The Reactionary and the Sacraments

The Reactionary and the Sacraments October 2, 2013

In a recent discussion, a reader in the combox makes the common sense remark that there are lots of ways in which Jesus accepted honor and worship, not simply in the context of the Mass (though of course the Mass is the source and summit of our worship):

If we only look to Jesus in the Mass and/or require only one specific version of reverence of Jesus from others we miss who Jesus is.  Yes, Jesus did respond lovingly to those who were reverent, but he responded with love to those who were lost.

Right on cue, a Reactionary responds with the time-honored Reactionary insistence on using the sacraments as a way of barring as many people as humanly possible from the love, grace, and mercy of God:

The Mass is the only acceptable form of Worship to God.  You cannot worship Him apart from the sacrament.  You are not the center of creation; Christ is and we are nothing without Him. We should strive for transformational union with Christ and remember Him in all areas of life but that only comes from a proper understanding and reverence of Holy Mass.  How do you think St. Francis and Padre Pio attended Mass?  Do you know better the mind of God than the collected wisdom of the saints that have gone before us?  Better than the Apostles?  True humility you have apparently attained.


Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ – Jesus

“Offer your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual worship.” – St. Paul

One of the marks of Reactionary thinking is the eager desire to turn the sacraments into reducing valves whose principal function is to exclude as many people as possible from encounter with God, rather than to see them as sure encounters with God.  The Mass is, to be sure, the source and summit of our worship and all our acts of self-offering are tied to Jesus’ self-offering in the Eucharist since Jesus *is* the Eucharist.  But for those who do not have access to the Eucharist (like f’rinstance the Good Thief or people like the sheep in the parable who clearly have no understanding of Holy Mass since they had no undertanding of Jesus Presence at all) all is not lost.  Turns out our salvation is not actually completely dependent on “a proper understanding and reverence of Holy Mass”.  That’s intellectual Pelagianism, not Catholic Faith.  We are saved by grace, not by achieving levels of understanding and reverence sufficiently pleasing to a Reactionary’s sense of aesthetics.  And we are saved by a Eucharistic Lord who will accept the smallest sincere attempt to obey him, even by somebody who has no idea he is serving Christ.

The sacraments are intended to be sure encounters with the grace of God, not secret handshakes designed to keep the riff raff out of the Sooper Secret Club of Uber Pure Reactionary Catholics.  God will meet us a thousand miles from the Table and, if we are willing to take the smallest step toward it, he is pleased.  But he will not be satified till we reach the Table.  Reactionaries who tie up heavy burdens for the backs of weak people and do not lift a finger to help them reach the Table but only condemn them for not being there are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

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  • Andy, Bad Person

    I think this is an extension of the principle of “We know where the Church is; we do not know where the Church is not.”

    In a similar way, we know (to the best of our ability) the nature of Christ’s presence in the sacraments, and that they are our primary means of access to God’s grace. That doesn’t, however, eliminate the possibility of any other encounter.

  • Sally Wilkins

    well said

  • BillyT92679

    I’ve been blown away by what seems like close to material schism among some Catholic BLOGGERS over Francis. I’m orthodox who loves reverent worship (especially beautiful churches). I’m no fan of progressive Catholicism at all. Still, the Roman Pontiff is the Roman Pontiff and he is due our submission of will

    It’s aggravating. These same folks who quoted Pastor Aeturnus and Lumen Gentium against the material schismatic liberals during BJPII’s and Benedict XVI’s pontificates are DOING THE SAME THING as the liberals did. And these aren’t necessarily EF attending traditionalists either.

    It boils down to politics ultimately being many folks’ real religion.

    • HornOrSilk

      100% agree. A lot of Catholics on the net (not in the real world) are political more than religious, and this can be seen in how they react to Francis. He’s not helping their “political” agenda by giving “help” to “the enemy” in their view. How dare he not give the Tea Party infallible support?

      • BillyT92679

        What’s amazing is, there is great work out there by guys like Father Pavone who are totally defending Francis’ approach, and Father Z, who is often going out of his way to defend the Holy Father, even with his concerns.

        There are other, lay bloggers, who are just saying things that concern me. I won’t name names, but you can find them easily. One really concerns me as I think this person cannot at all separate politics from religion and I feel might become TOO critical of the Church going forward. I worry about this person disengaging from the Church entirely.

        • HornOrSilk

          There are many who I think are disengaging, but it is because they were not that Catholic (and many were critical of the Church in America, as it stood, but thought they could use the Pope against it, now they can’t). I do find it sad, but, on the other hand the Lutheran approach I felt was apparent with some of them. It’s not that all are like this, either, because some are conservative in politics, wish it for the Church, but understand their limitations and accept the Church’s correction. That’s fine, just like the liberals who accept correction are fine.

          • BillyT92679

            There’s two strains…

            There’s the political folks, who want the Church to be an extension of the GOP/Tea Party (just like the progs who wanted the Church to be an extension of the Dems, and circled the wagons around the war on poverty, nuclear disarmament, anti-death penalty etc without saying word 1 about abortion). These guys LURVE small government and use the legitimate “hierarchy of issues” as a way to dismiss everything outside the non-negotiables. I’ve read posts getting really ticked off at even mentioning “negotiables.” Here is dripping anger.

            Then there are the folks who really do prefer good liturgy, worship, tradition (not just Traditionalists) who see Francis as returning us, inevitably, to the bad old days, forgetting that Redemptoris Sacramentum and Summorum Pontificum are laws of the land, and that many priests and bishops are better now than before at this stuff. The subsuming issue here is fear, fear that puppet/clown/banjo etc Masses are inevitably returning.

    • jcb

      “We are due his obedience.”

      Well, that does seem to be exactly what a lot of Catholics, left and right, think.

      • BillyT92679

        We are JCB. He is the ordinary magisterium with the bishops. We owed Alexander VI obedience as well.

        • jcb

          Of course. Which means he is due our obedience, not we his.

          • Guest

            OH YOU GOT ME! I effed that one up.

            • Guest

              Though, in a sense, we are due his. He can’t be a reprobate either.

            • BillyT92679

              I made the changes, but the comment didn’t delete.

          • BillyT92679

            Fixed, thanks.

  • Sometimes, you discover how amazing God is through things like Adoration or just being around people who are so deep in their faith, you want to know why they are how they are. My college years were the best years of my life so far because it was through my education that I fell in love with the Eucharist (through Adoration), learned to pray the Rosary again, and learned the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

    Yes, this is a shameless plug for pursuing Catholic higher education. I am a nerd.

  • Larry Pryor

    So the reactionary has developed a doctrine we can call “sola missa”?

    • ::snort:: Good one.

    • freddy

      This speaks to something I’ve been noodling around. See, I call the invention of the printing press a Good Thing, but when anybody could read Holy Writ for himself, some decided they could be their own magisterium; divorced from the history and t(T)radition of the Church, and married to their own particular culture.
      Likewise, the invention of the new media I also see as a Good Thing, but access to quick info has also caused some to become, again, their own magisterium, as though having access to, say, all the Papal Encyclicals or the scribbled margin notes from the skinny scribe at Nicaea (in English!) somehow qualifies them as Serious Deep Scholars ™.
      Catholic Reactionaries are truly the children of the Protestant Reformers. They are, in spite of their claims to the contrary, divorcing themselves from the living Church and marrying themselves to the spirit of the age. (A hate/hate marriage, but a marriage nonetheless.)
      I have a great love for the older forms of the Roman Liturgy and the Church’s beautiful history. They have taught me many things, but two stand out. One is that the Church is alive — gloriously alive, reaching from the dim past right into now, and I’m a part of that life. The other is that as an American I learned to distrust and dislike authority and value my independence to the point of pride. Tough to see how that was affecting my life, and tougher still to let it go, but the better I do, the more l am liberated.

      • Jordan

        “Catholic Reactionaries are truly the children of the Protestant Reformers.”

        YES. I’ve seen immediate hate/disregard for this sentiment in comments, but I think it’s spot on.

      • Marthe Lépine

        Actually, sometimes I got the impression from reading some other Catholic posts (other than this one) that some Protestants who did come to the Catholic church sometimes still carry with them some remnants of the Protestant way of thinking. And it is quite possible that the reason is that they have not quite reached a sufficient level of knowledge of the Catholic faith and/or need to shake some ingrained or maybe life-long habits that still need to be purified. This is where people like Mark who have a charism for teaching come in. Mark is working to further enlighten people who need to learn more, and that will quite often mean to criticize things and attitude that need to be criticized. And some people may feel threatened by such criticism and see it as an attack, however this should not stop Mark from continuing his work. If I am not mistaken, challenging or admonishing sinners is a spiritual work of mercy. My 2 cents……

  • jackryan

    Mark, you’re gossiping and detracting. Francis just forbid this. Please. Get with his spirit.

    • Bill

      no, he isn’t Jack… he’s saying something you don’t want to hear

    • I’m giving this a thumbs up, because I think it was ironic humour (the clue for me is the phrase “Get with his spirit”, like “Spirit of Vatican II”). Right?

    • Pointing out people’s mistaken ideas isn’t gossip or detracting.

      It’s called fair game. The person made a really ioditic comment that doesn’t damage him one bit, but makes his ideological allies and the cause he favors look really stupid.

      Oh well. Thankfully I’m not a traditionalist because I like the company.

  • Bill Burns

    “The Mass is the only acceptable form of Worship to God.”
    This statement is a great example of how heresy starts—elevation of one good above all others. Taken at face value, it eliminates any private devotion or public liturgy, including those the Church regualrly obligates it’s ordained and religious members to practice regularly (Liturgy of the Hours/Divine Office). I hope the person who posted this recognizes this error. If not, their disagreement with the pope’s public ministry is the least of their worries.

  • Katherine Yost

    Amen, Mark. Thank you.

  • Dude, you have been spot on lately. I have agreed with almost all of your latest posts. I’m not sure if that should scare me. 🙂

    • Jonenred

      Leticia, Shea,

      Do you really call yourselves Christians?

      • Bill

        Oh, I don’t know Jonenred? Do you?

      • Nice. Yes, I do call myself that, because Jesus Christ is the Lord of my life. I’m not the first nor the last sinner to call myself one either. Thanks be to God.

      • chezami

        Yep. So does Holy Church. It does not, however, call you God the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, nor even a bishop. So you don’t get to make a contrary call.

  • Mark R

    And where is the Holy Spirit in these discussions?

  • Mike the Geek

    Umm…actually, the sacrifice of the Holy Mysteries (“Mass” to you barbarous Latin-speaking Romans 🙂 is the only suitable act of _worship_, being us offering to God the sacrifice of Himself as offered on the cross. There are lots of other ways to praise God, talk to God, offer thanks to God, and do all sorts of very good things for the sake of God, all of which are meritorious and can be means of grace, but I don’t think they can properly called “worship.” Confusion in what constitutes worship is one of the reasons Protestants accuse us of worshipping the Blessed Mother and the saints. They confuse all the prayers and songs to Mary with worship, since they regard prayers and songs to God as worship.

    • HornOrSilk

      Well, I suggest you actually read the old CE article on Christian Worship. You will see the person confused as to what worship is, is you, because there are many kinds of worship, actual worship, including the relative worship given to the saints:

      Worship is to give honor to someone. And there are many ways to honor God. Seriously, for a so-called Greek, you seem to forget the icons. Weird there.

      “Worship is the symbol of veneration and of honour. Let us understand that there are different degrees of worship. First of all the worship of latreia, which we show to God, who alone by nature is worthy of worship. When, for the sake of God who is worshipful by nature, we honour His saints and servants, as Josue and Daniel worshipped an angel, and David His holy places, when be says, “Let us go to the place where His feet have stood.” (Ps. 132.7) Again, in His tabernacles, as when all the people of Israel adored in the tent, and standing round the temple in Jerusalem, fixing their gaze upon it from all sides, and worshipping from that day to this, or in the rulers established by Him, as Jacob rendered homage to Esau, his elder brother, (Gen. 33.3) and to Pharaoh, the divinely established ruler. (Gen. 47.7) Joseph was worshipped by his brothers. (Gen. 50.18) I am aware that worship was based on honour, as in the case of Abraham and the sons of Emmor. (Gen. 23.7) Either, then, do away with worship, or receive it altogether according to its proper measure. ” St John of Damascus.

    • Rebecca Fuentes

      So adoration of the Blessed Sacrament isn’t worship?

  • Will

    “we are saved by a Eucharistic Lord who will accept the smallest sincere attempt to obey him, even by somebody who has no idea he is serving Christ.” – Makes no sense to me. If someone is being sincere in attempting to obey Christ, he/she must be aware of Christ in the first place. If they have ‘no idea’ they are serving Christ, then how can it be sincere?

    • HornOrSilk

      Perhaps if you started with the Gospels, then read authors like St Justin Martyr, you know, the classics, you would begin to understand.

      In the Gospels, you have the parable of the last judgment, where Jesus says many who said, “Lord, Lord” might not be known by him, while many who thought they didn’t know him, by the work they did, actually did. This tells us something already.

      Then there is, starting with the apologists like St Justin Martyr, the point that those who love the truth, even if they don’t have positive revelation (or understand it), can be and are following the Logos (who is Christ). Thus, those who seek after the truth in love, can be said to be serving Christ – Justin used this to explain Socrates as being a Christian before Christ, because Socrates followed the Logos.

      There is more which can be said on this, but the point is, we have to understand Christ and who he is, as the Logos, to understand how many can be serving him without knowing they are doing so. C.S. Lewis showed this well in “The Last Battle.”