Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Why didn't I say that? (1)

I've been meaning to link to this post for a few days now. What Carolina Cannonball says here makes an awful lot of sense to me, and reminds me not to get too "up myself".

I suppose it all started with my post about my dilemma. There are times when I'm disappointed with the Mass in my own parish. They have this awful "Yoof Mass" once a month, where the choice of songs (I can't call them hymns) is truly dreadful. Some of the children are badly behaved. I hated the Palm Sunday Mass.

But here's the thing. I live in a community. If there's something I don't like, I can vote with my feet - the thing I don't like will carry on happening, but I won't be seeing it. I can shut my eyes and put my fingers in my ears and pretend everything's fine.

Or maybe I could stay in my own parish community and give something back to it. When I didn't like the music in my old parish, I joined the music group and ended up selecting the music myself. If anyone complained that they didn't like my choices, I told them they were very welcome to help me. If they didn't want to help, and didn't have constructive suggestions of their own, I wasn't prepared to listen to their complaints.

If I'm not prepared to join the choir in my new parish, I have no right to complain about what they're singing or the way they're singing it. They demonstrate a commitment that I'm currently not prepared to make. It's very easy to criticise, but Mass in my parish is generally celebrated reverently, the choir practise hard and often sing beautifully, and who am I to sit at the back and grumble because they're singing hymns I don't know?

I'm going to have another rant in a minute about behaviour in church, so I'll leave that for now. But the big thing I want to say is Who am I to judge? Who am I to criticise my parish priest, or anyone else in the parish?

I started writing a blog at the beginning of Lent for my own spiritual development. Sure, I chuck in a few things that I've found funny - I love telling jokes. And I don't keep a diary, so bits of my personal life get chucked in for good measure. But I wanted to focus my mind on my faith and on what it meant to me, and writing things down has helped me to do that.

Unfortunately for me, I discovered (thanks, Mac!) Sitemeter. I found that other people were reading my blog, and I started trying to write things that I thought they would like to read. I wasn't always true to myself, and I started to get a bit arrogant. I also started to censor my own thoughts, in case readers were put off by what I really thought.

I have to say here that I have also found a number of the comments I have received very helpful. Partly because of the comments (particularly from Simon-Peter), I have been more rigorous in reading round certain subjects before posting on them, and have learnt a lot in the process. For that I'm very grateful, and I hope people will continue to give me helpful comments and to start a discussion when they disagree with me. But some people may find that in future, they disagree with me a bit more.

As the Cannonball said, I love the Church and I'm grateful that I'm a Catholic. But I worry that some Catholics interpret their faith in a way that is frankly more narrow-minded and judgemental than I'm comfortable with. In the last few days, I've been quite upset at the level of hatred displayed in some of the blogs I've read.

Jesus' message was one of love, and I don't want that to get lost among discussions about whether one person is a better Catholic than another because they attend a four-hour-long Latin Mass and criticise all developments in the Church since Vatican II.


Josh said...

Just because you may not be willing to get involved doesn't mean you can't constructively criticize something. Maybe you don't have the time, or the talent, to get involved with a choir, does that mean you need to be quiet? Yes and no. If it is truly just a matter of personal choice, yes be quiet if you can't help. If something is degrading, or not exactly in the rubrique, then maybe you should politely say something. We live in an over sensitive world that takes criticism as personal insult. I do understand your dilemma though, I face it every Sunday.

We have to be careful with that "who am I to judge" mentality. We are told by scripture to correct the sinner, or rather, to correct that which is not correct. We don't need to "judge" when we say that something is wrong. I may not know why they did it, but that doesn't mean I can't say it wasn't wrong. But then again this can be a very very fine line to walk. So fine that I would rather err on the side of not saying anything in most instances. A "sticky wicket" if I've ever seen one!

newhousenewjob said...

Fair points, Josh. I just used to get frustrated with people who would grumble that they didn't like the music but then, when given an opportunity to suggest what they would like to hear instead, had no suggestions.

It is a fine line to walk, and there are times when we need to speak out. My parish priest is very big on the idea that children are brought up by their whole community, not just by their parents, and that we all have a responsibility towards them. In that sense, yes we do need to help to steer them in the right direction. And if we see something being done that seems to contradict the Church's teaching, we should be asking questions or pointing out where we think the contradiction is.

I suppose I'm thinking of things that are not objectively wrong or contrary to Church teaching, but are not the way we like them. In that case, who's to say my tastes and proclivities are any more valid than anyone else's?