by Fr Richard Heilman | December 11, 2016 2:49 pm
This was our third Sunday offering the Mass ad orientem in another one of my parishes. My third parish will follow suit on Christmas Eve. I don’t really care what my detractors have to say about this, because I am totally confident that I am giving my parishioners the most important thing they can receive … I am helping them to make the Mass and God a “Big Deal” again.
Today is Gaudete Sunday. It is the Third Sunday of Advent. The Introit for Gaudete Sunday, in both the Traditional Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo, is taken from Philippians 4:4,5: “Gaudete in Domino semper” (“Rejoice in the Lord always”).
Having passed the midpoint of Advent, the excitement (We Rejoice!) is building for Christmas Day. I especially enjoy watching the children at this time of year. You can see the joyful expectation in their eyes … “Christmas is Coming!!”
I’m not one of those who laments seeing the “premature” (what some say, because it’s Advent) Christmas decorations all around or Christmas Carols on the radio or Christmas movies on TV. For me, it is all saying, “Christmas is Coming!!” … and “It’s a Big Deal!!”
Yes, the children may be excited about “getting presents” on Christmas, but I think it is more than that. The children get caught up with excitement and joyful expectation because they see, all around them, that “Christmas is a Big Deal.”
Children are very sensitive to their environment, and they absorb everything … that’s why they learn at lightning speed (a whole language at a very young age, for example). I believe this is what Jesus meant when he said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). It’s the open – learning – heart of a child that can easily grow each and every day. It’s the humble – trusting – heart of a child that can pound with excitement about our God who is the God of supernatural power.
So, here is where I am going with this. I believe, when you boil everything down, the devil has been attacking the #BigDealness of our faith.
My church (shown here) – St. Mary of Pine Bluff, WI – was built by tenant farmers in the 1800s. They didn’t have two nickels to rub together, but they knew it was absolutely essential to build something that glorified God. Why? Because without such reverence and transcendent beauty, they knew the faith would fade away, and few would believe in the Real Presence any longer. They knew that, if they were going to sustain their faith, and pass it on to the next generation, they needed to “take it seriously” … they need it to be a “Big Deal.”
Well … they were right. Over the past 50 years, a few elites ran roughshod over the innocent faithful in a campaign to “down play” the Mass, and gut out our churches (St. Mary’s miraculously escaped the wreckovation of the modernists). Now, here we are with less than 30% of Catholics practicing their faith in America. In most places in Europe, it is down to less than 10%. And, in most parishes, those who do attend do so in their worst recreational attire while they mindlessly grab the host, like they are in some sort of cafeteria line.
Bishop Robert Barron draws attention to this very real epidemic in our times:
“A real concrete statistic around this is that 70 percent of the baptized faithful are staying away from Mass on a regular basis. And we’re doing well in comparison with the European countries. Vatican II said the Mass is the source and summit of the Christian life … everything leads to and flows from the Mass. The Eucharist is everything, and 70 percent could care less about it. Yes, there are many reasons around why some do not go to Mass, but I suspect that, for most, they are suffering from spiritual sloth; they could just care less.”
“They could care less.” Yes! If it is just a quaint prayer service with some nice entertaining music, then it is “just another thing” … it is “No Big Deal.” And, frankly, most can find better entertainment elsewhere. So, they say to themselves, “what’s the point?” In speaking of the need for a New Evangelization, Pope Benedict XVI said, “the true problem of our times is the ‘Crisis of God,’ the absence of God, disguised by an empty religiosity” … a kind of lukewarm, going through the motions of one’s faith (It’s No Big Deal), which ends up collapsing completely.
The “Spirit of Vatican II” campaign that sought to turn the sacred into the profane is, literally, killing off the faith. The Catholic Mass, sacred music, art, architecture was the most beautiful and sacred in all the world, and we have now robbed generations of what inspired generations prior to “take their faith very seriously.” We are mere mortals, and our ancestors before us knew this; they knew it was important; they knew we mere mortals needed to “approach heaven” as we came to worship; they knew we needed to immerse ourselves in a “sense of the supernatural.”
In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist asked if Jesus is the one who is to come. What does Jesus say in reply? Go tell John about all of the supernatural events going on. Great crowds came out to see Jesus because they heard about these supernatural events. People are drawn to the supernatural.
I’m not sure what the wreckovators of our Mass and churches had as their intentions, but they were “dead wrong.” By diminishing the sense of the sacred; by diminishing the sense of the supernatural, our faith became “No Big Deal,” and millions of Catholics just faded away, and an unknown millions of potential Catholics found little or no inspiration to draw them to our Catholic faith. We are in the desert of the banal, longing for the streams of supernatural grace!!
If we want to even begin to talk about a “New Evangelization,” we need to talk, first, about restoring the #BigDealness of our faith. This is why we worship, as reverently as possible, in churches that look as though they are the throne room of God; this is why we wear our best attire when in the presence of the King; this is why women are adorned in sacred veiling; this is why we kneel at the edge of heaven to “receive” (on our tongue) rather then grab in our hand the very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.
Because God is a BIG DEAL.
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