Cor Contritum et Humiliatum, Deus, Non Despicies
More Thoughts in the Undercroft
When I was working out at the gym early this morning, a song from the hometown band Greenday came on the radio. The song is probably familiar to younger readers. The chorus goes:
I walk this empty street
On the Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Where the city sleeps
and I'm the only one and I walk alone....
Funny how songs can stay in your head all day. When I discovered the new blog whose plug you will find immediately below, I was excited since it seemed like this was a Roman Catholic who thinks and is not afraid to be eloquent about his (or her?) faith. My excitement, however, was tempered by the newest post found on this blog, which is also linked below. In it, it seems that the author remembers or creates memories of the "good old days" when Irish monsignors and nuns terrorized and sweetly cajoled children into becoming decent Christian people. Even though this irrational absent nostalgia has been addressed and refuted many times on this blog, it welled up in me again as I was in the Main Stacks shelving books. It was like remembering a woman who broke your heart, a father who was not there when you needed him, and a place you had to leave on a rainy night, unable to ever see again what it looked like at the height of the day. The Roman Catholic Church broke my heart, not for what it gave me, but rather what it kept back. And sometimes the wound opens up again and I can't help it.
I didn't have that childhood, that place where a pious boy could find his niche in the Church and go on to serve a society that was Catholic to its core. I had to fight just to keep my Faith in a world that didn't care if I believed or didn't as long as I was "nice". I did indeed walk alone, and for much of my Catholic life I was the odd man out. I tried to be Catholic, I really did. But every time I stood outside the Roman Church's window with flowers trying to serenade her, the window always remained shut. And I stood in the street, bouquet in hand, a fool once again. But part of me is still in love, and always will be.
Again, this is an irrational thing to say. It is just as irrational for the Catholic Church to change back to what it was just for little-old-me as it is to expect the librarian behind the counter in Hollister to fall in love with me just because I think she is the most beautiful woman in the world. Who am I to tell a Church what to do? Who am I to dictate what is good for a billion followers of the Church of Rome? If they wanted to chuck everything out the window in order to start anew, I have to take it or leave it. And I left it. It's sad, but that's how things go. You can't change the people you love. To want to do so is very foolish.
I have known many people who had their hearts broken like this as well. One is a good friend of mine who is a priest in the ROCOR mission in Sunnyvale. He was from the last generation of seminarians who received a traditional seminary formation as a Roman Catholic, and when the changes came about, he was still in seminary. He was merely told that everything he was taught as a Marist novice was to be forgotten, so in the midst of the confusion he left and became Orthodox. With the traditionalists, I heard so many stories of faithful being thrown out of churches physically, denied Communion, and bullied out by progressive priests. It is no wonder that traditionalists can always be in such nasty moods; they are still traumatized, and who can blame them? They are trying to save a world that some very powerful people tried to systematically destroy.
I just don't understand Roman Catholicism. I have also known many that are profoundly at peace with the religion that has come out of the Second Vatican Council, but they are no more familiar to me than Baptists or Presbyterians. Even the many man-eating, apologetics-minded, more-often-than-not-convert elements of conservative Roman Catholicism in this country still have no clue about the real ethos of Catholicism before the 1960's. They read about things in books and do not know the reality of the ceremonies, culture, and piety of the pre-Conciliar Church. And even those of us who experienced these things in the traditionalist milieu have a distorted vision of them, even if it is more authentic when compared to the syncretic conservatism mentioned above.
Even now, when I go into the barren nave of Sacred Heart Church in Hollister pictured above, I feel that I am wandering in a place where a planned intimate rendez-vous never happened. I merely listen to the creaking wood wondering what could have been. Life, however, is built on realities and not broken dreams. Even if Pope Benedict puts some drapes back up and paints a wall or two, the roof has still collapsed and no man on earth can fix it. We just have to go on then as pilgrims without a home, trying to survive in a post-Christian age.