Friday, November 16, 2007

Catholic ecclesiology
As seen by a Portuguese immigrant decades ago, mixed with ethnocentrism but that’s how she thought (but how different is it really to this?)
I’ve told this story before. Maybe you haven’t heard it.

As a young child, I walked to early morning Mass every day with my grandmother.

As we passed St. Jean Baptiste, the Roman Catholic church established by the French Canadian immigrants, she would kiss her thumb and make the sign of the cross as a form of blessing.

When we passed St. Patrick’s, the Roman Catholic church established by the Irish immigrants, she would also bless herself. Clearly, it was a sign of respect – a wee ‘arrow prayer’ in solidarity with all those who were praying there.
I do that last one every day and like that interpretation — certainly one the early Christians would have understood — alongside saluting the presence of Christ in the Reserved Sacrament there.
As we rounded the corner to attend Mass at St. Elizabeth’s Roman Catholic Church which had been established by the Portuguese immigrants, we always ran into “the Protestant Church” at the top of the street.

My grandmother would bless herself several times, in rapid, furious succession, as if warding off the real presence of Evil itself.

I asked her, once, why she did that.

She spit on the ground and then hissed, “Dead wood splinters,” going on to explain that these were not part of God’s “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. They are not connected to their original source,” she said.

They broke away. They work harder to justify their existence than to pray to God. And, because of that, they can not sustain their faith. They argue among themselves. They break off from each other. They have no faith. Dead wood splinters.”

My grandmother was very big on faithfulness. She didn't believe in divorce, either, which she thought was a result of "intermarriage" - that is, marrying outside of what she called "the Portuguese race."

In my grandmother's world, you were faithful and loyal to your race/ethnicity, your family/tribe, your spouse AND your religion. You stayed "close to your original source" or you risked "drying up" and splintering off.
Of course I don’t agree with the spin the Revd Elizabeth Kaeton has put on it which I can describe as a kind of gay Feeneyism (reminiscent of another strain of Roman Catholicism in Massachusetts!), or ‘Extra ECUSAm nulla salus’.

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