I get frustrated with wayward liturgies. I am enjoying my Lenten reading. (Letter and Spirit by Scott Hahn) I am pleased to see our parish paying attention to the Divine Mercy devotion. I am not excited about altar girls in the diocese and am relieved our pastor has decided not to expand our altar server corps to include girls. I am thrilled to see our new hymnal chock full of traditional hymns and Latin responses. I can share these sentiments with my Catholic blogging friends and the friends I see at daily Mass. However, when I leave my little circle of orthodoxy, my opinions are met by blank stares. Many of my Catholic friends aren’t convinced they need to show up at any Mass much less be concerned with the liturgical correctness of the Mass. They are still judging the Church by the standards of our culture instead of judging our culture by the standards of the Church.
Those of us who received the bulk of our catechesis after 1965 missed out on basic tenets of our Faith. Religion turned into pop psychology and the emphasis moved from focusing on the sacraments to focusing on our feelings. Building up our self-esteem became more important than acknowledging our sins. The glory and splendor of the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist was not enough. We needed entertainment and affirmation of our selves in the Mass. Fortunately the tide is turning in Rome. Straight talk about the importance of the sacraments, the sacredness of the liturgy, and the unchangeable teachings of the Church were plentiful with Pope John Paul II and are continuing with Pope Benedict XVI. The question is are Catholics in the pew getting the message?
In the last year, our parish has gone from having confession once a week on Saturdays to offering confession every day except Sunday. On Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays the priests begin hearing confessions at 7:00 pm and stay until the line runs out. On Tuesdays and Thursdays they begin hearing confessions thirty minutes before the 6:30 am and 9:00 am Mass. (I think anyone who is in church by 6:00 am to confess their sins has already done penance!) On Saturdays there are confessions beginning at 3:00 pm. You know with all these additional times to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, you would think there would be no waiting. Instead, the lines are getting longer and longer. Having the sacrament so readily available takes away the excuses. It also helps that our priests never miss an opportunity to extol the benefits of confession. I was at the church yesterday for a committee meeting and there were at least 50 cars in the parking lot for the evening confessions. This morning before the 9:00 Mass three priests were hearing confessions and they still couldn’t get them all heard before Mass started. Something as simple as more frequent confessions can be the impetus for a real renewal of the Faith of a parish.
One must crawl before we walk and walk before we run. Very basic catechesis like, “you are supposed to go to Mass every Sunday”, and “confession is good for you” comes first. Every priest should read Cardinal Arinze’s address on the liturgy. The way the priest celebrates Mass is itself a form of catechesis. Following recent guidance, our pastor asked us to bow slightly as a gesture of reverence before receiving Communion. As the priest replaces the consecrated Hosts in the tabernacle all six altar boys, the Extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, and the priests who helped distribute communion all kneel. These bodily gestures of respect teach the reverence due the Eucharist.
Hopefully we will see a day when the importance of weekly Mass attendance and reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation are common knowledge and the average Catholic in the pew is delving into the spiritual works of the Church Fathers. Until then I will remind myself that some of us are crawling, some of us are walking, and some of us are running. We need to have patience and pray for grace so that no one is left behind.