There's this thing out there that drives me crazy. I call it religious hobbyism. It's where religion is your hobby, but you don't actually practice it like a religion.
In this category would be attending every "cool" liturgy you can find, Eastern Rite, Extraordinary Form, what-have-you, but if you can't find a "cool" Mass to go to, just skipping.
It's walking out of every Mass with a list of pros and cons: "I did like the homily, but did you notice they didn't say the correct prayers for the day?" "Yes, that's true, but did you get a look at that thurible?!"
It's being always at the ready to participate in a theological debate, but being an arrogant jerk the whole time. It's skipping your prayer time so that you can put the smackdown on someone who's wrong about a fine point of doctrine.
Also known as "totally missing the point."
But as I was reflecting on this tendency, I began to feel this niggling little discomfort inside. Because I'm not free of this. Like, not at all. I was lecturing someone on Facebook today as to how wonderful it is that Pope Francis is choosing to wash the feet of prison inmates on Holy Thursday, thus showing us the importance of performing the corporal works of mercy, when Marko came and hung on me, demanding something to eat. And I thought, "Feeding the hungry is also a corporal work of mercy, and here I am, too obsessed with being right to feed my own children." So I got up and gave him a cookie. I did finish my comment after, but I toned it down a lot because I was starting to really think. Why do I do this? Is it because I truly want these people to know Christ instead of picking at the Pope for wearing black shoes? Or is it because I personally like the Pope so much and feel so defensive of him that it's become more important to be right then to respect their own journey?
Because we all are bad Catholics. I know I am. I've said it often: I stink at being Catholic. I haven't prayed the Rosary of my own free will in years. Christ died for us while we were still sinners, and I can't even forgive my own husband unless he's the first one to apologize. I have been known to say to a sick child in the middle of the night, "Stop crying or we won't have any fun tomorrow!" Which corporal work of mercy is that?
I'm not sure I know the cure. In some ways discussing theology at all appears to be an occasion of sin for me. I get freaked out: "What! Non-Catholics all go to hell?! I didn't know that! I can't imagine a good God would do that!" I spend days in a state of angst and doubt. And then I look it up in the catechism and find out that oops, I was right the first time, it is quite possible for non-Catholics to go to heaven. The Good Thief was never baptized with water either. (Look it up, #846 and following. So awesome! And also happened to be what I already believed, which is nice.)
But on the other hand, these discussions do draw me deeper into understanding. And understanding doctrine is, in its essence, understanding God. Is God the sort of person who would damn someone to hell for all eternity for not knowing better? No, he is not. And when I find this out, I am drawn to love him more, to keep asking him that all important question, "Who are you, anyway?"
But it's always going to be a constant fight. Humility vs. pride, obsession with being right vs. focus on doing right, speaking or listening. It's hard. In a way we're all religious hobbyists, we're all material heretics, we all miss the point. The crucial thing is not to give up on the battle, but to keep fighting, to keep asking myself, "Is this what God would do? Is this what God wants? Am I missing the point again?"
Two good articles that have called me on this tendency lately: Unclean and There Ain't No Pure Church. I tell you, without Simcha Fisher and Mark Shea to tell it like it is, I don't know where I'd be.
I think this is the last "Catholic post" for a bit. My apologies to those of you who are waiting for pictures of cute babies.