Friday, September 9, 2011

RKIA's Guide to behavior in a Catholic Church... part 2

(CAUTION! This is easily the most insulting series of Articles the Rev. Know-it-all has yet written.)

The Rev. Know-it-all's guide to how to behave in Church Part 2

Upon entering a Catholic Church the first thing one should do is shut up. We Catholics believe that Jesus the Messiah, the Second Person of the Trinity, The Son of the Father, the Visible Image of the Invisible God, the Word through whom all things were made is present in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

He is there, present in the way that substance is present, in that little box in the center of the front of the church. We call it the Tabernacle, in memory of the dwelling of God in the camp of Israel. (“You must make the tabernacle and all its furnishings following the plan that I am showing you.” Exodus 25:8‑9)

In Hebrew there is something called the shekinah, which means the presence of God, the cloud of His glory. The tabernacle, called the mishkan in Hebrew, a derivative of the word shekinah, means the place of the presence. That means that God lives in every Catholic church where the Body and Blood of Jesus is kept in the tabernacle (mishkan), even more surely than in the tent of the Old Testament, or in the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Solomon.

This is what we Catholics believe. If you don’t believe this, at least humor us, or maybe you should find a nice Protestant Church, somewhere they don’t claim to have God physically present, and they can chatter with each other as much as they please.

(Note to the bewildered: If you enter a Catholic church and you don’t see the tabernacle (mishkan) front and center, that may be because some liturgist has hidden it behind the potted palms or put it in a little side room somewhere near the janitor's closet because they are embarrassed by the rather odd idea that God's infinity could be present in a box on an altar. In that case, just ask an usher or a liturgical dancer or someone official looking where the Blessed Sacrament is kept. You can even quote scripture to do so by saying as Mary Magdalene said on the first Easter Sunday “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have put him.” - John 20:13)

The renowned Dr. Hahn tells a story of someone who was being questioned about his Catholic faith by a Muslim. The Catholic was asked, “Do you really believe that God became man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth?” To which the Catholic answered, “Yes. I do.” “And do you really believe that Jesus lives in the little box behind the altar in your churches?” To which the Catholic again answered, “Yes I do.” The Muslim finally said, “If I believed what you claim to believe I would find the nearest Catholic church, I would go in, fall on my face in worship and never leave the building again.”

“What you claim to believe...” Interesting way to say it. Some people are better behaved in a movie theater than they are in Catholic Church. When you come into a Catholic Church acting like you’ve just arrived at happy hour at the V.F.W. Hall, it means that you don’t believe it, no matter how much you claim to.

I once quoted the statistic that only 30% of Catholics believe in the real presence of Christ in the tabernacle. My hearer said, “Oh no, Father. 100% of Catholics believe in the real presence.” The point being made is that if you don’t believe in the real presence you aren’t a Catholic. Remember, that the word “believe” means “trust” You may not understand how such a thing can be. You may have a thousand questions, but if you trust what Jesus said, “This is My body and this is My blood”, then you believe. To believe is not to be of a certain opinion, or simply to sign off on a set of assumption. It is to trust. The idea that what appears to be a piece of bread is actually God among us, well, that takes real trust. And if you trust, you begin to know and even to feel that the infinite treasure held in that small box is the most powerful vehicle of the divine presence. It is the very substance of God's passionate longing to dwell with us.

Everyone thinks that the great commandment is twofold “Love God” and “Love your neighbor.” In fact, the Great Commandment is threefold: (Mark 12:29-31) “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord, your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” There are three imperative verb forms in the passage: Listen, Love and Love. Allow me to paraphrase

1) Shut up and listen! I'm God. You're not!

2) Love God and

3) Love your neighbor.

How many times do I have to tell you that God has this problem: He thinks He's God. And 99.99% of what He does in our lives is done to make that point. Some people think that with all this wanting to be worshiped, the Almighty has issues and should see a good therapist. Think for a moment, what is worship? There is no worship like the mindless gaze of two young lovers. Perhaps you’ve had your little prince or princess come home from their freshman year at Watsamata U. and say something like “Oh Ma, she's perfect and I think her bright orange hair, Daisy Duke shorts and multiple navel rings are charming,” or “Oh Daddy, I’ve met the most wonderful boy. You’ll love him. He doesn’t have that many tattoos and he’s only been arrested twice.” Human love is deaf, dumb and stupid. We choose a life’s partner with less care than we’d take to buy a used suit of clothing. But that’s worship. To worship is to fall in love. Unfortunately we fall blindly in love with imperfect human beings who are bound to disappoint us. The Infinite and Almighty God is the only being worthy of that absolute love called worship. God wants us to fall absolutely in love with Him because He has already fallen in love with us and He knows that falling in love with Him is the greatest possible happiness for human beings.

Now back to chattering in church. Have you ever been on a really bad date? It usually consists of some narcissist droning on and on about themselves. “I can’t stand phonies! Can you stand phonies? They’re just the worst. My friend Becky Sue is such a phony! She’s says she doesn’t like phonies, but I know she does. That just makes me so mad, doesn’t it make you mad...” or “Yeah, I got a lot of trophies for sports, I’m the captain of the school curling team. I’m really into curling it’s the greatest sport there is and I’m the greatest curler in the state. I got the state award for curling two years running You have to have real upper body strength for curling I can do 312 one armed pushups. I can show you. I’ll do them right here in the restaurant.....”

This is the point at which you realize there won't be a second date. Or has the cell phone made first dates even worse? You're getting acquainted and... “Hold on! I’ve got take this call. Where were we? Oh, yeah, you were just telling me about how you were kidnapped by pirates when you were two and you have real trust issues... Hold on I’ve got another call....”

The invention of the cell phone may be the reason that monasticism is once again popular. If behavior like this is disrespectful to some schlub on a first date, do you think it more respectful to God almighty. When people are in love they capable of long silences in one another's presence. Sometimes silence says more than words ever can. Listening matters, especially when it is God to whom we are listening. “Be still and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10), so the first thing do upon entering a Catholic Church is to shut up.


  1. We need a new bishop in Baltimore. Can we recommend you to Pope Benedict?

  2. Talk about some things which need to be said!

    This Post Nails It! Thanks Father!

  3. A timely reminder, Father! The loss of reverence for - and real belief in - the Blessed Sacrament has been growing for decades and has many causes. Among them:

    - Emphasizing the Mass as meal rather than sacrifice
    - Touting the church as the ‘gathering place’ rather than the Temple of God
    - Lack of proper catechesis
    - Mass versus populum and consequently: modern church architecture
    - The celebrant as ‘MC’ – complete with asides and jokes
    - ‘Political’ rather than religious homilies

    It won’t change overnight – but one of the most important means of change is example (cfr. Pope Benedict). And that starts with the priests and other ministers of the altar (present company excepted!). When father treats the church as if it were no different than the school gymnasium, it is hardly surprising that the people follow suit. If father and the altar servers treat the Tabernacle like the rectory safe, ignoring its contents, it’s no wonder that the congregation will do the same.

    Yes, it is a lack of Faith – but also a lack of example. “Do what I say and not what I do” has never been a convincing argument for adherence. And if “what I say” is not even demonstrative of real faith, then the congregation has two strikes against it and the next ‘pitch’ is unlikely to end in a home run.