This post is meant as a continuation of what I wrote yesterday, and a reminder to myself that we have to remember charity and mutual understanding even within our conflicts in the Church in general and religious life in particular.
Yesterday afternoon I went somewhere offer a memorial Mass for a small group of nice people. It was perfectly pleasant and I tried to do my best for them. In the front of the small assembly was a woman, not old but perhaps in later middle age, who made all the responses and prayers loudly and strongly, with all of the standard adjustments and changes for so-called 'inclusive language.'
It would be easy for me simply to rant about it. I don't want to live in a relativistic world in which everyone is their own pope, and each of us has the right to alter the Church's prayer to suit his or her own concerns.
But to just rant is a failure in charity. Yes, we must stand up against the errors and misunderstandings of our time. But we also have to try to appreciate each other, and to recognize that those who do wrong-headed things often do them with the best intentions and with genuine values at stake. The woman in front of me perhaps grew up in a world in which she was made to feel like less, as someone with fewer opportunities in life than her male counterparts. Perhaps she grew up in a world with a lot of 'rules' which didn't seem to have a function or make any sense. So maybe, just maybe, for her to use this so-called 'inclusive language' in her own prayer at Mass represents and symbolizes for her an intense experience of liberation she has had over the course of her life.
I think that this can be hard for many of us younger Catholics and religious to understand. We grew up not with oppressive systems of rules, but in the relativistic, post-modern vertigo. We grew up oppressed not by rules but by their absence. Our grandparents in religious life (our parents are mostly missing) found in their vocations a liberation from a previously ossified and oppressive culture, a liberation from the rules. We have found in our vocations a liberation from relativism and moral anarchy, a liberation to the rules.
This isn't anything new, and it has been better written by others. I just mean to say that as we work to recover our Catholic identity from the errors and wanderings of those who have gone before us, let us remember that they too were children of their time, and that the Spirit of God spoke to them in their liberation as well. No doubt I have own pet myopias, and errors that will need to be corrected by those who come after me. If I want to be treated like a thoughtful and charitable person when that day comes, I need to do it for others now.