A mild answer turns back wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
-- Proverbs 15:1, NABRE
My big mouth is part of the reason why I became a Camaldolese Benedictine Oblate. St. Romuald's constant admonitions that speech should be clean, simple, and civil present a significant challenge to my somewhat acerbic personality. And I like that. Finding your vocation in life shouldn't be about choosing what "fits," but rather about choosing what hits at your weaknesses and really helps you grow as a person. And God knows I could use assistance in bridling my tongue.
So, it bothers me when I read articles on NCRegister, like Dan Burke's recent rant on liturgical abuse, that do little more than tear others down. Of course, I enjoy taking out my frustrations by mocking other people just as much as anyone else, but that doesn't make it right. Instead of dissecting Mr. Burke's article piece by piece, I've decided to share a brief story.
Back in college, the Catholic student center wanted to offer daily Mass. However, the priest couldn't make it on Mondays. So a kind, holy, elderly couple offered to lead a communion service using pre-consecrated hosts. Unfortunately, nobody provided them with any guidelines, thus they had to figure out everything on their own. In the beginning, the man was pretty much reenacting the entire mass (except for the consecration), and when his Parkinson's disease got worse, his wife took over the job.
Once I came along, the couple had been doing this arrangement for quite a few months. Instead of chastising them for not obeying the rubrics, I thanked them profusely for their service and offered to provide any helpful materials. That's how I know their story. They immediately asked for the communion service rubrics, I gave it to them, and they were mortified about having reenacted the Mass for so long and feared mortal sin. I had to calm them down and reassure them that Jesus wasn't mad.
That's why you shouldn't just assume the worst and launch into people. Kind words are far more useful, and more honest in the face of reality. We're all struggling Christians, and we should really cut each other a break sometimes and step away from our legalisms and personal crusades. Living life without peace and joy isn't healthy at all.
Speaking of peace and joy, my hiatus is over!