CATHOLIC PewPOINT for Friday-Thursday, September 22-28, 2000
Darkness Descends on the Diocese of St. Petersburg!
This piece today may be quite lengthy, but that's what happens when I get passionate about the Holy Eucharist. By the way, while you are reading this I am currently recuperating from my prostate surgery. Therefore I have written this in advance so I can get the needed rest and relaxation necessary to recover and come back strong as ever.
Michael Cain, editor
Speaking of strong as ever, that's what Jesus should be in the world when you consider the plethora of Catholic and Christian sites on the internet, when you consider all the polls of people who say God is so important in their lives. If that is true, then why aren't we trusting totally in Him as He asks? Could it be because we are deemphasizing His presence in the Blessed Sacrament? Could it be because we have hidden Him in the closets of our churches, camouflaged Him where it's difficult to find Him, modernized Him so much so that few recognize the tabernacle? Could it be that we have lost so much reverence for the Holy Eucharist through the habit of just following others in the Communion line without truly realizing Who we are receiving and why? Yes, all of the above.
But how, why? We could blame Vatican II, but if you read all the documents and decrees you'll find nowhere where the Council Fathers deemphasized Christ in the Eucharist, nowhere where they emphasized social action over Eucharistic action. No, the Second Vatican Council is blameless. But the "spirit of Vatican II", ah, there's the rub. As we have documented on these pages, in our on-going series, in Pat Ludwa's excellent columns, etc. the "spirit of Vatican II" is not of the Holy Spirit but another spirit, a deep, dark one who goes by the name of satan. It was forged through the knowing or unknowing cooperation of dissident progressives who felt the Council Fathers didn't go far enough. Sadly, this includes some bishops who returned unsatisfied or were hoodwinked by influential liberals already in place within their own chanceries. Only God knows for sure what happened. Only God can judge their actions when the time comes to fess up before Him. It's called the Final Judgment. But gradually we saw a slipping away of traditions, a corrosion within many dioceses that adopted policies and guidelines that in no way resembled what the Council recommended, in no way was approved by the Holy See. Yet, over the years, these transgressions have a way of being grandfathered in. A good example was female altar servers. But we won't go into that, for, after all that was merely liturgical.
Another was movement of the tabernacles away from the main altar, citing the ridiculous excuse that Christ in the Tabernacle took away from the Consecrated Christ on the altar. Huh, how can Christ compete against Himself? Isn't Our Lord present Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in every single consecrated Host? Well then, does that mean the left side of the church is competing with the right side during the distribution of Holy Communion? I know that sounds ridiculous, preposterous if you will. But is that any more preposterous than the idea that God, residing in the Holy of Holies - the Tabernacle, takes away from the Sacrifice on the Altar?
I can remember when Christ in the Eucharist was the most august, revered occasion anyone could imagine. The Church and her priests treated the Blessed Sacrament in the most precious manner. If a Host or particle were dropped on the floor the priest placed a purificator over it and after Mass would clean the area three times to represent the Trinity. If any of the precious Blood was spilled on the altar, the three layers of altar linens - the two covering the altar table and the purificator beneath the chalice to represent the three linens Our Lord was wrapped in while laying in the tomb for three days - these sacred linens absorbed the Precious Blood and the linens were all washed three times in a special sink where the drain went directly into the ground, rather than the modern plumbing. Everyone took such great care to cherish Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Silence in the Lord's House was absolute; no one thought to talk with a neighbor. That could be done outside, outside the House of God. This tradition dates back to the time of Abraham. The Tabernacle was the Ark of the Covenant - and so special that a tent covered it. Up until after Vatican II, the Tabernacle had always had a curtain or veil covering it in all churches, but with modern architecture not only did the Tabernacle get moved, but denuded as well, stripping away the veil. Why does it parallel Our Lord being stripped of His garments so? Because they have stripped Our Lord away from us in such clever, insidious ways where we have come to accept it. That's what makes it all the more insidious.
For nearly two millenniums Catholics have been weaned on living their Faith, realizing that the Tabernacle is the heart of the Church, for twenty-four hours a day it houses Jesus Himself. That is another reason Mary is called the "Ark of the Covenant," the "Holy Tabernacle of God," for she housed Jesus for nine months in her womb. The Church rightly preaches that we should be eager to help others, to see Christ in others, to perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. But the Church does not preach that these things come before praising and adoring God. But that is what the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saint Petersburg, Florida is promoting when they issued new guidelines that, in effect, end perpetual Adoration of the Holy Eucharist. It is called "Concerning Eucharistic Adoration, Exposition, and Benediction" and it is all doublespeak for enacting reforms pushed by RENEW 2000, a Call To Action oriented organization that has infiltrated so many dioceses in the United States.
Our question to Bishop Robert Lynch, shepherd for the See there, is why? your Excellency. Why have you taken the direct opposite course that Archbishop Justin Rigali, Archbishop Charles Chaput, Archbishop Terrence McCarrick, Bishop John Myers, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz and many other American bishops have taken to increase and emphasize Eucharistic Adoration? Why is it that in the sees where Perpetual Adoration and an emphasis on Christ in the Tabernacle are emphasized, vocations are growing, reverence is returning. This has been proven in studies conducted in Lincoln, Newark, Denver, St. Louis and Peoria to name just a few.
Your guidelines say, dear Bishop, that it's because we need to "reflect on Catholics' commitment of time and money to social services." Sounds like a lot of "Peace and Justice" politically correct hogwash to us. You say that the reason you approved this exodus from worshipping Christ in His churches is because in the early Church they didn't adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, that this practice of worshipping the exposed Blessed Sacrament in the Monstrance didn't really come into play until the thirteenth century. What historians are you following, Bishop? The notorious professor at Notre Dame Richard McBrien? It came into full prominence in the 13th century, took it's form and rubrics from that wonderful time of Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Bonaventure. In fact, it was Aquinas who composed Tantum Ergo, Pange Lingua, and many other beautiful, prayerful hymns. But it was long before this Angelic Doctor that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was encouraged by the Church, even earlier than sixth century Spain.
In the embryonic stages of the Church, there were no liturgical guidelines set in stone chiefly because the Sacrifice of the Mass was said on stone, people standing on uneven, course stones in the Catacombs. That is the main reason the practice of the celebrant facing east toward Jerusalem and celebrating Mass with his back to the people evolved. He said Mass on a hollowed out tomb in the cave walls. But we have also evolved from those "cave days" to what the Church reasserted and strengthened at the Council of Trent. Nothing happens overnight. It took centuries for the liturgy to develop. After all, it took four centuries before the Bible was set in stone as Divine Revelation. Tradition had already been established.
Now, it would seem to many, your Excellency, that you are trifling with tradition by denying your flock the immense benefits of Eucharistic Adoration. It was not until the Church began to grow, nourished by the blood of the martyrs, and Constantine the Great lifted the veil of persecution and built sanctuaries, churches, that Christians and their rituals came out of the catacombs. And when they finally did, there was an early renaissance of splendor focused on the Tabernacle. In the vast majority of churches up until the post-Vatican II era, the Tabernacles were the most lavishly designed furnishings, often of solid gold. The Tabernacle was the centerpiece of every church and well it should have been for this was the House of God and therein God resided, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. Yes, Christ is with us wherever we go, but not in the same manner as He is when we adore Him and venerate Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. The most important element of these edifices, no matter what size, was the placement of the Tabernacles. First of all, dear Bishop, why would anyone build churches if it wasn't to have a place for God to reside? If we're not concerned with the placement of the Tabernacle, if we're not concerned about affording Jesus all the praise and adoration we can muster, then why have a church at all? Why not just have your priests set up shop near the bay, or at the local gym or auditorium? Well, you know the reason to that, your Excellency. It is because that would lead to sacrilege and a loss of respect for the Mass and the Holy Eucharist. The sense of sanctity is greatly diminished. If you agree with that, then can you see that your actions are leading exactly down that path?
Do you realize, dear Bishop, that by caving to the demands and suggestions of various commissions, many influenced by RENEW 2000, which you allowed into your diocese three years ago, you have stuck Jesus in closets all over your diocese. We haven't seen any such suggestions coming out of the Holy See. Rather, we have seen the new Introduction to the Roman Missal emphasizing a return to the traditional, with the inclusion once again of Gregorian Chant and a return to reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has already stated the importance of putting the Tabernacles back in the sanctuaries, hopefully front and center as the focus of our Faith. Yet you come up with the cockamamy, yes, lame excuse that the focus on the Real Presence in the Eucharist overshadows the presence of Christ in the minister, the Word proclaimed, other sacraments, and the participation of the faithful. Dear Excellency, Jesus should!!! He is the reason why we exist, He is the reason why we worship, He is the reason we have a One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. He is the reason we have the Word proclaimed, He is the reason we are a sacramental Church. He is the reason, and the ONLY reason the faithful participate. If not, then all is in vain. Did Our Lord not say in Matthew 6: 6?"But when thou prayest, go into thy room, and closing thy door, pray to thy Father in secret; and thy Father, Who sees in secret, will reward thee." But by your actions have you not taken away these "rooms" of the faithful of St. Petersburg? There has always been a place of sanctuary, a place where we can leave the world behind and go in quiet prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. It's essential, it's vital.
The saints and leaders of our Church from the early centuries on realized this. As more churches developed and Christianity spread, emphasis was placed on devotion to the Blessed Sacrament when they weren't attending Holy Mass. This hunger developed into prompting the churches to provide a quiet, reverent atmosphere. This, in turn, promoted kneeling and adoration from the faithful, motivating all to be reverent and give our all to Him. This translates through our actions of reverence. Just as the chosen people held the Ark of the Covenant in the highest esteem and took great strides to preserve this reverence and awe, so also we must reverence this greatest of Miracles and hold the Holy Eucharist in the greatest of awe or we will be lost. Some think we already are, that "the sacred and profane all become the same thing...once you do away with the sanctuary, the nave and the sanctuary all become part of one space, and the people will do that," as a San Diego priest has remarked. He shudders that this causes the "sacred to blend into the vulgar and become one." That is not what is meant by "that all may be one" as Christ intended or His Holiness John Paul II in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint.
Another priest from our area pinpoints the problem, "People don't recognize the Real Presence, and it's done a lot of damage at the parish level. But maybe that's what a lot of the liturgists and bishops want - let's just celebrate ourselves - that's what's really important to them." Sounds a little harsh doesn't it, your Excellency? Yet, when you see the trend, it makes perfect sense. After all, where the tabernacles used to sit, now you'll find magnificent sedias, chairs. To anyone who remembers where Jesus used to reside, it would seem man is trying to replace God.
What is the basic difference between Catholic and Protestant Faiths, your Excellency? The Holy Eucharist. To them it is a symbol, to us it is the fullness of Christ, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. By your actions you are protestantizing your churches by deemphasizing the importance of the Blessed Sacrament. You might disagree with our harsh, but loving criticism. Consider, if you will, if you are curtailing your parishes from establishing Perpetual Adoration how can they truly come to love Him in the Holy Eucharist? How can He shower your flock with graces and mercy, if there is no conduit to Him. Oh yes, we know you've said you think your people are losing focus of their other duties. You've asked, "Are they as respectful and reverent toward Christ's presence in the gathered Body, the Church, as they are to the presence of Christ in the Sacrament?" They won't be if they don't have the opportunity to grow in grace from spending time with Him in quiet time away from the hullabaloo of the world, the flesh and the devil. By denying parishioners the opportunity to be with Him at all times, their hunger will go unsatiated for there is nothing else that can satisfy the longing for God. No social action within your parishes, no political correct posture will satisfy this thirst for the True Presence, or replace it, even equal it.
You must know about the Miraculous Eucharist at Lanciano in Italy. I spent two days there and, like a magnet, was drawn to the Blessed Sacrament - the Living Flesh. The only time I left was when the sacristans asked me to for siesta and closing time. Now multiply that by thousands upon thousands of devoted Catholics, yes, in your diocese who long to spend time with Him there in the quietude of the Adoration chapels. Great, great graces are derived from this time of prayer that Jesus Himself asks of us, (cf. Matthew 26: 40-41).
The Parable of the Pearl reminds us of the need for Adoration. "Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he finds a single pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it" (Matthew 13: 45-46). The Holy Eucharist is that Pearl. Are you not then, by your actions, discarding these precious pearls because you think the Church needs more fishermen to go out and seek, not souls, but lesser gems because everyone is doing it and it is the politically correct, democratic way of pleasing everyone? Is that why you plan on bringing out the Pearl only once in a great while? That's what you are saying when you limit times that the Blessed Sacrament is to be exposed in the monstrance, when you fix a period of only a few days a year when the faithful can spend time in adoration. The less time we spend with Him, the more time we have for fellowship, more time to do all the social action you are promoting, all the works. But you're forgetting something vitally important, your Excellency. Even the greatest "social worker" of them all, Mother Teresa, not to mention Saint Vincent de Paul could not have accomplished their deeds without sustenance from Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; not just at Holy Mass, but also during Adoration, Benediction and Perpetual Adoration in convents and monasteries. Yet it would seem you are going against Jesus' advice in Matthew 7: 6? "Do not give to dogs what is holy, neither cast your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet and turn and tear you." By giving in to RENEW 2000 and A Call To Action agendas, you are casting Pearls before the swine and, sooner or later, if this trend continues, you could eventually feel the thunder of their hooves trampling your flock. Then what directives will you give as their Shepherd?
We can all appreciate that conducting Perpetual Adoration means being assured there will be committed souls spending time with Jesus at all hours of the day and night. Many parishes, because they are not spiritually prepared -[read: it hasn't been emphasized and given it's proper importance in those parishes], do not have the man-power. That is understandable and regrettable. Too many depend on the contemplative monasteries and convents to hold Perpetual Adoration, but these, too, are diminishing because of the general mindset permeating society that it is "old Church" to emphasize this devotion. Yet, your Excellency, to limit all parishes is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Why is it that while you are desensitizing your flock to the vital essence of the True Presence, many of your colleagues in other dioceses and archdioceses around the country are making it paramount that Adoration, even Perpetual Adoration in many parishes, be stressed? Could it be because great spiritual rewards and graces are derived from our reverence and veneration of Christ in the Holy Eucharist? Could it be that where Perpetual Adoration is established, groups such as A Call To Action, we are church, and 'catholics' for a free choice are nowhere to be found? Have you noticed that in dioceses where RENEW 2000 has taken hold, slowly but surely the importance of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist is being shifted toward the "Body of Christ" in the people and its ministers? In those dioceses where the wise bishops have recognized the wolves in sheeps' clothing, RENEW 2000 is being rejected in favor of solid doctrine. In these sees, the bishops are taking charge of evangelization and catechetical teaching instead of leaving it to the Peter-Principled chancery veterans that have refused to move from the left.
In all respect and love, your Excellency, we would prayerfully ask you to reconsider your priorities for they would seem to be askew. Did not Jesus say in Matthew 22: 37-40? "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." Notice, He didn't say they are equal, He said the "greatest and first" when He was referring to loving God. Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament is an ideal way to show that love for Him. This age-old practice of reverence provides fuel to enable us to love our neighbor as ourselves, to do good works in helping our fellow man. Yet you have placed more emphasis on helping our fellow man without first seeking God, without first being powered by His Spirit in order to fully comply with the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. While Justice and Peace are noble, [note: it is Justice and Peace, not "peace and justice" as many progressives promote], their fruits are empty without proper emphasis and importance for setting aside time for God. Could it possibly be that, like Peter, you have misjudged what God truly wants and, if so, are you willing to hear from Him His words to Peter in Matthew 16: 23? Get behind me, satan, thou art a scandal to Me; for thou dost not mind the things of God, but those of men."
The Apostle Saint James, inspired by the Sanctifier, asserted in his Epistle, 2: 14,17 "What will it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but does not have works? Can the faith save him? ...So, faith too, unless it has works, is dead in itself." In the same vein, works without faith, are dead in themselves. As the Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13 that "the greatest of these is charity." We need to have a balance of faith, hope, charity in order to carry out works. As for love, we need both toward God and our fellow man, but on a scale that gives proper honor and reverence to God. He comes first. It's in the book!
Please, please, your Excellency, strongly reconsider your directives. Go before the Blessed Sacrament in quiet time where you can reflect one on One in quiet time. And while you're there, think of the countless souls in your diocese who you have deprived of just that same opportunity by your directives. It's a sobering thought and one we pray you will seriously consider. Do you really want to open the door wider to satan instead of shutting out the noise by providing sanctuary to the hungry and deserving souls of your flock? Social programs, inclusivity, ethnicity, misguided historical assumptions, and seeking to please everyone by placing too much emphasis on these things, including too much emphasis on the Scriptural word while neglecting the Word in the Blessed Sacrament only plays into the hands of lucifer's legions. Carefully read the excellent treatise on this in "Bright Promise, Failed Community - Catholics and the American Public Order" by Joseph Varacalli and you'll see the course you are taking doesn't work. It will only lead away from the Light. The Beloved Apostle John's first words were "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was made nothing that has been made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the Light shines in the darkness; and the darkness grasped it not." We, as faithful and obedient children of the Church, are deeply saddened for your flock, your Excellency, for with your directive you have dimmed the Light considerably, and because of this action, darkness descends on the Diocese of St. Petersburg!
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