Evangelical Christians have long espoused something that most Catholics never understood, and so avoided.
When I was a child in the 50s, I attended Mass regularly, was an altar server, and generally hung around the Church and our Catholic school and church community. Then Vatican II occurred, and many priests, religious and lay people in the Church took the move to the vernacular form of the Mass to break down the walls of much of what was considered sacred, which is in truth, contrary to the teaching documents from Vatican II.
Where Pope John XXIII was inspired to usher in to the Church a new age of the Holy Spirit, many took the opportunity to follow the devil and bring in a New Age style of movement, diminishing the mysteries and humanising everything else.
The sexual revolution came along about the same time, and all Hell broke loose, both literally and figuratively. There again, the Pope did the right thing, and Pope Paul VI released the most important document on faith and sexual morality never read by most Catholics, with the Encyclical Humanae Vitae. But, here in Canada, and throughout much of the free world, bishops and priests let the already dwindling faithful down. In Canada, we had a watered down interpretation of Humanae Vitae called the Winnipeg Statement, which at a time when we needed clarity on sexual morals including contraception, gave us pablum instead of meat.
I know very few married people who claim to be Catholics, nominally or practicing, who did not contracept at some time during their marriages, and most did so before their marriages, where sexual immorality took its root.
So, Catholics have left the Catholic Church in droves. Many found homes in other Christian denominations, a sad truth. Sadder still is that more left church all together, and profess to not miss it one little bit.
How can this be, if the words of Jesus Christ himself to us about the Eucharist are true, as He stated to those with Him at the time: "Unless you eat (the Greek word used actually means to gnaw on) the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you shall not have life within you"? These words caused many to leave Him at the time, saying this teaching was too hard. And too hard it has proven even for those who confess to follow Him today, as only the Catholic and Orthodox Churches hold it literally to be true.
If these words of Jesus are true, and if Jesus gave the power of his first priests to pass on this sacred gift of Himself in the form of bread and wine that he instituted at the Last Supper, then why have we left, and wandered off wherever? These are after all, "the words of eternal life."
We, the People of God have a responsibility to develop our faith, but it is very difficult when we are not properly instructed in that faith. If, in fact, faith is caught, not taught, then the teaching is what prepares the fertile soil for the seeds of faith to grow and multiply.
Our pastors have failed miserably to keep us home, and to bring us home, and have allowed the sheep to be scattered, and they will be held to account for doing so. But, for those of us who remain, it is incumbent on us to lift our pastors up in prayer, that they might become the leaders in faith that we need to strengthen us and to grow the faith back up. For failing to support them, we will be held to account.
Our pastors have proven to be all too human, to have fears of congregations shrinking, and so have tried to mollify us, rather than to educate us in the truth.
Shame on them! And, shame on us for not supporting them prayerfully day in and day out to provide them with the spiritual cover to allow them to be steadfast in preaching the Gospel with no excuses, and no apologies.
Our Evangelical Protestant brothers and sisters know that Christianity is about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. What is more personal than to eat the Body and drink the Blood of Jesus Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?
This morning in the Lauds, the first Liturgy of the Hours for the day, there was an excerpt from a sermon on Pastors by Saint Augustine that is on point. Every Catholic priest in the world should have read these words and taken them to heart in their early morning prayers.
From a sermon On Pastors by Saint Augustine, bishopDear Priests:
(Sermon 46, 14-15: CCL 41, 541-542)
Welcome or unwelcome, insist upon the message
The straying sheep you have not recalled; the lost sheep you have not sought. In one way or another, we go on living between the hands of robbers and the teeth of raging wolves, and in light of these present dangers we ask your prayers. The sheep moreover are insolent. The shepherd seeks out the straying sheep, but because they have wandered away and are lost they say that they are not ours. “Why do you want us? Why do you seek us?” they ask, as if their straying and being lost were not the very reason for our wanting them and seeking them out. “If I am straying,” he says, “if I am lost, why do you want me?” You are straying, that is why I wish to recall you. You have been lost, I wish to find you. “But I wish to stray,” he says: “I wish to be lost.”
So you wish to stray and be lost? How much better that I do not also wish this. Certainly, I dare say, I am unwelcome. But I listen to the Apostle who says: Preach the word; insist upon it, welcome and unwelcome. Welcome to whom? Unwelcome to whom? By all means welcome to those who desire it; unwelcome to those who do not. However unwelcome, I dare to say: “You wish to stray, you wish to be lost; but I do not want this.” For the one whom I fear does not wish this. And should I wish it, consider his words of reproach: The straying sheep you have not recalled; the lost sheep you have not sought. Shall I fear you rather than him? Remember, we must all present ourselves before the judgement seat of Christ.
I shall recall the straying; I shall seek the lost. Whether they wish it or not, I shall do it. And should the brambles of the forests tear at me when I seek them, I shall force myself through all straits; I shall put down all hedges. So far as the God whom I fear grants me the strength, I shall search everywhere. I shall recall the straying; I shall seek after those on the verge of being lost. If you do not want me to suffer, do not stray, do not become lost. It is enough that I lament your straying and loss. No, I fear that in neglecting you, I shall also kill what is strong. Consider the passage that follows: And what was strong you have destroyed. Should I neglect the straying and lost, the strong one will also take delight in straying and in being lost.
Do not let us stray any longer. Invite us into personal relationship with Jesus Christ, as exemplified so wonderfully in the Eucharist, but also in every moment of our daily lives. Tell us the hard truths about sexual morality. Tell us about sin and its deleterious effect on our daily lives and on that relationship with Jesus. Preach the word of God with truth and clarity. Help us to catch the faith by preparing the soil of our hearts to receive, nurture and grow that seed.