Posted by: cmittermeier | April 12, 2012

The Need for Perfection in Correction

Today a link crossed my path, the religious equivalent of “Can you believe she’s wearing white after labour-day?”, to which your co-worker replies, “Its cream, but the skirt is above the knee” and the offender chimes in with, “my boss has never complained about my skirts before, I thought it was whimsical”.

What do we do when those who we think should know better don’t?

Some of us, myself included go to the letter of the law and make sure the offense is justified.  I have from time to time been interested in the words consecrated, scrupulous and sacrilegious, but today I had to know where the legal lines were.  For the first word within minutes it was very obvious the situation was not revolving around a consecrated object… those can’t be sold, if they are they are no longer consecrated.  But there were two other words that I was reviewing.

For the record I have been accused of being sacrilegious: when speaking on the importance of teaching our children the value of the blessed sacrament I was informed because I was speaking out loud in front of the blessed sacrament I was being sacrilegious.  My accuser had been taught in front of the blessed sacrament only silent prayer was allowed.  I’m a newbie, I’ve been wrong before, so I went to my superiors and checked.  After much reassurance, I was given formal links and no, I was not involved in a sacrilegious act that time. I learned a lot from that experience.

Unlike the word consecrated, the lines to sacrilege are not so easily defined.  Sacrilegious has a slightly subjective element.  Like the line between venial and mortal sin, there is an aspect of fore-knowledge. Lets say my mother had a chapel veil that had been blessed by a priest on the day of her first communion and then put away in her drawer.  Fast forward to her grandchildren going through estate, one likes the lace and cuts the chapel veil up to use over her lampshade.  They may have never seen a chapel veil, or know its significance.  What if it wasn’t the grandchildren, but the daughter who knew the story of the veil who made it into a lampshade? What if knowing that it was a blessed item the daughter choose to burn it out of spite?  What if it was burned along with all the items that had touched the grandmother during a fatal illness?

The situation I was looking at today was not so clear cut for me.  The actions were certainly questionable, but nothing I found gave me any indication that the those in charge had any idea what they were really doing.  The direct quote was, “I just thought it was cool stuff”.  I saw a lack of formation, others saw sacrilege.  Just because someone is a grown adult and says they were raised in the Catholic church does not mean they have any clue what they are doing.  We live in a world where its expected to have slept with your spouse (and others I might add) before marriage – think about that folks – we are expected to put ourselves in mortal sin… and you want to tell me that some bloke who liked the play on words “Ale Mary” actually saw it as anything but, well, a play on words?

Symbolic items carry meaning, and consecrated or not, if it looks like a sacred object you don’t treat it like its nothing.  This is what we need to somehow get across. We are all knowledgeable people, can’t we think of some great expository piece (or maybe a word on fire video) to send to the owners so they see what they are doing?

I would love to know what people would do if the situation was different… what if they had meant the monstrance to refer back to Christ?  What if under the monstrance they had placed a quote, “Where two or three are gathered, so too am I” and added, “Remember, you’re drinking with Christ”.  As Christians, we are to live like he’s with us every single moment, Jesus feasted, Jesus drank wine… if someone reminded us that when we sit in a bar he was there with us, how would we have reacted?  There are lines I’m sure this is crossing… but are we well-formed enough to articulate them, even to ourselves?  I will give you a hint… in the early church, the mass started to become a free for all, and one of the early leaders reminded the offending church that the mass was not be widen to a full meal… bonus points to the folks who can answer that faux pas I stepped right into!  As much as I love the idea of drinking with Christ, the symbols of the mass are reserved and I am in error for crossing that line, even if it was just in my head.


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