I hadn’t planned to write anything new today. This being Corpus Christi Sunday, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, I’d intended to recycle an old favorite from some years back. But I just got back from Mass...in a most inappropriate state of mind.
Father Francis X. Pizzarelli, one of the Mass celebrants my parish – forgive me, Lord – must endure is, in my perhaps insufficiently humble opinion, a subtle enemy of the Christian faith. It’s possible that even he might not know what – or who – directs his actions. Yet he has in several ways operated in a fashion hostile to Christian belief and practice:
- He routinely modifies the Mass – omitting the Gloria and altering the Nicene Creed – to suit his preferences.
- He’s called the Ten Commandments “interesting guidelines.”
- He’s openly proclaimed political positions from the pulpit.
- He plays pop Christian music during the Communion rite, forcibly intruding upon our time meditating on the miracle of Transubstantiation and its connection to the Last Supper.
He’s also a rather aggressive self-promoter, introducing himself by his full name and affiliations – “for those of you who might be visiting this weekend” – at every Mass, constantly talking up the charities he runs, reminding us repeatedly about his other involvements, and is often to be heard on secular radio broadcasts when a news station feels it needs a Catholic priest for some purpose.
I can’t help but think that God would disapprove of the above from one consecrated to His service. Yet this appears to be, if not my sole opinion, at least a minority view.
Here’s today’s Gospel reading:
But when the crowds found out, they followed him. He welcomed them, spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and cured those who needed healing. Now the day began to draw to a close; so the twelve came and said to Jesus, “Send the crowd away, so they can go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and food, because we are in an isolated place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all these people.” (For there were about five thousand men.) Then he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” And they did so, and the people all sat down.
Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven he gave thanks and broke them. He gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied, and what was left over was picked up—twelve baskets of broken pieces.
The elements of this episode appear in all four canonical Gospels:
- Matthew 14:13-21
- Mark 6:30-44
- Luke 9:11-17
- John 6:1-14
Traditionally, this is known as the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes. Down the centuries it has been regarded as one of Christ’s miracles: the transformation by Divine power of a little food into far more than a sufficiency to feed an estimated fifteen thousand people: “They all ate and were satisfied, and what was left over was picked up—twelve baskets of broken pieces.”
Father P. doesn’t care for that “interpretation.” No, he prefers to think that when Christ’s twelve closest disciples offered their meager stores to the crowd, suddenly it stimulated those in the crowd who had brought food with them to share it with those who had not – and that therefore, this wasn’t a miracle at all, merely an outpouring of generosity stimulated by Christ’s teaching and the Apostles’ donation.
Is this appropriate sermonizing from a Catholic priest? Indeed, is it Christianity?
The Church has many problems. The current tenure of Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio, a.k.a. Pope Francis, on the Throne of Saint Peter might be the most visible of them, but it might not be the worst. Indeed, it might be far from the worst, for a pope is a single man, however admired and respected. Parish priests number in the tens of thousands, and those among them who consciously impose their own preferences on the teachings and liturgy of the Church can do immeasurable harm to the souls of their flock. They can spread a skepticism approaching apostasy among believers who must already endure quite a bit of scoffing and derision from the militant atheists so common in our time.
Yet some of those priests are popular – more popular than those who remain faithful to the Faith. I can’t imagine a more terrible danger for the institution charged by Christ Himself with the conservation and propagation of His teachings.
Is it the fault of lay Catholics for not rising to challenge such priests? Or is it the fault of an intimidated Church hierarchy, beleaguered by multiple scandals, by infiltration by homosexual evangelists, by demands for anti-canonical changes to longstanding Church teachings and practices, and by a dwindling of vocations here in America and elsewhere in the First World?
I don’t know...and it’s an ignorance I find ever more difficult to bear.
Forgive me, please. The above probably isn’t what you came to Liberty’s Torch to read. But I felt it my duty to write it.
Time to pray.