About this blogger:
Ronda Chervin received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Fordham University and an MA in Religious Studies from Notre Dame Apostolic Institute. A widow, mother, and grandmother, she currently teaches philosophy at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. Write to her at chervinronda@gmail.com.
Connect on Facebook:
Connect on Twitter:
"The local church should be conscious that church worship is not really the same as what we sing in a bar, or what we sing in a convention for youth."
— Francis Cardinal Arinze (2005)

   Send an E-mail to Dr. Ronda Chervin, Ph.D.
Our Church Old and New
published 10 March 2013 by Dr. Ronda Chervin

From my old journal:

HERE is a doctor who got a job offer here in our small town. He came from far for an interview but first came to see our “moderate” pastor to check out our Church. The doctor told our priest he would only take the offer if he can get to daily Mass but the hospital won’t let him go to our noon Mass because he has to be always on call. Fr. Ken said he would put in a second 7 AM Mass every day for this doctor! What heroic virtue for this priest who usually only surfaces at 9 AM since the daily Mass isn’t until noon. The doctor didn’t take the job for other reasons, but the incident reminded me not to stereotype Church moderates as less sacrificial.

I was getting excited about some plans for the future. Mother Mary seemed to say, “I told you to float. Float on the water. Don’t try to fly in the sky or you will fall.”

Today after the regular morning Mass, here in New Hampshire, while I was sitting quietly in thanksgiving for Holy Communion, a second visiting priest came slowly toward the altar. I would guess his age to be about ninety. Though he was not hunched over, his head drooped low on his chest and his walk was halting. It soon became apparent that he was saying the old Latin Mass but facing the people. I was the only one in the Church but he didn’t seem to see me or hear my responses and he didn’t ask, as sometimes is done, whether I wanted to receive or not.

Since I was in no hurry, I decided it would be pleasant to stay and place myself in solidarity with all those lovers of the Latin Mass who bewail the infrequency of its celebration. I became a Catholic a few years before the vernacular so I am familiar with the words even though I’ve never studied Latin. The priest said the Mass extremely slowly whether because of his age or his devotion or both. This gave me ample opportunity to simply gaze at the aesthetics of the thing. There was this grey face surrounded by a circlet of white hair. The oval of his head seemed like a whitish ball that swung the bright red vestments as he turned it from the sacramentary to the chalice back and forth. That white of his hair perfectly matched the white sleeves of the chausible? that protruded from the vestment. Later the white of the host slowly lifted up in his gnarled hands completed the contrast with the blazing red garment for the martyrs whose lives he was commending.

Further contrast was provided by the swaying motion of the vestment and the altar cloth in the breeze coming from a fan some three feet away and the swift flight of a small bird trying to find its way out of the church.

The Mass took a good three quarters of an hour without any sermon. At the end he intoned the beginning of the Gospel of St. John and then knelt at the foot of the altar for the St. Michael prayer. In a loud voice I made the responses to these prayers. As he hobbled off holding the covered chalice I took a chance and very unlike any pre-Vatican II person, yelled out, “Thank you, Father.” He turned around and looked at me in the front pew for the first time. With a beatific smile he said, “Thank you for staying. That was the Mass!”

As an ecumenical gesture I went to a Black Baptist revival tonight with one of the men I minister to at the half way house. It was wonderful. It reminded me of how, as a teen, I loved Mahalia Jackson’s way of singing and probably got a sense of Jesus from it even though I was then an atheist. Gospel is a lot like charismatic so I enjoyed that. The group seemed a little surprised to see a white RC in their Church, but pleased also.

I passed by Flynn House, the group home for those struggling to overcome addictions to check out an arrangement for Sunday. Spontaneously I asked if a woman visitor I knew and any of the residents wanted to come to the charismatic prayer meeting. They were going to 12 Step but the woman and her black male friend agreed to come for a little while to see. In spite of not understanding Spanish they got into the presence of the Holy Spirit very quickly and entered into heartfelt prayer through the music. It was beautiful to see their deep need for God expressed in each ones individual bodily expression. The woman gradually started opening her arms upward. The man went from clapping of hands to cupping his head in his hands, to stretching his body forward and upward.

Back to the present: There is no way any of you young tech people can imagine the amount of stress Distance Learning is for us older professors. You see, we pride ourselves on our smarts, often having very little else to boast of and so feeling stupid makes us feel worse than other people feel who are beautiful, suave, or holy, such as you, don’t mind. Smile.

During the Retreat for widows, our priest said that a spiritual master used to give this method of following the injunction in the New Testament to pray constantly. Here is a paraphrase: in every minute take one second to lift your heart to God; in every hour take a minute to lift your heart to God; in every day take an hour to lift your heart to God; in every week take a day to lift your heart to God; in every year take a week to lift your heart to God. I snapped back with “so, do you actually do this, Father?” I thought he would say something funny in reply but he looked at us with the same absolutely solemn expression he has at Mass and said. Yes, more or less.)

(On the Feast of St. Peter and Paul, our priest, gave an incisive sermon to us in this Bible Belt area of North Carolina. Quoting Jesus making Peter the Rock on which He would build His church, our Pastor said, “He didn’t say on this book I will build My church. The church assembled the New Testament gradually. Of course, he added, the Bible is the Word of God, but it is not the rock.)

Kierkegaard had an interesting analysis of resignation and hope. He claimed that hard as it is to resign oneself in detachment from some dearly longed for wish; it is even harder to hope. But without hope we are not ready to welcome the gift of receiving what seemed impossible to obtain.

Maybe you know the joke about the man who is ushered into his heavenly quarters by St. Peter. The first evening he looks down to hell and sees a magnificent banquet being served. St. Peter brings him bread and water. This goes on for three days. Finally our new arrival complains. St. Peter replies: “It’s hard to cook for one.”