Our teenagers just came back from a Steubenville Retreat. They are fired up. They have had a palpable sense of the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Then they come to Mass in the parish and that feeling begins to ebb away. Why? Why doesn’t every single Mass remind us and fill us with a sense of God’s real presence? I think there are two reasons and two clear things that we all can do to change this dynamic.
The answers I am talking about are REVERENCE and ATTENTION. The first one has to do with how we all treat the House of our Lord. Too often we begin to talk out loud even during the final song. We call to a friend across the aisle. We bring the secular into God’s house by talking to each other without reference to where we are and how we should behave.
We pass by the tabernacle with barely a nod. We do a “shoo fly” version of the Sign of the Cross. We barely make a bow before going into the pew. We go up to Communion, hold out our hands, scoop the host into our mouths and barely notice what we are doing.
All of these actions show a lack of reverence and a lack of awareness that we are in God’s house; He is the King of Kings; and we are receiving Jesus Himself in the Eucharist. If we were AWARE, surely we would be in AWE.
Last February, I was helping prepare our little children for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Father wanted them to learn about Adoration so we gave them little booklets to read and we brought them to Church. More than anything else there was one thing that influenced them that day: The Deacon and his assistant knelt for the full twenty minutes on the floor in front of the Altar. They displayed absolute reverence! And that made a difference.
Seeing them kneeling in total silence with their eyes fixed on the Monstrance, the children remained quiet as well. The ACTION of those two men, told the students, “Something very special is before you. You must be quiet. God speaks in a whisper.” The Deacon didn’t need to say those words because his actions communicated it.
That is what happens at the Steubenville retreats as well. They have Mass and Adoration times in which the priests and all the adults who are present, DEMONSTRATE complete reverence. My daughter was transfixed by the glow of the Monstrance on the priest’s face as he carried it. The swirling incense, the dim lights, the palpable silence and the demonstrated reverence sends a message to the young ones that the Creator of the Universe is here. And He expects and deserves our absolute devotion.
So how do we bring this into the parish? It must begin with those who minister…the priests, the Extraordinary Ministers, the lectors, the altar servers, the Sacristans, the Greeters. And we need to educate every adult in the parish. They are the role models for the young. Not only do all of us who are adults, have a responsibility to demonstrate reverence, but we get something in return for this simple effort. When we are quietly devout, we open up to becoming more AWARE of Jesus. And in that fixed time of ATTENTION God speaks. Maybe not the first time; maybe not in words. But God can only come into our lives when we make room for Him…clearing out all the distractions and all the pulls on our time and attention. We make room for God by being silent and reverent.
Disrespect tends to spread like wildfire. If one person is calling across the aisle, then other people think, “Well I can do that too.” If one person is dressed in sexy clothes, then others think that is acceptable. But the opposite is equally true.
ANYONE can begin the Reverence Revolution. Anyone can spread the truth that God is HERE and we must be devout and listen. Hey, teenagers. Spread the word! Invite others into Reverence! Let’s ALL spread REVERENCE. Then the Lord of Lords, will begin to speak to us. And our youth will be inspired to want to come to God’s House on a regular basis. And God will smile upon our lives and the world will be blessed!
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