I had some pretty bad experiences at Engaged Encounter this weekend and wondered what some other folks think about it. First off, let me say that I enjoyed the weekend as a whole. I thought the married couples were great and the experience was generally a good one and I think my marriage will benefit from it tremendously. I won’t say where the weekend happened because I don’t want this to reflect badly on any of the couples who organized or led it.
All that said, however, I was horrified by the Mass that closed the weekend. After the liturgy of the Word and before the creed, all the couples were asked to form a circle around the altar (I think there were 15 - 20 couples in all) we each read from what was called a “betrothal letter” to our fiance (it was basically an anticipation of wedding vows). This I had no problem with. But after we read, we stayed around the altar for the rest of the communion prayer. We stood the whole time. I figured that no one would kneel when it came time, but I decided that I would. When it came time, however, I didn’t, because I was afraid that everyone would think that I was trying to be this show-off pious person. It nearly killed me. I spent the rest of the Eucharistic prayer fighting back tears. I was so ashamed of myself, particularly when it came time for the benediction (“This is Jesus, the Lamb of God . . .”). Esentially, what happened was that I told Christ, “I can’t kneel before you because I’m afraid everyone will think I’m trying to look devout.” I just wanted to scream at all the other couples, “Don’t you know Who that is?!?” Most of them weren’ even paying attention (some were whispering and giggling). Afterwards, my fiance and I left and I broke down driving home. I’ve gone through life thinking of myself as this real believer in the Eucharist, and I failed such a small test.
I’m sure some would think that I was being melodramatic, but think of it this way. If you were to encounter the risen Christ on the street, would you fall to your knees (or onto your face)? If you would, then do you believe in the Real Presence? If so, point made.
The other thing is that at the beginning of the weekend I told the deacon who participated that I wanted to go to confession. I really needed to go to confession before I could go to communion on Sunday. He told me that all I had to do was make a good act of contrition and my sins would be forgiven. Later I went to one of the married couples and asked them if they could help me get a hold of a priest to hear my confession. The husband did help me, and I am grateful for it. However, he acted like he was really just indulging me by helping me out.
I hope this kind of attitude isn’t as widespread as it appears it must be. I don’t see how people cannot realize what they’re leading the church to when they say that we don’t really need confession. I believe God will forgive sins outside of confession, but I believe that He established confession as the ordinary means of forgiveness and He expects us to take advantage of the sacrament when it is available to us. If we say that we don’t really need confession, then we can go on and say that we don’t really need the Eucharist because we can receive Jesus any time we want, and we don’t really have to get married if we’re in true love because two people who are in love know their commitment to eachother, and we don’t really need the church for anything at all because everyone has access to God, blah blah, et cetera, et cetera, and so forth and so on.
I’m sorry to post such a sprawling rant, but I’ve been really upset and disillusioned over this experience. Seeing people giggle and whisper when Christ Himself is being lifted up before them makes me feel very alone in the world. I hear all the time that there has been a new devotion to the Eucharist and to the Church in recent years. I wish I knew where this new devotion is. I wish I knew where those kinds of people are.