First published on ROMAN CATHOLIC MAN
THE GATEWAY GIFT TO THE DIVINE LIFE
For the past many years, I have felt like an evangelization machine. I find myself, wherever I am, engaging folks, whether at the gas station, grocery store, or just about anywhere. I’m not quoting scripture or handing out pamphlets or giving them books to read. Instead, I am inviting them to attend our 9:15 Mass on Sunday. I tell them, “we do things in a ‘vintage way,’ and the Mass is like walking into heaven for an hour.” Every single time, I see them “light up” and lean-in, looking for more information, whenever I describe the Mass in this way. I’ve come to understand that, universally, souls are thirsting for this “sense of the sacred; sense of the transcendent.” You can just tell that all of them have been dying of thirst in the desert of a secular wasteland.
The conversion stories I hear, over and over, have to do with someone’s “transformational experience” that occurs during Eucharistic Adoration or from encountering a sacred offering of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
This “transformational experience” happened to me on February 2, 1998, at my first Papal Mass. You can read about it HERE.
As I wrote about my experience,
Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Man should tremble, the world should quake, all Heaven should be deeply moved when the Son of God appears on the altar in the hands of the priest.” Where was that in my “night club act” or “Broadway musical” Masses?
I’ve come to understand that we have (actually, I believe this is the work of the devil), by and large, removed the very gateway into the Divine Life. I happen to agree with Pope St. Gregory the Great who wanting to capture the spiritual dynamism of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, posited the following order:
“Through the fear of the Lord, we rise to piety, from piety then to knowledge, from knowledge we derive strength, from strength counsel, with counsel we move toward understanding, and with intelligence toward wisdom and thus, by the sevenfold grace of the Spirit, there opens to us at the end of the ascent the entrance to the life of Heaven” (“Homiliae in Hiezechihelem Prophetam,” II 7,7).
As you can see, the entry point is “Fear of the Lord.”
What is Fear of the Lord? According to Fr. John Hardon, Fear of the Lord …
“… inspires a person with profound respect for the majesty of God. Its corresponding effects are protection from sin through dread of offending the Lord, and a strong confidence in the power of His help. The fear of the Lord is not servile but filial. It is based on the selfless love of God, whom it shrinks from offending. Whereas in servile fear the evil dreaded is punishment; in filial fear it is the fear of doing anything contrary to the will of God. The gift of fear comprises three principal elements: a vivid sense of God’s greatness, a lively sorrow for the least faults committed, and a vigilant care in avoiding occasions of sin.”
A POWER GREATER THAN OURSELVES
Everyone knows that anyone caught in addiction, whether it is alcohol or simply addicted to our worldly lusts and desires, the only effective cure is the 12-step program that brings us to a place where we come to believe in a Power greater than ourselves. This is, actually, the Gift of the Holy Spirit referred to as “Fear of the Lord,” or, “Awe and Wonder.” Again, as the “first Gift,” it is the “gateway” to all the Gifts of the Holy Spirit; it is the gateway to the Divine Life.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has always been the Source and Summit of our supernatural faith. In any efforts at evangelization, we simply MUST look to reform the liturgy to BEST place all of us in the position to cry out, “My Lord and my God!!” … to receive the “gateway” Holy Spirit Gift of Fear of the Lord … to receive supernatural faith.
Thanks to the direction of such great liturgical giants as Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop Morlino, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, Cardinal Sarah, Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Arinze and others, I have spent the past many years – brick by brick – allowing the Extraordinary Form to enrich my offering of the Ordinary Form. The result is an Ordinary Form that is not too foreign, and has enormous appeal, among those who discover it.
This gets us back to my lead paragraph in this article. Yes, I am evangelizing by inviting people to this Mass, and the result is astounding. The result of this enriched Ordinary Form has led us to a liturgy where the souls of the faithful are laid wide open to receive the “gateway” Holy Spirit Gift of Awe and Wonder … the entryway to the Divine Life; the gift of supernatural faith.
My church is filled with young, devout Catholic families who are open to life, and want to follow ALL of the teachings of the Church. Yes, they all get “dressed up” for Mass, because God deserves our best.
Young families, especially, encounter this Mass with a sense of transendence and, virtually all of them, remark, “Where has this been all my life!” Or, “Why isn’t every parish offering the Mass in this reverent way?”
And, speaking to the crisis of 70% who no longer believe in the Real Presence, not only do they have a “hunger” to understand the teachings on the Real Presence, many of them are so hungry, they are actually reading encyclicals and the Fathers of the Church … they can’t get enough! They are all “lit up,” and this was because of their encounter with God in a Mass that is offered as if God was truly there.
I’ve always contended that we cannot “force feed” catechesis. A soul, dead in sin, not only lacks the desire to seek to “know more,” but may even find it repulsive. Only souls “lit up,” having received the gateway Gift of Awe and Wonder, have this hunger to seek “the more” of God.
And, most especially, these souls in the Divine Life are inspired to be extravagant with their love, joy, peace and all of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, which others receive as attractive and contagious.
“They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” -Acts 2:46-47