I have been feeling sorry for myself of late especially because there is a Catholic church less than a 1/4 mile from my place of employment, but it does not offer a 6:30 am Mass. Every morning and evening when I drive by it, I make the sign of the cross and feebly extend my hand in the direction of the rose window, like a starving, weakened person might do when begging for a scrap of bread.
But I am a persistent begger, and short of cutting a hole in the roof of the church and having my friends lower me in, I refused to give up. The afore-mentioned church does not post its bulletin online anymore. Apparently, you have to have a log-on and password to view it. But did that stop me? No, I discovered that previous years' worth of bulletins were still accessible to schlubs like me. I went back to the two prior years' Ash Wednesdays and saw that this parish offers a 6:30 am Mass with imposition of ashes. As I sat in my pew yesterday morning before the Mass began, in that very church that to date had been closed to me, I felt a bit like the woman in the parable who hounded the judge until he gave her what she wanted.
I got to work exactly on time and the black cross smudge on my forehead announced to one and all that it was indeed Ash Wednesday. While I work with many Catholics, only two of them knew what day it was. None of them knew it was a day of abstinence. One of them actually believed it was OK to eat meat, so long as you don't eat it on Good Friday. Call it a shocking but valuable opportunity to do what was obviously missed when these folks were catechized. I might have lived in disgrace for a good part of my life but the one thing I was blessed to have gotten was an excellent education in the faith by nuns in habits.
The previous evening I spent at a Mass celebrating the close of Forty Hours Devotion at a nearby parish not my own. My heart literally ached for the priest, who put so much effort into his excellent sermon on Jesus as the Lamb of God to have not more than 25 people bother to show up. At the conclusion of Mass and Benediction, he stood in the rear of the church to greet and thank those who came, telling us each we had our priorities in order. After shaking my hand and exchanging pleasantries, Father shared his sorrow that so few of his parishioners made time to come to such a beautiful Mass.
"I've never seen it this bad." he said. "The people... they just don't bother to come out anymore."
Lest you think I walked away feeling smug, please think again. For close to 20 years, I was one of those Catholics who couldn't be bothered to show up. Sure, I went to church. I joined one catholic-lite house of worship after another in an endless search for that which had been right before me the whole time. Far be it from me to judge anyone who'd rather sit home and watch whatever drivel appears on television on Tuesday evening rather than pay some small tribute to our Eucharistic King.
I couldn't help but think of how the destruction of the faith was not an external force but a destruction that came largely from within - the experiment gone horribly wrong known as Vatican II. However well-intentioned its architects might have been, they did something worse than fooling with Mother Nature. They messed with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and opened the door to abuse and heresy and yes, even sacrilege. Does that mean I think the Novus Ordo is a sacrilege? I do not, but the nonsense that goes on at some Ordinary Form Masses would simply never happen at the Extraordinary Form because there is no opportunity for it. First, you weaken the structure of the Mass, and the rest of the decay just happens, like dominoes. Next, you have clown Masses, communion "services", heretical preaching and profanation of the Body of Christ.
Following that you have annulments for sale, laxity in the confessional (if its used at all), a wink and a nod for contraception and cohabitation, and the rest, as they say, is history. Catholics for Choice. Women's "ordination".
The smoke of Satan could not enter the Church without an open invitation. For nearly the past 8 years we've had a shepherd who understands this all too well. For faithful Catholics, he was a sanctuary lamp of hope. His announcement on Monday, coincidentally or not followed some hours later by a lightening strike on the Vatican, was a blow to those of us who get it that Christ died to convert the world into Himself, not Himself into the world.
I don't know what Benedict XVI's resignation portends, if anything. I am grateful for the time he spent in the shoes of the fisherman. I can't blame the liberals or the SSPX or the Anglicans who wouldn't swim. I can only blame myself, who couldn't be bothered to show up for nearly 20 years and did not do my part to reinforce the foundation.
NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM
You've done it again. Your prayers have moved the Lord to show His incomparable mercy. The mother contemplating abortion had additional testing and got a second opinion and was told there is almost no chance her unborn child has Downs Syndrome. Thank you for your prayers but I must beg you again to pray, this time for a little girl not even two-years-old who is in need of a heart transplant. Please pray that God might grace her with a miraculous cure and if this does not conform with His Holy Will, that He might intercede so that her life, valued so much by her parents and siblings, might be spared. Her mother told me yesterday she was taking her to Mass to get her ashes for the very first time.
Thank you and may God reward you richly for your generosity, if not in this life, in the Life to come.