I have been part of a “Mom’s of Young Children” group since moving back to my city. One of the many activities they do is to meet for a faith study each week. I call it a faith study and not a Bible study because while a lot of the times we study the Bible, sometimes we do something that teaches us more about or encourages us in our faith. Right now we are reading the book Style, Sex, and Substance: Ten Catholic Women Consider the Things that Really Matter, and the chapter we covered this week was Rebecca Teti’s piece on work/vocation. What struck me about the chapter was not so much the discussion about our vocation to womanhood, but some points she made about the witness we give to the world as Catholic women.
The reason it struck me in particular is because I have been thinking a lot about how we treat each other. Having been around the Catholic blogosphere for a while now, I am quite familiar with the sometimes judgemental way in which we treat each other. It is certainly right to correct someone if they are violating Church teaching or if they are misrepresenting her teachings. However, in matters that don’t have to do with faith and morals, why do we attack each other with such vitriol? Why do we look at each other askance if we don’t agree with a practice or share the same beliefs regarding modesty?
A couple of weeks ago, just before leaving on vacation, my children and I attended Saturday evening liturgy at our parish. When we walked into the building, I noticed that the chapel was full of people and they appeared to be celebrating a Latin Rite Mass. I thought it was interesting, and moved on into the church to find a place to sit and pray. After Mass, I was standing with a couple of women talking. One of the women asked what had been going on in the chapel. The other woman, her voice filled with disdain, said, “Oh that was a Latin Rite Mass. I can assure you we will not be having that again.” I was taken aback. One, because this woman is usually not what I would call “catty,” and two, because I thought “why not?” Was it because the women mostly wore long skirts, and veils? Was it because the priest faced away from the congregation? Was it because the entire Mass was in Latin? Why? We had the space available, they had a need, we helped them to celebrate the Eucharist.
I’ve seen many posts and blogs over the years that share quite strong opinions about what is modest or immodest. Women should cover their heads, women should only wear skirts and dresses, dresses should be ankle length, tankini’s are immodest, one piece suits are immodest, swim dresses are modest, couples shouldn’t even kiss before their wedding day (I guess both sides can agree that shacking up and sex before marriage is NOT OK according to Church teaching), pants are OK, shorts are OK, v-neck t-shirts are OK, women who cover their heads and bodies and attend Latin Rite Masses are freaks and intolerant. The vitriol in the com boxes is astounding. Aren’t we the Universal Church with not a universal celebration but many (different ways) of celebrating the One True God?
I attended a scripture study yesterday. It takes place each week at another parish and is led by a former priest. Each week, we go through the next Sunday’s Gospel to prepare our hearts to hear. I am particularly thankful for this study because sometimes (sadly) during the Gospel reading I am too busy correcting naughty behavior to fully pay attention. This coming Sunday’s Gospel reading is Mark 12:28-35. Monsignor began by first pointing out that the scribe in the passage first saw, heard, and then approached. He saw the exchanges between Jesus, the Pharisees, and the Sadduces. He heard what Jesus and each group said. Then he approached Jesus because he determined that what Jesus said was good. After that Monsignor moved on to the other points in the passage, but my mind stayed there a while as I thought about the fact that the world is watching us and waiting to see if we “answer well” as Jesus did when the Scribe was watching him. The implication in the passage was that the Scribe saw and heard what Jesus did and said, and he became one of Jesus’ disciples.
In the beginning of the chapter by Rebecca Teti, she too was talking about how others might see us when we grump about Christmas decorations in stores in September (I am guilty of this bah-humbug attitude), or when we tear each others’ persons or decisions down because we don’t like the way someone dresses, or we don’t like the particular way they live out their Catholic faith (assuming of course that they are following the Church’s teachings on faith and morals). One question asked if a space alien was to observe the last three conversations that our Catholic women friends have had, what would they learn about what we believe? What would an alien learn? What would someone who had no real exposure to Catholicism learn from us by observing our actions and listening to our conversations? Would they think we are a faith people who treat each other and strangers with respect, dignity, and love, and be converted? Or would they see a faith where people become insular, where only “our kind” are welcome, and all unspoken rules must be followed, and they would find us lacking? Unfortunately, I am afraid they might just walk away and not want to be a part of such an arrogant and contentious people.
~ The Reluctant Widow