When a child, I attended the Barnum and Bailey circus at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It was advertised as the “Greatest Show On Earth.” And boasted three-ring entertainment, meaning that there were three acts occurring at the same time under the “Big Top”. The center ring highlighted the top events of the show. Therefore, the patrons’ focus was drawn there and not to the secondary acts on either side.
Pope Benedict XVI stated that Vatican II differed from other major councils, insofar as “there were no particular errors of the faith to correct and condemn, nor were there specific questions of doctrine and discipline to be clarified.” The reason for the Council, he said, was the belief of Blessed John XXIII that “the faith had to speak with a ‘renewed’ and more incisive voice, because the world was changing rapidly, but it had to maintain its perennial message intact, without giving way or compromising.” Thus the purpose of the Council, the Pope said, was “to show our world, which tends to distance itself from God, the requirements of the Gospel in all its greatness and purity.” That need continues today, Pope Benedict said. “The age in which we live continues to be marked by forgetfulness and deafness towards God.”
It is now clear that the intent of Blessed John XXIII was missed by the custodians of the church who viewed the Council’s findings not as did Pope Benedict XVI. Thereby opening a door that would allow the world’s influence to press for change in Church doctrine, not its renewal and maintenance. One of effects of Vatican II was to make the Mass more user-friendly. One change to accomplish this was the turning away from the Latin Mass. By translating the language from Latin to English the Mass was more easily understood and therefore more inclusive. The event of Pentecost, in the New Testament passage to follow, coupled with Blessed John XXIII’s belief above, offers permit for this procedural adjustment to celebrate the Holy Mass in English in place of Latin.
“And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language.” – Acts 2:6
However, there were other alterations to the Mass that in the end were not beneficial to maintaining the Faith. One in particular was the priest, when at the altar, would no longer face the tabernacle,where is housed the ciborium – a chalice-like vessel – containing the Holy Eucharist. His back had always been to the people while celebrating Mass. All attendees, including the priest, faced the living Christ in the Tabernacle. This change would have the priest face the people with his back now to the tabernacle. With the appearance that Christ, who was once looked upon, is now the onlooker peering over the priest’s shoulder. This particular change is troubling and in truth has had a negative cumulative effect. Christ, by perception, is no-longer in the most prominent location in the Sanctuary. He has been relegated to the outer ring in the subconscious minds of many, as was the secondary acts in the circus. The priest now draws the attention of the parishioner rather than Christ having the attention of all. We who have come each week to worship our God, through Christ, now arguably find ourselves too frequently being distracted from just that. This environment lends to a lesser devotion to doctrine in too many parishes now that our Savior has been perceived demoted. Even one parish straying from the norm is one too many. For Catholicism by definition and nature is universal and comprehensive. And any variation in practice must be considered heresy. In this circumstance, the mind inundated with worldly matters on entering the church remains so. How can one’s mind become centered in Christ when He is found no longer in the center.
This rearrangement has helped to facilitate the emergence of the cafeteria Catholic whose identity is diminished by indifference. One who is not centered in church cannot be expected to come to the banquet table set by Christ and partake of all the fare. Since worldly influences are less likely checked at the door, the cafeteria Catholic then chooses only to partake of what suits his tastes and has not the stomach for that which requires self-denial. Thereby denying oneself the fullness of graces granted.
“Whatever we are we are not what we ought to be.” – St. Augustine
By this reconfiguration at the altar, figuratively and literally, the tabernacle has been, although still displayed in full honor, moved from center to the side or a separate room. And to most observers location is paramount. When Christ was moved from the center of the sanctuary we, likely, are less Christ centered. And that opens the way of the ego.
This false but real perception has opened a door to worldly views and the poison of politics. Clergy, religious and laity once of one ordered mind and will, that of Christ, now find themselves in an opinionated tug-of-war. And this is reflected in the disunity of Catholic custom and sparse attention given to the issue of sin in Homilies in various dioceses and parishes throughout western cultures. Sin is the very reason why Christ came into the world. To resolve that issue on the cross. The Catholic infected by this self-inflicted heresy has placed his soul in grave danger. The will of today’s confused Catholic does not conform to the will of God. One does not join a tennis club to play golf. If one is not getting proper guidance from bishops, priests or religious then he must, by his own volition, seek that guidance from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
By the superficial attitudes of too many toward one’s faith, marriage is no longer viewed as sacred and therefore diminishes it as a sacrament. Both contraception and abortion, among the most grievous affronts to God, are given license by the faithful either in practice or by indifference. God and our neighbor become hindrances to the individual in the pursuit of his own needs and goals, with little concern for the resulting negative effects on his disposition and soul. Many assume no individual responsibility toward maintaining the identity nor integrity of the Church which Christ has left us as a portal by which we stake claim to the place that He has prepared for us in Heaven. We must be awakened to the truth that it is sin that bars the way to Heaven.
And as a result of misinterpretation of the Vatican II Council purpose and other ill-advised changes that followed, not mentioned here, both church attendance and devoted members of the Catholic Church are at historical lows in America. The change in location of the Tabernacle, housing the Holy Eucharist(the Body of Christ); seems an insignificant and harmless alteration. Yet it has led to a change in perception, promoting heretic practice among too many of the Church’s Hierarchy, which in turn has been manifested among its congregation. In this, God cannot be well pleased. And it is only by the immeasurable mercy of Christ that the just hand of God is stayed. For only Christ, the Son of Man and the Son of God, could understand the temptation to sin that continually assaults men and women. And in that only can we be reconciled. Center is the only locale for the One who provides the means to eternal life of perfect happiness, or allows us, by our will, to cast ourselves into eternal imperfect sorrow.
God’s plan is Christocentric. Christ gives the Church elements of objective sacredness – among them is the Holy Eucharist itself – which remain there even if the people of the Church are not holy. – Saint John Paul II