ThIs Eucharistic Revival Will Bring Everyone Back to the Church

ThIs Eucharistic Revival Will Bring Everyone Back to the Church

High Time Our Catholic Church Goes Deep

The Gospel story (Luke 5:4-11) is the one Pope John Paul II set as the foundation for his new millennium appeal, in his Apostolic Letter: Novo Millennio Ineunte (At the beginning of the new millennium). This is the classic scene in which Jesus tells Peter to “Put out into deep water (duc in altum), and let down the nets for a catch.” Peter’s response is: “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” They proceed to catch the maximum amount of fish their nets can hold. Peter, filled with awe and wonder, once he realizes he is in the presence of divinity, does not feel worthy to be called. But Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be fishers of men.”

Why did the Holy Father choose this particular Gospel reading as the basis for his new millennium master plan? Because Peter’s words — “We’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything” — could not speak any more directly to the modern tsunami-like wave of secularism rolling across our planet, as well as our endless parade of parish programs that are mostly done as though God were not there (etsi Deus non daretur).

In other words, the story of the great catch is meant to show that when we try to move only under our own natural power without God (we’ve worked hard), we will flounder in the chaos of darkness (all night) and come up empty (caught nothing) every time. Jesus asks us to get in sync with him (to obey him) and not be afraid to set aside our superficial (man-powered) tendencies, as we enter the depths of a supernatural (God-powered) life.

Everything in the religious order — sacraments, devotions, teaching, scripture, moral discipline, preaching, etc. — is meant to bring us to this deeper state of being, to this Divine Connection. Jesus calls it “abiding” (Jn 15:4). The Latin for this is maneo which means “to remain” or “to stay” or “to endure” (or like the Marine Corps’ Semper Fi). This Divine Connection, this conformity to love, this participation in the Divine Life of God is the very power of the Holy Spirit and is referred to as being in a state of grace.

Yet, in our time, so many calls to NOT be “too reverent.” So many calls to NOT speak clearly and openly about what God wills for our lives … truth. Why? The pervasive strategy says, “if our religion asks too much, we won’t attract souls, because they want Christ without the cross; they want something leisurely, but nothing that challenges them to turn from the world’s way of offending God to THE WAY, which is all about pleasing God.”


Why Are the Nones Leaving

Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s amazing insights into “Why the Nones are Leaving.” He wrote this after the startling August 5, 2019 Pew Research report that revealed that nearly 70% of Catholics no longer believe in the Real Presence.

People are leaving religion in droves because it’s not religion anymore.


It’s become a charity with meetings on Sundays, and the problem is modernism. Modernism is the idea that the supernatural is out of date and unbelievable. The “de-mythologizers” tried to weed out all the miracles and supernatural elements from the gospels. For the last hundred years their influence has gained in seminaries and pulpits across the world.


Tales of the supernatural had to be removed. They didn’t fit with the modern world. Doctrines about devils and angels, heaven and hell had to be quietly excised from the faith because they were primitive and medieval and incredible to modern folk. Transubstantiation? A pious medieval philosophical explanation of what we all know is really symbolic. Supernatural revelation? No. Religion is all man made. Miracles? We know they don’t really happen …


For Catholics? The necessity of the sacraments and a life of repentance and faith? Nah.


You only had to go to Mass if you really wanted to. Lay people who were married were just as able to be holy as priests and nuns. Confession? That’s only for people with low self-esteem. Marriage? We can be flexible on that. It’s all about mercy after all.


Well, people aren’t dumb.


They concluded that if religion was really only about peace and justice and social work, then why did one have to get up early and go to church and sing dreary hymns and listen to a long, badly prepared homily by an uncomfortably over fed windbag? Why go to church anyway? If it was really only about social work, then why the early weekend pep talk with music? Why not sleep in? (You can read the rest HERE)

Unless and until we recover the “supernatural” and, like the first Apostles – once ignited by the Holy Spirit – gain the courage to boldly and clearly preach, in all charity, God’s truth while powerful pagan influencers of our time are capturing and controlling our loved ones, we will continue to erode as an insignificant “Non-government organization” or just another social club, among many.

Since the earliest days of Christianity, it has always been courage, resolve and transcendence that attracts souls. This speaks to souls that, “Something deep and real and profound is happening here.” They discover this is the Divine Life of living in the peaceful verdant pastures and restful waters of dwelling in Christ’s Presence. Let’s cast our nets in those deep waters!

It’s high time our Catholic Church goes deep!


The New Evangelization: First Things First

AKA – A Catholic Priest’s New Millennium Deepening!

I wrote the following after being impacted by, and after implementing the teachings of our new pope, Benedict XVI and our new bishop, Robert Morlino:

A few days ago, I encouraged the pest control guy (while he was setting traps in my house) to come and check out the Mass on Sunday morning. Just yesterday, I said the same thing to the checkout guy at Kwik Trip. Both of these guys had admitted that they had left the Church years ago.


Two days ago, I was standing in someone’s kitchen with a couple of guys, and I got talking about how Confession is so amazing and, with that simple prayer of absolution, we get “do-overs;” we are made a brand-new person. They both admitted they had not gone in decades and, two minutes later, we were stepping into the next room to celebrate that Sacrament. They both emerged with HUGE smiles on their faces and, I believe, a new incentive to get back into their faith. I’ve been doing stuff like this a lot lately.


Something is happening in the Church and in the world today. And, I know something is happening with me. I can’t recall many times (any?) in my priesthood that I would unabashedly – with great confidence and joy – invite people on the street to these amazing sacraments. Instead, I guess we priests felt that, “if you build it, they will come.” But, build what?


I had spent a great portion of my priesthood buying into the notion that, if we create all kinds of trendy “programs” and socials, while we kept our liturgy as cheery and entertaining as possible, people would hear about how “cool” and “fun” and “with the times” we were, and come running. We may have “held our own” with numbers in the pew, but I also noticed the average age was continuing to rise, and – where were all the men? I could see that, while this trendy approach had short-term results, the future was looking unsustainable.


It didn’t make sense. I was led to believe that “hip” and “trendy” appealed to the youth. And, we believed men didn’t go for all that ceremonial stuff – “Johnny Six-pack” likes it “real” like the rest of the world.


And now, in retrospect, I ask myself, “Why wasn’t I going into the streets to invite people to that?” And, “Why, all of a sudden, am I doing that now?” I believe it is because we now have something REALLY real to offer them.

Yes, something happened to me …

First, the Internet was invented. With the advent of the Internet, we began immersing ourselves in truth. Prior to this, we took the word of the so-called “experts” (mainly lay people) – those who specialized in such things as liturgy. These experts would give us directions and we would follow, never suspecting there may be more to understanding the deeper truths of the liturgy. Now, with so much information at our fingertips, we were becoming experts ourselves, overnight.

With truth in hand, we were shocked and appalled to discover that, up to that point, we were receiving information through a liberal/modernist/progressive (pick one) filter. Essential facts were being left out or twisted to perpetuate this modern liberal agenda. There was an emphasis on what they wanted us to know, and a de-emphasis of things they did not want us to know.

The fortunate and hopeful reality of our times is that “truth” is like a poison for the whole liberal movement. Many, especially the young who are more Internet savvy, are not buying what the liberals are selling any longer. This is one of the reasons why, I believe, our older generation Catholics remain indoctrinated in the liberal agenda – they are simply not using the internet to the degree in which young people are today. And, I believe, this is one of the main reasons seminarians today tend to be more traditional. The aging liberal professors have a much more difficult time convincing them to follow their manipulated agenda any longer.

Second, with this liberal filter lifted, I began to see things as Pope Benedict XVI was seeing them, and I dutifully followed the encouragement of our own Bishop Morlino, who expressed great enthusiasm for the direction Pope Benedict was leading us.

The light of faith in our Church was rapidly dimming, and the way to restore its blaze once again was by, first, restoring the liturgy, as Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “It is in the treatment of the liturgy that the fate of the Faith and of the Church is decided”. Pope Benedict’s legacy was in trying to recover the sense of transcendence and beauty of the liturgy.

With truth in hand, coupled with the awe-inspiring teachings of Pope Benedict and the enthusiastic encouragement of Bishop Morlino, we set out to restore beauty, reverence and a sense of the transcendence in the liturgy.


We are Reaping the Harvest of this Endeavor

Young people, especially, are coming in droves. We came to understand that while we were trying to “keep it real,” we were failing to offer something that “rang true” to them. They seem to want something the world can never give them – a Holy Father who demands reverence, a Savior who requires careful worship, and a Spirit who must be obeyed. They are looking for true, deep, intellectually robust spirituality, and they weren’t finding it until now.

Why do I find myself more freely inviting people on the streets to this? As Bishop Schneider puts it, “the renewal of the Church cannot be brought about without a profound review of our devotion to the Eucharist, which produces a new momentum and fervor in our sacramental practice.” We’ve come to understand that when the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated with due reverence, honor and beauty, it opens our hearts to receive the magnificent power and majesty of God. It is the spark that, quite literally, changes a person. Therefore, we understood that any talk of a “New Evangelization” must first begin with a “New Liturgical Movement.”

Now I know that I have something real and beautiful and true to offer people who are searching. People are looking for an encounter with the Divine; Someone who transcends them; Someone who is big enough, large enough, great enough to take care of them and lead them into an amazing new life. Now, I could look that pest control guy and Kwik Trip dude in the eye and say, “I know what you are looking for, man …  Come Home!! We have it here!!”


The Underlying Premise

Very simply, my deepest desire is for my flock; my parish family to live in deep and genuine happiness. Surveys by Gallup, the National Opinion Research Center, and the Pew Organization conclude that spiritually devout people are twice as likely to report being “very happy” than the least religious people. Secular analysts seem to be doing back flips trying to explain away the simple reality that there is no other authentic and fulfilling way to live other than a supernatural life; the Divine Life.

According to Fr. Robert Spitzer, there are four levels of happiness drawn from Greek and later Christian writers, culminating in the fourth level of happiness: Sublime Beatitudo (Sublime Blessedness). This level is not reserved for the saints alone, but is offered to every child of God. In fact, it is referred to as the unum necessarium, the one thing necessary.

Humans are pulled by their desire for the sublime, something beyond their imagination, beyond their complete understanding. To be sure, they desire love, goodness, truth, beauty, and being as they experience them in the world; but they also desire these in their perfected and unlimited form. St. Augustine describes this quest as fides quaerens intellectus: “faith in search of understanding.” Those of faith recognize this as their desire for God.

In the “Three Ages of the Interior Life,” Fr. Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange writes about it this way …

“As soon as a man seriously seeks truth and goodness, this intimate conversation with himself tends to become conversation with God. Little by little, instead of seeking himself in everything, instead of tending more or less consciously to make himself a center, man tends to seek God in everything, and to substitute for egoism love of God and of souls in Him. This constitutes the interior life. No sincere man will have any difficulty in recognizing it. The one thing necessary which Jesus spoke of to Martha and Mary consists in hearing the word of God and living by it.”

I’ve come to understand that we have, in our times, by and large, removed the very gateway into the Divine Life. Pope St. Gregory the Great who, wanting to capture the spiritual dynamism of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, posited the following order:

“Through the fear of the Lord, we rise to piety, from piety then to knowledge, from knowledge we derive strength, from strength counsel, with counsel we move toward understanding, and with intelligence toward wisdom and thus, by the sevenfold grace of the Spirit, there opens to us at the end of the ascent the entrance to the life of Heaven” (“Homiliae in Hiezechihelem Prophetam,” II 7,7).

As you can see, the gateway is “Fear of the Lord” (or “Awe and Wonder”). If there is an order, and I agree with this saint that there is, then we must break through to the first gift of the Holy Spirit in order to traverse to and through the other gifts. Or, to put it another way, “If we don’t *get this* we won’t *get the rest.*” And, we will languish in a darkened and dreary existence.

So, what is Fear of the Lord? According to Fr. John Hardon, Fear of the Lord …

“… inspires a person with profound respect for the majesty of God. Its corresponding effects are protection from sin through dread of offending the Lord, and a strong confidence in the power of His help. The fear of the Lord is not servile but filial. It is based on the selfless love of God, whom it shrinks from offending. Whereas in servile fear the evil dreaded is punishment; in filial fear it is the fear of doing anything contrary to the will of God.”

In speaking of the need for a New Evangelization, Pope Benedict XVI said, “the true problem of our times is the ‘Crisis of God’, the absence of God, disguised by an empty religiosity.”

Yes, we have gone a long way, over the past 50 years, to remove the very gateway to the Divine Life. Before the noxious post-Vatican II trend of stripping out of all things sacred, Catholicism led the way in preparing the souls of the faithful to receive this first and most necessary gateway Gift of Awe and Wonder through sacred art, sacred architecture, sacred music and special attention to the sacred offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

So, we can see that our aim is to invite souls to become more interior and to tend to union with God. As long as they linger in an egocentric existence, they remain darkened in this impoverished and diminished existence.

St. Paul wrote:

“The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14).

With this in mind, we become aware of the true or authentic nature of evangelization. All efforts must be made to assist the faithful in becoming “more open” to the first gift of the Holy Spirit: “Awe and Wonder;” to help them move from “unspiritual man” to “spiritual man.” If we miss this, we miss everything.


Laying the Groundwork for Authentic Evangelization

Okay, if you accept my premise, then let’s look at what authentic evangelization looks like, and how to lay the groundwork.

There are many great teaching aids out there (DVDs, books, websites, etc.) but, if you accept my premise, we still have the problem of what St. Paul calls, “the unspiritual man.” Much is spoken about the lack of catechesis as being the problem today, but little is spoken about a “lack of hunger for catechesis.” All of these books and DVDs are great for those who are already evangelized, but what about those who are not? What about those who have no hunger for these tools, or maybe even see them as, as St. Paul wrote, foolish?

After many years of “laying the groundwork,” I find myself evangelizing, primarily, by inviting people to attend Sunday Mass. A great help to evangelization is the realization that people are sick and tired of the mundane. Whether they are consciously aware of it or not, they have a great longing for the transcendent.

Knowing this, I have been in fast food stores, supermarkets, restaurants, etc., and I find myself leading the conversation to faith. Most of the time, I am speaking with someone who has left their faith years ago. While showing no signs of disappointment and judgment, I start speaking to them about the “heavenly Mass” at my parish. I tell them the Mass is offered “old school.” I use words like “classic” and “retro” and “vintage” (because I know they are sick of the trends and fads of modernity too), and I reassure them they will not be asked to do anything that makes them uncomfortable … they are left to simply “soak it in and pray.”

I can’t begin to tell you just how positive are the responses. They assure me they can’t wait to come, and they do. I believe we have something truly substantial and authentic to offer them. In this “heavenly setting,” their hardened hearts are made soft and supple, like a sponge. They are laid open to receive what God so desperately wants to give them: The Divine Life.


Evangelization by Way of the Mass – The Eucharistic Revival We Need

So, what is this “groundwork” that allows the Mass itself to be Source and Summit of authentic evangelization? This is what we did, in what we call an “Enriched Novus Ordo” (ENO). “Enriched” because it is inspired by the Mass of the ages. Also, it is the most loyal to the documents of Vatican II, as this Mass is truer to the VII documents, rather than the innovations added after Vatican II.

  • We began offering the Mass ad orientem (this was the most important improvement – greatest impact – and was a key teaching of Pope Benedict and Bishop Morlino)
  • We offer a communion rail (we offered a wedding kneeler – pre-dieux – at first) for the “option” of kneeling
  • We encourage (mainly through teaching) proper reception of Communion (kneeling and on the tongue)
  • We restored chant and polyphony (no more contemporary songs)
  • We added more Latin (Kyrie, Sanctus, Pater Noster, Agnus Dei, Blessing and Dismissal)
  • We no longer use extraordinary ministers
  • We use more incense
  • We added more silence
  • We eliminated the sign of peace (with permission of Bishop Morlino)
  • We encouraged appropriate attire
  • We support sacred veiling of women (Much teaching was done)
  • We use only male altar servers, and they are very well-trained (like a military honor guard)
  • We worked very hard to develop an excellent choir
  • The priest stays strictly to the rubrics and chants his parts of the Mass
  • We gave great attention to signs of the mystery of redemption (veiling chalice and tabernacle, vestments of priests, altar servers in cassock and surplice, gloves for servers touching sacred objects, etc.)
  • We made every effort to restore sacred art and architecture

While all of this is meant to assist the soul in being raised to a sense of transcendence, it also speaks of a “seriousness” of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In such transcendent beauty and splendor, it becomes difficult for the soul to remain flippant about their faith any longer. In many cases, this exposure to a sense of transcendence “flips a switch” in people’s faith lives, and they “get it” (they are illuminated) … they now know their relationship with God is the highest priority of their lives. Many, including myself, are moved to tears of indescribable joy in beholding the “Real Presence” of God in this most sacred liturgy. It is a union one never wants to lose.

This is the gift of “Awe and Wonder.” NOW, one has moved from unspiritual man to spiritual man. NOW, he can receive all of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. NOW, the truths of God are no longer foolishness but a “way of life.” NOW, the soul hungers for “the more” of God. NOW, has the man been truly and authentically evangelized.

Many are discovering the “sacred beauty” of St. Mary of Pine Bluff. The old adage, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” is not necessarily true. There is such a thing as “objective beauty.” After over a half century of bland modern art and architecture, many today – especially young people – are longing for the sacred beauty that reflects the truth, goodness and beauty of God. They are yearning for a “taste of heaven” when they come to worship. They are finding this “transcendent beauty” at St. Mary of Pine Bluff. The solemn liturgies, devotions, treasures of sacred art and a rich program of sacred music has helped many discover a profound sense of the sacred, permeating their lives with a renewed faith.