By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK
Virtual reality can never serve as “parish replacement therapy” for “Catholics on leave.” Many believers remain alienated as a result of personal choices from the life of the Church. Some of them have been known to post about their frustrations on Facebook, writing such things as, “Continue to wait for answers. . . .”
God, however, does not come to us through our computers. Although there are many ways to find traces of God — for example, in the things that He has made — His Church remains the perfect and most secure place to meet, know, and love Him because of His Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, her founder and Lord who continues to come to the world through the Church.
The prevalence in the lives of many of our people of the virtual reality of the Internet, with the simulated relationships it provides, along with the syncretistic preferences of the many who want to arrange a spiritual system free of the commitment imposed by external expectations, is antithetical to the truth of the Incarnation we recently celebrated at Christmas. Many Catholics currently estranged from the life of the Church will necessarily have to be disabused of any belief that Christ can come more perfectly through any source other than the Church.
We say nothing here of the additional danger posed by the ubiquitous presence of pornography on the Internet, which means for some, depending upon the nature of personal weakness, that its use should be severely restricted.
The sacramental encounter with Christ made possible in and through the Church is the fullest, ordinary, and most secure way for every human person to encounter the Savior. The attempt to cobble together a substitute from the virtual communities of various kinds accessible through the Internet or organizations apart from the Church is misled at best and defeating at worst. Jesus Christ is the sole Savior and the universal Church is the sole body He founded in the world through which to do the work of salvation.
I recently spent some vacation days skiing with a group of brother priests of various ages, among whom I was the oldest. Most of the priests, whose ages varied from 29 to 37, concelebrated the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite for their daily worship. I, however, and one of the younger priests served each other’s Extraordinary Form, or traditional, Holy Masses each day. The beauty and profundity of the scriptural prayers, of the ritual with its more demanding discipline, were quite taxing after a day of skiing but for that reason the ritual was a fittingly profound moment in the day.
If all that we say of God is true, it is fitting that the moment of our true, real, and substantial meeting with Him in the Eucharist should be surrounded by the appropriate honor and praise as handed down through the tradition, even with all its inconveniences for those who may be on vacation.
Although the communal nature of the concelebrated Ordinary Form Mass is laudatory, the fact remains that fewer Masses are being offered as a result of each occasion on which a given priest concelebrates the Mass and fewer sacramental encounters with the Savior are possible for the world. Other means of prayer are capable of providing the opportunity for the experience of priestly communion in prayer, such as the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours in common.
The daily commitment of celebrating his own Holy Mass remains the most necessary and efficacious task of every priest and makes him therefore of more service to the Church and the world.
It is for this reason that I remain dedicated to frequent celebration of the Mass of Tradition which demands that each priest celebrate his own Mass and which is most intense, beautiful, scriptural, and devotional.
The world is increasingly closed in on itself as a result of the increased use of computers, cell phones, the Internet and related technology. These virtual realities cannot substitute for the need for real human and divine community for which every person is made and which therefore can only can serve to satisfy the deepest needs of the human person.
The Catholic parish is the particular instantiation of the community of the Church and the place where the Lord meets every human person in the most immediate way particularly in the sacraments. If we are to remain faithful to the mission of Jesus Christ our Savior then we must make Him and His Gospel and the communion of the Church as accessible to the world as our human efforts can manage. This means that whatever is possible to do to increase the opportunity to evangelize the world should be done.
Should not this effort include a Mass offered by every priest, opportunity for Confession made frequently available, such as prior to all Sunday and vigil Masses? Every soul is wanted by God. Will we do whatever we can to offer God to every soul? Let our love for Him be seen in our generous efforts to save souls.
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(Visit Meeting Christ in the Liturgy at mcitl.blogspot.com for teachings from the Catechism of the Catholic Church paired with the Scriptures of Holy Mass for every day of the week. Fr. Cusick blogs at APriestLife.blogspot.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter @MCITLFrAphorism, and subscribe to public updates on Facebook at Father-Kevin Michael Cusick.)