by Fr Richard Heilman | January 20, 2016 4:21 PM
“Neither theological knowledge nor social action alone is enough to keep us in love with Christ unless both are proceeded by a personal encounter with Him. Theological insights are gained not only from between two covers of a book, but from two bent knees before an altar. The HOLY HOUR becomes like an oxygen tank to revive the breath of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the foul and fetid atmosphere of the world …
The Church believes that a HOLY HOUR spent before the Blessed Sacrament does more good for the well-being of the world than whole days spent in talking about progress to the utter oblivion of the fact that the only true progress consists in the diminution of the traces of original sin; she believes that an increase of sanctifying grace in a soul is of far more value than the increase of international credit; that a group of cloistered nuns in prayer are more effective in preserving world peace than a group of world politicians discussing peace.” -Venerable Fulton Sheen
In a recent article posted at Catholic Gentleman, Matthew Christoff of the New Emangelization Project, continues to do a yeoman’s job in raising awareness of the Catholic “man-crisis” in the Church today.
“Despite the fact the New Evangelization has been an ongoing emphasis by the Catholic Church for over forty years, it has failed to stem the disastrous losses of the faithful in the U.S.. Since 2000, 14 million Catholics have left the faith, parish religious education participation of children has dropped by 24%, Catholic school attendance has dropped by 19%, baptisms of infants has dropped by 28%, baptism of adults has dropped by 31% and sacramental Catholic marriages have dropped by 41%. Something is desperately wrong with the Church’s approach to the New Evangelization.
One reason the New Evangelization is faltering is because it is missing men. The New Emangelization Project has documented the serious Catholic “man-crisis” in the United States. 1 in 3 baptized Catholic men have left the faith and of those who remain, 50-60% of them are “Casual Catholics”, men who don’t know and don’t practice the faith. Of those who practice the faith, many are lukewarm, not converted to the point of conviction, a conviction in which they are prepared to make disciples for Christ and His Catholic Church. The New Evangelization has largely ignored men, with no substantial or sustained efforts to directly confront the Catholic “man-crisis”.”
Matthew Christoff has compiled an immense amount of statistics related to this man-crisis, and has spent countless hours interviewing priests and bishops on the topic. One interview that gained a great deal of attention was with His Eminence, Raymond Cardinal Burke (go here to read).
Matthew goes on to say:
“Cardinal Burke and others have spoken about the de-sacralization of the Mass that has occurred in many places; this includes Masses which are priest-focused and not Christ-focused, the horizontal nature of “community” is over-emphasized while the vertical nature of the Divine Presence is de-emphasized, music which is syrupy and sentimental, a general lack of awe for the Eucharist by the priest and lay helpers, parish cultures which accept “going to the grocery store” attire and grabbing the Eucharist like a potato chip, a feminization of the Mass due to an over-representation of women and altar girls in the sanctuary, etc.”
I believe it begins by giving men a “taste” of what a “sense of the sacred” (awe for the Eucharist) actually looks like. I believe it begins by doing the “Archbishop Fulton Sheen thing” (see quote at the top of this post) … setting aside an evening for men, once a month, focused on a Holy Hour of Adoration, Confession, a great talk on one of the truths of our faith, and then concluding with a fraternal social to build up the band of brothers.
Imagine a man, if you will, who is only doing what he sees done. He wakes up on Sunday morning, puts on recreational attire (tee shirt or sweat shirt and jeans), gets the family in the car to go to Mass, walks up and “takes” the Eucharist (without much thought), and then comes back to the pew to check his watch to make sure he can still be home in time for kick-off. All the while, as I said, he sees virtually all of his fellow parishioners in pretty much the same mode. All of this, while they are “entertained” with flowery, effeminate music that sounds like the theme song from My Little Pony (listen here).
Now imagine, if you will, that same man coming, for the first time, to a Friday night (it can be any night) gathering of men in Church. He sees a beautiful procession of a vested priest and male servers, the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in a beautiful golden monstrance, swirls of incense, Latin hymns (O Salutaris, Tantum Ergo), Gregorian Chant played softly in the background, men on their knees before Christ the King, men in line to receive that “state of grace” through the Sacrament of Confession.
How will this man’s perspective of our Eucharistic Lord be changed? How will he attend Mass that next Sunday morning? THIS is where we MUST start!!
An antidote is defined as “a substance which can counteract a form of poisoning.” The poison we have ingested for at least 50 years is the poison of secular humanism, which has made men “spiritually sick.”
Bishop Robert Barron draws attention to this very real epidemic in our times:
“A real concrete statistic around this is that 70 percent of the baptized faithful are staying away from Mass on a regular basis. And we’re doing well in comparison with the European countries. Vatican II said the Mass is the source and summit of the Christian life … everything leads to and flows from the Mass. The Eucharist is everything, and 70 percent could care less about it. Yes, there are many reasons around why some do not go to Mass, but I suspect that, for most, they are suffering from spiritual sloth; they could just care less.”
I know that most priests would dearly love to move in the direction of more Christ-centered, reverent Masses, but many of these priests feel the pushback would be so severe that it could tear the parish apart. Much of the pushback has to do with the fact that most people have never encountered our Lord in such a reverent setting … they only know the man-centered “entertainment,” and they don’t want to “lose what they know.”
Through these monthly Holy Hours – the antidote to the sickness of spiritual sloth – these priests will gain an army of men who “get it” … who now understand that reverence is due our Eucharistic Lord. We can try to “teach” men all we want about the different parts of the Mass (from quote above: “Neither theological knowledge …”) but until they truly encounter our Lord in a setting like this, they will rarely, if ever, truly “get it.” They will remain clinging to only what they know … their man-centered, effeminate liturgies.
Please join this movement of building these monthly Holy Hours for men in every parish. For information, go to HolyLeague.com.
Also, receive this encouragement from His Eminence, Raymond Cardinal Burke …
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