Sorry for the hysterical tone of yesterday's post. Unfortunately for my recovery, I found out about the Maltese bishops around 11 PM, when I ought to have been in bed, and I couldn't sleep. Result: anguish and relapse. I fell asleep around 6 AM after much praying and weeping, and I spent yesterday flat on my back, dozing in two hour snatches. When I woke up, I applied microwaved washcloths to my aching face.
"If I'm in so much pain with just a cold, how am I going to cope with cancer?" I asked B.A.
"You're not going to get cancer," said B.A.
Given family history, I'm more likely to have a stroke, as I thought whenever yet another coughing fit caused a throbbing in my left temple. I banished the computer from the guest room and forbid B.A. from discussing Church news. The only Church news I wanted was that the Cardinals and bishops had risen up to correct the Maltese heresiarchs, and I didn't want to brood on how unlikely this was.
When B.A. came back from the mall with groceries and eucalyptus oil, he took up residence in the armchair by the empty fireplace at the end of this long but narrow room. This was very kind and companionable of him, as was his preparation of a bowl of steaming eucalyptus. This nursing stuff is more frequent to men in romance novels than to men in real life, so I must have looked as sick as I felt.
"May God bless you for your care of your wife," said I.
A Christian therapist once told me that the most authentic prayer is "Help!" When I think of the family emergencies that knocked me to my knees---once while I was washing dishes--I believe that. As we didn't pray nightly rosaries in my family, the rosary seems like more of a private devotion or--because I only really began to pray it when I joined the local teen pro-life movement--spiritual warfare. If we believe Sister Lucia of Fatima, however, we believe that we should pray the rosary every day. In the small hours of Saturday morning, I finally turned to the rosary, but not after some time with my childhood prayer book. "Prayer for the Church" really made me cry.
I strive in my blogging and other writing not to come across as the legendary "Mad Trad". However, the Church is in such an emergency that all believing Catholics--trad, neo-con, liberal--should be tearing our hair and rending our garments. Mad, no. Sad, yes. When Saint John Paul II was elected in 1978, he began to cope with the terrible mess caused by the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. Over almost 30 years he created a wonderful edifice of papal doctrine that addressed contemporary life and problems. Now this brilliant work has been thrust aside--or, worse, pillaged for half-quotes-- in favour of craven banalities.
It's not an original thought--bear with me, for I am still in bed--but it seems that there are at least two different Catholicisms out there. The one that seems most prominent is the world-focused one, which is all about creating heaven on earth and making everyone feel as happy and comfortable as possible. In this Catholicism, the Eucharist is primarily a symbol of community. This Catholicism has a lot going for it: the corporal works of mercy are very important, after all.
The next most prominent one is focused on God, the Mother of God, heaven, purgatory and hell. In this Catholicism sin is not a trivial human weakness that should not be judged but a personal calamity with the most awful consequences. And in this Catholicism, the Eucharist is primarily the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, worthy of our adoration and--scandal to the Protestants--worship.
The Marian piety of this Catholicism is strongly influenced by the incidents and personalities involved in the apparitions of Lourdes and Fatima. Saint Bernadette died young, but Sister Lucia of Fatima lived to a ripe old age, and so arguably had greater influence. (St Bernadette, like the Little Flower, seems to have belonged to a different age entirely.) There is also an obsession around her "secret"--there was but one "secret" originally--which became three "secrets", two revealed after they had come to pass, and one that seems to have disappointed many people.
Personally, I am less interested in the Secret than in Lucia's concern for souls going to hell. By her account, her two infant cousins were also very worried about souls going to hell. They were so worried about this, they apparently spent most of the rest of their young lives praying and doing penance in the hope that they would save these souls. Lucia reported that the children even hurt themselves with rope cilices. (Their father said he knew nothing about that, which is to his credit.)
It would seem that these two children were a lot more worried for the souls of their fellow human beings in general than the Maltese bishops are for the souls of Maltese Catholics who commit serious sexual sins. Instead of investigating thoroughly whether or not sexual sins really do send souls to hell---and Sister Lucia was very firm in saying that they did--the Maltese bishops have instead encouraged these people to risk receiving the Eucharist, which---let me tell you--in equally Catholic Poland sexual sinners do not do.
It's interesting, you know. In some countries, the Catholics are so honest about their sins and yet so respectful of the Holy Eucharist that they do not receive the Eucharist until they have made their confession and promise of amendment. For many this may be when they stop using birth control. In Canada I knew a Polish lady who had married a divorced man, and although she went to Sunday mass every week, she did not approach the Sacrament. I thought her situation was very sad, but I honoured her for her respect and love for the Eucharist and refusal to use it as a symbol of "I'm okay, you're okay".
Although it is obviously far from the idea that large numbers (most?) Catholics use birth control or commit other long-term sexual sins, it is surely better that they have a reason to give them up than an excuse to keep doing them. It is also better that the Church teach the truth in and out of season than to be the cool uncle who invites you to smoke pot with him.