Communion on the floor and the trinity of disorientation

When is the last time you heard music at Mass that reinforced your faith rather than tested it? When is the last time you heard the cosmos in your parish?

(Image: bykofoto | us.fotolia.com)

In the fourth century, St. Cyril of Jerusalem asked of those receiving Communion:

Tell me, if anyone gave you grains of gold, would you not hold them with all care taking heed lest you should lose any of them and suffer loss? Would you not much more carefully be on your guard lest a crumb fall from you of what is more valuable than gold and precious stones?

Fast forward to the twenty-first century. At a recent Sunday Mass, the somber pastor at one of the churches I attend prefaced his sermon by announcing that a partially consumed Host had been found in the church. People like St. Dismas were martyred rather than letting the Blessed Sacrament be profaned. There is something terribly causal about Communion on the floor. It’s not even careless – because carelessness denotes at least some understanding of care.

Today, there appears to be little or no understanding of St. Cyril’s sermon or St. Dismas’ sacrifice. A recent Pew Research study found that only 28% of self-professed Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. How could that be? It turns out, according to the survey that, “Most Catholics who believe that the bread and wine are symbolic do not know that the church holds that transubstantiation occurs. Overall, 43% of Catholics believe that the bread and wine are symbolic and also that this reflects the position of the church.” (Emphases added) How’s that for catechesis? A C grade in this case stands for catastrophic.

This failure does help explain why almost everyone goes to Communion. Of course, that would make sense if the lines at the confessionals were as long as the Communion lines. But they aren’t. So, what is happening is mass participation in a symbolic, not a sacramental, representation. If you don’t like the taste of the symbol, there is no reason not discard it in a discreet way, the same as you would with any snack that doesn’t suit your palate. How has this indifference been engendered?

In 1998, Avery Cardinal Dulles said:

The celebration should elicit a sense of numinous awe in the presence of the holy, the totally other. God is remote, utterly transcendent, and we sinners are unworthy to stand in his presence. Liturgy is the principal bond between the earthly and the heavenly Church, a frail human participation in the glorious heavenly liturgy. In its official worship the Church achieves its prime purpose, to glorify God.

We are bodily creatures who need outward physical signs that this is really happening. There have to be signals of what is signified. If they’re not there, we may miss the meaning. Why aren’t they there? One answer is supplied by modern church architecture; another by modern church music; and a third by the liturgy – a trinity of disorientation. Which of these today would lead you to believe that you are in the presence of the divine? The acid test for any part of the liturgy, including the music, is this: Would a complete stranger observing it believe that what is taking place is the most important thing in these people’s lives? I cannot express how I have missed that sense of sanctity in the Mass with which I grew up, though I see it coming back in the Arlington Diocese in which I am so fortunate to live.

I am a man of the theatre. I was an actor in my early professional life, so I understand the stage. That is what infuriated me about the “new” liturgy of the 1970s. Any competent stage director could have told the liturgical innovators that it did not convey the presence of the sacred. This was so obvious that the conclusion occurred that they must not think the sacred was present. Many parishioners got the message, as they stopped believing in the Real Presence or abandoned Mass altogether. The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reports that between 1970 and 2018, the rate of weekly Mass attendance fell from 54.9 percent to 21.1 percent. Have any bishops lost their jobs because of this? If not, why not?

Architecture teaches. Little needs to be said about the modern Pizza Hut-style churches, where we all sit in the round looking across at each other in one happy community. It’s all about us. Shouldn’t we be looking at the altar? Most traditional churches are in cruciform shape, but many have been disfigured. At the head of the crucifix is, or should be, the tabernacle – as Christ’s head was toward the top of the cross and He is the head of the church. But what happens when the tabernacle is moved to the side, as has been the case in almost all churches? It is no longer the crucified Christ we experience, but a decapitated one. The church’s center of gravity has been displaced, making a mess of what is being architecturally expressed.

All traditionally designed churches make the main altar the point of focus. It naturally draws our attention there. If Jesus is not there, where is He? At the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D. C., for instance, one must go on a tabernacle treasure hunt to find the Eucharist.

If Christ is moved to a side altar, exactly what position ought He to occupy in our lives? This is why people no longer genuflect in front of the main altar. It now receives a respectful bow of the head. But why? To what? Genuflecting at an angle to the side altar where the tabernacle resides is awkward. The bizarre choreography is even worse in one local parish where the tabernacle is to the left back side of the church. If you wish to genuflect, you have to twist yourself completely around after entering, and then twist yourself back again to proceed to a pew. When seated, the entire congregation has its back to Christ.

There is some progress, however. At St. Dominic’s Church in Washington, D.C., the tabernacle has been moved back to the main altar. It is a magnificent Gothic-inspired tabernacle that the pastor bought online from a warehouse in Belgium to which it has been consigned as a result of liturgical “renewal.” Now the German Gothic architecture of St. Dominic’s can do what it was designed to do – naturally focus all attention on the actual presence of Christ. The move returned coherence to the church.

Music at Mass is supposed to be a form of worship. So seldom is this the case that I assiduously seek out Masses at which there is no music. This was my experience at a local church’s Sunday Mass. The Kyrie began rather beautifully, but then the tempo picked up and the bongos kicked in. When I vociferously complain about this kind of thing to my wife and children, they respond by saying, “Just don’t pay attention.” However, my avocation as a music critic for some 35 years means I can’t not pay attention. Therefore I am caught in this interior struggle between my revulsion at the banality of the music and my need to immerse myself in the reality of the sacrifice of the Mass. Should inducing a spiritual crisis be the effect of liturgical music?

Does God deserve this music? It’s not for God. It’s for the congregation, which so frequently applauds after the performance. Applause in church is a dead giveaway of the loss of liturgical music’s purpose. I have never heard anyone applaud after Gregorian chant. Because of the sense of the sacred it conveys one naturally wouldn’t applaud. One of the blessings of the coronavirus crisis is that the choir and the bongo player have gone for the time being. Who knew that social distancing could be so aesthetically pleasing?

I know a parish music director who was brought back to the practice of his faith by the more traditional church music, including some of the Renaissance polyphonic masterpieces, the pastor had asked for. How many people have returned to the faith after experiencing the banality of the bongos? If you think I’m rough on this stuff, listen to the great Peter Kreeft:

But don’t even think of mentioning ‘contemporary Christian rock’ in the same breath; it’s an insult to rock as well as to Christianity, and it’s almost as painful as those spectacularly silly, sappy, sloppy, sentimental, shallow, stupid examples of emotional diarrhea called ‘praise choruses.’

It is unbelievably condescending to play this trash to congregations. It is a way of telling them that they’re incapable of appreciating anything better – like real beauty. The poor dears, especially the youth, couldn’t be reached without cloying sentimentality. Let’s all “feel” together. It is the liturgical equivalent of the Modern Romance paperback novels sold at grocery store checkout stands. There is no intimation in the emotional bathos of how vast a treasure is present.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in his essay “On the Theological Basis of Church Music,” wrote:

A church which only makes use of utility music has fallen for what is, in fact, useless. She too becomes ineffectual. For her mission is a far higher one. The church must not settle down with what is merely comfortable and serviceable at the parish level; she must arouse the voice of the cosmos and, by glorifying the creator, elicit the glory of the cosmos itself, making it also glorious, beautiful, habitable and beloved.

As St. Clement of Alexandria taught, Christ is the “New Song” of the universe. “[It] is this [New Song] that composed the entire creation into melodious order, and tuned into concert the discord of the elements, that the whole universe may be in harmony with it.” How is that for inclusive? That “New Song” is not played on bongo drums, as that would be exclusive – in the sense that it would exclude the transcendent, which cannot be reached by any bongo drums I have ever heard. No, the transcendent can only be pointed to or reached by the greatest art.

When is the last time you heard music at Mass that reinforced your faith rather than tested it? When is the last time you heard the cosmos in your parish?

The objection to this might be: What parish can afford Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis or a Bruckner Mass? True enough, which is why I cherish my visits to the Brompton Oratory in London, where great musical liturgies are sung at each 11:00 a.m. Mass on Sunday (which also proves with what dignity and solemnity the Novus Ordo can be said). But one needn’t go to London or have extraordinary musical resources. One Sunday last year, when I was looking for a Mass during a trip to Sacramento, California, I quite by accident bumped into a beautiful Romanesque-style church: Sacred Heart. When the choir began singing, I was almost overwhelmed by the sense of the sacred that the music conveyed. It did not call attention to itself but directly contributed to making the transcendent perceptible. I am not exaggerating by saying that the church architecture (with the golden tabernacle under a vaulted canopy at the main altar), the solemnity of the liturgy, and the sublimity of the music combined to provide a foretaste of heaven – which is precisely what the Eucharist is. After Mass, I waited until the church emptied so I could approach the pastor and thank him from the bottom of my heart.

What if one does not have a choir? At my local parish in Virginia, one of the priests regularly chants parts of the Mass. When I thank him afterwards, he smiles and says, “And it’s free!” Gregorian chant is like sound with silence in it. Where there is no silence, there is no deep belief in the Real Presence. Gregorian chant is the sound of the sacred. When sung, a stillness ensues that places us in his Presence, or rather, I should say, lets us know we are in his Presence.

You don’t even have to be in church for this to happen. One of the first teaching jobs my friend Deal Hudson got was at a federal penitentiary. He played music of the late Renaissance composer Orlando de Lassus, Lagrime di San Pietro (Tears of St. Peter), for the prisoners. Some of them wept. I wonder if it was partially because they were so touched that he had not condescended to them, although I have no doubt that the exquisite music went straight to their hearts and moved them deeply. I think many parish music directors should spend time in prison not only for their crimes, but because they could learn some things from the prisoners about music. If they played the tripe in the slammer that they foist on their parishes, they wouldn’t get out alive.

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote of the Eucharist:

Out of reverence towards this Sacrament, nothing touches it, but what is consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest’s hands, for touching this Sacrament. Hence, it is not lawful for anyone else to touch it except from necessity, for instance, if it were to fall upon the ground, or else in some other case of urgency. (Summa Theologiae, III, 82, 3)

What does this say about someone who would put it on the ground? What is worse – the hatred of Christ practiced in a black Mass, or the indifference expressed by a partially consumed Host? As Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “The devil believes much more than many of us.”

(Editor’s note: The quote from Cardinal Ratzinger was originally and erroneously attributed to Cardinal Dulles.)


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About Robert R. Reilly 10 Articles
Robert R. Reilly was Senior Advisor for Information Strategy (2002-2006) for the US Secretary of Defense, after which he taught at National Defense University. He was the director of the Voice of America (2001-2002) and served in the White House as a Special Assistant to the President (1983-1985). A graduate of Georgetown University and the Claremont Graduate University, his books include The Closing of the Muslim Mind, Making Gay Okay, and Surprised by Beauty: A Listener's Guide to the Recovery of Modern Music. His new book, America on Trial: A Defense of the Founding, is forthcoming from Ignatius Press.

38 Comments

  1. This article describes precisely how I feel. Well done Mr. Reilly! As an aside, I believe Dennis Prager has most strongly endorsed Mr. Reilly’s book, “The Closing of the Muslim Mind” on his radio show.

    • Mr. Reilly, thank you for this article. You express so well what so many of us believe (and I say this as a member of my church’s choir and the mom of a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Washington, DC). I challenge you to find a Traditional Latin Mass; you will likely be amazed and refreshed by the beautiful, uplifting reverence which is so lost with the Novus Ordo liturgy. God bless!

      • I would encourage you, as a TLM goer, to experience the Divine Liturgy in an Eastern Catholic Church. I went from the nominal novus ordo experience to exclusive TLM with the FSSP, Institute of the Good Shepherd, and the SSPX. I have experienced many High and Low Masses. There are things I respect about both. Yet both fall incredibly short, in my opinion, to the Divine Liturgies of St John Chrysostom and St Basil the Great. All the focus on “modernists” and pitting EF vs OF can really damage one’s spirituality and peace of mind. Becoming a Byzantine Catholic has made all the difference in the world for me. It doesn’t matter if it’s the 1962 Mass, 1955 Latin Mass, or even if you go all the way back to it’s highest expression at Trent. It’s all modernist to us lol

  2. On one episode of “The Waltons,” (I believe the “Easter Story” episode) Olivia is trying to get John to attend services. Grandpa Walton then chimes in that he mostly attends church for ‘the singing.’

    I don’t disagree with your analysis; but hymn singing by people created in His image is a form of worship and hope, and keeps the folks coming in the door. In some areas, the PP is competing with other Christian congregations who extol free coffee, donuts and other entertainment.’

    During the lockdown and the Church period of ‘throwing in the towel’ the Eucharist was missed by believers,

    • I love old timey Baptist hymns and would be happier to sing those than the dreadful shlock in most of our hymnals.
      I love Gregorian chant also and have never understood why our parishes don’t use it more. Simple chant’s much easier to sing than modern compositions.
      I don’t know. It seems like the folks who put our current hymnals together have tin ears.

      • Who put our current hymnals together? The mandated hymnal in our cathedral is the (Canadian) Catholic Book of Worship III (CBW III), put together by the disgraced Bishop Raymond Lahey, arrested at the Ottawa airport with a laptop full of child pornography and later convicted for possessing it.

      • As a convert from the Baptists, I largely agree with you, but not all of those are entirely safe, either. This goes beyond the ones that promote sola scriptura or the private interpretation of Scripture or even the presumption that I will endure to the end. For example, you are probably familiar with the hymn that has the following chorus.

        “He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
        He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
        He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
        You ask me how I know He lives?
        He lives within my heart.”

        Despite my nostalgia, and the fact that this comes so close to being a really excellent hymn, in the end it seems to affirm Christ’s Resurrection as little more than the popular idea that “grandma is still with us” as a warm and fuzzy feeling, like the “spirit of Christmas” (which is not the Holy Spirit).

    • Knowall, There is nothing wrong with people gathering singing hymns. The point of this article is what is sung at Mass. To understand where the Author is coming from, one needs to understand the main point. The Mass is not a human act, it is a Divine act. Jesus offers to the Father the identical sacrifice as He did 2000 years ago. This is the grand mystery of the Mass. Pope Benedict XVl put it like this, “The priest does not need the Mass, the people do not need the Mass. God the Father needs the Mass”. Jesus did not offer His sacrifice to us but for us. He offered it to the Father. Through His minister the priest, Jesus again suffers His whole Passion and Death and offers it to the Father at every Mass until the end of the world. I hope you now have an idea of where the Author is coming from. Bad music does not belong in the Divine and Supernatural. Its not about us, its about Jesus and the Father, for our salvation. The Mass needs music that will lift us up to the sacred. Most of the music at Mass now, needs to be trashed permanently! We cast Jesus out of His Church, and made ourselves like unto Gods. we must Enthrone Jesus back into His Church. End the condemned Modernist heresy! We have had too much of their damnable errors. The Mass is Divine, Supernatural, with Legions of Angels worshipping God. Let us remember that when we choose a hymn for our literal presence at Calvary (Mass).

      • “The Mass is not a human act, it is a Divine act.” To be perfectly fair, Gregorian chant is PRECISELY a human activity — a human activity encouraged by the author. Please don’t pretend that “Adoro te devote” is a divine act if in Latin and sung by a choir, but a human act if in English and sung by the congregation.

        There are two problems with hymns today. The first is the very suspect theology contained in many of them. I do not have sufficient charity to overlook the problems with “Sing a New Church Into Being”; when push comes to shove, I just sing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” instead. This problem is comparatively easy to solve: just use better hymns, ones that are about GOD, not about us.

        The second problem is with treating parts of the Mass as merely works of art. That has been going on probably since the end of the Roman persecutions, if not indeed before; the traditional Latin Mass has certainly not been immune to it. Note that you can find “masses” by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Dvorak, etc., most of which are far too long to be suitable for use as actual Masses — it’s not very practical to spend 20 minutes on the Kyrie, however beautiful it may be. These are more religious art than liturgy. It is part of our human nature to be more impressed by the gold and, in some cases, jewels that adorn a ciborium or tabernacle than with What appears to be the blandest of bread — “there is no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him” after all also applies to Christ hidden in the Eucharist.

  3. Thank you, Mr. Reilly. As a child, I was prepared for an appreciation of classical music by the Tridentine Latin Mass and the dignified music that accompanied it. Ours was a beautiful, traditional physical church, as well, in a relatively small parish in a town of about 1,500 souls. In the 21st Century, I am essentially a homeless Catholic, in search of a liturgy by which I can be uplifted, rather than one that I merely tolerate. Looking at the Church in general and the society around me, however, I should not be surprised. The loss of the Latin Mass was the clear signal of the beginning of the end of the Church’s universal nature. Once you could attend Mass anywhere in the world and feel at home. Now you can attend Mass down the block and feel like a stranger.

    • Oh wow.JoAnn you expressed exactly my feelings and I am a post V2 child. I feel homeless. The one I feel at home in is so far away while I am surrounded by 4 churches in walking distance all with banal liturgy. After attending reverent and beautiful Mass somewhere, coming back to the schlock was painful. It is strange indeed. I feel at home in a parish where I don’t know anyone and I feel like a stranger where I know many and where the motto is to be welcoming.

  4. Thank God for such an incisive, no holds barred analysis. I loved the combination of caustic wit, personal experience, and historical awareness. If the Catholic liturgy were offered this way the churches couldn’t hold the throngs who came for mass.

  5. From Roland de Lassus: Lagrime Di San Pietro

    Ensemble Vocal Européen

    Philippe Herreweghe – Conductor

    This cycle of 21 spiritual madrigals for seven voices is at once the swansong of the most famous composer of his time, who died in 1594 at the age of 62 just three weeks after dedicating the work to the Pope, and the highpoint of Counter-Reformation polyphony. More than four centuries later, the ‘Tears of St Peter’ still have the power to move every sensitive listener.
    This title was released for the first time in 1994.

    [award: Diapason d’Or]

    The page has 21 sound samples.

    From Lassus: Lagrime di San Pietro / Herreweghe, by Simon Thompson, MusicWeb International:

    This disc is ravishing, and wonderful, but very difficult to write about. I intentionally held off listening to it until I had heard the same artists – even including one of the very same singers – perform the Lagrime at the 2014 Edinburgh Festival in the resonant acoustic of Greyfriars Kirk. It had a profound effect on me then, and this recording replicated a similar result.

    The programme note for that concert mischievously suggested that Lagrime di San Pietro was the nearest musical equivalent to the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Lassus sets a cycle of twenty Italian poems called rispetti: “possibly the most restricted poetic form in European history” in David Fallows’ words. Each movement is of roughly the same length (about 2½ minutes), each is set for seven voices, and each moves at roughly the same speed. In other words, Lassus consciously restricts himself in the severest manner possible to an extremely limited form of musical setting.

    The results are enchanting, even spellbinding. Each of the poems is, to some degree or other, about Peter’s sorrow and penitence after his denial of Christ, but the atmosphere is never sorrowful for its own sake: instead there is a cleanness and unencumbered sense of beauty. This would have chimed with the contemporary counter-reformation focus on the beauty of holiness and its power in re-winning converts to the Roman Catholic church. There isn’t much in the way of what we would recognise as melody: instead the music works by weaving a spell of mesmerising counterpoint around the listener, allowing you to lose yourself in the other-worldly atmosphere of beauty that it creates.

  6. This is a great article, I thank the Author. I thought I was the only one who searched for a Mass without a choir. I have struggled in believing that Jesus is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. If there is a reason, I would say it is the cause of the Modernist heresy. My generation was the first when all the changes in the Church began. We were programmed to live in confusion, though they didn’t intend for that to happen, that is the fruit of heresy. For now I continue my search for God in the 2000 year teaching of the Church.

  7. Christ’s Real Presence, his resurrected living presence is God’s greatest gift to the Church. He’s present to us on the altar and within us in communion as he was when he walked the Earth. Robert Reilly gives an excellent account of this in his essay. And of the absence of faith in abuse of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. Reilly pointedly compares the scant often vacant confessional lines to the virtual universal reception of the Eucharist by the congregation. Penitents often rely on an apparent exaggerated understanding of the mitigation of sin. That priests trivialize sin. Are there grounds for this error? For example many priests and laity are familiar with the Catechism as well as Magisterial teaching:
    “To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability” (Catholic Catechism 2352).
    John Paul II on gradualism: “They’re different degrees or forms of precept in God’s law for different individuals and situations” (Familiaris Consortio 1981).
    John Paul II on mitigation: “Decisions that go against life sometimes arise from difficult or even tragic situations of profound suffering, loneliness, a total lack of economic pros- pects, depression and anxiety about the future. Such circumstances can mitigate even to a notable degree subjective responsibility and the consequent culpability of those who make these choices which in themselves are evil” (Evangelium Vitae 1995).
    Pope Francis makes gradualism and mitigation the rationale for Divorced and Remarried receiving the Eucharist in Amoris Laetitia 302-305.
    Although John Paul II realized the danger of reducing sin to a purely subjective, arbitrary concept in his Apostolic Exhortation, Reconciliation and Penance 1984. “A document [Reconciliatio et paenitentia] highly relevant to the proper reception of Holy Communion, Pope John Paul II warned the Church against trying to create a theological category out of psychological considerations and mitigating circumstances, stating: ‘But from a consideration of the psychological sphere one cannot proceed to the construction of a theological category, which is what the fundamental option precisely is, understanding it in such a way that it objectively changes or casts doubt upon the traditional concept of mortal sin. While every sincere and prudent attempt to clarify the psychological and theological mystery of sin is to be valued, the Church nevertheless has a duty to remind all scholars in this field of the need to be faithful to the word of God that teaches us also about sin. She likewise has to remind them of the risk of contributing to a further weakening of the sense of sin in the modern world’ (no.17). The mitigating circumstances doctrine cannot be used to justify keeping a person in his sinful condition (see CCC 1754 which clearly confirms this). Pope John Paul II clearly warned us about trying to justify such an untenable position” (Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A., J.D). Mitigation of intrinsically evil sin must be revisited by the Church in clear, definable language. If a sin, adultery, abortion, or a homosexual act is evil by nature and condemned by God, it’s entirely unreasonable to presume that Christ Crucified, his call to repentance, the sacrament of Penance is intended by God to absolve what is by all reckoning already mitigated beyond that need. That is the deception.

    • “That is the deception.” Yes, and very well-explained….and, now like the COVID, the deception has mutated….

      In Canaan, the theological lapse into poly-idolatry was likened to the natural vice of adultery; today in the polygon Church, open-ended (so to speak) accompaniment includes–literally–the unnatural vice of sodomy. (In both cases, “consenting adults,” of course!) Dissent from Humanae Vitae (1968) has unleashed the full range of derangments predicted by Pope St. Paul VI. Worth repeating is this added prediction from the Catholic novelist, Georges Bernanos. Already in the late 1940s he wrote,

      “The modern world will shortly no longer possess sufficient spiritual reserves to commit genuine evil. Already . . . we can witness a lethal slackening of men’s conscience that is attacking not only their moral life, but also their very heart and mind, altering and decomposing even their imagination . . . The menacing crisis is one of infantilism.”

    • While the mitigating circumstances surrounding an act may lessen an individual’s guilt, they cannot change the fact that the act is intrinsically evil.

  8. I became Catholic while in the Navy at my last duty station. We had arduous shifts (2 eves, then 8 hours later 2 day shifts, then 8 hours later 2 midnight shifts). Sunday morning when I was now eligible to take communion, just happened to be after my last midnight watch. That watch was the most strenuous I ever worked. Without going into details, I was wiped out with complete exhaustion (I worked with NSA intelligence, and the Cold War was getting quite hot). I dragged myself to church, and when I took communion, every cell in my body exploded with energy. I then felt energized enough to drive the 150 miles to my parents house for my time off. The moment I walked in the house, and closed the door, every ounce of energy left me. I was completely baffled. Then I heard the voice of Jesus distinctly tell me “IT IS my body, always treat it with reverence and respect”. Jesus wanted me to understand the true meaning of communion. Every one needs to understand that.

  9. Is not the second quote attributed to Cardinal Dulles actually by Pope Benedict?
    Reilly is right, music depicts the cosmos; it puts us in connection with eternity. Beautiful architecture and beautiful music are companions in making the liturgy sacred, in focusing our attention upon the great Sacrifice Christ is offering on the altar.

  10. As a postscript to my comment I add the recommendation that we mortals while intelligent, perhaps well studied, excellent at discernment are to leave God’s work to God as Judge and Jury. Manifest sinful behavior is manifest sin plain and simple. Insofar as a priest, counselor may assess a penitent and capable of recognizing mitigating circumstances, it’s our function not to judge that adultery, fornication, physical assault is not what it is. It’s rather to direct him toward repentance, always interpreted as correcting behavior. Never to encourage a continuation of manifest sin. Leave the rest to God’s infallible judgment and grace.

  11. So many of the problems described in this article will never be found in a parish or chapel that offers Mass according to the Tridentine rite. While it is not “bulletproof,” it solves a huge number of problems simply by not allowing options, by requiring the priest to face eastwards, by limiting the handling of communion to him alone, by having the faithful receive on the tongue, kneeling, etc. It is the simplest and best solution to our liturgical woes.

    • I am so grateful that at the Lord’s Supper, Jesus chose to face the apostles, and speaking to them, face to face, communicate unequivocally what it was that He wanted them, and us, to do, “..in remembrance of Him”.
      And now in 2020 I can still see that take place every Sunday morning.

      • “Jesus chose to face the apostles”

        Except he didn’t, of course, since Jesus and thg apostles in all likelihood sat on the same side of a sigma-shaped table – nothing at all like the depiction in Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper.”

        and a word of advice: do avoid snarkiness when, in attempting it, you display only your own ignorance.

        • William did Jesus have his back to the Apostles? Or did he face them, so that they all had facial view of him? If He communicated with them all during this intimate moment on the significance of the institution, with the bread and the wine of the Holy Eucharist, we would certainly expect that the He was in clear view of all. Also Jesus and the Apostles did not sit at table, they reclined at table. The issue isn’t whether Mass facing the people is best, which may be so. The issue is the historical setting and how Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist.

  12. Second Person of the Blessed Trinity- destined to reside in the vacuum bag, then the rubbish tip for perhaps the next two years until decayed under a pile of rubbish and dirt. Because they insist on Communion in the Hand how much longer before Our Lord allows this Mass to become invalidated. “My God, I belive, I adore, I hope, and I love you. I beg pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love you.O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.” x3 St Michael Fatima

  13. I totally agree with much in this article. It is unfortunate that so many beautiful churches were stripped and now have that warehouse look which inspires NOTHING. Ditto the lack of a crucifix in many churches, now eschewed for a risen Christ. By eliminating the crucifix they have elected to tell only half the story: the triumph of the resurrection, eliminating all mention of the sins which made the crucifixion necessary.
    By a great stroke of luck, my home parish church has remained mostly untouched by the V2 renovations, with the exception of eliminating the altar rail. The tabernacle remains front and center, sheltered by an enormous marble baldacchino which was doubtless far too expensive and complicated to remove, Thank God!! Atmosphere has much to do with raising the mind to the sacred. A neglected piece in this article though, is the failure of Bishops and local priests to EVER mention sin from the pulpit. Even the condemnation of abortion in the recent election came out too late and too mildly.We will apparently now reap the consequences of too many Catholics failing to follow church teaching. It seems the clergy are afraid to mention SIN for fear of having more congregants (and their money) leave the church. This is too bad because they are failing to do their jobs to inform their flocks. A lack of a sense of sin is EXACTLY why confession lines are so short. THEY DON’T KNOW. Its been many years since I have even heard a priest address the topic of sin of ANY sort. And in the modern world there are surely enough topics to choose from. Beyond the architecture, if priests fail to address basic issues such as being reverently quiet in church ( out of respect for God in the Eucharist, but also for those in prayer), being ON TIME for Mass, not DROPPING the kneelers to the floor like bar-bells in a gym, appropriate attire for Mass…etc. These seem like small things but all of them added together add to the lack of the sense of sacred in our churches. And YES, the priests must start to address the topic of what Catholics are SUPPOSED to believe about the real presence, and thus why dropping a host on the floor, treating it with disrespect, or receiving in a state of sin, is not to be done. Priests are foolish if they actually believe the people KNOW about any of these things. I find many are remarkably uninformed about their faith. It is to be hoped that a better informed congregation can help reverse these decades long negative trends. A sense of the sacred, and faithfulness to faith and morals can be brought back. It will not be easy. If however our clergy continue to be timid, change will not come. The role of a leader, even a church leader, is to actually LEAD.

  14. The articles states: “People like St. Dismas were martyred rather than letting the Blessed Sacrament be profaned.” St. Dismas was the Good Thief/Repentant Thief next to Our Lord at His Crucifixion, to whom Christ said would be with Him in Paradise. Did you mean to say St. Tarcisius, the young boy martyred as he protected the Holy Eucharist in he 3rd century?

  15. The ‘problem’ is catechesis. Being born a Catholic is not enough. You have to be taught and fully understand and internalise the existential significance of Being Catholic.
    I have heard that the ‘reforms’, a noun pregnant with protestant resonance, were intended as a sign of conciliation toward the ‘divided brethren’, yet another singular failure of post conciliar ambition.

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