Reverence Can Be In the Eye of the Beholder
I’d like to respond to the letter from the traditionalist Anglican priest Thomas Raines (April 1994), which called for the priest at the altar to have his back to the people, and for eliminating the “kiss of peace” or relegating it to the end of the liturgy.
As for the first item, I consider it a privilege to witness the Consecration. Once, during a daily Mass, the priest allowed the six of us attending to stand right beside him at the altar during the Consecration. I loved it! It was nothing short of awesome. I felt, in a moment, that I was a part of every Catholic gathering, past and future. I cannot take my eyes off the altar during the Consecration. I believe strongly in Transubstantiation — it is a miracle happening before my very eyes.
As for the kiss of peace, which Raines considers disruptive and as honoring man before God: In my parish, the altar is almost in the middle of the church. People face each other, and all get a good view of the altar. At first I was distracted by seeing all those faces in front of me, but soon I came to feel as if I were sitting across the table from my brothers and sisters. I was participating in a holy feast shared with our whole Catholic family. The kiss of peace before receiving Communion is as appropriate as saying hello before sitting down to dine with guests. Why would we ignore one another just before the moment when we will all become one body in Christ? Yes, if one is in a contemplative mood, the racket of a big congregation can be annoying. But such things come with the territory — we are in the thick of our humanity, after all — and a little humor and forbearance about who we are would not be out of line.
If priests once again turn their backs to us, so be it. I would be disappointed that the amazing event of the Consecration is hidden from me, but ultimately I do not care. The Sacrament is a precious gift, to be received with gratitude under any circumstances.
To witness the miracle of the Consecration, and to be amid a chatting and vibrant laity, are not, contrary to Raines, signs of impiety or lack of reverence. Our God is Life — noisy, boisterous, remarkable, refreshing, wondrous Life!
Santa Cruz, California
Your May 1994 Editorial, “Mother Teresa & Empowerment,” was delightful. When I first heard about Mother Teresa’s address to the National Prayer Breakfast in February, I wrote President Clinton and requested a copy of her complete address. I still haven’t received an answer.
I then began looking through all the Catholic periodicals I could get my hands on for the complete text. No luck yet. Where can I obtain a copy?
John J. Osmar
Sun City Center, Florida
Mother Teresa Online
Your splendid May Editorial, “Mother Teresa & Empowerment,” needs only one slight correction. While it is true “the national press largely ignored” her talk, the text was soon “online” and available for “downloading.” I took my copy off CompuServe and gave it to interested parishioners.
Ralph St. Louis
Give Manning His Due
I am puzzled over David Denton’s statement in his review of the book concerning the Oxford Movement (April 1994), to wit: “Newman and Manning would eventually convert to Roman Catholicism, with Newman becoming a cardinal, Manning an archbishop.” This is true, but more truthful would be: “In 1875 Manning became the first Roman Catholic cardinal in England since the Reformation, Newman the second cardinal in 1879.” Why not give Henry Edward Manning his due?
Fight, Don't Quit
Regarding the guest column, “Causing a Believer to Stumble,” by Fr. Michael Dubruiel (May 1994): Frank, the seminarian in the story, should have stood strong against the neo-Modernists pretending to be seminarians and seminary professors, instead of quitting the seminary. The saints all endured adversity (St. Bernadette was ridiculed for her apparitions; St. Francis was disowned by his father). The only way to eradicate the neo-Modernist cancer from Holy Mother Church is to fight and expose it, not quit!
David Michael Trieger
Faith-Destroyers in Church
“Causing a Believer to Stumble,” Fr. Michael Dubruiel’s story of skepticism in the seminary and its faith-destroying effect (May 1994), was painful but familiar. I just returned from a parish Bible study meeting. Our pastor assured us that none of the Gospels was written by eyewitnesses — Apostles or otherwise. John the Baptist and Jesus did not necessarily say or do the things attributed to them in the Gospels. Each Gospel represents the “faith experience” of a particular community. Each author wrote what he wrote not because it actually happened, but to validate his faith experience to an audience.
Does this mean our pastor denies the truth of the Gospels? No, they are true — they truly say what they say. If it “comforts” me to believe that Jesus or John actually said the words anonymous authors put in their mouths, I may believe it. Now, does this mean I am not lying when I fabricate a story and present it as true in order to convince people of a greater truth that is really true? Would the God of Truth inspire men to communicate His Truth in this way? Well, our pastor would not use the word “fabricate.”
Vatican II’s Dei Verbum says that the Gospels, “whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught.” Providentissimus Deus called “detestable errors” the setting down of Scripture narratives as “fables and lying stories.”
If someone with an obviously anti-Christian bias made the statements made by our pastor, Catholic listeners might at least doubt them. But they believe what they hear from a Catholic priest teaching under Catholic auspices. No other person present asked on what factual evidence any statements were based, or questioned the moral or theological implications, at this or other lectures by teachers with Catholic credentials — even in the face of assertions that passages in the Bible mean nothing at all, or mean the opposite of what they seem to say.
How sad that what is said about the Bible causes believers to stumble into not believing magisterial teaching, and leaves them susceptible to moral relativism and New Age pantheism, now more or less overtly taught in Catholic venues in my locale. “My people became a lost flock, their shepherds have caused them to go astray.” I study the Magisterium and find that truth shines forth in it, but I yearn for a shepherd and believing fellowship where I am.
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We lack belief in the kind of grand narrative that alone can lend coherence to our studies and our lives.