One big temptation I face every morning concerns whether I reach for my phone first thing to check email, then Twitter, then Facebook . . . especially when there is so much going on in the Church, much of it horrifying and fascinating at the same time.
I have found it is much much better for me to spend time with God first thing in the morning and not the world via social media, especially in these trying times for the Church.
Yesterday, I fell to temptation and went on social media first, and then what a slog it was getting through my prayers. I’m in the middle of doing an annual Consecration to Jesus through Mary that is a requirement of being a member of the Spiritual Motherhood of Priests. The 33-day consecration preparation via St. Louis de Montfort includes long litanies and prayers, and the recitation of the Rosary.
Add to that our daily Morning Office, and that can take up a lot of time!
So, yesterday, after spending something like 45 minutes reading social media and going to some links, I settled down to the prayers, and man oh man, was it heavy slogging. I thought, gee, maybe I’ll skip the Rosary and do it later during a walk or in the car.
But maybe it was a little prodding from Our Lady, and perhaps it was reading this particular piece by Bishop Mark Davis in the Catholic Herald, tweeted by Archbishop Prendergast, Archbishop of Ottawa, that encouraged me to go deeper, to stop “going through the motions” of getting through a long list of prayers and readings, but to persist until that sense of resistance, of wishing I were doing something else more interesting, was broken.
I am so glad I did.
As the scandal around the Catholic Church grows and grows, it is all the more important faithful Catholics do not get swept up by temptations to despair, confusion, or wrath. That doesn’t mean we do not speak up or act, but we must keep our eyes on Jesus and Mary, no matter what happens, and with Christ is the peace that passes understanding. Jesus is still saving souls even if it seems at times the Catholic Church he founded is riddled with corruption.
Here are some excerpts of Bishop Davis’ Catholic Herald article The Church’s Renewal Starts with the Eucharist that I found encouraging and edifying.
Yet we can never lose sight that our times, however darkened, are also illuminated – until the Lord’s return – by the Holy Eucharist, that is, the perpetuation of the Sacrifice of the Cross and the Real Presence of Jesus Christ among us.
In losing sight of Him who is truly present in the Eucharist, we can surely diagnose a central malaise of the Church in this land which now ails families, generations and parishes. It is a malaise which is also at the root of a failure to discern vocations, whether to Christian marriage, the priesthood or the consecrated life – vocations which are all recognised in the light of the Eucharist.
This problem belongs not only to our own times. It is recorded in the visitations of St Charles Borromeo in the 16th century that he came to a village parish church where the Tabernacle was broken and the Blessed Sacrament left mouldering within. He simply knelt and remained kneeling before the abandoned tabernacle the whole night.
Eventually the hapless local priest and people of the district heard that the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan was kneeling alone in prayer and they crowded into the church to join this silent vigil. At dawn St Charles celebrated Mass and left without speaking another word. He had left a silent lesson.
A few weeks ago I was praying in the crypt of Lourdes basilica. I had made the mistake of sitting a little too close to the front in a small, enclosed space. In the course of the hour a long procession of pilgrims or tourists (I wasn’t sure which) passed immediately in front of me. I couldn’t fail to notice, when focusing on the Tabernacle, that only one person and one family acknowledged or recognised Christ truly present.
Interestingly, in Canada, in the 1800s, faith in Quebec had fallen to such a low that a priest, Fr. Luc Desilets, found a pig chewing on a rosary in a chapel. That sad spectacle led to the priest’s making a vow to revive the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary that had an altar in that chapel, and that led to such spiritual renewal that the chapel proved too small and prayers led to the miraculous ice bridge over the St. Lawrence River that allowed for the building of Canada’s first Marian Shrine. As one of my friends likes to quip: “From the swine to the Shrine.”
Bishop Davis again, with the words that convicted me emphasized.
Let us return to the crypt of Lourdes basilica, where all except one individual and one family passing before my eyes failed to recognise the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. If you wonder why the Bishop of Shrewsbury didn’t just close his eyes and get on with his prayer, then it was because those people helped me pray. They helped me to see something of my own neglect, coldness and indifference to this Great Sacrament and to renew my own love for the Lord who desired to remain so close to us. For the renewal of faith in the Holy Eucharist must always begin in some decisive way with you and with me.
I hope that patient example can have a greater impact than censorious correction. It is by approaching the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Blessed Sacrament with the right disposition that we will recognise the inherent call to holiness in the Holy Eucharist and the vital means to holiness. May the joy of this recognition be reflected in our own joy and the way we celebrate the Mass and put the Eucharist first in our lives, so everything else can be rooted and centred on this mystery of Love which went so far.
So my prayer for me, for all my readers, is that we will lay aside lukewarmness, lay aside any double-mindedness and deepen our appreciation for the Holy Eucharist through wholehearted, concerted prayer and fasting so as darkness deepens and sin abounds, grace will be shown to abound even more.