Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

I found this quote online, and it really got me thinking.

To a young person, just entering on adult life, the world seems full of “insides,” full of delightful intimacies and confidentialities, and he desires to enter them. But if he follows that desire he will reach no “inside” that is worth reaching.

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

C.S. Lewis might have been inspired by this (or a similar) Bible verse:

Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

1 John 2:15 NABRE

Sometimes the world is so all consuming and pervasive. We get attached to our creature comforts, but we must always remain detached because the path to heaven is not paved with cell phones, junk food, expensive clothes, and fancy cars.

Since I had my son, thoughts of my own mortality have been stomping through my head. Memento mori has become one of my mantras. You would think this would make me run to confession at the earliest opportunity, but to my detriment, my pride is stronger than the fear of being separated from God for all eternity if I do in fact die before I can get to confession.

This makes no sense logically. If I truly loved and believed in God, desired heaven, and dreaded hell, then I would swallow my pride. Otherwise, if I proceed down the path I’ve been taking, my actions state that God is not real and that when I die, my body will crumble into dust because that’s all I am: just a body, and the immortal soul is a fantastical thing invented to counteract humans’ number two fear (second only to public speaking): death.

The good news is that it has been easier to let go of material things. That new blouse? I don’t need it. Listen to Top 40 on the way to work? Don’t really want to anymore. Eat out tonight? Let’s save the money. Actually, I’ve been thinking more about money and the temptation to consider it a safety net. We’ll be OK. We have money in the bank in case something happens. But that is the wrong mentality to have. Money belongs to the world and can disappear in an instant. God doesn’t care how much material wealth we have; give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and all that. If we are truly meant for heaven, the real blessings are the virtues that will get us there, not the earthly trappings of a huge house and a gas-guzzling car.

However, the flip side of all that is we can get rid of all the material things in the world, but we are still stuck with ourselves and the sin that begins in our hearts. So it’s not as easy as locking ourselves in a cloister like a monk. The monks did exactly that and still struggled with sin!

Teenagers and young people inevitably get sucked into the world to some degree, as the C.S. Lewis quote says. They want to be like their friends, and they want the shiny new things their friends have. They want to be on the “inside” and will often go to great lengths to get there. All that stuff is a rite of passage, and parents can only hope and pray that their children will see the light and grow out of those phases. I worry about how we are going to raise our son in this technology-infested world, but I can’t worry too much. He has free will, so no matter what we do or how well we raise him, he could still go against what we would want for him.

Common wisdom states that children are influenced by what their parents do rather than what their parents say, so another good step would be to live the way we would like our son to live. Again, that brings me back to the subject of confession. There’s no getting around it, so I might as well face reality and go! A confession from the heart is good for the soul. 🙂

Promiscuity and Pride

I don’t watch The Bachelorette and similar shows, but I heard about a recent bit of insanity that went down: The current bachelorette, Hannah, professes to be a Christian but ended up sleeping with one (or more?) of the guys on the show. One of the men competing for her hand, Luke, was dismayed by this because he also professes to be a Christian.

The two had a (probably staged) dramatic conversation about her promiscuity, in which Luke stated that he expected more out of her and basically called her a hypocrite. Outraged, Hannah shot back that Luke had a problem with pride, then made him leave in a limo. When the limo was driving away, she flipped him the bird. Nice Christian behavior. Luke may have indeed had a problem with pride, but I think he was just calling out Hannah’s hypocritical behavior as he saw it.

Last time I checked, if you profess to be a Christian, you need to attempt to follow that set of beliefs. If you know the truth and deliberately go against it, while still proclaiming that you’re a Christian, then you’re a hypocrite. It’s different if you’re genuinely ignorant, or if you’re new in the faith and don’t know certain things yet. The more you know, the more you are responsible for. And part of a Christian’s responsibility is to instruct the ignorant, but there are right and wrong ways to go about doing so.

This entire episode of The Bachelorette is yet another example of Christians being mocked in the media. Sexual sins are some of the easiest sins to call a person out on, and in reality TV, there’s that voyeur factor going on. Also, Christians are infamous for focusing too much on sexual matters, almost to the point that people accuse us of being obsessed with sex. I’m sure the producers of the show were trying to make a buck off that. Even so, it’s still a symptom of living in a post-Christian nation; other so-called Christians were praising Hannah for her dismissal of Luke. (You go, girl! Don’t let a man tell you what to do with your body!)

We all need a re-education in what it means to be a Christian these days. Yes, it’s true that Jesus loves you regardless of whether you’re a virgin or not, but it doesn’t mean that he’s pleased with your behavior. Think about Jesus as being like a parent: your parents always love you, but you can do things that anger, displease, and dishonor them. That’s what Hannah did, and the sooner she realizes it, the better. Man, I feel sorry for her future husband.


Going Old School

Before the second Vatican Council, which ended in 1965, the Catholic Mass was said in Latin, no matter where you went in the world. The priest faced the altar, not the people, the music was solemn and usually played on an organ, only boys were allowed to serve at the altar, the intrusive “sign of peace” (bane of all introverts) did not exist, and all women wore veils. There are other differences, but it would take a series of blog posts to go through all of them.

My first time going to a Latin Mass was shortly after the new cathedral in Raleigh opened a few years ago. What struck me most about it was the sheer silence. The same phenomenon occurred when I went to another Latin Mass last week. This one was in a different church (one of the larger ones in the area; essentially a mini-cathedral), but the atmosphere of silence was, if anything, even greater.

The priest spoke so softly that it was hard to hear him, even to follow along with the Latin in the missal. The reverence was unmistakable. You could walk in the doors and immediately know something special was happening. A group of boys from the parish sang a beautiful Gregorian chant at certain parts of the Mass. They were so talented, they should have been given a record deal.

As much as I enjoyed the Mass, I could understand why, back in the old days, people prayed the Rosary the entire time. It was difficult to follow because the language is foreign and it is easy to get distracted. This time, I could focus because the baby wasn’t acting up. He was sitting contentedly on my lap, babbling up at the ceiling in an echoing conversation with God, angels, and saints. (But as cute as it was to me, I’m sure it was annoying to everyone else, so my husband had to get up and walk around with him.)

Communion was received at the altar rail. Those who received knelt, and the host was placed on the tongue. Receiving on the hands while standing is another change occurring after Vatican II, and it’s one of the major hangups many have with the post-1965 Mass (AKA Novus Ordo). During Mass, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. The Catholics in favor of the old Mass (“traditional Catholics”) can’t stomach what they believe to be the irreverence of receiving on the hand. The host IS Jesus, and we are unworthy to receive him in the hand, as if the host were just a plain piece of bread. That change, along with others such as increased participation from the people, the priest facing the people, the more contemporary, upbeat music, and yes, that dreaded sign of peace, are what lead many to believe that the Novus Ordo is focused on the people, not on God. 

That changed focus opens the door to more irreverent, and even blasphemous or heretical, Masses. But the way I see it is that any time something beautiful comes down to human beings, it gets messed up. Humans destroy everything they touch; it’s just a fact of life. We do create wonderful things and attempt to improve our planet, but the taint of original sin is in all of us and spreads outward like a cancer. My thought is that to believe that the Novus Ordo is intrinsically bad is an extreme view that can lead to scrupulosity. People can become too concerned with whether small details will cost them salvation. Whether it’s Novus Ordo or traditional, the Mass is still the Mass. Jesus is present in the Eucharist no matter what. In any Mass, small pieces of the host may fall on the ground, unnoticed to all of us. I don’t think it is necessary to get down on the ground after every Mass and scour the floor for tiny pieces. 

Liturgical abuses can happen in any kind of Mass. Any kind of Mass can be celebrated irreverently or reverently. Ultimately, the Holy Trinity makes the Mass what it is, not the people. There is so much more going on during the Mass that us humans are not aware of. True, the realization that Jesus is present in the Body and Blood should make us more reverent, no matter what Mass we attend, but this realization does end up turning more people to the Latin Mass. Again, more education in these matters would greatly help the Church’s people. It is a shame that many Catholics do not know (or do not accept) one of the basic tenets of the faith: that upon transubstantiation, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood.

I could go on forever, but I’ll stop here. Maybe a second post is in order.