Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Plea to All Catholics

Our Lady of Victory, Manhattan
I work on Wall Street in Manhattan.  Yes, it's that Wall Street.  I'm about a block away from the Stock Exchange and a couple of blocks from the Federal Reserve.  This area is not exactly a bastion of spirituality and Christian belief and practice.  But our Lord never leaves us desolate and abandoned, and Wall Street is no exception.  He has put a wonderful Catholic church, Our Lady of Victory, around the corner from my office.  This is a fairly new church by New York standards, having been built during World War II, thus the name "Our Lady of Victory."  The Church was founded by the great Francis Cardinal Spellman.  To this day, there is still a tradition in the church of praying for our military.

The main altar in our Lady of Victory
Our Lady of Victory is a very active church, with six daily Masses starting at 7:15 a.m. and the last one is offered at 5:15 p.m. (they have the main upper Church and also a chapel in the basement).  The Rosary is recited every day after the 8:20 a.m. Mass.  There are daily novenas after the noon Mass.  On Holy Days of Obligation they offer 21 Masses.  The Sacrament of Confession is offered three times every day (at 8:00 a.m., noon and 5:00 p.m.)   There is Eucharistic Adoration every day from 1:00 to 5:15.  They estimate that 22,000 people receive ashes there on Ash Wednesday.  I am very much looking forward to Lent because they are going to be offering talks on Vatican II every Thursday during lunch hour.

I try to go there as often as I can for Adoration.  And there is usually a fair amount of people there.  It really is inspiring to see high power businessmen kneeling in the pews and praying the Rosary.

But there is one thing that I find very upsetting at Our Lady of Victory and which, unfortunately, I find at far too many Catholic Churches.  It is the lack of reverence shown to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  I was always taught that we must genuflect before the Tabernacle as a sign of reverence because the Lord and Creator of the Universe resides there.  And when the Blessed Sacrament is actually exposed, if you are physically able you should get down on both knees when getting in and out of the pews and whenever passing in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament.
The Exposed Blessed Sacrament
Credit:  St. Hugh of Cluny Society
I would estimate that at least 95% of the people I see in Church never show any sign of reverence to the Blessed Sacrament.  They walk in and out of the Church as if it was any other building.  Some will give a slight bow of the head, but rarely more than that and sadly, that includes the priests.

This past week I found myself becoming very agitated when a man, after helping out at Benediction, held an animated conversation with a woman in the front pew.  He stood with his back to the Blessed Sacrament, touching and hugging the woman with whom he was talking, disturbing the rest of us who were trying to pray and worst of all, completely ignoring and disrespecting his Creator and Savior who was right in back of him.   When he finally finished his conversation, he passed in front of the Blessed Sacrament and gave a barely perceptible nod of his head.

Often I will see people walk into the Church during Adoration, completely ignore our Lord and walk up to the statue of our Blessed Mother.  I have no problem at all with giving reverence to our Blessed Mother, but to ignore Her Son for any reason, even if it is to give reverence to her, is the greatest insult you can give Our Lady.

Almost no one genuflects or kneels on entering or leaving the pews.

I would implore all Catholics to think about what they are doing.  Remember that the Blessed Sacrament is not just a piece of bread on the altar, but the One who gives us every breath we breathe, the one who formed us in the womb and causes our heart to beat, the one who created the universe and everything in it.  This is the same One who allowed Himself to be whipped and beaten on our behalf, who took up His Cross and carried it on Calvary, who allowed men to pound nails into His Sacred Body and who poured out His Precious Blood so that our sins could be forgiven and we could spend all eternity with Him.

We see only a white piece of bread with our eyes, but the reality is that in the Blessed Sacrament our Lord is with us in all of his great glory and majesty.  He who is more powerful than all of creation, more brilliant than the brightest star, who is perfect goodness and love, has come down to us under the appearance of bread so that we can spend intimate time in His Presence.  And He is not alone on the altar.  The angels and saints bow continuously before Him, crying out "Holy, Holy, Holy,"

St. John the Apostle was transported to the Heavenly Throne of Christ in a vision, and this is how he describes it (Revelation 1:12-17):
12 When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. 13 There with the lampstands was someone who seemed to be the Son of Man. He was wearing a robe that reached down to his feet, and a gold cloth was wrapped around his chest. 14 His head and his hair were white as wool or snow, and his eyes looked like flames of fire.15 His feet were glowing like bronze being heated in a furnace, and his voice sounded like the roar of a waterfall. 16 He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp double-edged sword was coming from his mouth. His face was shining as bright as the sun at noon.  17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead person.
Notice the last verse:  "When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead person."  To be in the glorified presence of our Lord and Savior was so overwhelming that St. John passed out as if dead.  If we could see past the veil of the appearance of bread in the Blessed Sacrament, we too would be as overwhelmed as St. John was.

Because Our Lord has such a great desire to be intimately with us, He humbles and veils himself under the appearance of a small piece of white bread.  We enter into the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament with our faith, seeing Him not with our physical eyes but in a spiritual sense.  Our physical demeanor in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament has a direct effect on our belief and obedience to our Lord.  "Lex orendi, lex credendi" means how we pray is how we believe.  Prayer is not just the words we use but involves our whole being, and part of prayer is our bodily expression.  If we want to cultivate a true reverence for our Lord and Savior, we must manifest this in our outward appearance.

Physically genuflecting and kneeling in front of the Blessed Sacrament will actually help you grow in holiness and in love of Jesus Christ.  And don't we owe Him at least this much for the very fact that He, as Creator, has given us our physical existence and then poured out His Precious Blood on the Cross so that we may inherit eternal life with Him as well?

Please show the proper respect when entering into the presence of the Lord.  He has humbled Himself to come to us under the appearance of bread.  The least we can do is bend our knees in reverence and respect to Our Creator and Savior.



  1. First - I've been to that church! It is beautiful.

    What you speak about is very true - it happens everywhere I think. In big city churches or downtown churches especially. Unfortunately those 'familiar' with the Eucharist neglect reverence as well.

    Busy people often run in with prayer intentions for Our lady without thinking of the Blessed Sacrament - there is no accounting for what others do or may be thinking, so your post is a nice reminder.

    Perhaps our adoration can be the reparation Our Lord seeks. What I try to do is pray for those who appear not to notice the Blessed Sacrament or appear indifferent to decorum - asking Our Lord to grasp them and hear and grant their prayers.

    You may not be aware of the change, but decades ago the profound genuflection became optional. I prefer it myself, but more often than not you will see religious people do the single knee, or 'familiars' making a slight bow. Maybe it's all they can do, though it strikes the onlooker as irreverent. Again, reparation is called for.

    Your love for Jesus in the Blessed sacrament is so edifying, I hope many people read your post.

    1. Being gone from the church for so many years, I missed out on a lot and I didn't know that kneeling on both knees before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, if physically possible, was no longer required I have to say that does sadden me to hear that.

      I do appreciate your feelings of charity towards others and I can definitely use that. The "traditional" in me tends to be very judgmental. Mea culpa.

    2. I think the love in your heart longs for everyone to know what you know and to reverence the Sacred Presence. I don't think you are being judgmental at all. I think I know what you experience.


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