Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Reclaiming Catholic Identity

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here. But I’ve got something on my mind.

One of the absolute worst things to come out of Vatican II was the stripping of our Catholic Identity. The whitewashing of our faith. For almost 2000 years we were a faith of science, of magic and mysticism - of Eucharistic miracles, stigmata, flying friars and visionary nuns. Catholics invented the telescope, posed the Heliocentric Theory and the Big Bang Theory - among other leaps.

Our Protestants cousins rejected the magic and mysticism. "It's all a bunch of hocus pocus," they said. Derived from "en hoc corpus meum" - this is my body. They’re afraid of science. What’s that about?

After 700 years of fighting we made a misguided attempt to lure them back. It didn’t bring them back. But it certainly chased a lot of Catholics away. Most feast days are barely acknowledged, vigils are quite rare and early in the evening. Minimal candles. No more incense. No more Gregorian chant. No more Latin. Today, most Catholics have no idea exactly when transubstantiation happens during mass. In fact, they don’t understand the mass at all. They arrive late just in time to receive the host and then leave. The only point to mass is "get the host."

So much as been lost!

I am pointedly leaving out the "traditionalist movement" because I find the bulk of them use their faith as a means to be cruel. Some of the most informational websites about traditional Catholicism are inhabited by harpies. I am a very Old School Catholic. I refuse to define myself by terms so often used justify bigotry and hate. God is love. Period.

There once was a time when not a one of us would consider going to church in jeans or sipping coffee during prayer time at home. The fall out of this whitewash is that God has become a casual friend. One very few people aspire to know better. One we feel we can treat like a doormat. No need to get dressed up when we visit Him. Shorts and flip flops are fine. No need to show respect for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Chit chat in the sanctuary, talk smack about the priests. Bring cheerios for the kiddies. Dump them all over the pews. It's ok. Be disgusting pigs in the bathroom. It's only the House of God. No matter.

Not long ago a Catholic home could be recognized in an instant. Images of Jesus and Mary decorated the walls. Statues of the saints held special places. Holy water font at the door. We stopped at noon to pray the Angelus and in the evening for the Memorare. Every Catholic home had an altar complete with sanctuary candles blessed at Candlemas - a very specific place to go and pray. Lauds and Vespers, from the Liturgy of the Hours, would be prayed there, as well as the rosary. Your auntie would call because she was going to pray a novena for this or that intension, the entire family would light a fresh sanctuary candle and join in.

The cycle of our Liturgical Year would be celebrated for all to see! Special meals, special decorations, specific colors. Make enough to take some next door. Today most Catholics don’t know what the Liturgical Year is. When it begins, what it entails. How to celebrate the Holy Days. Yes Virginia, there is a Catholic origin to the word "holiday."

Jesus told us it’s not easy to be in this world but not of it. As Catholics we’ve really lost our way. Lost our identity. Many young people have a genuine thirst for the spiritual and they are not finding it in our church. They are lured into Wicca and various occult practices by way of discipline! A special outfit for meeting one’s god or goddess. Decorations for the home to celebrate the "Wheel of the Year." Focus during spells. They would never dream of sipping coffee during candle lit meditations to their gods and goddesses, chanting prayers in lost languages.

I hope I am not offending my Pagan friends out there. I say all of this with the highest of praise for your devotion. And in criticism of Catholics for their lack of it.

The reason Catholic youth loved John Paul II so much is because he called them to this kind of discipline. Pulled out all the stops - telling them the easy way was no way at all. Put on your scapular. Pray your rosary every day. Make a difference. Volunteer at the shelter. Make pilgrimages. Offer up your suffering. At the very least learn your basic prayers in Latin. Pray and pray hard! Be in this world, but not of it. And most of all: Do Not Be Afraid!

Statistically speaking, we are coming around. We are taking great steps, well, backwards. And it’s making us better! Catholics are returning to practices that were essentially cast aside after Vatican II. Celebration of feast days, the chapel veil, kneeling to receive Jesus in the Eucharist directly on the tongue, the scapular, the rosary, the home altar. After ages of decline, third orders are seeing a huge influx of new members. Especially third orders with habits such as the Franciscans of the Immaculate who offer the layman’s habit.

Ladies, if you’re looking for a husband - the chapel veil is a good way to send up a sign. Historically, a white veil means you’re available - a black veil means you are not.

Start now! Bring home a bit of identity. Centuries ago, September 29th, the Feast Day of Saint Michael was one of the biggest Holy Days in the Liturgical Calendar, second to Easter - before St. Francis made Christmas cool. In fact, St. Francis observed a 40 day fast, just like Lent, each year before the Feast Day of St. Michael. It represents the year turning from summer to fall. There are wonderful books out now about seasonal celebrations in the Liturgical Year. Hit the library or a search engine.


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