Look inward

Judging others does nothing for your own salvation

I’ve been to Mass at dozens of different churches in the past year. Early morning Masses, mid-day Masses, evening Masses, Masses in Spanish, Korean, and Indian dialects. They were all slightly different (okay, some more than slightly), but they were all the universal Mass that we as Catholics celebrate.

Due to a fluke in the Masstimes.org app, I inadvertently found myself at a Spanish-language Mass on a recent Sunday. I was perplexed, wanting to experience the Mass in my native language, but the greeter exuded hospitality and said to me, “Mass is Mass.” Amen, brother.

This liturgical diversity stands in contrast to a campaign by a Church leader a few years back to root out “liturgical abuses.” He wrote a series of columns in the diocesan newspaper on the “correct” way to celebrate Mass and declared that he was setting up a diocesan office where people could report these liturgical abuses.

His motivation was laudable: reverence for the presence of God during our sacred worship. His execution, however, left something to be desired. The concept of a diocesan office where you could squeal on your parish priest was a terrible idea. (Here’s a thought: talk to your pastor directly!) It would have the result of distracting people who were watching for abuses from fully participating in the very sacred mysteries they were monitoring.001-Pharisees

I’m not sure what ever became of that initiative (I hope it died a quiet death), but it points up the danger of judgementalism, which is as present today as it was in the time of Jesus. Essentially, it’s the sin of the Pharisees: focusing on the letter of spiritual law and ignoring the incredible presence of God in our midst.

How does this manifest itself? You name it:

  • Writing to the diocesan newspaper to question why some Catholic politician is still allowed to receive communion (think about your own sins and consider whether you’d want a person who doesn’t know you deciding whether you receive communion)
  • Calling a Catholic radio show to question some practice within your parish (again, have a conversation with your pastor; don’t validate your opinion with a third party and use it to assault your priest)
  • Posting on social media the “correct” way to hold your hands during the Our Father.

To be clear, I’m no liturgical anarchist. I’m not advocating an “anything goes” approach to the Mass. I realize that deviating too far from the Roman Missal can be a distraction, but so can watching for those deviations. Plus, an overly rigid approach to liturgical rubrics can alienate those who aren’t liturgical experts and demonstrate a lack of charity.

I’m convinced we’d be a stronger, more vibrant Church if we focused less on what others were doing and put more energy into our own spiritual lives.

The key is to start with ourselves, to look within.

The outward stuff is a distraction. The path to holiness involves focusing on our own spiritual life, our own relationship with Jesus, our own service to others. What are the areas of my life where I need God’s grace? Where does God need to work in my life to root out sin? How can I partner with God to build a stronger spiritual life, a better parish, a more just society?

What others are doing is, often, none of my business, and even if it is, it’s secondary to the work that I need to do on myself, with God’s grace.

If I’m not dealing with the beam in my own eye, I have no right to grouse about the splinter in my neighbor’s eye.



Smart Phones

January 2018: I’ve been asked to provide specific resources that I access on my phone to those who might be interested. Please see the updated bullet points below.

Yes, they have a place in our spiritual livesiphone

Recently, I read with some bemusement an editorial by a priest decrying the proliferation of smart phones he saw as he celebrated Mass. While I appreciate his concern that the phones might be distracting Mass-goers, I was disappointed at his presumption. He seemed to assume that the phones the phones were only being used for texting during Mass.

The reality is that phones are tools. Like any tool, they can be used appropriately or inappropriately. When used appropriately, they have the potential to bring us closer to God.

Here’s an incomplete list of some of the roles my phone plays in my spiritual life:

  • Prayer book (Magnificat.org. The online app that mirrors the content of the monthly prayer resource is available via subscription. It includes daily readings, morning, evening, and night prayer, meditation on the day’s Gospel, profile of a saint every day, and more. I highly recommend the print or online versions.)
  • Missal (Again, Magnificat)
  • Bible (USCCB.org, the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, contains a wealth of resources, including the entire New American Bible, daily readings (text based and audio) with video reflection)
  • Rosary companion (several Rosary podcasts are available, including “A Rosary Companion” and “Pray the Rosary with Bishop Barres”)
  • Examination of conscience (Jesuit Prayer app includes the daily Ignatian Examen)
  • Spiritual reading (Magnificat, God in All Things, and other Catholic blogs)
  • Video player for scriptural reflections (USCCB.org)
  • Mass finder (Masstimes.org)
  • Church directory (the Masstimes app includes a mapping function to find nearby parishes, as well as links to parish websites and bulletin)
  • Prayer group scheduler (the calendar in Outlook and other programs comes in handy for keeping track of group meetings, religious education sessions, etc.)

I could go on, but you get the point. Obviously, I don’t use my phone for all these things during Mass. However, if you see me looking at my phone in church, don’t assume I’m texting or checking sport scores.