We’ve had our fair share of parish problems over the years. We have been to Masses that don’t look or sound like Masses at all. We’ve come home almost in tears and wondered what to do. The obvious solution is to look for another parish. But recently I have been mulling over another idea, an idea I don’t like at all.
A few years ago our dearly loved priest, Father L, was moving to a new parish. We had no idea who our new priest would be. What if he wasn’t orthodox? What if he came along and changed our Mass? Our outgoing priest must have sensed our concerns. He must have realised some of us were looking at our options. He said, “Whatever happens, don’t abandon your parish. You are a community. Remember that both gold and lead pipes convey water equally well. Keep your heads down and concentrate on Jesus.”
That’s all very well in theory, I thought. But when there’s a ‘better’ Mass just down the road, doesn’t it make more sense to go elsewhere? We need to be part of a parish that will feed our souls with good homilies and liturgy. We don’t want to return home feeling upset. And we want our children to attend Mass as it is meant to be.
I think back to Father L’s words: “Don’t abandon your parish.”
Some people have the luxury of travelling to a better parish. Some don’t. And I’ve been thinking… maybe none of us are meant to go elsewhere. Perhaps we aren’t meant to flee when things get tough. Maybe we are meant to stay and pray and work as much as we can for a return to how things should be.
I have to say again, I don’t like this idea at all. My heart rate rises just thinking about priests who change our beautiful Mass because they think it is boring and repetitive, who preach their own ideas from the pulpit, who accuse us of being old fashioned because we are obedient to the beliefs and practices of the Church, who aren’t faithful to the Pope … these priests who refuse to obey.
And I remember the suffering…
Suffering? Infinitive amounts of grace must result from suffering, grace that could change a priest, a parish… And do we refuse to suffer? Do we side-step the suffering by abandoning our parish and the priest?
No, I don’t like the idea of staying with a troubled parish at all. I’d much rather shop around. I mean to say, this is Mass after all. We need a good Mass, don’t we? Who would blame us if we go looking for what is every Catholic’s right?
The problem is with the priest. Surely he will realise his mistake when we have all disappeared. But if he doesn't, we could still pray for him from a safe distance. No, we have to move on, for our own sake, for our children’s sake. Their faith is too tiny to withstand the influence of error, even if they have our strong example to follow, wouldn’t you agree? Suffering in a ‘bad’ parish won’t teach them anything of value. And of course there is also the possibility the priest will fail to consecrate the hosts, despite Fr L's claim that gold pipes and lead pipes are equally effective. Yes, these are strong arguments, I'm sure.
But still… these nagging thoughts remain… be humble and obedient, accept what God allows, remember a priest is a priest regardless of what we think about him, pray, suffer…
Stay and suffer, together with Jesus who must surely suffer during such Masses... for out of suffering comes grace, and with grace anything can happen. It has transforming power.
But I still do not like these thoughts. I wish these uncomfortable, maybe unacceptable thoughts, wouldn’t appear in my head. Perhaps I should dismiss them, stop writing, press 'delete' quickly. I am not a controversial writer after all, preferring to remain safely within my comfort zone.
However, I know I will hit ‘publish’ because you may be able to persuade me why it is essential we shop around for a ‘good’ Mass. I am ready to be shown the errors of my thinking. Yes, I am in no hurry to suffer a 'bad' Mass ever again.