While I try to put a good face on our “two church” situation (posted about last week at "The Blessing of Two Churches" and previously at "Faith Journey"), I can’t always manage it. This morning, I dropped my older son off at choir at the Episcopalian church, headed to the Catholic church, parked, and took a walk for the remaining time before Mass.
During my walk, I fumed. I’ve had a lot of anger tied up with church issues for a while now. I won’t go into details because that’s not the point of this post (I cut three paragraphs of rants, both Catholic and Episcopalian, out of this section after going out and taking another long, fast, cold walk this afternoon. People sometimes think I’m naturally calm. I’m not – I work at it!).
I try not to be mad, I try to forgive, and I try to look at the bright side of the church situation, but it doesn’t always work, and certainly didn’t first thing this morning. I think I need to go to Confession sometime soon – Lent starts at the beginning of March.
So, I fumed through my walk, and then said a prayer for peace before Mass started. Father C. was not there today, and there was a visiting priest (I’ll call him Father U.) from Uganda filling in. I started thinking that maybe I should gone with my older son to the Episcopalian church, but then I remembered what happened the last time Father C. was gone (you can read about that at "Here I Am, Lord"). I wasn’t disappointed today – I got a much needed theological kick in the pants!
The Gospel reading today was about the man that Jesus healed of leprosy. After washing, going to the temple, and making his offering, he proceeded to tell everyone what Jesus had done. He told so many people that Jesus had to stay out of the city because of the crowds – which followed him out to the country. That’s where Father U. took off, “Do we cause problems for God by telling others how wonderful He is to us?!”
He went on to talk about not taking things for granted, not falling into the twin traps of thinking that we deserve things (like a certain kind of church community? Oops!) or thinking that we’re worthless (I’ve been having troubles with dizziness, lately, and I’ve been beating myself up about it too).
He concluded by saying that we need the Mass in order to “locate our lives in God’s story” (roughly paraphrased) every week. Which is why I go, even when, like today, I really don’t want to.
The final hymn also reinforced the homily. Unusually, for this parish, the final hymn was traditional, “Lead Kindly Light” by John Henry, Cardinal Newman:
Lead, Kindly Light,
amidst th' encircling gloom
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home --
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene -- one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor pray'd
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path, but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.
So long Thy power hath blest me,
sure it still
Will lead me on,
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.
The part about “I loved to choose and see my path, but now Lead Thou me on!” spoke to me this morning. I wouldn’t choose our church situation, and I certainly don’t like the part where I’m at church alone, but what I choose is not always the way things should go. God just needs to remind me of this…over and over.
I came out of Mass with gratitude rather than anger. Pretty wonderful.
If you’re interested in hearing the tune to the hymn or in finding out more about Cardinal Newman: http://www.geocities.com/cott1388/newman.html
"God has created me to do him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission; I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion [sic] between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling."
"Cor ad cor loquitur." Heart speaks to heart.