How To Transformationalize the Secular

Have worship services not on Sunday but throughout the week. After all, if holding Mass desacralizes Sunday, having worship services during the week could sacralize Monday or Thursday or Tuesday or Saturday.

Father Z got me thinking:

Communion in the hand…
Blessings instead of Communion even by lay ministers…
Pianos…
Mass “facing the people”…

Saturday evening Masses as quasi-vigil Masses for Sunday is one of those poorly thought out decisions that, once implemented, has by now become so fixed in the Catholic psyche that they are as easy to roll back as the tide.

Granted: Saturday vigil Masses make attendance at Masses for Sunday Obligation possible for that small segment of society who are truly unable to attend Mass on Sunday morning. The question is, however, begged: why weren’t Sunday afternoon or evening Masses considered?

Sadly, the prevalence of Saturday evening Masses have had the effect, in many parishes, of eliminating the Saturday morning Mass, depriving the faithful of the celebration of numerous feasts, not too mention the regular commemoration of the Blessed Virgin on those Saturdays in Ordinary Time when the day is otherwise unencumbered.

There are now Catholics who, for no other reason than convenience, have not been to Holy Mass on Sunday morning for years.

This plays into our culture’s desacralization of Sunday, which is no longer the Lord’s Day, but merely a “day off.”

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Reimagine Humility

Bethany Jenkins gives us a window into the path to true humility (thanks to our southern correspondent):

To live out the fullness of our liberty, though, we must get rid of our arrogant, controlling, slow-to-hear, quick-to-speak, know-it-all spirits. In a 1995 sermon titled “Growth Through Hearing Truth,” Tim Keller highlights three characteristics of a proud heart:

A proud heart argues for every one of its convictions because it can’t distinguish between major and minor points. Instead, it says: “Any belief—because it’s mine—is a major belief.”
A proud heart either enjoys or avoids confronting, but never confronts with tears.
A proud heart is unhappy with life and, instead of receiving it as a gift, always gripes about how things are going.

The opposite of a proud and angry heart is humility, not self-control. And it’s our internal postures—not our external circumstances—that determine our happiness.

But why doesn’t humility involve submitting to God’s revealed will? Jenkins’ lesson in humility stemmed from a difficult encounter at the check-out line — wait for it — on Sunday:

On Sunday afternoon, in the checkout line at the grocery store, I put a man on trial. He made no argument and offered no defense, but I judged him guilty.

I went there to pick up three things—fruit, deli meat, and club soda. When I got to the only open line, there was just one man ahead of me. This is going to be quick, I assumed.

After the cashier started ringing up his items, though, he decided it was a good time to ask where the premade guacamole was. “Aisle 5,” she said. Then he left his place in line to find it.

When he returned a few minutes later, the cashier had finished scanning his items and customers had started lining up, but his hands were empty. He hadn’t found the guacamole. “It’s on aisle 7,” another store employee said. “On the bottom shelf.” The man again went to search.

Five minutes later, with eight customers now in line, he finally checked out. And I was annoyed. Why did he wait and ask the cashier? Why didn’t he ask someone else before he got in line? How could he inconvenience the rest of us like this? The only reasonable answer, I concluded, was that he was rude, incompetent, and narcissistic.

As I walked home, though, I wondered why my heart went so easily to judgment and anger, not to grace and mercy. Why did I spend so much time mentally logging the reasons he was guilty, not the reasons he might need grace? Why did my time need so much defending?

I know it’s easy to throw the Reformed Protestant penalty flag on this one and emerge as the righteous one who keeps the law, though actually keeping the Lord’s Day holy is difficult and sometimes means having to go without food items for one day that you forgot to pick up on Saturday, not to mention trying not think about “worldly employments and recreations” on Sunday. In the heat of the pennant race, avoiding baseball scores until Monday morning is one thing, but not thinking about the game being played is a whole other layer of sanctity. It’s also easy to take a shot at the Gospel Allies who promote sanctification and a holistic gospel but then publish a piece that so flagrantly acknowledges conduct that would have gotten any Christian for almost 1950 years in trouble with his session or priest. Can’t the Allies at least acknowledge a diversity of views on the Lord’s Day and walk circumspectly around it? If I get flack for talking about The Wire, can’t Jenkins get push back for breaking the Fourth Commandment? (And what exactly is Tim Keller teaching Jenkins?)

But aside from the letter of the law or even ignoring a law, might the means of grace be a way to learn the humility that Jenkins thought she found? What if sanctifying the Lord’s Day is in fact a means of grace? And what if submitting to God’s law is a way to say not my but your will be done, not my convenience because I didn’t order my week but your teaching on how order our lives in this world? What if the piety that the pietists seek is right there before them in the not so hip or urban ways of Reformed Protestantism — two services on the Lord’s Day regulated by and filled with Scripture, catechesis, family visitation, family worship, and not doing worldly things on Sunday? Imagine how much humility that gospel coalition might yield.

Nine is Greater than Two Times Four

So is that why the ninth commandment matters more for Tom Brady fans than the fourth commandment, you know, the one about keeping the Lord’s Day holy?

I’m writing this not as a BradyHater™, but as a full-on fanboy. You are my favorite sportsman ever — in any game, from any era. And I’ll tell you why. Your exceptional talent on the field is only matched by your exceptional work ethic. I love the way you command your teammates’ respect. And one thing I’ve always respected about you, up until now, is the leadership you’ve shown at the podiums and in front of the press. Unlike a lot of athletes of your stature, when things haven’t gone well on the field, you take responsibility. You don’t shift the blame to anybody else. And when you succeed, as you often do, you share the credit. This kind of leadership maturity is as rare as your talent.

So here’s the deal: I think you ought to do the right thing here and own up to wanting those footballs under-inflated, pressuring your equipment guys to handle that for you, and now insisting that you don’t know what anybody’s talking about. I think what you lose by doing that is much less than what you lose by not. And in any event, whatever is gained or lost, it’s just the right thing to do.

You and I both know that won’t win you any new fans. Your loyal opposition will always oppose you. But your fans will forgive you. Heck, I already do. I promise you — I already do forgive you. But I couldn’t root for you the same way, couldn’t talk you up to my grandkids like I planned to, couldn’t celebrate your championships as I have before, if you don’t do what real men do, which is take responsibility.

Tom, your reputation among many probably cannot be repaired, no matter what you do. I hate that for you. That’s just life, I guess. But I don’t believe “Deflategate” will tarnish your legacy in the eyes of fans like me if you’ll be brave enough to just get transparent with us. Confession of this kind won’t be the worst thing that happens to you in life, even though I’m sure it might feel that way at the moment.

Imagine what Brady’s legacy would be in old New England where out-of-wedlock sex, illegitimate children, and working on Sunday could get you executed.

Love the Puritans, hate the Patriots.

Lenten Attractions

After reading a few posts, the idea of Lent may have some appeal.

First, it might be a time to catch up on films I’ve missed (though these are the sorts of films that the missus and I usually watch on the holy day):

Almsgiving, prayer, fasting. “Into Great Silence” is German filmmaker Philip Gröning’s almost yearlong sojourn with the monks of the Grande Chartreuse monastery in the French Alps. It is a long film that challenges us to be silent and to contemplate the life of these monks who choose to live these qualities of Lent for 364 days a year. While some thought the film had no meaning, for those willing to take the time to stay awhile and watch, the film leaves a lasting impression on how to go into the woods, or the desert, and to live deliberately — alone, yet for others.

Or it could be a chance to drink more beer (didn’t see that one coming):

Seeing as beer has a long history as Lenten fare, I thought I would suggest five Bock style beers to sustain you during the long dark days until Easter.

Weltenburger Kloster Asam-Bock – Founded in the year 1050, the Weltenburger brewery is one of the oldest monastic breweries in the world. While it is sadly now a corporate operation, the brewery still makes a high quality Bock, which is no surprise when you’ve nearly 1,000 years to practice.

Salvator Doppel Bock – Salvator Doppel Bock is one of the first monastic Doppelbocks, brewed by the Paulaner brewery in Munich. This beer is dangerously good—it was once banned by the government because villagers complained that it was causing drinkers to become too lively.

La Trappe Bockbier – De Koningshoeven Brewery, commonly known as La Trappe, is a world-famous Trappist brewery founded in 1884. The brewery has grown heavily commercialized in recent years, but they still make an excellent Bock.

Andechser Doppelbock Dunkel – The Andeschser Doppelbock is considered by many to be one of the best Doppelbocks in the world. Brewed in Andeschs, Germany by the Benedictine Monks of St. Boniface, it is one of the few successful monastic breweries still owned by monks.

Weihenstephaner Korbinian – The Weihenstephan brewery is considered by many to be the oldest breweries in the world. Founded in the year 725 by St. Corbinian, Weihenstephan Abbey began brewing beer in the year 1040. The brewery is now owned by the state of Bavaria, but its Korbinian Doppelbock is one of the finest in the world.

But while cradles find ways to make Lent less restrictive, converts keep Lent real (call it late-winter cleaning):

However busy we are, there are always certain tasks that are more palatable to us than others. They tend to gravitate to the top of the to-do list. (Planting the garden. Yes! Let’s do it!) Meanwhile, the really hated chores keep getting pushed back. I can go a long time without finding time to clean the fridge, sort the closets or make the dental appointments.

The hated chores still need to be done sometime. Make Lent that time. Prepare for Easter by doing all the really unpleasant tasks on your list, in preparation for a season of pleasant (if still frantic) activity.

I get incredibly excited for Paschaltide knowing that that’s when I get to stop sorting closets and turn my attention to the yard instead. (I hate housework and love yard work. That’s just me.) I file insurance forms and eat the nasty stuff from the back of the freezer during Lent. Sometimes I really get crazy and wash the windows. I rarely get through everything I intend, but however far I get, the penitential to-doing is going to stop once Easter comes.

Yes, the basement does need attention, but I’ll stick with one day in seven and leave the chores for Saturday.