Lent (Day 30) — Jimmy Breslin’s “The Church that Forgot Christ,” cont’d

Chapter three began with Breslin going to Blessed Sacrament Church, and the chapter continues with him at a service there.  In some ways, this might be seen as his “Damascus” experience, or aha! moment.  In reciting the Nicene Creed, as he had done every week since he was a child (well, they would have used the Apostles’ Creed at some point in his younger years), he noticed that the part about “descended into Hell” had been removed from the Creed as spoken now.  He noticed it because he slipped into that phrase recalling the prayer from rote in childhood, and when the congregation skipped it, while he was saying it, he noticed that the phrase had been deleted without any fanfare.  In a small way, it was one more instance of the Church making changes, but not bringing them to a vote of the faithful, or even to the attention of the faithful.  

Elsewhere he speaks of how boring most Catholic sermons are — he also says of the prayers that “nobody can be moved by repetitive adoration.”  But I think that Breslin misses the potential point to the repetitive nature of the prayers.  For one thing, the repetition does get those prayers into your head, and they take on a special place there.  Many parts of the mass still move me because of their being so much a part of my church experience growing up.  They serve as some backdrop against which other observations, meditations and reflections can take place.  And I’ve heard it said that the monastic prayers, which are repeated over and over, and form a sort of drone, can serve to placate the editorial mind and induce a meditative calm.  

He does note that after taking part in the collection, he almost felt like he should leave the church, but stayed because he recalled the nuns of St. Benedict school telling the children that leaving mass was a mortal sin, and that would lead straight to hell.  He notes with some irony, “That’s the kind of knowledge that does not go away, ever.”  I have to say that a lot of what the nuns told me has stuck with me, and, I agree that it never fully goes away.  That does not mean that I cannot resist it, or interact with it.  Even as a kid I did some of that, and Breslin notes that he was very much a sermon resister as a kid.  No system is a perfect fit, but sense comes from being part of a system, even if a resisting part.  

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