Friday, December 16, 2011

All We Want for Christmas

To every thing there is a season, including maxims. Here are three:

Better late than never.
It wasn't a pretty goal, but we'll take the point anyway.
There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over the ninety-nine that have no need of repentance.

After the past few weeks of spending much more time than we should have to deliberate over one of the most ridiculous decisions ever made by a national conference of Catholic bishops, we have finally been let off  this annoying assignment by the bishops of Alaska. This is not to say that much in the way of damage control has actually been exercised in Canada, but the news from way up north indicates that it's only a matter of time, and we probably don't have to worry about it very much from now on. An example is an example.
I speak, of course, of this novel practice of making an entire congregation stand after receiving communion until the last parishioner has got his wafer. In actual fact, of course, nobody can actually make anybody do this, and we get regular reports of people who have the sense to do what they've always done: kneel and say a prayer of thanks, and perhaps offer their communion for another soul or two, as soon as they get back to their pews. Any Catholic who believes this standing around wrinkle is a matter of obedience and unity within the community is only telegraphing the poverty of his individual spiritual life. If there was ever a clear cut instance of where, when, and how to offer fraternal correction to a bishop or priest this is at the top of the list.
And speaking of lists, where are the Guiness Book of Records people? In this time of growing interest in making Mass more and more of a circus act, is there going to be a prize for the congregation which has to stand the longest? The record so far, that I have heard of, is fifteen minutes. But that should be topped come Christmas.
But the really big prize should not be given out for this small marathon. The big prize should go to the most idiotic sermon justifying the innovation, with a special bonus for the silly oaf that speaks the most abusively of 'individual piety'. Tape the moron, and send a copy to the Pope. It will make a nice subject to discuss at the next ad limina session of the Canadian bishops. The severest tongue lashing I've ever read in L'Osservatore Romano was John Paul to the bishops of Western Canada in 1988, but perhaps it will be outdone by Benedict this time around. You'd think they'd learn.
Believe it or not, Alaskan Catholics have actually been enduring this heresy since 2005, when Roger Schwietz became archbishop of Anchorage and its 400,000 souls. And more incredible, a lot of American dioceses started inflicting it back in 2002 or so. We'd never heard of that, to tell the truth, until now, when we were sent to a Net interview, with Cardinal Arinze, then head of the congregation that governs worship practices, that he gave when he came to the States in 2003. He assured his audience that such nonsense had not come from Rome. (He also assured his audience that if he were Pope he would not allow altar girls.)
But now, the majority of American sees have taken their brains, at least in this regard, and because Alaska gets a huge tourist inflow from the lower 48, confusion has reigned supreme in visiting season for these half-dozen years and Schwietz and his fellows have finally seen the light. They actually saw it in the month of November, which I wish I'd known, for the sake of my good night's sleep, and got the change going for Advent. Joyeux Noel, Alaska.
May your thinking spread as quickly as possible. The round red fellow with the reindeer couldn't bring us a better Christmas present.

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