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The Majesty of the Eucharist – Book Club

December 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

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An Introduction to the Devout Life (Week 5 of 14)

If men of the world ask why you communicate so often, tell them that it is in order that you may learn to love God, that you may be purified from your imperfections, delivered from your perplexities, comforted in your sorrows, strengthened in your weakness. Tell them that there are two classes of men who need frequent communion – those who are perfect, since surely they above all men should draw near to the Source and Fountain of all perfection, and the imperfect, in order that they may learn to be perfect; the strong that they may not lose strength, the weak that they may become strong; the sick in order to be healed, the healthy that they may not be sick; and that you who are imperfect, weak, and diseased need constant intercourse with your Perfection, your Strength, and your Physician. Tell them that those who are not encumbered with worldly business should take advantage of their leisure, and communicate frequently; and those who, on the contrary, are pressed and harassed require it the more, for he who labors long and hard needs solid and abundant food. – An Introduction to the Devout Life, p. 103 (Part II: Chapter XXI, Paragraph III)

The Majesty of the Eucharist

The words from the passage above should be read with great passion from every pulpit in every Catholic church throughout the world. Let’s share them with our pastors, read them to our children, pass them along to our friends! Were this teaching understood, grace would flow like a rushing river through great cities, rambling suburbs and small rural towns, cleansing our hearts, purifying our souls and building each of us up in the Body of Christ!

Clearly, we, as Catholics, must be reeducated (or educated, as the case may be) on the absolute necessity of the Eucharist as spiritual food, without which our souls would starve. This is not easily done in a world that eats in excess and treats food, not as nourishment, but as a form of entertainment. The profound significance of the Eucharist for our spiritual health is easily lost in its simplicity for a culture that eats – not for physical health, but with flavor and extravagance to calm our cravings and titillate our taste buds.

There are other cultural barriers besides our hesitation to recognize what appears to be a small wafer as an item of significant necessity. Father Shannon Collins, in Living the Eucharist, points to other attitudes indicative of our materialist society and the effects they’ve had on the Sacred Liturgy. He reflects:

Modern man lives in a consumer society and approaches anything holy with a complete lack of understanding. Modern man does not appreciate the Majesty of God nor recognize his own insignificance before the presence of the Infinite, the Awesome. And at best, God is oftentimes seen as a buddy – a pal – and one can see this in most of the liturgies practiced in the Latin Rite. The sanctuary, for example, in many parishes, has become more like a living room. The altar was lowered. Communion rails were a thing of the past – they defined the Holy of Holies and they might be perceived by modern man as being uninviting. Kneelers were removed from some places, for kneeling as a posture suggests that Someone is above us and that we’re below Him. Church architecture, too, changed, for high ceilings and majestic interiors made modern man feel small, insignificant, finite. And instead of turning towards God in adoration, instead of facing the Lord of Lords, pleading for mercy, Masses were now turned towards the people. “Entertain me, Father, for I don’t get much out of Mass.” That became the cry of the modern participant in the liturgy.   

I’m sure we’ve all witnessed these changes in parishes throughout the world – or at least, the effects of these changes. The lack of grandeur, awe, and reverence at many Catholic churches has caused belief in the Real Presence to dwindle. (I suppose we could have a “chicken and the egg” debate, but the correlation is clearly present.)  After all, if the priest doesn't even acknowledge the sacredness of the sacraments, why should we get all excited about them?

The fact is that presentation matters.  Don't believe me?  Try giving someone a diamond ring in a brown paper sack, and watch how quickly they question its authenticity.  Now imagine how delicately and with what wonder they would have handled the gift had you offered it in a beautiful velvet box with satin lining.  Presentation of the Eucharist matters as well, even for those of us who desperately long to approach God with the reverence He deserves.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit has been working overtime in recent years to sprout seeds of hope. Several churches around the country have begun to recognize the need for change, and the tide may be turning.

Since his arrival at St. Peter Church in Omaha, NE, our pastor, Father Damien Cook, has made painstaking efforts to restore the Sacred in the liturgy. St. Peter's – specifically the changes implemented by Father Cook, as well as their far-reaching effects – is even the subject of an inspiring documentary entitled,  Where Heaven Meets Earth: Restoring the Sacred at St. Peter Church, which has aired more than once on EWTN (Be sure to watch the trailer and pass it along!).

From the use of altar rails to hosting an amazing annual Eucharistic procession on the Feast of Corpus Christi, Father Cook has done everything he can to rekindle in the hearts of our community a love for Christ in the Eucharist as well as awe and wonder in His Presence. In the documentary, Father Cook acknowledges the frailty of the human condition and says that the Church has long recognized a need to provide Holy Distractions, which redirect us to our Lord. He mentions the importance of music, architecture, art and preaching, among other things, and he explains,

“The Church really should work in concert as a whole like a symphony… Every aspect is there for a reason. And it’s there to bring you, even in a distracted state, back to Jesus, back to God, back to His central mission.”

Since the arrival of Father Cook, the parish family of St. Peter Church has grown exponentially and consists of parishioners who travel from all over Omaha.  Why? Because we, who pray constantly, “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24), recognize our human need to be ever reminded of the Presence of Christ. We are reminded of the glory of God when our eyes scan the beautiful stained glass windows depicting Christ's life. When we hear the heavenly music or ponder the glorious artwork, we are inspired.  When we hear the passion with which Father shares the Gospel, we are edified.  When we witness the reverence with which he offers the Mass and his servers assist, we are transported to the Heavenly Jerusalem.  At every Mass, our senses work together to remind us of the Great Majesty of Christ, veiled in the Blessed Sacrament.

May other pastors follow the example of  Father Cook, and may every Catholic Church foster an environment that reinforces our confidence in the Real Presence of Christ and His Majesty in the Mass.

 

Reading Assignment:

Week 5 Part 3: Chapter 1-5

 

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you ever have trouble believing in or staying focused on the Real Presence? If so, what strategies do you use to re-engage?  How does your parish environment support you in your efforts to revere Christ in the Blessed Sacrament?

2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

 

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

For More Information on the Book Club:  http://spiritualdirection.com/csd-book-club

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the SpiritualDirection.com book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at pelicansbreast.com

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  • RobinJeanne

    I love this article.
    I sew the banners for our church. It is a very modern place church and I’m trying
    to bring beauty to the atmosphere…. using symbols and images that like Fr.
    cook said, to have Holy distractions. I have most of the Liturgical seasons
    complete but looking for idea to make the rest of the church, like the narthex a
    place that when you enter, you know you are in a church. Sure we have a statue
    of St. Francis, a good size crucifix (so high up I didn’t notice it for over a
    year) picture of the pope and bishop….but the 18′-20′ white baron walls… so
    cold… once entering the front doors the first thing one sees after St. Francis
    is the doors to the restrooms on either side of him. @ giant bulletin boards on
    either side of the door entrance… it’s like coming into a hall that could be
    for almost anything.

    Anyone have suggestions of a web site for ideas or a book????

    • Camila

      This is a big picture book – it will give you a solid ground on the concept of beauty and architecture.

      Book: Ugly as Sin
      Author: Michael Rose

      • Vicki

        I own this book, but have only skimmed it. I’ll have to give a second look. I’m the worst when it comes to buying books at this or that conference and then letting them stack up – there just aren’t enough hours in a day to read all the great books out there:).

        • Karen

          I also have that book but I’m always hesitant to read it because I just know it’s going to anger me or be depressing. It was gift. :/

    • Camila
      • RobinJeanne

        WOW…. I could SOOO do a sancuary simular to that in our church. It’s simply yet sacred feeling….
        Thanks Camila for the web site and i found the book you meantioned at Amazon for $3.95.
        Seeing things like this gets me so excited to create. Now I just have to find someone to want me to do it…

  • MaryofSharon

    Thanks for sharing that documentary, Vicki. Everyone should take a look at Where Heaven Meets Earth. It is deeply inspiring and hopeful. And then we should share it with any priests who might be receptive to it. It is a powerful testimony to the power of the beautiful and the sacred to draw souls.

    The challenge for me is that as I grow in relationship with God and in a sense of his majesty and how little I am and how worthy he is of our flat-on-our-faces adoration, the more I become frustrated with most parishes and most liturgies. What I find most conducive to praying the Mass with my whole heart is a priest who communicates that he is doing the same by taking care to offer the Mass with deep reverence, attentiveness, and fidelity to the rubrics, surrendering himself to the heavenly realities in which he is privileged to participate.

    I find myself church hopping, at least during the week, so that I can attend daily Mass in the most beautiful churches with the most reverent priests. I know “the Mass is the Mass” and that we should plant roots in a parish community in which we can serve and be served, but even St. Ignatius advises people to search for the place that is most conducive to prayer, and why should Mass, the source and summit of our whole lives warrant any less of a search? It’s a tension, to be sure.

    There is a remarkable parish nearby which has not-so inspiring modern architecture, but in which the pastor has done much to restore a sense of the sacred. For example, he replaced the pink wall-to-wall carpet in the sanctuary with marble flooring and a few elegant rugs. Why just tonight I attended their Night Prayer (Liturgy of the Hours) before the exposed Blessed Sacrament. The use of dim lighting with the Blessed Sacrament highlighted, incense, beautiful vestments, careful pacing with pauses for silence, the priest praying with us facing the altar, Latin chant, and more made the experience such a deeply prayerful one. Thanks be to God for priests who are willing to make the investment in such carefully orchestrated and sacred liturgical opportunities for their flocks.

    And if anyone’s interested, here’s a great series on YouTube about sacred architecture done by one of the finest church architects in the nation, Denis McNamara.

  • MaryofSharon

    Vicki, I can’t get your post out of my mind. You have put into words that which I have not been able to make sense of in my soul. I am now able to understand that what I have been experiencing could be described as the grace of a “desperation for reverence”. This desire will never fully be satisfied on earth, so in a sense, I am destined to frustration as long as I live, but on the other hand, I also, from time to time, find myself so exceedingly moved and grateful when I find such reverence and beauty in a liturgy. It is hard to balance a detachment from created things (including reverent priests and beautiful sacred music and architecture) and a need to live sensibly within the dictates of my state in life and my geographical limitations, and this desperation for reverence with which I find myself. If I could throw all prudence aside, I think I’d fly out to Omaha every Sunday and go to your parish! You are so blessed to be there.

  • Penny

    Hi Vicky, Is there something wrong with girls serving at the altar? I have a daughter who loves doing it, as a service to her church and for love of her Creator, but it has come to her attention that some people think that girls should not be altar servers. If this is true, I would like to know the reasons why.
    Thanks!

    • Vicki

      Penny, Thanks for your question. I’ve attached a link to a recent interview with Cardinal Raymond Burke about “the Catholic ‘Man-Crisis’ and what to do about it.” The article is about the participation of men in the Church as a whole, but he directly addresses the question of girls serving as it relates to that. I send this article as opposed to one solely addressing servers because the issue is bigger than one of serving Mass, although as relates to vocations, it seems that piece is singularly important. God bless you! http://www.newemangelization.com/uncategorized/cardinal-raymond-leo-burke-on-the-catholic-man-crisis-and-what-to-do-about-it/

  • Monica

    When I begin to lose focus on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, I first and foremost off all distractions that may interfere during Holy Mass and redirect my mind so that it’s solely focuses on meditating on Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. What also helps me is offering a Hail Mary during the Consecration and before and after Mass and Communion. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, may the whole world burn with love for You.

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