Living in our world, we breathe the toxic air that surrounds us. Even within the most sacred precincts of the Church, we witness a loss of the sense of the sacred. With the enthusiasm that followed the Second Vatican Council, there was a well-intentioned effort to make the liturgy modern. It became commonplace to say that the liturgy had to be relevant to the worshipper. Old songs were jettisoned. The guitar replaced the organ. Some priests even began to walk down the road of liturgical innovation, only to discover it was a dead end. And all the while, the awareness of entering into something sacred that has been given to us from above and draws us out of ourselves and into the mystery of God was gone.
Teaching about the Mass began to emphasize the community. The Mass was seen as a community meal. It was something everyone did together. Lost was the notion of sacrifice. Lost the awesome mystery of the Eucharist as Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The priest was no longer seen as specially consecrated. He was no different than the laity. With all of this, a profound loss of the sacred.
Not one factor can account for the decline in Mass attendance, Church marriages, baptisms and funerals in the last years. But most certainly, the loss of the sense of the sacred has had a major impact.
Walk into any church today before Mass and you will notice that the silence that should embrace those who stand in God’s House is gone. Even the Church is no longer a sacred place. Gathering for Mass sometimes becomes as noisy as gathering for any other social event. We may not have the ability to do much about the loss of the sacredness of life in the songs, videos and movies of our day. But, most assuredly, we can do much about helping one another recover the sacredness of God’s Presence in His Church.
On the first day of this millennium, the Prince of Wales struck a strong note of optimism for the recovery of the sacred. Paraphrasing Dante, he remarked: "The strongest desire of everything, and the one first implanted by nature, is to return to its source. And since God is the source of our souls and has made it alike unto Himself, therefore this soul desires above all things to return to Him." There is one place where we can begin to rediscover the sacred.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
...The Church teaches that the right to life is fundamental. Without life, there are no other rights. To support abortion is a grave moral evil. Why would a Catholic be surprised when the Pope says that anyone who freely and knowingly commits a serious wrong, that is, a mortal sin, should not approach the Eucharist until going to Confession? The Eucharist is the summit and source of the Church’s life. The Church guides the faithful in the correct formation of their conscience. She offers both the objective norms of morality and the norms for worthy reception of the Eucharist.
In his response to the reporter’s question, the Pope was not placing religious sanctions in the political arena, as these politicians stated. He was teaching religious doctrine in a religious context, that is, the worthiness to receive the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, who is the Lord of life. He is right when he insists that supporting abortion is incompatible with the reception of Holy Communion.
In recent guidelines provided by the bishops of the United States to help Catholics to prepare for the worthy reception of Holy Communion, the bishops said, “If a Catholic in his or her personal or professional life were knowingly and obstinately to reject the defined doctrines of the Church, or knowingly and obstinately to repudiate her definitive teaching on moral issues, however, he or she would seriously diminish his or her Communion with the Church. Reception of Holy Communion in such a situation would not accord with the nature of the Eucharistic celebration, so that he or she should refrain” (Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper, 4). By steadfastly choosing to be pro-choice, a Catholic -- politician or not -- excludes himself or herself from communion.
Today not only is the taking of so many innocent lives alarming, but no less unsettling is the darkening of conscience among so many who find “it increasingly difficult to distinguish between good and evil in what concerns the basic value of human life” (Evangelium Vitae, 4).
Why should the Church not have a right to voice her teaching on this important issue in the public square? She must speak and speak often. Abortion may be for some just a political issue. But, for the innocent child, it is a matter of life or death.
Ultimately, the statement of the 18 politicians who publicly blasted the Holy Father is simply a refusal to allow the Pope freedom of speech and the Church freedom of religion. Now how American is that?