Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Gift And A Curse

Our family enjoys watching the television show Monk. Even little Erin gets excited when we all sit down to watch the latest Monk disk from Netflix. For those who might not be familiar with the show, the premise is that Adrian Monk is a former detective who is now a consultant for the police department. The catch is that he has an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Everything has to be arranged just so, and his fear of everything makes him practically helpless without his assistant. However, his attention to details that others overlook make him brilliant at solving crimes. In several episodes during the first six seasons of the show, people have marveled to him that he has a real gift, to which he replies, "and a curse . . . mostly a curse."

I can't help but wonder whether I know too much for my own good, or not enough, particularly with respect to the liturgy. I took a class on liturgy and prayer a few years ago, and it was surprisingly good. If nothing else, it helped to elevate my appreciation for the Church calendar and the Litury of the Hours. In some respects, I've stepped back from where I was a few years ago. During my Navy years I was stationed in northern Virginia, and the parish that we attended did not use extraordinary ministers of communion at all. At Sunday masses the "extra" priests and deacons would troop in from the sacristy at communion time to aid in distribution and then disappear after communion. When we would come home to our home parish during visits, my wife and I would be scandalized by the parade of lay distributors up to the sanctuary during the Lamb of God (or Agnus Dei if we were lucky). The EM parade is one of the things that I've come to accept over the years.

I have learned enough about liturgy, especially the mass, to fall in love with it. When I participate in the liturgy, I am praying with the entire Church, with the mind of the Church. That's what I love about the Liturgy of the Hours--it's not just my prayer, it's our prayer. And the mass is the source and summit of the whole Christian life. All of the other sacraments are oriented toward the Eucharist. Our life between masses is both nourished by and preparation for the mass. When we worship at mass, the sacrifice of Calvary is made present to us, and we are able to unite ourselves to the perfect sacrifice of the Lamb of God. We are simultaneously in the Upper Room, at the foot of the cross, and outside the empty tomb. We are united with the entire Church in offering worship to God the Father. I can still remember attending a mass on All Saints Day and wondering in awe at the thought of being surrounded by the cloud of witnesses that is the Church Triumphant in heaven. It has been a great gift.

And then I see others who don't see what I see in the liturgy. There is a casualness surrounding the celebration of the sacred rites that is disturbing. To one who loves the liturgy and knows how it should be or could be celebrated, every omission or deviation from the rubrics becomes a wound to the heart that saddens and depresses the spirit that wants to soar with the angels. Other people, who I know are good and faithful Catholics, are able to offer their worship through what causes me to stagger and stumble in emotional and spiritual pain. A part of me envies them. In a way, my love has become a curse.

I certainly don't want to strain at gnats. I'm not looking for all the bells and whistles of the extraordinary form or the traditional Latin mass. I happen to think that the vernacular is a good thing, even if the current English translation is less than perfect. I can put up with a homily that isn't inspired. I just want the rites to be performed the way the Church, with all of her authority, has approved. But how much should I be willing to compromise? Should I accept what I shouldn't have to accept, just to get along?

I am in love, and I want to stay in love.

No comments: