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Dear Edith

Starving at Church Response #3 – Andrea

Dear Edith Response #3 -- FemCatholic.com

Read the original question here.

Dear Starving But Wanting to Stay,

I have been there, too, and I hear you!  Oh, have I been there.  

We are a military family, and we move quite often.  One of my biggest worries with each move is what our next parish will be like.  We have lived in those tiny Southern towns with one Catholic parish, overseas with maybe one or two options in English, and — currently — in a diocese where questionable things going on in the liturgy is more commonplace than not.  

So, let me share with you a few things that I have learned along the way.  

You mentioned that you feel you aren’t in a position to “fix” anything.  There is one thing you can always fix: your own perspective.  

You can recognize Christ where He may be found.  He is present in 4 ways at Mass: (1) in the priest, who is in persona Christi; (2) in the Eucharist, where He is truly present body, blood, soul, and divinity under the appearance of bread and wine; (3) in the Word proclaimed; and (4) in the Body of Christ.  If you struggle with recognizing Jesus Christ present in any of these, ask Mary for help in recognizing her son in the Mass.  Ask Jesus himself: “I believe; help my unbelief!”

You can allow yourself to grieve and feel disappointed in the liturgy.  When you have experienced liturgy that lifts your soul to heaven, it is all the more sad to experience nothing but banal, cringe-worthy, or illicit Masses.  Further, you probably wish your fellow parishioners could experience the Eucharist as you have — as the “source and summit” of your faith.  

We know that the liturgy is “the work of the people.”  It’s easy to default to the position that we must give God our best.  Of course we must!  Ultimately, though, there will never be a perfect liturgy here on earth.  We await the wedding banquet in heaven where we will truly be in communion with Christ.  Until then, it will be messy and imperfect.  

But get this: The God of the universe humbles Himself to meet us in our meager gifts of bread and wine.  He meets us in our mess and our imperfect offerings.  He embraces us despite our imperfect contrition, our mixed motives, and our stubborn ways.  

The God of the universe humbles Himself to meet us in our meager gifts of bread and wine.

Certainly, we too, can humble ourselves to meet Him in the Body of Christ and His priests.  

Here are some tangible actions steps you might take to shift your mindset:

  1. Invite your priest over for dinner!  Invite another family you would like to get to know better if you are worried about the clash of personalities with the priest.  
  2. Consider prayerfully your interior response when questionable things happen during Mass.  What is your immediate default response?  Criticism, derision, sadness, pride?  How can you turn that around?  I suggest treating imperfection in the Mass the same way we approach imperfections in others and ourselves — we forgive them while still striving and hoping for better.  Perhaps look for a default prayer response to re-focus your thoughts and disposition.  Something like: “Dear Jesus, thank you for meeting us here in our mess.  Have mercy on us and on the whole world.” or “Mother Mary, help me to recognize your son Jesus in all the ways He is present here.  Teach us to love and honor Him in our prayers and actions.”  
  3. You say you aren’t in a position to “fix” anything.  Perhaps not as a salaried position, no.  However, you have so many gifts and talents to share!  You are, in fact, in the perfect position to evangelize your fellow parishioners — and most likely, to be evangelized yourself by them.  Examine whether your pride is holding you back from pursuing authentic relationships.  

And finally, I want to answer your concern of not feeling spiritually fed.  

Ultimately, what will feed your soul is communion with God.  

Does the discontent in your soul at Mass extend to other areas of prayer for you?

Does the discontent in your soul at Mass extend to other areas of prayer for you?

Sunday Mass is one hour out of the week.  What are you doing the rest of the week? How often are you still and quiet before God?  

Prayer is first and foremost our response to what God is already doing in our lives.  He is waiting to meet you — not just at Mass — but always waiting for you to turn to Him.  

“Seek the Lord while he may be found, 

call upon him while he is near.” -Isaiah 55:6

Pax Christi,

Andrea


Andrea Pfarr is a FemCatholic Contributor. She and her husband travel the country and globe — subject to the needs of the U.S. Air Force — with their three wild-hearted children and a little brown dog. Andrea delights in well-reasoned arguments, the universality of the Church, introducing their children to tales of epic adventure, and a mug of hot chocolate.

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