The Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: A Primer
for Clueless Catholics
A PRIMER for CLUELESS CATHOLICS
A Matter of Uncommon Courtesy
had left off asking the question, "How,
then, will you enter?"
You have just passed beyond the door and
immediately you come face to face with your
neighbor whom you have known these many
years. You look each other in the eye .....
and then pass as though you did not see
him, without saying so much as a word or
making any gesture of acknowledgement whatever!
Your neighbor, expecting at least the minimal
courtesy, would very likely take grave offense
and wonder what he had done to deserve such
shabby treatment. Yes?
Have you ever done this?
Of course not.
If you do, however, it is extremely likely
that your next encounter with your neighbor
will be less than cordial.
What, moreover, if you had passed him by
in your haste to greet, not your very next
door neighbor, but some acquaintance with
whom you really have little to do, not breaking
stride to at least say hello to your neighbor?
What if you were that neighbor?
Would you take offense? How would you account
yourself, in the way of importance, in that
person's life? You would say that he behaved
as though he did not so much as know you!
What would possibly prompt this discourtesy?
Something, surely, is amiss. You have either
offended him, wittingly or not or what
is more remarkable still, he had completely
Only one other explanation is possible,
even plausible: ... despite all appearances,
he did not see you! Had he, he would never
have behaved so badly, treated you so poorly.
Let us take it a step further. What if the
person you just ignored was the very person
who had invited you to his house,
and it was his house that you had
just entered. He even opened the door for
you, but you breezed by him to greet the
other guests within ... completely heedless
of your host.
What could possibly account for such odd
behavior? It is either inexcusable effrontery
... or a total unawareness of who or where
the person is who had invited you or
somehow, having arrived, you are unable
to find him.
I am open to other possible reasons, but
can think of none off hand.
The courtesy you extend your neighbor
and remote acquaintances ... surely you
would extend no less to God Himself?
And yet you walk into the Church, pass before
the Tabernacle (where Jesus Christ
is, really and truly,
remember?) and the Altar, chat with this
one and that one on your way down the aisle,
wave left and right, stop to accord someone
a special greeting careful to offend no
one you know by failing to acknowledge them
and finally make your way to a pew, pass
right in front of Jesus Christ with (and
often even without) a perfunctory
genuflection (the kneeling on one knee,
for reasons of which you are quite unsure
it simply is done ...) you take your seat
... and begin socializing with everyone
... except Jesus Christ.
Sometimes you will kneel in an attitude
of prayer, careful that you do not pray
too long or appear too pious, utter a few
words by rote ... and then get back to business:
socializing while you await; not to enter
the most significant event of
all time which
will be enacted before you,
but to be entertained ... hoping that the
priest today will be not so much a model
of sanctity as an engaging entertainer who
will have a well provisioned stock of good
jokes and cute anecdotes, and above all,
who will make you laugh and feel terribly
good about yourself for deigning, this day,
to bring yourself to God's Presence.
There is a beautiful verse from the Book
of Psalms that is lilting with alliteration,
and very apropos of this day;
"Deus sedet super sedem sanctam Suam"
God sits upon His holy throne. (Psalm 46.9)
The problem, however, is that the throne
is right before you and He
Who sits upon it and you do
not know! Or worse yet, if
knowing, behave toward Him as you
did to the neighbor we spoke of earlier
whom you first met at the door.
"If ..." (an unerring test of your
If Jesus stood before you visible to your
eyes, as you walked up the aisle toward
the Altar and your pew would
you behave any differently
than you do at this moment when
He is hidden from your eyes? Would you chat
and gossip with your neighbors? Would you
fail to bow before Him as you passed
right in front of His eyes? ... and
once seated, turn your attention away from
Him to more ... important ... people around
you, discussing events more important than
Him and which have nothing to do with Him?
If you saw with your eyes, you
know that this would not be so.
Still ... still
you fail to grasp that HE IS THERE
in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar
and expects at least some measure
of the courtesy you lavish upon lesser beings.
What we have learned today:
God is present in the Most Blessed Sacrament
... and should be accorded at least
the Courtesy of Recognition.
After all, He is the Host, and
you are the guest ... and the
House is His. Remember?
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