Being Catholic is an “all skate!” dance

Have you ever been to an old-fashioned roller-rink?  When I was growing up, the local youth group would sometimes have skating parties.  At these parties there would be times when only the boys would skate (typically with no music and they would race as fast as possible).  “Ladies only” meant only the girls were allowed on the floor and there would be lovely music.  The lights would dim for the “couples” skate.  And of course, before the night was over, there was the mandatory “Hokey Pokey.”  But after each of these times designated for only a qualified crew, the announcer would call out “Aaaaall skate!  All skate!”  And that meant everyone was welcome on the floor.

I used to think of myself as a “conservative Catholic” until I met some Catholics who are devoted to their right-ness and their righteousness.  Also, I recently read an article about how any qualification of Catholic is just off, can’t be true.  That resonated deeply within me, like my fundamental (pitch of a string’s full length).  And all my over-tones sang for joy!  Being Catholic really is an “all skate” religion.

Why Catholics must recognize all other Catholics as Catholic, even the “bad” ones, even the ones some would call nominal or only ethnic or heretical or whatever is because of what Catholic actually means.  People who call themselves Catholic are.  Now you can debate what The Catholic Church officially teaches and all that, but when it comes to the people, there simply can be no discrimination.  There’s no way around it.  The “Catholic”-ness of the Catholic faith is this: we claim to have access to the fullness of truth and are called to share it with all people, but we don’t claim to be the authors of that truth, nor the Lord of the mission.  So, while we believe Jesus Christ has commissioned us to profess the Good News to all the world, we can’t claim to judge the hearts of anyone who appears to receive or not receive this Good News.  Maybe more importantly, we recognize God calls each and every human-being into the church, into the fold.  If God is calling everyone, who are we to screen who may hear?

I think I recognized this when I found my Home in the Eucharist, but somewhere along the way I lost clarity and part of my heart resisted seeing how every Catholic is at Home in the Catholic Church, even if they keep house differently from the way I thought Church was supposed to be.

So now that I realize Home is much messier than I’ve wished it to be, I’ve also realized I’m not all that interested in putting undue energy into tidying-up.  I.e. I’m much more of a “Mary” than a “Martha.”  I believe hospitality needs only sufficient order.  I have appreciated the Martha’s for attention to environment, but even more so I’m grateful Jesus lets anyone come to Him, and in fact the “better part” is communing with Him (rather than making sure everything is in its proper place before we can connect).

The real challenge for me in all this now is in knowing that I have RELIED on the Martha’s to maintain an environment in which I can pray or create or be faithful or serve or what-have-you comfortably.  How the Martha’s of the church “keep house” is very comfortable for me personally.  However, I recognize that it actually drives some people away, and that makes my conscience wake up and say “wait a minute, is this really what we’re supposed to be about?”

I was in a liturgy meeting recently where in the majority of the time was taken up with miniscule details about what the altar boys need to do or not do, where the Eucharistic ministers should stand before the Consecration, whether or not they should kneel, or if they should stand on a step or not, etc.  Now I understand and embrace the value of rubrics, but what I chafe against is spending all our planning time (and thinking and spirit) on it.  Rubrics can help us get somewhere, but they are not the destination.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrg!  I find that just as I’ve had to go through disillusionment about priests, and about who the church is, so too I’m being disillusioned about ministry.  Being disillusioned is actually a good thing, but going through it is painful.  And now I can’t console myself with thinking “well that isn’t how to be Catholic.”  It certainly is how some will be Catholic!  It just isn’t how I want to be.  Meanwhile, we’re all Catholic.

As most vents are likely to be, this is a ragged piece from a torn heart.