Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sanity and Sactity

Joseph Pearce writes (my emphasis) ...

Yesterday, for the Feast of Christ the King in the Old Calendar, I had the inestimable joy of being present at a solemn choral Mass in the Extraordinary Form at Prince of Peace Catholic church in Taylors, South Carolina, which was followed by a Eucharistic Procession  and Benediction. The Mass was a setting of Palestrina's Missa "Descendit Angelus Domini". The Prelude was Bach's Fugue in E Major and the Postlude was Alexndre Guilmant's Postlude in F Major. After the Blessed Sacrament had been placed in the Tabernacle following Benediction, the cantor, choir and congregation chanted the Christus Vincit.
I was so moved by the sheer majesty and beauty of the whole glorious occasion that my eyes were filled with tears at the Consecration. This is the only Reality that really matters. The rest, all the cares of the world and snares of the devil, are mere dross by comparison. Never before was I as aware that sanity and sanctity are synonymous. They are One. All else is trivia!
Deo gratias!  

***

I spent last weekend in Kansas - at the Super 8 in Bonner Springs - working in my hotel room the whole time, except for our evening performances.

On Saturday I posted about the sex abuse scandal in the Church and the Bishop of Bling.  This moved me almost to a level of despair.  The thought that something we love may not be what we had imagined it to be, or that someone we love may not be loving us back - this is hard to endure.  I do not doubt that the Church is what St. Paul tells us it is, the Body of Christ, present in eternity and also here on earth; and I do not doubt that Christ is Lord.  But how can the visible Church be so shaken, so apparently ready to crumble?  Just a week prior I had endured a travesty of the Sacred Mass at a rural parish in Southern Illinois, and this week I had to find yet another Mass while on the road, taking another chance at what I may run up against.

But what I found lifted my spirits and stirred my soul.

On Sunday I went to St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, run by the FSSP.  I love the Latin Mass, but I've had my run-ins with "Radical Catholic Reactionaries" who use Traditionalism as a cover for hate and bile.  So I was wary.

But my experience was exactly like that of Joseph Pearce.  The music and the liturgy were spectacularly beautiful.  As with Joseph, I was celebrating the Feast of Christ the King on the Old Calendar - for that was the Oct. 27 Mass in the Extraordinary Form.  The church itself was very conducive to prayer and worship, with a statue of St. Rose above the altar, looking heavenward in a far-away gaze that transcended the material of the statue itself.  The homily was solid and stirring, the first homily I've heard in a long time that sounded more like Catholic preaching than pop psychology.

St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, looking high above us all.

***

And I thought of our sins.

Sometimes we sin completely in bad faith; but most of the time there's something odd going on when we sin.  Often we are trying to regain our balance, to find an equilibrium, to restore something that's missing from our lives that we know should be there.

For example


  • A husband or a wife enduring an unhappy marriage might commit adultery, not merely for the thrill, but in order to feed a starving need for love - for love that may no longer be present, in a home that has become devoid of caring.
  • A young man or woman overcome with feelings of worthlessness, perhaps abused in some way while growing up, turns to drugs or promiscuous sex as a way to feel in control of themselves and others.
  • A person who suffered neglect while being raised becomes a fiendish work-a-holic and perfectionist, making certain to compensate for the dread of insignificance he or she felt in horror as a helpless child.


... and so on.

I'm not trying to make excuses for sin here.

What I'm saying is sin is sometimes a natural and predictable reaction to what appears to be an insoluble situation.  Rather than confronting and fixing the problem (which seems overwhelming), the sinner opts for a short-cut that serves in the long run to make him all the more miserable.

***

And we see this imbalance, this lack of a good that should be present, in our Church as well.

The Church should be beautiful.  It should be filled with tremendous music, great architecture, stirring homilies, strong communities, inspired literature.  It should be sane, for "sanity and sanctity are synonymous."

When it is, on the contrary, filled with ugly music, with offensive architecture, with insipid homilies, with an absence of community, with really bad art and literature, and even with child molesters and bishops who cover for them ... this is insanity.  For this is the opposite of sanctity.  And "sanity and sanctity are synonymous".

***

Our eyes look heavenward, like those of St. Rose - whether we know it or not.  Something is missing on this earth, something that should be but that isn't.

"Somewhere you and I are talking and I am not so much ashamed, nor you so rightly scornful. ... This is good but something is better; this is glorious but somewhere I could feel more of the glory." - The Poet to the Princess in Chesterton's play The Surprise

It is when the Church calls us to that greater glory - a glory that we sense and that our eyes catch a faraway vision of every now and then - a vision of a gloaming of an eternal dawn; when the Church calls us to this mystery, through the true, the beautiful, and the good - it is then that our hearts soar and our sins pale by comparison.


The rest, all the cares of the world and snares of the devil, are mere dross by comparison.


3 comments:

John C. Hathaway said...

Beautiful. About 8 years ago, I started writing something along these lines. It was one of the longest single texts I've ever written: several hours of straight writing over a few weeks until a series of fairly overt demonic attacks took me off track and resulted in the DOC file being buried in the computer with other unfinished writing. These attacks started with a loud growling sound and the whole house shaking while I was working on a key passage, and then more human agency took over.
Anyway, I was arguing this very point, which is to his credit the reasoning that Christopher West starts from (though he gets diverted in his conclusions) and which Pope Francis has been touching on and getting misconstrued. Almost every sin has at its end "the Good"; it all grasps at a good which God intends for us at the proper time-in many cases, after this life-and tries to get it *now*. In most cases, the desire the sin has as its object will one day be fulfilled if we are patient.
The exception to this, and even then it isn't so much so, is sloth. Murderers, adulterers and thieves, even gluttons, are all *doing something* for the good. The slothful person fails to act for lack of desire for anything but passive "rest". It's the only sin for which the object is itself evil, the state of souls in Hell rather than Heaven, and despair is just extreme sloth. This was the big "breakthrough" in my thought that led to the aforementioned "book in progress." Around the same time, my wife came across an old handbook of the Seven Deadly Sins which said basically the same thing.

o said...

I read your points about the lonely married man, single person, abused soul....so riddle me this batman....ponder why the priests push such illicit masses and ugly music - don't go down the molestation bit just yet, but see why they don't read the red and say the black so to speak....what are they trying to do? I'd like to know your insight and it might somewhat comfort you, us. Perhaps their bishops already know, which is why they do so little and why we sin in anger toward them?

Kevin O'Brien said...

Dear O,

I have no doubt the disobedient priests are seeking a good, in a disordered way. They are seeking what they see as "true" faith, and opposing the "patricarchal" faith they feel the Church imposes.

But of course we can all justify our sins, can't we?

The point is we cannot judge one another. A disobedient priest, even a child molesting priest, may be less culpable than you or I if we simply hold a grudge against our neighbor. We never know the raw material our neighbors are struggling with. Even being a disobedient priest may be an achievement of great sanctity for some - relatively speaking.