Monday, June 27, 2011

Putting the "real" in Real Presence

Corpus Christi is my favorite solemnity in the entire Church year, minus the three big ones (Palm Sunday, Easter Vigil, Christmas). You won't find it anywhere else in Christianity, though some traditions might try to do as we do. It's full of the sounds and smells and devotion that make us truly Catholic.

Well, at least it should be full of those things. Not everyone is lucky enough to go to "that sort of parish."

Sometimes, people in the pews don't know what the Real Presence is. They don't know what transubstantiation means. And very few of that demographic seems to care enough to ask someone.

Most of that is just bad catechesis. No one ever taught them the Faith, and if they were taught, it was done wrongly or not reinforced at home.

But then there's bad liturgy, and bored -- or worse, heretical -- priests. And there are the people that will rant, nitpick and mourn, yearning for the 1950s when clergy actually followed the rubrics, everything was perfect and no one sneezed at Mass.

I contend that looking for the ideal parish is like looking for the ideal spouse. Perfection doesn't exist in this world. In fact, sometimes we fall depressingly short of the mark.

But here's the beautiful thing about Christ and His Church: it subsists in the middle of all that mess. For the Eucharist to be valid, all we need are the right words, the right stuff, and the intention to do what Jesus did: give the people His true body and blood.

And even if the place is a disaster area, He'll come to dwell in the midst of it, uncaring priests and bad music included. He is just as present as He would be at St. Peter's Basilica.

Does that mean we should be content with mediocre worship? No, absolutely not. If anything, it's for that same Real Presence we should be working hard to ensure what we give is our best. It's just reassuring to know that in those moments we fail, He is still with us.

The way I see it, we can allow ourselves to be distracted and judge everything/one around us, or we can thank God for His reliability. He loves us a lot more than we do, for sure.

Simcha Fisher over at the National Catholic Register wrote one of the best blog posts on this topic I've ever read. You can check it out here. While you're at it, read her entire blog. She's a genius.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Corapi, accused priests get the short straw

Today is a very sad one for the Church in America. We've lost one of our most prominent, influential and hard-hitting priests, Fr. John Corapi, SOLT.

After an allegation of sexual misconduct was made against him several months ago, Corapi announced he has been indefinitely suspended from ministry.

The announcement was made via his YouTube channel earlier today. Corapi said that his superiors with the Society of Our Lady of the Trinity were strong-armed into removing him following pressure from certain bishops. You can watch the entire thing here.

I'm not going to make any comments as to his guilt or innocence. We can't know for sure what exactly led to the allegations, and from the sounds of things we probably never will. As much as I love my Church, we're not exactly fans of transparency.

And there, I think, lies the problem.

The abuse scandal has been going on for decades with varying degrees of publicity, and people both in and outside the Church demand answers. For the most part, I feel like we've gotten little more than canned, empty PR.

Of course, as a Catholic I can understand the need to protect our reputation. That's important. But in today's society, we can't expect to "keep things in the family" and have that be acceptable to everyone else. Corapi deserved at the very least a fair hearing. The faithful also deserve to have all of the details laid out in the open. Yet in this case, as with so many others like it, all of us will be left guessing.

Beyond that, the way we treat our accused priests in reprehensible. As Corapi said, in civil law we are innocent until proven guilty. Yet in the Church, if you sneeze the wrong way while wearing clerics, you can generally expect to have your ministry irreparably soiled.

We've done a lot of work to remove guilty priests of late. That's laudable. At the same time, I believe we should be a hell of a lot more aggressive ... but this is not the way to go about that. Not even close. Too often, we are throwing out our good men just as often as the bad. In doing that, the Church is only hurting more.

What we're left with is good men who are forced to live their priesthood in fear, both in their personal lives and in what they say at the pulpit. And, heaven help us, the true criminals.

Now if we could only be so merciless in dealing with bad doctrine.

St. John Vianney, pray for our priests.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Time to Sleep

Well, today didn't go exactly the way I planned...

Over the past ten days or so, my cat has been gimping around on three legs, favoring her back paw. After waiting to see if it would correct itself, we decided to take her to the vet today.

What we learned was that at 14 years old and a whopping four pounds thanks to a thyroid condition, she had irreversible nerve damage in that leg. Soon, the vet said, it would spread to her other back leg, leaving her unable to walk.

We didn't want to put her through that. Instead, we said goodbye and let her go.

I wasn't there to watch it happen, but we spent her last hour together before her appointment asleep in my bed. She was curled up against my chest, my arms draped over her, both of our faces buried in my pillow.

Now, she rests tucked between two trees in my backyard, with her bed and favorite toys. As much as I'll miss her, I won't mourn for long. She was suffering, and it was time. The best part of making the decision today was that the huge personality and peace never failed.

She died as she lived -- with peace and beauty and joy. And from her I learned what perfect Christian love really is -- selfless, total, and loyal.

Animals really are amazing.

Rest well, my Missy girl. See you someday.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I Believe

A week or so ago, I stumbled upon an article that eulogized a Canadian man who blogged his battle with cancer. He was unflinching and candid throughout the journey, and even had a postmortem post ready for when his time came.

Of course, that last post drew comments in droves, and one in particular stuck out to me: "I am not a religious man," the commenter wrote, "but in times like these, it would be so nice to believe that this is not the end."

I found myself in that moment full of pity for that man, and for so many others who contend all that waits for us is, well...nothing.

Are they wrong? I don't know. Is my faith correct? I hope. Many say we can have full assurance of the truth. But let's face it -- not one of us will know the capital-t-Truth until we get there.

Until that day, I choose to believe.

I believe because a world without faith is inconceivably grim in my eyes. What is there to hope for in the future if there is nothing but death after this? Why would my actions, my words, matter at all? Why do we live, and why in the world would anyone care?

It's a sad mindset for me, one that I'll never be able to fully wrap my mind around. I've been mocked, ridiculed and challenged for what I believe, but in my eyes, it's better to hope and rejoice than spend my life waiting for oblivion. That's not what I'm about.

I believe because I have seen the power of faith at work. I have seen relationships and wounds healed, and lives changed.

Maybe those other guys are right. Maybe it is a fantasy. But that "fantasy" is my hope and strength as this world hurricanes around me. It's what gets me through those irritating moments at work, and the crippling nights in bed wondering what the future holds for me and those I hold dear.

I am strong in my weakness because of Him, and able to have joy in the midst of terrible grief and uncertainty thanks to His promises. And you know, the one thing I've learned in the last five years is that He always keeps His promises.

That's why I believe. If I'm wrong, then I've lived my life with optimism and integrity, and have made a difference in the world for it.

If they're wrong, well ... let's just say I'm not going to hedge my bets!