Parish pilgrimage blog: Day 1

I know I typically lack patience when I ask God for things. I can never understand why he doesn’t answer my prayers right away, especially when I am sure that what I am praying for is something good and holy. Of course, I understand that if God is making me wait for something, he must have a good reason. He is omniscient, all-powerful and infinitely loving, so if whatever I am praying for isn’t happening, there has to be some greater purpose being fulfilled in making me wait, or even in saying no to my petition altogether.

This morning I found myself thinking about how often I make God wait for my “yes.” I often fall into an incredibly backward view of how my relationship with God ought to work. I didn’t create God from nothing, I don’t know everything — I am much closer to knowing nothing than I am to knowing what God knows — I don’t have the infinite love for God that he has for me, and I am not the Lord of the Universe. Yet, when I petition God, so often I act like he owes me an answer.

Of course, when God ask me for something — when my Creator, the one to whom I owe my very existence, who loves me infinitely and knows everything about everything, such that anything he asks of me will for good — I need to think about it. I treat him like a door-to-door salesman — “Gee, this looks like a great offer, but let me think about it and get back to you. Don’t call me — I’ll call you.”

So it was a few months ago when I had an idea for a new blog. I was at Mass, listening to one my parish priests talk about his recent pilgrimage to Lourdes, Fatima and Rome. I was a little envious, but I knew that I didn’t have the time or money for that sort of pilgrimage right now. But then an idea popped into my head — I could make my own pilgrimage locally by visiting every parish in my diocese for Mass, and I could journal about each visit.

I shared the idea with a few friends, all of whom thought that it sounded like a great idea. I went to a several Masses at other parishes around the diocese and even wrote rough drafts about a couple of them, but I felt unready to post them.

I think the main reason I hesitated was that I wasn’t sure what these journal entries ought to be. I knew I didn’t want to write “critiques” of the parishes. I remember years ago coming across a blog called “The Roamin’ Catholic,” in which the writer basically went to Masses at different parishes and wrote about how well the priests and the congregations adhered to the rubrics, which never up to par for him. To be fair, I also loathe when priests don’t follow the rubrics, but I know that parishes are often like families, and I would never show up as a guest in someone’s house and then write a blog about everything they did wrong in their home.

So, initially, my thought was to keep everything positive, and just reflect on how God spoke to me through each parish. I thought this was a good idea until I went to my third Mass on this journey at a church that was barely recognizable as such, in which the deacon giving the homily actually told the congregation, “You are the Holy Spirit.” This struck me as so outrageous that I really couldn’t reflect on anything else that morning. I couldn’t bring myself to put a positive spin on that.

Besides, I am not being paid to write free PR for these parishes, and who would want to read it if I did? What value would that have for anyone?

That’s when I shelved the whole project. I didn’t see a way to write reflections about these parishes without coming across as rude and judgmental, but also without being artificially positive. Indeed, artificial enthusiasm is part of what is wrong with the Church today. Some people within the Church are saying and doing things that they shouldn’t be saying and doing, and there is an attitude that we should all just smile and sing “Kumbaya” together. Or even “Imagine.” This is the kind of attitude that leads to situations, like, I don’t know, the pope blessing pagan idols in the Vatican garden and giving tacit approval as people prostrate themselves before them. Or deacons telling congregations that they, themselves, are the Holy Spirit.

Lately I have found the project on my mind again. I still feel like it is something God wants me to do, for whatever reason. This morning I felt compelled to go visit another parish and get this project going again. I went on and found a Mass 8:15 a.m. and got in the car to head over. After hitting some traffic, I realized I wasn’t going to make it on time so I quickly looked up another Mass time at a red light. I ended up at St. Anne in Santa Ana, which had an 8:30 Mass..

The homily, given by a deacon, struck me as particularly apropos, given what had prompted me to go to that parish for Mass this morning. The deacon primarily reflected on today’s first reading, Romans 12:5-16, which discusses, among other things, the different roles the faithful play as members of the body of Christ. He urged us to use the gifts we’ve been given to the best of our ability, and to do whatever we discern that God is calling us to do.

I still don’t know exactly what shape this blog will take, but I feel called to write it. In any event, going to a couple of extra Masses every week can’t be a bad thing, and maybe God has plans for me that I cannot yet see.

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