Tuesday, November 22, 2011

You know what I don't like? Ecumenical Thanksgiving Services

I don't like ecumenical Thanksgiving services. I have nothing against praying. I have no problem with Americans joining with one another to commemorate our historical landmarks. I am not against peaceful gatherings of Baptists, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and so on and so forth.

I just don't like being part of it. A few reasons.

A Methodist and Muslim light a unity candle at a Chicago Thanksgiving Service 2010
First, Catholic prayer is traditional. We have texts that are revered and sacred concerning prayer. And our greatest Thanksgiving prayer is the Mass. When we water it down, take out the "offensive" words such as "Father" or "Jesus" or "Christ", and drop the traditional sign of the cross and Trinitarian formula, it seems almost a scandal. Like either we're not happy with our faith, we don't share our faith or we don't want our faith to bother anyone.

Relgious people light candles in an Indianapolis Catholic Church
Secondly, the symbol value is either terrifyingly true or banally false. If it's true we are really not sure who God is and what he or she or it wants of us but it's great to thank whatever it is, if there is a god, then we either need to work harder on understanding Catholicism or seek counsel with our priest about our doubts. If we don't really mean what we say at an ecumenical service but it's just a nice thing to hold hands and smile at each other, then that's a waste of time. It's not filling in mind, body or spirit.

Third, and this happens less frequently, when a Catholic pastor/bishop (or "the people of God" in a parish) decides not to have Mass in lieu of a community ecumenical service, that makes a lie out of the primacy and supremacy of Mass. We don't go to Mass to share fellowship and speak of our gratitudes. We go to encounter Christ, thankful in spirit that he has redeemed our sinful mortal souls and, if in a state of grace, we take receive Communion. Big difference. Or if there is no difference, it just shows how far we need to go to get us back in line.

 As a good start, Pope Benedict's visit to Assisi was not an ecumenical prayer service. Rather it was a day for religious leaders to speak to one another about peace.
Religious leaders at the Pope's 2011 Assisi Conference
If we stopped praying over one another and around one another and started talking to one another, that would be something I'd be grateful for!