A Roman Catholic woman religious friend shared the following reflection with me. Touched by the honesty of the inner struggle she described so authentically, I impulsively asked her if I could post it here, and she agreed. We anonym-ized the circumstances a bit because I think this could represent what goes through the minds of many Catholic women in many Catholic worship services.
What on earth happened? By: A Catholic Woman
A week ago Sunday, we went to the 11:00 Mass as usual, but it wasn’t usual. No “Celebrating Vacation School Liturgy” or Baptisms, but lots of young men in black and close to the altar.
It was a display of “Church Macho” - the seminarians and priest Vocation Directors all of the dioceses of our state plus our bishop and his special deacon/liturgical master of ceremonies –“ Mr. I’m in Charge of this Liturgy and Don’t You Forget It."
At first, I was surprised and puzzled as to why they were there. Then I learned that they had been staying at a nearby conference center and meeting there as a group. This was their Sunday liturgy.
And it was THEIR Sunday liturgy. However, I was glad to see that we had girl servers – all girl servers, and several women communion distributors. However, all the rest was “the guys”.
Then I got angry. It seemed to me like an “in-your-face” “young-boys’ club” up there on the altar and in the front sections of the pews. No strutting around or puffing out one’s chest, but just a kind of “we-take-it-for-grantedness” that you (the non-priest, non-seminarians common folk) are happy to see us and, not only happy, but honored to have so many of us with you today!
Then I felt a smoldering sense of injustice and anger. How dare you! How dare you put yourselves above us! Where is your humility?
The bishop, in his homily, surprisingly to me, spoke of humility to this “boys-men’s club”. I almost – almost – stood up and cheered. Now, I’m thinking; the proof will be in the years to come, to see if the American clerical culture will indeed change and become humble.
Then I felt humbled. Here I am, puffed-up and angry. I need to get my feelings and ideas in line with the Jesus of the Gospel.
I will pray for them and I will pray for me. I have a righteous anger, but I need to handle it in a way that doesn’t worsen the situation for me or anyone else.
Photo: Parishioners greet seminarians in the vestibule of St. Augustine of Canterbury Church, Kendall Park, following Mass Jan. 2. The Mass honored seminarians — future priests of the diocese — during the Year for Priests. — Frank Wojciechowski photo, Diocese of Metuchen, NJ website.