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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Free the Mass

We must free the Mass because the sacred liturgy of the Catholic Church has been held hostage by incoherent and inconsistent governmental policies. Compared to stores, restaurants and airlines, places of worship are often treated differently. These policies, however incoherent in relation to actual public safety, align as are part of a worldwide erosion of religious freedom. Indeed, there is an irrational fear of faith in which religion is seen as a threat rather than an asset for a community. The marginalization, dislocation and persecution of religious people marks the times in which we live to the extent that this new callousness threatens the whole human ecosystem, a global climate of hearts goes cold. A government, no matter the nobility of its purpose, dehumanizes its population whenever it attempts to impede the exercise of this most basic right. To free the Mass says to the world that the freedom for public worship is a basic right, a debt society owes its people because human dignity cannot have it any other way.

Prayer is the most essential human activity and public worship as a people gathered together is a vital part of our social life. That is, when we pray together, something about the mystery of our shared humanity is set free and realized before God. Is it not true that our sense of solidarity with each other has ebbed away the longer common worship has been denied us? Fractured and fragmented, only as we turn together and worship God will we also discover again the respect we owe one another. Until then, we are subject to the rantings of personalities so occupied with self-loathing shame that even a neighbor's kindness is regarded as a demeaning threat.

(As an aside, among those who see religion as an obstacle to social progress, I keep reading that history belongs to the victorious. No. It belongs to God. Because His presence is with us, it is never the politically, culturally or militarily powerful who determine history in the end, but always the brave and God fearing. Under the providence of God, those who are courageous in their faith define history even if against the cowardice of overwhelming mobs and abuse of governmental power. History is left to lesser men to write about, a project that measures their efforts against the greatness of what God has done. What cowards write is not history, but an exercise in magical thinking and self-justification. As for what is history and what is magical, good students know the difference.)

The profound need to worship God is why history is filled with societies in which life is not so much about physical survival, but instead religious practices. Meaningful societies have always been formed for something more than producing and consuming, or securing and controlling material goods - as if the most noble truths of humanity are advanced through merely profane efforts or self-interest. Instead, a great society allows religious people to foster a sense of life beyond health, wealth and self. These are blessings for which to give thanks, but they are not meaningful enough to bind long a society of hearts.

We need to go to Church and worship God as a people - the salvation of the whole world depends on it. Every true culture is always built around sacred space, a place of prayer and reverence, where a soul discovers awe before the majesty of God and the gift of life.

The Church realizes this as the mystical body of Christ - at once on earth amidst the world of men and in heaven before the Father. The work-a-day world of a great civilization is interrupted by the frequent observance of sacred festivals where the affairs of man are subordinated to the things of God. For Catholics, this happens weekly on the Day of the Lord and the Mass is the source and summit of this solemn day of joy.

Not for sentimental and nostalgic moments, not to find an escape from the travails of existence, but to work in union with God to bring sacred order and holy purpose into the chaos out of which creation issues forth, to find together that freedom from all that would compromise dignity and integrity, to stand as one before the gates of death with certain hope, and to offer in a single solidarity the praise of glory unseen yet shining forth in this short life we share together

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