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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

"Real men kneel on stone."

During my ill-spent youth, our parish was under the care of a great old Irishman. He was tough, no-nonsense, never voted for Roosevelt or Kennedy (but did vote for Reagan--twice!), knew his Latin and Greek, staunchly faithful to the Pope and--though gruff--never turned anyone away. There were 3 Masses a day: 7:00am, 8:30am, and 7:00pm. The reason for so many Masses was the pastor's thought that people have different work schedules and Mass should be available to those people who want to go daily. Typical of a daily Mass, the church was not overflowing, but there were a good number of folks at each of those Masses--the regulars.

One thing that struck me was the good number of men. As could be expected, there was the WWII cadre--older men, retired, then in their 60s and 70s, strong and silent; though fewer, there were the professionals--docs and lawyer-types; and there were the blue collar guys--you would see a goodly amount of these guys in their flannel shirts and lunchboxes at the 7:00am Mass, but not a few were also at the 7:00pm Mass (either returning from work or before 2d or 3d shift). As an altar boy, I remember several distinctly in that there was always dirt under their fingernails and they would receive Holy Communion on the tongue.

Then came 1990 and a new pastor and a new set of priorities: altar girls, no genuflecting, no bells, no kneeling, and building community. I think Diogenes may have had the playbook. Here's a slice:

Suppose your crusade demanded lowering blue collar male attendance from, say, 4% to less than 1%. How would you go about it?
You'd go in for full court stripe-to-stripe buzzer-to-buzzer gender bending. You'd choose your presiders from among swish counter-tenors. You'd coach them in theatrical prancing and homiletics. You'd pack the sanctuary with testy, power-suited women reading inclusive language in scolding voices. You'd choose the most sugary musical dreck you could find, and make sure it was performed in an unsingable register. You'd eliminate private space, forcing everyone into lots of touching and interpersonal contact. In short, you'd do exactly what our betters have done over the past 40 years to "renew" the liturgy, for which they ceaselessly congratulate themselves on their pastoral sensibility.

Diogenes nails it. There seems to have been a conscious disregard and condescending attitude towards the blue collar Catholic man. These guys for years have been the backbone of the Church. These are the guys who work hard, love their wives, protect their neighborhoods (yes, even by chasing 18-year-old speed demons down the street when little children are playing whiffle ball in the front yard!), raise their children with a healthy fear of God and enjoy a good beer and Notre Dame football! These are also the guys who would fight to the death to defend their Church and her doctrine.

So where are these guys? They are still here. They are the men who prefer to kneel on stone, rather than stand and hold hands.

If only our priests and bishops would prefer knees on stone, as opposed to holding hands (or other emasculated things).