Thursday, August 11, 2011

Are You a Pharisee?

I've been mulling over a post about this for a while now, and reading this in my reader this morning made me decide that perhaps it's time to get it written.

That post, as you know if you clicked over and read it, is mostly about the 'women wearing pants' debate that occasionally bubbles to the surface of the Catholic blogosphere.  One excellent point made by 'priest's wife' is that even if all Catholic women were to immediately, right this instant, begin wearing long skirts, these same women would still be considered to be dressed immodestly by the standards of the Amish, Orthodox Jews and Muslims.

Amish women not only wear long skirts, but they wear a headcovering, have sleeves to the wrist, and their necklines NEVER expose the collarbone.

Orthodox Jewish women either wear a voluminous headscarf or a wig that conceals ALL their hair.

Muslim women wear the hijab, a scarf to cover the hair, and the more observant ones also wear abaya, a (usually black) robe-like garment that reaches almost to the floor and has long sleeves and a high neckline. (I refuse to discuss burqa, as Muslim religious dress is not the focus of this post).

Why is it that women are, in many places, tasked with the responsibility of making sure that the eyes (and minds) of men with whom we interact are not 'led astray' by our clothing? Where are the diatribes against men with wandering eyes?  Where are the Catholic bloggers waxing eloquent about men who LOOK at women to whom they are not married? Don't give me any of that junk about it being harder for men to control themselves.  Self-control is, after all, one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, so if men can't control themselves, did the Holy Spirit mean that gift only for women? I don't think so!

Not to say that women can just throw on any old thing and prance about, trusting the men around to NOT LOOK. We do have a responsibility to look feminine and fashionable without appearing 'loose' or 'easy'. (gasp!)

I think Catholic bloggers who have nothing better to do than whine and gripe about women in pants, need to get a life.  Get over it.

And yes, I wear pants. I even wear jeans!

Which brings me, finally, to the point of why I started furiously typing in the first place.  One of the things that irk me no end is the way, all too easily, people get so caught up in RULES that they forget what was the point of the rule in the first place, which or course takes all the FREEDOM out of being obedient to whatever rule you've got a bee in your bonnet about.

People who, when you mention a book you read and enjoyed, don't ask about the plot, or where they can find the book, but ask instead "Is the author Catholic?" "Is there anything anti-Catholic in it?" "There's no kissing, is there?"

People whose first thought (or question, sometimes) about meeting someone new is "is he/she Catholic? If not, are they anti-Catholic?"

People who do NOTHING unless it has a specifically religious purpose (and if it's a Catholic purpose, even better) because secular activities are eeeeeeeviiiiiillllllll.

People who trumpet their disdain for any (and all) secular activities at every opportunity (see above).

Sometimes I feel as if there is a group of Catholics out there who think we all need to be one-dimensional (or at least we should hide and be ashamed of the extra-Catholic - meaning "outside of our Catholic identity" - parts of ourselves.  Hide that love of books - or at least only admit to reading books by or about Catholic Saints! Don't talk about movies or music, unless it's "Into Great Silence", "The Passion of the Christ", "The Song of Bernadette" or Catholic composers.....preferably of Mass settings and Gregorian chant.  No hobbies - how dare anyone have an interest that doesn't revolve around spending time cheek-by-jowl with family members 24/7 - if you have a hobby and it doesn't include your family, then you are a bad parent/husband/wife/child! Vacations to destinations that aren't first and foremost an opportunity for pilgrimage? Nix 'em!  Friends who are Protestant/Jewish/Muslim/atheist/agnostic? Barely acceptable, although you'd better be talking up Catholicism at every breath and spending hours on your knees for their conversion......and their conversion should be the ONLY reason you associate with them.

Where would the woman at the well have been if, when Christ approached the well to ask her for a drink, she had instead scurried away with her face hidden in her veil? (And for that matter, what if the only thing He had said to her was to ask her for the drink and then dismissed her, because after all she was a woman to whom He was not related). Zacchaeus? A "tax collector", which really meant he was an extortionist for the Roman Empire. Hated by his fellow townspeople. He would've been out of luck, stuck up in the tree there. Those poor souls possessed by the demons whom Christ expelled into the herd of swine? Condemned to torment in this life and the next (it's not likely they were Jews, since swine are treif to Jews).

To me, being a 'well-rounded' person does not mean knowing the responses to both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Mass as well as being able to sing the responses of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. It doesn't mean owning both a Douay-Rheims and a New American Bible. It doesn't mean adding prostrations to the Liturgy of the Hours.

A well-rounded person can converse about a multitude of different subjects, is able to admit when they don't know/aren't interested in a subject (without condemning the other person's interest, by the way), and has interests and knowledge of subjects outside those completely contained within the sphere of Catholicity.

(interestingly, this post appeared in my reader as I was working on this one. I think there's much in it that has to do with my poorly composed little rant here.  And shortly afterwards, 'priest's wife' posted a replay of her "Perfect Catholic Mom" post that gets to the bottom of things from her perspective; I admire how she makes her point without ranting the way I always seem to do)

All around me I see people who are figuratively chewing their fingernails to the quick, developing ulcers over whether they are 'good enough' Catholics. They make me glad I'm already Catholic, because I'm not sure I'd be inclined to convert if they were my only example........they are constantly worried about this or that, whether they pray enough of the "right" kind of prayers, whether their association with non-Catholics is scandalous or sinful, and they just don't have any JOY.

And I thought JOY was what life in Christ is all about.

What brings you joy?


  1. Good Post!!

    It should be all about Joy in Christ and our relationship to Him. He didn't intend for us to go around comparing and judging. He gave us a life to enjoy and live and wants good things for us!!

  2. Right! I've never understood how people can expect to live 'an abundant life' if they are constantly worrying about whether they're doing it right. St. Pio used to say "pray, hope and don't worry" and I think that sums up how we are supposed to be.