THE HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS
"THE GREATEST ACTION THAT CAN BE ON EARTH."The Wonders of the Sacred Host and the Precious Blood
Of the various ways we human beings have of deluding ourselves, perhaps the most remarkable, not to say the most dangerous, is our propensity to persuade ourselves that things are really not all that bad, when in fact they are very bad indeed. And it seems that such is the very attitude, precarious though it be, which is being entertained by many Catholics today, with regard to the general state of the Church. It does not seem to have dawned on them that the Church is now undergoing, according to Father John Hardon, what is arguably the greatest crisis in her entire history. A crisis, as we know, is a turning point, and can mean either better or worse things to come. At the heart of the problem, all knowledgeable observers seem to agree, is a crisis of faith. The Church seems to be fairly reeling from massive confusion and disorientation. The Bark of Peter finds herself labouring in wild and tumultuous seas, and has all she can do to maintain her proper course.
The Church is no stranger to difficult times, and there have been periods throughout the course of her history when she has been sorely buffeted about, but what is depressingly unique about what is happening today is that, whereas in times past the enemies of the Church were commonly outside the Church, now they are doing their damage from within, as members of the crew. Who can recall without trembling that profoundly disturbing observation made by Pope Paul VI, to the effect that the smoke of Satan has entered the very sanctuary of the Church. And that was the pope himself speaking. Of course, we know that the final outcome of the conflict will be a happy one, for we have it on the highest authority that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. True enough, but before that final victory is achieved, much severe battle damage can be suffered by the Church Militant.
One of the most striking manifestations of the crisis of faith we are now experiencing is that there are many Catholics–I do not speak of those who retain the name only, but have severed all meaningful ties with the Church–who find themselves in something like a dazed complacency with respect to their identity as Catholics. They are sleep-walking Catholics, not fully conscious of who they are, or of what they are supposed to be. It is not that they are completely oblivious to what their faith is all about, but they are insufficiently appreciative of it in a rather striking way, treating it as if it were just one among several other things in their lives which are deserving of a decent amount of their time and attention, and not at all as what in fact it is, a matter of life or death–eternal life or death. These Catholics (and dare any of us presume that we are not sometimes to be numbered among them) need to be awakened to their faith, to become fully aware of the unfathomable riches of the gift that has been given them, to the point where it has a transforming effect on their lives.
This book has the capacity to contribute substantially to such an awakening. In The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: The Most Outstanding Event on Earth; The Wonders of the Sacred Host and the Precious Blood, John Kenneth MacKenzie has provided us with a valuable compendium of certain central elements of the Catholic faith, giving special emphasis, as is altogether fitting, to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and to the immeasurably precious fact of the Real Presence of Our Lord in our churches throughout the world. I would be hard pressed to imagine anyone who could read this book and not be moved by it. Some parts of the book may prove to be not a little frightening, but in ways that could only be beneficial. Fear, St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us, is a God-given passion, and if rightly controlled by reason, as it is when we fear what is truly fearful, such as sin, then it works altogether to our favour. Nor should we ever be forgetful of the seminal truth that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
D. Q. McInerny, Ph.D.
Professor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, NE.
Easter Monday, 2011