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A Lament for Ordinary Time

The Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar is comprised of seasons. Some Catholics love Christmas, some love Easter. I love Ordinary Time. 

Ordinary Time is the season that just ended with Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Ordinary Time is the in-between stuff. It’s cruising altitude for the Church. I love Ordinary Time for the same reason I love being an American—I like being left alone. I don’t want The New York Times publishing editorials about my Church. I don’t want every irreligious pundit with a blog opining on the history of the papacy and the future of the priesthood. 

But that’s not where we are now. This is not Ordinary Time. This is Extraordinary Time. And Catholic lovers of Ordinary Time will simply have to deal with the bonanza of hostile media scrutiny and ill-informed opinion journalism that the next several weeks are sure to bring.

The usual suspects have already used Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation to call for a liberalization of the Church’s social teaching on a host of hot-button issues, from gay marriage to women priests. But these folks don’t typically need an excuse to issue such calls. Every mention of the Church is an opportunity to bash the hierarchy as too insular, too male, too Italian, or too conservative. 

Writing in The New York Times, playwright John Patrick Shanley had this to say:

Pope Benedict XVI quit. Good. He was utterly bereft of charm, tone-deaf and a protector of priests who abused children. He’d been a member of the Hitler Youth. In addition to this woeful résumé, he had no use for women.

That such unhinged, bilious ravings should find their way onto the editorial pages of The New York Times provides ample evidence—if more was needed—of just how poisonously anti-Catholic our “elite” media institutions have become.

The editors of The New York Times are true religious nuts. Mention of religion makes them nuts. What’s the definition of a fanatic? Someone who not only can’t change his mind, he can’t change the subject.

In some corners it has been suggested that the pope’s resignation is a smokescreen, a ploy to distract attention from some as yet unrevealed Vatican scandal or salacious misdeed. These are the residual effects of The DaVinci Code. Smears and insinuation about the Church are absorbed into the culture like so much second-hand smoke.

I would like to announce my ambivalence about the whole resignation affair. It’s not that I don’t care about the papacy, or the leadership of the Catholic Church. On the contrary, I care a great deal. But I much prefer it when the leadership and future of the Catholic Church is not a trending topic on Twitter.

I’m the type who likes to lay low. There are a lot of us out here. Nothing would make us happier than simply going about our business, raising our families, and practicing our religion in blessed, heavenly peace. 

But these Obama years have not been blessed, heavenly peace for American Catholics. The administration has repeatedly and deliberately picked fights with us. The terms they offer are stark: play by our rules or get out of the public square. Their reasons are their own, but it’s clear that they see Catholics as backward and out-of-step with enlightened, progressive modernity. 

I have to confess—they are right. Catholics are out of step with modernity. But the founding law of this great land gives us the right to be out of step, as does the supreme law, the word of God:

If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. (John 15:19)

American Catholics I know are praying for the health of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. They are praying for an end to this persecution at the hands of the Obama administration. And they are praying for God to grant our Church a wise, holy, and steadfast new pope. 

I am praying for a return to Ordinary Time. 

  1. Aaron Miller

    Nuts to that! I prefer Christmas. Let them demonize us while the call to joyful charity permeates society like a refreshing spring of purity.

  2. Pelayo

    “Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.  On the other hand, all of the pundits who love to take shots at the Pope and the Catholic Church are in for a rude awakening when they meet their maker.

  3. Frederick Key

    I hear you, Matthew. Even under normal circumstances I can’t stand it when the media discovers religion. Every Easter one of the newsweeklies would put out an issue with a Renaissance portrait of Jesus and a story like “JESUS: CRAZY PERSON, LIAR, OR WHAT?” They seem to have boundless energy for this kind of mischief.

  4. L.T. Rahe

    Excellent post, Mr. Hennessey.  My hopes are not up.  The very fact that the Church takes the positions that it does on controversial subjects makes us a target.  The pseudo-religion of progressivism is inconsistent with notions of pluralism.

  5. J Climacus
    Matthew Hennessey

    I’m the type who likes to lay low. There are a lot of us out here. Nothing would make us happier than simply going about our business, raising our families, and practicing our religion in blessed, heavenly peace. 

    “We cannot choose the time we live in. We can only choose what we do with the time we are given.”

    - Gandalf,The Fellowship of the Ring

  6. Jerry Carroll

    “Their reasons are their own, but it’s clear that they see Catholics as backward and out-of-step with enlightened, progressive modernity. ”

    I’m not a Catholic, but I hail the church for being out of step with these modern times for the same reason I prefer the company of the morally upright to that of the debauchee.  A dandy little essay, Mr. Hennessy.

  7. Irene F. Starkehaus

    I also dislike the media’s influence on matters of faith and on politics as well for that matter.  When Barack Obama first began campaigning for president during the 2008 election, the popular meme was “Is America ready to elect a black president?” as if his mere blackness qualified him to be leader of the free world.  Americans were and still are encouraged to vote with that kind of identity bias in mind and that allows us to pat ourselves on the back over the history of the event with no recognition that this particular black candidate  also happens to be a hard-core leftist with a complete disregard for the Constitution.

    When I heard ABC News talking about the election of the Church’s next pope in terms of “Is the Church ready to elect a black pope?” I became fearful that the pick would satisfy pop culture with no regard for his adherence to Church doctrine.  This could land the Church with a social justice guru who advocates for women priests, abortion rights and gay marriage.  I am prayerful that the College is impervious to the kind of pressure that Americans fell prey to.

  8. Irene F. Starkehaus
    Aaron Miller: Nuts to that! I prefer Christmas. Let them demonize us while the call to joyful charity permeates society like a refreshing spring of purity. · 2 hours ago

    Only Christmas is not about charity.  It’s about the birth of the Lord and Savior.  And this is not to say that giving to the needy isn’t an honorable and worthy deed.  I don’t mean to suggest that God wouldn’t approve of these actions in His name, but it can be and is easily used by Progressives to subvert the true meaning of the season. 

  9. Scott Wilmot

    Matthew, perhaps I misunderstand you but the call of both JP2 and BXVI for a new evangelization seems to contradict your wish to just lay low. Being Catholic is anything but ordinary, it is an incredible thing – living a full Catholic faith will always be a sign of contradiction to the world.

    You state many reasons why we can’t live a Catholic faith on cruise control – that is exactly what the world wants. The secular world hates the Church because she continues to, and will always, teach the truth. They don’t seem to realize that the teachings of the Church aren’t true because they are Catholic, they are Catholic because they are true.

    Perhaps the secular world understands us better as the Church Militant than we do ourselves, for they fight us every chance they get, particularly during the liturgical seasons of Lent, Easter, Advent, and Christmas.

    The freedom to simply go about our business in peace will always come at a great price. Be not afraid.

  10. Pseudodionysius

    The New York Times never misses a chance to turn every Papal gesundheit into a sieg heil.

  11. Baja

    While I agree with the idea of “going about our business, raising our families, and practicing our religion in blessed, heavenly peace” which Ordinary Time does, I truly love Lent & especially Holy Week. Lent, because is a time to work on Self Discipline.  I have found that all the good things in my life require a healthy & consistent practice of that. Holy Week, because the Triduum truly moves me. I love immersing myself in it. Also there is a reason why they call them Ordinary Time and Extraordinary Time. I could not live my life every day in the heightened emotions etc… of Extraordinary Time.

    The “persecution at the hands of the Obama Administration” doesn’t overly concern me. Yes it is an issue & yes it has to be resisted but look at the persecutions of the church throughout history. The persecuting entitites disappear while Christ’s Church remains. I will continue to pray for our President and his Administration while resisting them in every means possible.

    Finally, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit we truly will be blessed with a wise, holy and steadfast new Shepherd.

  12. KC Mulville

    This is another version of an ongoing debate that we’ve been having for a while on Ricochet:

    • When the rest of the culture disagrees with you, abetted by a hostile media, how do you make any headway?

    The luxury of Catholicism, in this respect, is that we don’t need anyone to agree with us for us to continue about our business. But that may be changing if the Left gets its way.

    In either case, the Left wants to obliterate its opponents through social condescension, misinformation (whether intentional or not), ridicule, and law where possible … all the while proclaiming their commitment to fairness and mutual respect.

  13. Matthew Hennessey
    C

    Thank you for these comments. I apologize for dropping this post and then running away for 4 hours. We had some non-minor computer issues at the Hennessey household today that required emergency shutdown. 

    Scott Wilmot: The freedom to simply go about our business in peace will always come at a great price. Be not afraid. · 1 hour ago

    Scott, your point is well-taken. We are called to witness, not to hide our heads in the sand. Everyday is a challenge in that regard for me. Working on it.

  14. Devereaux

    Not being a Catholic, I would propose that B16 has done more for promoting real Christianity in his quest to understand and join, in some fashion, with Christians the world over. He has mostly mended an age old schism with the Orthodox (my segment), and has at least tried to do the same with the Lutherans – who resist mightily.

    I had once (before real faith) supposed that church was an anchor for society to be able to try things and have somewhere to return to. I have come to understand that faith is not an anchor that can be dragged along as society “changes”. In that respect the Catholic church, being among the largest churches in at least this nation, has taken the lead on defying several wrongheaded moves. All Christians should applaud its lead.

    Additionally, B16 seems to have seen the inherent evil of islaam clearer than almost anyone else about. That in itself makes him in the company of the long-ago crusaders who only responded to the threat in barely enough time to save western civilization.

    And the NYT will be damned!

  15. Matthew Hennessey
    C
    Baja: The persecuting entities disappear while Christ’s Church remains. 2 hours ago

    Thanks Baja. This is worth remembering and, indeed, is why we study the lives of the saints. 

  16. Matthew Hennessey
    C
    KC Mulville: … the Left wants to obliterate its opponents through social condescension, misinformation (whether intentional or not), ridicule, and law where possible … all the while proclaiming their commitment to fairness and mutual respect. · 14 hours ago

    You’ve hit the nail on the head here KC.

  17. Matthew Hennessey
    C
    Peter Robinson: I have no insight to offer, no observation to make.  I only want to say, Matthew, that I loved–just loved–this post. · 8 hours ago

    A very humble thank you, Mr. R.

  18. jtonning

    I add my voice to the chorus of well saids.

  19. Peter Robinson
    C

    I have no insight to offer, no observation to make.  I only want to say, Matthew, that I loved–just loved–this post.

  20. Nanda Panjandrum

    Thank you, Mr. Hennessey!…My Lent – this time around, in particular – is preparation for full-on, full-throttle, in-their-faces Resurrection joy…To borrow from a certain 16th-century Augustinian monk: “I can do no other.”  

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