August 26, 2009

Hypocrite Rant

The strong gospel passages of the beginning of this week continue to get under my skin. I seriously worry about being found a hypocrite and earning a hypocrite's condemnation from the Lord.

In my ministry I routinely have to call people on their failures in religious observance. For example, if someone comes to the office asking to be certified as a godparent, but is an inactive Catholic with no desire to remedy his condition, I have to say no. There are lots of ugly and upsetting arguments on this issue. And there are many situations similar to this, e.g. issues surrounding marriage and re-marriage, the refusal to bury the dead, etc.

But what right do I have? Am I so righteous? Does the religious community of which I am a member follow it's own Rule and Constitutions? Am I faithful as a religious to daily Mass, mental prayer, devotion to Our Lady, and annual retreat as I am obligated by Canon Law? (c. 663)

Priests routinely deny to me the existence of the obligation they accepted at their diaconate ordination to offer the full course of the Liturgy of the Hours each day. (General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, 29) Maybe some of the faithful have failed in their observance because we aren't praying for them as we have promised, and it is us who will be held accountable! I admit that sometimes I lose my edge by the end of the day and Night Prayer doesn't happen. Sometimes, because of grave negligence I hesitate even to confess, I forget to offer Evening Prayer on Sundays. So if the faithful lapse in the practice of the faith or fail to understand their own obligations, maybe it's because it is I who have failed them first!

Nevertheless, the spiritual task is the same. Useless anxiety, scrupulosity, and the indulgence of desires to correct those whom the Holy Spirit has not put into my care are all dead ends and blind alleys. What is useful is real fear of the Lord, the kind that lights you on fire with a desire for conversion.


Qualis Rex said...

Father Charles, on this I will have to strongly disagree with you. You have a right AND a God mandated duty to protect the sacraments. This does not make you a hypocrite or a "Pharisee" (who, FYI, are still very respected in the Jewish community) but a good priest and servant of God. If someone wants to be a "God parent" but doesn't believe in God, the sacraments, the church, then let that person be a "big buddy" to the child growing up. A God parent has a specific duty to perform and is not something one simply throws around titularly.

I mentioned on your other post (the one about your walkabout) how I admire the Orthodox/Eastern churches' safeguard of tradition. In fact, during the consecration in the liturgy of St John Chrysostom "I will not reveal your mysteries to your enemies, neither like Judas will I betray you with a kiss". This is so poignant to me and is something many priests in the Roman Catholic churches forget or ignore in fear of being a "hypocrite" as you suggest. Please, wipe this out of your vocabulary. If you do your duty and God will reward you. It's between you and God, not us.

Adoro said...

Father, might I suggest that some of we, the laity who are working hard at holiness (well, sometimes working hard, oftentimes and most of the time not hard enough) have failed YOU because we haven't prayed for YOU as we should?

I think this is a two way street. While I'm not vowed to pray the LOH, God put it into my hands for a reason and prayin it regularly is definitely good for me. And because it is the official prayer of the Church, it's obviously good for the Church in ways I can't possibly grasp. So...that means if I'm skipping prayer, then if your own failure fails us, then our failure fails you as well.

And that's all I have to say about that. ;-)

I'd better make sure I pray Daytime prayer in a bit...

pennyante said...

I thank God that He looks at the whole picture of our lives, not just what I might be thinking about at this moment.

He knows our struggles to attain holiness. He understands when we fall down and then try to get up again to do His Will.

He knows we are not perfect... If we were, there would have been no reason for His Son to die for our sins.

The very first time I met my SD, he told me that the most important thing that I had to do, was to trust God. Sounds easy... but you know, it is the hardest thing that I have had to do... Even now, trust isn't the first thing that comes to mind for me when things happen or when I am troubled.

Just in the short time I have read your blog, I have found that you recognize your faults and are not ashamed to admit them. You try sincerely to minister to your people where you live as well as, to the people who visit your blog or speak to you through chat, etc.

Of course, our view may mean nothing because it is God's view that counts in the end. However, the help you have given others will come back to you; and God sees the good you have given to others.

That's my take...

Qualis Rex said...

One more comment, Father: rant away : ) We like you posts (ranty or otherwise).

Lee Strong said...

When I find myself caught up in judging others - crossing the line from fraternal correction to unkind comments and thoughts - I keep trying to remember my own sins. Sometimes a I seek help through the Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

At the least, it gets my mind focusing on somehting else. Alas, it's a constant battle: I am full of righteousness and judgment.

Brother Charles said...

So true, Lee. A constant battle. One of my first formation directors gave me a piece of advice that has saved my religious life: if the Holy Spirit hasn't asked you to look after someone's soul, don't give their apparent sins a second thought.

As John of the Cross writes:

In order to practice the first counsel, concerning resignation, you should live in the monastery as though no one else were in it. And thus you should never, by word or by thought, meddle in things that happen in the community, nor with individuals in it, desiring not to notice their good or bad qualities or their conduct.

Rocinante said...

It is said that Fulton Sheen once replyed to a woman who told him that she didn't go to church because only hypocrits went, that she really should go: "one more won't hurt" he told her.

In other words, we are all hypocrits to a greater or lesser degree. So we just have to ask the Lord to forgive us and move on trying to rely on His grace. Don't beat yourself up for being human, Father, otherwise it could lead to another type of pride rearing its head.

Thanks for helping us all to think a bit more deeply about this.

Gos is good.

ben in denver said...

When you minister for the Church, keep in mind:

Vivo autem, jam non ego: vivit vero in me Christus.

Divest your ego from your work, from you prayer and from your counseling. You are right that we have no rights, not as Charles, not as Ben, not as Paul. We are called like Paul and all of the baptized to leave ourselves on the Cross with the Lord, and to live not in this world, but only to have the resurrected Lord live in us. When we do this, the hippocrite is crucified. Allow Christ to help those whom you minister to to crucify their own hipocrite that Christ might live in them more as well.

Barb, sfo said...

I don't think you're a hypocrite if you are MAKING AN ATTEMPT at the observance, while calling people on the fact that they do not even make that attempt. Surely everyone will fail now and then.