Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Anger management

Back in February, I alluded to a conversation I had with a St. Ann Choir member after a Mass at St. Thomas, and promised to blog about it. Time to make good on that.

The conversation came after most of the choir had figured out that I was The Dover Beachcomber who had been blogging so enthusiastically about the choir's work at STA. The comment that struck me was something like "I was surprised it was you, because I didn't know there was so much anger in you." Or something close to that. They weren't criticizing, just noting. Anyway, the key thing was that the anger that underlay some of my posts had made an impression.

Going back over my blogging history, I had to admit that this person was right. I certainly have sounded angry at times, occasionally very angry. And that got me to thinking about why that was so.

My wife supplied a suggestion that I think is right on the money. She said that she had read that anger isn't a primary emotion, i.e., it's not what happens first. Before anger, there is usually a sense of hurt, and anger is a response to the hurt.

Thinking about that, I realized that my sense of personal hurt over what has happened to the Catholic Church in my lifetime is indeed enormous. At the very moment its old solidity and confidence might have saved the whole world -- and me -- much grief and sin, those things vanished into a welter of self-doubt, blandness, and timidity. And that change didn't just happen; it was pushed, and continues to be pushed even today, by Catholics who chose their own judgment, and the judgment of secular society, over the teaching authority of the Church, and over what Chesterton calls "the democracy of the dead" (i.e., the accumulated wisdom of the men and women who came before us).

That, I realize, is where the hurt comes from. I could do a better job of resisting the reaction of anger, I suppose. But on the other hand, perhaps sometimes it has its uses.