(Photo from Father Lawrence Lew, O.P. - God’s Excessive Love - Used With Permission)
" "You must speak to Jesus, not only with your lips, but also with your heart; actually, on certain occasions, you should speak with only your heart." — St. Padre Pio

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Wrong Question!

A number of commentators are wringing their hands over what they perceive to be another unfairness that will flow from the revised translations to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. How, they lament, will the Catholics who attend Mass only twice a year, be able to participate in a liturgy whose words will be so different from those they last heard?

Wrong question!

The correct one to ask is why are all those Catholics who attend Mass only twice a year not fearful of spending eternity in hell for failing to obey God's commandment? This query should be quickly followed up with two others: Why won't this issue be discussed with these infrequent Mass attendees and why will so few of them be reminded not to approach our Lord in the Holy Eucharist if they have not been fulfilling their obligation to actively participate in weekly Sunday Mass without first bathing themselves in the healing and forgiving waters of a sacramental confession?

In some places (not my parish) fear of offending someone or their feelings will take precedence over concern for the salvation of their souls or the painful and hurtful offense our Lord will be subjected to by those who approach Him in mortal sin. This would never happen if pleasing God was viewed as more important than upsetting man.

There can be nothing more important than saving souls! If one dies in a state of mortal sin, there is no escaping hell. Missing Sunday Mass without a legitimate excuse is a mortal sin, as, for example, are such things as abortion, adultery, contraception, sex outside of marriage, and euthanasia. Yet, there are those professing to be Catholic (recent polls suggesting not few in number) who do not believe this truth. Rarely do they hear anything about hell and mortal sin. Some are simply told of a merciful loving God who gives us “hope that no one is in hell,” unambiguous Scriptural references or approved Marian apparitions to the contrary notwithstanding.

Yes, we must warmly welcome all those who come to our Churches each Sunday, and most especially those whom we only see at Christmas and Easter. We must let them know how happy we are to see them, how much God loves them, and how He longs to see them every Sunday. At the same time, our priests cannot let them leave Church without making it certain they understand the eternal consequences if they continue to defy God by skipping Sunday Mass. Sadly, such frankness may have a negative impact on the collections. But this truth can be conveyed lovingly by any priest whose heart is aflame with the passion to save souls. It is an act of charity. It is the duty and obligation of our priests to do so. If not on the only two times each year that so many come to Church, then when?

Two examples of priestly zeal for the salvation of souls immediately come to my mind. There are, of course, many others. Saint Dominic established his Order of Preachers “for the salvation of souls through preaching.” As Father Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. has noted, Dominic would "spend practically the whole night in church, praying for and doing penance for the sinners to whom he wanted to preach the Gospel the following day." Another Dominican, Louis Bertrand, O.P., patron saint of novice masters and mistresses, “cared very little whether he pleased men, but he was very anxious to please God and St. Dominic.” He was fond of telling his brothers that “he did not wish to go himself to hell, or even to purgatory on account of the faults of his friends.” Less anyone still not understand, he hung a scroll on his cell wall which read: “If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ (Gal 1:10).”

All priests must have that same zeal – that is why God called them to the priesthood.

"We owe everyone the Truth," as St. Therese of Lisieux reminds us, "even if that may cause others to dislike us." Our salvation and that of countless others depends on our priests having the courage to teach and speak the Truth.

So let’s always ask the right questions.

P.S. We lay people also owe everyone the Truth. We have the same obligation as do our priests to fraternally correct those whose acts or omissions demonstrate they are in jeopardy of losing their souls. Tough to do! Many will not like you for being truthful. They will accuse you of being arrogant, judgmental, and intolerant. Draw comfort and strength knowing that God will be pleased with your efforts and will water the seeds you have planted in the hearts of those you loved enough to share His Truth!

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