• Our Blogger

    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

    Samantha on Ask a Priest
    Jeff Lawson on Ask a Priest
    Jeff on Ask a Priest
    Stan on Ask a Priest
    Debra on Ask a Priest

Women & The Priesthood

154394781759216217 (7)

Given that women are excluded from the sacrament of Holy Orders, does this mean that in the Catholic Church there are seven sacraments for men and only six for women?  How is this fair? What are we to tell young women who feel a calling to ministry?

While some critics contend that Jesus only selected men as his apostles given the prejudices and chauvinistic conventions of his times, there are many instances where Jesus raised up the dignity of women and highlighted their call to witness and service.  How could Jesus extend spiritual liberation to us if he were not free to do as he pleased?  Indeed, the fact that he is a sign of contradiction that is betrayed and murdered is a testimonial of his freedom.  He would do what is right and is not subject to coercion.  He shows us the way to true freedom.  When it comes to his dealings with women, he cherishes them as disciples and prophets, but not as apostles or priests.

The first relationship that comes to mind is with his Mother.  She is a strong and courageous woman, who self-proclaims herself as the handmaid of the Lord.  If the tradition be true then she is learned of her faith due to her service as a child-servant in the temple.  Mary is present at the most important moments of salvation history:  at the annunciation, at the presentation in the temple, at the start of Christ’s public ministry in Cana, at his passion and death upon the Cross on Calvary and as a witness of the risen Lord among the eleven in the Upper Room.  There are also the two faithful sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary.  There is the repentant and faithful Mary Magdalene.  Indeed, there is the exceptional Samaritan woman who encounters Jesus at the well and then testifies about him to her people.  Nevertheless, while Jesus is willing to break with the conventions of his day; he still only selects men to be his apostles or his first bishop-priests.  This is a pattern that would remain unbroken.  Indeed, the early councils (as at Nicea) would forbid the “laying on of hands” or ordination of women.

The Gnostic heretics ordained women but they also denied the incarnation.  They taught that Jesus only pretended to be a man and as one subject to death.  Since matter and the body were given a negative value, they did not perceive an issue with priestesses as an alternative to priests.  Catholic Christianity has always insisted that matter is not inherently evil and that it cannot be subtracted or ignored in the equation of redemption.  Our Lord joined himself to humanity in a male body.  This flesh was integral to his identity.  Indeed, we are promised restoration as ensouled bodies.

Gender is not an accidental to who we are.  We are not angels or pure spirits.  This truth is discerned in all the sacraments which are signified by form and matter.  Baptism requires water (matter) and the words that invoke the name of the Trinity (form).  The Eucharist requires bread and wine (matter)along with the words of consecration (form).  Ordination requires the intention to ordain priests with the laying on of hands (form) upon men (matter) called to ministry.  One could not baptize with beer.  One could not celebrate the Mass with milk and cookies.  One could not ordain a woman substituted for a man.

The pattern established by Jesus brought no derision upon the dignity of women but neither was it a pattern that the Church felt free to alter in any manner.  Given that our faith is in the person of Jesus Christ, then we must acknowledge that he knew what he was doing and that it served his purposes. Pope St. John Paul II in his 1994 encyclical Ordonatio Sacerdotalis, infallibly taught, once and for all, that the Catholic Church has no power whatsoever to ordain women to the priesthood. Many churchmen may very much want to ordain women.  But the Church is faithful to Christ, even if there should be matters we do not fully understand.  If we violated the pattern given by Christ, then the whole Church would be jeopardized.  The Episcopalians or Anglicans may be in this situation.  Orders in the Anglican Church were deemed null-and-void given a change in their prayer book after the break with Rome.  About a century passed where the intention to ordain priests who make sacrifice was edited from their rituals.  Apostolic succession was lost.  Some have argued that it might be partially restored today through the participation of former Catholics in their ranks and Orthodox bishops at their ordinations.  Unfortunately, even if there should be a partial restoration, it is further jeopardized by the presence of women presbyters and bishops.  If their ordination is counter to the will of Christ, then all the Anglicans are doing is playing dress up.  There are no true women priests (or rather, priestesses) in Christianity.  If the Catholic Church were to follow suit and attempt to ordain women, it would place the sacraments at stake.  If the priest is a sham then the Mass and absolution for sins would be forfeited as well.  The equation is simple:  no priesthood = no Eucharist = no Church.

The pattern of Jesus in selecting men and not women for the priesthood is normative for all ages.  Any change would require a new revelation from the Lord. Not even the pope has the authority to change this teaching and practice.

The one who would extend the Holy Spirit to the Church is himself filled with the Spirit.  His every step is aligned with divine providence.  His miraculous works and signs are enabled by the Spirit of God.  The Holy Spirit preserves the Church in the truth, especially about those most essential elements of faith.  The apostles are made the first of his ministers of a long-line throughout history, extending his proclamation of the Good News and realizing his saving works in the sacraments he instituted.  The male-only priesthood emerges as part of his plan for the legacy and life of the Church.  God does not fumble or make mistakes, even when the men chosen are sometimes less than saintly.

The first apostles were Jews but later Jews and Gentiles would be chosen.  Some of those chosen were married, but there was a growing emphasis upon celibacy from the beginning.  However, while the apostles and priests were married and single, Jew and Gentile, not one of the successors chosen would ever be a woman.  This is the case all the way to the present day.  This two-thousand-year consistency speaks volumes about the will of Christ upon the matter of ordination.  The tradition is clear and uninterrupted, century after century.

The Church also makes use of the bridal analogy that we see in Scripture, especially in the writings of St. Paul.  The substitution of a woman would destroy this ancient analogy and wrongly signify a lesbian relationship of a bride to a bride.  The priest stands at the altar “in the person of Christ” the groom and head of his bride, the Church.  The priest is a living and breathing icon or image of Christ.  Certain religious traditions demand that the priest have a beard, an “accidental” that makes self-evident the “substantial” element of his maleness which he shares with Jesus Christ.

Years ago I recall an interview where certain women who had undertaken theological training and had a background of church service, demanded that they be ordained priests.  They were angry and claimed the Church was deaf to their cries.  They said that they deserved to be priests— that they had earned it.  But such an attitude is counter to the truth about the priesthood.  Even men with such a mentality would probably best not be ordained.

The priesthood is not something that one might earn as in a social justice agenda.  The underlying meaning comes out at the foot washing by Jesus of his apostles.  Those who would lead the faith community must become the servants of all.  The priesthood is a gift that must be exploited in giving.  The priest lives for others.  He preaches God’s Word, not his own.  His very reason for living is the forgiveness of sins.  He makes present the Lord, both in his sacramental presence and in his saving activity.  Never in the history of the world had God given such authority to men as he did with his priesthood.  And yet, ironically, the priesthood is not about personal power and prestige.  It is about being the servant of all, literally a slave to honor God and to serve the needs of God’s people.  His servanthood is a fundamental imitation of Christ (Mark 10:45).

It would be wrong to say that there are seven sacraments for men and only six for women.  Most men and all women will never be ordained priests.  However, all the laity, men and women, are summoned to participate with their priest at Mass.  The celebrant makes possible the offering of the congregants at the liturgy.  Along with the gifts of bread and wine, believers join themselves to Christ— as grafted to him— as one oblation within the Lamb of God and accepted by the heavenly Father.  We pray, not only that bread and wine will become the flesh and blood of Christ, but that all of us may be transformed by grace into the likeness of Christ.  It is in this sense that the priesthood enables our own faith and our own oblations.  We are united in the Mass and the priest’s absolution insures our growth in holiness.  Our universal and most essential vocation is not to the priesthood but to holiness.  All of us are called to be saints.

Wider Participation in the Prayer of the Church

loth2

The Prayer of the Church… not just for priests and religious anymore.

Bishop Tobin on Remarried Couples & the Eucharist

pptobin280409Has anyone else read Bishop Thomas Tobin’s letter posted on the Providence Diocese’s website?  He invites discussion.  Thus, with all due respect, I would like to share my concerns.  The bishop writes:

In my personal reflection on this dilemma, I turn to the incident in the Gospels in which Jesus and His followers were walking through a field of grain on the Sabbath and because they were hungry, began to pick and eat the grain, a clear violation of an important Mosaic Law. The offense was roundly condemned by the religious experts, the Pharisees. But in response, Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:23-28).  In other words, while not denying the validity of the law, our Lord clearly placed it in a “pastoral context,” exempting its enforcement due to the human needs of the moment. Could we not take a similar approach to marriage law today?

One cannot really compare the issue of divorced-and-remarried Catholics being allowed to receive Holy Communion with the incident where our Lord’s apostles are charged with violation of the Sabbath by picking and eating the heads of grain (Mk 2:23-28).  The first is in regard to spiritual disposition and the sacrilege of taking Holy Communion while in mortal sin.  The latter simply focuses upon a pharisaical interpretation of the commandment demanding rest.  The apostles were not in any grievously sinful state.  Jesus excuses them, as a foretaste of the freedom that comes with his dispensation.  But, more than this, Jesus is God.  The lawgiver can excuse whatever laws he wills.  The Church can also make modifications, as with our keeping the Sunday Observance over the traditional Hebrew Sabbath.  However, such authority is not absolute and this juridical rendering is a far cry from trying to circumnavigate around basic objective moral norms.  The Church and the Pope do not have the authority to authorize sin and sacrilege.

What constitutes a genuine pastoral approach?  Excusing or enabling serious sin is no favor to anyone.  While we may be troubled by exclusion and feelings of hurt; how can these compare to the fires of hell and the loss of God’s friendship.  The pastoral cannot be so focused on the external situation or appearances that we neglect the internal reality.  The corollary to the assertion that “matrimony is made for man, not man for matrimony” does not find its solution in feigned second marriages but in a chaste celibacy.  Promises are made to be kept.  If the first marriage is authentic, then as long as one spouse lives, any attempted second marriage is a fiction.  That is the long-and-short of it.  There is no viable solution out of this conundrum.  This is more than “the lofty demands of the law,” but the enduring truth that the two become one flesh.  Affections might stray but one spouse continues to belong to the other.  Infidelity is stealing what is the spouse’s due and giving it to another.  There is no way that the Church could rubber-stamp such a scenario.

The bishop writes,

But at the same time, the Church has taught the pre-eminent value of receiving the Holy Eucharist, and I keep hearing the words of Jesus about the Eucharist, words that are just as valid and important as His words about marriage: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (John 6:53).

Missing from this assessment is the ancient teaching, recited in the sequence for Corpus Christi, that the same sacrament which brings life to one, brings judgment to another.  Purposely giving Holy Communion to those who are in an adulterous situation would invite condemnation upon them and ridicule upon a hypocritical Church.

Bishop Thomas Tobin states:

And I know that I would much rather give Holy Communion to these long-suffering souls (divorced-and-remarried couples) than to pseudo-Catholic politicians who parade up the aisle every Sunday for Holy Communion and then return to their legislative chambers to defy the teachings of the Church by championing same-sex marriage and abortion.

The bishop means well and he says, honestly, that he does not know the answer to the predicament; however, sympathy for small devils while castigating large ones is no answer at all.  A man can jump from one ledge to another.  If he misses by a foot or an inch, it makes no difference.  He is still just as dead.  This is the appropriate analogy here.

Bishop Tobin echoes an article in the National Catholic Reporter by Fr. Peter Daly who suggested that annulments be simplified by handling the situations entirely at the local level.  The bishop writes:

Can we eliminate the necessity of having detailed personal interviews, hefty fees, testimony from witnesses, psychological exams, and automatic appeals to other tribunals?  In lieu of this formal court-like process, which some participants have found intimidating, can we rely more on the conscientious personal judgment of spouses about the history of their marriage (after all, they are the ministers and recipients of the sacrament!) and their worthiness to receive Holy Communion?

The true Sensus Fidelium is that collection of the laity that keeps our moral laws and regularly goes to Mass.  They would be critical of this proposed solution.  The grounds for annulments often rests in ignorance, deceit, lack of proper discretion, inability to fulfill the obligations of marriage, mental problems, prior addiction, etc.  People are often blind to their own faults and shortcomings; but here the bishop is literally saying, “Physician, heal thyself!”  Would this apply for only the second marriage?  What about the third?  What part would “the other woman” play when marriages were deliberately destroyed?  Such a measure would play into the hands of selfishness.  Many of them do not understand the difference between an annulment and a divorce.  If the bishop’s notion were adopted, there would be no difference— and a basic command from Christ would be explicitly violated.

This is all quite serious.  The marriage analogy plays a crucial part in our understanding of the Church’s relationship to Christ and the sacrament of Holy Orders.  Weaken one and we hurt the others— the dominoes will begin to fall.

Liturgical Question: Sacrifice from Your Hands

WARRINGTON’S QUESTION:

Dear Fr Joe, thanks for your blog. It’s very useful even in my part of the world!

I had a query about the words, “may the Lord accept the sacrifice from your hands…” so I went to Catholic Answers and read the explanation (attached below). But my query remains: Is not “the sacrifice” Christ himself? If so, did not God send His Son to be the “sacrifice (Lamb)” for our sins? So why are we requesting God to accept “His” Son back to Him?

Unless the “sacrifice” referred to here is “our sacrifice (good works)”? Rather than “good works” (i.e., charity), I would like to think this reference to sacrifice might refer to “our life,” particularly a call to go outside our comfort zone to live a life for Christ.

Would you please clarify whether either of these is on the right track or am I completely missing the point?  Cheers!

CATHOLIC ANSWERS

Question

Why do we pray in the third person instead of addressing our pleas and praises directly to God? For example, the priest says, “Pray, my brothers and sisters, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father” and we answer, “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his Church.” Could we say instead, “Lord, accept the sacrifice offered for the praise and glory of your name, for our good and the good of all of your Church”?

Answer

We don’t pray in the third person. The Church’s liturgy is its official public worship of God. Since it is not private worship, the members who are present are acknowledged throughout the service. So every so often, the priest-presider will address them with, “The Lord be with you,” and the people respond, “And also with you.” We are communicating with each other. This is not a prayer.

May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his Church is not a prayer. It is addressed to the priest as an acknowledgement of the sacred action he is about to undertake. It is a response to his request: “Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” Even though he has just asked the people to pray, their response is to him and is not meant to be a prayer.

The ultimate offering prayer comes later: “Through him, with him and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.” Only the priest says this, and the people affirm the prayer with “Amen.” Both the priest’s words and the people’s words are prayer and are addressed directly to God.

FATHER JOE:

I would take exception with the assertion that the words in question are not prayer. Even the dialogue sections between the priest and people are parts of the great prayer of worship that is the Mass. The Mass is the Church’s most important communal prayer and it contains within it all other forms of prayer: praise, thanks, contrition, petition, and in a unique manner, propitiation. Let us look at the words that confuse you:

Facing the people, the priest says: “Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.”

The congregation responds: “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.

The priest then says his prayer over the offerings to which the people respond, “Amen.”

The priest is calling everyone to focus on the Eucharist. Implicit in the dialogue is the hope and expectation that God will accept us and our offering.  The celebrant addresses the people but he knows full well that our offering will only be received if God sees it as pleasing and desires to accept it.  We cannot force the hand of God.  The people respond to the celebrant by acknowledging his priestly work in union with Christ.  Yes, they are talking to the priest, but as with any intercessory prayer, its proper object is almighty God.  They are making the priest’s prayer and the work of Christ into something of their own.  This sacrifice is to the honor and praise of God.  It is also deemed efficacious for the local church at prayer and for the universal Church.  The corrected translation makes a distinction between the priest’s sacrifice and that of the people. It does not represent good works as such but targets the work of the Mass. This segment no more stands alone than any other part.  It leads us to the meat of the oration, the Prayer Over the Gifts.  The great High Priest of the liturgy is Jesus Christ. However, the celebrant at the altar participates or shares in this one priesthood through his ordination. While they cannot preside at the Mass, the laity is connected to Jesus and his sacrifice through their baptismal priesthood. Priests may take a stipend for a Mass they offer each day. The fruits that come to the priest may be applied to this intention, for anyone living or dead. You may note these names in the bulletin for the Masses said. This reflects the sacrifice and its benefits that come to the priest at the altar. The laity may come with their own intentions, which they are to bring to mind at the beginning of the Mass prior to the Opening Prayer or Collect. The people participate with their priest who makes possible the Mass and they benefit with fruits of grace. The reference to sacrifice is a direct acknowledgment that the Eucharist is a re-presentation of the bloody oblation of Christ on Calvary, albeit in an unbloody or clean manner upon the altar. The sacrifice of Jesus is not locked into time and place. At the words of consecration, Jesus is made REALLY present in Holy Communion— both in his full identity and person as well as in in saving activity. The only difference between Calvary and the Mass is OUR participation. Now we can offer ourselves grafted to Christ (the Lamb of God) as one perfect sacrifice to the eternal Father. The Mass surrenders to the heavenly Father the only gift that makes a difference and that earns our redemption, his Son, Jesus Christ.

The Mass enters us into Christ’s one-time offering of himself.

No More Lay Preachers in Rochester

The march toward great orthodoxy and unity in the Church continues. After some 40 years of violating Church law, the diocese of Rochester will no longer allow the laity to usurp priests and deacons in preaching homilies at Mass. The thanks goes out to Bishop Salvatore Matano for insisting that canon and liturgical law be followed. He stated, “It is not a policy shift as regards to the universal law of the church. I am trying to help the faithful understand what is the universal law of the Church and how important it is that in the celebration of Mass, we do what the Church asks of us.”

I well remember Bishop Matthew Clark who started the deviation. He was regularly invited to give talks by the progressive or liberal staff at CUA when I was a student many years ago. He even gave us a retreat where he speculated about women priests and about how a priestly calling might be a temporary vocation and that God might later call some men to other things. I was young but shocked by the statement.

In any case, it looks like the compass in Rochester is returning to the proper settings of the universal Church. Now comes the hard work, not just of correcting abuses, but reforming hearts and minds. People will be hurt and disappointed, especially the women who made up the majority of the lay homilists. But where one door closes, others are opened. Hopefully these women will not feel discarded or alienated. Inclusion and empowerment was never dependent upon the clericalization of the laity. I have confidence that the bishop will find a way to involve these women, with their theology degrees and gifts, in the building up of the Church. God forbid that they should walk away from the Church that has always been their home.

Women Bishops – The Lights Go Out for Anglicanism

5f0c3e5657ed3b8229685eac8a081987The General Synod of the Church of England voted on Monday to consecrate priestesses as women bishops. Well, there’s the nail to the coffin for the home of Anglicanism. Ecumenism with them will be restricted to soup kitchens, sharing contributions from C.S, Lewis, and appreciation for perfecting the English language. The bridges have been burned to most else. Since women cannot be ordained in truth, this makes arguments about their Masses and the Eucharist mute. Fake priests can only give you a counterfeit Holy Communion. When it came to morality, our ships passed in the night a long time ago. They disregard both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, wrongly approving homosexuality and dismissing the indissolubility of marriage. Abortion is reduced to a personal choice, far from the Catholic stance that sees it as an assault upon the heart of the Gospel of Life. Their last convention in the States could only agree about how terrible landmines were, as if that is a big issue in suburbia. This is what happens when morality collapses and an “everything goes” mentality takes over. Public opinion and modernity is given preference over divine revelation. Instead of obedience to God, the human becomes the measure of all things— and people are fickle and frequently wrong. The Orthodox churches are lamenting that years of work toward a common faith and even levels of recognition have been thrown upon the garbage heap. Anglicanism, except as a small group received by the Holy See, is destined not to be counted as a branch of the apostolic and “catholic” family of churches. The “reapproachment” with them since Vatican II is now a dismal failure because the Anglicanism of even half a century ago no longer exists. It has been replaced by a mutated structure that will continue to devolve and crumble. Australian Anglicans are arguing that priests might be optional and that the laity can offer the Mass. Fragmented, one segment fights with another, and there is no contemporary pretense of a world Anglican order. Certain traditionalists among them refused the offer of Pope Benedict XVI, hoping to rebuild with a union of conservative African bishops. But how long will it be until modernity will invade that new structure? Ironically, some of them attack the Anglicans who accepted the special offer from the Pope in becoming Catholics. They still buy the prejudices against Rome which were initially an element of their split. Catholicism has its dissenters; but they will have no official weight in the practice of our sacraments and doctrines. The accidentals may change, as with language, but the deposit of faith is safe and sound. As for the Anglicans, could they even agree as to what this deposit consists?

The Anglicans feel that immutable doctrine can be changed by ballot. Here is the vote approving women bishops:

  • House of Bishops: 37 to 2 with 1 abstention
  • House of Clergy: 162 to 25 with 4 abstentions
  • House of Laity: 52 to 45 with 5 abstentions

This move goes against the teachings and pattern passed down from Jesus. There was no woman among the twelve apostles. Jesus did not worry about stereotypes. But this one, he did not break. It was God’s will. Anglicans no longer care. I guess they would say that Jesus was wrong. Of course, this change was anticipated. A long time in the mix, the first ingredient was added back in 1994 when they began ordaining women as priestesses (women priests). Error breeds error. The United States made a woman its chief Episcopalian bishop some years ago, Katharine Jefferts Schori. Before her they elected their first gay bishop. Australian, New Zealand, and Canada also have women bishops. The show continues but it no longer matters. They can wear their pointy hats and play-act all they want— these women are neither true priests nor bishops. Both Orthodoxy and Catholicism are in agreement here. There is no third tier to the Church. Without a valid hierarchy, there can be no true priests. If there is no priesthood, then there can be no Eucharist (sacrifice of propitiation and real presence). If there is no Eucharist, the ecclesial community is not really a CHURCH.  End of Story

Mass Attendance & Catholic Identity

Are any of us really surprised by decreasing Mass attendance? While I would not want to fall prey to any kind of faithless cynicism, I am often more astonished about why people continue to practice their faith. We are suffering from several generations of poor catechetical formation and Catholics who have lost a sense of their faith identity. The Ordinaries of the Archdiocese of Washington have honestly faced the problem.  Offering remedies, I am reminded of Cardinal McCarrick’s vibrant preaching and Cardinal Wuerl’s effectiveness as a teacher of faith.  They have prescribed what they could to help: breaking open the Scriptures, stirring the people to holiness, and showing how the faith has meaning and importance in their lives. Priests have sought to imitate this pattern in their religious education programs and in the messages from the pulpit.

However, there are many baptized Catholics who rarely or no longer attend Mass. Some shop around and find religious meaning in other churches. Many, perhaps the larger share, drop out entirely. Children might go to Catholic schools, but the majority is missing from the pews on Sunday. When I was at St. Mary’s in Upper Marlboro, MD, in the 1990’s, I polled the sixth grade about their Mass attendance. One week only two kids out of thirty-five had gone to church— and everyone was from a home with at least one Catholic parent. Of these two, one had gone to the Evangelical church of her father. Only one went to Sunday Mass. I am making no exaggeration. This is the state of affairs and things have worsened in light of the scandals. Those upon whom we had only a tenuous hold are escaping the grasp of the Church.

I recall being party to a group of priests discussing the situation.  What could we do to turn matters around?  A number of the guys mentioned accidentals: music, welcoming, fellowship, good preaching, etc. We seemed to forget that the exodus escalated back in the 1960’s when the ancient form of the liturgy with its ritual beauty and religious chant was shelved for experimental forms. Faithful Catholics remained with the Church despite bland prayers and trite music. However, as that generation has aged and died off, younger people found Catholic worship to be a poor imitation of what Protestants can offer. Even our small African-American churches with their Gospel Masses have borrowed the music and style of the Protestant Black churches. If our accent is simply upon such accidentals and entertainment, we are bound to fail. The new mega-churches put on a much better show and without the restraints of Catholic ritual or the appeals to a moral code that has been rejected out-of-hand. One of these local Protestant churches can hold 10,000 people and the number of annual converts dwarfed what the entire Archdiocese brought in through the RCIA.  Of course, we have more than a “come-on-down” attitude.  We require months of study and reflection.  Some say that we make it too hard to be a Catholic.  And yet, others like the fact that we insure people know what they are embracing.

While certainly we should make our churches welcoming places where the liturgies are well done and the preaching is moving and authentic, we will have to find new and more aggressive ways of reaching the hearts and minds of people who no longer enter our doors. If people truly believe that every Mass is a sacramental encounter with the living Christ, then we would not have the current decline in participation. People do not understand the Eucharist at the heart of our faith. It is here where we find Jesus most present, the one who gives meaning to our lives as well as mercy and healing. We need to rediscover our own evangelistic spirit and promote in every forum possible a genuine Christian formation. A corrective will be truly holy priests who offer reverent liturgies where we discover and celebrate the mystery of God. The corrected translation of the prayers is a great help.  The poison of dissent and spiritual laziness, even among priests, must be rooted out. When the tides of change, indifference and pain assault us all, the ark of Peter is the only sure refuge.  Shepherds must make a courageous stand for the Gospel of Life, without compromise, so as to compel people to make a choice for Christ’s kingdom or for the secular castles in the sand. Priests must also inform and empower the laity to render a credible witness.  They can reach people where the clergy are unable to go.  Our Lord, himself, sent out the seventy to spread the saving Word.

Discussion on the Post

AMBER:

Your entry brought to mind my thankfulness for my Protestant beginnings. I “get it” (so to speak) and will work diligently to be sure my children are properly taught the faith. I do not want them to grow up and become complacent.  I think, while the Church should play a role in this, the parents are the key to ensuring that our children continue in the faith when they are no longer under our roof.

The parish I attend is wonderful in many ways but the music is seriously lacking and I very much miss the music from my Protestant church. How I would love to attend a Mass in which we have the richness of classical baroque… something that moves the soul to a deeper meeting with God.

Unfortunately, many Protestant churches have replaced the altar for a stage and communion for a sermon… and they are missing the essentials of worship… to meet our Lord in the Eucharist… and to be in His presence.

I could never go back.

COLOSSUS:

Father Joe, you say a lot here that has been on my mind lately. I’m 42, a lifelong Catholic, and am only now beginning to realize how central the faith is to everything.

“Poor catechetical formation,” that says just about everything. I am going through reading the actual Catechism (the JP II revision) and find that it offers a coherent, well-reasoned, and deep view of the world. I am exploring the Tridentine Mass and daily/nightly prayer in both English and Latin.

It is as if I have lived my whole life inside a bank and have been complaining of poverty, without ever having asked “By the way, what’s in the vaults?”

I am enjoying your site, too!

CLIFF:

Part of the problem lies in some of standards of our CCD instruction. In our parish I would venture to say that more than half don’t even know their basic prayers or even how to say a rosary. The other thing is what they learn (or do not learn) from their parents.  If they don’t attend Mass or practice their faith, what can you expect from their children?

MARY:

I served as an extraordinary minister for several years at our church. When you have to prepare the hosts for Mass you really notice the attendance dropping. We have over 50 ministries at our church and are considered a “thriving” parish. However I have noticed that the “wine was running short.” I asked the pastor, of all the groups that get together at the parish, are there any who pray for the people of the parish? He said no. This disturbed me greatly. Nothing happens without prayer. God wants to pour out his grace on His people. He gave us the free will to choose. All we have to do is ask. I

We see in God’s creation an example of how the enemy robs our life from us. Many plants that are edible have poisonous look-alikes. One is life giving and one brings only death.

For a long time I have been walking around in a “false humility and a false spirit of poverty.” In the spiritual world these things misrepresent true humility and truly being poor in spirit. One is life giving the other brings only death. Just like the plants. God is not as concerned about the people who do not attend church. He is more concerned about the ones that do, and consider themselves to be righteous. Like I use to.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists four reasons why God became man:

  • To reconcile human beings to God the Father
  • That we might know God’s love
  • To be our Model of holiness
  • To make us partakers of the Divine nature

Jesus had to die so that He could be resurrected so that we can share in that divine nature.

You never know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have. I had to lose everything before I realized that. I lost my son, my sanity, my job, even my husband for a time. How many others are out there walking around like me? I seemed alright on the outside, but on the inside I was dying. My son’s body was the seed that had to be planted in the ground so that new life could spring up in me. For me it is not the end of the story…it is only the beginning.

Maybe the people who are not attending church are doing so because they see this in the people who do?  Which brings me back to the original question I asked the pastor… who prays for the people of this parish?

FATHER JOE:

The pastor prays daily for his parishioners and each Sunday at Mass for the people of the parish. Many are included in the petitions of the General Intercessions. Some parishes have special prayer groups. We should all pray for each other.

BRETT:

No, it is not in the Eucharist where we find Jesus most present. It is in the soup kitchens, the palliative care wards, the prisons and the refugee camps where He walks tall through the actions of those who may never darken a church’s door but live out the word of God through their daily lives. Feeding the hungry, clothing the homeless and visiting the lonely— THAT is where Jesus is most present.

FATHER JOE:

Such a reductionist view of Christianity might satisfy the horizontal litmus test of the Obama administration; however, it would not exhaust the vertical mystery of faith that true Christians maintain.  Our intervention in the world is not our starting point.  It begins with a personal and corporate faith in Jesus Christ.  The love of God always precedes the love of neighbor.  We are to love and worship the Lord with our whole hearts, minds and souls.  Only then can we love neighbor as we should.  Christianity and our relationship with Jesus cannot be reduced to social work.  Our love for God spills over into our love of neighbor.  Look at the late Mother Teresa.  She was dedicated to the poor, the sick and the oppressed.  And yet, they also spent hours before the Blessed Sacrament and participated at daily Mass.  She writes:  “I encourage you to make your Holy Hour through Mary, the cause of our joy, and you may discover that nowhere on earth are you more welcomed, nowhere on earth are you more loved, than by Jesus, living and truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time that you will spend on earth. Each moment that you spend with Jesus will deepen your union with Him and make you soul everlastingly more glorious and beautiful in Heaven, and will help bring about an everlasting peace on earth.”