Monday, August 14, 2006

Roman Catholic Paper Chase

“All of Christ’s followers, therefore, are invited and bound to pursue holiness and the perfect fulfillment of their proper state. Hence, let them all see that they guide their affections rightly. Otherwise they will be thwarted in the search for perfect charity by the way that they use earthly possessions and by a fondness for riches which goes against the gospel…” (The Documents of Vatican 2, “The church”, chapter 3, Paragraph 42)

How many of us know that this is the commandment of Our Church to us… “we are bound to pursue holiness and …perfect fulfillment.”

Does anyone know what this means?
Does anyone know what it means to be a true Roman Catholic?
Very few indeed.

Listen to the questions that people throw at the staff of the parish office on a daily basis. I’m not making these up. None of them has anything to do with being a true seeker of holy perfection.

“What do I have to do to get my child baptized?”
“Are you taking registrations for first communion?”
“My child is 12 years old. Can I get her baptized?”
“I’m not married. Can I have my child baptized?”
“Can I have my son/daughter confirmed if I am not married by church?”
“Can my daughter be accepted to ‘Quinceañera if she has not made her first communion?
“My child already has made first communion. Why should I send him to CCD?”
“I’m not married yet, but I want to be baptized so I can get my children baptized.”
“How can I get first communion?” I know I’m baptized, but I never had any instruction.”
“Why is there so much red tape for people to get baptized?”
“How long does it take before I can receive confirmation?”
“How long does it take before my child can receive first communion?”
“My child already received first communion. Why do I have to send her to catechism any more?”
“If you don’t allow my daughter to wear a veil for her first communion, I’ll go talk to the bishop.”
“Why can’t I get married in church if I’m not confirmed yet?”
“Why can’t my Episcopalian sister-in-law be a god-mother of my child?”

I could go on and on.

We Catholics supposedly are attracted by the life, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus as well as the heroic lives of our saints. Yet, so few of us seem to be attracted to the life that would bring us to sainthood.

There are altogether too many of us who are total cultural minimalists on a pure paper chase.

We forget to ask ourselves the hard questions:
“Would St. Peter have been the first pope if he had stopped being faithful to Jesus after his first communion?”
“Do you suppose Jesus could argue with the Pharisees if he had stopped going to the Temple after His baptism by St. John?”

How about these hard questions:
“Why aren’t you married by the church?
“Why do you force your child to receive first communion even though you, yourself do not even attend Mass regularly?”
“Why do you want your child to receive first communion when you know that you will not attend Mass regularly?”
“Why is it more important for you to help your child achieve perfection on the athletic field than to help him/her to do the same in the presence of Christ?”
“Why do you force your child to receive confirmation, when you, yourself, along with your child, have not set foot inside the church for years?”
“Why do you expect your child to be married in church if he or she has not set foot in church for years?”
Why do you want a Catholic funeral if you haven’t set foot in church for years?
“Why do you bother to call yourself Catholic when as a matter of fact you do not live like one?”

Wait, wait, don’t tell me. I know.

“I believe in God”
“All my family is Catholic.”
“I went to Catholic school.”
“I pray the Hail Mary a lot.”
“I like Our Lady of Guadalupe.”
“My mom would die if I changed.”
“I have an uncle who’s a priest.”
“I donate $100.00 a year to the church at the festival.”
“I always send the Jehovah’s Witnesses away when they come to my door.”

The crowning glory to all this is to watch you pass the guilt on to the managers who are entrusted with the preparation process of the adults and the children for the sacraments. The excuses and the pretexts that you throw out on the table in an effort to make the officials make an exception for you go like these:

“I’m busy, I work a lot.”
“I have other children at home.”
“My spouse comes home later than I do.”
“We’ve been coming to this church for five years now.”
“I don’t have time to read the bulletin.”
“I have to drive for the soccer games on Saturday.”
“I can’t come in the evening because I volunteer at the school library.”
“Weekends are the only time I can see my mother.”
“I’m in real estate and weekends are real busy for me.”
“When Father so and so was here we didn’t have all this red tape.”
“I’m going to appeal to the pastor.”

Finally, if you were really Catholic, seeking the spiritual perfection of sanctity you would know that:

Forcing your child to receive communion against his/her will causes the sacrament to be invalid; Seeking a Quinceañera celebration for your daughter is not a true church sacramental celebration;
Forcing your child to receive confirmation against his/her will causes the sacrament to be invalid;
Forcing your child to be married by the sacrament of matrimony against his/her will causes the sacrament to be invalid.

I have some suggestions:

Get your marriage straightened out in line with the church sacramental requirement.
Make friends with church-goers who know what they are talking about.
Learn your prayers and say them as a family, at least at night.
Study the catechism that your children bring home from the church.
Take the bulletin home and read the Bible suggestions for the week.
Take advantage of the adult classes offered by the church a couple times per year.
Volunteer to help around the church, even just for a few hours per year.
Use your Bible as a source of ideas for meditation at least 10 minutes per day. Set aside a quiet corner of your dwelling for such a purpose.
Help someone who needs aid at least once per month.
If you have the Internet, read the stories of now and then during the week.

If you are reading this and it makes you angry, GOOD! Do something about it.

I guarantee, if you do something about it and you become a really, true blue Catholic because of your renewed effort under the inspiration of God, you’ll have absolutely no need to cry at my funeral.

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