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Committing oneself to focusing on Jesus during the liturgy isn’t selling out.

It’s a good thing.

Experiencing a deeper communion with the Lord during a liturgy marked by “bad” music and inadequate homilies and a host of other faults isn’t a character flaw.

Believing that Jesus is present, no matter what, isn’t giving up.

It’s called faith.

There is a time and a place for everything. There is a time for study, for letter-writing, for serious and uncompromising meetings with pastors and bishops. There’s a time to blog, there’s a time to publicly raised concerns about bishops and pastors, there’s a time to write op-eds, there’s a time to write to the Vatican. There’s a time to get involved with parish administration and charitably question the qualifications of the liturgist or music coordinator or religious ed director. There’s a time to switch parishes. There’s a time to withhold contributions from the diocesan fund.

But the Mass is not the time for any of those things.

Look, I go (usually) to the most white-bread, externally dull liturgies in the United States of America. When we have our fill of the non-Catholic music ministers stylings, we take a break and go to another parish, which is not exactly inspiring, but isn’t self-conscious, either.

(And that, I would suggest is the big difference, when you get beyond issues of language and orientation and so on. We are here to serve God through the liturgy, not to manipulate the liturgy to serve us. It is this self-consciousness and egocentricity that is so destructive. You can tell the difference, no matter what language is spoken or even what rite is used. The problem, as I think I said last week, is that the current rite, as well as how its proper use isn’t enforced by bishops, lends itself to easily to manipulation and ego-satisfaction. But, given prayerful presiders – it happens. More frequently than some of our posters would like to admit, too.)

But do you know what? No matter what, I never fail to come away without some sense that I have met the Lord. It is not easy – but for me, that’s mostly because of Joseph.

Which is why I feel so disconnected from so many of your comments.

People say “I need to hear some more reality and toughness from the pulpit.” Why? It would certaintly help us all, but I don’t need to hear that. All I have to do is listen to the Scripture readings. It doesn’t really matter what the priest says about them (sorry, Fathers!) – I mean, that is not decisive for me. What is decisive and what impacts me is what I hear in the Scriptures. If it’s authentically reinforced -great. But the Word of God as I hear it proclaimed is enough.

People say, “I just want to be able to pray.” Well, so do I, and as I said, my biggest challenge is the constant movement of a toddler. But, although I’m no paradigm of spirituality, if I have a problem praying during Mass, I can’t ever, for the life of me, blame it on anyone else (sorry, Joseph!) but myself. Jesus is present to me – gosh, even the few seconds I have alone as I walk back from Communion fills me to the brim. In those moments, I always, always, no matter where I am, am conscious of Jesus’ Real Presence with me – I guess I have experienced enough “ah-ha” moments in that post-commmunion time that I know I can’t do anything but be attentive to what Jesus wants to say to me.

I am not perfect. Obviously, if you have read this blog, you’ve had your fill of the critic and the judge that’s always waiting to come out. But I have learned that this is just not the proper attitude and it is completely contrary to what Jesus wants me to be during the Mass. That doesn’t mean passivity and quietism outside of Mass – obviously. But my call during Mass is not to judge anyone else, not to be bitter or angry, but to be open to Christ. Who comes in the most surprising and mysterious ways.

This is not diminish the importance of anyone’s struggle or pain. But what else can I say? I want the liturgy to be reformed in this country and for presiders and liturgists to get off their high horses and for bishops to lay down the law, and for the Church in the US to get its act together. But if I let all that come between me and Christ during the Mass…who has won that battle?

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