Thank you so much to Deal Hudson, who generously granted permission for me to carry his post on my blog. I can’t agree more–and I wouldn’t have said it as well!
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CHRIST WAS AT MASS TODAY: A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT
By Deal W. Hudson
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - My wife, also a Catholic convert, has said several times over the years, “The Church makes it so hard to be a Catholic.” If she was really precise she would have said, “I go to Mass and it looks, sounds, and feels perfunctory — there is no attempt at ‘celebration’, which is what it’s supposed to be, right?”
For the record, I concur, completely, and with sadness.
I have addressed this issue before and each time I receive some of the same dismissive, sometimes condescending, comments such as, “I attend Mass to be in the Real Presence of Christ, what else do you need?” Or, “I don’t want my prayer and contemplation interrupted by people and personalities!” Or, “It doesn’t matter if the music is bad, the homily weak, the congregation unresponsive, Christ is objectively present!”
It is to this last “accuser” that I will address myself — because, though disagreeing, he has put his finger on the issue: It’s precisely because of Christ’s objective presence that the Mass should look, sound, and feel like a celebration, not an audition for the next zombie film.
Today I watched the parishioners as they came out the side door of the parish, no one spoke on the way to the parking lot, few smiled, and as quickly as possible they slipped into their cars already parked facing the exit.
Thought experiment: You arrive at Mass, walk through the nave, enter, and see Jesus Christ standing at the altar. You take your seat, but you kneel of course, probably trembling. After the pews are full, Christ steps forward saying, “Welcome! I thank you for being here. But I’m only here to observe.” Christ turns to the priest, lector, choir, organist, and altar servers, saying, “Please continue!” and then He suddenly disappears.
Most would agree, I believe, on the kind of celebration of Holy Mass that would result: Inspired, animated preaching; the lector reading loud and clear, with feeling; the choir and organist making music at the peak of their powers (all wishing they had rehearsed more); the altar servers moving with dignity as if blocked for a stage play; the congregation responding in full-throated unison, grateful to be on their knees.
In short, the Mass would be celebrated with a beauty and joy that breathes the breath of God into each and every one.
As they leave Mass, they are quiet – but then turn to look at each other – smiles break out, tears fall, and laughter rises, as well.
And there would be another outcome: Some would start attending daily Mass; others would no longer wear blue jeans and polo shirts; some would join the choir or volunteer as lectures and altar servers; very few would “forget” to bring a donation to put in the collection plate; the parish itself would be transformed into a vibrant, compassionate place where parishioners feel eager, rather than obligated, to gather.
The lesson? The Real Presence of Jesus Christ is an objective truth that should incite a celebration and all that a real celebration entails. He is not an objective presence like a mathematical truth or a principle of physics, which elicit detached contemplation. His objectivity is the Person at its divine pitch and beauty, the sound and sight of which transforms the subjects in His Presence.
Praise Him! Worship Him! Let Him lift you up, raising your voice and spirit in true celebration!
Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D, is president of the Pennsylvania Catholics Network and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine. He is the Senior Correspondent for Church and Culture and a contributing writer for Catholic Online.
His article originally appeared in CatholicOnline.