ChristianityRichly

Welcome to Christianity Richly

In Christianity on February 5, 2009 at 5:05 pm

Psalm 63:5 “My soul will be filled as if by rich food” (Jerusalem Bible).

Christianity Richly chronicles the ongoing conversion of a Catholic Christian drawn to the Faith by its truth, goodness, and beauty. That said, “The Church proposes; she imposes nothing,” wrote Saint John Paul II (The Mission of the Redeemer). May non-Catholics and even unbelievers always find that attitude here.

If you are not a Christian or are not sure, see my story. Your life and mine all have a stories to tell, don’t they? My reasons for Christian faith are creating love, caring intervention, and God’s constant presence with us in Christ.

If you are a Christian curious about the Catholic Church, see the About link at the top of this page, under the headline “Christianity Richly.”  About explains the reasons for the blog. See the links certainty, history, unity, authority, liturgy, community, and sacramentality.

Comments on posts are always welcomed, but if you are planning to add your thoughts, then please read On Posting Comments.

All original content on this blog is Copyright ©2009-2019 Christianity Richly.  All rights reserved.  Posts may be linked or quotations of limited length reproduced with attribution to Christianity Richly. Questions and requests for more extensive reproduction may be sent to the author at this address: christianityrichly [at] gmail [dot] com.

Why Is This Church Empty?!

In Christianity on June 14, 2019 at 7:56 pm

One of the most memorable exclamations I’ve ever heard in a homily was made recently by a passionate young priest. Gesturing to the half-filled pews, he asked, “Why is this church empty?!”

Why Indeed?
We can blame the sexual and financial scandals. Similarly, the silence from Rome to Archbishop Viganò, and to the dubia asking for clarification of Amoris Laetitia, has not helped. Beyond that, one could cite the contrast between Cardinal Cupich’s ever-anodyne statements, versus the scholars’ open letter accusing Pope Francis of the “canonical delict of heresy.”

But the decay in Mass attendance began long before these problems. Moreover, to limit ourselves to issues with the episcopacy takes us off the hook too easily. If we are praying for Church renewal (Ezekiel 9:1-6), what about us, individually? Are we willing to say, “Begin with me”?

A Muscular Christianity
James V. Schall, S.J.’s † fine short book, Another Sort of Learning, points in chapter 12 to Hilaire Belloc’s Catholic exuberance. “Belloc was much more than a folk hero. [He was] a man who made us think our faith was in fact thinkable.”

Fr. Schall’s writings are one of my touchstones for all things Catholic. That said, even he sells Belloc short here. Consider, from A.N. Wilson’s magnificent biography, Belloc’s own words, i.e., that he believed in:

Not a hypothetical God, but a real God full of beef, creator of Heaven and Earth et omnium visibilium et invisibilium.¹

“A real God full of beef,” creator of Heaven and Earth, and of all things visible and invisible! Good heavens. What a statement. How very much we need this certainty, this muscular Catholicism today—as opposed to equivocation and vagueries. Yet one almost dares not say such a thing for fear of being thought “traditionalist,” “dogmatic,” or even sacrilegious.

Empty Pews — Why?
“A real God full of beef” is the reality to which the young priest was pointing, even summonsing, from Heaven (Psalm 144:5). If we truly believed Christ is present in the Eucharist, and that the God of Heaven speaks through Word and Sacrament, then how could even one empty seat in our parishes be empty?

Lest we think Belloc exaggerates, or has engaged in sacrilege, consider this from Paul Claudel’s A Poet Before the Cross, a book that should be revered by every Catholic Christian:

The God we worship is not only standing, He is raised, all His body stretched, an active power visible in each fiber! He is above everything and holds on to nothing. But it is He who holds us, and we who depend on Him, the two of us indissoluble. He is here forever between Heaven and Earth, suspended, intermediary. He is a God fully functioning

Fully functioning, indeed! A real God, full of beef. Belloc again:

The Catholic Church is the exponent of Reality. It is true. Its doctrines in matters large and small are statement of what is. This is that which the ultimate act of the intelligence accepts. This is that which the will deliberately confirms.

As A.N. Wilson concludes:

The Mass [for Belloc] was a daily chance to be present at the material and true miracle of Christ’s incarnation . . . As often as he knelt [at the altar] . . . Belloc renewed his intellectual appreciation of the fact that he belonged to the one institution on earth founded, guided, and daily visited by Almighty God

If this is true, then Christ is always present in the tabernacle of even the most modest parish church as well as the grandest cathedral. If this is true, then the Catholic Church is the clearest mirror of Reality. If this is true, then the Mass opens a door into Heaven.

If we believe this — then “why is this Church empty?!”

 

¹ A.N. Wilson, Hilaire Belloc: A Biography (New York: Atheneum, 1984), p. 361.

² Paul Claudel, A Poet Before the Cross (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1958), p. 225.

³ Wilson, pp. 250-253.

We Believe in a Person

In Christianity on March 18, 2019 at 7:53 pm

My original title for this post was, “Before a Crucifix.”

Then I realized the point of the post was not so much the Crucifix itself, as important as it is, but rather that Christians do not have an abstract faith. We don’t take a “leap of faith.” We don’t say things like, “I have faith everything will work out,” without knowing why.

The why is is a person, Jesus Christ. We could better say, a Person. In the words of the Nicene Creed, adopted by the Church in 325 A.D., Jesus Christ is:

The only begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
consubstantial with the Father.

One must recognize not all men and women believe in God. Yet many who do, or claim to believe, seem to believe in an abstract God—a noble ideal, or a moral standard, or a systematic theology, rather than a flesh and blood reality.

Saved by a Person
The Crucifix reminds us Christ was much more than an noble ideal and certainly was not a disembodied moral standard. This is the deficiency, and sadness, of using an empty cross as a symbol. We can say that it is empty because Christ has risen. He has. But we risk missing the equally important fact that a Person died and rose:

No man understands sin until he sees it in the light of the face of Christ. He [or she] may feel mortified at the fool he has made of himself, but he will sorrow only when he sees the Beloved crucified.¹

Saved by a Look
How was Christ crucified? Lifted up on a cross, among thieves, in full view of the men and women of His day. Jesus Christ said in John 12:32, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.”

Simone Weil describes the Crucifixion as the definitive event in our lives, i.e., that we are saved by a look:

One of the principal truths of Christianity, a truth that goes almost unrecognized today, is that looking is what save us. The bronze serpent was lifted up so that those who lay maimed in the depths of degradation should be saved by looking upon it … It is an act of attention and consent.²

Venerable Fulton Sheen writes that the Crucifix remind us of our sin, our own degradation:

  • Crown of thorns: Our evil thoughts and sins of pride
  • Torn flesh: Our sins of lust; cowardice; injury to others
  • Nakedness: Our avarice; covetousness; grasping
  • Thirst: Our abuse of alcohol, drugs, and other excesses

Looking at Christ on the cross, do we see our our sins being borne by a Person? Do we appreciate the truly supernatural intervention, that God Who created us would, out of love for us, come to earth as a man and die for our sins?

We don’t believe in an abstraction, or an ideal, or a moral standard. “When I am lifted up,” Christ said. And in Him, we should see ourselves and the price of our redemption.

The ultimate sorrow is related to the Crucifix, where each of us can read his autobiography

 

¹ Fulton Sheen, The Priest is Not His Own, location 2654, Kindle edition.

² Simone Weil, Waiting for God, pp. 125-126.

³ Fulton Sheen, The Priest is Not His Own, location 2667, Kindle edition.