at my most firmly protected entryway to God--the heart of stone I carry around with me. He sent legions and legions that direction, with only a momentary foray into the region of the intellect--another heavily guarded bastion, but one not quite so impervious to trying to listen to God. Oh, how I was blessed by the kinds of things he spelled out. How God spoke to me through him. I rejoice in the Holy Spirit within me who determined that I would try this Church yet once again and set aside my misgivings.

Finally, the Lord opened my eyes to my woundedness. The reason I do not care for this Church is that it reminds of a Church in Columbus that I called St. X's Nearly Catholic Church. A deacon was dismissed from the Church I describe because he dared to speak out against abortion from the ambo on the day dedicated to precisely that cause. And all he said regarding the matter was that we should not look down upon women who have had abortions, but we should regard them with accepting compassion and kindness, welcoming them back into the loving embrace of the Father.

I must place my trust in God that this place is not like that one. But I do believe that he spoke to me today. He had a great many things to say, but amongst them was this most important one: "You've got a very supple, very pliable head but a heart of stone. Get thee to a place where you can work on demolishing the battlements around your heart and leave your head alone--it will watch out after itself. You work is heart-work, not head-work. "

And finally, my wife seems more favorably inclined toward this church than toward the one I am accustomed to attending. If God can work on her through this Church all the more reason for going here.

It's amazing what God will say when we're willing to listen.

Pray for us as we launch into this

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Potpourri from Foreword on July 27, 2004 7:39 AM

Like Steven Riddle from Flos Carmeli, I’m recovering from my quarterly meltdown. I’m staying at a convent where the nuns wear (gasp) sweat pants and t-shirts with dolphins and other such garb. There’s a fabulous library with tons of v... Read More


Of course the irony is that you generally have something amazingly worthwhile to say, except during your handwringing sessions over whether or not you have anything meaningful to say. I am always glad when they are over because a. it means you get back to the business of providing some of the best blog content around and b. it generally signals that you are going to continue the blog.

Also, you have to remember that St. Blog's needs you to provide the pro-Ghandi balance to my continued streams of invective against the skinhead lawyer and bogus cult leader.


Dear Erik,

Why thank you, I think. Yes, the handwringing was taken off-line until it was over this time--overall a fine strategy I think and I'll try to keep it in mind for the next quarterly installment.

[Mostly] Pro-Gandhi, but don't forget pro-Thoreau [mostly, but usually on my let's aggravate the "conservative" days] but mostly pro-Seventeenth Century.

Thanks for your note, it made me laugh.




The last bit about Linda speaks volumes. It sounds like St. Local is the place for you. May God continue to soften your heart and convert you into the Steven He created.

Thank God for deacons!


My general rule of thumb on this matter is to go to the parish in whose boundaries you live, no matter how bad, because you're probably the only hope for its improvement. The most definitive exception to this rule, however, is if the souls of yourself or (more likely) your family are at stake. I've seen good folk on a mission to save a parish only to sacrifice their kids' Catholic identity in the process. Not worth it. God bless.

Dear Jamie,

You can't imagine how useful that advice is in this case. I am a bit concerned for Samuel's formal religious education at this Church, but what profoundly moves me is that he will have a great many "role models." At the church I like, he might come away with the impression that religion is a matter for white people alone. So I don't see the Church as a potential danger to him, in fact, he seems to like going to this church better than another local Shrine church. So thank you, all of these things are under consideration, but barring untoward circumstances, I'm fairly certain our minds are made up.




Why can't you just homeschool Samuel for his catechesis?

I agree with Katherine. Get a Baltimore Catechism and you'll be mostly there!



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on July 25, 2004 9:44 AM.

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