Going Home: I
John tells of a city that he saw coming down
Where no sorrow, pain or death will be known;
And some day we can go there, through His marvellous grace;
I can almost see the lights of home.
I'm preparing to drive home to Cincinnati in a few weeks. My parents haven't been doing well lately, so I figure I should put in an appearance, my first in over a year and a half. (They aren't known to surf the internet, so I can share this account with the knowledge that my arrival will be a surprise, so I'm counting on all of you...) I can still remember when I'd make the trip two or three times a year. Lately I've been spending vacations elsewhere.
There's a feeling you get when the place of your origins appears around a bend in the road. You simply assume things will be the way they were when you left. But it only takes a few things out of place from the last time, and that's when you remember that nothing else stands still any more than you do. I won't be doing a lot of visiting while I'm back; just family and that's about it. I'll make an exception for an old friend of mine who's a pastor on the East Side. I'll be there during the Feast of the Assumption (August 15), and so I'll be attending Mass. These days, that's a different experience back home than it is here.
For one thing, parishes back home tend to be less... well, conservative. The very notion of being Catholic is all tied in with every fashion associated with "the spirit of Vatican II" that has come down the pike. The Mass might well be conducted with a certain reverence, I suppose, but there's a reason I don't attend Mass at the parish where I grew up. I simply don't recognize it anymore. The pastor is the locus of a personality cult, and I tend to be wary of them. I've also mentioned before how they all hold hands across the aisle at the Our Father. Now my mother probably doesn't partake of this charade, but it's probably out of habit that they respect that of her. Would they do as much for a stranger? Last time it was attempted, I just looked at the guy and said: "Do I look like someone who does hands?" He got the message. He may have been one of the brighter ones.
The result is a Church I barely recognize as my own.
You see, I think most people aren't paying much attention. They don't follow every clip in the Catholic press about what the Pope says about this or that, and they are inclined to believe whatever their pastor or his hired lackeys will say. So if the church is decorated with murals of "modern saints" like Thomas Dooley (who was an avowed homosexual) or Cardinal Bernardin (and don't get me started on him) or Martin Luther King (who was not even Catholic, and whose personal life could not be described as one of "heroic virtue") or Gandhi (who was not even Christian), how can you pray with them? What does it mean to break the Bread of Angels with them? How can I be in communion with them when I'm not?
I've been to such parishes over the years during my visits home. Everything seems hunky-dory at the time, until Father Feelgood turns out to have a few bad habits. People are shocked. They go so far as to continue defending him, even after he's found to have betrayed them for years. The recent episode of one Father Fey in the diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, does not surprise me at all. I would expect an army of admirers among the laity to lie their way into the rectory to clear out his things, including the evidence against him. I would expect Bishop Lori to be too much of a pompous ass to keep a handle on any of this. (Yes, you can tell him I said that, and I'm not afraid to tell him what I know.) After all, in order to do so, he'd have to admit to being capable of making a mistake. Like that's ever gonna happen!
The church in Cincinnati is such a mess that the people there don't even notice. They won't notice for years. It will get worse before it gets better. I warn my priest-friend of the prospect every time I visit with him.
Fortunately, he is one of the brighter ones. He's gonna need to be.
Oh, I can almost see the lights of that city,
I can see them gathered all around the great white throne;
Through faith in my Saviour and His wonderful love,
I can almost see the lights of home.