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.

Where’s the Beef?

In Christianity on December 26, 2019 at 9:14 pm

Humanly speaking, 2019 was abysmal for the Catholic Church.

  1. News included ongoing sexual scandal and immense financial impropriety.
  2. Pew Research suggested that slightly less than one-third of Catholics who attend Mass actually believe what the Church teaches.
  3. Responses from Rome often seem veiled in silence and ambiguity (see Why is This Church Empty?).
  4. Extraordinary churchmen like George Cardinal Pell of Australia seem to have been hung out to dry (perhaps as a result of his work in Rome to clean up the financial mess?).
  5. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was characterized by The National Review as an “ugly, incompetent bureaucracy” that has “lost track of their mission to sanctify and are failing even in their attempt to be mere business administrators.”

As one faithful pastor said, “The worldwide College of Bishops is apparently getting their advice from the firm of Aimless, Pointless, Graceless, and Feckless, LLC.”

Maybe Why Is This Church Empty! asked the wrong question. Maybe we should ask, “Why has anyone stayed?”

Here is why: reality.

In the film version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, Galadriel says: “Some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth.” This perfectly describes the sense of reality lost by too many Christians — Catholic and otherwise. We so easily drift into casual Christianity.

Check your faith. Are you baffled or encouraged by the following statements?

  • “Well, if it’s only a symbol, then to hell with it.”Flannery O’Connor’s defense of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
  • [He is] “not an hypothetical God, but a real God, full of beef.”Hillaire Belloc’s response to the loss of history and today’s increasingly abstract faith.
  • “[Justice Antonin Scalia] was struck that the Mass was of such importance that the priest would offer it even if no one else came.”Rev. Paul D. Scalia regarding his father’s faith.

How often have you heard someone complain of the Mass, “Oh, I don’t go to Mass anymore because I didn’t get anything out of it.” That’s like the Wendy’s commercial in which actress Clara Peller exclaims, “Where’s the beef?” Flannery O’Conner, Hillaire Belloc, and Justice Antonin Scalia knew exactly where the beef was and is. Reality.

Reality is is why hundreds of thousands of us have not left the Church. But we must understand:

  • We don’t “go to church.” We go to Mass.
  • We don’t occasionally “take communion.” We receive the Lord’s body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist.
  • We see the Lord and say with Peter, who also faced the opportunity to walk away, “Lord, to whom shall we go?

Catholic Christians need today need the knowledge — either renewed or newly acquired — that God not only came to earth at Christmas as Baby Jesus, but also that He comes daily in the Mass. Christ is the Eucharist, He is not just “spiritually” present.

In the Sacraments, something actually happens. A transaction occurs between Heaven and earth. The Sacraments aren’t just “ritual.” They are not just symbolic actions, although the symbolism when understood is beautiful. No!  Grace is given.

We can hope for a renewed commitment to teach, govern, and sanctify among the entire episcopacy. Thanks be to God for our faithful bishops and priests fulfilling those roles, and there are many, but 2019 demonstrated we need more.

Yet as Robert Cardinal Sarah pointed out in the very first chapter of his 2019 book, The Day is Now Far Spent, the real solution is this:

If you think your priests and bishops are not saints, then be one for them.

So again — the question, “Why has anyone stayed in the Church?” Why strive to become saints? Why?

Jesus Christ is real. He became a man. He entered history. His life is well attested historically. His constant presence remains with us in The Eucharist. So, why has anyone stayed? The answer: because the Mass remains the “one great reality . . . in an age of unsubstantial insincerities.”¹


¹ Fr. F.X. Lasance, “Introduction,” The New Roman Missal in Latin and English (New York: 1945), p. 12.

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 (read Ezekiel chapters 8 and 9, but particularly Ezekiel 9:6), then what about us individually?

Are we willing to say with the Lord not only “Begin at my sanctuary,” but “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 many things Catholic. That said, even he sells Belloc short here. Consider 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 Belloc biographer 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.