May 02, 2007

Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) Part I

Imagine you are an elderly Catholic widow who has lived in your urban home for 50 years. You enjoy it because it's comfortable to you, your garden looks nice, you are close to a grocery store and your doctor's office. You smile at the memories of all the children you raised; who went to the Catholic school down the street. Your late husband is buried in the Catholic cemetery 3 blocks away-close enough for you to visit for prayer and flowers. The house is paid for. You are not wealthy but you are independent and financially comfortable. You don't have any serious health issues though you cannot drive due to some eyesight issues. But, it's fine, you are on a busline. Your grandkids visit on occasion. You can walk to daily Mass and receive the Sacraments at your Catholic parish down the street. The same parish you were wed in, your husband's funeral Mass was in, and that your children received their Sacraments of Initiation in.

Sure, some of your old friends have died or moved away. Yes, registrations and attendance at your parish and its school is falling because fewer of the people moving into the area are Catholic or practicing Catholics.

Eventually, your Pastor of many years retires. You look forward to the new Pastor with the usual slight apprehension but you've seen many new Priests come to this parish over your decades of faithfulness. You will be just fine. Your parish will be just fine.

You go to daily Mass one day and discover that Father Hip-Hop Side Your Head has decided to do away with daily Mass because it's not worth his time setting it up for only a handful of people. He has better things to do with his free time like: oh, working on his book about the "Errors of Every Council Before Vatican II" and working with his architect buddy on how to get rid of all the statues in the church as well as totally modernizing the Sanctuary.

Well, o.k.

You ask Father Hip-Hop Side Your Head if he's still hearing Confessions each day since they used to be heard before every Mass. No, he says, I have a vision for a purification ceremony, like the one I saw once on the Leech Lake Reservation in place of the outdated mode of Confession. I will do that twice/year and bring in a woman Shaman friend of mine to do it. I'm also removing the "boxes". You know, the old Confessionals-too scary.

You were raised not to question your Priest so you don't. You figure he must have the approvals necessary to do this. He's better educated then you. He must have your best interests at heart.

You go along with it all for a while. You notice that enrollment and attendance at the parish is up. But, it's strange that parking becomes a major problem in your neighborhood on Sundays (now the only day there is a Mass even on weeks with Holy Days of Obligation in the middle). You realize you never see these parishioners before or after Mass. They drive in, set their car alarms, go in, leave and drive back to suburbia where they spend a lot of time worrying about Freeing Tibet and AIDS in Haiti.

It starts to bother you and scare you. You can't receive the Sacraments you need and that you want. You are unable to drive. You can't afford to move. You don't want to burden your kids.

You speak with Father Hip-Hop Side Your Head, (who now insists you just call him, Hip) about your concerns, your feelings of bereftness without the Faith and its Gifts. He poo-poos your worry. He tells you that you need to get with the program.

You tell him you are not going to live forever and that you would really like to be certain that you will get the Final Sacraments that you need. What if you become ill and can't make it Mass? Hip tells you don't worry, I'll send a layperson by when they have time with a piece of the pita bread we use. That'll be your Communion with us, your community. Well, is that even valid? Is that consecrated? That's not as important as being a part of your community, Hip says.

Gentle Reader: Do you see where I'm going with this? Can you imagine the horror of being elderly and/or disabled and the parish you've known all your life changes overnight into some free-for-all? What if you can't simply drive somewhere else? I think many of us have seen notices in our Bulletins for an elderly or disabled parishioner seeking a ride. Why is that? It could be because they can't abide what they have in their neighborhood parish.

I can't imagine anything more terrifying then being on your deathbed and you ask for a Priest and some character like Father Hip comes in and tells you that you don't need to make a final Confession or be Anointed because your place in Heaven is assured without it.

Yet, how often does something like this happen? I can look at a map of the city of my birth (Minneapolis) and there are miles of adjoining neighborhoods served by parishes that used to be authentically Catholic and now I don't know what to call them.

In my observed experience, dissenters will move into an inner-city parish because they see it as ripe for the picking. The parish probably has low enrollment and probably not enough of a group that's going to protest (being too low in number and too vulnerable). They move in and make the changes they want. Meanwhile, what are the faithful who can't be mobile left with? Nothing. They either have to become totally reliant on the charity of others, they don't go to Church at all, or they go to a church but it's the Lutheran Missouri Synod church down the street that still looks a little like the Catholic Church they remember.

Dissenters spend a lot of time worrying about society and the Church wronging others. They should look in their own mirror.

But, all of us should think, seriously, about the impact of these barely Catholic parishes on some of our more vulnerable brothers and sisters in Christ.


Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you, Cathy. I'm going to link and forward this on to my Wednesday meeting buddies. They'll probably want to pass it on also.

May 02, 2007 6:42 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

I don't know about MN, but in Chicago, the inner city isn't the problem.
The suburbs are the domain of the liberal priests and habitless nuns.
And the city also has public transportation, which many of our non-driving parishioners use to get to Mass.(As do the near suburbs, and the far 'burbs are served by a train to the city.)
It's the small town in the middle of nowhere, where these poor people don't have an option - that breaks my heart. It's like the priests know there's nothing these old folks can do about it.
My parents sort of went through the same thing.
They drive 30 miles to Mass now, because the church in their small town went bonkers.
But if they didn't drive, they'd be stuck.
Sad, sad.

May 03, 2007 6:33 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Ma: Excellent points. I'm sorry I did not think of them. But, I was writing based upon my observed experience in this metro area.

May 03, 2007 7:19 AM  
Blogger Sanctus Belle said...

Bravo Cathy! Bravo! I just may be one of the those old folks who can't get to a decent mass someday - I pray God forbid!

May 03, 2007 3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Living in a small town, with one RC parish, I have to agree w/Ma Beck that rural parishes also get dinged.

Our family has finally decided to attend Mass elsewhere as liturgical matters have been hijacked in our parish---not by the priest--but by 2 (middle-aged) ladies. One is a "pastoral coordinator" and the other the "Diocesan Liturgy Director".

But what are the elderly to do, who can't drive half an hour to another Church? Not to mention these northerly Canadian winters can be pretty ugly.

Working with the elderly, I see how little attention is paid to their spiritual needs. Our town's priest lives 50 miles away, and has 3 parishes to serve. The extended care here gets Mass once a month, but none of the 3 seniors lodges have one, unless the Ukrainian Catholic priest offers a Liturgy. How could the rest of us survive spiritually on that? Let alone there being even fewer opportunities for confession. I don't think there is much chance of our priest arriving in time to give the Last Rites to a person who takes a sudden downturn, unless he's given plenty of warning.

Keep in mind, too, that the devout elderly remember when it was a sacrilege for ordinary lay people to touch the Blessed Sacrament or even the Sacred Vessels--therefore it is hard for them to accept being given Communion by lay people, when shut-in or ill at home. My own parents feel very strongly about it, although thankfully, at ages 74 and 81, are still able to get about on their own, so are not faced with that worry.

God Bless,

Embattled Catholic

May 05, 2007 2:07 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Embattled Catholic: Thank you for your comments. You make several good points,especially in your last paragraph about elderly remembering when it was forbidden for laypeople to touch the Sacred Vessels and the Blessed Sacrament. I know several elderly people who still have a problem with that. I, also, know several who think the old days were a joke and now they are EMHC's.

It's a sad situation all around. I'll pray for your town today.

God Bless You.

May 05, 2007 7:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who is this Father Hip-Hop Side of the Head and what does the strange second half of his name mean? I have spent a lot of time in inner city churches and have not met him.
My town has a parish run by Father Spends All His Time Decorating in the Old School. No financial reporting, no community building or decision making at all. Barely a whiff of community service. The vestments he wears are gorgeous, gentle author, he believes in traditional confession like you clearly do, but under that he's a hijacker. Just like this strangely named priest you've created. Priests of all stripes need to communicate and respond better with their parishioners!

May 15, 2007 12:57 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Anon: Not sure what's going on to make him a "hijacker". Priests first have a responsibility to lead their flock to Christ.

Hip-Hop Side Your Head is a combined "homage" to "Rappers Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang and "Oops Upside Your Head" by the Gap Band. I can't believe no one picked up on that! ;-)

May 15, 2007 2:28 PM  

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