Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Eighth Step of Humility -- Don't Pray Your Way?

"Why can't I have things my way?"

The eighth step of humility is that a monk does only what is endorsed by the common rule of the monastery and by the example set by his superiors.
The Rule of St. Benedict.

As Benedictine oblates, are are obligated to read from the rule every day, and think about how to apply it to our "life outside the walls."

It was more than likely that the other, or additional, devotions monks would practice were good ones, of course. So why would St. Benedict ban them? And what does that have to do with humility?

There is a story about an oblate director who had an oblate who insisted on praying the rosary instead of the Liturgy of the Hours (or Divine Office). He did not question the merit of the rosary, but gently pointed out that the modest rule for oblates required morning and evening prayer (Lauds and Vespers). Besides, one of the promises an oblate takes is "obedience." As an oblate, not a monk, she was welcome to say the rosary, too, but really needed to pray the Hours. After all, that was what St. Benedict called the opus dei -- the Work of God.

The director know what a wonderful and unique prayer the rosary is. The oblate nonetheless told him all about it, as if he did not. She was missing the point. In the end, the director left her to her own devices, and we may hope that the benefits she derived from her refusal to say the Divine Office outweighed the habit of pride and disobedience she had established.

The Bear wonders if there is not a benefit to putting our heads down (like St. Corbinian's Bear when he is wearing the pack saddle) and doing what the Church would have us do. The typical liturgy may not be as technically "correct," or symbolically rich, or beautiful. Yet, is there a risk -- being sinful humans -- of feeding the twin devils of Pride and Disobedience if we insist on having it according to some fashion other than the plain ol' Mass? Can we be 100% sure that it is not because "this is what I like" to some degree? Can we honestly hear the SSPX decry it as "an outrage to God," and tell us to stay home and say a rosary instead without the slightest twinge of wonder about that sort of mind-set?

The liturgy in the Bear's parish is simple and reverent. It was quite a shock, though, coming from the Orthodox Church. We got used to the piano behind the altar and the choir up front. It took some time, and isn't how the Bear would do things. But, except for the old folks loudly babbling before Mass (which is ultimately the Bear's problem) it works fine. The element of the "meal" is better presented, too, while still retaining the sacrifice, although not as clearly as in older liturgies. There has never been a clown mass, and the Bear doubts there ever will be, in his parish and the vast majority of parishes in this country.

As the Bear said, it is not how he would do things. But, for better or worse, nothing is. His parish Mass is where he receives Our Lord. If the trappings do not suit him, perhaps he will gain greater merits by exercising humility and obedience by doing what is endorsed by the common rule of his [Church] and the example set by his superiors.


  1. Summorum Pontificum gave the green light: Catholics can request, and even insist on, the TLM. Your ursine cautions about pride personal preference are prudent and well-taken, but disobedience? Nope.

    1. Of course, no problem with that, as you correctly point out. Now the Bear may be wrong, but he thought he heard one or two challenging the propriety of tthe majority liturgy per se. If he it's correct, his cautions would be directed toward them.

  2. Glory to God. The Ordinary Form is supposed to be reverent, can be reverent. Humility can, I think, take the form of being simple, not standing out, silent, virtuous in secret (perhaps even to oneself.) The Catholic Faith has never changed, despite outward differences between 1950 to 2015. Let's work in our small sphere for God's glory in every action, and to restore that which was lost. If we prefer the Extraordinary Form, we can still be grateful for our Lord's presence at the OF, if the EF is unavailable. God will help us humble our pride and calm our anger if we ask Him. Continue on, and be encouraged, Brother in Christ!

  3. It's not about a preference. At this point in time, I still prefer the Novus Ordo where I am much more comfortable. These silent low Latin Masses are for me painstakingly hard to follow and , well, boring. However the manner of receiving Communion is beautiful.

    I know too much now about the Novus Ordo and the how and why of its creation to receive the sacrament there anymore. My conscience tells me I shouldn't receive there---as much as I have loved cantoring and playing organ/piano for lo these last 13 years since my EWTN/ Project Rachel inspired conversion.

    BTW---it wasn't until after Vat 2 that the Eucharist came to be called a meal.

    Seattle kim

    1. So someone convinced you that God gave you a bad mother that gives her children rocks when they ask for bread? That makes the Bear angry.

      The "Novus Ordo" is fine. It is perfectly fine to receive communion there, because it is both valid and licit. The Mass has been a meal since the earliest days of the Church, when it was called "The Lord's Supper." It is a meal and a sacrifice. But this is not something that will be debated here, for reasons abundantly explained in several recent posts. Please, I ask you to respect the house rules and not suggest that the Mass is invalid or outrageous, or that anyone should leave the plain ol' Catholic Church.

      And, Kim, you might consider all the factors which have made you vulnerable to the kind of anti-Church propaganda we've both seen for decades. I have recently been exploring my own "need to be correct," and have seen how psychological adaptations have affected many aspects of my life, my military careers, my legal careers, and yes, my religion. I went all the way to Orthodoxy to be just as correct as I could. One day I woke up and realized I had been so correct I had left the Church entirely! When I came back I read all the same websites and struggled. One foot in and one foot out. Finally, I understood that if indefectibility means nothing, then neither does anything else the Church ever said. And humility and obedience were a much greater prize than being correct, although I possess those virtues very imperfectly. I'm going to pray that you come fully back into the plain ol' Roman Catholic Church. And you can't stop me ;-)

  4. Yes, not my will but Yours be done. Obedience is the road to humility.

  5. Your remarks stunned and dismayed me. They reminded me of how, in our arrogance, we can so easily to nail our foot to the wrong floor--the one we create rather than the one God created. Thank you for the insight. It gives me food for meditation.

    It also occurs to me that this new approach is actually much truer to your motto, and I predict it will be of more benefit to our souls than all you've written before.


  6. Bear, I know you don't want comments on your 'Communion in the Hand'.
    do with this comment what you will......if you like I'll post it on my blog instead of yours ....

    <<<<<How much of the Bear's previous antics were out of reverence to Christ's
    Precious Body and Blood, and how much were out of a psychological need or
    willful desire to "be right" in his own eyes? Only God knows the mix. What
    the Bear was doing was causing a minor disturbance every time he took
    communion, and was approaching his Lord with the attitude, "I'm right."
    There was probably a bit of unspoken, "and they're not."

    The safer course is to exercise humility and obedience. Right or wrong, this
    is the way it is. The Bear will not argue the point, but it is self-evident
    to him that there is nothing inherently sacrilegious about taking communion
    in the hand from an EM.<<<<<<<

    Dear Bear!

    You point to 'antics' as if they were a bad thing! They are not always so.
    E.g. What of Kim Davis' act? Was that not also an 'antic' guaranteed to
    draw attention to her? I'm sure the ensuing situation is ripe as an
    occasion of sinful pride, What of the antics of any of our martyrs? Were
    they not also, inadvertently, drawing attention to themselves?

    Here's how I see it. Feel free take me to task! There are occasions where
    God leaves us only two pathways:

    a) that of a scoundrel

    b) that of a hero (and trust that God, when he demands that of us,will grant us sufficient grace not to become prideful, judgmental, haughty)

    It would be nice if He always gave us a third option, a hero-lite, where we
    can adjust our consciences to the 'zeitgeist' and protect our humility and
    go on our humble way without causing any ripples. I have no doubt, had Mrs.
    Davis asked them, our USCCB would have counseled Mrs. Davis to follow just
    such a 'nuanced' path.

    And I certainly do believe that God gives us a hero-lite option with many if not most of
    life's choices. I just don't see how there can be a hero-lite option in how we
    treat the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our dear Lord, the King of
    Kings. Perhaps wrongly (?) I get my marching orders on this topic from
    Bishop Schneider who has pointed out on multiple occasions that God is
    relying upon the laity to restore reverence at the Heart of our worship.

    The first time I ever saw someone kneel for Holy Communion was fifteen years
    ago at our Cathedral. I was sitting in a pew with my wife and kids and a
    homeless man wearing pajamas sat down next to us. He stank and during the homily
    he lit up a cigarette. An usher quietly escorted him out. However during
    Communion he had snuck back in again and when he arrived to the front of the
    line he dropped to his knees and received on the tongue. I was shocked at
    how beautiful the scene was! I am not sure why a stinking crazy man in pajamas could strike me that way, but I guess you just had to be there....

    It was a number of years later that Bishop Schneider
    began his 'campaign' by pointing out that in Muslim countries, like his
    Kazakhstan, the most powerful way to witness to the Truth of the Eucharist
    is for the laity to come before the Eucharist in the same way they would
    come before Jesus Christ if He were truly present before them, i.e.
    kneeling. With such august stakes I cannot see reception of Communion as a
    'preference' like preferring menthol cigarettes to full-flavor reds. Hence I
    don't see a hero-lite option for me, unless perhaps it is to abstain from Holy
    Communion and therefore avoid making a scene.

    1. I am glad you got the post up.

      This is not so much about whether one method of reception is better than the other. It's whether we take a stand as the sole person who receives on the tongue and kneels, or whether we are docile and conform to the universal practice of the parish where we live. What does my "heroic" stand mean? Is it distracting those around me at the very moment they are receiving Our Lord according to their custom? Can one be sure there is not an element of pride, that one is not looking down upon one's fellow Catholics as filthy "hand Catholics?" What does it say about "communion" in the Church if there are divisions even at that moment?

      Again, this is not about which is better, and those sorts of posts probably won't survive the ruthless Bear moderation process. But the replies are an excellent example of the need to be "correct" that I do not believe defines our Roman Catholic-ness. Where does that need come from? The Bear doesn't know. He can only look back on his own past and find some psychological elements that prevent him from coloring outside the lines, and always have; and, in his case, nobody else's, some pride at being a "better Catholic."

      Now, I simply approach Jesus, and take his precious body in my unworthy hands from the EM with awe and care. If anyone wants to say I'm being sacrilegious, they're welcome to do so. But I'll remind others that if you develop the virtues of humility and obedience from the however you receive Our Lord, and receive respectfully and with recollection, it is my private opinion that you will have gained more than had you researched the regulations and conformed your actions thereto to be "correct" The "more correct than you" game never ends until you are right out of the Church i the "technically-not-in-schism" SSPX or somewhere else. There are other, and better, virtues than correctness. Of course trads don't want to hear this. I get it.

    2. <<<< What does my "heroic" stand mean? Is it distracting those around me at the very moment they are receiving Our Lord according to their custom? Can one be sure there is not an element of pride, that one is not looking down upon one's fellow Catholics as filthy "hand Catholics?" What does it say about "communion" in the Church if there are divisions even at that moment?<<<<

      Dear Bear,

      What I was trying to point out, badly, was that being afraid to do something exceptional , something your own conscience demands, just because you think you might stand out or get puffed up with pride justifies alot more things than Communion in the hand. The Vatican II 'ship has sailed' from many safe havens! e.g. Why oppose birth control if that stance separates you from 90% of your fellow (American) Catholics? Having an extra 3,4,5 kids in tow definitely will make you stick out! Do you ever feel a twinge of pride for being faithful to your spouse when so many others have wandered? Oh boy do I have a solution for you!!:-)

      Forgive my levity, Mr. Bear! I just think you are putting Eucharistic reverence in the same category with rubrics about holding hands during the Our Father or kissing your thumb after the sign of the Cross. I don't see it that way. Whereas you say you would nail your foot to the floor rather than leave the Church, I sometimes say I would be for tamborine (and trampoline) masses if it stirred people to kneel down before our Lord!

      I really think you overestimate how distracting your 'antics' were. Most people don't go to Communion to watch other people. Think about it, do you really watch everyone else? If the old lady in front of you kneels, do you feel she has just created a division with you at the moment of Communion?

      Lastly, If someone kneels, usually only the minister and the person immediately behind them are in a position to know...if it really scandalizes, that scandal is minimal.

    3. I don't buy that hand communion is inherently sacrilegious. That is the point of division and neither of us are going to change. Not to be abrupt, but this issue is done. If anyone wishes to discuss the actual topic: when the higher virtues of humility and obedience trump other goods -- such as being right -- they are cordially invited to do so. Query: was humility valued by Jesus during his earthly life? Can one think of times he expressed this?

    4. Well! thank you for your forBEARance in letting me have my say...with regards to the issue at hand, humble obedience to religious superiors, I have only half-formed inkling...that there is a role for laity who are not part of the Church's administrative machinery, who are not obliged to mouth institutional 'truth's de jure' like

      'inclusive language is just the greatest thing!'
      'homosexuality had nothing to do with all those teenage boys being molested by priests!'
      'there's no such thing as a bad pope!'
      'Jesus Christ is a created being!' (during the Aryan crisis)

      Non-religious laity do not need take vows of obedience to Church bureaucrats--in order to be complete Catholics. I think our Lord left room in His Church for sheep with discerning ears.

      What I'm getting at--and I could very well be wrong--is that rules for Religious, like Benedict's, do not apply equally to non-religious.We can't all be monk wannabees! I think there should be room for the rabble.

      Certainly if you look at the mess the Church is in, it would be hard to place much of that blame on people that switch Communion lines or whose womenfolk wear chapel veils or kneel down.

    5. I don't know if you missed this part, but I am an Obl. O.S.B. which does obligate me to follow the Rule of St. Benedict as adapted to my life in the world. This was never about one thing versus another, but an illustration of the application of several specific Benedictine elements in one particular Parish. Perhaps a careful re-read of Don't Pray Your Way and Communion in the Hand would asst least clarify what my purpose was.

      And I nominate you to tell the Orthodox they're being sacrilegious for receiving Holy Communion standing (and Eastern Rite Catholics) ;-) (Bear doesn't want to be there!)

      So what is your position on standing-tongue-Catholics?

    6. Dear Bear, I apologize for not reading carefully! I didn't realize you are actually a 'company man'! Having taken a vow of obedience, that changes everything. You must keep your toe on the line. I'm surprised they allow you to blog.

      >>>And I nominate you to tell the Orthodox they're being sacrilegious for receiving Holy Communion standing (and Eastern Rite Catholics) ;-) (Bear doesn't want to be there!)<<<<

      Maybe you have me cornered?!! But let me try to get myself out....
      Eastern Orthodox are not heirs to the profound doctrinal development with regards to the Eucharist that we are. Kneeling is most certainly an late accretion that came about in the West spontaneously as devotion to the Eucharist--within the Catholic Church-- deepened.

      The orthodox -- as a rule-- don't kneel because they are kind of frozen in the 10th century and haven't thought of kneeling .....yet. Give them another 500 years and their own Aquinas and who knows? NTL, as I have linked you to this before..,Orthodox Communion is very beautiful in its formality and reverence!!
      AND if you compare it to the perfunctory practice the USCCB has thrust upon us, then Orthodox Communion begins to look as foreign and strange as Zoroastrian flame worship. The intensity of their reverence puts Catholics to shame, no? Good for them!

      OTOH, standing hand Communion was forced upon us by seventies liturgists as a way to undermine the above mentioned medieval Eucharistic devotion and doctrine which also had spawned Eucharistic practices like the Feast of Corpus Christi and all-night vigils for aspiring knights.. The liturgists who eradicated kneeling had an anti-medieval animus and they have pretty much had their way with us, i.e. until Pope Benedict put his foot down.

      With regards to Catholics who stand, yet receive on the tongue.... There is not much here for a judgmental promethian pelagian, like myself, to shoot at here. (unless they consciously remain standing just to spite Guido Marini and Bendedict and I don't think that is the case for any of them)

      I think if you asked them why they don't take the Host in their hands they might say...

      a) they were taught to do it that way....or
      b) they were taught as children that a Priest's hands are specially dedicated to offering the Eucharistic Sacrifice whereas theirs are not....or
      c) they see the Priest cleanse his hands prior to handling Jesus and they haven't had a chance to wash theirs, or...
      d) they see the Priest carefully wash away Particles from his fingers after handling Jesus and then carefully consume Them whereas the communicants are not afforded the same opportunity...

      If you asked them why they don't kneel, I think most would say they thought kneeling was banned when "Vatican II banned altar rails." i.e. there is nothing deliberate going on on their part. Either they think Vatican II wanted to eradicate kneeling or, if they are very young, that Catholics have never knealt for Holy Communion. I have no doubt that many would kneel if they knew it was an option, or if they knew how strongly Pope Benedict felt about it or even if they were just provided a kneeler.

    7. The vows are pretty loose for oblates, we're supposed to try to apply the Rule in our daily lives. Obviously we're not monks. The only time the Abbot comes close to telling us what to do is during lent when he must personally approve our bona opera and spiritual reading, which goes all the way back to the original rule. I am happy to see you acknowledge the history of reception in the Hand. Until 500-900, depending on the location, reception in the hand was the norm. No argument can thus be made that it is inherently sacrilegious, unless the fathers and early saints (including four doctors of the Church who attest to reception in the hand) were all sacreligious. These are historical facts some unfortunately forget in their zeal. And, as you point out, no one could accuse the Orthodox of sacrilege, even though they don't kneel.

      The same Church that says Jesus is really present gives us the despised "Novus Ordo Mass," has told us we can receive communion in the hand and in many parishes it has long been the universal custom without complaint by any authority. What I object to its any attempt by tongue Catholics to shame or bully or mislead ordinary Catholics who receive in the hand. (You have not done this.)

      It's fine. It's as reverent as you want it to be. I have never found a host in a pew. A devil worshipper can steal a consecrated host on his tongue. We are responsible for checking our hands to see if there are crumbs. (I have never discovered any.) I have never seen a consecrated host drop except when someone is trying to hit an open mouth.

      In the end, I believe the interior disposition is what counts, and we have three valid and inherently respectful methods of reception. Choose one and be content with your choice without a thought to other people.

      This doesn't mean I think people today approach their Lord reverently in general. I don't blame anything except the abysmal chatechesis and poor formation our bishops are content to provide Catholics. Kneeling won't fix that. As you know, there is nothing magical about any particular posture for receiving communion. Kneeling is a part of some cultures and not of others. The best way to employ kneeling would be to pray that our bishops get a clue about what their jobs are.

      I never intended to make my blog articles about tongue-Catholics vs. hand-Catholics. Honestly, I feel the discussion has been hijacked from the concept of humility and obedience, of which communion in the hand was an illustration in particular circumstances. The debate could go on forever. No one is going to change their mind any more than anyone in the history of the world has changed his mind about the death penalty (no matter what the CCC says).

      Anyway, this issue is closed, and it's a good example of how one thing I want to do differently is not re-hash the same old arguments about everything. Any further comments on this issue will never see the light of day here. Cordially -- the Bear

    8. Please do not publish this as you have already been too patient with me. This is for your eyes only. I am afraid there are some planted axioms in your last comment which I think are just plain wrong. The most glaring being that posture has nothing to do with interior disposition. Cardinal Ratzinger wrote specifically about the importance of the body-soul connection in his 'Theology of Kneeling'
      and then, as Pope he re-instituted kneeling for his communicants in 2008 after the release of Bishop Schneider's book, Dominus Est. The American Bishops turned a blind eye to his humble example.

      As another example with regards to fundamental importance of posture.... think how hard it would be for schools to teach patritotism if at football games they stopped inviting people to stand for the national anthem!!


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