Not for the Comfortable
Catholics tend to each have their own flare for practicing their faith. Thankfully, my wife and I found a parish near our home that fits with ours. We were not so lucky on Ash Wednesday.
We had planned on going to the evening Mass at our parish together at 6:30pm. By 4pm, we were both done with work and home. We decided that we couldn’t wait until 7:30pm for dinner. (Something about fasting?) We scoured the internet and found an earlier Mass near us.
When we were trying to find a parish for us, we “interviewed” several parishes. The parish that we ended up at for Ash Wednesday didn’t make the cut. Our experience on that day reminded us why.
The community was very lax. The priest didn’t have a seat of honor. He sat in a row of choir chairs in front of the first pew. Jesus had a cute corner, tucked away on the side. While 25% of the pews were remotely oriented in His direction, at least a third were oriented away from Him. Every cross that had Jesus on it had the Resurrected Christ. The only reverencing the Altar got was at the entrance and recessional processions. People were going up to Communion with their hands in the pockets of their jeans.
Then it hit me. How could anyone expect respect from a community where Catholicism is so easy? There was no suffering. Christ wasn’t bleeding on the Cross after horrific torture. He was the Buddy Jesus. There was no seat of honor for the priest in persona Christi. Everything was so sterile. It was easy.
People respect people and organizations that stand for something. When you challenge individuals, they rise to the occasion. Look to the martyrs for that. When you sanitize faith, when you make it easy, it doesn’t inspire people to do much of anything. We have an innate desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. We innately know that anything hard must be worth doing.
We sanitize marriage, too. We make it easy. A lot of marriage prep courses are a joke. We use “forgiveness” as a pass to do whatever we want. We define it however we want. We let others define it however they want.
The problem is, like Catholicism, marriage isn’t easy. Marriage is war. It’s not a spouse versus spouse war. It is a spouse versus the world war. You have to fight, claw, and defend your marriage. If you don’t have the heart of a fighter, if you won’t take a beating for what you love, then don’t get married.
We all lose battles. The greatest generals lose battles. St. Peter lost a battle. The difference between St. Peter and Judas? St. Peter won the war. He didn’t quit. He took the loss, got up, and kept fighting.
Marriage isn’t for the meek. It isn’t for the fainthearted. It is not for the comfortable. It isn’t easy. It isn’t cozy. It isn’t convenient.
It is worth it.