Sunday, October 11, 2009

As Catholics, Do We Really Believe?

For whatever reason, I was forced this last weekend to forgo Mass at my regular parish and instead go to a Novus Ordo vigil Mass to fulfill my Sunday obligation. Now I do attend (almost daily during the work week) a reverent Novus Ordo Mass onboard ship but it had been some years since I had gone to a surrounding parish church where Mass was celebrated in the Ordinary Form. I was hesitant, given my fears of what I might encounter, and even talked with my parish priest to express my concerns given my expectations. While he understood my apprehension, he of course reaffirmed that I must fulfill my Sunday obligation and reminded me that if Christ can condescend to come to us under the appearance of bread and wine, even amid many liturgical abuses and disrespect, that I can certainly "offer up" my displeasure. And while I did ultimately know this and had every intention of going to Mass, I think I needed from my priest a bit of a pep talk before going.

The church itself was beautiful. A historic building, it has retained much of it's original glory coming from a time when churches were built to honor God and inspire us towards Heaven. The high altar remains. It too is majestic and a fitting location for the celebration of Mass. But of course the layout of church has been modified with the altar rails removed and the addition of a free standing altar table outside of the sanctuary. As far as such medications go, I suppose it is fairly typical of that done in the 70's but this one looks particularly out of place and disjointed. Now I suppose I could lay out a very extensive list of things that I found displeasing. The use of altar girls, communion in the hand, the female cantor dressed in clerical clothing (surplice and cassock), the over use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (all but one being woman) who circled the altar doing the consecration, etc, etc, etc. I'm sure some will casually dismiss my objections as just the rantings of some "traditionalist" but I believe they, like many of my fellow worshipers the other night they will have missed the point.

Do we as Catholics truly and actually believe that Christ is present in the Eucharist? Yes, we go to Mass regularly, receive the Eucharist and even verbally acknowledge His Presence. But do we truly believe? Do our actions say that we believe? Do we act like Christ is truly present on the altar during Mass? I would say that for the most part, based upon what I witnessed at a typical parish the other night, most Catholics don't really believe. From our posture, our dress, our manner of receiving Communion in the hand as if it is nothing more than snack cracker, the destruction of the traditional layout of the altar and the mindset that unless we are engaged in some physical activity at Mass that mimics a priest that we aren't participating, our actions don't convey such belief.

Now I am truly thankful that God did provide me the opportunity to receive the Eucharist, even in such a setting. And even though I realize that the majority of Catholics that were present have the best of intentions, it saddened me to see such a display and left me feeling sorry for them given they don't seem to even realize what they are missing. I am grateful to God for bringing me and my family to the Mass of Ages, the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven. May we always treasure it for what it is and always truly believe in our heart and with our actions that Christ is present.