Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Personal and Communal Conversion for Evangelization

 RORATE CAELI calls attention to a powerful address given by Bishop Athanasius Schneider in France and reported in English translation in full by Paix Liturgique. It is entitled The Extraordinary Form and the New Evangelization .  I really think people should read the full text, but here is the concluding part of the talk, which to say that I find it thought provoking is an understatement:

"The five wounds of the Church’s liturgical body I have mentioned are crying out for healing. They represent a rupture that one may compare to the exile in Avignon. The situation of so sharp a break in an expression of the Church’s life is far from unimportant—back then the absence of the popes from Rome, today the visible break between the liturgy before and after the Council. This situation indeed cries out for healing.

For this reason we need new saints today, one or several Saint Catherines of Sienna. We need the “vox populi fidelis” demanding the suppression of this liturgical rupture. The tragedy in all of this is that, today as back in the time of the Avignon exile, a great majority of the clergy, especially in its higher ranks, is content with this rupture.

Before we can expect efficacious and lasting fruits from the new evangelization, a process of conversion must get under way within the Church. How can we call others to convert while, among those doing the calling, no convincing conversion towards God has yet occurred, internally or externally? The sacrifice of the Mass, the sacrifice of adoration of Christ, the greatest mystery of the Faith, the most sublime act of adoration is celebrated in a closed circle where people are looking at each other.

What is missing is “conversio ad Dominum.” It is necessary, even externally and physically. Since in the liturgy Christ is treated as though he were not God, and he is not given clear exterior signs of the adoration that is due to God alone because the faithful receive Holy Communion standing and, to boot, take it into their hands like any other food, grasping it with their fingers and placing it into their mouths themselves. There is here a sort of Eucharistic Arianism or Semi-Arianism.

One of the necessary conditions for a fruitful new evangelization would be the witness of the entire Church in the public liturgical worship. It would have to observe at least these two aspects of Divine Worship:

1) Let the Holy Mass be celebrated the world over, even in the ordinary form, in an internal and therefore necessarily also external “conversio ad Dominum”.
2) Let the faithful bend the knee before Christ at the time of Holy Communion, as Saint Paul demands when he mentions the name and person of Christ (see Phil 2:10), and let them receive Him with the greatest love and the greatest respect possible, as befits Him as true God.

Thank God, Benedict XVI has taken two concrete measures to begin the process of a return from the liturgical Avignon exile, to wit the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum and the reintroduction of the traditional Communion rite.

There still is need for many prayers and perhaps for a new Saint Catherine of Sienna for the other steps to be taken to heal the five wounds on the Church’s liturgical and mystical body and for God to be venerated in the liturgy with that love, that respect, that sense of the sublime that have always been the hallmark of the Church and of her teaching, especially in the Council of Trent, Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Mediator Dei, Vatican II in its Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium and Pope Benedict XVI in his theology of the liturgy, in his liturgical magisterium, and in the Motu Proprio mentioned above.

No one can evangelize unless he has first adored, or better yet unless he adores constantly and gives God, Christ the Eucharist, true priority in his way of celebrating and in all of his life. Indeed, to quote Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: “It is in the treatment of the liturgy that the fate of the Faith and of the Church is decided.”

Bishop Athanasius Schneider,
Réunicatho, 15 January 2012

In a way, life is easier for me here in Ukraine because Holy Communion is normally distributed by intinction and hence on the tongue. I had the privilege of distributing Holy Communion in the Latin Cathedral of Lviv on 1 February, for the opening of the jubilee celebration for the 600th anniversary of the translation of the episcopal see from Halych to Lviv. In the front part of the Cathedral where there are no pews, everyone kneels where they are for Communion and the priest comes around.

When Bishop Schneider speaks of "conversio ad Dominum" as a prerequisite for the new evangelization and links the physical turning "ad Orientem" to the change of heart, suggesting that linear worship focused on the Lord is apiece with such a conversion, he offers us a worthy insight and a challenge.

What renders the firmness and determination of the  Bishop most credible for me is his paralleling it to the Avignon exile of the Papacy and the intervention of St. Catherine of Siena to return the Pope to Rome. As then, so now, the decision to return will be made on high... and with much fear and trembling. We dare not repeat the violence of the 1970's which brought this rupture to be.




  1. Thanks your Excellency! I intend to read this soon. I'm becoming more and more converted to ad orientem. I pray the Mass to the East on my day off or on Saturdays (no vigil) and the college students seem to like it. I don't think I could go fully East (if you will) at least not at this point.

    Additionally, communion rails. Holy cow. I've assisted at my brother's parish (in St. Louis, run by ICRSS) and the experience is germinating. I watch my faithful who try to receive reverently but have to turn a sharp 180 and keep walking. How unkind it is for them to not have a moment of recollection before they return to their pew? They deserve recollection, they deserve the rail. Or so it seems to be growing within me.

  2. Three pastors ago in my mom's parish in Kansas, I witnessed when my vacation fell during the school year the positive effect on children when Father occasionally had them come to the rail to receive Holy Communion at school Masses. You've got it: the words are two - time and recollection. God bless!


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