The Devil Waits Outside the Church

The Devil Waits Outside the Church

She arrived during the homily. Walking right up to the statue of Mary Help of Christians, crowned with May flowers and lovingly arranged her small spray in the Virgin’s arms. She genuflected, then crossed to the altar and prostrated herself, before proceeding to sit on the other side.

devil waits
St. Michael and the Devil

I recognized her from 6:30 am daily Mass and from the food pantry. I had suspected for some time that she had some kind of mental illness and was perhaps homeless. Though of late, she had been fixing herself up and dressing with more dignity.

My dad, who suffers from dementia, had had a rough week, which I attributed to the heavy overcast. Therefore, I also attributed her strange behavior to that as well. It was the first time I had seen her exhibit such a level of inappropriateness during Mass.

When she went up to serve as a Eucharistic Minister, there was more bowing and prostrating. She held the chalice on the crown of her head and then kissed it. She did offer the Blood of Christ appropriately to the faithful. But when she returned it to the table at the side of the altar, there was more show, and putting it on her head and such. Finally, Father spoke a few quiet words to her and removed the vessel and cloth from her hands. She submissively returned to her seat, with no further exhibition.

All this was difficult for me to observe. I wanted it to end, to not distract me from the Mass. I was irritated. It was wasting my time and distracting me. I was not feeling loving or kind. I realized this and forced myself to be patient.

It was the comments I heard after Mass that angered me. “Someone needs to get that woman off the altar. It was sacrilegious!”  Yes, I believe she does need to be gently corrected, perhaps guided into some other area of ministry. Nevertheless, I must take issue with this.

For years now, I have watched this congregation shunt its elderly, disabled, and mentally ill to the side. Even out the door. Making them feel unwelcome and unwanted. Shame on you.

You boast of a school to form young Catholics but then you disrespect the ones who worked for decades to build this church and that school. Who gave of their time, their talent, and their money. Shame on you.

You too will be there. How will you feel when people push you further and further to the door? Did the patron of your parish love his boys but not his parents? Did he tell his mother that he did not need her anymore because her abilities were lagging? Is it only the children and youth who are welcome in the kingdom of God? People can serve many different ways. It is sad when the community only selects the bright, the beautiful, and the young and then complains that there is not enough help.

I have not seen her since the incident. I hope she has not shaken the dust of this community from her shoes. But I fear she has. May she find the love and acceptance she deserves.

The devil does indeed await us just outside the church. We must strive to continue to be the Body of Christ to the world, starting with each other.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

Oops! God, Have Mercy, I Goofed Again

 

Sunday’s gospel (Luke 18:9-14) was all about humility. The pharisee proudly reminds God how well he has kept His commandments. The tax collector, in shame, hides in a corner and begs God’s mercy. Fr. K’s homily began with a reminder that once we think we have humility, we’ve lost it. His hint couldn’t have come at a better time. More than one of us had goofed up that very day.

After Mass, several of us were discussing our humbling experiences during our monthly community meal. I had started things out by jumping into the Gloria, before the Kyrie was chanted.  My guitar player pointed out my mistake and I stealthily retrieved my chapel veil from my bag and covered my humbled head. Next, our second reader forgot “The Word of the Lord”, at the end of his reading, because it ended in “Amen”. I had to smile. I was no longer alone in my shame. The final humiliation was that sticky key on my flute, which naturally decided to stick in the middle of a solo. I guess I’d better get that fixed. At least the organ didn’t blare out of tune like it did last Sunday…
 
 
We make plenty of little mistakes all the time. Usually we play through them and nobody notices. Sometimes they are very obvious and amplified by the presence of a microphone and a large group of people in front of us. As my friend Joan commented, “God must have needed a good laugh today”. Always happy to oblige.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

Were You There When the Sun Refused to Shine?


Sometimes a line in a song cuts straight to the heart.  I feel it with the National Anthem (and the rockets’ red glare…), The Celtic Farewell (may holy angels be there at your welcoming, and all the saints who go before you there), and Were You There?  For me it’s verse 4, “were you there when the sun refused to shine?”  What event could be so profoundly tragic that the earth itself, even the sun, would go into mourning?  Only the death of God, its beloved Creator.

According to the gospel of Palm Sunday, Luke 22:14-23:56, “It was about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun.  Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.  Jesus…breathed his last.”(NAB)


Both the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus and the pagan Roman historian Tacitus confirm the crucifixion of Jesus in their writings, but historians disagree about the truth of the other phenomena during and after Jesus’ death.  Several apocryphal gospels agree with the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), attesting to the eclipse, earthquakes and the resurrection and appearance of dead saints in Jerusalem.  Dionysius the Areopagite, witnessing the eclipse from Heliopolis writes, “Either the Creator of all the world now suffers, or this visible world is coming to an end.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_eclipse. Historian Sextus Julius Africanus denies the possibility of an eclipse at Passover, which is held during the full moon, because a solar eclipse can only happen during a new moon. Though he goes on to quote the records of Phlegon, chronicalling a solar eclipse at full moon during the reign of Tiberius. Eusebius also quotes Phlegon connecting an earthquake with the same eclipse. Tertullian and Lucian of Antioch both imply that evidence of this darkness still existed in Roman records during their time. 


Paulus Orosius, historian and student of St. Augustine of Hippo, writes in his “The Seven Books of History Against the Pagans”, ” that Jesus “voluntarily gave himself over to the Passion but through the impiety of the Jews, was apprehended and nailed to the cross, as a very great earthquake took place throughout the world, rocks upon mountains were split, and a great many parts of the largest cities fell by this extraordinary violence. On the same day also, at the sixth hour of the day, the Sun was entirely obscured and a loathsome night suddenly overshadowed the land, as it was said, ‘an impious age feared eternal night.’ Moreover, it was quite clear that neither the Moon nor the clouds stood in the way of the light of the Sun, so that it is reported that on that day the Moon, being fourteen days old, with the entire region of the heavens thrown in between, was farthest from the sight of the Sun, and the stars throughout the entire sky shone, then in the hours of the day or rather in that terrible night. To this, not only the authority of the Holy Gospels attest, but even some books of the Greeks.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_eclipse.

So what do all these interesting writings have to do with faith? Just that I find it utterly sad, when meditating on the Crucifixion, that even creation mourned the death of Christ.

Were you there?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

Form and Substance

Outdoor altar at the Memorial to the Unborn, St. Germaine’s Catholic Church, Prescott Valley, AZ

There is a lot of contention these days about the particular form of things.  What words should be used in the prayers of the Mass.  What gestures should be made.  How we should place the furniture (ie., altar, tabernacle, pews, etc.).  These are all superficialities.  I would gladly attend Mass out in a parking lot, with a tailgate for an altar, and the priest wearing makeshift vestments.  I am more concerned about the substance of my faith. The Holy Eucharist.  The Word of God.  The Homily that touches my heart and gives me new insight, inspiration, or at least food for thought.

The only things I want to concern myself with are – am I ready to receive Jesus into my heart?  Am I trying to live the kind of life He would have me live?  Am I too attached to property, prestige and power in my life? Just give me the Mass, Holy Communion and the Word.  I hate having my faith chopped up by fellow believers who want to nitpick over fluff and stuff.  Who buy into slanders against and focus on the imperfections of our leaders.  Who want to feel superior because they use a certain form of practice which will get them into heaven, while the rest of us roast, simply because we do not subscribe to their “form”.  I could well be wrong, but I believe that God will judge on more of what is in our hearts and how we treat others.

I certainly don’t mean that form is not at all important.  I am simply of the opinion that there is a committee of guys in red hats who get paid the big bucks to worry about all that stuff.  Whatever they decide for the moment on format, is not going to impact whether I stay or leave the church.  The substance of our faith is, has and always will be the Word of God, and the Body and Blood of Christ.  As long as that continues, we’re good.  Don’t get distracted by the side show.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

Judgement Calls

This morning’s sermon was about making judgements.  The gospel passage today was from Matthew 7:1-5. “Do not judge and you will not be judged…”  The pastor of my dad’s church talked about the judgments he had experienced and had made on his recent holiday.  I could totally relate.

Afterwards, another early mass goer was telling Fr. T about one of the masses this past Sunday, which had lacked a priest, so a deacon in attendance had stepped forward to lead a communion service.  I quipped about how that was commonplace where I live, that we were lucky to have a priest.  Fr. T was surprised, as he thought I lived nearby.  So much for my ego, in assuming he knew that I was the “daughter visiting from Arizona”.  So, after explaining that I was just staying with dad for a few months, I went on with a brief synopsis of our mission situation in Northern Arizona.

At breakfast, I lamented the situation again.  Didn’t the pastor recognize whom he saw regularly and whom he didn’t?  Of course, I thought, how busy Fr. T must be, with the responsibilities of a parish of nearly 1,000 people.  How could he possibly keep track of one visitor?  Another judgement.

So, Miss Important, here, next realized how little I know about some of those in my own parish.  I want to be known to a certain extent, yet do I take the time to really know and care about others?  Am I so busy, running here and there, that I don’t have time to chat now and then, for a few minutes after Mass, or when I see someone in town?  Surely, that’s one of the reasons to live in a small town.

I’m also learning to translate it into some of my experiences during my soujourn here in the Big City.  After hockey practice the other day, my son and I walked through a street fair that was taking place next to the ice rink.  All kinds of wonderful antiques were on display,  but I thought that some were a bit pricey.  I took the opportunity to ask one vendor about a piece that I didn’t recognize.  He went on the tell me about the wall-mount coffee grinder, with a large glass jar for the beans, “they used to buy them in big bulk bags, because they didn’t have ’em all ground up in cans like we do now”.  (Yes, I knew that, it’s how I buy mine, but I held my tongue, wanting to hear more of his story.)  “Then they used to put up their extra produce in jars and so they’d have an empty jar that would fit right here”, pointing to a bracket under the grinder, “to catch the grindings”.  He went on to explain how they boiled their coffee and poured it through a cheesecloth, etc.  Really a wonderful story.  It also made me realize something else.  I asked his wife if they had gotten most of their inventory from the midwest and she confirmed that they did buy from sales on the other side of the country.  Suddenly the price seemed more reasonable, and I noticed that most of their items were also very clean and in good condition, which was also rare in my experience with antiques here in the west.

So by curbing my initial judgement to bypass their table as just another overpriced junk pile, I not only acquired valuable new information to add to my homesteading knowledge, I also had a pleasant conversation with a couple whom I would never otherwise have known to be interesting and wonderful.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr