by Fr Richard Heilman | August 25, 2020 12:31 AM
Here is Part I – “This Chastisement – Part I: This Was Predicted – What Is God Up To?”
For the past many years, I have felt like an evangelization machine. I find myself, wherever I am, engaging folks, whether at the gas station, grocery store, or just about anywhere. I’m not quoting scripture or handing out pamphlets or giving them books to read. Instead, I am inviting them to attend our 9:15 Mass on Sunday. I tell them, “we do things in a ‘vintage way,’ and the Mass is like walking into heaven for an hour.” Every single time, I see them “light up” and lean-in, looking for more information, whenever I describe the Mass in this way. I’ve come to understand that, universally, souls are thirsting for this “sense of the sacred; sense of the transcendent.” You can just tell that all of them have been dying of thirst in the desert of a secular wasteland.
The conversion stories I hear, over and over, have to do with someone’s “transformational experience” that occurs during Eucharistic Adoration or from encountering a sacred offering of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
This “transformational experience” happened to me on February 2, 1998, at my first Papal Mass. You can read about it HERE.
As I wrote about my experience,
Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Man should tremble, the world should quake, all Heaven should be deeply moved when the Son of God appears on the altar in the hands of the priest.” Where was that in my “night club act” or “Broadway musical” Masses?
I’ve come to understand that we have (actually, I believe this is the work of the devil), by and large, removed the very gateway into the Divine Life. I happen to agree with Pope St. Gregory the Great who wanting to capture the spiritual dynamism of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, posited the following order:
“Through the fear of the Lord, we rise to piety, from piety then to knowledge, from knowledge we derive strength, from strength counsel, with counsel we move toward understanding, and with intelligence toward wisdom and thus, by the sevenfold grace of the Spirit, there opens to us at the end of the ascent the entrance to the life of Heaven” (“Homiliae in Hiezechihelem Prophetam,” II 7,7).
As you can see, the entry point is “Fear of the Lord.”
What is Fear of the Lord? According to Fr. John Hardon, Fear of the Lord …
“… inspires a person with profound respect for the majesty of God. Its corresponding effects are protection from sin through dread of offending the Lord, and a strong confidence in the power of His help. The fear of the Lord is not servile but filial. It is based on the selfless love of God, whom it shrinks from offending. Whereas in servile fear the evil dreaded is punishment; in filial fear it is the fear of doing anything contrary to the will of God. The gift of fear comprises three principal elements: a vivid sense of God’s greatness, a lively sorrow for the least faults committed, and a vigilant care in avoiding occasions of sin. It is expressed in prayer of the Psalmist, ‘My whole being trembles before you, your ruling fills me with fear’” (Ps 119:120).
How can the bishops stand against the “sins of the flesh?”
Everyone knows that anyone caught in addiction, whether it is alcohol or simply addicted to our worldly lusts and desires, the only effective cure is the 12-step program that brings us to a place where we come to believe in a Power greater than ourselves. This is, actually, the Gift of the Holy Spirit referred to as “Fear of the Lord,” or, “Awe and Wonder.” Again, as the “first Gift,” it is the “gateway” to all the Gifts of the Holy Spirit; it is the gateway to the Divine Life.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has always been the Source and Summit of our supernatural faith. The bishops have this mighty tool at their disposal, to stand against the sins of the flesh. The bishops simply MUST help us to reform the liturgy to BEST place all of us in the position to cry out, “My Lord and my God!!” … to receive the “gateway” Holy Spirit Gift of Fear of the Lord … to receive supernatural faith.
So, let’s analyze where we are now with the Mass …
KITSCH (Kitschy = considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality)
In most parishes, if people are showing up for Mass at all, they put on their most casual “play clothes” to attend Mass. Liturgies are a “collection of kitschy” … kitschy music, kitschy vestments, kitschy decor, kitschy liturgical movements, kitschy hand holding and kitschy handshaking and on and on. In most parishes, people casually receive the Eucharist like they are merely reaching for a potato chip.
In most parishes, instead of an emphasis on “reverent worship,” the emphasis is placed on the “non-transcendent” social element and the entertainment value. Some parishes are hanging on by a thread, only if they are very good at the social and the entertainment. If not, they are among the many parishes closing everywhere, as a fast-growing number of people find “little or no compelling reason” to attend Mass.
And we wonder why people are losing their supernatural faith and that 70% no longer believe in the Real Presence?
NICHE (interesting to, aimed at, or affecting only a small number of people)
Some of the faithful have become disillusioned by “kitsch Catholicism,” and so have sought a “sense of transcendence” at Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) parishes. The faithful attending the TLM are best predisposed to receive the Gift of Awe and Wonder; the gateway gift to the Divine Life.
The challenge is that the vast majority of these TLM parishes are usually found in such places where fraternal societies are present, such as the Fraternal Society of St. Peter (FSSP), and are very rarely found in diocesan parishes. This is mostly because almost all diocesan priests were not trained in Latin, chant, or the vast intricacies of the TLM. And, there does not seem to be any widespread appeal among diocesan bishops to seek this intensive training for their priests.
While these TLM parishes are seeing growth, while most Novus Ordo parishes are seeing decline, it seems to be due to the rarity of these TLM parishes, as people will drive long distances to attend the one or two TLM parishes they may find within several miles of their homes.
THE VIABLE SOLUTION BISHOPS MUST CONSIDER
Thanks to the direction of such great liturgical giants as Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop Morlino, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, Cardinal Sarah, Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Arinze and others, I have spent the past many years – brick by brick – allowing the Extraordinary Form to enrich my offering of the Ordinary Form. The result is an Ordinary Form that is not too foreign, and has enormous appeal, among those who discover it. Some have even become more open to the TLM, having been exposed to this enriched Ordinary Form.
Fr. John Zuhlsdorf wrote,
“There are a lot of people out there who, for various reasons, are not ready for the traditional forms either again (if they are older) or for the first time. Happily, where I am (St. Mary of Pine Bluff – SMPB) I can bring what I have learned from the traditional Rite about the priesthood and about Mass to how I say the Novus Ordo. Also, the contact between the two forms in that parish (SMPB) is making a big difference. There is indeed a “mutual enrichment”… We see people who have been going to the Novus Ordo now, on their own, trying out the older form of Mass and, after an experience with it, sticking with it … We have to look at the Novus Ordo, for these good people, as a doorway into a larger world.
It isn’t a surprise to anyone who reads this blog that I think that the older, traditional form is richer and superior to the Novus Ordo in many respects. But people come to that realization in their own time. On a personal note, the Mass that first caught my attention and was the vehicle for my coming into the Catholic Church was the Novus Ordo. But it was the Novus fully informed already by the “mutual enrichment” that Benedict wanted for the Novus Ordo everywhere.”
This gets us back to my lead paragraph in this article. Yes, I am evangelizing by inviting people to this Mass, and the result is astounding. The result of this enriched Ordinary Form has led us to a liturgy where the souls of the faithful are laid wide open to receive the “gateway” Holy Spirit Gift of Awe and Wonder … the entryway to the Divine Life; the gift of supernatural faith.
My church is filled with young, devout Catholic families who are open to life, and want to follow ALL of the teachings of the Church. Yes, they all get “dressed up” for Mass, because God deserves our best.
And, speaking to the crisis of 70% who no longer believe in the Real Presence, not only do they have a “hunger” to understand the teachings on the Real Presence, many of them are so hungry, they are actually reading encyclicals and the Fathers of the Church … they can’t get enough! They are all “lit up,” and this was because of their encounter with God in a Mass that is offered as if God was truly there.
I don’t know if now is the time to call for Vatican III, but there needs to be some kind of coming together with our bishops as they “take stock” as to how we have allowed the Mass, in most parishes, to disintegrate into a kitschy mess that is, actually, deadening faith; a deadened faith that is giving them no power to overcome the “sins of the flesh.”
Please, bishops, if you truly desire to stand against “sins of the flesh,” do all you can to help the souls of the faithful to become predisposed to receive the gift of supernatural faith!
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