made our hearts grow fonder?
|(Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
No one questions the seriousness of the current corona crisis nor the difficulty even Solomon would have had in addressing our Church’s response to it.
Reasonable people could,
and have, disagreed as to what action should or should not be taken. But this
much is beyond dispute: we had a spiritual and civil obligation to explore the
least restrictive infringement on our God-given right to practice our religion
and to worship Him. Certainly, we can agree that anyone who did not feel well
should have been directed to stay home and not to come to Church. Unfortunately,
in an effort to limit the spread of a dangerous physical virus, we opted
instead to bar all public worship and, in most dioceses, impose an absolute
physical separation of God from His people.
As we proceed with the current battle between human fear and supernatural faith, we will have to answer the following question – one I have not yet heard articulated: “Would our loving Lord, our Divine Physician, our Supreme Healer invite us to receive His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity and then use our act of faith as a conduit to poison and/or kill our physical bodies and those of others with whom we may later interact?”
Now that (prayerfully) we are approaching the point where we hungry souls can freely participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, receive Holy Communion and confess our sins, we need to proceed with a clear understanding of where we were as a Church prior to this crisis and where we need to be.
Remember, at the time the doors to our Churches were locked, there was often no difference between how people conducted themselves there than they did at public, fraternal and sporting events. In far too many parishes, we had long lost the sense of the sacred and the reverent silence that accompanies such a belief.
Seventy-five per cent of the people who identified themselves as Catholic were not practicing their Faith, nor attending Sunday Mass. Of the remaining twenty-five percent, some seventy-five percent of them did not believe that Jesus is truly, substantially and physically present in the Eucharist. Their irreverent conduct while in Church evidenced that unbelief. Catholics living in an objective state of mortal sin should have been instructed not to receive sacrilegious Communions as it would kill their souls. For the most part, they received no such teaching.
Recall also that relatively few Catholics ever spent any time in God’s Presence outside of Sunday Mass. We Catholics have for some long time now abandoned, ignored and disrespected our ever-present Eucharist Lord - His frequent pleas through His intermediaries begging us to come visit Him and His description of how painful our absence and lack of belief was to Him, notwithstanding.
We even closed our Adoration Chapels, few in number as they may have been, unwilling to believe the God Who has been beseeching His Church to promote this devotion – to love and adore Him as we ought and as He deserves - would protect those faithful and generous souls who visited and adored Him from the scourge of the corona virus.
Like many other home-bound Catholics, I have “participated” at daily Mass via various internet sites. There is one thing that has struck me profoundly since I have been doing so - the absolute, reverent, sacred silence that we witness during those celebrations.
It can be done clearly and lovingly, as the following homily excerpts demonstrate:
“… when we are in the presence of this unique kind of Christ's presence in the Blessed Sacrament, either on the altar or reserved in the tabernacle, we should maintain a proper silence. Talking in church should be limited to brief greetings, spoken in a hushed voice. Although there are obvious exceptions to this rule, exceptions pertaining to the conduct of practical matters in the service of church life — for example, the need to talk during choir and wedding rehearsals, liturgical training sessions, when cleaning in the church with other workers, and so on — in general carrying on conversations in church as one would in other places is very disrespectful and irreverent, and such behavior saddens the Lord and his Mother greatly (my emphasis). The real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament reserved in a Catholic church is itself a call from heaven to behave there as the angels behave in the presence of the holiest of holies — and, to be sure, angels are invisibly present, adoring the Blessed Sacrament unceasingly, in every Catholic church. Mary, for this reason, wants us to practice reverent silence at all times when we are in church, after Mass as well as before, and to come there, the sacred house of God, to adore and worship her Son truly present, body and blood, soul and divinity, in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Let all mortal flesh keep a reverent silence before the Blessed Sacrament as do the angels! By this reverent silence we dispose ourselves to receive the graces the Lord wishes to bestow upon us during our time in church, his house of prayer.”
Are there any reasons to disagree with this fine priest's instructions and exhortation? What might they possibly be?
If we do not get this task right, if we are unwilling or afraid to teach and plant this truth in the hearts of all those professing to be Catholic and if we are hesitant to lovingly and persistently instruct those who continue engaging in disrespectful and irreverent behaviors while in Church in the presence of God, nothing else we do we will be of any value.
No harm, as far as I know, has even befallen a parish or its people, who have chosen to foster a greater sense of reverent sacred silence in their churches and to worship their God in the manner to which He is entitled. Only blessings have followed.
“God,” a friend reminded me a few weeks ago, “has put the entire world on pause.” He definitely wants our attention. Tragically, even now, far too many continue to ignore Him. Our current world-wide crisis is a spiritual one, masked behind a physical virus. It is a form of chastisement but at the same time a merciful opportunity to end all irreverence towards, and lack of belief in, a God who lives among us but whom we have far too often abandoned, ignored and disrespected.
Let us not waste this precious opportunity to right the ship of irreverence and to reinstate reverent and sacred silence in our Churches. Our Lord deserves nothing less. He is giving us a great opportunity to “restart”. We may not be given another chance.
Of course, there is much more needed than simply reinstating and living reverent sacred silence in our Churches. That is just the beginning but most vital first step. Anything that increases the sense of the sacred and belief in the Real Presence of our Lord (including restoration of ad orientem worship, sacred music, altar rails and reception of Holy Communion on the tongue and while kneeling) must be pursued; all that detracts from the sacred must be discarded now and forever.
So when your parish opens (soon we pray), what will you see and hear– reverent and grateful worshipers on their knees in sacred silence praying to and thanking God for the precious Gift of His Presence and their privilege to be there and worship Him, or loud, irreverent, inane conversations and hugging reunions with friends and acquaintances, who offer little or no attention to God present in their midst?
I pray for the sake of our Almighty God, Who has suffered irreverence and ingratitude throughout all human history, Who hungers and thirsts to be loved, worshiped and adored by those He created, that it is the former and not the later.
Has our physical separation from our loving Lord made our hearts grow fonder?