Reasonable Reply

Your article Celebrating Good Liturgy, by Nathan D. Mitchell, (5/10) reminded me of a Mass I attended in Costa Rica years ago. During the Mass a barefoot man played My Old Kentucky Home on his violin. I thought it was a strange selection for a Mass.

My brother Neil, military attaché at the U.S. Embassy, asked the violinist why he chose that song. He answered that he played that song better than any other song he knew and therefore was the one he wanted to play for God. The reply seemed reasonable to me.


Joseph N. Sweeney
Chevy Chase, Md.

One Woman’s View

Why Go to Mass? by John F. Baldovin, S.J., (5/10) presents one man’s view of the validity and value of attending weekly Mass. The Mass should be all that Father Baldovin describes, and more. The unfortunate reality is that many Catholics are unable to ignore the ways in which attending Mass misses the mark. As a Catholic woman, wife and mother, I ask the same question as Father Baldovin, but our responses are generated from different vantage points.

When I attend Mass I see a blatant disregard of the teachings of Jesus Christ. I see a structure that is trying desperately to perpetuate itself and preserve a male-dominated climate. At Mass, I sit beside women and men who are being denied their baptismal right to share their gifts and charisms for the betterment of the Christian community. At Mass, I pray beside the homosexual, whose lifestyle is the subject of a substandard homily by an overworked and inept priest.

On my way to receive Communion, I climb over the divorced mother of four who is not allowed to receive the Eucharist but diligently takes her children to weekly Mass and religious education classes. During the sign of peace, I shake hands with another attendee who is not welcome to receive the Eucharist, the politician whose political positions are in contrast with the opinions of the institutional church.

At Mass we, the laity, are told that new and important procedures will help enhance our worship experience and maintain an atmosphere of respect for the Eucharist. We are instructed on the proper way to approach the table of the Lord and how and when to sit and stand, all in the name of respect.

The Mass for me is a constant reminder of all that Jesus was not. The Scriptures that I read portray a loving, empathic Jesus who welcomes all, has gifted all with multiple charisms through the power of the Holy Spirit, shared bread and wine with sinners and who kicked back with society’s outcasts, forming a community with and for those very people. Unlike Father Baldovin, many Catholics do not experience the Mass as a foretaste of that perfectly joyful rest. The life and ministry of Jesus was based upon love, forgiveness, equality and justice. As Catholics, we have a responsibility to settle for nothing less, including the way we worship.

Nancy F. Gallagher
Quincy, Mass.

Requirement or Hint?

John F. Baldovin, S.J., (5/10) offers 10 reasons for going to Mass. Fine and dandy, but he fails to mention the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days under pain of serious sin. Is that the 11th reason, or perhaps the first? At least it should be mentionedunless it’s been deleted, in which case I hadn’t heard. In that sense, we are not so much invited as required to participate in God’s redeeming act. A requirement produces better results than a hint.

Walter A. Coyne
Los Angeles, Calif.

Moving Beyond

Having read Christ-ianity and Church-ianity, by John C. Haughey, S.J., (5/24), may I offer my own take on the slowness of Catholics to speak openly about the faith and their own personal experience of it. As a priest of 42 years, I have been perplexed by our people’s inability to pray in public, apart from safe, memorized prayers and the lack of public witness to Christ’s presence in their lives.

The church in America was culturally formed by the countless bishops. priests and religious who traced their roots to Irish Catholicism. While tenacious in their fidelity to the faith, the terrible years of oppression and penal laws in the mother country developed a deliberate reticence to display religion to outsiders. The practice of the faith, while deep and devoted, rarely showed its face outside the home or the parish. Silence in church, so strictly enjoined on children of earlier generations, has made participation in Mass so reticent. Until Renew and other movements made it possible, public improvised prayer was something only Protestants did and Catholics had to learn.

Irish-American Catholicism was a tradition I shared growing up. While my opinion intends no slur on that noble faith-style, I contend that we are just now moving beyond it, thanks to ecumenism, the charismatic renewal and newer ecclesiologies. Let every spirit praise the Lord!

(Msgr.) William E. Biebel
Erie, Pa.

Links and Distance

Christ-ianity and Church-ianity, by John C. Haughey, S.J., (5/24) is an insightful contribution to the cultural conversation about the links (and distance between) evangelicals and Catholics. Here in the South the differences seem much smaller than in the Northeast, and the arts may be partly responsible. For example, Catholics here grow up listening to (and enjoying) radio-friendly Christian rock and pop, and I believe this contributes to their growing willingness to talk about a personal relationship with Jesus. Our diocesan radio station is indistinguishable in musical content from the many local Christian evangelical stations, and most teens tune in at least occasionally. If you grow up absorbing the evangelical fervor of concerts by, say, the Newsboys or Rebecca St. James, you quite naturally become more willing to express your faith in public. Teens and adults who regularly attend Life Teen Masses also hear and respond to this music, lending something of the old charismatic feel to these Masses.

Finally, I concur with Father Haughey’s insight regarding the personally appropriated word. It seems to me that exposure to Sacred Scripture plays a large role in whether Catholics are willing to make confessional statements. Invariably, in the mega-parish I serve, I find that Catholics young and old who spend time regularly with the Bible and attend Bible classes and discussions are much more comfortable with professing that they both love Jesus and seek to follow his call in their lives.

While there is much for Catholics to be wary of in the evangelical movement (obsession with the rapture, and the geopolitical consequences of such obsession, for one thing), we can indeed learn much from the simpler, more overtly emotive faith of our evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ.

Gregory Byrne
Brandon, Fla.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
14 years 5 months ago
The magazine needs a commentator like Nancy F. Gallagher to shake up too many clerics who are out of touch with reality. True Servants of the Church listen twice and preach once.
11 years 11 months ago
The article by John C. Haughey, S.J., “Christ-ianity and Church-ianity” (5/24) was right on the mark. And Msgr. William E. Biebel’s letter, “Moving Beyond” (7/5), provides good insight on why we Roman Catholics are not comfortable being personal in our expression of faith. Although I have second-generation Boston-Irish roots, my 40-plus years of ministry among African-Americans have opened me to a deeper meaning of faith, praying with enthusiasm and celebrating with a joyful spirit.

African-American Catholic spirituality centers on personal faith, the Scripture, community and joyfulness. It is a treasure for the church. When will it be discovered and promoted by our church leaders, pastors, teachers and writers? It is the New Evangelization!

14 years 5 months ago
The magazine needs a commentator like Nancy F. Gallagher to shake up too many clerics who are out of touch with reality. True Servants of the Church listen twice and preach once.


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