The Agony of Jesus, a meditation on Our Lord's agony in the garden, by St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, an actual contemplation by one of the greatest Catholic mystics of all-time, especially potent for Lenten season but useful all year round as we attend the great mystery St. Pio so loved: the Mass. Get it for next next but use it all year round! CLICK HERE



A crisis it is that so many parishes (and even whole dioceses) are adverse to devotion. It seems like a contradictory remark: how could a church -- and a Catholic one at that -- reject piety?

And yet in case after case, it's true -- perhaps even more often than not. We've heard priests say that "demons" were only a figure of speech; we've heard them preach against miraculous icons, against pilgrimages. At one seminary on the East Coast, students had to secretly meet in the basement to say the Rosary. Meanwhile, and most disturbing, local pastors are often the greatest obstacle in establishing Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament -- which sanctifies a parish (and often leads to vocations; in one such St. Louis church, four new seminarians in just a few years, we are recently informed; there are plenty of other examples).

Prayer from the heart trumps theology, the aridity of which can turn a church into a desert.

There is something to be said, of course, about the dangers of excessive piety. Anything can go too far. There are those who go through all the motions of devotion (frequent Mass, daily Rosary, novena after novena, perhaps a good dose of Latin) yet lack love for others. It is to defeat the very purpose of the faith to judge harshly.

But the more frequent problem is the suppressing of orthodox worshippers, as if they are misfits, when in fact they compose the majority of those attending daily Mass. If their devotions are antiquated and of so little use, one must ask why special graces are so often attached to them.

Grace flows with devotion, and Lent should be full of that. (Grace and sacrifice.) With all due respect, what we do not need are priests blessing devils for the Mardi Gras (yes, this really happens), turning Mass into a program, nor special services during which actual clowns do the Stations of the Cross (see: Upstate New York).

They mean nothing by it, but it goes to the heart of the crisis: a compromise with the world and specifically with the modern world in an effort at entertainment. We're to love everyone -- no matter race or creed -- but we are not to allow in the devil's gimmicks (see also, in convents, yogic meditation). There are more magazines and newspapers and secular books in some rectories than prayer pamphlets. The interior life of too many modern shepherds is reflected by the emptiness of pews.

Meanwhile, the missing baby boomers are not necessarily home watching football on Sunday. Many are at charismatic, Pentecostal, evangelical, and other non-denominational churches, speaking in tongues, laying on hands, and feeling what they believe is the Paraclete.

Our Church can also do this -- in fact, it has the tools to do it better than any other -- but the tools -- and gifts of the Holy Spirit -- are under-utilized; and age-old wisdom is poorly communicated. As long as there is proper reverence, there's nothing wrong with bringing the Church alive. Piety and gifts of the spirit -- deliverance, healing -- can be combined in a balanced way to make the Church dynamic.

Why does daily Mass often seem holier than on Sunday? It is a question it is time to ask.  Perhaps it is because piety is dedication to the faith as opposed to compromise with the world. The common theme between the pious and charismatic is that in a tangible way both evoke the Spirit and do so unabashedly.

We forget that in 1864, Pope Pius IX issued the Syllabus of Errors (statements he cited as incorrect), one of which was, that "the Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself to, and agree with, progress, liberalism, and modern civilization."

A remedy for the Church: short homilies and devotion. Gifts like those of the apostles. Too often, we strive to be "cool." We try to "fit in" (with all).

As long as we follow Christ, that will never happen.

[resources: Introduction to the Devout Life, Why is That in Tradition, Rekindle Eucharistic Amazement, and Wife, Mother, and Mystic]

[Tampa retreat with Michael Brown: healing Mass, preparing for times; Detroit retreat to be announced]

[see also: Blessing the Mardi Gras devils?, 'Carnival cardinal', Vatican official: reform the reform, and Traditionalists: waiting for apocalypse]

[E-mail feedback: "I am a Canadian born and raised in Brazil," notes Mario Izippon Perez of Toronto. "In Brazil there are also two young priests, Father Marcelo Rossi (the singer) and also Father Zeca (the surfer from Rio) whom attract massive amounts of youth to Charismatic and Healing Outdoor Masses by the hundreds of thousands and brought back to the Church many young people. Very much in the style of Pope John Paul the Great World Youth Day events.]

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