By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK
The Church is in the business of making Catholics, of proclaiming and calling all to the fullness of saving truth in Jesus Christ our Lord. Our mission to those who doubt or refuse some of our teachings is to call them to that fullness, whether Catholics already in our pews or Protestant brothers and sisters on our periphery.
A confusion, sometimes called “ecumania,” has resulted in an inversion of the Church’s mission on the part of some Catholics, even among our Catholic leadership, as we see Walter Cardinal Kasper among those who would change Catholic doctrine on marriage to mirror what is already abundantly available among non-Catholic confessions.
But our mission as Catholics is not to do what these confessions already do so well: doubt and weaken the fullness of life in Christ available in and through His Church.
Christ founded the Church for the purpose of making a “place of faith,” as Pope Benedict calls it, where the world can encounter and be saved by Him alone. Doctrines, dogmas, Commandments, sacraments — these all come from Christ through the Church and serve the purpose of leading souls securely back to Christ.
The Eucharist, the True and Real Presence of Jesus Christ, is primary among these Catholic realities, and thus we call it “The Most Blessed Sacrament.” The Church does not touch or in any way diminish the truth that the Lord is thus present, defining the reality of the Eucharist only in such a way as to bring out the truth of His abiding Presence in a more tangible and fuller manner so that all mankind may come to faith in Him.
Jesus Christ is the source and summit of our Catholic faith and life and, because He is truly present as the Eucharist, so also the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. To be a Catholic in the truest and fullest sense means to adore and receive Jesus Christ as the Sacrament of the Eucharist in order to grow in a state of grace.
When Protestants attend Mass, they are not able to receive the Eucharist as a source of grace because they lack the fullness of the grace of truth necessary through Catholic Baptism or a Catholic Profession of Faith. The fact of our separation from non-Catholic Christians for this reason exists because of some fault in persons and not in Christ or His Church. We pray for them and accompany them in their own walk of faith as much as we are able to in true compassion.
Many of them already hold Catholic faith volitionally, but for whatever reasons of human respect they hold back from making the final step of being received into the Church. We must respect both their weakness if they lack the courage to take the necessary steps and their integrity so as not to force upon them that for which they are not yet ready.
No practicing Catholic I know would ever say that Jesus Christ is not the most important Person in his life. With that being the case, though, many fail the test of making their actions match their words. God is truly present in the Eucharist, but many Catholics end up living without the Eucharist.
Dating a non-Catholic usually begins very serenely, often with the non-Catholic attending Mass together with the Catholic boyfriend or girlfriend during the period of courting. Couples in love very seldom choose to discuss issues that threaten to divide them. But when the engaged couple start making choices as to ceremony and venue, they may be putting down roots of division without realizing it.
Outdoor weddings are popular, but the Church will not grant a dispensation in order to recognize such a ceremony. This makes a second Catholic convalidation ceremony necessary: a further complication and possible source of marital friction. Also, if the non-Catholic party will not agree to raise the children Catholic, the dispensation necessary for a convalidation cannot be granted.
Insistence upon a completely unnecessary “nice-to-have” such as an outdoor ceremony prevents the potential Catholic spouse from taking advantage of the option of applying for and receiving a dispensation, so that the ceremony can be recognized as valid for the Catholic. That enables him or her to continue practicing his or her faith. A non-Catholic ceremony in a church or chapel of a non-Catholic Christian confession would qualify for a dispensation.
The result of all this often is that the Catholic ends up a practical Protestant: attending Mass but unable to receive Communion. In such a case, choices for unnecessary things, such as an outdoor ceremony, have led to the loss of the one thing necessary: the Lord Jesus Christ truly present in the Eucharist.
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(Follow Fr. Cusick on Facebook at Reverendo Padre Kevin Michael Cusick and on Twitter @MCITLFrAphorism. Father blogs at apriestlife.blogspot.com, mcitl.blogspot.com and you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)