Is Cardinal Cupich a “prayer-denialist”?

Is Cardinal Cupich a “prayer-denialist”? June 16, 2024

A term I just coined, of course.

But the Catholic Church has, for millennia, in fact, believed that to pray is to do something good for others, not just a form of personal entertainment such as reading a novel, nor a means to an end like taking classes to get a promotion.

That belief has been fundamental to the very idea of monastic life.  Yes, monks “saved civilization” through the scriptoria, and in American history actual cloistered religious life was less common for women than the sisters who staffed schools for generations.  Modern day monks sell caskets or specialty coffee.  But the caskets and coffee and asks for donations are meant to support the monks in their “work” of prayer, they aren’t simply so that we outsiders can enable men (or women) to pursue their hobby.  It’s not the equivalent of supporting an Olympic hopeful in their training so that they can dedicate themselves to it rather than working.

And, to be clear, perhaps you, dear reader, may not believe that.  But it is what the Catholic Church teaches.

Or, perhaps it is better to switch that to the past tense:  what the Catholic Church taught.

Because it’s not so clear to me whether our leaders, at least in the US, believe that any longer.  At least, judging from the “Eucharistic Revival” and, in particular, Cardinal Cupich’s statements, they reject the value of Eucharistic Adoration (which is, of course, a form of prayer) except as a tool, a means to an end, a mechanism of inspiring people to go out and, well, not “preach the gospel,” because this is also verboten, but to go out and do good deeds.  Therefore, prayer is acceptable, but only to the extent necessary to inspire those charitable deeds — anything more is a waste of time that should be spent on those charitable deeds.  (Or maybe, since the charitable deeds most of us can do is fairly limited, we should be spending our prayer-time working more to earn more to give to charity, or maybe phone banking for approved anti-poverty candidates or agendas.  It’s not entirely clear what the logic is.)

Am I being uncharitable to Cupich?

Let’s first take a look at the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.  Up just north of the Archdiocese of Chicago, in southeastern Wisconsin, there is an actual pilgrimage.  People walking from one church to another.   It may be that portions of the route are by car, but as far as I can tell, they are keeping with the idea of a pilgrimage as much as is feasible.

The schedule is available at the Archdiocese of Milwaukee website:

On Day 1, the procession arrives in the archdiocese and there is a Holy Hour and an overnight adoration.

On Day 2, there are 14 miles of walking procession mixed with some intermediate driving, and stops at 6 parishes.

Day 3 includes 8 miles of walking procession, with stops at 5 parishes and two other sites.

Day 4:  11 miles of procession, 12 parishes, 3 Marian shrines, and a convent.

Days 5 & 6:  4/7 miles of procession and various Milwaukee stops.

Day 7:  9 miles, 10 stops.

Day 8:  11 miles, 9 stops.

Day 9:  5 miles, 5 stops, ending with a drive to Mundelein Seminary in northern Illinois/the north part of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

That’s a lot.

In contrast, here is the schedule for Chicago:

Day 1:  the “pilgrimage” stays entirely onsite at the seminary, with a three-hour event consisting of mass, adoration, a onsite procession and testimonies by the pilgrims.  This is labelled as being “for youth.”

Day 2:  an event apparently again entirely onsite, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  There are no further details at the official Archdiocese website nor even a link to the website with the schedule, which indicates that the “procession” element of the event is an hour, at most (depending on whether “Prayer of the Holy Rosary with Procession” is a rosary said while processing or a rosary, then a procession), and silent adoration is scheduled for a whopping one hour.  Ironically, the designated petition for the hour of “Adoration with the Prayer of the Holy Rosary” is “For the Evangelization in the Archdiocese of Chicago,” but it appears that organizers are pretty fearful of Chicagoans seeing any of these events.

Day 3:  the activities scheduled on Day 3 are intended for specific racial/ethnic groups:  Asian Catholics, Black Catholics, Hispanic Catholics, and Polish Catholics.  Not one of these groups?  You’re out of luck.  This day isn’t for you.  And only one of these racial/ethnic groups has a Eucharistic procession anyway, and three of the four events are only in the evening or 2 – 2.5 hours anyway (though to be fair there seems to be some poor editing as there are two different schedules listed for the Poles.  Also, there is another event specifically for young adults, again in the evening, this time for 3.5 hours, though again it takes some further digging to find more info, this time finding in the bulletin that there are 45 minutes blocked for a candlelit procession.

Day 4 is slated as a “Day of Service.”  One parish has “a carnival and more,” another “a block party with food, fun and games.”  A Little Sisters of the Poor home is hosting an event, and people are invited to make cards at the Kolbe House Jail Ministry.   Others seem to be hosting actual adoration, or have at least added themselves to the “events” list to feature their ongoing adoration chapels.  And each of the six vicarates has a mass, with some, but not all, listing as well, as one of the spots says, “Adoration and/or Eucharistic Procession.”

Finally, Day 5 includes a mass at the Syro-Malabar community and a mass with Cardinal Cupich, with “a Eucharistic procession around the campus of Holy Name Cathedral.”

Honestly, this is really sad to me.  Rather than processions in the community, which are a part of our heritage as Catholics and which are a beautiful way of affirming our faith and bearing witness publically, Cupich is putting the Catholic light under a bushel, with processions merely around the church or on closed of sites such as the seminary and the Shrine.

And after reading this, I recalled something I had come across a while ago, and dug it up again, from The Pillar:  “Eucharistic pilgrimage expected to ‘restrict’ adoration in Chicago archdiocese.”

Church officials close to the pilgrimage, who were not authorized to speak on the record, described Cardinal Cupich as “opposed” to the Eucharistic pilgrimages — saying the cardinal has raised objections among bishops about the way the walking pilgrimages might be perceived.

“You’ve got to understand,” one official told The Pillar, “he’s reluctant to have this whole affair parading down the middle of his diocese.” . . .

Along with other bishops, the cardinal has instead argued that current plans for the Eucharistic Revival focus too much on adoration and Eucharistic piety, and, for that reason could diminish a Eucharistic theology emphasizing the communal nature of Christian worship in the Mass.

The cardinal has written prolifically in recent years to propose his own vision for the Eucharistic Revival — and expressed concern about the role of Eucharistic adoration in the Eucharistic Revival project. . . .

Absent proper catechesis, he warned, “Eucharistic adoration can privatize one’s relationship to the sacrament and to the Lord himself, overlooking the communitarian dimension of Eucharistic worship, and our responsibility to engage with our community in an active way.”

Cupich has argued that the Church aims to see adoration take place in public liturgical events.

“The liturgical books that offer the pathway for adoration assume a community context — proclamation of the Word of God, perhaps some music, and a common gathering of the faithful for adoration.”

Absent that context is the prospect for excessive individualism, the cardinal argued.

“Although the prayer associated with adoration can and should be personal, it cannot be merely private and authentically Eucharistic at the same time,” he wrote.

Am I reading between the lines too much here?  After all, which does Cupich mean by “excessive individualism”?  To be honest, I am also relying on my memory here, that Cupich has emphasized the importance of service projects as more important than prayer, though I am coming up empty when I now try to find the statements that I remember in my head.

But I find it deeply sad.  Fundamentally, Cupich’s actions are a matter of “eating the seed corn,” using the resources of the Archdiocese for his social justice projects rather than to pass on the Catholic faith to a new generation, which simply has to be the top priority and cannot be a source of embarrassment or shame.

image public domain from pixabay

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