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“Ad Orientem” Dei Gloriam

January 15, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

We have all heard the saying that “he who hesitates is lost.” We don’t hear enough about the fact that dithering in the face of opportunity can also mean the loss of an immortal soul. How many priests hesitate every day to courageously proclaim the truth or to offer the traditions of the Church in her liturgy? And how many souls remain in error or sin at risk of damnation as a result we will never know until the last day.
Until that final moment, however, we are called to struggle heroically on behalf of Christ for the sake of salvation. The souls we save may include our own. Each of us is responsible for knowing the truth and for sharing it generously with those around us as well as tending to our own state of grace.
The Church will always have macro problems that we can with little effort read or hear about taking place in Rome or in other spots around the globe. It is good to know and love the Church at a distance and be enriched by the knowledge and experience. But the Church also faces challenges in her mission for the salvation of souls right in our own backyard, in our own homes, and in our own lives.
Authenticity, like charity, begins at home. Because we cannot give what we do not have, the first task for all of us is to dedicate ourselves to the upbuilding of our own life of faith. Along with that, and as part of that challenge and opportunity, we are called to build up the Body of Christ in our own family and in our neighborhood.
For Catholics that has always meant joining and worshipping at our local geographical parish. Pastors today, however, are faced with the phenomenon of “consumer Catholicism.” Less important than knowing and loving one’s neighbors, it seems, for many it is more attractive to get in the car and to shop around for virtual “neighbors.” Rather than loving who is in front of us, or who lives next door to us, an increasing number of Catholics treat the faith as a shopping experience, driving past their local church to go where they like the people, the music, the priest, or the programs better, rather than bringing those programs or preferences to life closer to home by their own efforts and interest.
No doubt the Vatican II innovation of facing the people during the entire liturgy has done much to bring about a type of “branding” among our parishes, where the personality of Father “A” is much more engaging and attractive than that of Father “B.” In this way our Catholic life has suffered, making our experience more like that of Protestant televangelism, where the photogenicity and the quirks of individuals can become more important than the message of the Gospel itself.
How many people now go to Church to find not only a distraction from the problems of daily life but also, perhaps unwittingly, from the challenges of the daily living of the faith as well? Consumer Catholicism can be a symptom of that. Priests can tell us about the struggles to live the faith in the post-Vatican II period, in part because they hear Confessions. But by that same token they cannot always share what they know.
Priests can, however, overcome their hesitation and more effectively save souls by rejecting the illegitimate innovations foisted upon the Church which butchered and rendered less effective her most important means of saving souls in the Holy Mass. Turning the priest around to face the people, who beforehand were facing Christ together with him, is one of these.
The lack of ad orientem prayer in the Mass today has encouraged a damaging trend in which the altar for many has become in their minds a “stage” and the persons upon it “actors” in a play. This does not serve the reality of the liturgy in which God Himself has a role through Christ who uses the priest as His instrument to offer Himself as Priest, Altar and Victim of the Perfect Sacrifice.
Only the perfect sacrifice of God has the power to save souls. Anything that serves as a distraction from that truth should be cut away, keeping in mind what Christ taught about temptation to use any part of our being to serve anything other than love of Him: “If your eye causes you to sin, cut it out.”
If the personality of the priest serves as a distraction from his role as persona Christi, cut it out. Many priests are now doing this by rejecting the ill-considered innovation of facing the people at a table during the praying of the Canon of the Mass. Perhaps this was inspired by the thinking that Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper, reproductions of which hang on many rectory dining room walls, was a true historical depiction. It was not.
A priest recently shared, on the blog romancatholicman.com, the fruitful results of restoring elements of tradition in his own parish. His example, if shared with your priest at home, may help to advance the project of restoring the sacred in your parish as well. His experiences mirror the journey of my own parish as we have implemented daily Traditional Latin Mass, ad orientem worship at Vatican II Masses, and reception of the Eucharist at the altar rail.
Fr. Richard Heilman is the pastor of St. Mary in Pine Bluff, Wis. He says: “While we take our time, souls are being lost. We all know, in our bones, that God wants this . . . let’s simply obey and allow God to bless our obedience!!!”
After reintroducing ad orientem, he writes, “First, the spiritual benefits are palpable. Our parish has a sense that we are truly worshiping, and it simply feels so right. This is visibly seen in such things as the altar boys who are more reverent and precise. People are coming early to pray the rosary, and many are staying afterward to offer prayers of thanksgiving. Everyone is offering the ‘proper’ gestures (bowing, etc.) at the appropriate times. Virtually everyone began, mostly in just the past year, really dressing up for Mass. It seems every Sunday another woman has decided to veil — at a Novus Ordo! And, we just had over 300 people go through the 33 Days of Preparation for Consecration to Jesus through Mary!!!” He also shares that contributions are up 30 percent in one year.
In our own parish, the results are palpable as well. One couple have announced they are now commencing house hunting in our neighborhood because they want to join our parish in order to take advantage of our daily Traditional Latin Mass.
Now that’s a growing parish.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.
@MCITLFrAphorism

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