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Why do you care?

In a recent discussion on plurk about YALI (Yet Another Liturgical Infraction) someone asked me why I even care about this or that particular issue.   In this particular case the person wasn’t implying the issue wasn’t important, but questioning why I burned energy on something that is very unlikely to change and even if it does in one small place is likely still to be done improperly all over anyway.  The question of liturgy has surrounded me it seems since before I was even Catholic.  Story time … suffer through, if you will – it’s a short one, I promise.

Back when I was in College, still “unchurched” as the old term goes, I borrowed my mother’s Bible – partly to impress my then-girlfriend’s mother, partly out of an inner curiosity as to just what this book had in it that was so important to so many people.  Not knowing what I was doing I read it as any other book, from page 1 forwards.  I didn’t get much past Kings doing it that way before the lineages bogged me down.  In comes the local priest, whose name to this day I do not remember, who told me to read John first (as an aside, I often wonder why anyone would ever recommend the most mystical and multi-layered Gospel as a starter, but there it is).  It is, I think looking back  on it now, no coincidence that one of the first verses I would read was John 2:17:

His disciples recalled the words of scripture, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Those words have never left me since then, even for a day.  As I moved on in my life and eventually entered the RCIA process and learned of and about the Mass those words took on a new meaning and a new depth of meaning.  The Mass is and always has been a core part of God’s plan for our salvation; Christ, as it is said, is the only person ever born with the express intention of dying – to die on the Cross, to give us that which we could never give ourselves and do so even at the price of His own Blood, to offer us salvation.  And not only salvation of which we are but bystanders, but one in which we actively participate by our very lives, in choosing in each and every action to live in and for Him, something we can only do through the strength offered us in the Eucharist.  How, I came to wonder, could you not be zealous for, and therein protective of, the way in which this great Gift is offered?

There are many things I’ve seen that irk me, some that genuinely bother me, and some that simply infuriate me.  When I read stories like this one from Jimmy Akin it makes me wonder, if we are called to conform our lives as closely as possible to Jesus’ and a very obvious part of that is this zeal the disciples all noticed as mentioned by John, why would I not care?  There is, in the end, nothing we do on this planet more important than the Mass.  Without the impossibly generous plan of salvation of which the Eucharist and therein the Mass is an integral part, nothing else we could do or say would amount to a hill of beans in the end estimation.  It is, as St. Pio said, that “[i]t would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.”  As I wrote in my comment on Jimmy’s post, Christ died to give us the Mass, martyrs shed their blood to protect it and Holy Mother Church has sheltered it in her bosom for centuries – it is not ours to do with as we please, no matter how wise or well-intentioned we may think we are.

There is, besides those pious observations, another reason.  I would say, for the purpose of picking a reasonably accurate number, probably 80% of your average parish that attends Mass even weekly does not attend any other formational activities.  That means that the great number of even the “committed” Catholics will never learn anything of their faith in their adult life if they do not learn it at Mass.  So if you play with the words, the signs or the symbols of the Mass you necessarily alter what the people learn.  Just as the Deposit of Faith is not ours to reinvent at our pleasure, so is the Mass which passes on that Faith not ours to reinvent.  Christ died for us, he died to give us the Mass – let us treat it as the great treasure it is.

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