The National Catholic Review

Like many, I journeyed back to my hometown for the Thanksgiving holiday to spend time with family and friends. Since moving to DC from New England, these visits home also double as vacation, offering respite from work and worry. Sunday evening, I had the opportunity to attend Mass at the parish where I grew in my faith, was confirmed, volunteered, taught religious education, and began to unravel the gift that Catholicism would be in my life. Much has changed there since then. I don’t know the pastor, the music is different, and there are certainly many more unfamiliar faces than ones I recognize. Yet even with these changes, I still feel that my small suburban parish remains an important segment in the lives of those who call it home. Seemingly absent was the intensity and vitriol that sometimes accompanies the debate over cultural and moral issues in our church (and certainly on this blog). As a young adult in my parish, I don’t remember reading blogposts attacking bishops and priests who didn’t seem to toe the party line as zealously as others would like. I don’t recall fights about Latin Masses, who could receive the Eucharist, and more lay involvement. Is nostalgia at work? Definitely. Were things simpler then? Probably not. I was confirmed in this Boston-area parish church in autumn 2001, the same year the Boston Globe intensely reported on the clergy sex abuse scandal. If being a young adult Catholic were simple then, it didn’t last for long. It’s not clear to me if the events in the Church caused my Catholic life to become more complicated, or if it was simply the byproduct of maturing a bit. Whatever the case may be, the physical space on Sunday allowed me to return to a more simple time, when being Catholic had nothing to do with gay marriage, abortion, and ecclesial politics, but everything to do with the sacraments, the shared social life in a parish with friends and family, and feeling part of a community. Perhaps this child-like faith will make a return in my life and the life of the Church, or, like my childhood itself, is but a distant if fond memory.

Comments

Marie Rehbein | 12/1/2010 - 9:23am
David,

There certainly has been a change in the aesthetic quality of church worship spaces, but I am not sure that this is due to liturgical changes.  The Lutheran church building in which I grew up worshipping using a vernacular liturgy was a beautiful building in the traditional style of churches.  It was built in the 1930's.  By contrast, the Catholic churches, which were of similar age or older, contained many clashing elements in  their decoration.  When new churches were built in the 1960's, both Lutheran and Catholic, the architecture was bland and the decoration abstract.  It followed general architectural trends of the era. 
Marie Rehbein | 11/30/2010 - 9:09pm
"Seemingly absent was the intensity and vitriol that sometimes accompanies the debate over cultural and moral issues in our church..."

There is almost no evidence of controversy in the weekly experience of church-going.  It almost all takes place in publications of various kind, and it can be ignored.  In fact, it should be ignored if it is upsetting because these differences of opinion will never be resolved, just as other differences of opinion in the Church were never resolved.  They transformed somewhat, were overshadowed in some cases, sometimes just died out, and sometimes led to the formation of different Christian religions. Yawn.
Anonymous | 11/30/2010 - 4:51pm
I also long for those days when Catholics were not obsessed with changing the Church's teaching concerning contraception, abortion, homosexuality, marriage, and the male, celebate priesthood.

Unfortunately we are in different times when good publications like America Magazine must take a stand in support of the Church even if this makes one uncomforatable.  Nobody ever said Christianity was going to be a walk in the park!  It is tempting to remain in the lukewarm water, isn't it.

Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam
we vnornm | 11/30/2010 - 1:10pm
Hey everyone,

"Those good old days are gone forever" BUT

"THESE ARE....the good old days."

There's so much in our Church that can pull us together. Tim has written an excellent piece on this in a different part of the magazine this week

http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=12600

DOMINUS VOBISCUM. bvo
Anonymous | 11/30/2010 - 12:34pm
I share your nostalgia.

If the church has become more about gay marriage, abortion, ecclesial politics, Latin masses, and less about the sacraments, it is because it has been attacked on those fronts.  Ironically, you make it sound as if what's changed with the church is a result of those who merely wish the church to remain the same.  Do you see the irony in calling bloggers in support of conservativism "attackers"?   

The real attackers are the liberals who forced the church to become about everything that you are lamenting.  These attackers want the church to be about all of those controversial topics, because it creates dissention within the country and within the church itself.
we vnornm | 11/29/2010 - 8:48pm
Michael,

A beautiful posting and you have many experiences that will inspire you in the future as you bring the Good News to others.

I sometimes wonder to what extent the Catholic print media-books, diocesan papers, the "holy trinity" of print journalism (America-Commonweal-First Things)-accurately convey what's going on in those parishes. In real life sometimes we whisper out our negative statements, appropriately so, but in print they remain out there like the letters on a branded animal. Interesting that Jesus was not a writer!


Perhaps the faith you re-experienced is not "child-like" but real: these skirmishes we get ourselves into in print and pixels may actually be the least important and enduring-simply ephemera.

Keep writing! Your passage today reminds me a bit of how Thomas Merton combined writing about his own spiritual life and the life and people in the Church around him. best, bill