17 August 2009

Kudos to the St. Louis Review Editorial Board

Because I am not shy about making the odd criticism, I wanted to call attention to the editorial piece in the latest St. Louis Review.

Last Saturday, of course, was the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary-- one of the chief glories of the entire liturgical year. Thanks to the modern trend of caving into the lowest common denominator, the is-it-or-is-it-not-falls-on-a-weekend-so-it-was-holy-but-isn't-quite-as-holy-now Non-Holy Day of Non-Obligation (or NHDNO, for short) phenomenon struck at Our Lady's Feast this year.

Of course, we are supposed to assist at Masses like these because we love God and Our Lady, and not because the attendance is obligatory. But there are so few Holy Days of Obligation already, and you could apply the same rationale to Sundays. Thus, the reality is that many people do not go once the obligation is lifted.

Where was I? Oh yes, the Review. The editorial rightly urged Catholics to observe the Assumption by assisting at Mass:

Going the extra mile for God

On Saturday, Aug. 15, we mark the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Though usually with a Mass obligation, when the holy day falls on a Saturday or Monday, the solemnity is not obligatory. This should not, however, preclude us from attending Mass.

To honor Mary, the Mother of God, is to honor our Lord Himself. So much does Jesus think of her that He gives her to us as our own mother. Jesus said: “Behold, your mother” (John 19: 27).

We are no less bound to honor Mary by the Fourth Commandment — “Honor your father and your mother” — than we are to honor our birth mothers.

We live in a minimum-effort society. We ask questions such as: What is the bottom line? How little income tax may I pay? What must I do to inherit everlasting life? Do I have to? How far can I go without incurring mortal sin? Is there any loophole I can use to reduce what is required of me or to get out of leaving myself vulnerable or obligated? Too often, we strive to do only what is expected and evade doing a little more.

Genuine love is not inwardly pointed or self-seeking, it is outwardly pointed and self-giving. The questions of the one who loves are: What more can I give of myself? How can I better meet your need? Is there anything else I can do? What do you need of me? How can I lighten your burden? How can I pour myself out for you more? How can I better love you?

These are questions Jesus is always asking us. He owes us nothing and gives us everything, even to the point of pouring out and laying down His life for us daily. Never content merely with doing enough for us, He looks for more to do for us, to give of Himself to us, to bless us. There is no such thing as “enough” for Him, no “bottom line.”

Within the last half-century we have seen our faith demand far less of us in terms of minimal requirements than of Catholics years ago. The eucharistic fast formerly had been from midnight, even from water. It is now one hour and water is permitted. All Fridays had been days of abstinence from meat. Now, abstinence is required only on Ash Wednesday, Lenten Fridays and Good Friday. (SLC Note: I disagree with this conclusion, as I have posted in the past; but certainly this is the usual understanding of the rules of abstinence.) The Ascension had been celebrated on Thursday; it is now observed on Sunday, when we would ordinarily be in Our Lord’s house anyway.

Some holy days of obligation have no Mass requirement when observed on a Saturday or Monday. Far less is asked of us today by the law than in days past.

Despite ever-shrinking requirements, we often begrudge our Lord even in the little asked of us. If our lives have become so cluttered that we cannot clear out a day other than Sunday to gather in prayer, then our lives must be brought into balance.

This does not mean shortchanging Our Lord. Our lives begin and end with Him. They are shaped around Him. Whatever fits in around Him is fine. If it does not fit, then it must be sacrificed. Without Him, we are less than nothing.

Tomorrow we can show that we are truly blessed to gather in Our Lord’s house, to honor Him by saluting His victory in the life of Mary, His mother and ours. We have no minimalist Lord, and He deserves no minimalist people.

We come, without requirement, because it is the right thing to do. It might require a sacrifice. Our Lord is worth that.

We should be delighted to offer our gifts.


Very nicely said. I hope that the U.S. Bishops will reconsider the whole policy of NHDNOs, and perhaps add back some traditional days of obligation (such as Epiphany, for example) at an early date.


Anonymous said...

When they decided that it is too inconvenient to continue to make a requirement of Mass on certain Holy Days on Saturdays or Mondays, the bishops sent exactly the wrong signal to the faithful. If worship on some of the holiest feasts of the liturgical year is not important, what is?

Jim Cole

Anonymous said...

Mr. Cole-

Another reason to attend the Extraordinary Form at St. Francis de Sales Oratory.

-Raymond R.

Anonymous said...

Is not the Feast of the Immaculate Conception ALWAYS a HDOO?

Anonymous said...

We had about 30-35 people at our Mass out of a parish of l,650 families. Of course, the pianist and the singer made it quite difficult to pray before, and the over-65 crowd with their raucous chatter made it equally so after.
I was filled with sadness at the way Our Lord and His Mother are treated and couldn't help but think of that painting "Christ Despised and Rejected".

Here's a curious thing: since the wall was knocked down to expose the tabernacle in the side chapel, the talking before and after, plus the obvious lack of any reverence given to Him, has increased. What do you make of this?

thetimman said...

The Immaculate Conception is always a holy day of obligation.

Anon at 12:25--

I write this only as an example of the possible, not as a "Look how much better we are" thing. Our church had two Saturday Masses for the Assumption-- 8 am low Mass and 12:10 high Mass. I don't know abou the low Mass figures, but for the high Mass the Church was fairly full. I didn't count the numbers, but comparing it to Sunday high Mass I would say there were about 500 people. Maybe a hundred more or less.

The reason I write this is because the attitude of the families there is that this is a Mass where one really must (and by must I mean they see it as an internal obligation and out of love and respect for Our Mother) attend.

Lex orandi, lex credendi. We need to beef up the law of faith to better the law of prayer-- and vice versa. They complement each other and are not easily separable.

Anonymous said...

Sir: Thank you for pointing out my arrogance and pride to me.