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Liturgical Catholics vs. 24/7 Catholics Print E-mail
By Bevil Bramwell, OMI   
Sunday, 09 September 2012

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When I speak publicly about the mission of lay Catholics, I sometimes get blank stares. Assuming that I am not boring people to death, it might be that their perspective on being Catholic is focused almost exclusively on being present at the liturgy.

This is understandable. The liturgy is a manageable quantity, so to speak. We know when it starts and when it finishes. No great demands are placed on us during the liturgy, at least at the most superficial level. And then we leave and get on with life.

In fact, bishops and priests are in the same boat. Although liturgy is time consuming and though it is the heart of some cleric’s lives, it is manageable especially if the servers know what they are doing.

But the Eucharist, for example, is never described in terms of being manageable or isolated from life. Rather, it is “the source and summit of the whole Christian life.” (Vatican II) The words “the whole Christian life” are consistent with the rest of the document, which speaks of things such as: “the faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join[ing] in the offering of the Eucharist. They likewise exercise that priesthood in receiving the sacraments, in prayer and thanksgiving, in the witness of a holy life, and by self-denial and active charity.”

This is relevant because I often have to deal with Catholics who, let us say, “pray on their knees on Sundays and prey on their neighbors the rest of the week.” The grotesque and highly offensive contrast between participating in the loving sacrifice of Christ at the Eucharist and the unloving sacrifice of others for one’s own advancement is disturbing to say the least.

But just on the question of being merely liturgical Catholics: no surveys in the United States show any difference between Catholics and the general population in terms of moral thinking. So I have to imagine that there are many merely liturgical Catholics.

For the most part, 24/7 Catholicism is missing. Vatican II sums up what the real thing means to lay people:

all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne – all these become “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Together with the offering of the Lord's body, they are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God.
How’s that for daily life?

It is a life framed by love, not the emotion but the love described by Saint Paul: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.” (I Corinthians 13:4-8)

There is self-sacrifice in each of these actions. And self-sacrifice clashes with the daily pressure to schedule everything. We frequently face unexpected decisions that do not fit on a schedule – to help this person, to find a dollar for that person, to listen to so-and-so, to stand up and speak.

All of this is inconvenient – and even risky. But we follow someone who was crucified, and crucifixion is highly inconvenient. A good test of our level of Catholicism is whether it is inconvenient or not.

Of course, clergy face exactly the same challenge. By Baptism clergy are to be followers of Christ 24/7. Clergy have the additional office of teaching, to bridge the liturgical experience and daily life and then they have to live it out themselves. Christ did not die so that clergy could enjoy brandy and cigars, or become interior decorators. Christ died so that they could constantly preach the Gospel.

Happily, the HHS mandates now threatening religious liberty have driven some 24/7 Catholic business people to stand up publicly just as we have providentially seen generations of 24/7 Catholics building families who consecrate the world to God.

Of course, there is no guarantee that these business people will inevitably do better than those who cut corners and treat their employees like Kleenex. There are too many variables in the business world. But from many points of view, including service to their customers, the quality of life of their employees and the service of the company to society, they shine, as the 24/7 Catholic families do.

Yes, the Eucharist is an incomparable moment of grace but the rest of the day is for cooperating with that grace in the other things – all the other things – of life.

Bevil Bramwell
, priest of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, teaches theology at Catholic Distance University. He holds a Ph.D. from Boston College and works in the area of ecclesiology.
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Comments (9)Add Comment
written by Deacon Ed Peitler, September 09, 2012
It seems to me that everyone who calls himself "Catholic" needs to answer one question - "How do you participate in the Church's mission?"

If the response is a dazed look, or another question, "What's the Church's mission?" then we know the work that needs to be done.
written by Deacon Ed Peitler, September 09, 2012
Hint: The answer: "Attending Mass on Sunday" is NOT the Church's mission.
written by Jack,CT, September 09, 2012
The Authenticity of a good Catholic is "subjective",right Father?I will use St Therese our little flowers words of the day"frequently only silence can exspess my prayer".I read that from her site for todays reflection,seems relevent to what you are saying.
written by Fr. Bramwell, September 09, 2012
No Jack, it is objective. Check a person's schedule, ask a few questions - you can tell pretty much immediately how much participation in the Church's mission is going on.
written by Achilles, September 09, 2012
Fr. Bramwell, Stunning, stirring, violent call to arms! Do we sleep for the same reasons as the Apostles in the Garden? I think so. To wake up to the grief of this vale of tears is terribly inconvenient.

Thank you for the wonderful essay, its contents have found their way to a class on spiritual warfare. It is hard to know if this is true, but each successive essay you post seems as powerful or more than the last. Pax Christi Vobiscum, Achilles
written by Sherry, September 09, 2012
It is convenient to lump us into an either or camp, but the reality is probably that we are neither 24/7 nor solae mass time only. Those who only attend on Sunday are having their fires fade, those who seek Christ will find Him at first creeping into other areas of their life, and then overflowing entirely, but it is also a question of the individual soal seeking this. Sometimes we are, and sometimes we are not and many/most of us who do not live lifes suffused in sanctifying grace, find ourselves grubbily trying to live this out with multiple falls each week, each day owing to our own reluctance to not be attached to security, to our desire to carve our own path rather than follow the will of God. If the apostles, blessed with His presence, could fall asleep, it is only grace that rouses us from our stupor.
written by Bangwell Putt, September 09, 2012
With regard to "attending Mass on Sunday": The Rev. Deacon's comment is certainly correct for any person who views attending Mass as a ceremonial duty.

In his Apostolic Exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis", Pope Benedict addressed Bishops, Clergy, Consecrated Persons, and the Lay Faithful on the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church's Life and Mission" providing believers with a rich and beautiful understanding of the Catholic belief that "In the sacrament of the altar, the Lord meets us, men and women created in God's image and likeness and becomes our companion along the way."

"In the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus shows us in particular the truth about the love which is the very essence of God. It is this evangelical truth which challenges each of us and our whole being. For this reason, the Church, which finds in the Eucharist the very centre of her life, is constantly concerned to proclaim to all, opportune importune, that God is love."

In this context we are able to return to his title of this exhortation and understand the Mass as the "Source and Summit of the Church's Life and Mission".
written by Wills, September 10, 2012
I used to ask my confirmation class,"What did you do diffrent this week because you are Catholic?"
written by Matthew P. Schneider, LC, September 10, 2012
A good way to present one side, but the more one lives as a 24/7 Catholic, the more liturical one becomes. The Eucharist is the "source and summit of Christian life." (CCC)

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