A couple of weeks ago, an elderly lady “Dee” saw my daughter (now fifteen) again after several years. She had previously seen her occasionally (between the age of four and ten) attend Mass and say the Rosary. Now, with index finger pointed about four inches from my daughter’s face, she asked: “Are you saying the Rosary?” When my disconcerted daughter answered “sometimes”, she raised her voice a bit, looked sterner and with that finger wagging even more, she added, “you must say the Rosary daily or bad things will happen.” I chose not to counsel or argue with this self proclaimed authority on God’s will for my daughter. However, I did tell my shaken daughter when “Dee” moved away, to ignore her as she was crazy. Not that I encourage disrespect, but at the time I thought it was more important to reassure my daughter that our God is not a control freak.
My beliefs were identical to “Dee’s” when I was a child. Much to my siblings chagrin, I roused everyone in the middle of the night if we ever forgot to say the Rosary daily, frightened “bad things would happen” if we didn’t. I could recite any prayers (probably backwards too) but lacked a relationship with God. I grew up believing what I still see often today – that as “Catholics” we are better than everyone else. I’ve been part of prayer groups and Bible studies where the discussions turned to “how THEY (non-Catholics) do things”. This sense of superiority hindered my ability to become more Christ like. Thankfully, I evolved from that distorted thinking. Thankfully, my daughter has a real relationship with God that I lacked in earlier years. Thankfully she has learnt that song, meditation, traditional or spontaneous prayers, adoration and even simple chatting with God are all forms of prayer.
A fortnight ago, in a talk, I encouraged some of our young faithful students at GA Tech Catholic Center to look beneath the surface to find the truth… I think it would serve us all well to revisit that concept. It appears, based on many of the responses I received to my last article that we are STILL looking around rather than inward – forming erroneous judgments, based on the superfluous. Some of us think “For the most part those that attend the Latin Mass here in the U.S. are probably the most faithful to the teachings of the Church”. Or “The priests and people that use Latin are the most orthodox people”. Really? So Latin is the determining factor? I can assure you I know many people and priests that attend or say the Latin mass – they are no better or worse than the rest of us mere mortals.
Another response: “If the plan was to redefine the Mass from a Catholic sacrificial act to a Protestant community meal it couldn’t have worked better.” Wow – so the Eucharist is defined by the language of Latin or the lack of it, or even the priest’s position? Jesus spoke Aramaic and faced all around in open air gatherings; and before Latin, Greek was used.
In a response to the same article, someone asked: “What else could be more welcoming to a stranger than a common heritage and a familiar language?”
The goal of the Church (that’s us) is to spread Christ’s message. So if even ONE young (or old) soul walks into a Mass hoping to find God but doesn’t return because he cannot “fit in” as a result of not knowing/understanding the foreign language (Latin) because it’s NOT in the “familiar” (vernacular) language he understands; I believe we have done a grave disservice to Christ’s church and that person. Remember Jesus was all about looking for that ONE sheep… It doesn’t hurt anyone to communicate if/when a Mass will be “extraordinary”. Mass in the vernacular has allowed our brothers and sisters in the slums of third world countries to celebrate the Eucharist. Do we think they would benefit from learning Latin? It is in the church’s best interest to be able to relate to its people in their “vernacular”. Christ did.
In the words of St. Paul: “I have become all things to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.”
Isn’t it ironic that we as a church claim to be fighting to protect our “religious freedom” yet we tell each other what languages they “must” learn or how they “should” pray!?
My dear Catholic brothers and sisters, of all the grave moral ills threatening our world; how sad that we choose to focus our energy on what tongue and which words others SHOULD pray in! In the grand scheme of things, does a certain language or a certain prayer, in a certain format, really matter? We are ALL the body of Christ. Charismatic prayer, the Rosary, spontaneous prayer – IN ANY LANGUAGE – are all prayers to our God and we need to get off our collective high horse and work as a team – respecting each other’s right to pray in a way that is comfortable to each. In the end, it’s not what we say that matters but how we live that reveals the real story and it is by THAT story that we grow and grow the church.
1 John 3:18 – Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.
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