Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Look Back at 2013: Navel Gazing, the Forms of the Mass and What I'm Really Tired of Seeing

I am actually rather torn over posting this.  I had Paul read it and he said that it doesn't sound like me at all and wanted to know where I was coming from.  When I told him where I was coming from he suggested I begin by explaining the motivation for this post... which I am hesitant to do, mainly because I feel like I've ranted about things that have bothered me more than enough over the last five years I've been blogging.  But, because he did think that it would help put this post in context I'll give a little background:

These thoughts overflowed onto the page after a year of watching people argue over differences of taste and preferences that really shouldn't divide us.  It is the result of both my own experiences over the past year and it is the result of hearing people make fun of someone who prefers a different form of the Mass.  It was inspired, in part, after witnessing someone claim that one Mass has "greater graces" than the other.  

It's a fragmented, rambling sort of post, with a good share of navel gazing mixed in (with a share of my struggles with my feelings for the current Pope), but I'm posting it just in case there's one other person who's reading who has struggled with these same emotions... and maybe in case it also reaches one person who's felt the need to tell someone else they're wrong about something that is simply a matter of personal preference.  

In between sewing and running around asking how this house can get so messy in such a short amount of time (every night it's clean... by the time the therapists arrive at 9 am it's just starting to look like a tropical storm has swept through and I'm scrambling to throw a few things back into the toy box and make it look like my life occasionally involves housework) I've been looking around sleepily and reflecting on the past year.  This morning a certain amazing husband let me sleep until 9:30 am (wow!  I cannot even remember the last time that happened!  That means nine and a half hours of sleep, if you don't count a certain hungry baby waking up twice last night!) and while reveling in the clarity of not being exhausted I thought I'd make an attempt at ordering these thoughts and pinning them neatly (or not so neatly) into place, since writing things down is one of those ways I often discover what I really actually have learned.

And what a learning year it has been.

Actually I feel like the past two and a half years have been one big lesson that is slowly being hammered into my brain.

Sometimes I feel like the predominate lesson of the past year has been the stripping away of every preference that I have, the destruction of the non-essential.  I find myself imagining an ongoing conversation with God where I think something like:  "Wow, I really love the Latin Mass.  I find it so beautiful and it just appeals to my soul in a way that I can't put into words!" and five minutes later (slight exaggeration) we find out that we have three kids that all need an inhaler and a Benadryl melt after a couple of minutes in a room with incense, and there's one that will be miserably covered in a rash for the rest of the day even with his regularly taken allergy medication if he's in a church with incense for all of sixty seconds, which pretty much takes that option off of the table (I know the low mass would be an option, but the latin mass that's being offered in a location that we can get to is the latin mass that's being offered and at least half the time that involves beautiful amounts of incense swirling around the low ceiling'd crypt of the cathedral).

Because even if I really, really love the Tridentine form of the Mass I just can't consider giving my kids Benadryl and an inhaler every Sunday as an actual option for more than two seconds.

Then there was the election of the new Pope.  Sometimes, in my little self centered brain that this year is diligently attempting to smash to bits, I read something that our Pope has said and I feel like he's saying that much of what I find lovely and beautiful about our faith is just stupidly shallow and I instantly feel like I must be shallowly stupid to feel like those particular aspects of our faith are so very important to me.  I mean, it was logic that drew me towards the Catholic Church when I first began to study the Church's teachings, it was the Eucharist and Apostolic Succession and the sacraments that carried me home, but as I continued on my journey I was also aided by the simple beauty that the sacraments so often involve.

What is harder for me to admit is that sometimes I just feel angry.  Someone posts something about how THIS pope makes them feel super awesome and a) first I feel angry because of the comparison that the word THIS is making makes me feel instantly defensive of Pope Benedict XVI and b) I then feel horribly jealous because I miss that warm fuzzy feeling I got when we had a Pope whose every word made perfect sense to me, even when the media twisted them.

Now I'm just confused and a little sad about half of what I read (and I don't go out looking for it!  100% of the time it's super excited, isn't it awesome he said!" status updates) and that particular set of emotions is only added to by the fact that 90% of my Facebook friends are super, super excited about every single thing the Pope says, which lets me know that the problem is me (for the record, I do think he is both good and sincere... I'm not jumping on any conspiracy trains here...).

When I stare at the problem that I'm having, when I try to deconstruct the knee jerk reaction, it all comes down to the non-essential, things that I prefer, that I love even, but that aren't the basis of my faith.

A long time ago a priest told me that I should try harder to not be so right all the time, and maybe that fits in here too (although after re-reading this I feel like I should add in that I'm not saying that I think I'm right and the Pope is wrong, to be clear.  It's more part of the process of my rambling, wandering thoughts at the moment!  Bear with me.).  In the past I've ranted about liturgical abuses that made my blood pressure shoot up.  I'd go online and read about rubrics and how things should be done and I'd be even more certain that I was right and that someone else was wrong.

These days I'm just thankful when I make it through an entire Mass and no one gets sick or collapses on the ground screaming.  I appreciate the fact that the priests at our parish say Mass beautifully, but when we've been elsewhere I don't find the things that used to drive me crazy are even on my radar.  Maybe I'm trying to give myself credit for some sort of spiritual growth, when all that's really happened is I'm too harried to look beyond what the tumbling toddler at my feet is doing, but I know that the result is certainly less stressful.

Sometimes I like to think that I'm growing, that God has dragged me along through these past few years and that I surely must have learned something, that maybe I've taken some little baby steps as a result of his ample graces.  I imagine that through losing Christian and all the months when I was sick and then the drama of What-is-making-Patrick-sick and Mae's diagnosis, the bigger things have come into focus and the smaller things have been put in perspective.

And then I see someone posting about how one Mass is better than the other and how people who go to the other Mass aren't receiving as much grace and my head spins a little.  I want to comment, but I'm not even sure I could put into words what the last two years have taught me.

Or maybe the words are so simple that no one would listen:  We have Christ in the Eucharist.  Do you realize what a blessing that is?  How wonderful is gift of his actual body is?  Doesn't the eclipse everything else, put every other aspect of life, every other moment into perspective, casting it as teeny tiny in comparison?  Can anything I do add to that grace, to the overwhelmingly beautiful wonder of it all?

In many ways this year has smashed my preferences.  Or maybe it hasn't.  I'll probably still feel those knee jerk reactions and aversions when I have the energy to peer outside of the little bubble of my own family. But this year has helped me realize that the way I feel about things isn't as important as paying attention to my own vocation.

Perhaps that's the number one lesson I need to focus on.  It's not that the things that I've mentioned above aren't important.  The liturgy, in all it's beauty, is important.  But my thoughts or rants on it aren't going to help anyone, and really do more harm than good.

I can take care of my family.  I can pray.  And I can remember that love is a choice that we make, not a feeling of affection or warm fuzzies that we get when someone says something that makes us feel like we're right and other people are wrong.

And who knows where I'll be a year from now as I look back over 2014.  A lot can change in a year.


  1. I wonder if it would help if that particular church could change the brand of incense and if that might make a difference for your kids allergies...

  2. This might be long, I apologize...

    I totally understand where you are coming from. Though not a mother (or married, engaged, or dating [ok, I'm in high school, but your blog is too good not to read, even if my vocation might not be to marriage]), I completely get the whole Liturgy-Papa-Logic thought process you have right now, because I'm in the same boat. Lately, I have been in a spiritual rut during Mass (my home parish is not as reverent with the liturgy as I would hope but, alas, I'm 17 and don't really have any other options), as I have focused a bit too much on the "what" instead of the "Who." I tend to get frustrated and distracted by the, ahem, liberties the priests take in saying the Mass. However, your humble post really draws to mind the fact that Jesus is and truly should be the focus of it all. The liturgy surrounding Him is incredibly important, but He is obviously the center and I sometimes forget that. Thank you for sharing your heart, even if it is slightly confused and jumbled, as mine is too. Your blog has really brought me joy and I just want you to know what an inspiration your vocation has been in my life. So thank you for your humility and for sharing the beautiful things in your life, from little moments to big revelations. I am praying for you!

    TL;DR... you're amazing.

  3. I feel your pain. For me with my dh's allergies it feels like a choice between happy clappy (but incense free) guitar Mass or reverential Novus Ordo (at the Toronto Oratory ( (which doesn't have incense but a poor filtration system so the incense of previous Masses lingers enough to make dh raspy and gasping and I can't have that. Re the Holy Father: I think he's actually pretty conservative as well as brilliant but not used to everything out of his mouth being misinterpreted as a media sound byte. People who say "well I don't really agree with the Catholic Church but I love this Pope" don't really understand Catholicism. Even his "who am I to judge' speech was totally misunderstood and if people figured out that what he meant was that if someone was gay but went to confession and were repentant and didn't repeat the sin "who was he to judge"; then maybe they wouldn't be so rah rah.
    I don't think that people who go to happy clappy guitar Masses are less Catholic than people who go to the TLM either. But I do think it's ok to love the TLM and want to go to it and feel depressed when you can't cause you have kids with allergies. Your feelings are ok. I also get the stripping away of our desires. We live with constant ups and downs of money and are still going on an adoption journey that may or may not give us another child for our family. Each challenge changes one and may produce a refining of the soul. Keeping you in my prayers and also loving your blog for inspiration for my own struggles.

  4. Just an interesting tip: I don't know if you have ever been to an Eastern Catholic mass (or how Mae would react, there is a lot of singing), but I have heard from multiple sources that the incense we use does not aggravate people with allergies as much.

    But also thank you for this post. Our struggles are similar yet different and I, too, draw inspiration from you and your devotion to your vocation.

  5. None of the EF churches here use incense except for major holy days, so that isn't an issue. In fact, the only time when I've ever had an asthma problem at Mass was at an OF. I have major problems with how the OF is done in many cases, but it could be because I live in a "liberal" diocese.

    You have one Facebook friend that agrees with you on the pope situation, though. I just don't read those conversations because I feel as though I'll be attacked if I say I don't love the things he said. Truthfully, if Pope Francis were the pope when I was looking to convert, I very well may have not done it. I know that's a terrible thing to say, but it would have painted a picture of what the Catholic Church is that She isn't. Yes, I know a lot of it is the media taking it out of context, but it's still the truth.

  6. "And I can remember that love is a choice that we make, not a feeling of affection or warm fuzzies that we get when someone says something that makes us feel like we're right and other people are wrong. "

    That hit me and gosh did I need it. Thank you for sharing. :)

  7. Love this post. I had reams and reams to say, but I'll leave it at this.

    God does have a way of taking us deeper by removing the warm fuzzies He gave us at the beginning and challenging us to actually hang onto the Faith without consolation in the midst of difficulties. Actually, I think the saints almost always report a time of beautiful consolation followed by a sense of abandonment and feelings of estrangement that sometimes lasted a very long time (as was the case for Mother Theresa). So you find great joy and consolation in the Tridentine Mass, and then find you cannot go due to your circumstances. The Pope who spoke with eloquence to your heart steps down, and one who is more informal is now the leader, whose words don't resonate and even seem to diminish what you hold dear. And so on. God does take us out of our comfort zones so our faith is tested and challenged. The question is, will we still believe if we don’t have the warm fuzzies? Or if things go terribly wrong? It’s funny, but if we keep Jesus in the center of our lives, every day, the storms can whirl around us, and yet we stay steady. Times change. Popes come and go. The Faith remains.
    I know by what you post you have a strong faith. Often when I read your posts I rejoice because I see God is pouring out His Spirit and filling young people to overflowing. You give me hope. So thank you for sharing such a personal and honest reflection about your faith. It helps to know others are confronting some of the same issues we ourselves face. God Bless. ~ Bonnie

  8. Several Thoughts...totally get the inscence. While I dont get hives I do get migraines.

    Bonnies spot on. I've been a Catholic all my life. God doesnt make it easy. I take that as itz time for me to grow. Ruts are normal especially if you think of your mystical marriage to Christ ( I know you're not a nun but we're all married to him as a medieval concept) as being like marriage to your husband.


  9. This is a great post, Cam. It resonates strongly with me. I do feel like sometimes the lauding of Pope Francis is meant to be a knock against Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Blessed John Paul II, which really bugs me. But I've realized that I shouldn't hold that against Pope Francis, who just has a different style than the previous two popes with whom I felt a great affinity. I have come to appreciate Pope Francis more by focusing just on him and how he lives his faith, and not on what other people say about him. It has really helped me.

    This is a new time in our faith, and I think God is trying to show us new things, as you observed. So glad that I have my online Catholic community (like you!) to accompany me on this important journey. :)

  10. This post was very apropos for me! I have been coming to similar conclusions in my own spiritual life. When I was in the convent, we had the PERFECT liturgy. It was everything that "fed" me in a liturgy, all my preferences all packed into one beautiful, reverent Mass. In a way, it spoiled me. When I left, I kept those preferences with me, preferences which are not to be found in 99.9% of the parishes in this country. Particularly where I am living now, there are 5 parishes within reasonable distance, and despite that, I felt like NONE of them were a place I could be spiritually "fed"; I constantly picked out and complained about the things they were doing wrong, things that made my blood boil. No REAL abuses, mind you, just things I didn't like. My preferences. It took a lot of soul searching and humbling to realize how haughty I had been. I kept coming across the phrase, "Bloom where you're planted," and "God puts you where you are for a reason," and it made me realize how superficial I had been. How dare I say that I'm not getting FED when I still have the opportunity at EVERY Mass I attend here to receive Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist?!? When I was in the convent, we were taught to deal with annoyances as a way to purify our souls and come closer to holiness. God (through the intercession of St Joseph!) provided for us miraculously in giving us the home we have here; how could I say that He provided for us with this house, but put us in the "wrong place" because there aren't any Masses that I like within reasonable driving distance? So it meant giving up MY WILL, and letting God take over. And what a glorious change it has been. We registered with a parish here, and though there are lots of things I don't like about the way they do things, once I put my preferences aside and offered up these pinprick annoyances as a way to purify my soul, the floodgates of grace came pouring in. Honestly, the same has been true of Pope Francis; I feel similarly to you on that subject, too. What you say here really resonated with me: "But this year has helped me realize that the way I feel about things isn't as important as paying attention to my own vocation." I've realized the same thing, too. I need to be a good, holy, witness of a wife and mother. I need to work on becoming charitable, kind, generous, sacrificial, and really cut complaining out of my life. In short, I need to become a SAINT before anything else. So yeah ... sorry for the novel, lol. Just know I really, really appreciate your post!

  11. Cam, I keep thinking that if people didn't keep pushing this Pope in our faces to the point of near papolatry that some of us might have an easier time adjusting to him. After all there weren't multiple pictures of Pope Benedict posted on FB on his birthday, nor was every act of kindness he did listed (perhaps he did them in secret as the Gospel recommends?). I want to love this Holy Father as well, but his ambiguous way of speaking (Jesuit style speech perhaps) makes it very easy to feel tense about what's going to come out of his mouth next that the media can twist and distort into something that doesn't look like Catholic teaching at all. I love a lot of what he says about our needing an encounter with Jesus, I hope he truly is welcoming the broken and hurting sinner back into the arms of the Church to be healed (not validated in their sin), but at the moment it's really hard to get past the feeling that the media is turning him into something of a sensation rather than truly hearing Catholic teaching. I miss the plain spoken Benedict whom the media hated. I too have felt this year as if all I really can do is stay true to my own vocation and live out the little way (very imperfectly most of the time). We don't have the option of an EF Mass around here, but our NO is pretty reverently done and we have a pastor who's fidelity is without question,so I pretty much take the tack of being thankful I don't live where I have to attend a parish (like some in my daughter's area) where they've hardly met the new translation at all (some of them ditch the Nicene Creed week after week in favor of the apostles creed in order to avoid having to use consubstantial or say for us men and our salvation). I'm trying to see the glass as half full rather than half empty, and view the people who are so excited about Pope Francis as simply having a bit of overexuberance. It wasn't going to be an easy year here anyway (our difficulties have been different from yours, but equally challenging in some ways) and trying to get used to a new Pope in the midst of them has made things more difficult at a time when some stability somewhere would have made things easier. However, even when the boat is in the midst of the storm Jesus is still there with us, and even if this Pope turns out to not be a particularly wise one the Church has survived worse.

  12. I was a fan of Bl JPII (whom we had the great honor to meet in a private audience) and also of Pope Benedict. I think that the Holy Spirit sends us exactly what we need at a particular time, and I believe that the real humility of Pope Francis and his clear love for sinners (which includes us all!) will help people hear the Truth and Good News to which they may have been turning a deaf ear.

    It is clear that many media outlets have a clear agenda and will grasp at straws to in an effort to believe that the tide is turning away from the eternal Truth taught by the Church. They are very, very wrong, and will be quite disappointed.

    I think that this Pope is quite wise, and shares with my late, very orthodox mother the knowledge that "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar."

  13. You are much more enjoyable to read and relatable now! To be honest, I used to sometimes find you a bit sanctimonious and judgmental. Maybe a bit "hollier than thou." Now, life has washed some of that off. You're a better blogger and Catholic for it. I really enjoy what you write and as a mom, I feel I can relate to you much better. Merry Christmas!

    1. Wow rude in the disguise of a compliment. Question: why did you continue to read if you didn't find the blog enjoyable?

  14. I think motherhood (and parenthood) IS a stripping of our selves. But that is what God wants. He wants us dependant on Him, completely. And His ways of burning away what should not be a part of me are not always my preference, but it really comes down to trusting Him and His wisdom and His love for us.

    The same is true with the pope. I despise the comparisons to previous popes, but that has nothing to do with the pope himself. And so much of what we hear about/from him is filtered through translators and journalists. Pope Francis has forced me to take that first paragraph and apply it to Rome. I relish in the things our Holy Father does and says that touch my soul and make me think, but if something doesn’t sound quite right, or I don’t understand why he said or did something, I tell God that it is His Vicar and He will just have to straighten it out and I trust that God will take care of His own Church with regards to His Vicar. Again, trust.
    But we are all growing. We are all in the process of being cleansed in the fire. I used to think I was right about a lot more than I was and one thing I’ve learned is that everyone is different, everyone approaches God a little bit differently, and God calls everyone along a slightly different path, speaking a little differently to each of us and that is wonderful! It means we are not all the same, not to each other and not to God. He made each of us so unique that our relationship to Him is unique from everyone else’s and it is completely understandable that you long for those preferences that are yours, but we also need to allow others to relish in those preferences that our theirs (like our current pope) and offer it in love when God instructs us by denying us our own preferences.

    (I hope I wasn’t preachy. You’ve actually help me put together a few ideas I’ve been trying to put into words for a while now. So, Thanks!)

  15. I was thinking about Pope Francis today and wondering if bringing others into the Church (as it appears he's trying to do) is a good thing if he alienates Catholics in the process.


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