Another Catholic Disinvite

Kimberly Hope Belcher blogged here on a lamentable experience of Catholic disinvite. Comments are closed there, but that doesn’t stop me from offering a response here.

I watched one of my fellow parishioners lean over to my friend Tim O’Malley, Director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, and ask him to remove his son from the church because he was disturbing this parishioner’s prayer.

One very appropriate response to a parent in difficulty is to say, “Is there anything I can do to assist?” Otherwise, a liturgical distraction of any kind is an opportunity to make a personal sacrifice. To “offer it up,” as the common parlance once went.

It must be said: the Mass is not (necessarily) a time for personal prayer. It is a public act of worship. It is an act of Jesus Christ directed to the Father. It is not something during which any believer has a right to intervene and suggest someone be removed. It is something into which we have all been invited. So we should take the appropriate attitude as guests and not presume to take the Lord’s own mantle for ourselves.

If a worshiper at Mass is fortunate to find a moment of personal encounter, that is well and good. But it should be emphasized that as the Lord counseled, the primary place for prayer is when we have removed ourselves to our own room and prayed away from others.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to Another Catholic Disinvite

  1. Atheist Max says:

    Todd, I like your humane sentiment on this (‘offer it up’). I speak as one who prayed in church for 40-something years and often found solace in doing so….you said:

    “it should be emphasized that as the Lord counseled, the primary place for prayer is when we have removed ourselves to our own room and prayed away from others.”

    Not exactly.
    Jesus admonished those who “kept their light under a bushel” (Matthew 5:15) and what better place to show your commitment to purity but in a house of worship? Just another of the subtly contradictory messages of Jesus who frequently wants people to demonstrate their faith in all sorts of ways.

    Paul (whose epistles are also ‘the Word of God’ to many) wrote the gold standard with respect to proper church conduct:

    “Let him be removed” – Paul (I Corinthians 1:13)

    And then we have James 2:18 – “But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”

    Jesus likes someone who steps out and shows their faith. The problems begin immediately upon doing so because those demonstrations are completely supportable and unsupportable at the same time.

  2. Todd says:

    It continues to remain a curiosity, Max, that, for an atheist, you like to preach a lot of Bible. I think your interpretation of Matthew 5:15 is a little off kilter. The context is in the world for the passage (verses 13-16, if not the Beatitudes prior) and not later in the Sermon on the Mount (6:5-8). My interpretation would be to offer assistance to the parent in difficulty, and not hide kindness and courtesy under that bushel basket.

    Applying the Scriptures to everyday life demands a certain use of the intellect as well as the heart. Discernment is key–the willingness to listen to Jesus and to follow the inner urging we have discerned is from him.

    But of course, as an atheist, this may be of little relevance. But that begs certain questions, my friend, doesn’t it?

    • Atheist Max says:

      The curiosity for me is your claim: “The Lord counseled…”

      I would not quote the Bible (“what the Lord counseled”) had you not insisted on referring to it. If you tell me “The Lord preached kindness” I have only one place to check such a thing – the Bible. If the Bible is irrelevant, I’m happy to hear that. If it is relevant to your claim, I’m afraid there is no choice but to refer to it.

      If someone claims, “The Mets are the best baseball team” it will not matter whether I believe in the Mets, like the Mets, hate the Mets or am completely indifferent to baseball. The record is long and can be referred to. The Mets are no good.

      Though I entirely respect your right to believe whatever you want regarding what Jesus preached, you cannot simultaneously claim your source of knowledge about this is somehow unavailable to me. The Bible is the only source you have – and it is the only source I have regarding that question.

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