Yesterday’s Gifts, Today’s Entitlements, and the Sanctuary Church

Unfortunately, I’ve become a bit of a “Summer” Catholic.  Some are Sundays where I find myself at Mass, some are not.

While much of my failure to plant my ample backside in a pew can be traced to matters of convenience–in preparing for the Bar Exam, Saturdays were usually dedicated to studying and because I would often work until 4:00 a.m. Sunday, Mass wasn’t all that appealing–quite a bit of my absence from the Church stems from an overall feeling that they just don’t teach anymore.  I’ve always been of the decidedly un-Catholic view that we simply do not need to be stranded within four given walls and basking in the uneven rays from stained-glass windows to be able to communicate with God, but the Church in its seeming departure from actually teaching the principles of Christ has for the most part driven me away.

Gone, it seems, is any attempt to inspire. Each week, the readings are the same, the Homilies are the same, the people are the same.  Only the cantors change, and even if you get a good one, it’s rarely enough to keep a fidgety four-year-old from needing a nasty, typically parental look or two.

Recently, however, I’ve felt that I need to make more of an effort.  Preparation for the Bar Exam has ended (for now, in that I’ll know in late October whether I need to do it all over again), and other than laziness I really have no excuse not to attend.  It’s great for our daughter.  It’s the right thing to do.  And, frankly, I have quite a bit to be thankful for.

So, yesterday morning, I finally attended Mass for the first time since moving south from Philadelphia to Charleston.  The Church was beautiful, the folks inside wonderfully accommodating.  The cantor was amazing, and the choir was even better.  I started to wonder whether my problem had merely been a byproduct of Catholicism in the frozen and bitter northeast.  And then, when the time came for the Homily, our priest actually endeavored to teach us something.

“Yesterday’s gifts,” our priest began, “quickly turn into today’s entitlements.”  A smile crept across my face.  I think I might have found myself a home, I recall thinking.

And then it all fell apart.

“Did you ever notice,” the priest continued, apparently channeling Andy Rooney, “when, on the highway, one certain vehicle is extended an obvious courtesy by being allowed to merge or something like that, only to deny that same courtesy to another driver a few miles down the road?  Yesterday’s gifts quickly turn into today’s entitlements.”

Yes, Father!  I have noticed that!  I, too, drive!

“And did you ever notice,” he continued, “how a little toddler will be given a toy or a stuffed animal by a parent or an adult wishing to generously bestow a gift upon them, only to turn around and scream ‘MINE!’ and deny other toddlers the opportunity to play with the toy?  Yesterday’s gifts quickly turn into today’s entitlements.”

Well, yes, Father.  But that’s … well, I don’t know about your parenting experience, but that’s … well … kind of the nature of a toddler, and not a reflection on whether that toddler is embracing Christ’s teachings or showing generosity or just being an overall jerk or something.  But, hey, the choir is beautiful, so I’ll give you a pass on this one.

“And did you ever notice,” he continued, pausing slightly but noticeably so as to ensure that the congregation would lean forward and listen, “that so many people who are themselves the children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren of immigrants to this nation will turn around and deny that same opportunity to immigrants now?  Yesterday’s gifts quickly turn –”

Yeah, yeah, father.  I get it.  Well, damn, I think I’m gonna become a Baptist.

It got worse from there.  The priest directly addressed the ongoing debate over the Arizona immigration bill which has “unfortunately been shaped by the likes of talk radio and by 24-hour cable news” and chastised those attending Mass for daring to believe that we are a nation of laws.  Because our own ancestors once came here to this nation, whether willingly at the likes of Ellis Island or unwillingly in the belly of a slave ship, we should acquiesce and extend the same courtesy to those who wish to come here with their families now.

“Imagine,” he said, “if the borders to this country were closed to your parents or grandparents.”  To my right, a Hispanic woman was whispering–translating, presumably–to her husband.

Of course, having followed the debate over illegal immigration since before it reared its ugly head during the spring of 2005, I was hardly surprised to hear the local manifestation of the commitment nationwide by the Catholic Church to serve as sanctuary for illegal immigrants.  To be honest, I understand completely where the Church is coming from, but so long as we’re going to introduce policy into weekly Mass, perhaps a little adherence to the facts would be kosher?

First, as is always the case when debating illegal immigration with the open-borders crowd, the Church failed to distinguish between legal and illegal immigration.  Nobody I know seriously wants to shutter America to those who wish to enter correctly, assimilate and contribute.  And yet the priest repeatedly characterized those who wish for our laws to be enforced intentionally blended the line between legitimacy and illegality, leaving anyone who perhaps only casually follows current events with the wrongheaded idea that those who oppose the Arizona bill actually stand in opposition to America as a melting pot.

Second, when it came to the relationship between yesterday’s gifts and today’s entitlements, the priest indicted the wrong party.  Yes, that my great-great-grandparents were allowed to enter the United States of America from Lithuania and Great Britain was absolutely a gift.  But so is citizenship today, and those who wish to obtain American citizenship or merely suck off the teat of the United States without intention of legitimacy are the ones seeking entitlement.

If the Church wants to take a political or moral stand on the issue of illegal immigration in the United States of America, fine.  Personally, I’d rather see the Church expound upon the teachings of Jesus Christ–that’s, uh, kinda why I’m there–and work to solidify the moral and virtuous base of this nation and, personally, I worry about a group which so willingly aligns itself with political factions seeking the elimination of all things religious from the public square, but to enjoin the Church from serving a specific mission would itself be wrong.  I only insist, however, that any attempt to guide a congregation be done factually.  While the limitations of the standard Homily may not provide room for, say, budgetary figures in cash-strapped states like California and how those figures could change with immigration enforcement, the Church should at least take care not to intentionally omit material fact.

I would be interested in hearing the opinion of those in the Catholic Church as to whether just anyone would be welcome to sit with Christ in the hereafter, or if there are a few earthly requirements to secure admittance past those Pearly Gates.  I’m no theologian, but I’m fairly certain that some folks just may not make the cut absent the work necessary to achieve those earthly goals.  Here in America, it’s much the same way — anyone can come here, but certain requirements must be met before entry is allowed.  Why is that distinction so difficult for the Catholic Church to understand?

Regardless, I’ll give it another shot next Sunday.  Worst case scenario, I can always receive daily devotionals on my smartphone like someone else we know.

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Comments

  1. Boston Blackie says:

    Jeff,
    You need to find a children’s mass to attend, they are at least enjoyable. After my daughter got “too old” for the kids’ mass, it felt like punishment duty again. I had to step away from all the lecturing about the mean spirited conservatives from guys who have no concept of reality like covering a mortgage payment(I constantly have that argument with my uncle the Jesuit).
    I finally realized that I don’t have to sit in an uncomfortable pew and mouth word for word the entire mass to myself to be a good person. It is what you do Monday through Saturday that counts. I now cut out the middle man and confess directly to the big guy.

  2. Old Richard says:

    Jeff;
    It seems to me the Catholic church is very similar to the democratic
    party in wanting the illeagl immigrant base as most latinos are Catholic.
    Let them all in and one Sunday the Lady next to you will be translating
    to her english speaking husband because the service will be in spanish.

    Decocrats = immigrant voters
    Catholics = immigrant church members

    I was once a Catholic, I am still a Christian, but I have found that most
    religions are not for the promotion of Christ but rather the promotion of
    church base.

    Just Sayin’
    Old Richard

  3. Boston Blackie says:

    “Worst case scenario, I can always receive daily devotionals on my smartphone like someone else we know.”

    BTW, is there an app for that !?!

  4. Michelle Zhang says:

    He should read my article.

  5. Boston Blackie says:

    Ya know why Obeyme doesn’t go to church?
    Cuz there are no mirrors.
    Oops, I better say two Hail Marys for that one.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I’m just sick of the Al Gore worship………

  7. Randy Wills says:

    Loved it, Jeff. Maybe we could meet on a park bench somewhere, like down on the battery by the water.

    Randy

  8. Gail B. says:

    I’m just waiting for the priest to do his home visit at your place, Jeff–he will, won’t he?–and for your coverage at AR of the conversation/lecture held while he was there! Oh, this is gonna be good!

    AA is not a church, but we don’t have to listen to a priest tell us how to think, how we should feel about immigration, which political party to support, or how we should vote. And, we close the meeting with The Lord’s Prayer. AA meetings kept me sober for 30 years, not the church. I am a Christian, however.

  9. Time to look for a new church. No one should have to sit through that crap.

  10. Randy Wills says:

    Gail, how about a bench for three?

    Randy

  11. Gail B. says:

    Randy Wills says:
    August 23, 2010 at 11:32 pm
    “Gail, how about a bench for three?”

    Works for me!

    “It works if you work it and live it every day.”

  12. suek says:

    I’m Catholic – in Southern California. I understand.

    I also agree with you on several of your points – but especially with the immigration issue.

    If you ever get a chance to speak with the priest, I’d suggest you ask him a couple of questions…like…Father…do you lock your doors at the rectory? Is the USA a sovereign country? Is the USA “permitted” to change its laws? How long has Mexico been a Catholic country? why doesn’t the Mexican government treat their people better? Why does the Mexican government treat _their_ illegal immigrants so badly? or even their _legal_ immigrants…

    In fact…I might boil it down to one question – “Father…would you approve changing US immigration laws to those of Mexico?” I’d _love_ to hear his answer to that one!!

  13. Ken Follis says:

    Jeff, I am a fellow Catholic and veery bit as disgusted as you in these priests. The bishops of our country need to speak up. Also, it is imperative that we recall that Mass is about communion with Christ in the Eucharist, the “rest is commentary”.

  14. J.B. says:

    Jeff, please visit Victory Baptist Church,
    335 Woodland Shores Rd.
    Charleston, S.C.
    843-795-8229
    Just maybe…

  15. L. Banks says:

    Jeff,

    I understand your situation and as a fellow Catholic can sympathize.

    When I was in my twenties I had a friend whose nephew was in Rome and he communicated a great deal with my friend. She told me that the Church like every other institution had been infiltrated by those who wanted to destroy it. She told me this in the 7os.

    We began to see this in the late 60′s. At that time my parents were part of a parish and they had a new pastor. This pastor began talking out about politics and about the “old” ways of the church. He even grabbed rosaries out of old ladies hands and threw them away. On Easter he came up the aisle of the church in a volkswagon with a sign “King of the Road”. There was also a merry-go-round on the side altar. No one could think or pray. This is a way to drive you away from the place that should offer you peace and uplifting.

    I grew up and attended church in the midwest where the services were beautiful and the spirit was uplifted, encouraged and you felt united with God. This church was also a community sponsoring events for young and old and also helping others outside the church.

    I believe every soul on this earth is part of God. However, on this earth we are separated from the physical presence and we are here to learn how to unite with Him more fully and eventually with Him completely. Every person has the free will to invite God into their lives and live according to the example and the life of Jesus Christ who showed the way back to God. There are many levels of understanding of love on this earth so there are many mansions in God’s house. God always sends us help and examples to live among us and remind us of His love and give us direction. St. Theresa, St. Padre Pio, St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Theresa of Calcutta and so many more. Today too many are attracted to the world and not to God.

    I can only add that I do believe all Churches and our government have been infiltrated by those who want to discourage us from union with God as it will create a void which the government or someone can fill. It wears you down to be fighting on the political front and then to go to Church and to get it there too. Jeff, I think you are probably not alone in your situation in that Church. You have choices, but I for one know you can make a difference just like you do every day with “America’s Right”.

  16. suek says:

    >>She told me that the Church like every other institution had been infiltrated by those who wanted to destroy it.>>

    True. Do a search for Bella Dodd. She was a committed Communist who converted to Catholicism in the years before her death. She wrote about the Communists efforts to destroy the Church through infiltration, because they considered the Church to be the prime block in their efforts to dominate the world.

  17. suek says:

    Stop!! Don’t go to that link! I thought it was the right one, but it looked funny – I linked and my AVG says it’s a malicious site!!

    Sorry…I’ll try to find the one I linked to before…

  18. Love Being Catholic says:

    L. Banks says: “She told me that the Church like every other institution had been infiltrated by those who wanted to destroy it.” Yes, that is very sad but true. Just look at the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and its Alinksy roots. If you watch the video at the link below, the discussion of Alinsky begins at approx 15:30 and continues until about the 30:00 mark.

    http://www.realcatholictv.com/cia/01cchd/

    Whenever I start to get discouraged about this kind of thing, I remember the parable of the wheat and the tares. Jesus warned us that the weeds would creep in, but he also reassured us that they would not prevail.

    Ken Follis says: “it is imperative that we recall that Mass is about communion with Christ in the Eucharist, the ‘rest is commentary’.” Well said! Jeff, I hope this weekend when you go to Mass you will concentrate on Jesus waiting for you in the Holy Eucharist. He is able to inspire you and satisfy you more than any homilist could ever hope to do :) Peace be with you.

  19. Jeff Schreiber says:

    I went back and removed it, Sue. Thanks for the head’s up.

    Jeff

  20. Sam says:

    I am really close to God on my lawnmower. Honest.

  21. whats_up says:

    Jeff,

    Maybe one of the reasons this is happening in the Catholic Church is that they are trying to help the poor, one of the tasks given to them by God. And that doesnt square with govt policy. Just a thought.

  22. Come on says:

    Help the poor thru charity, not thru government.

  23. suek says:

    Trying again…oddly enough, there’s a link in this wikipedia article to the same “malicious” link I posted yesterday. I’ll post an Amazon one instead…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bella_Dodd

    This is for a site where you read online, or download (139 pages!), free.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/8634527/Bella-Dodd-School-of-Darkness

    Or, you can buy a copy…! (Check out the price!!)

    http://www.amazon.com/School-Darkness-Record-Conflict-Between/dp/B000EEHNXO?tag=dogpile-20

  24. Susan Button says:

    Jeff, I would suggest you attend one of the traditional Latin Masses offered in your new city (just google them.) The prayers of the Old Mass are very beautiful & detailed & can be read in English as the priest offers the Holy Sacrifice in Latin. The priests who offer these Masses tend to be much more conservative and have wonderful sermons. I switched to such a parish in my state & noticed a dramatic change in behavior in my 3 year old–the reverence and solemnity of the Latin Mass has calmed her down.

  25. Jeff Schreiber says:

    Susan, I might look into that. Although, because I studied Latin for seven years and don’t remember a lick of it, it might be frustrating!

  26. Boston Blackie says:

    Jeff,
    Latin is like riding a bike, it comes back to you very quickly.
    After taking Latin all through high school and hating it, my daughter got a small tattoo on her wrist the week after graduation. It was…..
    Veni, vidi, vici
    Go figure!!

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