Sunday, March 22, 2009

What Good?

There was an obituary in our local paper last week that caught my eye for one little sentence, which went something like this: "N______ was a very faithful Catholic, which she showed by attending daily mass and praying the rosary each day," or something like that. I did not know the woman, and have no reason to think she was anything other than a very fine and holy person. Nor do I wish to imply that going to daily mass and praying the rosary is in any way problematic. I myself go to daily mass as often as I can, which is to say, not as often as I wish it were, and find that beginning my day in the midst of a praying community is a good and very grounding practice. I do not find praying the rosary to be especially meaningful or helpful in my life, but I have observed that it truly is for some people, and I respect and honor that.

It was just those particular examples of what faithfulness constitutes that held me up for a moment while reading that obituary, perhaps because I've been thinking about what it means. I wonder if it is the practices in which we engage that make us faithful? Or ought those rather to be viewed as enabling faithfulness, defined instead by whether we are kind, honest, hospitable, humble, and loving, and whether we seek for justice and right relationship?

Anyway, here's the prayer for the third Sunday in Lent in the Daily Prayer Daily Bread Office Book for Sisters of St. Joseph. I think this is what it's about:

God of Great Love, draw us into deeper union with you this day
so that the world will recognize you who send us.
In our careful tending and sharing your largesse of creation,
may the world recognize you who send us.
In our loving the dear neighbor without distinction,
may the world recognize you who send us.
In our striving for peace through justice,
may the world recognize you who send us.
In our truthful living and in the joy of our self-giving,
may the world recognize you who send us.

Sometimes I wonder, when I run across blogs, tweets and letters from "faithful" Catholics (and other Christians, for that matter) whose words are so biting and unkind, who openly want others with whom they disagree to be humiliated, who distort words and deeds in order to embarass and put others on the defensive - are those folks praying the rosary and going to daily mass? If their Twitter and blog bios are to be believed, they are, and feel that those practices are what defines them as Catholic. Many of them feel a need to "defend" the Church, or the Eucharist, or some other thing against perceived attack, or against perceived straying from the true faith. I find all of that kind of discouraging. It makes it seems as if engaging in certain religious practices is all it takes. As long as you do those things with the proper frequency and strictly according to the rubrics, you're fine and dandy. And again, there's nothing at all wrong with daily mass or rosary or frequent confession, or whatever. But I find myself wondering, again and again, what good does it do, if this is its fruit?

That's the real criteria. That's the test, in my opinion and in my experience. Can the world recognize the One who sent us? And if not, then what are we doing?


St Edwards Blog said...

Thank you for this thougthful and thought provoking post.

I left comments at two Catholic blogs in the past couple of days on posts about Obama speaking at Notre Dome.

There were many hateful and angry comments about how ND is not a good Catholic learning institution, Obama is evil incarnate and just how could a good Catholic college even consider asking him to be present.

My comments were the same on both posts... I started by saying that I tend to trust that God uses all things for good. Secondly, look at who Jesus invited to dinner. It was by those invitations that people were transformed and thus the world transformed.

I was essentially ignored and drowned out by the many voices against Obama and the few for.


What constitutes faith? Practice?

How do we as many members re-member the Mystical Body in peace?

How can we learn from one another?How can we love one another?

It feels exhausting sometimes.


claire bangasser said...

I resonate with your post and the comment.

All the bilious activities going on in the Catholic and economic/political spheres drive me to silence and prayer.

Jesus came for the sinners and will judge us as we judge others. I sin and I work hard at not judging :-))

Has either of you read bishop Spong's column in the Washington Post, "Losing Faith in Old Traditions"?
This is just staying with me somehow and I wonder how right he is.

Thank you for the post and comment :-)

St Edwards Blog said...

I am grateful for the community and encouragement in this post and in Claire's comment.

Thank you for reminding me to refocus in my heart.

Off to check out that link.

Peace to all.

St Edwards Blog said...

Now that is something to think about. I am not always a big Spong fan, but I must say I liked reading that.

The link above would not work for me, but maybe it was me. Nonetheless this may work click here.


St Edwards Blog said...

I have kept your words on my heart all week as I have read post after post - even on what I consider civilized blogs - go crazy in the comments.


Did you happen to see this?