Walking Out

In Christianity on May 6, 2009 at 9:37 pm

I no longer walk out of worship services.

“That’s an odd thing to say,” you might think—and rightly, if you are a well-catechized Catholic.  The sacraments are objective.  The sacraments act ex opere operato, “by the very fact of the action’s being performed” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶ 1128). But that was new for me.  Before I was accepted into the Church, I spent decades functioning as a good protestant, a one-man worship judge and jury:

  • The pastor just began his sermon with a statement that raises questions about his orthodoxy.  I’m outta here.
  • The pulpit has been replaced with a drum set and a platform full of guitar amplifiers. I’m outta here.
  • The music turns out to be yet another “Kumbaya” group of 40-somethings, their inspiration drawn from the least common denominator of a musically undistinguished genre.  I’m outta here.

Understanding that the sacraments work because Christ Himself is at work in them was quite a step (especially for someone raised on Gilbert Tennent‘s sermon, “The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry”). Realizing that Christ is made present in The Eucharist—not in the style of music, the depth of the homily, or the quality of the architecture—imposed a humbling I needed. After all, I wanted “church” to be perfect . . . just like me.

That said, a vital role remains for right worship.  When we see the consequences of inadequate catechesis, what are we to say? Might we say it is quite possible that part of the catechesis we owe our families, our friends, city, state, and nation, must be “caught and not taught?”

That was the point of  Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. The parish George Weigel describes certainly is not the only parish in the world he could describe in that way. The pastor there would be the first to say that! But while never wanting to speak harshly—how could I, when I was received into the Church so generously?—I have visited parishes where it was not clear why we were assembled except for God’s gracious action (ex opere operato).

Let’s show the world Christianity Richly, by living what the Church teaches; by worshipping as we believe. That is how values are caught, as well as taught. Parishes are made up of men, women, and young people longing for lives of significance.  Will they see an opportunity to live such lives, by the ways we show our love for God? Through our lives of prayer? In our service to others? By our readiness to give? In our ability to transcend circumstances? Through our heroic virtue and consistent integrity?

What kind of Christianity will people “catch” from you?  From me?

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