empty pews

Militancy in felt bottomed shoes

empty pews

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Guest post by Owen Swain.

A dear friend of mine, a blogger whom I actually met — in our kitchen, over a meal — a fellow convert from evangelicalism lives in a very northern Ontario town. Whether to attend an Extraordinary or a Novus Ordo Mass is not a question that ever crosses her mind because there is only one Catholic parish within many, many miles and it has one Mass and it’s the Novus Ordo.

In times past she’s mentioned, factually, not complaining, that the homily is frequently dry to irrelevant, the choir non-existent, the music worse than someone at a camp fire who thinks they can play guitar, the liturgy lapsed, truncated, masticated and the handful of people who attend all have grey hair and are almost exclusively women. In her mid-50s she’s the youngest soul there. She makes special and long trips to go to Confession elsewhere. I don’t think we need to ask why.

But her old Evangelical friends ask why, not just about Confession but why go at all. Why not “come back” to their big, thriving, multi-service weekends with vibrant “worship” that includes two big screens on which you can see all of the words to all of the choruses; where they really “get fed” on Bible based sermons during which you can either follow along in your own copy of the Bible or you can see the message bullet points and verse highlights on those same big screens; where there are often “skits” and “movie clips” from “feature films” and where all ages are represented and where you can enjoy a “coffee hour” either after the early service or before the mid-morning service and where people are just so darn friendly and “real”?  And that’s just Sundays!

Her answer? “Because you don’t have Jesus”, by which I understand she means they do not have the Real Presence of the Second Person of the Trinity offered in the consecrated host as our spiritual nourishment for the journey and as a key part of his promise that he would be with us to the end of the age.

I would love for many of the Internet debaters on all sides of any Catholic issue to meet my friend and share her grateful and gracious heart. I think living with humility and patient grace is one of the most “militant” things the “Church Militant” can do. I think my friend is one of the most truly passionate Catholics I know, oddly this is evidenced in her willing submission and co-operation with Grace. She is a member of the Militant Church who marches in felt bottomed shoes. You probably wouldn’t even know she was there, supporting you and upholding truth just by living out her calling faithfully. And don’t think her personal life is without personal problems or tensions with the Church. No but what her very life shows is that she knows by faith and by reason and by experience is that “this is Jesus.” Like I say for myself, that reality has ruined me for anything less.

As to militancy and what is our authority, well, who was more militant than Mary and she hardly made a noise? Who had authority after the authority of Christ and dare I say even the Apostles like Mary and what did she do with that authority? We hardly hear from her or about her in the sacred Scripture but what is there profoundly rocks our passivity, our attempts at piety, our great knowledge of how and what ought to be.

I became Catholic primarily –though not exclusively– for the sacrament of Holy Communion, the Real Presence, our Eucharistic Lord. Lord, remind me of my friend and of Mary and help me to imitate them as they imitate Christ and the heart of the Gospel.