Long ago I learned something important about myself. It has to do with honesty. Some may call it bluntness, but being honest often means being perfectly blunt. I admit I have difficulty sugar-coating my responses to personal questions, and there is nothing I take more personal than my faith.
Today I went to Mass at a Novus Ordo Church on the Sunshine Coast while visiting one of my sisters. This particular sister is not a Catholic, but she is a Christian. After Mass when we were having lunch together, she asked me if I liked the "service." I told her it was all right, and when she pressed me to tell her why I said it was just "all right" I told her I wasn't very fond of two of the songs the choir had sung. Of course, that piqued her curiosity and she wanted to know what I didn't like about the songs. I told her it was the words; that sometimes hymns end up praising the people instead of God, and I explained horizontal and vertical worship to her. One of the songs, I told her, was Bread of Life, and the objectionable words go like this:
I myself am the bread of life
you and I are the bread of life
taken and blessed, broken and shared
that the world may live.
I told her I found the song heretical, (we are not the Bread of Life) and told her that the song celebrates ourselves rather than God as we reach out horizontally and praise our neighbour. It is a travesty to sing this song at Holy Communion; it totally misrepresents the meaning of the true Bread of Life. The other song whose words I objected to was Sing a New Church, and the example I used was this:
Let us bring the gifts that differ
And, in splendid, varied ways,
Sing a new Church into being,
One in faith and love and praise
I told her these songs do not accurately reflect proper worship of God, but sing the praises of the congregation instead of God. (What is wrong with the old Church that Jesus established? I asked. Why do we need to sing a new church into being?) To which she responded:
"Catholics are so judgmental. They go to church on Sunday, then sin all week and go back to be saved again the next Sunday. They don't live their faith the other six days out of the week."
I'm not sure what made me cringe more - the accusation of being judgmental (maybe she sings those songs at her church and really likes them!) or the old cliche about Catholics going to Church on Sunday and sinning all week until the next Sunday.
I told her that she must know some marginal Catholics, the ones who have a really poor grasp on their faith to give her that impression of the Catholic faith. I didn't carry on the conversation past this point, but chose to change the subject. There were other people at the table, and we had a ferry to catch. It would have taken me quite a while to explain, first of all, that Catholics are not "saved" rather, we are sinners who work out our salvation in fear and trembling in hope that if we endure to the end we will be saved, and secondly, that Catholics do try to live the Ten Commandments, and when we fail in that regard, we avail ourselves of the Sacrament of Confession. Now that last one would have really been a hot topic. I love my sister dearly, but religion is not something that makes for easy conversation.