Catholic commentary on culture, media, and politics.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ponder without fear, like the Bible says

All things being equal, and not taking into account drastic climatic shifts or increases in forest predators, how much wood -- in kilograms, now -- could a woodchuck chuck if said beast could chuck wood?

Also, if there's any way to gracefully segue from the following awkward social faux pas, I want to hear it. You meet someone for the first time, and after the preliminary introductions, they say, "How's it going?" and you reply incorrectly with, "Nice to meet you, too," or some similar non sequitur. You feel like a moron, but making light of it only adds another layer of awkwardness, not to mention crushing obviousness.

Or how about this? As you know, if you're Catholic, dear Seize the Dei reader, holding hands during the Our Father has, unfortunately, become de rigeur in many parishes nowadays. It's all so "meaningful" and "community-building" and "stranger welcoming" and "pastorally fitting." And about as spontaneous as preparing your tax returns. My question: what is the best way to perform that little squeezie-poo of the joined hands that we all do at the end of the "for thine is the Kingdom" part? If you squeeze too hard, you send a "let go of my hand already" message to your brother or sister. If you continue the exact same hand pressure, you might seem clingy or something more creepy. At present I simply opt out of the whole ritual by bowing my head, hermetically sealing my eyes shut, and clasping my hands together in that famous Serenity Prayer pose. (Confession: I'm not above pretending not to understand English, or making like I'm deaf, just to get out of it. If this is wrong, I don't want to be right.)

And while I'm at it, what's with that automatic Rite Of the Raising Of the Arms thing at the very end of the prayer, anyway?

I'll bet Catholics and lemmings share a lot of DNA.


Blogger justine said...

Ah, so true! And when we were growing up, we always had to be careful who we sat next to during the Our Father because certain siblings delighted in crushing hand bones while piously gazing at the altar. I've ever since considered the ritual a near occasion of sin and do not allow my own children to participate.

10:57 AM

Blogger Patrick said...

Ironcially, none other than Roger "It's My Cathedral and I'll Exult If I Want To" Mahoney actually mentioned hand holding as a liturgical no-no in his delightful 1998 pastoral letter "Gather Faithfully Together.

So you can tell hand-holding fetishists that even Cardinal Mahoney thinks it's too gay for Mass.

11:34 AM

Blogger Wimsey said...

LOL! So true! I have to confess to pretending to be deaf myself upon occasion to avoid someone reaching for my hand. Does that constitute lying? And in the middle of Mass? What a moral dilemna!

7:29 PM

Blogger Patrick said...

It's only lying if you intend to deliberately deceive your hand-holding parishioner. But if you're just playing a mental pretend game with yourself, say, as a means of trying to gain solidarity with deaf people -- ergo the deception part comes as an unintended side consequence -- then you're cool.

That's my rationalization and I'm sticking to it.

11:01 AM

Anonymous Joseph Greely said...

Still angry rantings of a conforming non-conformist, I see. That holier-than-thou traditionalism that takes you perhaps closer to the Roman church, but farther and farther from Christ. People will worship in ways that fill their hearts, yourself included. If feigning deafness and demonstrating a hypocritical piousness (cg, Scribes and Pharisees) fills your heart, then gladden in your ability to do so. Simply, though, do not criticise your neighbour for choosing a style apposite to your own, one which, apparently, has gathered the momentum of the majority.

Yes, people will worship and praise as they wish, even Wimsey, whose heart seems closed to the liturgy while open to the sin of ignoring the neighbour, and fraught with the fault of ignorance.

9:44 AM

Blogger justine said...

Any relation to Fr. Andrew?

1:03 PM

Blogger justine said...

Ah, different spelling. Nevermind.

1:03 PM

Blogger Patrick said...

Nice drive-by barrage, Mr. Greely. Any time. Ah, yes, the Majority, with its All Holy Assurance of Truth that comes with its own inviolable momentum. Pardon my lapse of memory: As everyone knows, the Roman church (always small c, eh, Joseph?) is fond of picking doctrine by majority vote, following the example of our Lord, who fervently polled Jerusalem voters before making any moral pronouncements.

To ranting, well, I plead guilty. But the accusation of "angry" cracks me up. Lighten up, sir. I just hope for your sake the members of non-Roman churches are sinless, or at least not so angry, hypocritical, Pharisaic, or holier-than-thou traditionalist.

NB: Apposite means "strikingly appropriate and relevant." I think you wanted to say opposite.

5:30 PM

Anonymous Joseph Greely said...

Typo Dude....Lighten up.

2:37 PM

Blogger Patrick said...

I've run across com boxers who are tone deaf to levity, but you take the prize, JG. You breathlessly piggyback on an innocuous post, label fellow com boxer Wimsey "open to the sin of ignoring neighbour" and "fraught with the fault of ignorance," and generally come off like a True and Authentic Christian [tm]. Physician, heal thy holier than thouness.

You're abundantly welcome at Seize the Dei, and even more welcome to disagree with any or all that I write, but please bring arguments to the table. Smarmy ad hominems get old.

And I was tweaking you about the typo. Sheesh.

10:50 AM

Anonymous One of Fourteen said...

It certaily seems that the ages of those holding hands in Mass are right about the same age as some of us non-contracepting Catholics whose hands are occupied holding the Lord's greatest blessing - children. Seems mostly a pathetic attmept to "feel" the spirituality of human touch that too many have contracepted themselves against.

1:16 PM

Blogger Patrick said...

Great insight, 1 of 14. I think you've nailed the age-range of the "warm 'n fuzzy, me 'n God 'n your soft hands" crowd. Maybe some kind of subtle, unconscious overcompensation going on to supplement the self-imposed lack of tiny hands to hold.

4:14 PM

Blogger Karen said...

I've been doing the head bowing/prayer hands/don't bother me thing for quite awhile now and it has worked for me all over the country, even in L.A.

I figure people think I'm a germaphobe, wich is fine with me.

6:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think my biggest problem with joseph greely's comment is the inclusion of a "u" in neighbor.


11:43 PM

Anonymous J. Greely said...

...nor does Karen get it. What does the 'head bow/ignore your neighbour' achieve for you? Piousness? Orthodoxy? Look-at-me-I-am-more-devout-than-you-ishness?

Good Lord folks...if your mind is occupied with thoughts of your stilted, artificial pose and cluttered with hopes that the least of your brothers will not grab your hand, then your hearts and minds are closed to 'thy will be done', and certainly to the coming of the Kingdom of God on Earth.

You sound like a gaggle of asses.

Lighten up.

11:42 AM

Blogger Patrick said...

In the Catholic Church, Joe, we have this little thing called obedience. It's not popular and it's seldom done with great love, but it's the virtue that saved us: Christ's obedience to his Father unto death.

Granted we're talking about a very minor issue, but since the divine Liturgy is intimately connected with the mystery of Christ's sacrifice, it follows that the faithful ought to obey the basic, easy-to-follow, perfectly reasonable and common sense guidelines when it comes to HOW to celebrate the great Sacrament properly.

Holding hands during the Our Father is lovely and sweet and tender -- at home or somewhere else. During Mass, though, the Church asks us not to do it. I've seen some uncomfortable-looking single young women cringe when the older single guy next to her enjoys reaching for the hand a tad too much. Do these people have bad colds, flu? Just wiped their nose? Just cleaned up cat shit before coming to Mass?

A no handing-holding rubric is so obviously sensible that, oh forget it.

Oh, dear. You say, "lighten up, asses" with a smug flair as though you're not the one who started in with the heaviness (and the judgmentalism) to a post and subsequent comments that were light by definition.

11:34 AM

Anonymous JOEY G said...


You seem to be picking a fight with me where none exists - certainly where I'd no intention of sparking one.

I do not disagree with any of the precedents of your most recent comment. You seem to have placed me into the hand-holding side of the 'we vs. them' debate, which is not a fair or accurate pigeon-holing. I am not necessarily an advocate for either side, but a rigid champion of the wishy-washy, gelatinous middle...the middle of the meek and humble.

The Sacred Liturgy, the Holy Mass, the Blessed Sacrament....the whens to sit, the whens to stand, the whens to kneel, the ifs or if nots to strike one's breast during the Agnus Dei, etc....these are NOT the inventions of the Christ. These are no proscriptions of Jesus. These are inventions of an institution and a self-serving, self-promoting heirarchy more interested in the Kingdom of the Church than they are in the Kingdom of God. Christ left here preaching the Kingdom of God, the Church picked up preaching the Kingdom of the Church. The two are not the same.

My point remains the same....if folks wish to hold hands during the Pater Noster because it makes them feel more proximal to the Kingdom of God...if reaching out for their neighbour is the result of the movement of limbs by the Spirit, then so be it. Christ never would have gotten caught up in a Church debate about what is and what is not proper behaviour in a Mass; he never would have proscribed a 'Mass' in the first place. He railed against stilted displays of devoutness, against public piousness, against open prayer. Head bowed, hands clasped during His prayer never would have been the advocated posture. His promotion would have been, well, something more akin to holding hands with those gathered in His name.

If nothing else, the point should be obvious that IF one is standing during the Our Father and feigning deafness, or incommunication, or rigidity in an effort to discourage their neighbour from taking their hand, then they are clearly NOT in a mode of prayer. Their hearts are closed, their minds are away from God, and they are in no way, shape, nor form accepting of the will of God or anticipatory of His Kingdom coming.

Again, whether you find too much gravity in my polemics, please lighten up. Open your hearts to your neighbours. Take their hand if offered...even squeeze it gently at the end. This is lightness. This is Christlike. The pose of Karen - probably with some lace, doily veil covering her head ala' 1931 - will simply make you look like an some stilted, arrogant, pious, hippocritical deviant. Which, come to think of it, is precisely in this matter what you indeed are.

7:22 AM

Anonymous Joey G. said...


Now that we've worn this out, let's debate something else. Start a new post/topic and we can weigh - and inveigh - back and forth.

Have a nice weekending.

Joey G.

7:26 AM

Blogger Patrick said...

A better idea, for all com box pontificators and friends: STICK WITH ONE NAME.

It's a real funny joke to play switcheroo and all, but no one can distinguish between Joseph Greely, J. Greely, and/or Joey G.

Your anti-Catholic barbs, superificial understanding of Liturgy, and nasty little ad hominens speak for themselves. Enjoy the moral high ground.

9:50 AM

Anonymous Joseph Greely said...

Superficial understanding of the Liturgy. Ah, my benighted little mooncalf...from where did you draw this conclusion? Anytime you want to bring your little-league, sophomoric half-a-brain and debate the Liturgy with me, well, more power to you.

And anti-Catholic? Really now. I am an ordained Catholic presbyter. Me thinks you are a fool....and an ass. Only one of each could have concluded that I am anti-Catholic.

Next topic, Clown.

4:57 PM

Anonymous Joseph Greely said...


Let me are a convert?

That would explain everything. Four months of OCIA and you're a theologian.


Or would be if not so pitiable.


5:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pat? Who the heck is Pat?

I am an ordained Catholic presbyter.

Haha! That explains a lot. Judging by your tone, your arrogance, and your inability to handle educated lay people and wishing they would just "pay and pray" and leave things to the "professionals" I bet I could guess your age within a decade.

Would that be a ROMAN Catholic "presbyter" or are you one them new fangled "American Catholics" or one of them old fangled "Old Catholics?"

PDP (Another Patrick)

11:00 PM

Anonymous Joseph Greely said...

At least we've no fear that PDP fits into the category of "educated", Catholic of otherwise.

Thanks for showing your ass.


6:11 AM


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