Fr. Mark Goring
Since Vatican II all kinds of abuses have crept into our liturgies. I remember the clown Masses, the home Masses with no liturgical vestments, the guitar and mariachi Masses, the butterfly vestments, the crepe paper rainbow and cracked pot in the sanctuary, the sand in the holy water fonts during lent. My goodness, the list is endless!
Things have actually improved since the height of nonsense in the 70s and 80s. Many vestments still look like rain ponchos, but the chasubles so familiar at the Tridentine Masses of my youth are coming back in some places. And even the modern vestments are beautiful in many cases.
But have these improvements been sufficient to restore the faith?
How many Catholics believe in the Real Presence today? Very few if the surveys are accurate. A recent PEW survey found that only 1/3rd of Catholics believe the bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. That's a disaster! Most Catholics reject the core teaching of our faith.
Is it any surprise? We see our churches turned into social halls with parishioners laughing and talking after Mass in front of the tabernacle.
No silence, no reverence. Do they believe Jesus is present as they turn their backs on Him to chat (loudly) with their friends? Their actions show no evidence of it.
I'm happy to say, in my own parish, the pastor is doing things to emphasize the Real Presence and increase reverence. In the past few weeks, he is singing more of the responses (a directive of the bishop) and has reintroduced the Latin singing of the Sanctus and Agnus Dei at daily Mass. I'll find out tomorrow whether he's reintroducing the Latin at Sunday Mass. I certainly hope so.
Last Sunday, the deacon gave a terrific homily on the Real Presence. Was the congregation listening? The social hall atmosphere at the end of Mass went on unabated. I told the pastor the next day that we were at a parish in Colonial Beach recently (St. Elizabeth of Hungary) that has a sign as you enter the church.
REVERENCE AND SILENCE
Some people still talked as they left the Church, but it was fewer. The pastor's homily that day was on the four last things: death, judgment, heaven, or hell. He minced no words. Wow! It was a brave teaching and I thanked him for it. We need more of that coming from the pulpit.
There are so many things pastors can do to increase belief in the Real Presence. Fr. Goring's plea to restore the Communion rails with people kneeling for Communion is one. Urging people to receive Christ on the tongue is another. Introducing more Latin and sung responses in the liturgy emphasizes that what we are doing is DIFFERENT from secular pursuits. Saying Mass ad orientem would visually witness that the priest is the shepherd leading the people rather than an entertainer facing them. So many showmen priests act like stand-up comics at Mass.
All of these reforms would offer teaching opportunities as well.
- "I'll be returning to the ad orientem posture and here's why.
- "Receiving Communion on the tongue is the Church's ordinary practice. It is preferred and here's why."
- "We use Latin in the Mass to link ourselves to the universal church. It is an opportunity to stress unity."
You get the idea.
Pray for priests and encourage those who are making efforts to increase reverence. They often are under attack both from liberal parishioners, from their liberal brother priests, and from their bishops. We need to make sure they know their efforts do not go unnoticed. Gratitude is a virtue we need to nurture.
Viva Cristo Rey!