“They were loved out of the Church”

Strange quote for a title, no? It was said by a parishioner here during a phone conversation regarding people who have fallen away from the practice of the Catholic Faith. At first glance, it might seem strange, but makes logical sense once you think about it.

Following the Second Vatican Council, there was a renewed emphasis on the love of God for humanity and His desire that all be saved. This, of course, is true and should be a focus by the Church at all times. The problem arises when any truth is taken to an extreme that reduces or denies another truth. It became popular to preach universal salvation, a heresy that denies the existence of Hell and states that all humanity will be saved. Universal salvation states that regardless of how we’ve lived our lives and how well we followed (or how strongly we’ve avoided) the teachings of Christ, we’ll be saved.

The problem with universal salvation is that it denies our free will to accept or reject Our Lord’s invitation to follow Him. It has always been held by the Church, based off Our Lord’s own words, that He died that we all might be saved but we have to accept that salvation by receiving the sacraments and following Our Lord’s commands. If we disobey those commands – in other words, fall into sin – we put that salvation at risk. The existence of Hell and the very real danger of ending up there by rejecting God and embracing sin is a dogma of Church. All dogmas are revealed divine Truth that must be held by all the faithful. Universal salvation denies this dogma, and thus meets St. Thomas Aquinas’ definition of heresy: “a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas”.

As part of the preaching on universal salvation, there was a denial of the need for the Sacraments. Confession was discouraged or flat out refused. General absolution for those things in our lives that “bother us” became the rule instead of the rare exception. People were told not to worry about missing Mass, as it was considered to no longer be a necessity. Baptism became hyper-focused on bringing the child into the Christian community instead of having any salvific role in the child’s life. And so on through all the Sacraments.

On top of the popularity of universal salvation, there was a renewed overemphasis on the meal aspect of the Mass. To be clear the Mass has always been held as a meal: the sacrificial meal through which we participate in both the Sacrifice of Calvary and the Heavenly Banquet. The focus became more on making the Mass into an earthly meal, with symbolism more common to a picnic or potluck. This led to innovations like gathering around the altar, using a coffee table for the altar and having everyone sit on the floor (including the priest!), and an overemphasis on socialization and community involvement. The focus of the Mass was no longer the Sacrifice of Christ, but rather the community that gathers to break the bread and share the cup.

This strong focus on the community led to such ideas as having the cantor begin Mass by inviting everyone to stand and “greet their neighbor”, allowing 5 minutes of socialization before the opening hymn; the priest having those visiting introduce themselves and say where they’re visiting from (which I always found embarrassing as a visitor, by the way); and the Sign of Peace going from a ritual in which ” the faithful express to each other their ecclesial communion and mutual charity before communicating in the Sacrament” with “those who are nearest and in a sober manner” (GIRM 82) to a 15 minute (yes, I’ve seen that) time of visiting and gladhanding throughout the Church.

As people heard the preaching of universal salvation and the overemphasis on community, people started to make a logical conclusion: “I don’t need to have anything to do with the Church and will still get to Heaven. At best, I just need to be a “good person”, and I’ll be fine. Doesn’t matter what I do otherwise.” Don’t have to go to Mass every Sunday? Great! I can sleep in on Sunday or go golfing when every one else is at Mass. Don’t have to go to Confession? Great! I hate having to confront the fact that I’ve done things wrong. Because they got the impression that Jesus loves us so much at we don’t have to worry about Hell, they decided they had better things to do than worry about this Church “thing”.

The overemphasis on community didn’t help matters much. Sorry to those who like the “stand and greet your neighbor”, but there are many people who would much rather socialize during late Saturday night at the local bar or pub than Sunday morning at the Church. In fact, there are many who don’t like these “forced socialization” practices (myself included – if I’m in a group and want to be quiet, don’t force me to do otherwise!) and want to avoid them whenever and however possible. If it’s the choice of spending my Sunday morning how I want or being forced into greeting my neighbor, I’ll take the selfish route, thanks.

Many Catholics have taken the selfish route, and this is what the parishioner meant by someone being “loved out of the Church”. If Jesus loves us so much that there’s no consequences to missing Mass, and it’s uncomfortable to go to Mass, then why go? The problem, of course, that this all based on misunderstanding of the Truth revealed by Christ. Yes, Jesus loves us unconditionally, but that doesn’t mean we can’t reject that love. Yes, community involvement within the parish is important, but the focus of the Mass is in worship of God and sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ, not in our communal gathering and sharing.

People were “loved out of the Church”. Now, the question is, do we love them enough to love them back in to the Truth?

Review of Sancta Missa Extraordinary Form Workshops

During the week of May 9-13, I had the great privilege to attend an Extraordinary Form workshop offered by the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius. I had had a great desire to be trained in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass for some time. By a wonderful chance of scheduling, I was able to spend two weeks at the University of St. Mary of the Lake (also known as Mundelein Seminary) for a seminary classmate reunion retreat followed by the Extraordinary Form workshop across campus at the Cardinal Stritch Retreat House.

The workshop began at about Noon on Monday and went for about 96 hours of intense training and practice on the Extraordinary Form. When we weren’t training and practicing (and eating – the retreat house food was excellent!), we were also discussing how to celebrate the Sacraments of Matrimony, Baptism, and Extreme Unction according to the books in effect in 1962, as stipulated by the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum and reinforced by the recently released Instruction Universae Ecclesiae. By a wonderful coincidence, Universae Ecclesiae happened to be promulgated on Friday morning of the workshop, and we spent about an hour discussing the Instruction.

Upon arrival, we were given a stack of materials which included the textbook for the week “Mastering the Rubrics of the 1962 Missal”, a stack of information on the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and Sacraments, and an envelope full of material from the Coalition in Support of Ecclesia Dei. If you’ve been to an Extraordinary Form Mass and seen the softcover red booklets with the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin and English, you’re familiar with this Coalition. The Canons Regular also provided a selection of material from their bookstore for purchase, much of which was written or republished under their Biretta Press imprint.

A very beneficial part of the workshop was daily opportunities to attend Extraordinary Form Masses in choir, both Missa Lecta (Low Mass) and Missa Cantata (High Mass). The priests who sat in choir were placed along the side of the altar so that we could watch closely how the celebrant celebrated the Mass. I learned almost as much watching an experienced priest celebrate Mass as I did practicing on my own.

The members of the Canons Regular who trained us were very patient with us, especially when we would make silly mistakes (always a part of learning something new). My group of 3 had a seminarian brother of the Canons Regular to teach us. We went through the Mass small sections at a time with the brother demonstrating first, and then we would practice one at a time. He’d provide corrections, we’d repeat until we got it right, and so on. By Wednesday evening, we’d gone through the entire Low Mass in the individual sections. All day Thursday and Friday morning were spent putting it all together.

By the end of the week, I was so confident in my ability to celebrate the Extraordinary Form that I celebrated my first Extraordinary Form Mass at 7:00 AM Friday morning. Admittedly, that’s probably a bit rare, and maybe even a bit overconfident on my part. That first celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass wasn’t perfect, but it was valid and licit. I went from a familiarity with the Mass that most of the laity have to able to celebrate in the course of a week.

For any priests who might be interested in attending this workshop in the future, I would say, “Do it!” It was worth the time, travel and money, and I highly recommend working with the Canons Regular to learn the Extraordinary Form. I would advise those priests interested to begin developing familiarity with the Extraordinary Form both through attending the Mass (if possible in your area) and through the Sancta Missa website and DVDs or the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter DVDs. It also helps to work on your Latin pronunciation by praying the Breviary in Latin, if not offering the Ordinary Form in Latin on occasion. I’ve been able to do all that I’ve advised throughout my 3 years as a priest, and easily contributed to my ability to pick up the Extraordinary Form of the Mass as quickly as I did.

It truly was an excellent opportunity, and now I need to go “practice” by celebrating a private Extraordinary Form Mass.

 

Mass Instruction V: Penitential Rite

Mass Instruction V: Penitential Rite

Mass Instruction IV: Entrance Procession, Sign of the Cross and Greeting

Mass Instruction IV: Entrance Procession, Sign of the Cross and Greeting

Mass Instruction III: Preparation for Mass

Mass Instruction III: Preparation for Mass

Mass Instruction II: Posture and Words

I’d hoped to transcribe at least the Mass Instruction homilies, but haven’t gotten around to it. Perhaps it’ll happen one day.

Mass Instruction II: Posture and Words

Mass Instruction I: What is the Mass?

As part of the preparation for the new translation of the Roman Missal, I’m starting a series of homilies on the Mass itself. For the first homily, I discuss briefly what the Mass is, as well as the importance of attending Holy Mass.

Mass Instruction 1: What is the Mass?

No text right now, just the audio. Hopefully the text will be typed up and posted in the next couple days.

New Translation Resources

With the new English translation of the Roman Missal being promulgated for usage in little more than a year, resources for learning and using the translation are starting to pop up on the Internet, as well as pamphlets, brochures, and books. The USCCB has had an excellent resource site for some time which includes sample texts for the people’s parts and priest’s parts. If you’ve never taken the time to look at the new translation, I highly encourage spending time looking at the USCCB Roman Missal site.

Another site that I’ve recently become aware of is A New Translation for a New Roman Missal. Video interviews talk about the theology and process behind the translation, as well as the Scriptural basis to the texts of the Mass. Other videos show Msgr. Moroney, Executive Secretary of the Vox Clara Committee, reciting the four primary Eucharistic Prayers. All the videos are available on a DVD for offline viewing as part of parish adult education classes, but can be viewed via YouTube.

If you have any interest in the new translation, especially if you’ve never looked at the new texts, these two sites are worth spending a couple hours perusing.

Introduction to the New Translation of the Roman Missal

Tonight, as part of an ongoing adult education class, I spoke for about an hour and a half on the new translation of the Roman Missal which is coming down the pipe within the next year to year and a half. Hopefully, it’ll be a benefit to all my readers and doesn’t contain too many heresies.

Introduction to the New Translation of the Roman Missal