I’m not a cradle Catholic. I fell in love with the Catholic faith because of its immense beauty. Beauty that I found in its Sacraments, writings, architecture, stained glass windows, Gregorian chant, complete Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, Catholic hymns, incense, rites, ornate altars and vestments, Holy Water/Oil, sacramentals, devotions, feast days and the order and reverence of the Mass. All the big and little things that set the Catholic faith apart from any other Christian faith.
It was all the things that made the Catholic Church catholic that drew me in. I wanted it. I wanted to BE a part of the only Church Jesus Christ created on earth and I wanted all the things that made it Catholic. Even before I was officially Catholic I set about immersing myself in all things Catholic. I bought hundreds (literally) of Catholic books. I bought Catholic statues, Holy cards, incense, crucifixes, rosaries and candles. I transformed my home into a Catholic home complete with a home altar and kneeler.
As a convert to the Faith, there was a great deal I was ignorant about. I’m not talking about the Dogma’s and doctrines- I studied those intently before becoming Catholic and I know that is an ongoing education. I am talking about being totally ignorant of parish life.
I thought, one Catholic parish was as good as another because the readings would be the same, the Rubrics in place (I assumed all priests naturally followed them), all Masses would be the same- that is what I ignorantly thought.
In reading hundreds of books about the Catholic Faith, not once did I read about Catholic parishes that didn’t seem Catholic. Not once.
When I joined RCIA back in 2006, I had already spent years educating myself in the Catholic Faith. I read the catechism, books on Saints, Papal encyclicals, Papal Bulls, the Vatican II documents and anything else I could get my hands on. I talked to priests and nuns and other converts and educated Catholics. I contacted EWTN and they answered my questions in email and on television shows like The Journey Home. I wanted to know what the Church was all about BEFORE I joined RCIA.
Because I had educated myself, I knew right away there was something very wrong with the RCIA program in my parish. I should mention, that at the time my town had ONE Catholic parish- so I didn’t have a variety to pick from and it probably wouldn’t have occurred to me to “shop around” for a Catholic parish- I thought that was a protestant thing and again, I thought all Catholic parishes were the same. So I joined the local Catholic parish for three reasons 1) I thought they were all the same, 2) I wanted a Catholic parish where my children would attend religious education with their school friends and 3) I wanted a close local parish where I could easily volunteer and participate in activities (I had always been active in my Baptist community and wanted to do the same as a Catholic).
Now, back to my RCIA experience. The RCIA at the time (it has now changed DRAMATICALLY for the better with new leadership), had a “group team” of RCIA teachers (about a dozen) who all taught RCIA together as a group effort. Not a single RCIA instructor in that group had read the Bible or knew the Scriptures. They even admitted that to me.
The RCIA director told me I “scared the hell out of her” when I joined because I could quote Scripture and knew where it was in the Bible without having to look it up (something every Baptist child has instilled in them throughout their childhood). During RCIA, when a question came up about something in Scripture I had to find it for them and not one of them could tell the Catholic interpretation of it. This was extremely disappointing to me because I had/have a great love of the Scriptures. So from the beginning, Sacred Scriptures was basically off the table for RCIA class. But the worst was still to come. Apparently, I knew more about the Catholic faith than any of the dozen teachers I had. Each one of them attempted to teach me that 1) women would one day become priests, 2) birth control was a personal choice to be made with your own conscience and 3) absolutely NO discussion on abortion, morning after pill (hot topic at the time here in CT) or how a Catholic should vote politically on these issues was EVER to be allowed in any RCIA discussion.
The liberal RCIA instructors would simply not allow the Church’s official teaching on these things to be taught. I was only a few months into the RCIA program when I had my first fight with all twelve RCIA instructors over women priests. At first, they gave me that sympathetic look that said “ignorant convert-to-be just doesn’t understand yet”. They even gave me a condescending smile that said “just you wait; you’ll see women priests one day”. But God intervened in that class.
While I was sharing with them what the catechism said and what Pope John Paul II had written on the subject, our parish priest walked in. The RCIA director (sure she was correct and I was wrong) waved Father over and said something like “Father, we’ve had a discussion come up that we’d like you to clear up for us. We were discussing the possibility of women one day becoming priests. I’m sure Julie would like it if you could clear this up for her.” And she sat back fully expecting me to be put in my place for daring to argue with the entire RCIA staff. I smiled to myself because I knew what was coming. I knew this priest was an orthodox priest- I'd already had a LONG detailed meeting with him about the Faith.
Father said something along the lines of: “Women can never be Catholic priests; this is not something that can change. The Church does not have the authority to ever ordain a woman a priest. Jesus Christ created a priesthood of men…” and he went on to talk about the typology of the Levitical priesthood, the twelve Apostles and some quotes I can’t recall anymore.
That RCIA director was furious. I could nearly see steam coming off her head. You see, she has a brother who is a priest (liberal priest) who for decades taught her these errors. As soon as Father left the room, this [now retired] RCIA director said “Father is just giving his opinion; women WILL one day be priests”. She refused to be corrected by anyone – even her own priest. This woman was the RCIA director in my parish for nearly thirty years teaching these liberal things to everyone who walked through those parish doors. So it’s no wonder my parish is as it is today. And that is what I want to talk about.
When my family and I began attending our parish, we attended the Saturday Vigil Mass (this was familiar to me because as a child I attended the Vigil Mass with my paternal Catholic grandparents at least monthly even though I was raised Baptist). The Saturday Vigil Mass was (to me) affectionately called the “old people’s Mass” because it was very reverent, had organ music and we sang beautiful Catholic hymns.
The Sunday Mass’s had/have bongo drums, a Grand piano, sometimes guitars etc, and never any organ music and rarely old Catholic hymns. It’s more like a rock concert complete with people swaying and tapping their feet in the pews.
I avoided the Sunday Mass the best I could for years.
Then a few years ago, my parish was “yoked” to a parish in another town, and our beloved devout priests were moved to other parishes. Now we have one new priest for our two yoked parishes, no Vigil Mass at my parish, no confession at my parish and he’s added “the children’s liturgy” -where just before the readings he calls up all the children ages 3 to 8 for a blessing then sends them down stairs for their own liturgy. The kids climb over people trying to get out of the pews, race up to the altar where they are blessed then they race down stairs where they laugh, make loud music and talk loud enough that those of us upstairs hear all they are doing down stairs. Then DURING the Consecration, while we are on our knees looking at the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity being held up by the priest, the children come racing back upstairs and begin climbing over kneeling people trying to get to their parents while waving in the air the pictures they colored during their 'children's liturgy'.
The reverence is nearly non-existent now. The Holiness of the moment is broken as all eyes stop looking at Jesus and turn to the children. The moment is lost. It’s all very disruptive, yet in our parish bulletin I noticed this week it said the “children’s liturgy has been very successful”. For the life of me, I can’t imagine what anyone could find “successful” about that chaos and loss of reverence. And I wonder WHO has determined its success and what standards were used to come to that conclusion?
But it’s not all the fault of the newly instituted “children’s liturgy”. As I’ve mentioned above for years now I have failed to find reverence at the Sunday Mass. The ushers talk before and during Mass- during the Consecration and after Communion when people are kneeling and praying. They jingle the change in their pants pockets, talk about sports and the weather all through Mass. They are clueless to what is going on at Mass and they don’t seem to care at all if they bother the people trying to worship at Mass. If you look at them [the ushers] and catch their eye to say “hey, I’m praying here” they look at you WHILE they continue talking. No reverence, no respect and no basic common courtesy for others. They’re a void.
My parish is small. We have small stained glass window inserts in large clear windows. My parish is made of concrete blocks painted off white. There are some statues and a few paintings a parishioner painted years ago that hang on the wall. The altar is wood- the original marble altar lost years ago during renovations (no one can answer how the altar was “lost” or where the relic that was inside it went). We have no relic in our altar now. The Tabernacle is simple and plain- I hardly think it does justice to the One it contains.
There isn’t much in my parish that says “This IS a Catholic parish”. As a matter of fact, it could easily be mistaken for any number of non-Catholic communities if it weren’t for the Sacraments themselves. Just looking at or seeing the Mass said in this parish, has nothing to distinguish it from so many others- not with the bongo drums, folk music, “children’s liturgy” and complete lack of reverence for the Eucharist. The “catholic” in this Catholic parish is sadly lacking.
You might wonder why I don’t leave.
That’s a good question and one I’ve asked myself nearly every week in 2014.
Why do I stay?
The Sacraments are valid.
It’s where my children were Baptized and Confirmed and where we all entered the Catholic Church together. We’ve got history here and good memories and people we love attend here.
I teach RCIA and some years CCD in this parish. The new RCIA director who knows I’ve been considering leaving has asked me to stay and continue teaching RCIA because I am the only other instructor she has.
And because of my own personal history in RCIA, I feel compelled to teach, to make sure NO ONE else is taught the errors that for years had previously been taught at this parish by other [now gone] RCIA instructors. If I stay, maybe I can make a difference.
I’ve taught 7th grade CCD for a few years and those children and sadly their parents knew almost NOTHING of their Faith. They didn’t know how many Sacraments the Church has or what they are. They honestly thought the ONLY time a person should or needs to go to Confession is during Lent. They believed you just saved up all your sins till Lent to confess them. They didn’t know what Purgatory was and most of them couldn’t name a single Saint besides the Virgin Mary and the Apostles. Most couldn’t remember basic Catholic prayers- hadn’t even heard of the Hail Holy Queen and didn't pray daily. These were children who had been going to CCD for YEARS and would soon be preparing for Confirmation and they were clueless because no one had properly taught them their Catholic Faith. I remember my youngest daughter in CCD class playing HANGMAN on the chalkboard for class- they had to use Catholic words like “Sacrament” or “Holy Eucharist”, but it was still hangman. THAT is how the children were taught their Catholic faith the year of their First Holy Communion- is it any wonder this parish is falling apart?
So do I leave and parish hop till I find (IF I can find) a parish that has more reverence or do I stay and attempt to make a difference?
My personality (if you haven’t noticed from reading my blog) is I am a fighter. Years ago, before I created this blog, I was defending and fighting for the Faith on other Christian and Catholic forums. On one of them, I was dubbed the dreaded “Catholic Pitbull” because I wouldn't back down or give up defending my Catholic beliefs and the name stuck for years. I don’t like backing off a fight – especially when it’s over my Catholic Faith. I can’t honestly remember the last time I “gave up” and moved on from something important. I’m just not wired that way. And I actually LIKE to fight. Some people hate it, I like it. I’m not talking about fighting with family or co-workers, I mean fighting for or about my Catholic faith to defend it and my beliefs. I like confronting error and I’ve got no problem telling someone “You’re wrong and here’s why…”
I have a huge problem knowing someone is wrong about the Faith and not doing or saying something about it – like my old RCIA director attempting to teach me and everyone else in that RCIA classroom years ago her liberal views. I didn’t care that I was a Baptist on the way to becoming Catholic and she was a cradle Catholic who had been teaching RCIA for decades. She was wrong and I wasn’t going to shut up about it even though I “caused a scene” during class because I wouldn’t accept what she and the other instructors were teaching us. I don’t think it’s in me to EVER walk away from that sort of situation.
I can’t change the priest and his love of folk music, bongo drums, children’s liturgies, telling jokes at Mass and giving homilies while walking among the pews like a televangelist on TV. He’s a different breed of priest – and I don’t like it one bit. My heart aches for an orthodox priest who will TEACH the people to BE Catholic and to embrace our Catholic Faith rather than trying to make it more protestant like.
What I can do is pray for my priest and parish to change.
I can stay and share the Catholic Faith as I KNOW it to be. The beauty of the Faith- of all of it; the parts that have been lost in my parish that the parishioners don’t even know they are missing. I know and it bugs the heck out of me each and every time I attend Mass in my own parish. We are being ripped off. There is so much more God and His Holy Catholic Church have for us and these liberal priests are robbing us of it. It infuriates me.
So do I leave or do I stay and fight?
For now… I stay and fight - but I honestly don't know how long I will last if things don't improve.
I don’t know what 2015 will bring, but I am praying, sacrificing and offering Masses for a change in my parish. It’s time the Catholic laity take back their Faith and DEMAND our clergy stop denying us the fullness of our Faith and the beauty of our Faith.
In my personal experience and opinion, 2014 has been a TERRIBLE year in my parish, but I am hopeful that 2015 will bring answered prayers from God and amazing changes in my parish and our priest. I hope good things will happen in your parishes too.
May God bless us all in 2015.
Julie @ Connecticut Catholic Corner