Good Old Fashioned Religion: Doldrums and the Sunday Obligation

There are all sorts of things we might discuss regarding the Sunday obligation.  We might discuss the source of the church’s authority to require such a thing.  We might discuss how the obligation makes sense and even discuss how a daily obligation might make sense.  But today I’m going to discuss something different I’m going to discuss how great the Sunday obligation is for spiritual doldrums.

Everyone goes through some spiritual doldrums.  You know those times where the emotional aspect of the sacraments and the religious life just aren’t there, and you just feel like you’re going through the motions a lot of the time?  The Sunday obligation functions perfectly for people in the spiritual doldrums.

Spiritual doldrums are a drag.  There are times when, emotionally, the catholic life is very fulfilling.  But there are also times that are not.  Sometimes life is just difficult and boring and it’s hard to concentrate.  Sometimes you’re just not that into it.

But your relationship with everyone you know has doldrums.  Even close friendships and marriages do so.  But this is why the sunday obligation is so good for doldrums.  Obligations allow a person to get through doldrums.

Obligations get you there.  Obligations put your butt in the seat, and make you listen.  And the Mass is a place where seat where you want to get your butt.  Further, in the context of fulfilling this obligation, you will engage in the mass.  The mass is a deeply affecting thing, but even in the absense of this special kind of affect which the mass often gives rise to the mass is first of all an act of will and an act of intellect.

In the mass we (at least those parts which we perform on our own) is primarily an act of intellect, recognizing the truths about the divine which are revealed, and it is an act of will, bringing our volitions in accord with the truths which we know with our intellect.

But if you’re not obligated to go, it’s hard or a person in the doldrums to see why they should go.  Why should I go to a thing that I’m not that into?  Why should I go and sit uncomfortably in my hippy-dippy parish that doesn’t have kneelers because they recently moved and can’t afford the incredibly expensive building project that would be required to have a proper worship space?  Why? Because you are obligated, in virtue of being a Catholic, to do so.

And how does it help? Because however little you think you get out of it, you’re getting something out of it (as long as you’re there with a willing heart) something out of it.  At worst you’re getting the sacrament.  And that’s nothing to sneeze at.  So, please fulfill your Sunday obligation.


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