Stealing Joy

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There are some, probably all unaware of it, who spend their time being Satan's Willing Executioners. They steal joy.

Some of the joy stealers are undoubtedly aware of it, but because their own lives are too small and too unhappy, they only feel camaraderie only in the misery they can spread. These are very, very few in number.

More often than not, those who would steal joy do so out of very good motives. They want to improve things for everyone, they want to return reverence to the Mass, they want things to be like they were when everyone was pious, reverent, silent (and every bit as involved or uninvolved as they are today).

The people I refer to are those who tell us everything that is wrong with the present Mass. Those who write treatises about why this, that, or the other hymn is inappropriate. Why the only good ways are the old ways.

After reading enough of this I go to Mass with a mass of interior griping. I open my hymnal and see the name of Michael Joncas and nearly slam it shut--now there's charity for you. I have echoing in my head all the critiques of "I Am the Bread of Life." In short, I am paying attention to everything except the most important thing. I have Martha'ed away the Mass in a toil of concerns that really do not affect the central action of the Mass. If I sing "I Am the Bread of Life," I am not undoing what the Priest has done. Nor, contrary to some, am I claiming to be Jesus himself. I read one critique that made the nonsensical claim that never before the twentieth century did we sing or pray in the person of God, all song were written "from the outside" as it were. And then I turn to Psalm 95, which I recite every morning:

"Do not grow stubborn in the wilderness
as your Fathers did at Meribah and Massah
although they had seen all of my works.

Forty years I endured that generation,
I said, "They are a people whose hearts go astray
and they do not know my ways,"
So I swore in my anger, they shall not enter my rest."

Seems like we pray in the person of God as we recite this, and yet I haven't seen generations of confused monks convinced that they are God.

This is not to say that everything is perfect, nor to say that every selection chosen for Mass is always the most appropriate. It is to say that if one finds it necessary to make a complaint, it should be to the Priest or the liturgy committee and one's discontentment should be kept for oneself--a vintage not to be shared with all. We all have enough gripes about the way things go in our parishes. Last weekend, I thought I'd become apoplectic at a "liturgical motion" that consisted for a pair of barefoot young ladies in red carrying pots of incense through the congregation. (Our parish is Holy Cross, so we deferred the celebration to the weekend at which time we had a big blowout.). And then, I realized that I wasn't there to critique what was going on. That this motion did not detract from the Mass, and for some it might even have acted as a moment of beauty to bring them in to the main course. Apoplexy was conditioned by what I had read and participated in with various Catholic Blogs. It was time to divorce myself from the griping, complaining, and communal unhappiness that typified some sectors of the community. And so, I could happily sing along with "Our God is an Awesome God," well aware that a great many would frown upon it and wonder what place it had in the Holy Sacrifice of Mass. But if they choose to steal their own joy with such ruminations, it is none of my business. It only becomes my business when they make it their business to steal the joy of others.

Less griping, more working with the liturgy committee, with the Priest to effect the changes you would like to see in the Parish. And then sit for a while in the seat of those who receive the complaints, because every change made provokes complaints from one group or another.

Frankly, I don't understand how our good and great Priests endure the panoply of nonsense and complaint that they must be subject to from all of their parishioners-- different ones at different times. Indeed, they have a special grace and a leg up on the way to heaven simply sitting in the seat of authority and hearing all that they must hear.

If you are one--stop stealing joy. Register your complaint, let the liturgy committee know how you'd like to see things change. My guess about the likelihood of change involves an accumulation of solid state atmospheric precipitation and a very warm environment; nevertheless, that is the appropriate venue for discussion of the matters. In a sense, it is their job to receive and assimilate feedback. But it is not the job of the congregation at large, nor any particular member of it outside of those concerned with the planning of liturgy--and it is a form of detraction that can lead many astray--it cultivates unseemly anger and derails concentration on what is truly important.

Or, more likely, I'm simply exposing my own weakness. In which case, so be it.

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First post i've ever seen that addressed why I've cut back on "Catholic" blogging. Good job. Thank you!

Steven, you hit the nail on the head for me. I actually caught myself criticizing the lyrics to "I Am the Bread of Life" the other day during Mass! Heh!

I can't stand the carping. The naysaying contaminates my brain- ack, make them stop!!

I blogged about it.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 20, 2006 9:09 AM.

Apples and Pumpkins was the previous entry in this blog.

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