No one can give what they don’t have. In fun-Latin, nemo dat quod non ‘got’. And yet the universal vocation to evangelize is predicated on what we have, what we have received.
We haven’t been evangelizing well. Rather, we seems to be more and more, in the presently ascendant institution which is the Church, “conformed to the wisdom of this world” (Rom 12:2), which, while it is the smoother path and the one to chimeric success, is actually “folly with God” (1 Cor 3:19).
We haven’t been evangelizing, because we haven’t been handing down and receiving what has always been handed down.
Yet, the urgency of evangelization is greater than ever.
Or … are we prepared simply to batten down the hatches on the Barque, close up the gun ports and cut away the ropes and spars that have been brought down to the decks in our recent engagements? Cut them loose with crew still clinging and then run before the wind of secular mores?
That’s one approach.
It might be the only one for now, since we don’t have any other coherent plans in the offing.
Maybe survival mode is all we have now.
In a piece at Catholic World Report George Weigel addressed the crisis – yes, crisis – in the Church that is provoked by “Eucharistic incoherence”.
Given that Catholic Joe Biden, a perennial promoter of abortion and also same-sex marriage, receives Communion with the blessing of the local bishop is nothing short of a crisis of incoherence, especially of what the Church has taught about the Eucharist for millennia. In modern times, John Paul II issued Ecclesia de Eucharistia… the Church from the Eucharist. Then-Card. Bergoglio signed a document of conferences of Latin America, the Aparecida Document, which Weigel reminds us “insisted on ‘Eucharistic coherence’ in their Catholic communities.” Namely,
“the Church’s Eucharistic coherence required that holy communion not be distributed to those Catholics in politics and medical practice who were not in full communion with the Church because they were facilitating or participating in such grave moral evils as abortion and euthanasia.”
You’ve seen the numbers about how many Catholics believe in what the Church teaches about the Eucharist. They are pretty low. Frankly, I’m surprised that they are as high as they are, given the appalling catechesis, preaching and liturgical worship of the last decades.
Consider also the issue of Mass attendance on what used to be “the Lord’s Day”, Dies Dominica.
I suspect that in many places the average Catholic notion about the Sunday worship and Eucharist runs along these lines: “They put the white thing in our hand and then we sing a song.” Everyone is happy because they all feel like they belong to the club. They got the white thing which means there is no judgmentalism.
There is nothing coherent, in a truly Catholic sense, about that, and yet that seems to be the prevailing state of affairs.
Our Catholic identity flows from the Eucharist and returns us to the Eucharist. It is an existential dynamic summed up in the phrase of ancient martyrs of Abitinae, used as a title for a book by Bp. Schneider, “sine dominico non possumus… without that which pertains to the Lord (Sunday and Eucharist) we … just can’t, we cannot live, cannot go on”. The Acts of the Martyrs says that when the Christians were interrogated about having met on Sunday, their leaders said: “As if a Christian could be without the Sunday Eucharist, or the Sunday Eucharist could be celebrated without there being a Christian! Don’t you know, Satan, that it is the Sunday Eucharist which makes the Christian and the Christian that makes the Sunday Eucharist, so that one cannot subsist without the other, and vice versa?”
This is one of the reasons why I keep saying that WE ARE OUR RITES.
Our beliefs form our rites, which in turn shape who we are and what we believe, and as an inexorable consequence how we are to live as Christians in this world, dominated as it is by its Prince.
We are our rites.
There is an order, a hierarchy to our loves and activities. At the pinnacle we find that which we owe to God. All things follow after. What we owe to God is governed by the virtue of Religion. Just as Justice guides what we owe to fellow human persons, Religion does so for what we owe to God, a qualitatively different person, divine. The principle thing that we owe to God is loving worship. Proper liturgical worship is the first, foremost way we fulfill the virtue of Religion, as individuals, families, communities… as a Church.
If we are screwed up, individually or collectively, in the matter of the virtue of Religion, then everything else in our lives is going to be screwed up.
The Church is screwed up in large part because our sacred liturgical worship is screwed up.
Our rites are a mess today and the manifestation of the mess is a vast swathe for whom the Eucharist Host is like a token of club membership that can blithely be given even to someone who blatantly works against the tenets of the club.
Coherent sacred liturgical worship is an essential element of any way forward toward evangelization. Heck. It’s about survival now. The Lord promised that the Church would prevail against Hell, but He didn’t say it would prevail in these United States. Consider the mighty, vital Churches of ancient Asia Minor and of North Africa. What we have can be lost, as is being lost, at an ever accelerating rate. Motus in finem velocior. When full-scale revolution finally burst out of the preparatory stage, it happens fast. That goes for the Church as well.
That the spirit of revolutionary change, which has long been disturbing the Church throughout the world, should have passed beyond the sphere of liturgical worship and made its influence felt in the cognate spheres of faith and morals is not surprising.
It is good for Roman Catholics to know, for the sake of your Roman Catholic identity, that your ancient brethren looked on anything new with severe suspicion. The very term in Latin for “revolution” is res novae, “new things”, and it always has a negative connotation. Think Leo XIII and his foundational encyclical,
“That the spirit of revolutionary change [rerum novarum], which has long been disturbing the nations of the world, should have passed beyond the sphere of politics and made its influence felt in the cognate sphere of practical economics is not surprising. The elements of the conflict now raging are unmistakable,… The momentous gravity of the state of things now obtaining fills every mind with painful apprehension; wise men are discussing it; practical men are proposing schemes; popular meetings, legislatures, and rulers of nations are all busied with it – actually there is no question which has taken deeper hold on the public mind.”
No new initiative we undertake in the Church is going to succeed unless we revitalize our sacred liturgical worship and seek to fulfill the virtue of Religion, to give God what is His due. Everything we do must flow from the Eucharist – by which we must understand both the sacred Eucharistic species and also its celebration which is Holy Mass. Everything we do must then be brought back to the Eucharist.
Let us recover what we’ve lost. We’ve gone down the wrong road for too long and we are paying the price. As in geometry, the farther two rays extend from a point, the farther apart they get. As in making a journey, if you want to get from, say, Wisconsin to Florida and, after driving for a long time, discover you are at the Canadian border, you would do well to turn around, retrace your MISTAKE, and start again on the right road. As a matter of fact, you would be stupid to keep driving north.
The losses were incremental. The recovery will be incremental.
Among the things that we can do relatively quickly are reinstitute many of our devotional practices: recitation of the Rosary (perhaps with a priest in the confessional), exposition and benediction (perhaps with a priest in the confessional), novenas on weeknights (perhaps with a priest in the confessional), processions, litanies, vespers, Forty Hours.
FORTY HOURS! If there was ever a time in the life of the Church when we needed to recover the practice of FORTY HOURS DEVOTION… not pretend Forty Hours… not dumbed-down Forty Hours… not updated (see previous) Forty Hour… but REAL Forty Hours, it’s now. Undiluted… unblended… undaunted… unmodified… unapologetic… traditional Forty Hours Devotion.
Thus endeth the rant.
We are our rites.
God, Our Father, with Your mighty steering hand guide Your priests and bishops out of the fog of worldly notions and onto a course of true renewal.
God, Our Savior and High Priest, chart onto the minds and hearts of Your sons a destination of a traditional priestly identity for our turbulent context here and now.
God, Holy Spirit, fill Your sons with zeal and with the courage to persevere when stormy resistance will rise from the agents of the Enemy.
Mary, Queen of the Clergy, put your protecting mantle over your sons who will be persecuted by their brethren and superiors when they implement traditional worship.
St. Joseph, Protector of Christ, Protector of the Church, guide the efforts of your sons to build up the Temple of God for worthy worship according to the virtue of Religion.
Holy Angels, guard us from evil and prompt us to do good.