Sunday, June 25, 2006

Opposites are not

A friend of mine is really into older-style Catholic stuff. I'm not. He loves the Latin Mass, traditional Mass settings, vestments etc. I wouldn't choose to attend a Latin Mass as an ordinary event. I really enjoy Youth Masses (Y2K, WYD style). He wouldn't choose to attend a Youth Mass or to sing modern Catholic music.

Based on his advice, I have attended some old-school type services in Latin. I enjoyed some aspects of them and found myself to be spiritually moved (I'm sorry I cannot come up with a better expression than this) in a different way. I suspect that there are certain things you only recieve through the medium of traditional, Latin, Catholic services. Likewise, I've exposed him to modern Catholic music. He was a little aprehensive at first, but appreciated the intentions and did actually enjoy some of the songs.

Both of us are Catholic. We express our faith very differently. For both of us, the focus is God. So when I say something like 'have you heard this new Catholic rock band?' or similar, his immediate response is to take the mick (a little) and then listen to what ever I say (or cd I lend). I am not trying to heal, convert or cure, but to share something that has brought me a new understanding or moved me, and taught me more about God.

There are certain things that you have to do, in a specified way, as a Catholic - attend Mass, pray, receive the Sacraments etc. There are certain things that you have to do in an unspecified way - love God, love other people, be yourself. There are certain things that are open to you that are optional/your choice - attending Mass during the week, attend Mass in English, Polish, Latin or Portuguese, becoming a priest or a religious etc.

None of these different ways of being Catholic is right or wrong of themselves - they are an expression of something else, the Truth (substance) through our culture (accidentals). We need them all. If we ban the Latin Mass or girl altar servers or guitars for cultural reasons, we are the losers. If we ignore any one subgroup of the Church, we lose out. We are enriched by being able to hold and accept all these apparent contradictions (and each other) together.

I'm not saying that everything merits approval. If the focus is God and something is still problematic, we need to ask ourselves why. We need to question our own focus at the same time we question others. We don't have all the answers. God does. We need to ask for humility and courage, to be ourselves and let other be themselves.

To the truly humble man the ordinary ways and customs and habits of men are not a matter for conflict. The saints do not get excited about the things that people eat and drink, wear on their bodies, or hand on the walls of their houses. To make conformity or non-conformity with others in these accidents a matter of life and death is to fill your interior life with confusion and noise. Ignoring all this as indifferent, the humble man takes whatever there is in the world that helps him to find God and leaves the rest aside.

He is able to see quite clearly that what is useful for him may be useless for somebody else, and what helps others to be saints might ruin him. That is why humility brings with it a deep sense of refinement of spirit, a peacefulness, a tact and a common sense without which there is no sane morality.

Thomas Merton
New Seeds of Contemplation

No comments: