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A Sense Of The Supernatural Lost And Regained

January 22, 2019 Frontpage No Comments


The apostles had a knack for running into trouble on the Sea of Galilee. St. Mark tells of the apostles encountering a very rough sea on the night following Christ’s miracle of feeding five thousand. At the sight of Jesus walking on the water, the apostles panicked; but He reassured them, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear,” and as soon as He entered their boat, the wind ceased. At this, Mark notes, “. . . they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6:47-52).
Mark’s point is rather clear: The apostles were stunned to see Christ’s divine power over the sea and the wind, because they had failed to comprehend His divine power in feeding five thousand with only five loaves and two fish. They did not yet understand Christ’s power to do what was supernatural.
Many in our own time don’t seem to “understand about the loaves” either, for they tell us that there really wasn’t a miraculous multiplication of the bread, but rather that the crowd suddenly decided to “care and share,” to pass around the bread they themselves had brought. It doesn’t seem to concern these “interpreters” that Mark doesn’t say that.
This is just one of a host of “interpretations” that for decades have been circulating to explain away the events of the Bible as merely natural occurrences, and thereby to deny that they were supernatural. As explained in the introduction to an excellent 2010 collection of essays on the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture entitled For the Sake of Our Salvation, much of modern biblical exegesis “begins by denying the possibility of what the Scriptures assert on every page — that God can act and speak in human history, that the material and natural world is open to a world that is spiritual and supernatural” (Introduction, in Scott Hahn, et al., For the Sake of Our Salvation: The Truth and Humility of God’s Word, Letter & Spirit 6, Steubenville, OH, St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, 2010, p. 16).
Similarly, the supernatural has been expunged from the understanding of the Holy Eucharist by those who deny the miracle of transubstantiation, that at the consecration the bread and wine are totally changed into the real Body and Blood of Christ.
To refuse to believe that the miracles of our Lord were truly miracles, to refuse to believe in transubstantiation and the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, is ultimately to refuse to believe in the supernatural, to refuse to believe that God is truly God, that He is truly omnipotent and transcendent, that He is truly the Creator and Lord of creation and has absolute dominion over what He has created.
While there are many ways to explain the current crisis in the Church, perhaps the most fundamental of all is the collapse of faith in the supernatural. This loss of the sense of the supernatural has permeated all areas of Catholic life. By undermining faith in the afterlife and the truth that we are eternally accountable for our actions, it has led to a loss of fidelity, engendering the attitude that fidelity to the doctrines of the Church, to the rubrics and prayers of the sacred liturgy, to attendance of Sunday Mass, to one’s vows and obligations in the priesthood, or marriage or religious life no longer matter, that keeping oneself in a state of grace no longer matters.
It has led to the abandonment of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the removal of her images from churches, and the avoidance of even mentioning her. My late mother used to tell me about the proprietor of a religious goods store in New York City who in the late 1960s was left aghast after a nun visiting his shop pointed to the rosary beads and contemptuously told him that there wasn’t going to be a need for them anymore.
Similarly it has led to the avoidance of the canonized saints, avoiding the liturgical celebration of their feast days, avoiding talking about them in homilies and catechetics, removing their images from churches, and emptying the word “saint” of its countercultural meaning by calling everybody a saint.
This turning away from the supernatural has choked the faithful’s lifeline to “the things that are above” (Col. 3:1) by a delusional redefinition of prayer as merely a psychological state of quiet artificially induced by means of repeating mantras and sitting a certain way rather than a quest to raise one’s soul and heart to God and the eternal truths.
Over the postconciliar era, all too many of our clergy lost contact with the supernatural by neglecting to pray, no longer saying Mass every day, neglecting the recitation of the Breviary, and habitually excusing themselves from the rosary and eucharistic adoration.
The loss of the sense of the supernatural has led to the secularization of homilies — with teachings about or from the saints and the Four Last Things supplanted by anecdotes about the latest TV show, Broadway musical, sports event, or pop music sensation, and the wisdom of Catholic spirituality replaced by sayings from Hinduism or Buddhism.
It has shown itself in the politicization of the sacred liturgy, preaching, the missionary apostolate and Catholic education, wherein the evangelization and sanctification of souls have been discarded to make way for a materialistic quest for a better “here and now” couched in slogans about “social justice” and “empowerment.” It has produced ugly ecclesiastical art and architecture that forces man’s gaze downward and away from Heaven.
The loss of a supernatural perspective has fostered a catastrophic abandonment of the virtue of chastity, a deafening silence from the pulpit in regard to sins against this virtue, the denial that our Lady was a perpetual Virgin, as well as the denial or watering down of the Church’s teachings condemning contraception, and all forms of fornication and adultery.
To make matters still worse, the content of traditional Catholic preaching and teaching has often been denigrated. It is claimed, for example, that the Church emphasized the afterlife in its liturgy, prayers, and preaching as a way of controlling the poor to make them accept the social status quo — to keep them in their place, as it were. This is a lie propagated by the ideologues of liberation theology.

The New Evangelization

Yet what we have described is a vanishing empire. A new generation of priests has been coming on the scene, firmly focused on “the things that are above.” For them the only point to being a priest is the supernatural, to love and serve God, to strive for Heaven, and lead others to do so. As they become pastors they are undoing the ugly church art and architecture of the 1960s and 1970s with beautiful altarpieces, sculptures, liturgical furnishings, and paintings that inspire reverence and awe — that raise the eyes of the faithful toward eternity.
Each day they approach the altar not with the intention of entertaining the faithful, but rather to glorify God and save souls, and from the pulpit they are teaching anew the Commandments and the wisdom of the saints and Church fathers.
A new and growing generation of Catholic families is similarly determined to live their lives in the light of the supernatural, teaching their children reverence in church, the imitation of the saints, love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the priceless virtue of chastity.
New religious congregations determined to live the evangelical counsels to the full and to remind mankind of its eternal destiny by faithfully wearing real religious habits, as well as older orders and congregations that have resolved to return in full to their original charisms, are attracting increasing numbers of young people to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33).
These priests, religious, and lay people are being nourished by an ever-growing “grassroots” stream of genuine Catholic culture, a true Catholic renaissance in which the treasures of our Catholic patrimony are being rediscovered and disseminated by faithful Catholic media outlets, publishers, and organizations. The faithful are learning to pray again through the circulation of great classics of Catholic spirituality.
A new generation of Catholic academics and scholars is playing a pivotal role in this genuine New Evangelization, restoring a sense of the supernatural by teaching anew what the Church has always taught in a spirit of obedience to the Magisterium and total adherence to the timeless doctrines of our faith. Of particular importance are the new biblical scholars in this movement who are reaffirming the total and unequivocal inerrancy of Sacred Scripture, restoring people’s faith in the truth of the Gospels.
There are even some non-Catholic scholars whose objective research in the fields of history, art, music, and architecture are serving to reveal more and more of the Church’s contribution to civilization.
Commenting on the battle for souls and the battle for truth, Dr. Alice von Hildebrand has observed that “in the end, Christ always wins.”
Indeed He surely does!

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