Saturday, May 31, 2008

Let’s Hear It for Jesus!

Near the end of our Faith Enhancement class this week, our leader mentioned what a wonderful homily the Monsignor gave at his parish last Sunday for the Feast of Corpus Christi. The priest pointed out how people stand and applaud when a king or queen enters the room, always conscious of proper protocol. Yet when our true king, Christ the King, becomes present on the altar, we do no such thing. At that point, he asked the entire congregation to stand and applaud the Presence of Jesus. The leader and other members of the class thought this was a wonderful gesture to acknowledge the Real Presence.

I can understand the message the good priest was trying to convey. Various polls show that many Catholics do not even believe in the Real Presence anymore. Many of those who do believe fail to show it by their actions at Mass, but is standing and applauding the proper sign of respect? I remember one of our parishioners complaining about the music we select for our Masses. She wanted something more lively and upbeat. What is wrong with applauding Jesus or clapping our hands to the rhythm of more lively Christian music at Mass?

Protestants occasionally accuse us Catholics of re-sacrificing Jesus at the Mass. Jesus died once and for all, they will tell us. Catholic apologists repeatedly have to explain that we do not re-sacrifice Jesus at the Mass. The Mass is the re-presentation of the same, once and for all Sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. The hyphen in re-presentation is to make clear the meaning. That very same Sacrifice on Calvary is made present again on the altar of every Catholic Church at every Mass. That very same Sacrifice is present for us, unlimited by space or time, in an unbloody manner. Every time we attend Mass, we are actually kneeling at the foot of the Cross.

Now, if we imagine ourselves at the foot of the Cross with the Blessed Mother, the apostle John, and Mary Magdalene, how would we behave? Would it be appropriate to stand and applaud? I don’t think so. Yet, the Mass is also a celebration. We experience joy in knowing Our Lord died for our salvation. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that everyone who believes in Him might not parish but might have eternal life. He also gives us this wonderful gift of the Eucharist. So, what is the proper response for us?

We should display our utmost reverence for the Presence of Our Lord on the altar. Our reverence should be reflected in the way we act, the way we dress, the way we worship, the way we pray, they way we sing, and the way we prepare ourselves to receive Him. Applause and fanfare may be adequate for an earthly king who did little to earn his throne beyond being born into the royal family. Christ the King who freed us from our sins by His death and resurrection, deserves much more from us.

This year, the Feast of Corpus Christi coincided with Memorial Day weekend. On Monday morning, we attended a Memorial Day service at the cemetery conducted by the local Veterans. The mood was somber and respectful as we remembered those who died to protect our freedom. There were salutes and prayers. Some choked back tears as they spoke of their fallen comrades. Others spoke of freedom we enjoy each day because of those who gave their lives. A bugler played taps. When he finished, there was no cheering or applause. No one complained that the music was not lively enough. People approached quietly and left quietly. Nobody told us how to act. Understanding where we were and what was going on, it just seemed like the appropriate way to behave. I believe there is a lesson to be learned here.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day 2008

I have always wondered how so many Catholics stand firm in support of Democrats, the party of abortion. Recent polls cited Catholic support of Hillary Clinton as key to her wins in several primaries. Catholics have traditionally been Democrats, but the Democratic party of today is not the same as the party of years ago. What may have once been the party of hard-working blue collar Christian families has now succumbed to the wayward interests of the self-centered secular masses.

Today I read another article in our local Catholic paper critical of our involvement in the Iraq war. Nobody likes war. We don’t want to be there, but the argument can be made that we were justified in going in, and even if we were not, to abandon the Iraqi people now would be great disservice to them and those who gave their lives for their freedom.

The timing of our invasion followed the September 11th attack on our nation. The perpetrators of that event had to be confronted, and we are engaging them on their soil rather than ours. While Saddam Hussein may not have been directly responsible for 9/11, he was certainly responsible for the loss of many innocent lives during his rule. If we were to suddenly abandon the Iraqi people, civil war could lead to many more lost lives.

The point of all this is not to say we were right or wrong in going into Iraq. Certainly that is a matter for debate. We do need to acknowledge a responsibility, as the catechism says, to protect those who cannot protect themselves. When I read some of these anti-war statements by Catholic clergy and laymen, I sometimes find it difficult to determine if they are simply anti-policy or are they anti-Republican or even anti-American? Some give the impression they believe our motives for being in Iraq are evil which I do not believe. I wonder if some of them do so in order to justify their support for Democrats.

I was moved this Memorial Day Weekend by a local woman, Holly Bochnicka, who took the time to write in her own hand, the names of every member of our military who died in Iraq and Afghanistan since the war began. She spent the winter meticulously printing nearly 4600 names on long red white and blue banners which are now displayed near the Veteran’s Memorial in our town park. One cannot help but shudder at the loss of so many lives in a land so far away that posed no threat to us. Yet, American men and women unselfishly went there to free people from oppression of an evil dictator.

While those 4600 lives were being lost in the war, the number of pregnancies aborted in the United States numbered in the millions. Many of those who are quick to condemn our involvement protecting the freedom of the Iraqi people, are the same ones to stand up for protecting the legal right for American women to kill their unborn children.

Come November, we will have to choose between two candidates for the presidency of our country. One of them wants to pull our troops out of Iraq while protecting abortion rights. The other wants to stay the course in Iraq as long as necessary while being Pro-life, though not to the extent we would like. Neither choice is ideal.

I would be really curious to know how these Catholics who are so critical of our policies under George Bush will vote this November. Will they place the several thousand lives lost in war in Iraq over the millions of lives lost here in the United States through abortion? If so, I can no longer take any of their arguments seriously. To vote for a pro-abortion Democrat over a pro-life Republican strictly based on trying to save lives is hypocrisy.

Every human life is precious beyond measure, whether it be a soldier in Iraq or a baby in its mother’s womb. On this Memorial Day, we pray for the souls of those who have died in the war and those in the womb. We pray for the families who bear the pain of loss. May their suffering be united to the suffering of Our Lord for the remission of sins and may God have mercy on us all.