"Walk into any church today before Mass and
you will notice that the silence that should embrace those who stand
in Godís House is gone. Even the Church is no longer a sacred
In the 17th century, Descartes, the father of modern philosophy,
rejected the philosophical traditions of Aristotle and the
Scholastics. For Descartes, the very fact that we think is the
proof that we exist. Cogito,
ergo sum. I think, therefore I am. He rejected the use
of his senses as the basis for knowledge. In so doing, he wounded
the unity between mind and body found in classical philosophy. Over
the course of time, the wound has widened. The spiritual and the
material have drifted apart. The sacred and the secular clearly
modern philosophy, other factors have contributed to the separation
of the sacred from the secular. The scientific manipulation of
human life in test tubes has lessened the respect for life itself.
Life is no longer, for some, a sacred gift from God. Likewise, the
divorce of human sexuality from procreation, coupled with the
continual campaign to redefine marriage has helped to push God out
of the intimacies of human life. Marriage is no longer recognized
as a sacred institution given by God for a man and woman to join
with Him in bringing new life into the world. The sacredness of
even the natural order as coming from the hands of an all-wise God
is thus lost.
anti-authoritarian prejudice that we have inherited from the social
revolution of the '60ís imprinted on many a deep mistrust not only
of government but of Church. Some even reject the very idea of
hierarchy (literally, ďa sacred originĒ) as a spiritual authority
established by God. As a result, Church means, for some, simply the
assembly of like-minded believers who organize themselves and make
their own rules and dogmas. Thus, the Churchís role in the
spiritual realm is greatly eclipsed.
first day of the new millennium, Prince Charles of England said, "In
an age of secularism, I hope, with all my heart, in a new millennium
we will rediscover a sense of the sacred in all that surrounds us."
He said he hoped this would hold true whether in growing crops,
raising livestock, building homes in the countryside, treating
disease or educating the young. He recognized by his statement that
we have lost a sense of the sacred.
our world, we breathe the toxic air that surrounds us. Even within
the most sacred precincts of the Church, we witness a loss of the
sense of the sacred. With the enthusiasm that followed the Second
Vatican Council, there was a well-intentioned effort to make the
liturgy modern. It became commonplace to say that the liturgy had
to be relevant to the worshipper. Old songs were jettisoned. The
guitar replaced the organ. Some priests even began to walk down the
road of liturgical innovation, only to discover it was a dead end.
And all the while, the awareness of entering into something sacred
that has been given to us from above and draws us out of ourselves
and into the mystery of God was gone.
about the Mass began to emphasize the community. The Mass was seen
as a community meal. It was something everyone did together. Lost
was the notion of sacrifice. Lost the awesome mystery of the
Eucharist as Christís sacrifice on the cross. The priest was no
longer seen as specially consecrated. He was no different than the
laity. With all of this, a profound loss of the sacred.
factor can account for the decline in Mass attendance, Church
marriages, baptisms and funerals in the last years. But most
certainly, the loss of the sense of the sacred has had a major
any church today before Mass and you will notice that the silence
that should embrace those who stand in Godís House is gone. Even
the Church is no longer a sacred place. Gathering for Mass
sometimes becomes as noisy as gathering for any other social event.
We may not have the ability to do much about the loss of the
sacredness of life in the songs, videos and movies of our day. But,
most assuredly, we can do much about helping one another recover the
sacredness of Godís Presence in His Church.
first day of this millennium, the Prince of Wales struck a strong
note of optimism for the recovery of the sacred. Paraphrasing Dante,
he remarked: "The strongest desire of everything, and the one first
implanted by nature, is to return to its source. And since God is
the source of our souls and has made it alike unto Himself,
therefore this soul desires above all things to return to Him."
There is one place where we can begin to rediscover the sacred.
Bishop Arthur Joseph Serratelli)
To be continuedÖ..
This is the first of a series of four articles that will
explore the loss and the recovery of the sense of the sacred in