|(Tabernacle at St. Vincent Ferrer Parish, NYC)|
It happened again! I wanted to scream! I wanted to cry!
We arrived early to the only Catholic Church in the town we were passing through on our way to be with family. We were looking forward for a few minutes to adore our waiting Lord, to spend time in His Presence, and to silently pray and prepare for the holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Little in this mammoth structure would lead anyone to sense they were entering a sacred place and holy ground. Two thirds of this structure had nothing to do with adoration, prayer and worship. The majority of this structure was dedicated to a huge cafeteria/auditorium area and a cavernous vestibule/library/lounge area.
As we entered the actual “Church” portion of this complex, we were overwhelmed with the sound of cascading water. I thought I was next to Niagara Falls. There was no sanctuary lamp, no tabernacle, no crucifix, no kneelers, no statutes, no candles - nothing that would cause anyone who entered this space to immediately lift up their hearts, minds and souls toward the God to whom we owe adoration and worship.
People milled around, loudly speaking to each other as if they were at the local American Legion hall. The extensive drum set, piano and keyboard were in a central and prestigious location behind the altar area. A search for Jesus’ residence failed to uncover His whereabouts.
The noise and banter continued unabated until Father suddenly approached the side of the altar and suggested we have some quiet time to center our thoughts on God - thirty seconds later we were told to introduce ourselves to all those around us. The short lived period of reflective silence and communing prayerfully with our Lord was over.
The music was not sacred. It was not directed toward worshipping God but rather toward celebrating the gift we are to each other. The homily prompted periodic laughter. Though long considered an unacceptable liturgical abuse, the priest used a glass chalice. Two of the sixteen extraordinary (?) Eucharistic ministers poured the Sacred Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior from two glass pitchers into sixteen glass chalices – another practice long prohibited by the Church for good and sufficient reasons. Only the priest and deacon distributed the Sacred Host while the majority of those in attendance sat patiently in their cushioned chairs chatting with each other until it was their turn to get up and walk toward the altar.
Before the Mass ended, Father urged more of the parishioners to sign up to become Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion – sixteen apparently being insufficient to meet the needs at Sunday Mass (?). He next called two lovely young Girl Scouts up to the altar where their good deeds were publicly acknowledged before the gathered Church community that dutifully gave them a rousing round of applause – this entire presentation lasted ten times longer than the thirty second period of silence that had preceded Mass.
Father had barely begun to process away from the altar when the majority resumed acting as if they were still at an American Legion social hour.
At the end of Mass, I went looking for Jesus. I knew He had to be somewhere in this complex. I checked several alcoves but did not find Him. As I approached the last of these areas, there were three ushers standing there, effectively (but not likely intentionally) blocking anyone from accessing whatever might be located behind them. I looked some ten feet beyond these men and saw our Lord’s earthly residence through a glass window. I entered this small chapel, only one third the size allotted to the drums, piano and keyboard so prominently located behind the altar. Doesn’t our Lord deserve a more honored and prominent place in Church than do musical instruments? I knelt and spent a few minutes in adoration before the locked tabernacle, offering my presence there as an act of love and reparation to our often abandoned, forgotten and hidden Lord.
This is not the type of worship our Lord deserves and to which He is entitled. Yet, this type of behavior is the norm in far too many of our Catholic Churches every Sunday. We wonder why so few Catholics attend Mass on Sunday, or why they claim to get nothing out of Mass, or why the majority of Catholics no longer believe that Jesus is really, truly and substantially present in the Blessed Sacrament or why so few of them are willing to spend any time with Him in Eucharistic Adoration.
It is not about us! It should never be about us. It must always be about Him, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
Return a sense of the sacred to our Church buildings!