Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hey Lady, that ain't a breadbox you just walked by!

So I'm in St. Louis earlier this week and I find myself across the street from the Old Cathedral with a half-hour to myself. A nice opportunity to go spend some time in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the same church from which Fr. DeSmet and countless other Catholic missionaries departed to bring the Faith to the American West.

So I slip over there.

I tug on the door, and it's open. And I'm pleased to see that there's some semblance of order and tradition in the arrangement of the place. Some goofy stuff here and there (the ambo, for instance), but still an altar rail, and a central tabernacle, and a raised altar on which a traditional Mass could be celebrated...still obviously Catholic.

And so I'm rather settled in before the Real Presence there, and I'm midway through the mystery of the Presentation when this older, heavy-set woman in a sleeveless shirt comes wandering out of the sacristy, across the sanctuary, and kicks herself over the velvet rope spanning the central gap in the altar rail. She comes down to me and tells me (with maybe slightly more regard as she just showed our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament) that I'll have to go; she's locking up. I watched her waddle back to the Church and hold the door open waiting on me to leave (again with nary a glance at the tabernacle).

Somehow I bit my tongue, but now I wished I wouldn't have. HEY LADY, THAT AIN'T A BREADBOX YOU JUST WALKED BY, that's the Creator and the Saviour of the World, Who humbled Himself to become a creature. And you can't even humble yourself acknowledge His presence with even so much as a novus-ordo nod to the tabernacle?

Or perhaps, despite the burning sanctuary lamp, He wasn't there at all? Maybe she knows something I don't about the way the sacraments are "celebrated" there? If so, at least she didn't give Him any offense, and it really was just a fancy breadbox.

Argh. Once again I'm reminded of the state of the rest of the Church. God bless Archbishop Burke for trying to restore the Faith in St. Louis, but what regard can people have for the Church when they have no regard for her Founder? Especially people who apparently have some role to play in the upkeep of a holy place that's been designated Bascilica?

I'm not sure I could ever go back in the Old Cathedral now. Next time I'll find a full hour and drive down to St. Francis de Sales.


Delena said...

I've been trying to figure out if I should comment on this post. I don't like confrontation (and that includes blog confrontation), but it's been bothering me for a few days now.
Let me first start off by saying that I think the woman you speak of in this post should have acted in a more respectful way toward the Blessed Sacrament and to you. She obviously didn't handle it the best way.
I'm curious, though, and a bit disheartened as to why you felt the need to describe her in the way you did. You describe her as being "heavy-set" and that you "watched her waddle back to the Church...". Does this way of describing her add anything to your story? If she would have been tall and thin, would you have described her as "skinny" and that she "glided" or "walked briskly" toward the back of the Church? I feel your description of her was uncalled for.
Second, you become upset with her for the way she walked past the Blessed Sacrament (hence the breadbox paragraph), and you begin to defend our Lord. At the end of your post, though, you mention how you're not sure you could ever go back in the Old Cathedral now. I would think returning to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament for the woman who offended you would be reason enough.
Last, you mention that she couldn't even humble herself to "acknowledge His presence with even so much as a novus-ordo nod to the tabernacle." I don't think it's fair to generalize novus-ordo attendees with nodding at the tabernacle. I know people who attend the novus-ordo Mass who are very respectful and genuflect deeply. To just sum them ALL up with a comment like that is, I feel, not fully accurate. I mentioned this post to my mother-in-law, and she made a good point: Some people can't genuflect (due to arthritis, knee surgeries, back pain, etc.) and therefore they MUST bow or "nod" toward the tabernacle. We don't always know the circumstances behind everyone's situations in life, and I don't think we should just automatically assume that they're being disrespectful.
A recent comment over at Kansas City Catholic has really made me think. The writer states, "I sense a tone of superiority and even smugness when I hear people talk about the TLM...". Also, there are people who think TLM-attendees are smug and superior toward people who DON'T attend the TLM (i.e.--novus-ordo attendees). I can't help but wonder if this post and the attitude that goes with it is helping or hurting the view toward the TLM population.
God Bless.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed the post; the old cathedral looks so cute and small next to the arch. Nonetheless, I think you are being ungrateful about what the cathedral looked like.
And I'm pleased to see that there's some semblance of order and tradition in the arrangement of the place. Some goofy stuff here and there (the ambo, for instance), but still an altar rail, and a central tabernacle, and a raised altar on which a traditional Mass could be celebrated...still obviously Catholic.
At Assumption College, our chapel was tailor-made for Vatican II, and features all the "goofy stuff" and none of the pluses. I would kill for a second tabernacle. Still, I do think your description of the woman added something; from my experience, women of that build are often former hippies and Vatican II zealots. Still, it was a bit mean, and I wouldn't have used it.

Rae said...

While I understand your frustration, Curmudgeon (such treatment would upset me, too!!), I have to agree that this post does not show traditional Catholicism in a positive light. If, after adoring Christ in the Blessed Sacrament--as traditional Catholics do to show their love for Him--a person immediately vents mean-spirited and uncharitable thoughts toward others whom Christ also loves (such as this woman), it re-inforces the stereotype (unfortunately present among many Novus Ordo Catholics!) that TLM communities are filled with bitter, self-righteous hypocrites and Pharisees. (By gratuitously pointing out this woman's weight on a public forum, are *you* showing reverence for Christ??)

While I believe that the TLM, adoration, and so forth do in fact help us on the way to perfection, I would not know it from reading this post.... Please keep in mind that, in the wake of the Motu Proprio, many Novus Ordo Catholics may be turning to the internet and its bloggers for information about the TLM, traditional Catholicism, and the sort of people whom they might meet at a Latin Mass.

Of course, I've said and written many uncharitable things myself....! (Mea maxima culpa.) I think that I do/did a lot of this in order to (sort of) present my conservative credentials, so that other traditionalists would accept me as sharing their opinions... But I think that I'm gradually beginning to see the value of being a bit more cautious, a bit more aware of how Novus Ordo friends and readers might form their opinions of traditional Catholicism in part upon my example.

I'm sorry if I'm lecturing...! Will you please pray for me--pray that I might be able to keep my own advice in mind? :)

Citizen of Hippo said...

I mentioned this post to my mother-in-law. And she said some people cannot genuflect because they are too fat.

Just kidding. (Another stereotype in need of dispelling is that traddies have no sense of humor. Ha ha.)

Curmudgeon, being true to the literay art, simply gave his readers the visual imagery needed to fully appreciate the moment.

Just be thankful the good blogger takes after Evelyn Waugh rather than someone James Michener (who could take 30 pages just decsribing a scene).

Can you image 30 pages describing the woman at the Old Cathedral.

By the way Curmudgeon, you may delete this if it is inappropriate...but I must disclose that Mrs. Hippo and I almost got married in that old cathedral.

Dymphna said...

Ever notice that the church ladies usually tend to be either fat and wearing strech pants or lumpy and covered in shapeless denim or corduroy jumpers? Where did these women come from and why are they all so grumpy?