Saturday, November 12, 2011

Catholics and Their Endless Rituals

On Friday morning, the students gathered for opening prayer. They do it every day. We always end with the Pledge of Allegiance and a little chant. Do the right thing. Treat people right. Even if you don't feel like it.

Our little morning ritual is full of lessons for the convert.

Rituals matter.

They make us what we are.

We become what we say. We remember what we do repetitively. These things build community and they bind us together.

As Americans, we get a little misty-eyed when we hear the very young say the Pledge. When we look at them and see that right hand resting on a little beating heart, we hear those words fall from a little mouth, we see their eyes firmly fixed on the Stars and Stripes.

The entire ritual moves us. We are glad we have passed these things on to them.

On Friday morning, after the prayers and the pledge, one 7th grade boy picked up the flag and stand and carried it to the church for our Veteran's Day Mass.

This is where my worlds converge. I am American. I completely embrace the Pledge, the patriotic ritual, the repetition of the words and gestures we hold dear. They make us who we are.

How much more so those things we do and say as Catholic Christians. It is right to have rituals. They make us who we are. It is right to pray our prayers, so familiar that we can say them without stumbling at all. Our Father, who art in heaven... 

It is right to fix our eyes on the cross - on the body that is suffering on that cross.

And we pass these things on to them.

There was a time I did not see the value in spiritual repetition. I did not understand the purpose for faith rituals. I thought these things stifled the creative inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

I was wrong.

If the pledge and the flag and a hand over one's heart can make us patriotic and help us to remember that we are proud to be American...

...then a prayer and crucifix and a hand making the Sign of the Cross can help us to remember whose we are... and why Our Lord died and rose again.


Repeated prayers.

They help us to remember. And then, we go out to be what we proclaim.

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