Skip to comments.At Church Teaches Forum...Speakers Stress Obedience To Rome, Reverence For Eucharist
Posted on 07/26/2003 12:00:02 PM PDT by ConservativeStLouisGuy
Francis Cardinal Arinze, the Nigerian-born prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, made it crystal clear that the Holy See is well aware of the growing lack of reverence exhibited by Catholics at Mass, the banality of too much modern Church music, the extent of liturgical abuses, and the ongoing scandal of reckless church "renovations."
But he also made it abundantly clear, in addressing participants at the annual Church Teaches Forum held July 18 and 19 here, that each of these problems will only be solved when every Catholic person understands, as he put it in the title of his talk, "the reverence due to the Holy Eucharist."
In an address that was as blunt as it was inspirational, Cardinal Arinze lamented the fact that so many Catholics and too many priests simply no longer understand that the Eucharist is Jesus Christ, who is "due honor, reverence, adoration, thanksgiving, and love."
Beginning his talk by defining reverence as "the virtue which inclines a person to show honor and respect primarily to God, but also to ones parents, to civil authorities, and to religious leaders," the cardinal continued by saying, "It is part of the virtue of religion to show reverence to God, to respect His name, and to honor everything connected with Him: persons, places, or objects," including priests, churches, altars, chalices, and vestments.
The foundation of reverence is faith, "Where there is no faith," he said, "there is no reverence."
He cited passages from the Council of Trent and The Catechism of the Catholic Church, and from St. Thomas Aquinas' Adoro Te and Lauda Sion Salvatorem, as well as the succinct teaching of Vatican II's Sacrosanctum Concilium. Arinze said the Church has never wavered in what it has taught about the Eucharist, nor downplayed the reverence and adoration due the Blessed Sacrament.
"For due reverence to the Holy Eucharist, every Catholic needs proper initiation into this faith and continued growth in it," he insisted. "Some Catholics are lacking in due reverence to the Holy Eucharist because their eucharistic faith is poor and full of defects and doubts." Departing from his text, he added, "Many Catholics are heretics, except they don't know it. They cannot articulate their faith. If you ask them a few questions, they cannot answer.
"What every Catholic should know," he continued, "is that they are receiving Jesus Christ."
Returning to his prepared text, Cardinal Arinze continued: "Catechesis should not presume that everyone has 100% faith. Rather, the Catholic faith on the Holy Eucharist should be systematically imparted. Homilies should be solidly based on holy Scripture, liturgical texts, and other authoritative Church documents. The homily needs special attention because for most Catholics it is the single most effective weekly moment in which they can be fed on the doctrine of the faith to help them know it, love it, and live it with ever greater authenticity. Careful study of The Catechism of the Catholic Church and regular reading of reliable Catholic magazines will also help build up the faith."
Again, departing from his text, Cardinal Arinze quipped that the "catechism never changes - even if the government does!" and he suggested that every Catholic has the moral obligation to learn more about his faith. Even in a busy modern society, there is no reason why every Catholic cannot read the Bible for 15 minutes a day, the Missal for 15 minutes, the Catechism for 15 minutes, and recite the rosary, for 15 minutes.
"After you do that, you can watch TV for 15 minutes," he said.
A Catholic who has faith, he continued, will manifest that faith at Mass. "At Mass, the ordained priest acts in the name of Christ.
He does not just preside at an assembly prayer as a chairman who conducts a meeting. No. He prays in Christ's name. He preaches with Christ's authority. He consecrates bread and wine in the name and in the person of Christ. He offers Christ to the Father. He gives the Body and Blood of Christ to God's people, blesses them and sends them forth to live what they have celebrated.
"It matters, therefore, very much that the priest's gestures should be genuine manifestations of eucharistic faith and love. Although Christ is the chief celebrant who uses the ministry of the ordained priest as His instrument, the priest's behavior influences the entire congregation."
Each individual in the congregation also has the obligation to manifest reverence: by coming early to Mass to pray and recollect, by singing, praying, standing at the appropriate times, and by maintaining silence at the appropriate times.
Cardinal Arinze said, "It is sad that so many Catholics are allergic to silence," and instead of praying silently before, after, or even during Mass, fill time by chatting with their neighbor, reading a newspaper, and then rush out of church as soon as Mass ends. Sometimes it is the priest who cannot tolerate silence, sometimes it is the people in the pew, and sometimes it is the choir, "which wants to fill up every quiet moment with singing," he said.
The Church's liturgy, he continued, is threatened by the real "danger of horizontalism," the notion that priest and people come to Mass "primarily to meet one another, to reaffirm one another, and at times even to entertain one another. No. Such horizontalism is misplaced. We come to Mass primarily to adore God, to thank Him, to ask pardon for our sins, and make requests for our needs. We are not the center. God is."
Reverence is also shown by genuflecting before the tabernacle when entering and leaving a church, by genuflecting, bowing, or making the sign of the cross when receiving Communion, by wearing proper attire at Mass, by clean and well-maintained altar dressings and furnishings, by the priest wearing the proper liturgical vestments, by respecting Church regulations regarding the altar and sanctuary, by music that shows "theological, liturgical, and aesthetic beauty and depth.
"Trite and banal musical productions are not conducive to reverence," he said and in an aside commented that too much liturgical music is just "organized noise."
Another abuse which detracts from the reverence due at Mass is the overuse of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. Such an abuse, he said, shows "a lack of reverence and bad theology."
A situation in which extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist are allowed would be, he suggested, a parish with "one to five thousand communicants and the priest is on the other side of 80 and has arthritis. Church law gives permission for that occasion. It is another matter when there are 20 people in the congregation and 20 people rush the sanctuary."
Sympathizing with many Catholics, Cardinal Arinze mused: "Why create problems for the people of God? Why offend the sensibilities of good people? It is not a question of Rome saying this or that, it's a question of people being offended by what they consider abuses in what people think is the most important thing on earth."
In his opinion, the demand for the "pre-1970 way of celebrating Mass" is "generally the fault of those who have introduced abuses and their own idiosyncrasies into the Mass, contrary to the clear directives of the Second Vatican Council. If the Mass is celebrated with faith and reverence, and sung also in Latin sometimes, people's Catholic faith and piety will be adequately nourished.
"People seek the old form of the Mass," he said, "because they are sick and tired of abuses."
The most important responsibility of every Catholic in showing reverence for the Eucharist is to ensure he is in a state of grace when receiving Communion. Repeating the decrees of the Council of Trent, and the new Code of Canon Law on the imperative of being in a state of grace before receiving, Cardinal Arinze also insisted on the moral obligation of priests to remind people of this necessity and of providing adequate times for Confession.
Reverence is also shown by the manner in which one receives, how one dresses, and how one prays. It is also shown after Mass, by the time one gives to make a personal thanksgiving. In this regard, Cardinal Arinze lamented that "the priest and choir and diocesan [worship] office should not regiment movements. They should allow the people to pray. They should permit silence.
"Only in an army," he said "stand, sit, march, left, right. In our noisy world today, people need silence. Why not stay five, ten minutes after Mass to pray. Why rush home? For a cup of coffee? For TV?"
Catholics are also called to show reverence to the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass, in such public acts as Corpus Christi processions, by making the sign of the cross when one passes by a church, by visiting the Blessed Sacrament during the day, or night.
Arinze criticized "ill-informed reformers" who have "restructured" churches so that the tabernacle is hidden or situated in a place that is not "noble, distinguished, conspicuous, well- decorated, and suitable for prayer." He called such "reformers" "iconoclasts who are knocking this down and knocking that down and then tell the people to pay for it."
The theme for this year's Church Teaches Forum, sponsored by the Bardstown-based Eternal Life apostolate founded by the late William J. Smith, and cosponsored by Catholics United for the Faith and the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation, was "Rome."
Speakers were Edouard Cardinal Gagnon, the former president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, who served in the Roman Curia for 28 years, beginning under Pope Paul VI; Bishop Thomas Doran of Rockford, Ill.; Bishop Raymond Burke of LaCrosse, Wis.; and Fr. Edmund McCaffrey.
Bishop Doran spoke on the virtue of obedience which, he said, in an age of rampant disobedience to the teachings of the Church among Catholics, is more important than ever.
After explaining obedience as understood in the Old Testament and its evolution in the New Testament, exemplified by Christ "being obedient" to death on the cross, Doran observed that obedience is the most difficult of disciplines because it goes against the strong drive in every person that "I like it, I want it, now....
"Obedience cancels that. That's why it's hard. Poverty is liberating - the more stuff, the more problems; chastity - after a time, you get used to it; obedience that's a problem; you usually don't get it until ten years after you're dead."
Bishop Doran further explained obedience according to St. Thomas Aquinas and Pope John Paul II, who speak of obedience in terms of freedom. As the Pope has taught, God makes us free not so that we can do what we want, but so that we can do what we ought. Only men and the angels have the complete freedom and power to please God by obeying Him.
"When we obey, we please God, who takes delight when we do the right thing," Doran said.
Bishop Doran also explained what obedience is not. "We do not obey unjust laws," he insisted, with an allusion to Nazi Germany. "Everything done by the Nazis when they were in power was completely legal, according to the civil law."
Catholics, by virtue of their faith, owe complete obedience to the Church and her teachings, which are Gods, he said. "We have the idea in this country that God is a great celestial moron. He loves us so much that nothing we do can displease Him."
Instead, Catholics should understand God as "the most personal of personal entities in the universe: If He loves you when you obey His Commandments, then what does He think when you disobey?" asked Bishop Doran, who will deliver the keynote address, "Mary, the Mother of Life" at the 36th National Wanderer Forum September 26 in Sterling, Va.
The Pope And The Family
Cardinal Gagnon addressed the subject, "The Pope and the Family," explaining that the Church's number one concern throughout its entire history has been the family because it is only through the family that persons learn about God.
No matter how much the family is under attack, the cardinal said, the Church will never abandon the family because it is the only place where "authentic values are taught." John Paul II, he went on, "knows better than anyone else the challenges and dangers facing the family," but his teachings are intentionally positive and optimistic because he wants to inspire families, not discourage them. The Pope's view, he said, is that when challenges come, we have to wake up.
"No baptized person," said Cardinal Gagnon paraphrasing the Holy Father, "can be steeped in indolence. He must share the faith with others."
Despite the many assaults on the family today, led by those who "want to destroy society," Cardinal Gagnon said the Pope is confident the family will survive, and prosper, for three reasons: First, the family is rooted in nature. Every person is born into a family, and it is the family that gives meaning to a person's life. Second, the Holy Spirit is received in the Sacrament of Matrimony, and grace continues to operate. Third, "If we lose the human dimension of life in the family, we lose the human dimension of life itself." Societies that no longer consider the family an asset, he said, and propose "fallacious alternatives" to the family, will not only pay a "high social price," but it is one that future generations might not be willing to pay.
Update On The Marian Catechists
Bishop Burke, the national director of the Marian Catechist Apostolate, spoke on the spirituality requirements necessary for effective catechesis, touching on John Paul II's encyclical letters on evangelization, the rosary, and his most recent, on the Eucharist, and how the Blessed Virgin Mary is the model catechist.
As a model catechist, the Blessed Mother shows how one instructs others in the one true faith, inspires others to love the faith, and understands that faith is only handed on by the one visible Church Christ established, Bishop Burke said.
Mary is also a model because of her "clear and unquestioned faith," her union with her Son through prayer, and by living God's will in her heart. And most important, Mary - and the best catechists - can teach without words because they are "living catechists."
Fr. Edmund McCaffrey, O.S.B., spoke on "Mary, Rome, and the Rosary," linking Marys apparitions in Fatima in 1917, the assassination attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II in Rome in May 1981, and the Holy Father's exhortations to Catholics to pray the rosary for peace in the world and peace in the family.
At a time when there are so many wars - family wars, culture wars, political wars, civil wars, and nations at war - the imperative of praying the rosary has never been stronger, he said.
As John Paul II has taught, the rosary is not only a marvelous tool of catechesis, a means by which any five year old can learn the Creed, basic prayers, and the life of Christ, but it is also the most efficient means to become holy and to "conform to Christ."
Fr. McCaffrey filled out his exhortation to pray the rosary with testimonies from great saints, such as St. Dominic, St. Francis de Sales, and St. John Vianney, who testified to its miraculous ability to change hearts, even the most bitter.
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