by Fr Richard Heilman | March 8, 2015 2:16 pm
A few days ago, I encouraged the pest control guy (while he was setting traps in my house) to come and check out the Mass on Sunday morning. Just yesterday, I said the same thing to the checkout guy at Kwik Trip. Both of these guys had admitted that they had left the Church years ago.
Two days ago, I was standing in someone’s kitchen with a couple of guys, and I got talking about how Confession is so amazing and, with that simple prayer of absolution, we get “do-overs;” we are made a brand new person. They both admitted they had not gone in decades and, two minutes later, we were stepping into the next room to celebrate that Sacrament. They both emerged with HUGE smiles on their faces and, I believe, a new incentive to get back into their faith. I’ve been doing stuff like this a lot lately.
Something is happening in the Church and in the world today. And, I know something is happening with me. I can’t recall many times (any?) in my priesthood that I would unabashedly – with great confidence and joy – invite people on the street to these amazing sacraments. Instead, I guess we priests felt that, “if you build it, they will come.” But, build what?
I had spent a great portion of my priesthood buying into the notion that, if we create all kinds of trendy “programs” and socials, while we kept our liturgy as cheery and entertaining as possible, people would hear about how “cool” and “fun” and “with the times” we were, and come running. We may have “held our own” with numbers in the pew, but I also noticed the average age was continuing to rise, and – where were all the men? I could see that, while this trendy approach had short-term results, the future was looking unsustainable.
It didn’t make sense. I was led to believe that “hip” and “trendy” appealed to the youth. And, we believed men didn’t go for all that ceremonial stuff – “Johnny Six-pack” likes it “real” like the rest of the world.
And now, in retrospect, I ask myself, “Why wasn’t I going into the streets to invite people to that?” And, “Why, all of a sudden, am I doing that now?” I believe it is because we now have something REALLY real to offer them. Let me explain.
Yes, something happened to me …
First, the Internet was invented (thanks, Al Gore?). With the advent of the Internet, we began immersing ourselves in truth. Prior to this, we took the word of the so-called “experts” – those who specialized in such things as liturgy. These experts would give us directions and we would follow, never suspecting there may be more to understanding the deeper truths of the liturgy. Now, with so much information at our fingertips, we were becoming experts ourselves, overnight.
With truth in hand, we were shocked and appalled to discover that, up to that point, we were receiving information through a liberal/modernist/progressive (pick one) filter. Essential facts were being left out or twisted to perpetuate this modern liberal agenda. There was an emphasis on what they wanted us to know, and a de-emphasis of things they did not want us to know.
The fortunate and hopeful reality of our times is that “truth” is like a poison for the whole liberal movement. Many, especially the young who are more Internet savvy, are not buying what the liberals are selling any longer. This is one of the reasons why, I believe, our older generation remains indoctrinated in the liberal agenda – they are simply not using the Internet to the degree in which young people are today. And, I believe, this is one of the main reasons seminarians today tend to be more traditional. The liberal professors have a much more difficult time convincing them to follow their false agenda any longer.
Second, with this liberal filter lifted, I began to see things as Pope Benedict XVI was seeing them. The light of faith in our Church was rapidly dimming, and the way to restore its blaze once again was by, first, restoring the liturgy: “It is in the treatment of the liturgy that the fate of the Faith and of the Church is decided” (Pope Benedict XVI). Pope Benedict’s legacy was in trying to recover the sense of transcendence and beauty of the liturgy.
With truth in hand, coupled with the awe-inspiring teachings of Pope Benedict, we set out to restore beauty, reverence and a sense of the transcendence in the liturgy.
Now, we are reaping the harvest of this endeavor.
Young people, especially, are coming in droves. We came to understand that while we were trying to “keep it real,” we were failing to offer something that “rang true” to them. They seem to want something the world can never give them – a Holy Father who demands reverence, a Savior who requires careful worship, and a Spirit who must be obeyed. They are looking for true, deep, intellectually robust spirituality, and they weren’t finding it until now.
Why do I find myself more freely inviting people on the streets to this? As Bishop Schneider puts it, “the renewal of the Church cannot be brought about without a profound review of our devotion to the Eucharist, which produces a new momentum and fervor in our sacramental practice.” We’ve come to understand that when the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated with due reverence, honor and beauty, it opens our hearts to receive the magnificent power and majesty of God. It is the spark that, quite literally, changes a person. Therefore, we understood that any talk of a “New Evangelization” must first begin with a “New Liturgical Movement.”
Now I know that I have something real and beautiful and true to offer people who are searching. People are looking for an encounter with the Divine; Someone who transcends them; Someone who is big enough, large enough, great enough to take care of them and lead them into an amazing new life.
Now, I could look that pest control guy and Kwik Trip dude in the eye and say, “I know what you are looking for, man … Come Home!! We have it here!!”
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