When I was growing up you went to church on Sunday – Sunday morning, to be precise. You had your choice, though, you could go early, or you could go later. One service started at 7:00 a.m., the other around 10. That was it. There was no Saturday night stuff, and anticipated Mass was an oxymoron to me. You didn’t anticipate Mass, unless you went to confession, then you had to be good until you went to Mass to receive Communion, otherwise you’d just mess the whole thing up.
But somewhere over the years the Pope decided that a good Catholic could fulfill their Sunday obligation by going to Mass on Saturday evening. I think it was a magnanimous show of empathy on the part of the Holy See to allow those faithful who wanted to adhere to the Commandment to still make that tee time or boat launch right after dawn on Sunday. So, there became a Saturday evening Mass at 6:00 p.m. Heck, you could make church then after that, without another shower or even change of clothes ( maybe just an extra splash of Brut), you could pick up your date and head out for the evening. Better yet, bring her to church with you! You then had the whole next morning to sleep it off knowing your immortal soul is in the clear.
Maybe it was a product of the government fiddling with the time, but suddenly you had your choice of anticipated services. In addition to the 6:00 service there was one at 4:00. For Christmas there was even one at 3:00. Now, that’s a little bit much in my book; I mean, you hardly have time to clean up from lunch before you’re getting ready for church. So, now you know: there are more than 24 hours in a day.
Now, I understand that one may rationalize that for those people who have to work weekends that the anticipated Mass allows them to be faithful to their Sabbath duties and still put on the blue vest in the morning. But every good intention is ripe for exploitation.
I’m sure many people think it, but I don’t know if I, personally, would ever express it aloud like an acquaintance did recently. She told me she was going to 4 o’clock Mass on Saturday to get it out of the way. Yep, she said it just like that – “get it out of the way,” like it was a step in a process.
There are many things one gets out of the way: wrecked vehicles in the street, toys in the hall, daily vitamin, kissing the visiting aunt with the mole, a prostate exam, mammogram, grocery shopping and writing a blog. I change the oil in my car early to get it out of the way; I do my taxes in February for the same reason.
But I cannot understand why one would feel the need to dispense with religious worship as a necessary burden before engaging in more hedonistic pursuits. Maybe it’s the term “Sunday obligation.” I’m not one who feels too obliged to do anything. If it doesn’t come from within, chances are it’s not going to be a priority with me. Obligations seem an unnecessary burden lacking a quid pro quo type of agreement. One’s spirituality shouldn’t be derived from a list of rules but an innate desire to worship and share. And don’t even get me started on holy days of obligation. Let me just say, I think that a holy day of obligation is like going to a your spouse’s office Christmas party – your presence is required, your willingness is optional.
If one has a true sense of spirituality then the believer’s actions will coincidentally abide by the “rules.” Making someone conform to those same rules no more makes them a believer than a training a dog to shake hands makes it a politician (of course, the dog will probably get more votes).
What’s the old saying: “Going to Church to become a Christian is the like sleeping in the garage to become a car.”
Well, at least the Sabbath is kept in mind, even though it’s for all of an hour-and-a-half in a stiff shirt and hard shoes. Frame of mind is important, but so is motivation.
I’m put in mind the Irish prayer:
May those who love us love us
And those who don’t love us, turn their hearts so that they love us
And if you can’t turn their hearts then turn their ankles so we may know them by their limp.
Yeah, I limp, too, every now and then.
Well, I’m going to shut up and post this now. Boy, I’m glad I got that out of the way.
Categories: Bordering closely on religion