Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Dave Pawlak of Pompous Ponderings
sent this nice email

Loved your post about Church Speak vs. Church Action, and why poor parishes
are often ignored (and eventually closed). It is often the case that the
Anglo parishoners prefer to let their parishes die rather than open them up
to the new people in the neighborhood. I've seen that here in Milwaukee.
Unfortunately, consolidating and closing parishes which have dwindled to a
handful of members, and are only a few blocks from each other, and in an
area which has few Catholics, is sometimes a sad necessity. Of course, I'd
rather we go out and do some old-fashioned proselytizing, and fill those
churches up again........

And I mostly agree with you about talking the talk without walking the
walk. "Faith without works is dead." But I would caution against creating
any false dichtomy between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Love is indeed what
counts in the end, but you need the "complete package": adoration as well
as helping out at homeless shelters, rosaries as well as food pantries,
apologetics as well as AIDS ministry. Mother Teresa and Fr. Groeschel both
understand that.

Some sites which have that complete package (you may know them already):





Thanks, and God bless!

-- Id quot circumiret, circumveniat.

Point taken. I tend to get very passionate and hot headed when incensed, so I do not always give proper emphasis. I think I was trying not to denigrate works and devotion, but rather, show that we miss out often on the point of devotions. The devotions and rituals of our faith are meant to give us the graces and strength to do the works we are called to do. I tend to get angry that may of us, as conservative minded Catholics, have substituted the heart of the faith with rituals. My point is that to be a good Christian does not lie in doing rituals, but in doing God's will which pre-existed the contemporary Catholic ritual. We sometimes seem to forget that people please God sor thousands of years before there was a Catholic faith and they did so without the Catholic rituals. So we haven't cornered the market of pleasing God.

For instance, in Hebrews 11, we have a long litany of models of faith, or hall of faith, as some would say. It is noteworthy that most of these, if not all are from the Old Testament. Pleasing God is through faith and this faith to please him has always been attainable. God does not need and never will need rituals to please him, so that if we place more emphasis on ritual than on faith in God, then we fall short of what is required. Now, this definitely does not mean that God does not value and love the rituals, such as sacraments, he has put in place, but the point is that they should be a means not an end.

A frequent example I give is the Eucharist. I have a friend whose kids say "Jesus" every time they see the Eucharist elevated at mass. At first I though it was cute and very commendable that they recognized Christ's presence in the Blessed Sacrament, and I still think so. However, I developed a strong concern which is basically this. The Eucharist is not Jesus, it is the sacrament of Jesus. Sacrament being, as Vatican II and Catechism say, a sign and an instrument. The Eucharist is the sacrament of the Lord's body and not the Lord's body itself. There is a real, actual Jesus who rose up bodily from the grave and he is Jesus: the reason there can be a Eucharist in the first place. What the Eucharist does is that it is a sign of that real Christ who is present today and an instrument by which we can partake truly of that risen real bodily Christ.

I get concerned when we forget the sign aspect of sacraments so that we focus, in the case of the Eucharist, on real presence and forget that there is a sign componet without which the Eucharist cannot be the Eucharist. This for me is an example of the means becoming mistaken for the end. The Eucharist is meant to bring us into a deeper relationship with the "living, breathing Christ," so to speak. The Eucharist is not the terminus but an instrument, albiet a most sacred instrument.

I guess this is where I am coming from. I would like to see more conservative Catholics,(granola and non-granola) recapture the sign value of sacraments and sacramentals so that we get at the point of it all, which is faith, hope and charity. For me the point of our earthly existence, (all humans, catholic or not), is summarized in these three verses:

If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is in vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the Fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. James 1:26-27

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:14

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God. Micah 6:8


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