Protomartyr chronicles

The idea would be, just as the world is shaking off its holiday binges, and heading out for the Boxing Day sales, we of the Midnight Mass and perhaps the three Christ-Masses march back to the church, with our wee mites (if any) in our entourage. And this, for the celebration of the first Christian martyr: the hallowed Feast of Stephen. And, take half the money we would have blown on things we didn’t need and only slightly wanted, adding it instead to the Christmas collections for the poor; or for the priests so they may commission new and more glorious vestments, and continue to upgrade our worship in God-facing Latin from the ancient rite; and perhaps, fix the bleeding roof.

Verily, for today, the day after Christmas, I am trying to imagine what it would be like to be a good Catholic. I mean, of course, a serious one; not a monk or nun, but living in the world. And of course, my list is just starting. (There are commandments in addition to the giving of alms, and church attendance.)

Now, I’m not a very good example of a Catholic, myself. It is among my failings that I get churched-out, from a deep past of inobservance, whose habits will not die quietly. Often I must kick myself out of Sunday-morning torpor; and my confessor knows what a strain it is, to remind his dragging penitent that there is — to give but one example — a Mass every day. And that it is the very place to go, for strength to lift such burdens as have fallen to one’s lot.

Though I fail in the positives, I can supply some of the negatives readily. For I am allergic to the shopping malls, and feel no temptation towards the Amazon addiction which has replaced it in many of the worldlings, according to their media. Rather my partiality is to the knowing work of human hands: the artist’s hands, the surgeon’s hands, the priest’s hands. I love the low Latin Mass in its whispers; the raising of the chalice; the moment when everything else is stripped away. I hate crowds, alas, even those of my fellow Christians. I crave peace and quiet; the music of good order.

There are sins I have entirely given up. Not, however, because I am so holy, but because I got sick of committing them; and tired of the associated self-loathing.

But that is just me, and each other person is his own peculiar bundle of dim light, and of recalcitrant sinning. Each has failures of his own to work out, and while every one of us has earned a hanging, who has had some opportunity in life, there is still time. The “worst Catholic in the world” can still try for a little improvement before his number is called in.

Saint Stephen’s feast is a kind of test; as it always was — beginning for Saint Stephen. It is true: God “led him into temptation” — the very real temptation to disavow Our Lord, in the hope of cheating death. But death, in the end, will not anyway be cheated, and we each owe a life. And Saint Paul checked cloaks for the men who would stone this first of innumerable obstinates, who through the centuries have stood in his position; have stood their ground against the pleasures of this world. A “test,” yes, but the word “temptation” follows on its heels. The standard to which we are held is high, but Grace and Mercy shall be there to catch us.

Every day, remember you must die; that there is nothing in this world that you can take with you. Those are the terms, and it really does not matter if you don’t like them; if you think they are unfair. It was unfair that you were ever born. But you got used to it somehow, no? … God is Love, and Love is no mere fairness.

The Cross had nothing to do with “fair.” As neither did the birth in Bethlehem; there was no possible way we “deserved” it.

That is what I keep telling myself, and if I seem a tad forward in telling others, too, you will have to forgive me. For among my obnoxious habits is, thinking aloud.