Dispatches from Maine

Just another person of little note writing about ordinary things. That I reside in Maine is icing on the cake.

20 March 2005

Catholics and Target

In the morning paper, I read that Bishop O’Malley will this year wash the feet of women during the mandatum on Holy Thursday. Last year he refused to do the same, eliminating a long practice of Cardinal Bernard Law. The newspaper reports that Bishop O’Malley took considerably heat last year for breaking with a common practice in the United States. I well remember the uproar and my own personal disappointment last year. The article reported that he consulted with the Vatican to see if the washing of women’s feet during the mandatum was legitimate.

Interestingly enough the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) has a Q&A page about this on their web site. The site quotes material from the BCL (Bishops Conference on the Liturgy) Newsletter published originally in 1987. Why it was necessary to ask the Vatican about an issue so well trod, no pun intended, I have no idea. This is where being a Catholic gets hard, at least for me it does. All I can do, at the end of the day, is feel sad about the situation, a Bishop unnecessarily provoking controversy, and hope it was either an honest mistake or an issue about which there is some genuine doubt.

Meanwhile, as a Catholic who swings wildly between conservative and liberal, I am waiting for the rush of ultra-orthodox Catholics to denounce Bishop O’Malley for buckling to supposed feminist pressure. It seems to me that you cannot attach yourself to the Vatican one day and reject it the next because of the content of the message. I believe that is what the ultra-orthodox call situational ethics, usually with an air of disgust.

Mass was tres excellent today. While it was long and the girls were bored senseless, normal for their ages, the message was wonderful. The Passion reading was very well done and I was shocked to find that during the reading the pictures in my head were all from The Passion of the Christ (imdb). I knew how much I was moved by the film, but I did not realize that it was my mental template for the Passion. I was also surprised to find myself filling in gaps in the Passion narrative with Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich’s work “The Dolorous Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The homily which followed the reading was beyond words. Father Gendreau started with seemingly innocuous lines designed to drawn people in. He noted that when we came to Mass next Sunday, Easter Sunday, there would probably be someone unfamiliar sitting in our pew. A lot of heads started nodding, “yeah. my pew, who are they to come once a year and sit in my pew.” He continued reflecting that we will probably be angry at them and criticize them because they do not come to Mass every Sunday. It was then that people started to feel the hook. Since I was one of “those people” once I know just what he is talking about. From my position watching people go from “yeah, in my dang pew, what gives them the right?” to “oh, hmm, maybe that is the wrong attitude” was simply priceless. He turned dramatically and pointed to the altar and said, “Yet there is plenty of room at this table for everyone.”

For me, being Catholic is all about being wrong and being forced to realize it. That is what Confession, now Reconciliation, is all about. All too often, we forget that we can sin right at Mass through a breach of hospitality. How much harder it is to reach out to a stranger than to put money in envelope 412. Just after Mass started this morning there was a 7-10 split pew in front of me, you know one person at each end of a giant pew. There was a family I knew and one I did not know in the back of the church standing. I invited them up to fill the empty space, but I have wondered since then, was I warmer to the folks I knew? I guess I better let those stones lay there…

Back to the movie…

When we returned from Mass I knew I was ready to see the movie again finally. We all piled into the car and made for Target, ostensibly to pick up the video and a new scooter for my oldest. The more time she spends outside gliding around the better. It think in the final tally we spent twice what we went in to spend, coming out with a little baseball glove for my youngest, a new bike helmet for her also, shoes to go with their Easter dresses, and so on. Everything had to be done at some point, but I gather this is how stores like Target operate. You go in for a pair of shoes and come out with a dining room set. It also explains why I steer clear of Target. At least I know better at my nemesis, LL Bean, which I will only enter without my credit cards and with the amount of cash I am willing to spend. Call me Mr. William Power, Esquire. :)

In the end, the girls spent several hours outside this afternoon, so it was all worthwhile. Kids spend altogether to much time watching TV and running from event to event. Too much planning is going on for children. Better to let them while away the day driving their scooter on the driveway and chatting with their friends. It was nice to look outside at my kids frittering away the day after having read an article about what parents in L.A. go through. It reminds why why these dispatches come from Maine: The Way Life Should Be.


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