Monday, February 23, 2015

The Best Thing I Ever Did for Lent (Part 1/4)

I’ve done a lot of different kinds of things for Lent, but I think the one best thing I ever did was the year I decided to square myself with Church teaching on the Blessed Mother. My Monday posts for the next few weeks will chronicle what I did, what my experience was, and the fruits I have observed.

For years, I went round and round with myself about the dizzying height to which I thought some Catholics tended to elevate the Blessed Mother.

I couldn’t think of any other devotions that regular people did every. Single. Day. And quite frankly, it seemed like this pseudo-worship was kind of encouraged by local church leadership. Lay leaders, mostly.

I use the term “pseudo-worship” deliberately, because I knew that worshiping any beside God is not correct Catholic practice, but it seemed like everybody wanted to close group prayers with either the “Hail Mary” or “Hail, Holy Queen”.  And while I recognize that those prayers are not worship in themselves (nor even problematic), when they’re coupled with an incorrect attitude toward the Blessed Mother, they can lead one into error, and even into idolatry.

Moreover, it’s really difficult to make my Presbyterian husband feel welcome coming to church events when the same stumbling block gets thrown up at him over, and over, and over.

It bothered me. I mean, it really bothered me. What was wrong with all of the other prayers I ever learned when I was a kid?

When you get right down to it? Not a thing. Nothing was wrong with them, so why did everybody and his brother default to one of those two? It got to where it made me kind of mad that her devotions and her intercession got such vastly preferential treatment in the pews.

But like I keep telling Daniel: you don’t judge a religion (or a church teaching) by all of the flawed people that practice it incorrectly.

That said, some of the exceptions I had actually did rise to the level of dissenting against official church teaching, though never vocally. I was happy to keep my objections to myself and just trust that they weren’t wrong about anything really important. I just wanted an explanation. It didn’t have to be much… just point out what I’d been missing all these years.

To be specific, I had reservations about some of the later Glorious Mysteries because there appeared to be no biblical foundation for them. I wasn’t really comfortable with “proofs” taken from the woman in Revelation 12, because Revelation is highly symbolic, and difficult to interpret. Daniel often reminds me that John Calvin wrote a commentary on every book of the Bible except Revelation, and I have to agree that that choice wasn’t without good reason.

It wouldn’t have taken much to make a case for me - I was Catholic, after all. I just needed to see something other than the woman in Revelation. Even a good history of the Mysteries of the Rosary would probably have satisfied, but I never have seen one.

It looked like something got pulled out of someone’s hat somewhere up the way.

It looked like the Protestants might have gotten that one thing right.

I would recite the Rosary. Sometimes. When somebody else started it. What are you supposed to say when someone asks you if you want to pray the Rosary when you’d really rather not? No? (Ah, Sarcasm. My old friend.)

Of course not. You bite your tongue and you say the Rosary with them - because you’re wrong, and you know it. On occasion, I would even pray the Rosary alone, but it was rare. Less than once every three months, I think.

And then there was the language in which we discuss the sort of intercession done by Mary and the Saints. In my experience, calling it “prayer” is confusing to Protestants. The reason why is that most of my Protestant acquaintances (your experience may be different) very much blur the line between “praying to” and “worshipping”; for them, the two go hand in hand.

Prayer, for my Protestant acquaintances, is a kind of worship, because you (in their eyes) ascribe to the hearer of your prayer the ability (in and of themselves) to do something about it - in and of their own power, independent of the merit or assistance of anybody else. It is hard to explain the difference to them.

For a long time, I didn’t recognize my attitude as problematic. After all, saying the Rosary wasn’t mandatory, and it seemed apparent to me that the incorrect practices of some were damaging the credibility of the rest.

And… I think that’s enough for today. We’ve got the groundwork. More to come next week.

Part 1   |   Part 2   |   Part 3   |   Part 4

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