Over at PrayTell, a poke at a secular columnist’s opinion on the need for education. The lack of theological or prudential clarity doesn’t strike me as the need for a “crash course” in the Eucharist or the virtues. I think we are formed by our experiences. Sometimes these are school experiences. We are told something by someone we trust or we read something in an organ we trust and thus an intellectual experience forms a groundwork in our faith life.
Perhaps more rarely, we can process a lived experience of something like the Real Presence of Christ. That might be supported by human reason or reasoning. But it usually involves some higher or deeper experience that makes the sacrament more real. My belief is this is more than a personal subjective thing. Sometimes, in settings like retreats or locations like monasteries, an entire community can experience this deepness. It can be a single event. It can be a lived reality over months or years. These realities cannot be summarized in a catechism or a document from bishops.
When modern Catholics talk about “beauty,” this is really what they mean. (Whether they mean it or not.) Beauty isn’t just a surface thing, like the Madeleine Cathedral in Utah or the filmmaking of Bishop Barron, or the theologizing of Thomas Aquinas. This deepness is the true inner beauty of the Body of Christ inspired by the Holy Spirit.
I don’t think a glittering cathedral or a catechism or pastoral letter is needed. Sure, it might inspire the occasional art lover or bookworm. But keep in mind that all Jesus needed was a fish breakfast on the beach or a moment in a wayside inn. More appealing to the entire range of believers would be attentiveness to the celebration of sacraments.
We have the post-Resurrection stories not because Saint Luke (24:13ff) or Saint John (21:1ff) offered theological precision. These episodes showed Jesus’ love and concern for his disciples.
“Wouldn’t you fall to your knees if you met Jesus in the flesh?” That’s a comment I heard and read quite often in the Catholic blogosphere. (Maybe it’s still out there, defending more kneeling at Mass.) Maybe the more germane questions could be offered to those who serve at liturgy. If Jesus was going to walk in the church door at Mass next Sunday, wouldn’t you hope you had spared no effort crafting a good homily, rehearsing that music, trained the altar servers, welcomed those newcomers, and reconciled with those people you’d been feuding with?
By the time a parish is ready to celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist, shouldn’t people be on fire, and ready to acclaim, “It is the Lord!” And not just because the catechism, Bishop Barron, or last Wednesday’s crash course told them so?
Please, bishops: no more documents on the Eucharist. We have a lot of those already. Some of us have read them well. Let’s just encourage liturgical ministers from the noob altar server to the lowliest bishop to do their very best in their assigned duties from saying/doing the black/red, to putting the dish in the right spot, to hitting the right notes, to welcoming with a smile. And we don’t need a pastoral letter for those things either. Good liturgy has already been written up. There’s no better moment than to put into practice what we have seen and heard and known.