|Personal devotions are an essential part of being Catholic Personal devotions are an essential part of Catholic spirituality.|
The rosary, for example, is very important to me. But the rosary is not the totality of everything, and neither is any other individual prayer or pious practice. The laity need to be on guard against a mentality that says, “Everything has to be the rosary,” or “Everything has to be Divine Mercy,” or “Everyone needs to go to confession weekly and the priest should just live in the confessional because confession is so beautiful” (which it is).
Instead, we must constantly ask ourselves, “How does this bring us to Christ?” He is where we’re all headed.
Mary wants us to focus on her Son, the Son of God, Jesus Christ. So yes, the rosary; but how do we use it along with a lot of other things to draw us closer to Christ? People’s pet projects can’t be the totality of their spiritual lives, which must be centered first on Christ in the Eucharist in the liturgy.
|Looking Outside Our Personal Experience Christ must be the center of every aspect of parish life|
The same goes for different ministries and programs that a parish has.
Sometimes people will contact me and say, “Bishop, we’ve got to reach out better to our youth.” Absolutely, I say. But the Church can’t just become the Youth Project. That would be as out of whack as any other primary focus that is not our eucharistic Lord.
How do we bring our youth closer to Christ? Programs and social events and special catechesis can all be useful. But the answer begins with the liturgy: proclaiming through our communal worship the person of Jesus and his saving sacrifice. He’s there, he’s really there, in the Mass. Any outreach to the youth that doesn’t begin and end with this central truth is doomed to failure.
And so all of these things, every devotion, every sacramental, every ministry, everything we promote needs to bring us to Christ. And the liturgy is the most proximate way we can encounter him and encounter him more and more deeply.
|Entering the Mystery More Deeply Let us always remember to stay hungry for the Lord Let us stay hungry for the Lord. Our hunger, our need for him, is why he has given us the eucharist rites.|
He instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper because he knew that we needed food that would sustain us, just as the people of Israel needed food in the desert. We’re in the desert of a culture that doesn’t believe in the supernatural. In order to pass through that wilderness, we need to be fed by Jesus daily. He wants to feed us. And his food will be most fruitful and sustaining when we receive him with proper reverence and disposition of heart.
That’s where we have to start. We have to believe fully and unreservedly in the mystery before us. We must prepare ourselves through confession and penance. We try to be as worthy as we can of receiving him.
I believe that if we are focused on who and what we’re receiving and how to be rightfully disposed, then we are going to dress differently. We’re going to bear ourselves differently. We’re going to appreciate the silence that allows us to take into our hearts and minds what is actually happening.
|The Supernatural Experience of the Mass Silence is something our culture struggles with I’ve been studying what’s now called the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, the Latin Mass, and I have been learning things that I never knew about the liturgy. (I was in a good seminary, considered one of the more stable, more orthodox and conservative seminaries in the Church in the late 1970s, but the Extraordinary Form was never offered to us as something that we should study.)|
As I pray before the Blessed Sacrament, I’ve been inspired to do a lot of things differently, and the main thing I’m after with the liturgy is reverence, because of the real presence of Jesus Christ. We believe that Jesus Christ, body and blood, soul and divinity, is truly there. And a lot of that real faith, that something that enlivens us and guides us through life, has been lost.
The low Mass of the Extraordinary Form has a lot of quiet built into it. The Roman Missal in the Ordinary Form says we should pause for some silent prayer. Yet, as a culture, we’re scared to death of silence. We rush to fill every moment and every place with music, talk, some kind of noise.
Without good catechesis and good explanation, intentional silence in the liturgy can lead to people just sitting or kneeling there without entering into a deeper relationship with the Lord. Just a couple of minutes would seem like an eternity. “Is Father all right?” “Did he fall asleep?” “Did he forget something?” Rather than using the time fruitfully, they get preoccupied with those thoughts the whole time until the silence is over.
Silence is something that our culture struggles with, but I think it’s necessary in the liturgy, to give some breathing room to the supernatural things we’re celebrating. The liturgy needs space and time to let it soak in.
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