Yesterday at Church, just as the traditional post-communion restlessness began rocketing through my feet and visions of pancakes danced in my head, the priest took his moment to remind us that November 2nd is
A HOLY DAY OF OBLIGATION.
The room darkened, my stomach dropped, the entire congregation shrank by roughly .86 inches. For you non-Catholics out there: HOLY DAYS OF OBLIGATION are the worst. It’s double duty and we’ll do virtually anything to avoid it. Standardized tests? Manual labor? Painful medical procedures? Sign us up. Immediately, I began to mentally fill my November 2nd with pressing and unavoidable commitments. This ritual dread is part of growing up Catholic, like manufacturing more substantial sins for your first confession or pretending you have to pee before that endless mid-mass kneeling bonanza.
It was yesterday that this dawned on me: The Catholic Church sucks at marketing. Telling someone they’re obliged to do anything is a surefire way to make them resent, disengage, and inevitably wriggle out of it. Shouldn’t our faith, and the opportunity to actively practice it, be a gift instead of an OBLIGATION?
I know that religion isn’t always fun or exciting but I am convinced that my God, and whatever deity blesses your life, is full of joy and there is simply nothing joyful about OBLIGATION. If I were running this shindig (and apparently, I can’t, because ovaries make me unfit for religious leadership) I would refer to these days as HOLY DAYS OF OPPORTUNITY! BONUS DAYS OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH! SUPPLEMENTAL SPIRITUAL INCOME! THE JACKPOT OF EXTRA CHANCES! (It’s possible that teeth-baring optimism is what actually makes me unfit for religious leadership…)
How do we reframe our obligation to make it our opportunity?