Late yesterday I went to Mass at my parish.
I arrived early to pray. The religious ed sister was rehearsing the child readers, the choir was practicing, and there was a lot of activity. Normally I take that in stride, but yesterday it was like the rug was pulled out from under me spiritually. I was crushed in spirit. I prayed my rosary as best I could - respecting and accepting what was happening, all the time struggling against the temptation to leave, to just walk out.
By the time Mass started, the church was packed. I was surprised. The children who did the readings did so very well - it wasn't a performance, they sounded like angels proclaiming the Word of God. I felt completely immersed in the 'assembly' if you will - I felt I was truly a part of the congregation, repenting, seeking God's mercy, praying, worshiping, and so on. After all the temptations not to be there, I felt I was in the heart of the Church. Nothing outside could separate me from that experience. It was unique.
Later in the evening, my temptations returned. I recalled that something like this happened to me once before, and I fell away from the spiritual exercises and observances of my spiritual life. At the time, I had been disappointed to learn a few spiritual persons whom I looked up to changed their lives, left their religious lives, and so on. The effect was devastating to me at the time, these people were my spiritual guides and mentors in those days so soon after my return to the sacraments. It was like I too lost the faith.
I felt that way yesterday. It seemed to me I felt, or was in the same state as those Catholics who are fed up with those cardinals and bishops and theologians who appear to be teaching in error. I wondered if this sudden loss of certitude and stability was perhaps similar to the experience of St. Therese when she felt herself to be seated at the table of sinners, sharing the lot of unbelievers ... hence my reference to the 'attraction of nihilism' in my post yesterday.
Long story short, I was praying through these thoughts when I concluded I needed to embrace that emptiness - while not leaving, not excusing myself from the 'heart of the Church' - the assembly, the parish. I wish I had a better way to express that understanding - because there was something very profound about it.
Give up the Church for Lent.
I was thinking of attempting to write something 'deep' about this intuition, but then this morning, I came upon David Mills article in Aleteia - Give Up the Church For Lent. He expresses the very same sentiments I was attempting to articulate. An excerpt:
Hence my suggestion for Lent: Give up the Church. Not the Church as she comes to you, in the Mass, confession, adoration, prayer, devotion, and calendar, in the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph, and the saints, and in her spiritual and theological works. I mean the Church as you see her when you see her from outside, as a thing, particularly as a battlefield or a political object, as a competition between good guys and bad guys.
We only have so much time and so much energy. We can only sustain so much indignation and outrage, and the time and energy we spend being upset is time and energy we drain from our interests and callings. Being upset is rarely fruitful and most often a waste of time and energies of which we are stewards. We need to use our time and energy better than many of us do.
Your feelings about the goings on in the Knights of Malta, or Cardinal Burke’s assignments, or the famous footnote in Amoris Laetitia and the Dubia, or the pope’s addresses, or the American bishops’ declarations on immigration, or Fr. James Martin, or whose feet are washed on Holy Thursday, or the extraordinary form, or church music, don’t matter. They don’t affect anything, especially not the decisions of the people who decide these things. Francis does not eagerly scan your Facebook page for instructions. Neither does Cardinal Burke.
Give up the Church for Lent. Don’t read the usual controversial websites. Don’t open the email messages from the friend who’s always sending stories of scandal and offense. Skim through Facebook and Twitter and skip over the items tempting you to jump into battle, and definitely don’t click on the links. - Aleteia
Works for me.
[I'm still keeping comments closed, which cuts down on internet time since I won't be checking for comments or email alerts. How contemplative, huh?]
That's right - throw the bishop out with the bathwater.