Sunday, January 18, 2009

Strangers and Sojourners

Be not silent: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner as all my fathers were. Psalm 38:12

Today I definitely felt more like a stranger than a sojourner in our chapel.

We walked in to be greeted by both our priest and a minister from a Protestant denomination. As it was Christian Unity Week, the minister was to give the Homily.

We could not stay. It is bad enough when Catholic lay-people are called on to give "homilies" but to have clergy from a denomination preach lays us wide open to difficulty. In the past we have had "homilies" which were historically incorrect and insulting. Today's apparently had the congregation learning about three Jesuses (is that how you pluralize God's only son?).

Because of a break in apostolic succession, even ordained ministers of non-Catholic communities are lay-people, as the Church teaches.
What is the big deal about a non-priest giving a "homily"? First, understand that there is a legitimate place for a lay-person to speak at Mass. It is after Communion but before the Final Blessing. THAT is not the problem.

I think people do not understand that being a priest is not just a 'job'...something someone else can pinch hit for. An ordained priest is changed in his essence. His unique tasks are "to teach, to govern, and to sanctify" Homilies are liturgical teaching, just the sacrament of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick (both of which are also to be performed only by a priest) sanctify.

We are increasingly feeling like strangers in the chapel to which we have belonged for over ten years.

Fortunately, we can always sojourn in the Catholic Church. Even in our imperfect little corner, we can pray and work for change. As long as the Mass remains valid, and that has not been a problem, despite these liturgical shenanigans, Jesus is there: In the Word, in the people, in the priest, and most emminently, in the Eucharist.

If a parish existed, and I don't think it does, which had perfect liturgy, we would still be strangers to an extent. We cannot fully know God when we are on earth. Mass is however, our chance to 'play heaven', according to Pope Benedict XVI in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy. It is there to help us get as close to heaven as we can ever be while on earth. It is, I think, a 'thin place' as is referred to in Celtic lore.

I hope to continue to work (pester?) for change, but sometimes, one gets weary...