Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Chasing Joy" and the wisdom of Edward Hays

Chasing JoyThese days I'm reading Edward Hays' delightful little book called Chasing Joy: Musings on Life in a Bittersweet World (Ave Maria Press 2007, ISBN 13: 978-0-939516-78-0). It's a marvelous thing to be reading as I continue to struggle with inexplicable dizziness issues, because it's about joyful living even when it's hard to feel joyful -- in a realistic sense, not just, "Everybody be happy!!!"

I've known and loved Edward Hays' writing since reading The Ethiopian Tattoo Shop when I was in High School. He's a Catholic priest, but not a boring one -- he's a great storyteller, and I suspect he's the kind of person who always has a twinkle in his eye. I just googled him to make sure, and wasn't disappointed. He looks like Santa's brother. He's written a stack of books, many of which I've perused, and several that I own because it's nice to inject some whimsy and humour into prayer now and then since God must have the greatest sense of humour of all. I mean, look at the walrus... or the emu... or the proboscis monkey. If they don't strike you funny, think of the last person who made you laugh...

I just wish the hierarchy of the Catholic church would stop taking themselves so darn seriously. In Advent, they took the Mass from solemn to downright depressing with "adjustments" to the translations of the Mass, all in the name of making it truer to the original ancient Latin. The problem is that no one speaks ancient Latin anymore, and now Mass feels pompous and frustrating. Up until recently, for as long as I've been alive, the church's prayers have always addressed God like S/he is a dear friend rather than as a solemn and distant being who demands our absolute, tongue-twisted adoration. And, as you know by now, I'm one for simplicity, not pomposity. Short and sweet is better than long, convoluted and boring!

I've already made public my opinion that the new translation of the prayers makes them inaccessible, exclusive, stilted and stuffy. In fact, the "new" prayers with their words like beseech, implore, devout oblation, blah blah blah O God Almighty Father (sorry, but God is more than male!!!), have tempted me to start a Facebook page called "People for a New New Translation" just to see how many others would join the club. Except I would prefer a catchier title than that. If you know of any such page, tell me, because I want to join it! Or if you can think of a zingier moniker...

Anyway, Edward Hays again brought to mind this recent pet peeve when I read the following in Chasing Joy, in a chapter called "clinging to the faith doggedly but without joy": 
"...clinging without joy to the faith can be a valid motto for the large numbers of faithful who today sadly lament the restoration of the clerical culture and the practices of the pre-Vatican Council Church [Maria's note: e.g. this new translation].... Don't bother to write letters to Rome. Complain directly to God!.... Pray with faith, and I'll wager you'll hear something like this: 
"Ah, you sound just like my son, Jesus! How he used to lament to me, moaning over the wretched worship of temple and its priesthood or the hypocrisy of the village elders with their strict observance of the petty religious rules..."" (p. 111-112)
According to Edward Hays, God encouraged Jesus (and encourages us) to be joy for the world, to make love the greatest commandment, to love those whom society finds the most unlovable, and to smile and laugh at those who would make a relationship with God into a frowning, pious, gloomy and guilt-ridden thing.

That's the challenge for me these days, to smile and laugh as I listen to these pompous new wordings of church prayers that have our older priests stumbling over the texts, poor guys. I don't mind change when it's for the better, but this is not. I find myself either rolling my eyes, or tuning out these new prayers most of the time because they have too much useless gibberish -- as though lengthier sentences using weird Latin sentence structures from the 1920s Roman Missal translation of Pope Benedict the XV are somehow more pleasing to God. With the prayers we used for the past 40-some years, I loved to listen for the gems among the direct and simple words. It's painful to hear pre-Vatican language when you've always loved post-Vatican prayer.

I'm not quite clinging to the faith doggedly and without joy, because having someone wise like Edward Hays putting his thoughts and feelings into encouraging words like this makes it just a little easier. If you're looking for a good read to challenge your heart and lift your spirits during the long season of Lent, I'd recommend  Chasing Joy. It's helping me to take heart and be of better cheer! (Though I may start that Facebook page yet!)

1 comment:

  1. I am with you all the way.

    How about calling your Facebook page, "Words to serve the human heart?" One way or the other, I owuld sign up immediately and I would recruit every person I know to join as well.

    Your words touched my ache, my longing and my wound in a profound way. I admire your courage and your candour.


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