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Tuesday, 5 May 2009

"Go to Mass! Just GO!"

Fr. Z astutely connects two seemingly polar opposites on the Catholic globe -- the disciples of a McBrien type, (whom Fr. McB urges "to take a vacation" from Church if they don't like a tradition-minded new pastor restoring devotions and preaching on the need for confession,) and the Rad-Trads who will also neglect a precept of the Church rather than hear Mass in the Form they don't like.

A priestly reader of Fr Z's beautifully puts this kind of self-centeredness in perspective [emphasis is Fr Z's]
Here’s my comment on this subject—of "traditional" Catholics missing Mass because it’s "novus ordo"...

This idea fills me with sadness.

Here is my story and perspective, for what it’s worth. When I was 19, I had one of those powerful conversion experiences—but at that time, I was much influenced by Evangelical friends, and in their well intentioned zeal, they helped me come to believe I’d had an experience that meant my Catholic faith wasn’t so important: and I left the Catholic Church.

It was 10 years before, with the constant help of the Holy Spirit, I found my way back to the Catholic Faith. Ten years, until I came back to the sacrament of confession—and in about 10 minutes, I was absolved, reconciled, and free and welcome to receive the Holy Eucharist. Ten years without the Blessed Sacrament. I will never forget that.

I know a man who struggles to be a good Catholic. It isn’t easy for him, and because he struggles, he has had to refrain from the Eucharist. How hard that is! How hard it is to wrestle with that! But he does that, out of respect for the Eucharist – and yet it pains him deeply. Many are in that situation, whether because of their particular struggles with sin, or involvement in irregular marriages. My point is – they are not sharing in the Eucharist, and it deeply pains them.

Then I read about folks who could get in the car, and go to a church, and take part in the Sacrifice, and receive the Body and Blood of the Lord. And they are not people who fail to understand the awesomeness of this or their need for the Eucharist. They know this in their bones! AND YET THEY DO NOT GO!

I am truly sorry that priests celebrate the Mass with less fervor, or fidelity to the norms, then they ought. I am sorry for the state of affairs, that a priest who tries and wants to do so, is subject to all manner of trouble. You might consider that – it will surprise you perhaps, but it is true – that many priests face any number of problems if they try to be totally faithful.

You can say, they should just bull it through, and let the chips fall as they may, no matter what….but I will tell you it just isn’t that simple, and when you’ve walked in the shoes of a pastor, you will understand a little better why the shepherd doesn’t say, I really don’t care how many of the 100 wander off because they don’t agree with my approach. You might understand why the shepherd doesn’t say, well, this flock doesn’t appreciate me, so I will go find a good, solid, traditional flock who does—because if I leave this flock, who will come in my place? Will a wolf—in shepherd’s clothing—- take my place?

But, yes…there are priests who are just wrong on such things, and I am truly sorry for that. But: they are, however poorly, offering the Sacrifice.

Yes, they are. I know—you wonder if it’s a valid Mass. And yes, I know—I’m not there to tell you. But here is my particular experience.

Before I became a priest, I traveled quite a lot on business, visiting about 40 states. I attended daily or Sunday Mass in all these places, never knowing what I’d encounter. And, yes, at that time, I wasn’t particularly sophisticated in my liturgical knowledge. But: I knew what made the Mass valid. And I can tell you, that in all that, only twice did I have reason to doubt the validity of the Mass I took part in. The other hundreds, whatever else they were, they were valid Masses—meaning, they were real, actual participations in the one, true Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary! And I was privileged to be there!

Saint Francis of Assisi was asked about taking part in the Mass offered by a sinful priest, and what he would think? He said, as I recall, he would receive the true Eucharist from the hands of that priest and be grateful. And that sounds just right to me. I am amazed by those who seem so sure their judgment is better than that of Saint Francis. I do not imagine I am spiritually wiser than he, but—no doubt—some of you are.

Go to Mass! Go to Mass! I’m sorry for the failings of that parish. I truly am. If I can atone or offer penance, let me know. Many priests, more than you know, are sorry and we wish we could fix it. We’re trying.

But go to Mass! Just go! Swallow everything else and go.

If it really is as bad as you say – and however skeptical I may be, who am I to say you are wrong? Think of Saint Maximilian Kolbe. However bad it is for you, to be at that church, at that Mass – will you say it is worse than being where he was? In Auschwitz? That was hell on earth, or as near enough. And yet, somehow, in that hell, he did not forget who he was, and he not only was sanctified, he in turn sanctified that horrible place by his presence – yes, just by his presence. What if he had not been there?

So you can say, your local parish is horrible, terrible, awful, just the worst place in the world. Well, maybe—but I think Auschwitz was worse. And Saint Maximilian received—and served to bring—grace there. I think you can both receive—and bring—grace to any parish where you choose to take part in the Mass. Maybe they need you to be there, for their sake—just as that
man, in Auschwitz, needed Father Maximilian, to offer his life in his place.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree!

St. Anthony once told a man, "if you dropped a diamond in the sewer, wouldn't you put your hand in the sewer and take it? In the end it's still a diamond, no matter where it came from."

Sir Monocle