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.
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.
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.