You might think that this is a grumpy-the-grump post on bad liturgy with a title like “the End of the Mass,” but it is not. The “end” simply means the goal of something. The Greek word telos was appropriated into the English to mean “the end term of a goal-directed process.” For philosophy students out there, it’s the final cause. What is the telos or goal or end of a pencil? Writing.
What is the goal or telos of the Mass?
We will get to that, but—okay—permit me one grumpy-the-grump story in contrast. Last year, I was traveling across Florida. In Tampa, I stopped into a Church one afternoon. I kindly told the secretary of the parish that I was a traveling priest and that I’d like to offer Mass. She was confused, and asked if I had a group of people to join me. Maybe a youth group? When I told her that I did not have anyone else, she simply couldn’t imagine why I’d be offering Mass…and refused me.
She was a kind woman, but perhaps she believed that the Mass would have no value without people receiving Holy Communion. Clearly, she did not have an evil will. But this account demonstrates that theological ignorance can have the same outcome as a malicious will (eg. one less Mass in the world, in this case.) Would that every Catholic Church secretary in the world read this single post!
The month of July has traditionally been consecrated and devoted to the Precious Blood of Jesus. To learn the telos of the Mass would be a great resolution for this month. To reveal those goals, I want to show the prayer that every priest (before Vatican II) would pray before the Mass. It’s in Latin, but with the English there, too. I give here my translation a bit more word-for-word:
I will to celebrate Mass and to confect the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the rite of the Holy Roman Church, unto the praise of the omnipotent God and all the Triumphant Church, for my good and the good of the entire Church Militant, for all who have commended themselves to my prayers—in general and specifically, and for the happy state of the Holy Roman Church. May the omnipotent and merciful Lord grant us joy with peace, amendment of life, space for true repentance, consolation of the Holy Spirit and perseverance in good works.
Jesus offers Himself in the sacrifice of Calvary at the Mass. This prayer tells us, in the order of importance, the ends of the Mass, taking the italics below from the prayer above:
1) The Blessed Trinity: Unto the praise of the omnipotent God.
2) The priest: For my good.
3.) All the Saints: All of the Triumphant Church.
4) All the Catholics on earth: The good of the entire Church Militant.
5) Those who have generally given themselves to the prayers of the priest: For all who have commended themselves to my prayers—in general.
6) Those who have commended themselves specifically to that priest’s prayers at Mass: For all who have commended themselves to my prayers…specifically.
7) For the happy state of the Holy Roman Church.
Notice that at the end of that prayer, I ask God to “grant us joy with peace, amendment of life, space for true repentance, consolation of the Holy Spirit and perseverance in good works.”
I have done this prayer almost every day for five years, spoken right before I offer Mass. It makes me think about why I’m doing it. Jesus offers Himself first in an act of infinite love to the Blessed Trinity, even if the priest has no altar server. That means that the priest offering Mass brings infinite value to the world when he offers Mass—alone or with thousands in attendance. Another reason to ignore numbers is because the Mass has billions of angels in attendance, anyway. One should really have a holy fear of God when you consider that at consecration even Mary adores, from the highest point in heaven.
When Church authorities put Padre Pio (see picture above) under interdict for ten years, prohibiting him from offering anything but a private Mass, was Padre Pio’s Mass of any less value during those ten years? It’s my unproven opinion that Padre Pio’s suffering (conjoined to Christ’s merits in the Mass Pio offered) deferred the wrath of God from ending the world during two World Wars.
Mary told the children of Fatima, after the main apparitions, that souls fall into hell “like snowflakes” every day. Thus, we can not hope that “all men be saved.” The Mass is offered for the salvation of the world—whether or not physical people be in attendance or not.
Giving glory to God and the salvation of souls is the telos of the Church, whether or not anyone show up. This is the theology that will determine if Mass be worship or entertainment. This is the theology that informs every vocation: that we must strive to please God, and not men.
The topic of mercy in the confessional is a different topic from today’s Supreme Court Decision. First of all, I believe in infinite Divine Mercy. Every person is made in God’s image and likeness. Jesus Christ on the cross can restore that likeness of God to anyone—those struggling with same-sex attraction—as well as those struggling with other issues. That’s no problem for God.
But today’s Supreme Court decision is a problem of government regulation of family, so we’ll consider this in three sections:
- CIVIL RIGHTS
- CHURCH AND STATE
- THE CHURCH AS A WITNESS IN THE WORLD
I’ll be traveling across the country, so this will be my last post for a couple weeks. That’s why it’s so long. So take your time, or read it all in one gulp.
I. CIVIL RIGHTS
CNN’s opening story today shows a picture of a young African-American man waving a rainbow flag and the headline reads: “In a landmark opinion, a divided Supreme Court ruled Friday that states cannot ban same-sex marriage, establishing a new civil right and handing gay rights advocates a victory that until very recently would have seemed unthinkable.”
If it is truly a civil-rights issue, why has the media nearly ignored the fact that black Christians across the country nearly-categorically abhor the thought of gay-marriage as a civil rights topic like their own battle? They find it offensive to compare sodomy to having black skin. Consider the rapper Bizzle’s take on gay-marriage:
“Sayin’ it was the way you was born and I’m sure you lust like I do, just in a different form. But I’m married, so if I give into mine, I’m a cheater; if you give into yours, you just fight to make it legal…We were all born in sin. But Christ died so that we could all be born again.”
Let’s consider the African-American community outside of the rather predictable Bible-believing world of Pentecostals and Baptists. Let’s consider urban, black California, and their take on gay-marriage as a civil-rights topic. Did you know that in 2008, a whopping 70% of black voters voted against considering same-sex unions to be called a “marriage”? This means that even non-Christian blacks do not see gay-marriage as the same as a civil-rights movement.
Finally, on the topic of Civil Rights, it’s important to realize that not all gay leaders in the world see the issue of gay-marriage as as one of Civil Rights. For example, the homosexual mayor of a French town believes the following about gay marriage:
“As a society we should not be encouraging this. It’s not biologically natural. We [gays] do not have the fertility, in the sense of making a baby. We have plenty of other forms of fertility..artistic, for example, and other forms of fertility..In my case, I feel I’ve connected with my village, and I’ve reinvigorated a village that was dying, fading. I know how to create ties within my community. In summary, the law I advise would be whatever’s best for the child. One must favor what is best for the child. Nobody can deny, I believe, that it’s best for a child to have a mother and a father who love each other as best they can.”—Jean Marc
Now whose civil rights are being considered? The children? Or only the parents?
Finally, before we get into the philosophy of marriage in the Church and State, let me give one more obvious statement: Sodomy was not legalized today. That has been legal for a long time. It’s about the control of the Church by the State that goes a lot deeper.
II. CHURCH AND STATE
Many people cite “the separation of Church and State” as an argument for gay-marriage. First of all, the term “separation of Church and State” is not in the Constitution, nor in the Amendments. It comes from a letter by Jefferson to a Church assuring the Christian community that the State would not trample the rights of the Church, not vice versa.
Since gay marriage is a biological impossibility (Since when do Christians despise science?) then the only question that remains is this: Is gay-union a government issue or a sacramental issue? If it’s a government issue, then yesterday’s decision regulated private acts. If it’s a sacramental issue, yesterday’s decision regulated public acts.
But we all know that private acts of marriage have been unregulated for some time in this country.
Thus, the government now regulates the public witness of marriage. In fact, the English word liturgy comes from the greek leitourgia, meaning a public act of worship. If the witness of a “leitourgia” must answer to Obama, it’s only a matter of time before priests like me are put in prison. Bring it. Already a priest in Canada is in prison for this. Maybe he’s like the Apostle Paul: “Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.”—2 Cor 11:23.
Bring it. I decided to forfeit a family not to be fed cakes and pies by comfortable parishioners but to follow in the footsteps of my hero, St. Paul.
The reason the government is inept to rule on marriage is because marriage is based on matter and form, where the government repeatedly says that emotions can be shared by people of opposite or same-genders.
Of course they can.
However, “to define marriage as primarily an emotional relationship…would put the government in the business of defining and even regulating marriage.”
So, if love is primarily emotional, then the complementarity of man and woman in the marital embrace is not substantial to marriage, but accidental. If it’s accidental, then gender is a social construct, not one of biology. (You may have noticed that these are sacramental terms: Substance and accident.)
If love is simply emotions, then there is no problem with gay marriage. But the sacrament of marriage is founded upon natural law holding that that which is complementary is substantial, not accidental, especially (but not exclusively) within the act of procreation.
Where is love found? In the emotions or in the body? You might think that the Christian answer is “in the emotions.” But it’s not. This is because we’ll not be judged on our emotions, but rather “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.“—2 Cor 5:10. Or just look at a cross and wonder if feelings defined love then. Rather, it was a body in sacrifice that those with same-sex attraction are invited to follow, as every Christian is asked to follow. So much for discrimination.
Indeed, when God became man, everything we were to do in the body would take on supreme connection to real angels or real demons. There is no neutral moral act.
As of today, the government now regulates family. If you think this is an exaggeration, consider the next step of liberal totalitarianism for a country a bit “ahead” of us is this: German police stormed a homeschooling family’s house for homeschooling against the law. This wasn’t in 1940. It happened in 2013:
Europe has already reached this level of totalitarianism, and oh, by the way, in Scandinavia few apply for gay marriage anymore. They won that political battle many years ago and now monogamy isn’t so attractive to many gays. It was all an attack on the traditional family, not civil rights.
Married people could sustain just as much persecution as priests, because now that the government regulates family life, this doesn’t just induce a permissiveness of gay “marriage ” upon society, but it also invites a new stringency of control upon sacraments and family-life. For instance, not baking a cake with two grooms on it could land you in the slammer. I’d rather be a priest in prison than a married-man in prison. With today’s decision, I may end up there for refusing any battery of attempted-marriages (not just homosexual ones.) That would make prison interesting!
III. THE CHURCH AS A WITNESS IN THE WORLD
Obama said today’s decision was “justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.” Let’s write about that: Justice that arrives like a thunderbolt. Some bishops today say that the universal Church is better than ever before. In Genesis 19, “God destroyed the cities of the plain,” Sodom and Gomorrah. But today, there was no fire from the sky today at the Supreme Court Decision. Maybe everything is okay.
Or maybe the silence found in Church and political leadership nowadays is the very punishment from God.
The reason I’ll bank on the latter is because the Bible makes it clear that the Jews sustained so many calamities precisely because of God’s singular love for them. He punished them quickly, on this earth, so that they would return to Him. The nations who continue in their sin, unchecked, is apparently the worst punishment that God could bring upon a nation, according to the Bible:
“Now I beseech those that shall read this book, that they be not shocked at these calamities, but that they consider the things that happened, not as being for the destruction, but for the correction of our nation [Israel.] For it is a token of great goodness when sinners are not suffered to go on in their ways for a long time, but are presently punished. For, not as with other nations (whom the Lord patiently expecteth, that when the day of judgment shall come, He may punish them in the fulness of their sins) doth He also deal with us, so as to suffer our sins to come to their height, and then take vengeance on us.”—2 Mac 6:12-15
What this means is that the nations that continue unchecked in their sins (no earthquakes or tsunamis) are actually storing up the fullness of God’s wrath, reserved for the afterlife. This is because their arrogance has blocked them from receiving the chastisements that a Father gives his son. The saints say that when Church or political leaders are silent, it is the worst punishment of God’s justice that we as a Church or nation can endure.
So, we have to remember that the early Christians in Rome weren’t threatened by the Emperor. They weren’t even threatened by a government putting priests or families in prison. We American Catholics care way too much about politics. The early Christians in Rome didn’t care if the Emperor was Decius or Valerian. Both would hunt them down. Thus, the Christian’s vocation is simple: Worship God as He deserves, and then get your family and a few neighbors to heaven. They really didn’t worry about the government as much as the state of their own souls. Selfish? No. Your soul will last longer than the United States of America. St. Agnes’ soul has lasted longer than the Roman Empire. Your soul (and later your body) will live forever in heaven or in hell, much longer than this crumbling country of the United States. So, just do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a perverse and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.—Phil 2:14-15
Nota Bene: National acceptance of gay “marriage” has it’s entire root in contraception. You really should be pro-both or anti-both (as happily most Americans are.) Both have globally separated babies and bonding. So, you can’t rip on those acting out same-sex actions (closed to life) if your heterosexual actions have been closed to life. It’s no wonder, in a contraceptive society, that the smaller same-gender-attraction population has felt discriminated against. In all charity, I don’t expect you to get this post if you don’t think contraception in marriage is devastating. So, here’s the best mp3 to understand contraception—scientifically and religiously—in an hour: http://www.janetsmith.excerptsofinri.com
By a strange turn of events, I have to spend a day in Istanbul while trying to get home from Spain—even though it’s the opposite direction.
The reason this is especially strange is because these two countries were evangelized by the brothers James and John, sons of a Galilean fisherman named Zebedee. These two men became first century Apostles of Jesus Christ. Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder” because of their attitude towards life. After His resurrection, Our Lord sent St. James to Spain and St. John to Turkey (with His own Blessed Mother.) I flew from James’ land to John’s land today, and I’m tryıng to navigate a keyboard set up for the Turkish language at 9pm here in the city center of Istanbul.
Now, it’s a Muslim country. But did you know that for the first 500 years of Christianity, Turkey had a Christianity as booming and as heroic as the newly-converted Roman Empire? The two centers of Christianity in the first 500 years of the Church were Italy and Turkey. Constantinople was first evangelized by St. Andrew (Peter’s brother.) Turkey then became the home of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John the Evangelist. Years later it was the home to St. John Chrysostom, the Cappadocian Church Fathers and countless heros of Byzantine Catholicism. Except for Jewish converts, the most successful areas of conversion in the first 500 years of Christianity were Italy and Turkey. Roman Empire and Byzantine Glory.
Now Turkey is 0.2% Christian.
What happened? This great loss is usually blamed on Islam. It is true that the violent conquest of Turkey happened as early as the very century of Mohammed (7th century.) It was completed in the 15th century.
But Jesus is always faithful to His Church, especially in persecution, so something else happened.
We have to remember that Jesus speaks directly to the Turkish Churches in the book of the Apocalypse and warns:
I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for My name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.—Rev 2:2-5
This was evidently not an empty threat from Our Lord. The light in Turkey would indeed extinguish. It was lukewarmness that sunk the Church here in Constantinople/Istanbul, just like it is 20th century lukewarmness that has nearly sunk the living Faith within the country I just walked across, Spain.
How do I know it was lukewarmness and not Islam that has extinguished the fire in the two countries of the Sons of Thunder? Because Spain is the only country in the history of the world that was conquered by Muslims and reconquered by Christians to again become a Christian country. This reconquest was done by a woman, Isabel “la Católica,” an outrageously beautiful name, considering she came from a line of 800 years of Catholic kings attempting that very reconquest of Spain that Isabel (a married queen who knit her children’s own clothes and rode horseback alone at night in the rain to quell uprisings) finished once and for all in the 15th century. She did it on horseback and in battle, but mostly on her knees.
The next three centuries then witnessed Spain evangelize most of the Western hemisphere. In fact, this deed was also due to Queen Isabel “the Catholic” who took a risk on Christopher Columbus. (She originally told him “No” and then sent her courier to inform him that she changed her mind when he was several kilometers outside the city.) Whether you like Christopher Columbus or not, the point is that Islam didn’t ultimately stop the greatest Catholic nation in history from producing St. Francis Xaviers. In fact, in some strange way within the permissive will of God, Islam helped the evangelization of the World.
Now, Spain has fallen to secularism harder than she ever fell to Islam. This may sound like an exagerration, but I promise the following is true: Almost every day on the Camino, a Spanish man or woman would see my Roman Collar and preach New-Age relativism to me (in Spanish) before I could ever explain the Gospel, or even say my name. What St. James and Queen Isabel won heroically—what Islam could not extinguish but strangely fueled—has been trashed by the heresy and lukewarmness from within the Church, not without, especially in the past 50 years.
I’m not much of a patriot for the country that St. John Paul II called “the culture of death” (the USA) but after travelling the world the past year, I can glorify God for the USA for this reason: We Americans have a hope for a renewal and restoration of the Faith which is greater than the hope of Spain or Turkey, (at least if grace keeps building on the nature of these countries’ attitude to Christ and His Church.) Yes, miracles can change anything overnight (like Mexico from the miracle of Our Lady of Guadelupe) but right now, I’m proud to be an American.
But if the Catholic Church in the land of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Turkey) can nearly collapse, we must move beyond our extreme presumption of God Almighty and return in sackcloth and ashes to Him. Better, we must return to our first love (see the quote from Apocalypse chapter 2 above.) We need Sons of Thunder to do the works those men did at first.
Why did Jesus call them Sons of Thunder, anyway? One example is this: When a Samaritain village rejects Jesus, St. James and St. John have an idea:
His disciples James and John…said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But (Jesus) turned and rebuked them.—Luke 9:54-55
In regard to that passage, we have all heard a thousand stupid homilies that go something like this: “The Apostles were Old Testament—all based in justice. But Jesus was about to teach them about love.”
Here’s two reasons why that’s a silly homily:
1) Has anyone ever considered how or by Whom the Apostles thought (or knew) that they had the power to call down fire anyway?
2) Jesus chose fighters, not lovers. He chose fighters to turn them into lovers. Lovers of “the brethren” as John wrote. Lovers of “Christ crucified” as Paul wrote. Christ needed fighters who believed in something, precisely so Christ could turn these fiery-fishermen into lovers of the peace that only Christ can give. He warned there would be no peace from compromise with the world.
Perhaps a 20th century fear of that zeal is why seminaries the past 50 years got so full of men acting out effeminate sexual-perversions. Apparently it was worth it for dioceses to keep the sacraments flowing out and the money flowing in towards these charming men at the pulpit. But the real test of a priest is how many men he has inspired to follow Christ into religious life or a holy seminary. The Sons of Thunder cared more about spiritual multipication than the numbers of money or popularity raised among those making sacriligious communions. Just google St. James and Our Lady at Zaragosa if you think discipleship among priests is a new idea.
Globally, we will see the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as she promised at Fatima. But how many souls will be lost before then? I believe that the USA, Africa and Asia will be called upon to bear the torch to rekindle the ancient faith in the world, but you must pray for priests who will be fighters and lovers…those who will fight the battle of love for the peace that only the cross of Jesus Christ can bring. Peace with God the Father comes only from the sacrifice of Christ—the only One who can reconcile us to a God who is infinitely holy. Divine Mercy and ancient Tradition.
The Church desperately needs priests who wıll not be simply charming and semi-orthodox, but Sons of Thunder.
Raise such men in your families.
The above are two pictures of the Hagia Sophia, one from the outside (that I didn’t take) and one from the inside (that I did take). It was a Church made in 337, become a mosque in the 15th century and now just a museum. So sad.
On a lighter note, I’ve never seen more special-meal options than Turkish Aiırlines offers:
- Asian Vegetarian Meal
- Baby Meal
- Bland Meal
- Child Meal
- Celebratory Cake
- Diabetic Meal
- Fruit Platter Meal
- Gluten-Free Meal
- Non-vegetarian Hindu Meal without beef
- Kosher Meal
- Low-Calorie Meal
- Low-Fat Meal
- Low-Salt Meal
- Muslim Meal
- Non-Lactose Meal
- Raw Vegetarian Meal
- Seafood Meal
- Vegan Meal
- Vegetarian Jain Meal
- Vegetarian Lacto-Ovo Meal
- Vegetarian Oriental Meal
Next time you fly Turkish Airlines, you should order the “Bland Meal” and then get the “Celebratory Cake.”