At the heart of Catholic culture must be the parish. Here, members of the faithful, ideally, undergo instruction (The family, of course, ought to supplement this!), either, when possible, through the Catholic schools or, otherwise, through CCD programs. The should share in worship, in celebration, and in community. They should also be inspired — in multifarious ways. Doubtless, many fine examples remain, but my experience suggests that most parishes lack in any or all of these, serving as a one-hour-weekly (maybe two when a Holy Day of Obligation emerges on the calendar.) stop for Catholics too busy working too many hours, trying to raise families, and attempting, once in a while, to enjoy leisure (but usually willingly, but wittingly, substituting mere entertainment). How Catholics can be expected to live in all ways a life that Catholicism permeates when such chaos abounds is beyond my comprehension.
As I noted at the beginning of Part I, I missed out on learning a pretty banal, but important bit of Church teaching; this is not the only thing I failed to learn in eight years of CCD and a ninth year in Confirmation preparation. I was, I should note, probably the most eager, and certainly one of the most capable, of my cohort; that many of my peers have strayed, to some extent or another, since high school should surprise no one. In those nine years (even in the ultimate, taught by my the-parish priest, an intellectual, orthodox priest now serving in California), I never heard the word “Magisterium“, read anything directly from the Catechism, learned even the faintest about Catholic Social Teaching, or had suggested to me that certain types of music were more appropriate for the Mass than others. (I was fortunate enough — and still am — that my parish eschews the use of the guitar, piano, or other less worthy instrument, and still employs a typically marvelously played organ. (My grandmother manipulated the keys, switches, and pedals in the loft of Ss. Cyril & Methodius for sixty-five years!) However, I never heard Gregorian chant, and experienced only a few bits of Latin, at some of the more beautiful Masses held in the church before Fr. John Zemelko — in rehab last I knew and wholly unfit to wear the collar — did everything within his incapacity to take the Roman Catholicism out of the parish.)
Maybe, with the benefit of hindsight, I expect too much of my home parish in rural Indiana; I don’t think so, though. Perhaps Fr. Mazza hesitated to inculcate into us any more than was absolutely essential for us to be confirmed because he knew that for eight years, our religious instruction, though proffered by well-meaning parishioners, was wholly insufficient, having been proffered by generally unprepared, inadequately educated parishioners. ‘Twas the blind leading the young and blind. This, I fear, is a desperately systemic problem in the Catholic Church, one resulting from years of spiraling away from Roman Catholicism into the amorphous pseudo-religion known as American Catholicism. Under the current parish priest (and, maybe, sloppily, under the recently removed Fr. Zemelko), a Catechism study group has started — We also seem now to have Eucharistic Adoration, though it occurs at a mercilessly early hour.
Not only in instruction in the Faith did Ss. Cyril and Methodius fail me , but also in providing a true Catholic community . Save the annual parish picnic, at the town park, I can recall few instances of anything resembling true community in the parish. I suppose that all-youth band that performed carols before Midnight Mass for a few years counts for something, but that was exceedingly exclusive and fleeting. Every Father’s Day morning, as part of North Judson’s annual (but perpetually purportedly dying) Mint Festival, the Church (specifically the Knights of Columbus, I think) hosts a pancake breakfast, which brings together members of the parish and stimulates formal interaction with the community at-large. Within the last decade, parishioners have organized a chapter of the K. of C. and St. Vincent de Paul Society, both worthy additions to the parish, but neither sufficient to facilitate and to sustain a rich parish life. No annual church festival; no Knights of Columbus (drinking) hall; no parish drinking festivals; nothing to celebrate the rich Czech, Italian, and German heritages of the parish.
All of these struggles, and Ss. C&M at least has the benefit of being situated on a traditional gridded street system in our (small, humble) downtown, on the same block as the US Post Office, a diner, a bank, a funeral home, and Ray’s Super Foods. Of course, in a small, withering rural community dominated less by the original “ethnic” Whites and more by Kentucky transplants of English and Scots-Irish extraction, and various Protestant religions, maintaining a vibrant Catholic culture isn’t easy. Especially when the parish decided to strip down and to whitewash the interior of a once gorgeous church in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.
1. It is absolutely imperative that I note that, despite the criticisms I provide herein, I absolutely cherish Ss. Cyril & Methodius, that I did develop much there (especially under Fr. Mazza, without whose encouragement I may never have applied to Notre Dame, for whom I for many years served the altar — most of those years, without those unbearable intruders known as “altar girls”), and that, as I point out in the text, much of what I lament is systemic, and not an isolated issue at Ss. C&M.
2. Moreover, I do still retain some sort of kinship with those with whom I matriculated through the CCD program, even if many have slid away from the Church, and I rarely see, or even communicate, with any of them. Working in the grocery store, I also built upon relationships with customers who would have been otherwise quasi-foreign to me, save that they, too belong, to Ss. C&M.
Filed under: Abortion, Architecture, Catholic Social Teaching, Culture, Education, Music, New Urbanism, Roman Catholicism | Tagged: CCD, John Zemelko, Mark Mazza, Melczek, North Judson, Second Vatican Council | Leave a comment »