A little while back I helped lead a day of recollection with Fr Vito, the superior of the Contemplatives of St Joseph, where I’m living out my vocation now, in hopes of getting permanently established eventually. This is one of the elements of my new vocation. We live the contemplative life for most of the week, but then on weekends we do some active ministry like retreats, talks, even helping out occasionally at local parishes. I haven’t done much of that yet, but it won’t be long, I think.
I hear from people, and read about things here and there, that there still are a lot of discouraging things happening in various parishes, where the pastors and/or the people still don’t seem to get it about “acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28), which is what our liturgies are supposed to manifest and communicate. I was concelebrating a Mass a couple weeks ago, and while people went up to receive the Body and Blood of the Son of the living God, a jazz guitarist was making the church sound something like an upscale nightclub.
But my hope was revived after doing the day of recollection at a Catholic nursing home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor in San Francisco (they only hosted the event; it was not for the residents, though we did manage to talk with a few of them—one of whom had spent almost 30 years in a prison camp in China because of her Christian faith). It was for about 100 members of the Legion of Mary, who are very good, devout people, who love God and the Blessed Mother, and who also love to pray and worship according to the beautiful traditions of the Church. Aside from the talks we gave, we celebrated Mass, the priests heard confessions while others went to the grotto to pray the Rosary, and we concluded with Benediction and more prayers. The spirit was very good, the people were open and interested, fervent in their prayers and sincere in their repentance.
It was a lovely day, and the confessions were heard outdoors near the grotto. The sky was clear, the light breeze refreshing, carrying the scents of flowers gently by. The people came up one by one to receive the mercy of the Lord, the cleansing of their sins, so that their souls could breath the freshness of divine grace once again, and the air seemed that much sweeter with each absolution.
The closing benediction with the Blessed Sacrament was especially powerful. Christ was sacramentally in our midst, enshrined in a beautiful monstrance, and all were singing his praises in worshipful tones, some hymns in Latin, some in English. I intoned the Divine Praises, one by one, and the people repeated my words:
Blessed be God.
Blessed be His Holy Name.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man.
Blessed be the name of Jesus.
Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart.
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.
Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most holy.
Blessed be her holy and Immaculate Conception.
Blessed be her glorious Assumption.
Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.
Blessed be Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse.
Blessed be God in His angels and in His Saints.
I felt I was at the heart of the Church, touching the essence of what it means to believe in the Lord, to love Him and to worship Him. There was a spiritual Presence and Power there, veiled, but just barely, waiting to be manifested as light and glory, calling us all to “take hold of the life which is life indeed” (1Tim. 6:19). This was all the more poignant as that weekend happened to be “gay pride weekend” in San Francisco, so the city, while apparently full of color and laughter, was in fact shrouded in spiritual darkness and oppression as sin and perversion were glorified as the gods of a society that has largely rejected the truth. We, however, felt safe in this little temple of the Lord, and we went forth with new courage and grace and joy. For, as I mentioned in a previous post, the words of the Scripture became all the more clear to us, that “godliness is more powerful than anything” (Wis. 10:12).
Some of the Legion of Mary people wanted us to come for future events as well, for it was hard for them to find priests: both because there aren’t so many available and because some of them aren’t interested in the traditions and devotions of the Catholic Church (go figure!). Some are quite disparaging about the piety of the faithful, and they refuse even to hold certain services in their churches (like the Divine Mercy devotion). They ought to read what the Bible says about those who scandalize (literally, place stumbling blocks before) the little ones! They think they will be rewarded for their “sophisticated” and secularized ideas of what the Church should be, but they will given millstones as necklaces instead!
Despite the bad stuff, there’s good stuff, and the good will triumph in the end. But we still need more people to keep the Faith, to live from the heart of the Gospel and the Church, to live from the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, to stand firm against the storms from Hell that threaten not only the Church but the whole of society as well. Our houses must be built on Rock. Christ has promised that Hell will not prevail over his Church—and when you offer the Divine Praises before the Blessed Sacrament, when you receive forgiveness of sins and the Bread from Heaven, when you invoke the prayers and protection of the Mother of God, when you see deep faith and love in the eyes and hearts of the simple, devout believers, you know that the Lord’s promise is true.