Monday, May 18, 2009

Blogger`s Block

Ok I`ll finally admit it: inspiration seems to have dried up. Not that there`s plenty happening but unlike some blogs I don`t aim to cover every new story in the Catholic world. If it`s on a couple of other blogs I don`t see any point me reporting it too unless I have a particular insight that I think may be useful.
One thing that has been going around in my head is the notion that `you have to be comfortable to pray`. I keep asking myself about this. It`s because a priest friend of mine told me he had visited another priest who had just moved into his new appointment and had had major work done to the house and a new set of carpets. It is not unusual for a priest when he inherits a new presbytery to have it decorated. I did it here. Pope Benedict had major work done to his apartments before moving in. We all like to make a place our own. I`d like to do more to the church too but that is much more difficult. I have many ideas for making St Mary`s look more like a place to pray in than a school hall but some people like the school hall look and was it was all just completed a few years before I got here at great expense.
However what intrigued me was that my friend was told by his colleague that `You have to be comfortable to pray`. Interesting. I thought that it is often when we are uncomfortable when we pray most urgently. There are no atheists in fox holes etc. What would John the Baptist have made of this statement? or St Anthony of Egypt? Or St John Vianney? Etc, etc... I suppose this is the thinking behind the carpeting of our churches to make them look as comfortable as possible. While I`m not saying that being uncomfortable is good thing in itself, the attitude that our religion should not stretch us or challenge us is, I think, part of the reason for the falling away from the faith of so many. If religion makes demands and we rise to those demands because we believe it to be true it will have deeper roots. The religions that are on the rise today are those which make demands of their followers and claim to be true.
Maybe I should get back to having bloggers` block.


Anonymous said...

"It is not unusual for a priest when he inherits a new presbytery to have it decorated. I did it here."

Ah - but I bet you didn't claim the costs back from the diocese as a "second presbytery" allowance :-)


PeterHWright said...

"You have to be comfortable to pray."

I suppose it depends what the speaker means by this. If he means he needs to be physically comfortable - with a nicely padded kneeler - then I don't agree with him.

If, however, he means that some church buildings make him feel uncomfortable, by reason of their architecture or their decor, and are not conducive to prayer, then I suppose I would agree.

People will say : what do one's surroundings matter ? After all, Christ was born in a stable. Prayer is good wherever it is offered. True.

But surely the important question is : is a particular church building suited to a dignified and reverent celebration of the liturgy ? In many cases, alas, the answer is "no".

1569 Rising said...

Bloggers Block can sometimes be a blessing, it gives the blogger time to simmer down. I read the account of the J&P members taking part in the May Day rally in Newcastle on the Diocesan web site, and watched the banner being taken on the march, alongside the usual sundry left wing suspects. Then saw the said banner being carried into the Cathedral and up to the altar as part of the Offertory Procession. The banner is however, nothing to do with the J&P group, but that of Pax Christi, a group linked to CND.

What an openly partisan political banner is doing as a centerpiece of a Mass conducted by our Bishop, I really do not know.

Anyway, Bloggers Block stopped me blogging on the subject, I have since simmered down, and feel full of love and peace towards those deluded and misguided folk. I only hope that when the banner was paraded through the streets, the bearers did not think they were acting in MY name.

Terry M.

Seeker said...

I wonder if he meant comfortable with oneself? I find just being in a Catholic Church makes me feel better, and more comfortable with myself, irrespective of whatever problems and distractions I have to pray about. It's like being at home, even when in strange countries. I've never had an issue with different building styles and decoration; in all places, from Vegas to Pluscarden, the consecrated church is a place of peace.

Father, one of the best features of your blog is that it isn't like the others. Irregular, but interesting or insightful posts are better than just 'me too' variants on news that's easily available elsewhere.

Finian Kelly said...

Father Michael, I was sure someone else would have said this before me. If "being uncomfortable (at prayer in a church) is a GOOD THING" then your church (and it was that way before you arrived) of St Mary must indeed be a powerhouse of prayer!

Discreet Observer said...

Bishop Fulton Sheen, is his book 'The Priest Is Not His Own' wrote that "the pastor's primary concern should be the tabernacle, not the rectory, not the ego, but the Lord, not his comfort, but God's glory. Wall to wall carpeting in a rectory goes poorly with an altar and tabernacle looking like a house on stilts. Should not the King have a better home than His representative?"

I would not say that St Mary's is a house on stilts but more a house that has been turned sideways. Its internal architectural integrity has been so deeply affected that it is no longer really suitable for purpose and should be restored to its former internal layout. At least it would be a start and might produce a decent sized sanctuary rather than the postage stamp area at present.

madame evangelista said...

Ironically one of your best posts.

I agree with Seeker, it's a very good thing indeed that your blog isn't like all the others.

1569 Rising - I was at that Mass and I am, by instinct, left-wing, but I was not happy at all. The homily was sincere, but the bidding prayers were more polemic than prayer. Oxfam with religion tacked on. I left feeling completely empty.

gemoftheocean said...

Don't worry about blogger's block. Everyone gets it. Don't feel like you have to post every day, or that everything has to be profound.

As far as discomfort: I'd want to know the context too. All I can say is in some churches I don't feel compelled to pray, because the architecture/design is HORRID. [Those circular churches, to my mind, are anathema sit, haven't seen a single one that I liked.] As to your own comfort re: the rectory, don't be afraid to modernize/update. If you don't do regular maintenance, etc. those who follow you will be left with a bigger mess to clean up. We had a pastor who for 17 years didn't do much of squat with physical maintenance for the church or the rectory and it's taken two more pastors 15 years (between them) to clean up afterwards. They're both finally back in good/better shape, but in those 17 years things really went to hell in a hand basket.

False economies are no economies at all.