Monday, April 17, 2017
Why I Don't Always Go To Mass!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
"Dear God, that's far above me!"--
Jennifer Jones, in "The Song Of Bernadette."
I was baptized and raised Catholic. I still call myself one. Some would call me a "Cultural Catholic;" one who knows all the dogma, but does not believe. Except, that I do.
Believe, I mean. So, yesterday, as I sat through the 9AM Easter Service at Our Lady Of Angels, in Bay Ridge, I pondered this question. And I will share my findings.
I first lived in Bay Ridge from 1983 till 1997. Throughout the Eighties, on into the very early Nineties, with my hormones raging, I was a bit wild. Enough said. So, let's start with that. Because of that, I felt unworthy to even enter a church.
Now, when I first lived in Bay Ridge, I was closer to St. Andrews, back then, but preferred Our Lady Of Angels on Fourth Avenue, because it reminded me so much of a church back home that I loved--St. Mary's Of Mount Virgin in North Brunswick, NJ. There was a visual similarity to both that drew me because of the artistry, and a comforting familiarity. But I had not reckoned with change--both the Church, and myself.
I was, and am, a Creature Of Habit. I grew up in a time when Catholicism was very Old School. When one is a child, choices are made for you; you were taken to Mass and Catechism, and no questions asked. In the early years, I loved Catechism. Its counterpart, among my Jewish classmates, was Hebrew School, and here I thought they went us one better. Because children were taught the Hebrew Language, to read and write. Catholic children were taught dogma, but with Latin falling out of favor, we were never taught this classical language, which I felt, then, and do now, was a mistake. Some churches today do offer at least one service in Latin, and the mental discipline required in learning this language, would have stimulated me, and served others well. During this time, too, Catechism classes, for the public school children, went all the way to the twelfth grade. By the time I reached the end of grammar school, high school Catechism classes had stopped. My eighth grade year was my last, and our textbook was so "hippy dippy," I figured, what was the point? I did not take another class in religious instruction, until college.
I went to a Catholic college, Seton Hall University, less because of my faith, and more because it seemed like a perfect fit. Everyone there was somewhat wild; these were kids who had had twelve years of parochial school crammed down them, and now were champing at the bit. I was simply eager to learn, and make my own personal discoveries.
I lived there during the week, and came home on the weekends. There was no compulsory chapel attendance there, by that time. But my father saw to it I got to Mass every Saturday evening.
When my mother died, in 1979, I drifted away from a lot of things. I also began to assert my independence, in which I was then sorely lacking. Once I arrived in New York, Bay Ridge, in 1983, I began going to Mass only when I felt like it, because time constraints placed upon me, like sleep, scheduling and talking to my father and sister on Sunday mornings, were already in place. And, in youth, to be home on a Saturday night was looked on some kind of failure. At least, these were the things I told myself.
Yet, when I go, I feel so much. I do feel spiritually close when I am there. "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth?' Yes, but I also know that I beleiveth.
So, why don't I make more of an effort? My experience yesterday said it all; or maybe it said more about what is going on at Our Lady Of Angels.
What I saw, when I took a look around, was a slowly dying congregation. There were some young people there, but the vast majority of folk were in their Seventies or Eighties, and very Old School. Probably Trump Supporters, though I don't judge them for that. What bothered me was this was supposed to be a joyous occasion, and I saw no joy there. I saw fear, self-righteousness, and anger. Those functioning as collectors or Offertory gift presenters had looks of anger that maybe they mistook for reverence, but I took to mean lack of compassion, and an overall inflexibility.
Which presents another problem. I question. It is clear those I saw would burn me at the stake, if they heard me question anything.
How can such angry people feel so worthy when they don't seem to be motivated by anything except fear? How can a man who drinks and beats his family feel worthy, simply because he goes to Mass every day? That is exactly what the Old School Catholicism I was raised on says, and it is in full fruition at Our Lady Of Angels.
I was sadly disappointed. I get more out of my viewings of 'Bernadette,' a quality production of "Godspell," or Sister Camille's comments on the radio than what I experienced yesterday.
So, the lack of compassion I see is why I don't always go to Mass. Those aforementioned constraints are still in play, too. I shall still continue to search. For nine years I faithfully attended Dignity Services, in Manhattan, singing in the choir, too. A most spiritual experience. But Dignity services are at 7:30, and far from Bay Ridge. I wish I could go, but those time constraints still prey upon me.
Brooklyn is known as the "Borough Of Churches." Somewhere, there must be one I can feel comfortable in.
Another thing. Aside from being Easter, yesterday was the Feast Day Of St. Bernadette! Yep; the one and only!!!!!!!!!! She died on April 16, back in 1879, and on same date in 1933, fifty four years later, she was canonized a saint. Yet, was there any mention of this? Of the upcoming Fatima Centennial????? Of things affecting world peace? No; just a rote interpretation of the readings.
Get with it, OLA!!!!!!!!!!!!! Get your act together! Eventually, the Old Guard will move on to the reward they feel they so righteously deserve, and the parish will not be able to sustain itself! And what happened to dressing up, on Easter????????????
If I sound a bit self-righteous and judgmental, myself, I do not mean to be. I just wish there was a religious place I could go to, where I felt more welcomed than judged.
May the Lord God have mercy on my soul!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!