Saturday, June 02, 2018

Manners in the presence of others and in the Real Presence: "Zeal for Your house ..."

Fr. Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" (Assumption Grotto News, May 6, 2018):
Zeal for Your house consumes Me.

Walking along outdoors on one of those fine sunny days of the past week, discreetly saying my rosary the while, I caught sight of a young woman approaching me from the opposite direction. Quickly letting go of the beads concealed in my pocket, I readied myself to tip my cap (visor worn forward, mind you) in a gesture of respect I had often seen my father make to women in similar circumstances. To no avail. The young lady, perhaps fearing an untoward glance, kept her eyes firmly riveted to the ground.

Many courtesies once commonplace are now passé. The aforementioned baseball cap reminds me how youth are generally unmindful of what a breech of good manners it is for men to wear hats indoors, a fortiori at the table. Equally vanishing from the scene are young couples walking together on the sidewalk with the male on the outside, that is, on the street side, indicating chivalrous protection of his consort. The drinking of water, in full view of others, from plastic bottles flared high, with one's throat strained crane-like towards the heavens is perhaps beyond the capability of people in our time to consider as discourteous, however so mildly it may be so. Discourtesies so ubiquitous as now to be regarded as benign if not fully accepted may include the public picking of one's teeth, cutting or painting the nails, the yawn full agape. Needless to add are certain bodily noises -- amongst which I confine myself to belching and spitting -- which are best discharges in private chambers or, at best, in the seclusion of familial quarters.

My subject matter is the coarsening of good manners as representing a diminishing respect for others. (Manners, let it be said, can be overdone, even unto a fastidious prissiness, unbecoming for a man -- dare I invoke the outmoded phrase, for a gentleman?). As desirable as it is for rational beings to cultivate good habits respecting the presence of one's fellows, yet my primary motivation in writing on this rare, perhaps indignifying subject, is not in the hope of rekindling polite conduct towards one's "fellow man" (a contrived, feminist faux pas) but rather to bring attention to the indifference if not ill-treatment by Catholics in our time towards His Majesty in the tabernacles of our churches. Vanishing is the genuflection, that posture whichuniquely evidences both faith in the Real Presence and adoration of Christ's divinity. Even the less satisfactory curtsy or nod of the head towards the place of His reposition has become scarce. The general rule is to disregard God sacramentally in-residence and to carry on coram sacratissimum Sacramentum (in the presence of the most holy Sacrament) as if He were not there. Whether this is do to malice, to disbelief, or to the wide-embracing ignorance of right doctrine and practice by Catholics is hard to determine. But the resulting insult to a God who did not disdain to endure the crucifixion for the salvation of mankind cannot be denied.

Recently I visited a Catholic church where people were gathered to hear a concert -- a thing permitted under certain conditions, among which is the removal of the Blessed Sacrament and Its telltale sign, the sanctuary lamp. These prescribed measures were, to all appearances, not observed. As a result, not only was there the ordinary, moderate-tones chitchat of the audience before a performance but even the inducement to chaos by the evening's MC, as is now the prevailing custom in many a parish church, that everyone should turn to greet his neighboring pewsters on all sides. I was heartbroken as I thought of the Lord in His self-induced imprisonment to beckon a voluntary profession of faith in and respect for His divine Presence. While surely not all attendees of the musical event were Catholics, yet by no outward sign of theirs was witness given of their belief in the Divine Presence. Or, is that the point, namely, that faith in the Real Presence of Christ -- Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Holy Sacrament -- is absent? Have we come to this state?

Zeal for Your house consumes Me," our Lord lamented, when He ousted the money-changers from the Temple (Jn 2), abridging words of the psalm (68:9) which adds, "and the insults of those who insult You have fallen on Me." I too have some of Christ's "zeal," and I feel embarrassment and sorrow that my Lord is treated dismissively by His own. "Be silent before the Lord, all flesh, for He has roused Himself from His holy dwelling place" (Zech. 2:13) -- that admonition was made in reference to God's rather vague manner of presence in the Jerusalem Temple. Yet what have we in our churches but the very Incarnate Son of God under sacramental signs?

I insist that in our parish church the Lord not be abused by "outrage, sacrilege, and indifference" (to quote the familiar prayer). Avoid talking to your neighbor in church or, if the matter warrants it, in a whisper. The Lord has "zeal" for the sanctity of His house.

"Be still before the Lord!" (Ps. 36, Vulgate).

Fr. Perrone

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