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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Faith Endures Despite Accidental Changes


A harsh critic of the Church in the modern world makes these critiques:

Remember the visit of Pope John Paul II to America when he told the Nuns to wear their habits? Sister Kane answered for American Nuns by telling the Pope, “We have come too far for that”! Can you believe that name Sister Kane (Cain)?

So how can we be surprised by Priests that wear Hawaiian shirts and are substantially homosexual? After the Council substituted man in the place of God, can there be any limitations? The Novus Ordo Mass is an ad-lib-a-thon! All of the built-in defenses of the Faith have been systematically removed.

Gold Chalices and Patens are gone. The Priest no longer keeps his fingers together as a visible sign that he has touched the Sacred Species. We no longer kneel at Communion Rails. We laugh and talk and hug and shake hands. We refer to the Mass as a meal, not as a sacrifice. Eucharistic Ministers travel in packs around the Altar Table that has replaced the Glorious Main Altars. Martin Luther would be sooo pleased! These things don’t happen at a Latin Mass.

I used to like Hawaiian shirts before I was ordained, and as a young man it gave a guy that Magnum P.I. “Tom-Selleck-Look.” I fail to see the homosexual connection. As for my Catholic faith, along with millions of others, we still place our trust in Jesus Christ and render him fitting worship. Who is worshipping men? What is this substitution he is talking about?

Sure, we have dissenters, but they do not speak for the Church. Sister Kane insulted the Pope back in 1979. I was in the congregation and heard her in Washington when she had her few seconds of mutinous fame; however, most everyone there was embarrassed by her. She did not speak for us. Dissenters on the left and anachronists on the right also make a regular habit of insulting the Pope, first John Paul II, later Benedict XVI. Now, a number on the right, including traditionalists go out of their way malign Francis. (This is not to discount the possibility of respectful fraternal correction.)  Many only quote the Pope when it suits them. Not that the Pope is always correct in personal opinions or practical judgments, but many regularly assume that they know better than the Pope and the living Magisterium. Progressives discount authority altogether; Anachronists seek to interpret and make their own the words of dead Popes against living ones.

The Mass, no matter what the lawful rite, East or West, poorly conducted or masterful and beautiful, is still the unbloody sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, offered for the remission of sins. I may not like one rite over another, but I would be the last person to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit in impugning the efficacy of any Eucharist promulgated by Mother Church.

Few priests can afford solid gold or silver chalices and patens; but a few of my rich friends still have them. Most vessels, even prior to Vatican II, were brass with electroplating in gold. Almost all the priests I know use such chalices and patens. Indeed, the use of ceramics, glass and other such materials is generally prohibited. Again, abuse cannot be attributed to the Church, only to the dissenter.

Some priests still keep the fingers together throughout communion until the ablution; but it is no longer a rubric and I fail to see how any offense is otherwise made against our Lord in the sacrament. While the sacred particles are safeguarded, we should not become overly scrupulous.

Admittedly standing has become the general posture for reception, but I have never refused communion to those who kneel. Indeed, Rome asserted not long ago that altar rails in older churches should not be removed. In the early Church these rails were four feet high and not even intended to assist those kneeling for Holy Communion. The rail was to separate the holy of holies, the sacred space, from where the people stood. We have several parishes where people still receive Holy Communion while kneeling at a rail. It is a pious tradition and I have no problem with it. Rome has said that priests cannot prohibit kneeling, either.

Yes, there is too much noise and talking in churches. But, we can work with our local priests to restore a sense of sacred silence. As for shaking hands, I suspect the critic means at the sign of peace. Actually, the old Latin actually made reference to a sign that had disappeared from the liturgy. Unfortunately, priests need to offer repeated catechesis on it. It is not a how-do-you-do handshake. It is not a romantic kiss— unless you are going to give the same sign to everyone around you— which is quite silly. It is a handshake yes, with simple words— PEACE BE WITH YOU. Other words should not be added and people should remain in place and not circumnavigate the church. The Pax of Christ signifies the unity in the mystical body of the Church. It is the rebuttal to the person who says he does not need the Church; that he can come to Christ alone. Any personal relationship with Christ that denies the corporate is a lie. Christ called us as a Church and so we signify unity in Christ. This unity is shared with our priest and the whole Church. We have one faith, one Lord, one baptism! It is in the unity of the Church that members, reconciled with God and with one another, come forward to receive Holy Communion.

The Mass is BOTH a meal and a sacrifice. It is a participation in the heavenly marriage banquet of the Lamb. The mystery of the Mass flows from its institution at the Last Supper and from its historical enactment with the oblation of Christ on Calvary. Emphasis of one element to the extent that the other is eclipsed would be heresy. The Church keeps both in a healthy tension.

I doubt our Lord had a glorious marble altar when he offered the first Mass; and certainly the cries around Calvary could hardly be the beautiful chants that once adorned the liturgy. Nevertheless, the mystery remains the same— altar of marble or wood— vessels of brass or gold— the true treasure beyond measure is Jesus Christ, who is made present to us in his priest and in the sacrament— bread and wine transformed into the resurrected body and blood, humanity and divinity, of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

I suspect this is the faith of the critic who wrote me as well, despite an apparent spirit of enmity.

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