Every year since so returned to the Church I dread the Feast of the Holy Family. I don’t come from a pious family, nor am I married, but instead chose to live a life of perpetual virginity under a private vow. Furthermore, priest after priest at my Latin Mass Parish preach on families, specifically being large, pious, Holy little do-gooders who are the “building blocks of the Church”. Every year I’m left feeling even more like an outsider, despite spending hours each week volunteering my time to our Latin Mass Community to my own personal detriment at times (never once receiving so much as a “thank-you”) who is tolerated at the Latin Mass who should either be married with at least 5 children by now or in a convent. Every year on this Sunday I leave Mass depressed and feeling like a Catholic failure.
Where do Catholics such as myself fit in to the Church? I don’t feel like I belong or am welcomed (unless there’s a need for volunteers, which has left me feeling stressed and stretched thin).
GUEST PRIEST RESPONSE: Fr. T. Ferguson
I hesitate to appear cold and unfeeling, and in some ways, am very sympathetic to the interlocutor. Much of parish life can seem to be focused on families, and those who are not in traditional families can seem to be left out.
Yet, much of parish life is focused on families because much of the parish is taken up by… families. Families, especially large, pious, holy, do-gooder type families ARE the building blocks of the Church. Their involvement in parish life can make or break a parish, and they way they raise their children provide amply for the future of the Church (future husbands and wives, future priests and religious, and yes, future privately vowed virgins).
The one Sunday out of 52 on which the Church focuses on the Holy Family, and sets Jesus, Mary, and Joseph up as the model for all families does not seem to be excessive.
Do lay people feel “left out” on Holy Thursday, when the Church focuses on the great gift of the priesthood? Do those Catholics who are not priests feel like outsiders or failures because they are not priests? I hope not.
Do married people feel left out on the myriad of feast days which celebrate vowed celibate saints? There are only a smattering of saints in the General Roman Calendar who were married, and most of these are saints not because of their marriages, but because of saintly activities after their spouse died (e.g. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Elizabeth of Hungary)
It is easy to paint oneself into a demographic corner wherein it seems that everyone else gets attention, and everyone else’s efforts are valued, while no one like oneself is honored (and therefore one is not honored). That temptation is from the Evil One, intent on making oneself feel special, unique, and slighted. Where is the day on the calendar in which left-handed, dyspeptic, pluviophile knitters who are lactose intolerant and devoted to Ss. Cunegunda and Eleutherius honored for their contributions to Holy Mother Church? What about asexual agoraphobic counter-tenors? Unhappily married women with halitosis?
Mass is not about us.
If you leave Mass feeling that you and your efforts weren’t properly honored and respected – good! That’s not what the Holy Mass is for.
Perhaps some lines from the Servant of God Raphael Merry del Val’s celebrated litany of humility would be helpful:
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus. (repeat after each line)
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. (repeat after each line)
That others may be esteemed more than I ,
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,…