Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Being Catholic holds terrible temptations for me.

I have a tendency to “intellectualize” everything, to break it down into analytical bits, that can easily be placed in boxes. This has the marvelous effect of preventing me from suffering any pain when things don’t work out. All I really need to do is build another box: bigger; smaller; a different shape. It doesn’t really matter, so long as there is a box to put things in.

Catholicism plays right into that. Check out all 9,000,000 pages of the Catechism is you don’t believe me. Everything has a box in there, and I do mean everything. Likewise, the rituals. The formality and structure of the liturgy, the fact that the Ordo has a plan for pretty much any eventuality in it, all provide a nice set of storage devices. If you aren’t sure what to do, there’s almost surely a rule that, if followed, will be correct 99 and 44/100 percent of the time, and it will keep you 99 and 44/100 percent pure, too.

We’ve got it all, really. Yes, there are lots of details to learn, but heck, that part’s easy. Go to Confession. Go to Mass. Receive the Eucharist. Put your hands and legs in the appropriate position depending on the moment (all handily noted in your missalette). Tut-tut at the decline of the culture. Speak disapprovingly about abortion. Mumble about divorce. Throw a couple except bucks in the basket at Christmas and Easter, and, if you really want a self-approving rush, take a little tag off the Giving Tree during Advent.


Except absolutely none of that makes a bit of difference if your heart isn’t in it. None. It’s all just formality, empty people saying empty lines, in a grand play. But it gets so complicated, sometimes, that it really is possible to think that all this belching and farting and scratching is really the Faith.

There really is a grand irony that a religion founded in part because a worship of the Law had replaced worship of the Lawgiver should wind up with so very many rules written in such tiny type.

As I said: being Catholic in itself holds so very many temptations for one such as I.


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