View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Fr. McBrien off-base on Eucharistic adoration

Mike over at DOR Catholic had a post about a Father McBrien column on the National Catholic Reporter website.

Putting aside questions about why Mike would be slumming at that site (wink), I was glad he brought my attention to Father McBrien's piece.

In it, Father McBrien rejected Eucharistic adoration:

Notwithstanding Pope Benedict XVI's personal endorsement of eucharistic adoration and the sporadic restoration of the practice in the archdiocese of Boston and elsewhere, it is difficult to speak favorably about the devotion today.

Now that most Catholics are literate and even well-educated, the Mass is in the language of the people (i.e, the vernacular), and its rituals are relatively easy to understand and follow, there is little or no need for extraneous eucharistic devotions. The Mass itself provides all that a Catholic needs sacramentally and spiritually.

Eucharistic adoration, perpetual or not, is a doctrinal, theological, and spiritual step backward, not forward.

Wow. How dismissive. How arrogant that sounds

I was suddenly reminded of so many "educated" Catholic "intellectuals" who have over the years dismissed devotions, popular piety, or, for that matter, any form of religious expression that did not meet their refined standards.

I must confess that, sadly, I too, have been guilty of this. But more often, I have witnessed it, and even experienced it.

I remember back in the 1970s when I was in the college seminary that Charismatics - I was one - were regarded with distrust, and even ridicule. We were not allowed to hold our prayer meetings in the seminary, so I recall one night when we tromped across campus to the football field to pray.

I have witnessed or heard people speak of the rosary and novenas with disdain. I remember when some folks were trying to get the Traditional Latin Mass reinstated that they were dismissed as backward reactionaries. I have seen others joke about those "simple" people who build shrines in their yards - Bathtub Marys! - or go on pilgrimages to Marian sites (approved and alleged). Even more recently, when I posted some pictures of statuary at the local St. Padre Pio Chapel - built as an act of personal devotion; what a waste of money one priest declared to me as he said he would never set foot there - one commenter dismissed the statues because they did not meet his aesthetic standards.

My argument all along has been if something helps an individual spiritually, if some bit of art or form of devotion is meaningful and a source of comfort and an occasion for prayer, as long as it is not extreme or in violation of Church teachings, it's fine with me. I may not find something to my taste, but I am not about to put others down for what helps them with prayer and spirituality. I have used the same argument to defend different forms of music at Mass, or even celebrating Mass in ways that purists might find discomfiting. Indeed, during one of my meanderings away from Church teachings, a Mass celebrated by a Franciscan on a coffee table in a living room in the Lower East Side of New York was one of the events that help to get me back on the right path.

In this case, moreover, Eucharistic adoration is more than just a pious devotion. Yes, the Mass is the ultimate source of spiritual and sacramental nourishment, but Eucharistic adoration is another way to focus on Christ's love for us and his eternal presence. It has been endorsed and encouraged by saints and popes. I trust them more than I do Father McBrien's opinion on this issue.

ADDED LATER: In his piece, Father McBrien said, "The Mass itself provides all that a Catholic needs sacramentally and spiritually."

This morning, I came across the following from Pope John Paul II: "There are some who think the centrality of of the liturgy, rightly stressed by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, necessarily entails giving lesser importance to the Rosary. Yet as Pope Paul VI made clear, not only does this payer not conflict with the liturgy, it sustains it, since it serves as an excellent introduction and a faithful echo of the liturgy, enabling people to participate fully and interiorly in it and to reap its fruits in their daily lives." - Apostolic Letter, On the Most Holy Rosary, 2002

While he was writing about the Rosary specifically, I think some of his ideas can readily be applied to other forms of devotion, including Eucharistic adoration.


Blogger Ben Anderson said...

Do you read Rich Leonardi's blog?

click the link to his article, too, and read some of the comments. There you'll find some of the persecution that orthodox Catholics come under.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

I stop by his blog periodically.

I agree; orthodox Catholics do face criticism and attacks from some circles.

5:30 PM  
Blogger Mike said...


Fr. Robert Barron of the Archdiocese of Chicago has a YouTube comment on Fr. McBrien's sad essay. Cleansing Fire put up a post on it here.

See also my comment on the CF post.

9:24 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home