Vito Prosciutto: Teaching community college math on the road to a PhD.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Once every three years 

my favorite reading in the lectionary comes up: "What can separate us from the love of God? etc." from Romans. I remember hearing it for the first time at mass in 1990 and the presiding priest talked about how when he was down, he would drive to the top of the nearby mountain and shout the reading at the top of his lungs (something that I've since done on more than one occasion). He then had the congregation read it again, out loud, substituting "me" for "us" where it appeared in the readings.

In 1993, my grandfather died and this was one of the readings at his funeral. Come summer, I was lector at mass the week that it came up and I read it again. Then it was a reading at a friend's wedding (perhaps it was coming on the heels of my grandfather's funeral, but it doesn't really seem a good wedding reading).

I have no particular memories of it in 1996 other than being quite certain that I was lector again (I made a point of being scheduled to lector on this particular Sunday).

In 1999, I was living in the city of my birth and playing in the church music group for their young adult mass. On that Sunday we performed a song that I had written which incorporated the readings from this Sunday. I think that I also managed to lector that particular Sunday at a different parish.

In 2002, I was returned to being a mere parishioner (I was singing in a choir at that point, but the choir didn't perform in the summertime). I had just met my now-wife, though, and I treasure the thought of hearing this reading with her for the first time.

And now today.

I joked as we pulled into the church that maybe sometimes they have mass outside (my wife had asked for her sunblock just perviously). Then we noticed the big tent in the parking lot. It turns out that there was an arson fire at this parish the week before.

Which left me thinking quite a bit.

Because there's a part of me that's not all that satisfied with the church at the moment.

I'm not talking about the usual stuff. I really don't have a problem with the church's stance on abortion. If you allow for the possibility that the fetus is a human being, then an anti-abortion stance comes naturally. I'm not happy about the fact that there are people whose motivation for being anti-abortion is to be anti-woman, but then there are people who vote democratic for bigoted reasons and that's not going to make me a republican. Same with birth control, celibate priests, a male-only priesthood (partly because I think that right now the holy spirit is busy trying to get Catholics to not be so damned dependent on the priesthood and for the laity to start taking a bit more responsibility for the church themselves).

No, what bothers me is the tendency towards absolute certainty in the church. There's none of the humbleness with which I've always approached faith (which humbleness, lead me to not belong to any particular church for the first 22 years of my life). The problem is that certainty leads to things like Mohammad Atta or George Bush. Why bother caring about what's actually happening in the world if you're certain that you're right.

And I'm thinking that the fact that a Catholic church was burnt last week is somehow connected with all of this. Because this tendency towards absolute certainty is not a uniquely Catholic trait. And I suspect that if they catch the perpetrator, it will be motivated by a certainty that trying to burn down a Catholic church was absolutely the right thing to do.

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