We begin the great new year 2018. Now we have allowed the newborn Christ-child to be re-born in our hearts this Christmas; we can now allow him to grow with us throughout the New Year as we strive to improve our spiritual lives and strengthen our relationship with him. My last article was about “Ad Orientem,” facing the east for our liturgical worship or at least the “liturgical east”: the tabernacle, crucifix and the sanctuary, and the importance of our unity of action as the one body of Christ. Our worship service shouldn’t resemble a tennis match—I say something and you respond, but all of us reciting different parts of prayers according to the order and beauty of the liturgy itself. As we all take up the same direction, the unity of our action and not the disparity is much more evident. My human, individual, and personal leadership is diminished, and my vicarious leadership through the sacrament of orders on behalf of Jesus is augmented as we all face the east and the Lord together.
In the last 40 years, a phenomenon has appeared in the Catholic Church that we have never had before, the cult of the Pastor. Many priests with great personalities and sense of humor have allowed their charisms to overshadow the presence of Jesus in the Holy Mass, and you know this is true when you hear people saying things like, “I really like Fr. N’s Mass because he is so funny and casual and comforting.” What has happened here? Well Fr. N enjoys the spot light and is a naturally entertaining person, and so he has let the fact that everyone is looking at him and hanging on his every word, to transform himself from humble priest faithfully performing the rites of the Church to actor on the stage “ad libbing” his own show. The person making this comment has gone from a faithful member of the mystical body of Christ seeking his sanctifying grace by actively offering up their sacrifices at Mass, to someone seeking personal affirmation and entertainment from another human being in the context of a folk concert. These are just a few of the many spiritual and doctrinal pitfalls of the “ad populum” (priest facing the people) posture in our culture.
(to be continued)