Letters From a Young Catholic

My reflections as a Catholic young adult passionate about the Faith, seeking to grow in knowledge and understanding of God and discerning the will of the Lord in my life.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Oh, the sad irony. . .

There is a parish I sometimes attend that seems to have a problem preserving an atmosphere of prayer and contemplation in the Church sanctuary. Ten minutes before Mass it's louder inside the church than in the vestibule! Most people seem engaged in conversation with Joe and Sally who they haven't seen since last week, catching up on life and discussing the weather outside. The sad thing is, you can't even excuse them with "oh, they're young, they don't know better" or "they were never taught how to behave in church, it's not their fault." No, most of these people are elderly. This morning before Mass there were three couples sitting immediately in front of me, discussing in loud voices how many women no longer let men hold the door for them when going into public buildings and how many young men don't even try any more. They were lamenting the loss of this common courtesy in our modern society and commenting that no one seems to care about etiquette anymore. Hmmm. . . I didn't feel it would have been very respectful for me to say anything then and there but I did have a few interjections running through my mind.

All this being said, despite the frustration of having a hard time praying with all the conversations going on inside the church, I'm reminded of a quote from a letter J.R.R. Tolkien wrote his son:

"Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children - from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn - open necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to communion with them (and pray for them). It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people. (It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand - after which [our] Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.)"

Yes, every time I feel frustrated by any surrounding circumstances at Mass I remember this quote. Such circumstances also remind me of the great humility of Christ. He not only humbled Himself to the point of death on the cross for us, He furthermore chose to remain with us, fully present in the Eucharist, despite our frequent ignorance and disregard for His presence among us. Furthermore, when I become frustrated with situations such as I experienced this morning, I'm reminded to examine my own conscience and consider whether my behaviour in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament always reflects the reality that I am entering into the physical presence of the King of all Creation. I too at times fail to exhibit the reverence worthy of a King. If ever I do act with the reverence the presence of Jesus Christ in the tabernacle prompts me to manifest, then I am reminded that it is only by the grace of God that I possess a firm knowledge and trust in this presence.