Traditional Roman Catholic Thoughts

Traditional Roman Catholic Thoughts

Reintroducing Logic and Reason to the Age of Sentimentalism

Sacraments

All of the posts under the "Sacraments" category.

The Mass, Proper Worship and Megachurch Confusion

Should Catholics look towards Protestant megachurches for tips on worship experience? How about on church design? These are a few questions being asked within the Catholic Church today. In my last post, I examined why this would be a bad idea in regards to Catholic teaching. Now I’d like to examine the theology behind the Mass and our churches, to demonstrate how Protestant’s get them wrong.

What is the purpose of the Mass? The Baltimore Catechism (922) states:

“The ends for which the sacrifice of the Cross was offered were:
1. To honor and glorify God;
2. To thank Him for all the graces bestowed on the whole world;
3. To satisfy God’s justice for the sins of men;
4. To obtain all graces and blessings.

Christian worship should focus on Jesus Christ, Who is truly and substantially present in the Eucharist. While retaining the physical properties of bread and wine, when the priest says the words of consecration, they have become Jesus’ Body and Blood. His bloodied sacrifice of the Cross on Calvary is re-presented at the unbloodied sacrifice of the Altar, a sacrifice which can only be made by a validly ordained priest.

Tridentine Mass

In order for this reality to become manifest to those present, it is crucial for the space in which we worship to be reverent, solemn, and silent. Beauty adds to this atmosphere, as it draws us in to ponder the mysteries of this world and the next. This is why Catholics place many beautiful pieces of art and gold in their Churches. Sacred art invites those present to focus their prayer and contemplate God’s mysteries.

When churches remove elements of beauty, we lose opportunities to enter into contemplative prayer. Likewise, when the Mass is trivialized, we lose focus on Jesus Christ, and begin to focus on ourselves. Unfortunately, many Catholics believe we should look to Protestant megachurches, in order to influence the Mass and other facets of Catholic life.

We should see what one of these megachurches look like in order to draw a good comparison. Fortunately Boniface from Unam Sanctam Catholicam took a tour of his local Protestant megachurch.

Upon entering this particular “church”, you immediately see children playing soccer in their indoor soccer field. Yes, they have their very own indoor soccer field. Having worked at a high-quality fitness chain for a year and a half, I can tell you that the above church bears many resemblances. Boniface spends time walking around the building documenting all of the different facilities this megachurch has at its disposal.

They have their very own coffee shop, where you can go to get your mocha or latte. Or, if coffee doesn’t interest you, you can certainly grab a bite to eat. There is a play place where all the children can take off their shoes and run through the colorful tubes. Along the way, Boniface finds a timeline where the church traces its roots, all the way back to 2002. Ironically they list Jesus’ death, but ignore 2000 years of Christian history, showcasing their belief that their man-made church is far more important.

It isn’t until the end of the video that we discover the “auditorium”, as they call their place of “worship”, is on the other side of the soccer field. Nothing prepares someone for time with God better than a tour through a gymnasium! Ironically, the doors to the auditorium are locked. No longer do Christians recognize they are in need of the Lord’s saving grace; gone are the days when they go to a Church to pray, in the Lord’s own house. Why bother when you can easily spend your prayer time at the coffee shop?

There is hardly any indication this megachurch is even Christian. This odd building takes away focus from the sacred and spotlights the profane. It is about the temporal welfare of the believer, instead of the spiritual. I suspect they preach a gospel of prosperity, that is, God rewards His faithful with wealth.

the eucharist

As Catholics, we have to realize Jesus is physically present in the Eucharist. He resides in our tabernacles awaiting for us to adore Him. This reality affects how we properly worship God. There is no more perfect way to worship God and glorify Him than by attending Mass, receiving Him worthily in communion, and adoring Him in Adoration. We do not go to Mass to be friendly with our neighbors. We go to honor and glorify God, to thank Him for all the graces bestowed on the whole world, to satisfy God’s justice for the sins of men, and to obtain all graces and blessings. Social benefits should not draw us in, but the desire to come face to face with Jesus at the consecration: a most solemn moment. Once our focus is taken off of Christ and put onto ourselves, we have lost the meaning of the Mass, and what it means to be a Christian.

Jeff February 24, 2015 1 Comment Permalink

COMING SOON – The Holy League

I was sent this video by several of my good friends from the Madison area. There is a movement growing around the Holy League. Watch the video here:

It’s incredibly well done and put together well. I’m excited to see what more this movement has to offer.

We need to be constantly in a state of grace. Go to confession as often as you need to. Go monthly at an absolute minimum. Go weekly if you can. Pray the Rosary daily. Stay close to the Scriptures. Visit Jesus in the Eucharist, both at Mass and in Adoration. Most importantly, pray, fast, and do penance.

Looks like an all-out spiritual warfare offensive is brewing. Join forces over at the Holy League on Facebook.

Holy League

Jeff October 7, 2014 Leave A Comment Permalink

Celebrate Your Feast Days

As Catholics, we have a lot to celebrate: Baptisms, Confirmations, Anniversaries, Saint Feast days, and of course, the many Holy Days that are attributed to our faith.

Celebratorial Balloons

But, how often do you actually celebrate your Baptismal Day or your Confirmation Day or even the Feast days of your favorite Saints or Confirmation Saint?

We really should get in the habit of making the time to celebrate these days. If you are married, you celebrate your Anniversary, which is a Sacrament. If you are ordained, you celebrate your ordination day, which is a Sacrament. Likewise, we should begin to celebrate the days in which we were Baptized and Confirmed.

Baptism is a day to be celebrated, as it is the day in which you were washed clean of the stain of Original Sin. God marked you as one of His own, one of His children. If you do not know the day you were baptized, you can call the parish that you were baptized at, assuming they have good record keeping. If that doesn’t work, you should be able to contact your diocese as they usually keep track of this as well.

Confirmation should be celebrated as it was the day in which you reaffirmed your baptismal vows and promised before God and those in attendance that you would continue walking the Catholic faith. Similar to above, you can call the parish or the diocese to find out the date.

If you are married, I won’t even bother mentioning why you should celebrate your anniversary, especially if you are a guy. Likewise, if you are ordained, you should celebrate as well.

The Saints are great examples to us, as they have lived a life here on Earth, and have gone before us into Heaven to intercede for us. It is wise to celebrate your confirmation Saint and any other Saints that you admire.

There is much to celebrate in our faith. Enjoy your “feast days” and celebrate your faith. There are many hard days out there, so enjoy these days so that you might one day grow in Holiness and intercede for those here on Earth.

Jeff April 15, 2014 Leave A Comment Permalink

6 Ways To Eliminate Drive-Thru Confirmations

It is estimated that within 5 years after getting confirmed, about 85% of then high-school students will leave the Catholic Church. Yes, that’s right, a whopping 85% are gone. How many of them come back? Very few. As someone who has taught Religious Education for students that are getting confirmed, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering how we can better get these teens involved in their faith, and get them to have that desire to stay Catholic, after all, it is the Church of Jesus Christ.

Now, these are only ordered partially, but, I firmly believe that if these are implemented properly, we would be on a huge striving gain for not only getting legitimate confirmations (instead of the drive-thru Confirmation services that we currently have, in which most of them pretty much throw their faith right out into the trash the second they walk out of the Church), but, bringing that 85% down to a minimal 10% or even lower.

 

1. Parental Involvement is Necessary

Parents need to be involved every step of the way. I teach 10th graders. In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Confirmation occurs at 11th grade. By the time I step into the picture, most of my students have had 15 years of life lived. By now, they have 15 years of bad habits that have occurred, as well as guidance (or failed guidance) from their parents. Now, I know, this is not the case with everyone. There are some outliers on both sides, you have the Saintly parents who practice their faith and teach their faith to their children, and the children still leave the Church. Likewise, you have the parents who don’t or barely practice their faith and their kids come out to be Saintly. However, the average Catholic kid will turn out similarly to how their parents are. If your family is very Catholic, generally, you will come out very Catholic. If your family isn’t very Catholic, you will come out very not Catholic.

From what I have witnessed, the students I teach have as much interest in the class as their parents do. Some want to be there, and those are usually the ones that I see at Mass on a weekly basis. Some don’t want to be there, and those are usually the ones I never see at Mass (unless its required by the class).

When the parents actually want to be practicing their Catholic faith, the children, by default, generally want to practice this faith. If the parents are just going through the motions, “gotta make sure Susie gets confirmed”, but doesn’t practice, then why are we surprised that Susie doesn’t want to be in class, and leaves the Church the second she gets her drive-thru Confirmation? This ties into number 5, let’s not confirm students that do not want to be confirmed.

 

2. Move Confirmation Before First Communion

A long time ago, Confirmation was given to kids when they reached the age of reason, or about 7 years old. This way, the Holy Ghost would descend upon them, and make His mark on them. This way, they have those extra graces working within them while they are going through religious education and they get more out of that education. Kids would also receive the Sacrament of Confirmation before receiving their First Communion. It also showed how much more serious Confirmation was and made sure you were on pace for living a life molded within the Church.

Now, when we wait until the students are much, much older, they wonder what the point is. It then becomes an attitude that Confirmation just means that “you are an adult by the Church’s standards and can do whatever you want” or “its Catholic graduation, once you’re done, you don’t have to practice anymore”. I have lost count how many times I have heard lapsed-Catholics say these quotes. It shows how the Church has failed these Catholics.

If they are confirmed early, they will understand the faith more as they grow up, and will have all of those extra graces working in their favor, as opposed to not having those graces and not understanding the purpose of their faith.

 

3. The Liturgy

The Liturgy of the Mass is the most important aspect of Catholicism. It is when Heaven and Earth collide during the consecration of the bread and wine made Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ. This is Catholicism 101. Yet, too often, the Masses are said without passion or meaning, the presider barely wants to be there (yes, some priests do not want to be up there celebrating the Mass or at least give this impression). Other times, the homilies are washed down to convey the idea that being a good person is all that really matters and they do not challenge us to be better Catholics or to practice our faith. Many times we hear music that is more fitting for a rock and roll Praise and Worship concert than an actual Catholic Mass. And unfortunately, a number of other liturgical abuses (yes, they are abuses) that make the Mass and all other Liturgies we celebrate, appear to be a joke, and rely completely on emotion that only lasts for as long as it is occurring.

The Liturgy is the foundation of our faith, it is where Catholics all congregate once per week, to worship, to be inspired not only by their pastor, by the music, by the awe inspiring that is Catholicism, and yet, we reduce it to nothing. Catholicism requires sacrifice, which has all been left out. The Liturgy needs to be restored (and no, I may be a Traditional Roman Catholic, but I’m not advocating a reversal of what has been done) to the reverency and beauty that it demands. Until this is done, nothing else on this list will even become accomplishable. Once this has been done, the following not only become achievable, but easy.

 

4. The Religious Education

Religious Education, CCD, Catechism, or whatever you want to call it, is rather poor. The lessons are good, but inappropriate for where most of the students are at. Before you get all upset and throw a fit, let me explain.

Most of the material that is discussed is out-dated, in that, it is full of the “Spirit of Vatican 2″ mumbo jumbo that is all about talking about how merciful God is and how He really likes us and that really, it’s all about loving Him. There isn’t much substance to it. See, most of these kids have been hearing this being taught since they were in Kindergarten. The education is still a Kindergarten education while they are growing throughout their academic careers, and then we wonder why they have no interest in learning more. Well, we don’t challenge them. They go to school (public, private (Catholic) or home-schooled) and are learning all types of high-level subjects like Calculus, Trigonometry, Biology, Physics, College-level courses, but then they go to Religious Ed (you know, the only subject that matters in the end) and its the same lesson “God loves you!”

I’m not arguing that the education is wrong, because it isn’t, but it isn’t challenging what-so-ever. As a teacher, its absolutely annoying and almost enraging when the questions that we ask the kids are so dumbed down to the point that each kid knows the answer is “Pray more”. “How can you be better close to Jesus?”, I ask. “Pray more” the kids repeat in a monotonous tone. And, how could I forget, the personalism in this!? How about we teach them more about Christ’s actually teachings, like “Go Forth and Sin no More!” or teach them about various aspects of, I don’t know, their Catholic faith? They don’t know much about why we as Catholics believe this, but, we talk non-stop about having a “personal relationship with Jesus”. Tell me, can you imagine St. Peter, or St. Paul going around preaching “Hey! You need a personal relationship with Jesus!”? Absolutely not. This is a Protestant mentality.

At one of my lessons, we somehow got onto the point of Purgatory. I and the other teachers noticed that the kids perked up, they seemed interested. Unfortunately, we ran out of time, so I asked them if they’d like to know more. More than half the class raised their hands. I assume (yes, I know assumption is dangerous) that most of them have no clue what Purgatory is, or why we believe it. We should be teaching kids about why we are Catholic. That way when they go to college and get approached by every single other religion (who know why they believe what they believe) they aren’t left like a deer in headlights, looking confused, feeling awkward and are able to defend their faith.

Let’s find out what the children know, and teach them what they should know. I have found that many people, those in religious ed and those outside, do not know the details of their faith.

 

5. Confirming Students Who DON’T Want Confirmation

(This probably won’t be an issue if we implement problem 1). This one is going to be one where I’m sure we’ll get lots of disagreement. But, there are a number of students who do not want to be confirmed. Yet, we go ahead and let them because “that’s what we’re supposed to do”. Now, I ask, how effective is a Sacrament, if you are forced into it? If you go to Confession, and you aren’t sorry, you are just going through the motion, is it still valid? The Church teaches that if you don’t have a contrite heart, if you aren’t sincere and truly repentant, than your confession doesn’t do anything. The Church teaches that if a spouse had no intention of getting married and just went through the motions, we are told that that would be valid reason for an annulment (a true, valid marriage never took place). How about Communion? Don’t you have to actually physically walk up to receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord?

This isn’t at all like Baptism, in which the baby is unable to decide for herself because she is not at the age of reason. We are talking about teenagers. Teenagers who are fully competent to know what they do or do not want (whether or not what they want is good is another topic). What is the meaning of the Sacrament if we are giving it forcibly to those who do not want to receive it? When we are Confirmed we are promising to everyone and especially GOD that we are going to be faithful to the Church. If my intent is to, say, stop practicing once we leave the Confirmation Mass, I am lying to God, to those in attendance and to myself. Yet, we go ahead and let this occur.

Besides, most of the time those that do get Confirmed rarely come back to the Church. I think it’d make more sense that if they want Confirmation, then they should go through RCIA when they are older. This way, they are actually wanting that Sacrament, and then, on top of that, we see that they are actually going to practice their faith and be on fire for it. That’s what we want right? Let’s confirm those who are wanting to be Catholic, and those that will just use it as an opportunity to bad-mouth the Church later, you know the “recovering Catholics”, we can leave behind.

Frankly, we should bring back the days in which the Bishop would quiz each student, before receiving Confirmation. If the student got the question incorrect, they weren’t allowed to be Confirmed. When you practice anything, whether it be your faith or anything, you should at a minimum know why you are doing it. This point ties into the next.

 

6. No Accountability For Learning

Currently, in most parishes, there is absolutely no accountability if the student comes to class or even pays attention or learns anything. Why? If little Thomas is skipping class every single week, it is clear that he has no intention of coming to class. If I assign homework, and nobody does it, I can’t give out zeros and then hold them back a grade. We have set up a catechesis class in the Church, that in short, emphasizes that it isn’t important. If I flunk my math class at school, I don’t pass, I have to redo it. If I flunk my class in Religious Ed, I’m moved along to the next grade not having learned anything and become a distraction to those who want to be there. We in essence are subtly teaching our classes that it isn’t important, that our academic schooling is far more important. We are teaching them subtly that the world is where they want to conform to, and that religion is just a minor thing you practice if you care.

We also, like mentioned in point 4, do not teach them what they need to know. Sure, we can say that having a personal relationship with Jesus is important, but we are all flawed humans and we can subject our own views onto this said relationship. If you do not know who Jesus is, how can you even have a relationship? If I do not know what He teaches, how do I have this relationship? Let’s actually teach the children who Christ is, what He taught and what His Church, His Spouse teaches.

Implementing these ideas would be a great start in bringing back passion to those getting Confirmed and allow them to grow in their faith. Let’s make Saints, not allow them to stay as sinners.

Jeff December 12, 2013 1 Comment Permalink

The Children’s “Liturgy”

What is a children’s “liturgy” service? Essentially, a children’s “liturgy” is when the Mass is paused and the children (depending on the parish is broken up into different age groups, but for this post we’ll assume between the ages of 3 and 10), get up from their pews and walk outside of the actual Church where Mass is being held, so that they can have the daily readings (First, Psalm, Second and Gospel) read to them, and then given a “homily” that they can understand. Or, in short, this:

 Childrens Church

Now, this sounds all good and dandy, after all, don’t we want our children to understand what is going on at Mass? But what kind of a message does this send to the children? Above all, what do the children get from their parents when they are sent away (usually, this is at the parent’s disgression).

What is the Liturgy of the Word? The Liturgy of the Word is broken up into several parts. The First Reading is generally read by a Lector and taken from the Old Testament. Following the First Reading, we have a Psalm, generally sung by the Choir and led by a Cantor. After the Psalm, the Lector resumes his (or her) post and reads the Second Reading, which is generally an Epistle from the New Testament. After this, the priest or deacon will read the Gospel, taken from one of the four Gospels. Then the priest or deacon issues a homily (or sermon) and tries to tie the readings all together so that we lay people can understand them, and draw inspiration from them in order to better live our Catholic faith.

It seems fairly simple, no? Well, there are rules in place for who is to say what part. But, don’t take my word for it, let’s see what the Congregation for Divine Worship said in its 2004 letter Redemptionis Sacramentum (emphasis mine):

“Within the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, the reading of the Gospel, which is “the high point of the Liturgy of the Word”, is reserved by the Church’s tradition to an ordained minister. Thus it is not permitted for a layperson, even a religious, to proclaim the Gospel reading in the celebration of Holy Mass, nor in other cases in which the norms do not explicitly permit it … The homily, which is given in the course of the celebration of Holy Mass and is a part of the Liturgy itself, “should ordinarily be given by the Priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating Priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to a Deacon, but never to a layperson. In particular cases and for a just cause, the homily may even be given by a Bishop or a Priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate.” (paragraphs 63-64)

So, let’s refresh ourselves here. According to the CDW, only the Priest, Con-celebrating Priest, or Deacon is allowed to read the Gospel or give a homily. If this is the case, then why are we entrusting lay persons or those not ordained to the priesthood or diaconate this responsibility that is in no way, shape or form given to them? This to me seems to be a great scandal as it causes confusion among the laity. The Church makes it very clear what is and what isn’t allowed, so why do we let this occur? If Joe Somebody from the pews got up and started giving the homily, this would be a liturgical abuse. How come we disguise this Children’s “Liturgy” up with a nice name and throw around Liturgy as if it was a play word and it makes it okay? It doesn’t.

Needless to say, it seems ironic in my mind that we fight a culture that constantly attacks and berates the family, and the Church, who is supposed to be the first most defender of the family, is permitting the family to be divided during the pinnacle of our faith as Catholics during the celebration of the Mass.

Going back to the argument that it better helps the children understand the liturgy is a fallacy. It doesn’t help them better understand the liturgy as it becomes “play time”. There are two reasons for this. The first most, is that children, despite what we keep being told, want to be like adults when they grow up. See, in case you forgot, when you were in elementary school, you couldn’t wait to go to middle school. When you got to middle school, you couldn’t wait for high school. High school came and you wanted to be in college. College came and then you wanted to be working. Now we work as adults and all we want to do is be a kid. If you remember when you were a kid how much you wanted to be a part of the adults table, you’ll see why a Children’s “Liturgy” makes no sense. You are basically telling the children, sorry, you are too young to understand this, go over there. Before you disagree with me, re-read this paragraph.

The second point is that, let’s look at how, oh, I don’t know, the Church operated for the last 2000 years before there was the idea of a Children’s “Liturgy”. The Mass, for those of you who have either forgotten or were born after the 1960s, was said in that ancient and archaic language known as Latin. Yet, with the arguments we hear today that we need a “child-friendly liturgy”, you would think that there was no possible way that the Church could have possibly survived for so many years, after all, so many people were uneducated and didn’t understand Latin and had no understanding of what was occurring at Mass. Oh, wait. They did. In fact, there isn’t a single Saint that celebrated the Mass in there native tongue (except maybe St. (Padre) Pio). There was no Novus Ordo. Yet, somehow, the Church survived…and thrived. Think about it. Your grandparents went to Mass in Latin. They practiced their faith despite this. So why did it take 2000 years for us to come up with the idea that “hey, kids need a kids ‘mass’!”?

Children want to be treated like adults. To ignore this basic fact of life is an insult to intelligence. Kids want to take part of whatever the adults do because its cool to be an adult. This is the problem with most of the teenage-friendly programs that are so popular in the Church today as well. This is best saved for another post, but in short the issue is this.

We tell teenagers that the faith is too complex for them to understand and grasp at their age, so let’s sing Praise and Worship songs that appeal to emotions and make you feel good. However, this doesn’t prepare them for the hardships that our Catholic faith will lead them to experience. If you are practicing your faith properly, you will get dry runs in which you feel nothing. This is when your faith shines and we teach our children and teenagers that if it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it…hedonism at work. This is probably why 85% of teenagers who are Confirmed leave the Church within 5 years. It isn’t convenient, it doesn’t feel good, so why bother?

Another reason for the Children’s “Liturgy” is that “Parents can listen to the readings and homily without being distracted”. Yes, I have heard this reason. Go ahead and reread that. The idea that simply sending the children off will allow for no distractions is naive. Why? Because there are always going to be distractions during the Mass due to our fallen human nature. Your children may no longer distract you, but my children will, what your friend across the church is doing or not doing, who’s at Mass and who isn’t, what I’m wearing or not wearing, and the list goes on and on and on.

What we should be working on, is instead of trying to break apart the Mass to eliminate distraction, we should have a Mass that is beautiful and tranquil, one that is going to suck us in by its mystery and beauty. This is something that the Traditional Latin Mass allows and accomplishes.

The Mass isn’t about our entertainment. It is about the glory of God. Anything that we change in order for us to be entertained, draws away from God and puts the attention (whether it be intentional or not) on us. We go to Mass to honor Our Lord and to worship Him. We focus on the sacrifice of Christ in order for us to have redemption, to be able to have life everlasting. But too often, we think the Mass should be “entertaining” and that if we aren’t having a fun time, then it isn’t worth it and the Mass is boring and we need to change it. There will always be moments in which we struggle with this, but the Mass is where we give up our selfishness to focus on what should matter in our life, Jesus.

In short, the Children’s “Liturgy” is an excuse. Plain and simple. Instead of shipping the kids off, lets allow parents to take responsibility for raising their children and teach them the importance of the faith, instead of having the attitude of “its the Church’s job”.

Jeff September 10, 2013 1 Comment Permalink

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