The Loss of the Sense of the Sacred
"They have set fire to they sanctuary: they have defiled the dwelling place of thy name on the earth." Ps. 73:7
This particular presentation was given at a retreat. This talk today is very apropo because the world has been desensitized to sin. People today are no longer shocked or upset what they hear or see in the news media. The sensationalism of our crimes has become routine and almost expected. This attitude has been carried over into our Church. No longer is there awe or respect for the Sacred! This loss of the sense of the Sacred is one of the greatest tragedies of the Church today!
At Fatima - 1916 From the east, the three children, Lucia, Francesco, and Jacinta saw a light whiter than snow. It was the form of a young man, transparent, more brilliant than crystal pierced by the rays of the sun. The children were so surprised, they couldn't speak.
The young man said,
"Fear not! I am the Angel of Peace - Pray with me!"
The angel knelt on the ground, bowing very low. In imitation, the children did the same; repeating the words they heard him say-
"My God I believe, I adore, I hope and I love you. I beg pardon of you for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you."
The prayer was repeated 3 times. The angel arose and said,
"Pray this way. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications."
The angel disappeared and the awareness of the supernatural was so intense that for a long time they remained bowed down unaware of themselves, repeating the same prayer over and over again.
Lucia later said: "We felt the presence of God so intensely, so intimately that we dare not speak to each other. The same feeling enveloped the next day. Only very gradually did it's intensity diminish within us."
The angel appeared two more times; in the summer and the fall of 1916. Jacinta said every time we spoke of the angel, "I don't know what happened to me, I cannot speak, sing or play." Years later Lucia wrote: "The words of the angel were like a light that made us realize who God was, how He loves us and wanted to be loved, the value of sacrifice and to what degree it pleased Him and how it was rewarded with the conversion of sinners."
During the last of the three angel apparitions, the children received Holy Communion from the angel. They felt totally, the awareness of the presence of God.
After the first visit of Our Lady on May 13, 1917 they also felt a joy and happiness beyond all description; they felt this same joy when the angel had visited, only when the angel came they also felt an annihilation in his presence. Whereas with Our Lady they received courage and strength. Instead of bodily exhaustion, they felt a certain physical strength. Lucia writes: "In place of annihilation before the Divine Presence, we felt exhilaration and joy - in place of difficulty in speaking we felt a certain communicative enthusiasm."
This same thought is reflected in Sacred Scriptures. Exodus 3:2-6 The angel of Yahweh appeared to Moses in the shape of a flame of fire, coming from the middle of the bush. Moses looked; there was the bush blazing, but it was not being burnt up. 'I must go and look at this strange sight' Moses said, and see why this bush is not burnt.' Now Yahweh saw him go forward to look and God called to him from the middle of the bush. "Moses, Moses," He said. 'Here I am' he answered. 'Come no nearer,' He said. 'Take off your shoes, for the place on which you stand is Holy Ground. I am the God of your father,' He said, 'the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob.' At this point Moses covered His face, afraid to look at God.
Again in Exodus 19:10-14 The Lord added to Moses, "Go to the people, have them sanctify themselves today and tomorrow. Make them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. The Lord will come down on Mount Sinai before all the eyes of the people. Set limits for the people all around the mountain, and tell them: Take care not to go to the mountain and tell them take care not to go up to the mountain, even to touch its' base. If anyone touches the mountain, he must be put to death."
In the Acts of the Apostle Ch 7:32-34 during Stephen's discourse before the Sanhedrin - Saint Stephen exclaimed, "Moses heard the voice of the Lord from the burning bush - 'I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham,...Issac, and of Jacob. Moses began to tremble and dared look no more. The Lord said to him: ' Remove your sandals from you feet, for the place where you stand is Holy Ground.'"
This sense of the sacred has been in the church throughout her history. At times more pronounced than others, but always there until now! The sense of the sacred has become lost in this generation, specifically in 4 general areas, the sacraments, the Divine Liturgy, Church laws and authority and the temple of the Holy Spirit - that is ourselves. In this talk I will expounds upon these four areas.
What is a sacrament? Simply put, it is a visible sign instituted by Christ to give grace.
How have we lost the sense of the sacred here? For example in Baptism; Catholic theologians define Baptism as a sacrament instituted by Christ, in which, by the outward washing of the body with water, with invocation of the three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity, man is spiritually reborn and sanctified unto life everlasting
The effects of baptism are three fold:
Baptism imparts to the soul dead from the effects of original sin, sanctifying grace and all its formal effects; justice, supernatural beauty, the friendship of God and his adoptive sonship. It also imparts to the soul the three divine virtues Faith, Hope and Charity, the infused moral virtues, and the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost and His personal indwelling in the soul. It imprints in the soul an indelible mark (like confirmation and Holy Orders).
The importance of this sacrament could not be stressed enough to new parents. A new baby was to baptized as soon as possible or immediately if in danger of death. Today it is viewed only as a symbol of bringing the new baby into the church community. In fact parents have to take classes before their child can be baptized. If they do not have the right attitude than baptism is denied. Yet Holy Mother Church teaches us that baptism is necessary for salvation for infants no less than for adults. As no one can come into this world without being born, so no one can enter Heaven unless he is supernaturally reborn. This teaching is upheld by tradition, especially in the Council of Carthage (416) when the African bishops complained of the cruelty of the Pelagians, who condemned their children to eternal death by refusing them baptism.
"Without baptism salvation is attainable by none, because our Lord Himself said: 'Unless a man be born of water, he hath not eternal life.'"
Those who view baptism as a mere ceremony should read the Church teachings on baptism. The Council of Trent: "It is a strict ecclesiastical precept that infants must be baptized as soon as possible after birth."
With regard to Confirmation, this sacrament makes us soldiers of Christ enabling one to profess their faith, even die for it. It is now a choice of the young adult when they are 18 years of age. That which puts an indelible mark upon your soul is left to the discretion of an 18 year old. Many young people today are not being confirmed because they are not ready yet or they don't have the right attitude. It is now a mere ceremony. Yet what does the Church teach: Pope Benedict XIV teaches to neglect to receive confirmation binds under pain of grievous sin. Clement XIV in 1774 approved a decree of the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda to the effect that 'this sacrament cannot be refused or neglected without incurring the guilt of mortal sin, if there be an opportune occasion of receiving it. St. Peter Damien (d 1075) insists that the obligation to receive this sacrament is a serious one.
An incident illustrating this point happened not too long ago. I am the adult leader of our local Youth Apostolate of Fatima. The children and I were doing the First five Saturdays of Reparation as requested by Our Lady. While getting ready to go to confession, one of the boys said to me that he did not need to go to confession. I of course asked him why? I was thinking he probably went to confession already. His answer literally floored me. He looked at me and very calmly said, "I don't sin!" I stood there shocked, just looking at him. Then I inquired, "Who told you that?" In a flippant and matter of fact manner he quickly answered, "My mom and dad!" You parents had better wake up. The definition of sin has not changed. It is still a transgression against the laws of God.
The boy in question had reached the age of reason and therefore could sin, hopefully not mortal, but venial sins. Sacred Scripture tells us we are all sinners, and for parents to tell their child, he\she can not sin is horrifying!
Some of you may think venial sins do not need to be confessed. This is true! But by confessing our venial sins we strengthen ourselves spiritual to avoid future occasions of sin. Anyone who continually and repeatedly commits venial sin and does not confess them, becomes weakened and easily susceptible to mortal sin. Again the bible tells us that the way you train a child while he is young is the way he will go when he is old. Instill the habit of frequent confession while young and he/she will not stray from this path when older.
The idea that a child of ten, eleven or twelve needs to go to confession is impossible to the thinking of some people. A good friend of mine, a priest (he is a Jesuit and I will call him Father B.) told me a fascinating and true story that illustrates this point. This particular priest was close friends with another priest (Father G.) who was assigned to a mission outside of the United States. This particular priest helped run an all boys boarding school. The time frame was the 1920's. Every morning the boys arose early for Mass. One morning just before Mass, Father G. was called by one of the boys to come to their room. His friend and roommate had died during the night in his sleep. The boy was 13 or 14 years old. Arrangements were immediately made and Father announced to the boys the Mass that morning would be for the decreased lad's intention. Father G. then went into the sacristy to vest for Mass. Father B. was there with him. Suddenly standing there before the two priests was the spirit of the dead youth. He looked at them and announced,
"Father, don't say this Mass for me. I am in hell. Last night before going to sleep I entertained immoral and dirty thoughts. I was not sorry for those thoughts before falling asleep. I died in my sleep and went to Hell."
With that he disappeared, leaving the two astounded priests.
My point here is we never know the state of any given soul no matter what their age. Remember it takes only one unrepented mortal sin to send your soul to Hell for all eternity. It is important that children are taught early the importance of frequent confession, daily examination of conscience and sorrow for their sins, whether mortal or venial. So many youths are falling into hell today. There is no one to pray for them; there is no guidance. So many parents are neglecting their responsibilities. I say, "Woe to those parents!" Our Lord in Sacred Scriptures warned us, "It is better a millstone should be hung about his neck and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea, than to scandalize one of the little ones." (Matt. 18:2-6) Parents must raise their children to be God fearing and loving adults. They must not allow themselves to be trapped by the illusions of the world and the saying, "Everyone is doing it." The world today is totally immersed in its own sensuality, with the human body becoming its own god. The hedonistic approach to life has replaced the true spirit that God intended. Parents today have got to be aware of this.
Saint Louis, King of France in the 13th century, said that his mother Saint Blanche, prayed to God from the day he was born, that she would rather have him dead at her feet than have him ever commit one mortal sin! Parents heed her example and start praying for your children.
Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph Pohle, PHO., D.D. in 1927, wrote in his book, "The Sacraments, a Dogmatic Treatise," "Today when the faith is threatened by so many serious dangers, its courageous profession against growing unbelief becomes a sacred duty, and the faithful have greater need perhaps than ever, since the days of the martyrs, of the grace imparted by the sacrament of confirmation."1 If the author felt this way in 1927, how do you think he would feel today 1997?
The abuses in the Mass today are unbelievable!!! Before going into a few abuses let me state what the Mass is. With the coming of the Savior and Redeemer into the world the sacrifices of old ceased to be pleasing to God. In Psalm 39:8 and Heb 10:5, Our Lord entering into the world said to his eternal Father:
"Sacrifice and oblation thou wouldst not, but a body thou hast prepared for Me; holocausts for sin were not pleasing to thee, then said I, Behold I come. In the head of the book it is written of Me that I should do Thy will, O God."
The sacrifice which we have in the New Law and which every day we offer in the Mass is Jesus Christ true God and true Man. These are no mere devout reflections but facts taught us by our faith. The Mass is a memorial and representation of the Passion and death of Christ. "Do this in memory of Me" (Lk 22:19). It is also the same sacrifice which Jesus offered on the cross and has the same value and efficacy. The Council of Trent states, "It is the same Victim and the same offering, now offered by the ministry of priests, who then offered Himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different. That difference being the cross was a sacrifice in blood while the sacrifice of the mass is an unbloody sacrifice."
The following are a few statements on the Mass. While reading them, ponder and meditate slowly on them.
Paul VII - "The mass is the most perfect form of prayer."
Padre Pio - "The world could exist more easily without the sun than without the mass."
Cure of Ars - "IF WE KNEW THE VALUE OF THE MASS WE WOULD DIE OF JOY."
Our Lord said to St Gertrude - "For each mass you hear with devotion I will send a saint to comfort you at your death."
St Anselm declares that a single mass offered for oneself during our life be worth more than a thousand celebrated for the same intention after death.
Benedict XV - "The holy mass would be of greater profit if people had it offered in their lifetime, rather than having it celebrated for the relief of their souls after death."
St. Teresa once overwhelmed by the goodness of God asked Our Lord: "How can I thank you?" Our Lord replied: "Attend ONE MASS!"
Our Lady once told B. Alain: "My Son so loves those who assist at the holy sacrifice of the mass that if it were necessary He would die for them as many times as they have heard masses!"
The following is a quote from the Wanderer by John Mulloy, "In pointing out how widespread abuses in the post conciliar liturgy had led to dissatisfaction and feeling of alienation on the part of many Catholics, Cardinal Ratzinger observed:
'We ought to get back the dimension of the sacred in the Liturgy. The Liturgy is not a festivity; it is not a meeting for the purpose of having a good time. It is of no importance that the parish priest has cudgeled his brains to come up with suggestive ideas or imaginative novelties ... The grandeur of the Liturgy does not rest on the fact that it offers an interesting entertainment, but in rendering tangible the Totally Other, whom we are not capable of summoning. He comes because He wills."
Keeping the above in mind, with this loss of the sense of the sacred for the Mass we see: falling in attendance even though Church Law says that to fulfill our Sunday obligation we must attend Mass or incur a mortal sin. This has not changed. How many people are so flippant with this law??? It is so obvious, because the churches are empty: Where are the people? They are home sleeping, because they were out late the night before, watching TV, mowing the lawn, going to a baseball or football game or as some say it "I don't want to go today!"
The very God that gave them life, sustains them, loves them, died for them, well they are just to busy for God to give Him one hour on Sunday. At every mass we have the greatest of miracles taking place. At the word of a lowly priest, God descends from heaven, causing bread and wine to become His body and blood!
When I was young, I was taught to talk in church unnecessarily was horrifying, to be inattentive during the mass was terrible and during the consecration we were to literally hold our breathes in awe and in anticipation of this great miracle. Today there is no reverence, only dissipation, inattentiveness, and irreverence. God is taken for granted. I once read about a Catholic and a Jew discussing God's presence in our tabernacles. The Jew said, "What fools you Catholics are." The Catholic asked "Why?" The Jew responded "If I believed as you do that God is truly present in your churches; I would crawl into your church on my hands and knees and stay prostrated at the foot of the altar in prayer and adoration." Profound thought!
This loss of the sense of the sacred is carried over into the reception of communion. First of all many approach the altar very flippant and indifferent. Their thoughts are not on who they are going to receive, but in how well they look. They are so concerned about their exterior that they have neglected their interior, their souls. Confession is neglected, sin abounds, yet they still receive Him who the heavens cannot contain, without a thought of whether they are worthy or not. Take for instance communion in the hand, prior to this practice only the consecrated hands of a priest could touch the sacred species, and even his hands had to be purified afterwards. Today the hands are not only no longer consecrated but in hands that are the instruments of sin. In California the sacred species is found on the floors in the pews and is swept up with the other debris on the floor. Where is the sense of the sacred? He is your Lord, your God and your redeemer. Where is your adoration, thanksgiving, prayer and petitions. Where are your loving aspirations, "My Lord and My God? My Sweetest Jesus, I love You!" GONE! When we lose the sense of the sacred everything else goes with it. What reason can explain why the tabernacles are regulated to the side altars or in a small room. When we enter the Church God is no longer the focus and center of our attention. Instead he is replaced by the new gods of self egotism. How sad, because this with loss of the sense of the sacred, we have lost Holy Hours, exposition, benediction, 40 hours, stations and the countless graces and merits that are infinite in value and grace!
The priest is now no longer recognized as another Christ, Altos Christos, but a minister. So goes the respect and honor due to such an exalted position. The mass is no longer the unbloody sacrifice of Calvary, but a banquet, a meal, a gathering place to come and make fellowship and talk.
This is carried through into Church Laws. If the sense of the sacredness is lost, so too the respect for the one who is the representative of God. Church law is now a matter of conscience, if you feel it is right, fine and if you feel it is wrong, fine. Each person decides for himself. ( Shades of Lutheran theology) No longer is Holy Mother the Church, who is guided by the Holy Spirit, able to tell us what is right or wrong. Never mind that her only goal is to get us safely to heaven. The Pope when speaking on faith and morals states, for example, artificial birth control is wrong, the flock says no, you are wrong, we will do as we please. The flock is now like a spoiled child who thinks they know more than their parents. The sheep now defy the shepherd and in doing so become easy prey for the prowling wolves. But then why worry, when they do not even believe the wolves exist!
One small sin of pride "I will not serve," opens the flood gates of evil and sin! "I will not obey, I know what is best for me!" But this loss of the sense of the sacred does not end here, for it spreads like a disease, engulfing our very self!
We, who are the temples of the Holy Ghost, living tabernacles, the dwelling place of the Triune God, the Trinity, now debase ourselves in the way we dress, speak and act. Instead of being pure reflections of the living God, we have become instruments of the evil one. This is his ultimate goal, to obtain forever our souls! Think on this for one minute, for all eternity to be separated from God, for whom we were created, for all eternity to be in hell, in that unending fire with the dammed and the demons, tormenting you forever and ever without end. The worst of this is knowing you freely chose this unending torment.
When you loose the sense of the sacredness, it is reflected in your dress. It is an abomination before God, the way people dress, especially women, flaunting themselves in public, instead of imitating Our Lady's decorum and quiet reserve.
When you are out in public, how often do we hear from the mouths of people, foul, dirty blasphemous speech, profaning the Holy name of God, instead of God's praises. The very tongue that receives Our Lord in Holy Communion now utters words unfit to be heard much less spoken.
These same individuals also take into their bodies further abominations to God. They take all kinds of drugs and alcohol till not only have they lost all control of themselves but also have lost the sense of sin! Complete depravity, because they have lost all realization of God's love and His mercy! Yet how can they feel a need for this when they do not even recognize the cause of their problem, SIN!
Bishop Sheen wrote: "We are living in a time when the old forms of sensationalism of a generation ago are now regarded as banal; words such as "obedience, honor and purity," which once stood for the desirable and the sacred, now stand either for weakness, or restraint of liberty." This loss of the sense of the sacredness finally invades the Heart. For Our Lord said many sins are committed first in the heart. (Matt 15:19) "For from the heart come evil intentions: murder, adultery, fornication, theft, perjury, slander." And again in Prov. 11 :20 - "A perverse heart is abominable to the Lord."
What is the answer to this madness? First begin with ourselves by doing as Our Lord said, "Remove the plank from your eye first." Ask yourself, "Where have I failed? Where do I need room for improvement?" And after you have done that, then pray, for all things are possible through prayer! Our Lord said, "Ask and your shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you." We must pray not only for ourselves and our loved ones, but we must also pray for those who have no one to pray for them. Our Lady asked us to pray at Fatima, specifically the rosary. When we pray the rosary properly, that is by meditating on the mysteries, the sense of the sacred becomes very evident. She who gave us the Redeemer shows us how a creature should act towards its Creator. Our Lady was literally a living tabernacle, the fulfillment of the Old Testament's Ark of the Covenant. Her entire earthly life was an example of how we should live. By imitating her, who was most pleasing to God, we please God. She never sinned and her will was always one with God's Will. Therefore when we imitate Her how can we not be pleasing to God?
We have as our role and model Mary. She carried within her womb the Author of all life. She nourished and sustained Him. Later she followed Him to Calvary, doing His Holy Will most perfectly. She is the Co-Redeemtrix, for she cooperated most perfectly in our Redemption. She, the most perfect of all God's creatures, knows how God is to praised worshipped and adored.
She alone can bring us back to the sense of the sacred. God is our loving and merciful Father, but He also is the Author, Creator and Sustainer of all life. The Second Person is our Redeemer and Savior, while the Third is the person the Sanctifier.
This sense of the sacred is vividly portrayed in one of Our Lady's earthly apparitions, in 1879 at Knock, Ireland. The church Our Lady choose was dedicated to St. John the Baptist. There was an inscription on the west wall that read: "MY house shall be called the house of prayer to all nations. This is the gate of the Lord: the just shall enter into it."
It was a rainy evening when the housekeeper noticed an altar with figures around it outside the Church. It was not until a little later that the housekeeper realized that the figures were alive and one of them was the Blessed Virgin Mary. To her right was St. Joseph and to her left St John the Evangelist dressed as a bishop. To the rear of the three figures was an altar with a large cross in front of which a young lamb stood, "FACE TO THE WEST". There were angels hovering around the altar. Our Lady's hands were extended apart and upward, in the same position as a priest holds his hands when praying at holy Mass. Her gaze was fixed on the heavens. Eighteen people in all witnessed this apparition.
Her very silence and prayerful attitude in the presence of the Lamb of God points toward how we should conduct ourselves in God's presence. She was silent because she wanted the witnesses to look beyond, to the altar and the Lamb ready for sacrifice.
Even though the apparition at Knock, Ireland was over 100 years ago, the very essence of its message is so pertinent today. It preceded Fatima with its theme of Eucharistic reparation and adoration, which is sadly lacking today. Yet Our Lady in another way has presented us, at a time when it is so desperately needed, how we are to conduct ourselves in the presence of God. If she who is so pure, spotless, Immaculate and full of grace has given us this example of how we are to act; who we are, sinful children of Adam, to say NO!
1 Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph Phole, Ph. D., D.D., (Volume 1- B. Herden Book Co., St. Louis MO., 1927) p. 306
Fulton J. Sheen, New York, P.J. Kennedy and Sons Publishers, 1939.
Father F.W. Faber, Tan Publishers, Rockford, IL.
Fr. John Laux, Volumes I, II, III, IV. (Tan Publishers, Rockford IL.