As promised in my post Overcoming Temptations to RadTradism, here are some more ideas for taming the spiritual fruitchucker in you. (For those of you who may have missed the article that inspired the spiritual fruitchucking metaphor, click here.)
Once again, more suggestions, in no particular order.
Accept that you don’t Know It All. In my original article in this series, Surviving Sunday Mass, I led into this series by recalling the problems at a recent Sunday Mass in my parish. Turns out, not all of the problems that bothered me actually were problems. At least one thing that occurred was a legitimate option. Which goes to show that however well informed you think you are about the Catholic faith, it is possible (indeed, even likely) that you may have some misconceptions. When you become upset at a perceived abuse in the Church, assuming that there is a possibility that you could be mistaken about what the faith requires can spare you a lot of frustration and resentment. And acknowledging that popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, and religious are more likely than you to be better informed about what the faith requires is a simple act of humility.
Don’t rely on hearsay. Awhile back I read a post by a St. Blogger who was fuming because he had stumbled across an online article reporting on an apparently dubious action taken by a province of a religious order in dealing with alleged abusive members in their ranks. In reading the article to which my fellow St. Blogger referred, I too was concerned, but, unlike my fellow St. Blogger, I personally knew a member of that religious order’s province and so I asked him about the story. His explanation of the province’s action threw entirely new light onto the story and made the previously mystifying action reasonable.
The moral of this story is not to try to track down the Other Side Of A News Story. You probably won’t have the kind of contact I did with an insider willing to speak to you “off the record.” You also probably won’t have the time or resources to invest in researching all such stories like that on your own. The take-away lesson here is to be dubious of what you read in the media. Even when a journalist has all of his factual ducks in a row — which is not always the case — he may be unable to obtain comment from all parties to the story. Especially in the case of religious news stories, authorities with a diocese or a religious order may be unwilling to speak to the media — not out of a nefarious desire to cover up truth but because they are unable to comment on a particular case for any number of justifiable reasons. It will be far easier on your spiritual peace to assume that there is a reasonable explanation that could be offered if the circumstances existed in which it could be offered than to allow yourself to become scandalized over every headline you read on the Internet.
Seek out the good. In the comments to Surviving Sunday Mass, some commenters were perplexed over why I should be grateful that my parish has far fewer liturgical abuses than others. The implied concern was that I should instead seek out liturgical perfection and be satisfied with nothing less.
Liturgical perfection is a meritorious goal. No denying that. But when a parish that has had significant problems is making strides toward liturgical orthopraxy to nitpick over the wrinkles that remain rather than appreciate the work that has already been done is uncharitable. It’s one thing to continue to hope for more ironing; it’s another to refuse to be satisfied with nothing less than instant transformation according to your specifications. Sure, if I were a pastor, there would be things that I’d do differently at my parish than are already done. Fortunately for the parish, that’s never going to happen. And fortunately for me too, because then I’d be on the field exposed to “quarterback sacks” rather than calling the plays from the comfort of my armchair.
Appreciate the concept of spiritual fatherhood. A religious order priest once told me the story of how a parish that was staffed by his religious order decided to offer a pre-Vatican-II Latin Mass to their parish. The priests became more and more concerned because RadTrads in the parish were causing problems because they had to share the parish with “Novus Ordo” Masses. Finally, when the RadTrads demanded that only hosts consecrated at the Latin Mass be offered at the Latin Mass — they did not want hosts consecrated at a “Novus Ordo” Mass — the priests had had enough. In short order the pre-Vatican-II Latin Mass was cancelled and the RadTrads were further embittered over what they perceived to be “persecution.”
But look at it from the priests’ viewpoint: They are spiritual fathers charged with developing Christians into spiritually-mature adults. As an analogy, let’s assume that you were a parent and in your home your family had very specific ideas about what they would eat for dessert. Because you love them, you usually try to accommodate the children’s desire for Haagen-Dazs. But one night you run out of Haagen-Dazs and all you could offer was no-frills, off-brand vanilla. What would you do if your children screamed for Haagen-Dazs and refused to be satisfied with the dessert that you offered? If it were me, the children would be lucky to get fruit for dessert that night, and that would probably be the last they’d see of Haagen-Dazs for quite awhile.
This is an imperfect analogy, but the point is this: Sometimes the otherwise inexplicable actions of the Church become more clear when we remember that clergy are not our employees who must be expected to provide us with what we demand but our spiritual fathers who are charged to provide us with what we need — whether or not we want it.
Please feel free to contribute your suggestions to the combox.