What Would You Do to Heal Our Church, If You Were Made Pope?

What Would You Do to Heal Our Church, If You Were Made Pope?

What Would You Do to Heal Our Church, If You Were Made Pope?

Last night, we recorded our Grace Force Podcast that will air on Wednesday night at 6:00pm CST (See HERE). We were honored to have the great Catholic theologian and author, David L. Gray, on with us. Our topic was, “Are Prophecies Speaking to Our Times.” This was a very dynamic discussion that ended up leaning toward trying to discern what God is asking from us, today, through these prophecies.

Toward the end of our podcast, I asked David Gray, point blank, “Okay, If you were made pope tomorrow, what would you do to heal our Church and, subsequently, heal our world?” David’s answer surprised me, not because I felt it was unusual, but because I would have answered this question in the exact same way.

David said only this, “I would mandate all Masses offered ad orientem.”

I wanted to jump out of my chair and do a jig! I couldn’t believe he chose this. And, again, I would have said the exact same thing. Why?

My great hope is that I have gained wisdom over my 33 years of priesthood. If I have, I believe this wisdom has led me to this simple truth: My primary mission is to do everything I can to bring people to the point in which they cry out, “My Lord and my God!”

Why is this my primary mission? Because, as a Good Shepherd (Hopefully), I want to “lay down my life for my sheep” (John 10:11). I want to lead them to verdant pastures and restful waters and right paths (Psalm 23). I want my flock to be HAPPY. How can I best lead them to happiness? Well, we can actually let the “science” help in answering that.

In a previous article, I wrote:

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.

I went on to outline the 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. Anselm describes this quest as fides quaerens intellectum: “faith in search of understanding.” Those of faith recognize this as their desire for God.

Last week, I was complimenting my altar servers in their military level attention to precision. I went on to tell them that this is helping everyone “truly believe that is God on the altar.” In fact, I told them, you are helping them to pray, “My Lord and my God!”

This is also why I have poured myself into such things as offering Confession 24/7 with my rectory Confessional. Without grace, “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). I simply MUST do all I can to help people get back into and stay in a “State of Grace” … to be the “spiritual man” who can now discern spiritual things.

This is why I am adamant that sacred art, sacred architecture, sacred music and the most sacred offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are PARAMOUNT. I’d feel like a “false prophet” if I didn’t care about these things, as they are all instrumental in helping the soul get to that place in which that can cry out, “My Lord and my God!”

So, it simply was not optional for me to move in the direction we have at St. Mary of Pine Bluff over the last several years, You can see that offering the Mass ad orientem leads the list, and is the most necessary move toward reverent worship …

  1. We began offering the Mass ad orientem (this was the most important improvement – greatest impact)
  2. We offer a communion rail (we offered a wedding kneeler – pre-dieux – at first) for the “option” of kneeling
  3. We encourage (mainly through teaching) proper reception of Communion (kneeling and on the tongue)
  4. We restored chant and polyphony (no more contemporary songs)
  5. We added more Latin
  6. We no longer use extraordinary ministers
  7. We use more incense
  8. We added more silence
  9. We eliminated the sign of peace
  10. We encouraged appropriate attire
  11. We support sacred veiling of women
  12. We use only male altar servers, and they are very well-trained (like a military honor guard)
  13. We worked very hard to develop an excellent choir
  14. The priest stays strictly to the rubrics and chants his parts of the Mass
  15. 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.)
  16. 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.

We all, more easily, cry out, “My Lord and my God!” By the grace of God, we have all moved into the fourth level of happiness: Sublime Beatitudo (Sublime Blessedness).