Friday, March 28, 2008

Slacker Church Behavior

The great thing about Catholic converts is that we tend to be pretty enthusiastic about our faith. We can recite the Nicene Creed in our sleep. Sacramentals adorn every room in our homes. We will gladly tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Lourdes, Fatima, and Majegoria. How about a Novena? We can crank one out like nobody's business.

So imagine, if you will, how deflated we must feel when a fellow Catholic gives a blank look and asks, "What's a Novena?"

After recovering from exasperation and disbelief, we methodically explain about the practice of praying (often the Rosary) for nine consecutive days. To which you might hear,

"Oh, I think my great-grandmother did something like that back in the day. We just thought she was senile".

As Charlie Brown used to say, "Good grief". In fact , a little of Lucy's 5 cent psychiatric care might ease my impulse to pull out a ruler and inflict the proper penance for such a dim response.

I know, I know. There is nothing worse than a convert when it comes to telling everyone else what they're supposed to be doing. And it's true, we RCIA cadets emerge from our discernment with convictions that are freshly honed and admittedly, perhaps just a wee over zealous. You know, preachy. But grant me this...we converts chose our faith, as adults, and unlike "cradle Catholics", we learned the practices and teachings of the Church with an adult intellect and from an experienced perspective. I think this gives us a degree of credibility when it comes to professing our faith and justifying the intentions that drive such an eager commitment. We also tend to notice more of the "routine" aspects of worship than do our "lifer" brothers and sisters.

So, at the risk of sounding like the Church Lady, here is some less-than-spirited Church conduct that I've noticed over the years:

Half-Hearted Mass Participation:
Genuflection requires that you lower yourself, on one knee, to the ground. Curtsies, knee twitches, and leg stretches do not count. The disabled and elderly get a pass, apparently.

When bowing to the alter or before the Blessed Sacrament, try to make it appear as more than a flinch or a nod to a distant acquaintance on the street. We should not have to wonder if your bow was actually a brief neck spasm.

When blessing yourself before the Gospel of the Word, you are reminding yourself to keep the Word in your mind, on your lips, and in your heart. I’m not sure that making the gesture on your temple, your nose, and on your shoulder blade makes the same statement. Is it really that hard to locate your forehead, lips, and the general location of your heart?

Prayer Slackers:
Unless you are younger than five, learn the prayers of our faith. Don’t lip sync your way through and hope that your pew neighbor’s loud voice obscures your befuddled lack of participation. Avoid whining about the Nicene Creed taking too long to recite. The Apostles Creed works but it is the Reader’s Digest version, friends.

Try to recite prayers with more enthusiasm than that which you would give to a chore list. Somehow, “Hosanna in the highest” loses its impact when you’re also wiping your kid’s nose or mentally compiling your weekly grocery list. Don’t think people notice your prayer distraction? They do. More importantly, I'm thinking God notices too. I'm not speaking for Him, mind you. Just a leap on my part.

Bad Church Etiquette:
Avoid club wear to Mass. I doubt God cares how hot you are. Save the low-rise jeans, skin tight tops, and micro-minis for a location other than church. You should probably avoid this attire altogether but that one is your call. I can't be everyone's mommy.

Have your kids change out of their sports uniforms for Mass. Unless it’s a dire hardship, just put the darlings in proper street clothes. Somehow, hobbling to receive Communion in soccer cleats doesn’t seem particularly reverent. A gi clad Karate chopper or a padded, jersey wearing football player may be slightly distracting to those of us in the stands. I mean pews.

Wear your Sunday best. If this is a laundered pair of jeans and an unwrinkled t-shirt...great. You don't have to put on airs for the Lord. But I think a little respect is on order, don’t you? How about avoiding the cargo pants that have been rolled up in a ball, on the floor, and under your cat? Ladies, how about trading in the yoga pants for a skirt or a dress?

Wait until Mass has ended before assembling babies, coats, hats, mittens, scarves, electronic devices, snacks, children’s books and all the rest of it. FYI: Mass isn’t over as soon as you’ve received Communion. Who knew?

It’s probably not a great idea to flip the Body of Christ around on your tongue like a lifesaver. Think about what’s in your mouth. It’s not bubble gum and it’s not an after-dinner mint.


OK...I'm done. For now, anyway. Admittedly, I'm guilty of at least a few of these from time to time.

Let's all remember what it is that we're celebrating, commemorating, and honoring. Life has an uncanny way of getting in the way of all we hold most dear.


Judi "Jlo" Moran (2006) said...

Oh, I hear you, girl.
There's nothing like us Catholic converts to preach the glories of this church we've been called into.
I praise God, in wonderment, that He has given me the privilege of becoming a Catholic during my lifetime.

Lorri said...

I love converts! Especially the one I'm married to. You would flip your lid if you attended the church I did growing up. It's a major tourist attraction in a tourist beach town. In a very casual state. Even the locals would show up in very casual wear. I know my parents dragged me to mass at least once, still wearing my soccer uniform - no cleats, though. There was just no time and no where to change between my game and the start of mass.