Friday, January 23, 2009

My Liturgical Focus

It’s been nearly 5-1/2 years since I put my old car out of its misery. Since then, I’ve driven a Ford Focus, which has treated me pretty well. However, that is not to say that my car is perfect. There are a number of things that disappoint me. I lost the bottom third of my rear winder defroster pretty early. A tear opened up in one of the seams of my passenger seat, but it’s hard to notice. The windshield freezes up easily, and when it gets cold, the wipers only contact at the top and bottom, leaving a large section of the windshield smeared. The radio will play MP3 files from a disc, but it won’t navigate folders, always starts at the beginning of the MP3 file (i.e., don’t try listening to a long podcast), and in shuffle mode, it always starts on the same file (thus, my Christmas CD with 50+ songs always starts with Little Drummer Boy). In addition, I’m losing lines on the display. The rear passenger window has started acting up, the lining of the cupholder comes out every time that I remove my travel mug, and the plastic casing on the passenger seat slide rail keeps coming off. Finally, even though the car is front wheel drive, it gets terrible traction on packed snow or ice.

In spite of all this, I’d probably buy another Focus. When I went car shopping back in 2003, I had two criteria that were essential: I wanted to be able to get in and out of the car without having to twist my knees around the steering column, and I wanted to be able to sit upright without feeling my hair brush the top of the cabin. As you’ve probably guessed if you don’t already know, I’m relatively tall at 6’4”. Most of the population is probably not going to have the same essential criteria as I do when shopping for a car. In addition to meeting my essential criteria, my Focus has not given me any mechanical problems. It’s never left me stranded, and it gets pretty good gas mileage. The negatives are all just minor inconveniences. I can tolerate them, as long as I have my essentials.

That’s kind of where I am with the liturgy, particularly mass (you knew I had to bring this back to the Catholic faith somehow). There are a lot of extra features that can add to or subtract from the overall experience of the liturgy, but then there are the essentials. Some things are required, some are proscribed, some words are defined and cannot be changed. I’m blessed to live in an area where we have many parishes in close proximity, and the liturgy at each has its own character due to the type of music selected, the architecture of the church, the general demeanor of the congregation, etc. Of course I have preferences, and none of the local parishes rates a perfect score on my chart. But I can accept those differences, as long as my essentials are met.

Holy mother Church gives us rules for how we conduct our public worship. It’s not hard to follow those rules, and still allow the liturgy reflect the unique character of the community. When I have multiple cars with sufficient head and leg room to choose from, then I can base my selection on the extra features. When I have multiple parishes with liturgies that adhere to the rubrics to choose from, then I can choose the location that best feeds my spiritual needs.

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