instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, September 23, 2013

It pierces more surely than a two-edged sword

Mary DeTurris Poust expresses great anguish over her experiences at Mass:
As a lifelong Catholic who’s been a Catholic journalist for almost 30 years, I don’t take the whole “losing my religion” thing lightly. In fact, just last week I went on a silent retreat specifically because I felt I needed to pray on this and spend time in solitude with God. So, if you don’t know me, try to understand that none of this comes from a place of boredom or single-homily frustration or from an unwillingness on my part to bring something to the table, as was suggested a bunch of times yesterday. This has been years in the making, thanks to one bad experience after another, and it is a cross for me. And what I said yesterday, I said out of love for my faith and my Church and my brothers and sisters sitting in the pews beside me and feeling just as alone and deprived.
I'm not particularly good at comforting the afflicted. But I'm happy to propose partial solutions to a problem somewhat related to what she is writing about.

Problem Statement:
We come out of the Word. We are bound to the Word. We live by the Word. And if the Word isn’t being preached in a way that relates to people’s lives, well, there’s not much chance they’re going to find meaning in the Eucharist.
Which I will reduce to the problem of systemically crummy Liturgies of the Word, and in particular lousy preaching.

I won't pile on about the need for better preaching, and I'll leave the ideas for effecting better preaching to those who are already working on it. For the laity who, in the meantime, suffer through dead words, I offer two suggestions:

First, if you don't expect the Word to be broken open for you, then hook up your own plow. Read the day's readings ahead of time. If you really want to live by the Word, read the Sunday readings on Saturday -- or even better, read them during the week, then meet with a few people for breakfast after Saturday morning Mass to discuss them. Then, after the opening rites at Sunday Mass, pray that the Holy Spirit will come and fill the hearts of the faithful, pray that Jesus the Word of God will make His presence known. When Scripture is read at Sunday Mass, listen for a word or phrase that sticks out; maybe one you noticed in your preparations, maybe one you didn't.

Second, if the homily is crap, don't waste your time thinking, "Wow, this homily is crap." Spend the time praying. Pray to the Holy Spirit, that He may make the Word come alive and effective, in the heart and on the lips of the homilist, in the hearts and on the lips of the congregation, in your own heart and on your own lips. Chew on the word or phrase God gave you in hearing the readings read or the Gospel proclaimed.