A modern-day Christopher

This fellow prefers to light a candle rather than curse the darkness.  It’s from the ever-interesting New Oxford Review.

To Be a Faithful Catholic at Any Mass: A Pledge
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September 2001By Larry A. Carstens

Larry A. Carstens teaches English in a public high school and a community college, and has attended Masses across the nation. He was born during the Second Vatican Council and therefore never knew the pre-Vatican II Church.

0901-carstens.jpg When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

popular saying

If you find that the world hates you, know that it hated Me before you.

John 15:18

I wrote the following as a response to the wide number of common abuses currently in vogue at many Catholic Masses, many of which have been mentioned frequently in recent issues of the NOR, both in articles and letters to the editor. It is written in the form of a pledge between the individual Catholic and God, and is intended to be kept as a reference.

Before Mass

I prepare myself for the most important encounter of my life: a banquet with Our Lord.

I try to get to Confession the day before Mass, and if I dont, I spend time meditating on my sins and begging Gods mercy.

I honor the fast which, contrary to widespread belief, has never been eliminated from Church teaching. I do not eat for at least one hour before the Mass. If I have the strength, I honor God by fasting from midnight before.

When I dress, I remember that I am going to meet Someone more important than any king, queen, or president. So I do not dress as if I am going to the beach or a picnic; if others do, I do not follow them. I wear clothes that reflect my belief that Mass is important and deserving of respect. If Im male, this might include a tie; if Im female, this might include a modest, tasteful dress.

I try to leave early, so as to arrive early, and spend at least a few minutes before Mass praying before the Blessed Sacrament.

When I enter the church, I bless myself with Holy Water, and before entering the pew, genuflect toward the Tabernacle. If I pass in front of the Tabernacle, I genuflect again, or at least bow, and say, Jesus, I love You and adore You, my Lord and my God or similar words of love and respect.

Before I sit down in my pew, I kneel and pray to greet Our Lord in His bodily presence, as well as Our Lady, the angels, and the saints. If someone wants to talk with me, I respond briefly, if at all.

If I am visiting another parish, and the priest wants visitors to stand so as to welcome them, I dont, for now the attention should be on God, not me.

During Mass

I try to keep my focus on God. If I find the music loud, unpleasant, or distracting, I offer it up as a sacrifice to Our Lord.

I say the prayers. I listen to the readings. I listen to the homily if it is not edifying, I pray for the homilist.

I bow during the Creed at the words, By the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary and became Man.

Even if the priest tells the congregation to stand during the Eucharistic Prayer, I refuse. I kneel before God, as He becomes physically (though invisibly) present, in obedience to the Magisterium and the bishops, which supersedes obedience to a priest who rebels against Church teaching.

At the elevation of the Host, I bow even if no one else does to honor the moment of Transubstantiation.

I politely refuse to join hands during the Our Father, even if the priest invites people to join hands. I am addressing my prayer to God, and my attention is on Him alone, not on those around me.

I greet those near me with warmth and enthusiasm during the Sign of Peace, which is the only appropriate time for neighborly gestures.

I strike my breast during the Lamb of God prayer, at the words have mercy on us, because I recognize my unworthiness before Christ, and am in dire need of His mercy. Once again, it does not matter if no one else does so.

The moment before I receive Communion, I bow in respect before Our Lord, a practice which all Catholics were instructed to perform (when the custom of kneeling was changed to standing), but almost none actually carries out.

After the final blessing, I remain until the conclusion of the Recessional Hymn, whether or not it is to my taste, remembering that it, too, is meant to be a prayer.

After Mass

I invite my family to join me in praying after Mass, both to give thanks to God, and in reparation for those who disrespect His Supper by leaving before the Mass is finished. Unless I have an urgent matter to attend to (the Super Bowl does not qualify), I say the prayer to St. Michael, which used to be said after all Masses by both priests and people: St. Michael the archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and the snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray, and do thou O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the Divine power of God, cast into Hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

If I see friends, I may wave or smile to acknowledge their presence, but I make it clear that I do not wish to enter into extended conversation within the church building; if others are doing so, I do not follow their example.

If, outside of church, anyone should say I am pre-Vatican II, I respond that Our Lord, the Bible, and the vast majority of saints and martyrs are all pre-Vatican II. If anyone should say I am stuck in the 1950s, I might respond as charitably as I possibly can that at least I am not stuck in the 1960s.

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About Jim Bowman
Jim Bowman covered religion 1968-78 for the Chicago Daily News, since then has written books, articles, etc., mostly on corporate history but also on religion (Company Man: My Jesuit Life, 1950-1968), and more recently on politics (Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters, -- Lulu.com, Kindle). Longtime Oak Park, Illinois, resident, he lives now on Chicago's North Side, where four of his and Winnie's six children live close by.

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