Monday, August 29, 2011

Church Marquee

This is at least the third week of my vacation at home when on my daily, early morning walk I have passed by the church marquee in front of a local unaffiliated church carrying the same enigmatic (to say it politely) message: "Broken by Religion - Healed by God". I feel offended by the message but really can't say why.

I do not have the slightest idea even after all of these mornings of being confronted with the "message" as to what it could possibly mean. I'm wondering if the pastor or preacher has been away on vacation and if the janitor or church secretary didn't take matters into his or her own hands and decide to make a statement, perhaps in the old European tradition of sacristans or church sextons who firmly resented their being underpaid and unappreciated by the local clergyman, with whom they were more often than not at odds for many reasons (Bernanos, in Diary of a Country Priest, alludes to this "tradition"). As I say, I haven't the foggiest as to what the thing is supposed to mean and no courage to go knocking on the door to find out what somebody means by that.

Truth to be told, I'm glad that Catholic churches rarely have marquees to display more than the schedule of Masses and Confession times. It's a genre totally foreign to our notion of Sunday as the Day of the Lord. It would be unthinkable, if you had more than one Catholic church on Main Street to have the dear priests competing for Sunday attendance by putting out the title for their Sunday homilies street-side on the marquee, let's say on Friday afternoon. While Father should do his best to teach and edify in the homily and that at least since the Council of Trent and its Catechism, which had detailed outlines for which passages went with the readings for each Sunday of the year, Sunday is nevertheless not Sunday School for us but our day to put ourselves clearly in relationship with the Sacrifice of the Cross and our Blessed Lord Who reigns from that Tree, as we renew with Him in unbloody fashion what He did for us once and for all on Calvary.

An awful lot of our non-Catholic friends not only read their bibles, but they study in groups and alone. In days gone by, we Catholics too studied as children preparing for first Confession, first Holy Communion and Confirmation. Today, we try even to make young couples reflect on the important step they are taking when they ask the Church for Christian Matrimony. All in all, however, the over-sixty crowd were better prepared for Sunday than the under-fifty crowd are today. When you knew your basic catechism, when you prayed daily at home (meals and bedtime, and for certain families even the rosary), then you knew what Sunday was for. You knew you owed everything but especially Sunday morning and Sunday Mass to the Lord. It was serious time and even reason to dress up.

I'm so glad EWTN's rich programming comes into most people's homes these days. There's a lot of great Catholic radio out there too. It sounds like the internet offerings, especially video, get good exposure as well... "Broken by Religion - Healed by God"? What in the world is that supposed to mean? Let us just blame it on an unhappy janitor and get on with the program!

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