Wednesday, July 25, 2007

WATER INTO WHINE

I love happy Catholics. They give me so much energy. I enjoy their questions, their excitement, and their wonder. A Catholic who exudes joy does so much good for the sake of the kingdom. You want to rekindle in yourself what they have. It is infectious. It is wonderful.

So why are their so many Catholic complainers? (Here is a self-fulfilling prophecy.) There seems to be little end to otherwise faithful Catholics who can’t stand the pope, who think low of the bishop, who hate the pastor, who are bored with the mass, who barely tolerate the music, who think such and so teaching unfair, who (insert common complaint.)

Gripes can be very legitimate but so many people seem to thrive on them. Let’s face it; it seems much more exciting to talk about what is wrong than what is right. Who called the bishop last time they liked something a priest did?

So to be honest, we are at times not very attractive. Yesterday the question was asked, “Why won’t God save Chicks with amputations who do good works?” The fact is that even if you have the perfect answer to that question and it proves the existence of God and all the tenets of the Catholic Church, if all we do is complain the rest of the time about what it wrong with us, we will not win many hearts. If being right does not lead us into charity, into hope, into accepting that not everything will go my way as the pope tries to lead over one billion people, then being right does not count for much.

I once had a spiritual director who would not allow me to speak ill of my bishop with him. We could debate issues of course, but we practiced obedience. That was far more constructive, far more charitable, more joyful, and quite frankly, a more attractive path to take.

That is not to say that we can never point out a flaw debate a statement, but those too should be done with great respect and honest conversation, not a passing disdain. Many more hearts have been won by having the right answer in combination with great charity than by just being right alone.

15 comments:

sparky said...

What a wise spiritual director you had! My personal rule is, if it doesn't solve the problem, then it is a waste of time. This motto keeps my complaining and gossip (mostly)in check.

Jeron said...

I needed to hear this this morning. I was ruminating on how much a couple of the regular "cube farm complainers" where I work can just wreck my day with their seemingly endless tirades on socio-political matters, but the mirror you held up to my face showed that I tend to do the same with what I don't like about the Church. And more often than not, my complaints are projections onto others of what I find least appealing in myself. Isn't it weird how that works?! I haven't known that many joyful Catholics, but the ones I have known stick out in my memory and I often recall them with such fondness and think "why can't I be like that?" Well, the answer is I CAN! We all can! It just takes a perspective shift and an act of the will, right? Sparky, I like your take on things: "if it doesn't solve the problem, then it's a waste of time." Wise words.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post. I also needed to read this! I have many friends who have left the Church or don't attend mass anymore because it doesn't suit them- they complain about the Pope, the male hierarchy, birth control issues, abortion, you name it. It hasn't been fun to be a "happy catholic" amidst all of this negativity. Add to that all of the catholic bashing from the media and it can be really difficult! Thanks for the nudge to try to be more joyful in my faith.

JustMe said...

Life is hard.. would anyone line up to investigate how to get more of that? But Joy, well, yes... there should be the greatest joy exuded by us. Maybe it's just too deep to talk about freely, but we have to always find a way.

Rob said...

-Who called the bishop last time they liked something a priest did?-

I did! This is very important. We must "talk up" our priests. Even if you are "liturgically old-fashioned" and your priest is apparetly from space, you must praise the good they do. Even the most "liberal" enacts a miracle when he, in persona Christi, confects the Eucharist at mass. You should let them know how, at the very least, this part of their ministry impacts your life.

Here's great trick. Write a letter to your bishop when your priest does something very traditional that just stinks of Catholic. Nobody can be Sr. Chittister all the time. There must be something he does that is positively medieval.

Imagine his surprise, and the possible effect, when his bishop sends him a note saying, "BTW, some of your parishioners let me know that the way you handled baptisms at Easter was very reverent. Good job!"

Fr. V said...

Rob!

LOL!

THere's just nothing else to say.

Rob said...

Fr V.

I'm serious, though. I always let the bishop know when a priest is good. I don't like to snitch. Once, when a priest said some stuff that I knew, even though I am a layman, was some bad stuff, I asked my FSSP poriest what to do. He counseled me *not* to write the bishop and simply make a bad situation even more "uncharitable".

I think he was right, and I think we need to approve of what is done right more than we need to complain about what is wrong. (Though I won't deny some people need a good smack every now and then!)

tara said...

Father V,
My husband bought a new truck, it had a few scratches on the top of the truck bed where someone had dragged something across it. Even thought the truck has a great stereo, soft comfortable seats, rides like a car, smells good--brand new, all he could focus on was the scratches. It was driving me crazy! He finally bought some scratch protectors that hide them--now I don't have to listen to the whinning anymore.

But this is what some think of our religion, all they can focus on is the small scratches that people make--it ruins the entire rest of the Church for them. Sheesh, there is so much good--quit looking at the scratches!

Adoro te Devote said...

Tara ~ ALL trucks have scratches in the truck bed. That's what it's FOR! You gotta be KIDDING ME!?

Fr. V. ~ This is a great post, and you're absolutely right. I used to go onto CA forums a lot, and did learn a bunch there, but after awhile, it grated on my nerves. There was so much negativity and so much grumbling about what is WRONG but so little discussion about what is RIGHT and Good! It just wore on me.

And as jeron commented about the "cube farm complainers", well, I work with one of those, although it's not so much the socio-political matters as it is other stuff, but his negativity can literally be felt. It's to the point every conversation degenerates into his complaints, and trying to change the topic is useless, so unfortunetly I don't have many conversations with him anymore. He's a good guy, just completely miserable in many areas of his life.

On being a "happy Catholic"....I'm happy to say I LOVE the Church, and I'm THRILLED to be a part of it! I'm OVERJOYED that they let me teach, and I have even been asked to speak on certain topics, etc. Never thought that would happen...never thought I would love the Church.

It's amazing what God can do.

Never thought about writing the bishop about the good stuff, seems like such a no-brainer, but there it is. A couple years ago I did meet the Archbishop at our Pastor's installation Mass, and I asked if I could have his ear for a moment. Just so he wouldn't be alarmed, I told him immediately that we LOVE our new Pastor (not as new now, but still beloved), we LOVE the priests at our parish and I thanked him for sending them to us. The reason I wanted to talk to him, though, was because of a certain prolific and high-profile women's organization in the Archd, formed by a previous bishop, that happened to be running a series of "listening sessions" centering around certain topics of dissent, and they were sending their "report" to the bishop.

I wanted to tell him that the report was flawed because it was NOT representative of the vast majority of women in the Church or in the Archd. I told him that those of us trying to be faithful have found a refuge in the Church, the only place we can go where we can be what we are designed to be; women after the heart of our Mother. We love our faith, we love our home, and we love the truth, so when he got that report, I asked him to keep that in mind and realize how unrepresented the true women of the Church would be.

I actually went to move on, then. I had waited until the end of the line, but others were still waiting so figured to move on, but he wouldn't let me leave and kept our discussion a little longer. I actually totally fell in love with our Bishop that day and have defended him ever since! He's got a tough job and takes a lot of heat from people who don't know any better.

I'll miss him, even as we welcome our new Archbishop, whome I'm sure to love, too.

OK< that was me being long-winded again...I'll stop now...

sparky said...

Another good piece of advice I once read is that Christ did not give us the cross to belt people on the head with it. Even the Truth can be unattractive if it is given with hostility rather than joy.

I have come to the conclusion that, subconsciously, I believe that my complaints are a form of action. They are a kind of cop-out that excuse me from having to DO anything. Sometimes I think complaints are rooted in a lack of trust in God. He wants the wrongs righted in our Church and in our world more than we do. I just have to conform myself to His will and do what I think I am called to do. The results are up to Him, so as far as I am concerned, let's pour some water on this sacrifice, because if it is what our Lord wants, this baby is going to burn!

Ma Beck said...

I wrote Cdl. George a letter when he was in Rome for the conclave, extolling his pastoral guidance during that difficult time (the news covered him nonstop) and extending my sympathies on what seemed to be a very personal grief.
I told him I appreciated the hardship that traveling to Rome (he's very sick, off and on) had put on him, and that he was in my prayers.
Yada. Yada. Yada.

(And THEN I mentioned how much I loved the Church and how my parish had brought the fullness of the faith to me through my holy, holy priests.)
;)

I never miss an opportunity to give them credit.

tara said...

adoro:
The scratches were on the top rail type area, not in the bed--and yes I am serious--he's a bit of a perfectionist.

Adoro te Devote said...

tara ~ That's still a really common place for scratches in a pickup truck!

Yup, he's a perfectionist, all right. I think his only option is to buy a new truck.

Tell him that whatever he does, don't repaint the truck. No matter how good a body shop is, they can't replicate the quality of the factory paint job, because of a few factors involved.

tara said...

adoro:
NO, he will not buy a new truck--he'll just have to offer his suffering up to Jesus--LOL!

JustMe said...

:-| Oh, now I want a new truck...