By Richard Salbato
[Note: This is a short version of the article.]
[Note: This is a short version of the article.]
A few months back a priest came to Fatima and called me up for a meeting. He said that he came to Fatima to learn how to improve his parish and make people more prayerful, more Catholic and more interested in the life of the parish. He seemed frustrated. But to me the answer was simple because I have seen it happen over and over in many parishes. I told him that all he had to do was not treat God commonly and his parish would thrive. He did not seem to know what I meant by this so I went on to explain in three hours of conversation. It is not any great wisdom on my part but simply my observations of parishes and priests where this was done properly and where the results were more than amazing but even miraculous.
One such example is Father Sweeney who was given a small Vietnamese parish in Santa Clara, California. The problem with the parish was that most of the homes around it were torn down to build factories, office buildings, and freeways. The total amount of actual families that lived within the parish limits was very small and going downhill every day. Father Sweeney was a terrible speaker and bored most people who listened to him and he was not that charismatic face to face. But Father built that parish up from two priests and a half full church on Sunday to 10 priests, and 10 Sunday Masses overfilled to the outside to the point that television cameras were placed outside to show the Mass to those who could not get inside. Daily Masses went from two or three people to hundreds of people. Confessions went from three of four a week to thousands per week and four or five confessors at each Sunday Mass and Confessors even at daily Mass. In fact Father Sweeney became so successful that he build a 50 foot tall statue of Our Lady so that three freeways could see Her and a large two story center for religious education of children and adults. What did this priest do? It was not his preaching - he was not good. It was not his personality - he would at times be boring. In fact, it was not what he did but what he did not do. Because of his love and understanding of who God is, Father did not treat God commonly and did not let anyone else treat God commonly either.
When Father came into the Church he knelt down in front of the tabernacle with profound respect and not just a quick genuflection but with profound thought of who was in that Tabernacle. When he said Mass it was as if he was face to face with God in Heaven. When he held up the Eucharist it was as if he was holding the Christ Child, given to him by Our Lady.
In spite of the great disadvantages for proper respect in the Novus Ordo Mass, Father continued to have an Altar Rail and everyone continued to kneel at the Altar Rail for communion. No one and I mean no one ever went behind the Altar Rail except priests and Altar-BOYS. When it was time to pass out communion (no matter who was saying Mass) from one to five priests would come into the church and pass out communion and only at the Altar Rail and not to anyone standing. To show the importance of the Mass, Father had from 4 to 10 altar-boys at all times even in daily Masses.
Never was Father disobedient to the liberal bishops over him. How then was he able to do what many other priests would like to do? It is simple! Father knew the laws of his Church and knew them well. There are things a bishop can recommend to a priest but when it comes to the Mass the guidelines from Rome are very plain and set in stone.
No bishop can force the removal of an Altar Rail and no bishop can force Altar-girls and no bishop can force Extraordinary Ministers. It is not in his authority. Authority has limits in every walk of life. Parents have authority but not over life. Kings and Presidents have authority but not over freedom. Judges and police have authority but not over justice.
Treating God commonly destroys faith and religion. We will believe and have faith in the same extent in our mind as we treat God. If we treat Him as if he was no different from anyone else sitting next to us, we will end up believing Him to be no different from any other person. Having a personal relationship with God can be good if we keep it within the limits of respect, but if we try to bring him down to our level He will not be there for us.
The Angel of Fatima
Is this respect and worship of God really necessary? After all we are in a new age where children come home from school without even greeting their own mother but just running in and out without a thought of her.
In Revelation or Apocalypse 4 we are given a glimpse of the Throne of God (metaphorically) and the chapter not only shows the majesty and beauty of God but somewhat overwhelming and then we read that all fell down and worships Him and adored Him (Rev. 4:9-10) who is worthy of glory and honor (Rev. 4:11) and then again before the Lamb standing as it were slain (Rev. 4:6) everyone fell down and worshiped singing and praising and honoring the Lamb saying "—benediction and honor and glory and power forever". And all fell down on their faces and adored Him that liveth forever and ever. (Rev. 4:14)
This, my friend, is the Mass as it is co-celebrated in Heaven as we celebrate it on earth. If we could see what happens around that priest at Mass we would see this description in Revelation 4. As we stand or sit or talk or walk around, what are the saints and angels of heaven doing? They are doing the same thing the Angel of Fatima did.
In 1916 an Angel appeared to the three children of Fatima with a Chalice and Host above it dripping blood into the Chalice. Giving example to the children the angel worshiped God in the Eucharist by kneeling and then bowing down with his face in the earth and taught them a prayer that I do not need to repeat here. But the prayer was for all of us that disrespect God in the Eucharist with irreverence -- and irreverence is an outrage to God, and irreverence is a sacrilege to God, and irreverence is the great sin of indifference to God.
Before the apparition of the Angel of Fatima, Lucia, as always was picked to throw flower peddles in front of the procession of The Blessed Sacrament - the Eucharistic Procession. Jacinta, who was just a little child, asked why she does this. Lucia told her that the Child Jesus was there on that platform and that was how we honored Him. Jacinta wanted to honor the Child Jesus also in the way so she pleaded to be one of the girls to throw the flower peddles. But when they marched in the Eucharistic Procession Jacinta just looked and looked at the Monstrance with the Host in it and never threw any flower peddles. After the procession Lucia asked her why she did not throw the flowers and Jacinta said that she looked and looked but did not see the Child Jesus. It was from that point on after Lucia explained to her that Jacinta referred to the Eucharist as the "Hidden Jesus".
He is hidden from our eyes because our eyes could not handle the sight of God, but when we look upon the Host, the Eucharist we are seeing God. God is not inside the Host, God is the Host. When we see the Host we see God. God can take on any form He wants to and when He takes on the form of a Host, it is truly God that we are looking at, not symbolic, nor representing, not a type, but the real and only God.
Not Just God but God Crucified
Christ only asked us to remember one thing, His death, And so in the Catholic Church the altar of sacrifice, and not the pulpit or the choir or the organ, is the center of worship, for there is re-enacted the memorial of His Passion.
Its value does not depend on him who says it, or on him who hears it; it depends on Him who is the One High Priest and Victim, Jesus Christ our Lord. With Him we are united, in spite of our nothingness; in a certain sense, we lose our individuality for the time being; we unite our intellect and our will, our heart and our soul, our body and our blood, so intimately with Christ, that the Heavenly Father sees not so much us with our imperfection, but rather sees us , the Beloved Son in whom He is well pleased.
The Mass is for that reason the greatest event in the history of mankind; the only Holy Act which keeps the wrath of God from a sinful world, because it holds the Cross between heaven and earth.
What is important at this point is that we take the proper mental attitude toward the Mass, and remember this important fact, that the Sacrifice of the Cross is not something which happened nineteen hundred years ago. It is still happening. We were not conscious of being present there on Calvary that day, but He was conscious of our presence. Blood like falling stars is still dropping upon our souls.
Calvary is renewed, re-enacted, re-presented, as we have seen, in the Mass. Calvary is one with the Mass, and the Mass is one with Calvary, for in both there is the same Priest and Victim.
On the Cross the Savior was alone; in the Mass He is with us.
The Mass then is the communication of the Sacrifice of Calvary to us under the species of bread and wine.
He willed to give us the very life we slew; to give us the very Food we destroyed; to nourish us with the very Bread we buried, and the very Blood we poured forth… He turned a Crucifixion into Redemption; a Consecration into a Communion; a death into life everlasting.
There are really only two commandments, two stones, but these are not suggestions, these are the only way to heaven. When asked how to get to heaven Christ said "Keep the Commandments." The first commandment is divided into three sections and the second commandment is divided into seven sections. The first is first because it is the most important and it is how to relate to God. It can be summed up in "Do not treat God commonly". The second commandment might be summed up as "Do not treat anything God created badly." Do not mistreat God and do not mistreat anything God created in Heaven or on Earth.
God deserves worship and honor and He, not us, told us how to worship throughout the entire bible from the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, to the symbolic sacrificed lambs, to the Last Supper, to the Crucifixion, and to the Heavenly Mass in Revelation. "Blessed are they that wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb, that they may have the right to the Tree of Life." (Rev. 22:14) The tree of life is the Mass.
Choices of Worship
The Holy Father has given many directions on devotion to God in the Eucharist and has even said that this is the heart and summit of the Church and the fountain of all grace. He has asked for Perpetual Adoration and stressed its importance. He has
not made this year the year of the Eucharist. What should we do? We can follow along with the rest of the crowd so that we do not look out of place and if they are not respectful, we can say that we are just doing what everyone else is doing. We can choose receiving communion in the hand, that is our right, or we can do the better thing and treat God without disrespect. We can choose to receive God standing, that is our right, or we can choose the less disrespectful way, kneeling, as that is also our right. As you can see from above there is a wrong way to worship and a right way. Someday the right way will be the only way but for now you have a choice between the right way and a lesser than right way.
My feeling is that the way we worship God is a direct outward sign of our love for Him. Treat Him commonly and how should He treat you? Treat Him reverently and with fear and trembling and even if your sins are as great as mountains God will forgive you.