By Susan Miller
There’s something about driving on Denison Parkway and knowing that behind some barriers, mounds of dirt are being moved around where the beautiful St. Patrick’s Church and school no longer stand. There’s something about seeing a For Sale sign stuck in the earth at Immaculate Heart of Mary.
It’s ugly. It’s disturbing. And I wonder: Why are so many Catholics not upset by the sale and destruction of churches for money that is quickly spent and forgotten?
A Roman Catholic Church is sacred space. When it is consecrated by the bishop, he anoints it with holy chrism and “dedicates a building to the service of God, thereby raising it in perpetuum to a higher order, removing it from the malign influence of Satan, and rendering it a place in which favours are more graciously granted by God," (Pontificale Romanum). Furthermore, each church houses the actual presence of Christ, in the Eucharist, in the tabernacle. We are literally sharing the same space with God.
On this point, Catholics begin to fall away. Recent statistics show that 40%-50% of Catholics believe that the bread and wine are merely symbols of Christ.
For those of us that do believe in Christ’s presence, maybe we take it for granted. Over the past decade, there has been an increasing lack of reverence in a number of parishes/churches. Some people don’t genuflect or bow when they enter or exit the pews. There’s steady conversation before Mass and not in whispers. Bare skin is common in the summer months, even in air-conditioned churches.
Maybe parishioners are simply reflecting their surroundings. How many churches have been emptied of most, if not all, statues, flowers, and candles? How many resemble a meeting hall rather than a church? Are plays and other events held in church?
Is there time during the mass for silent prayer, or is it a show of music, skits, and other attention-grabbers? Are videos shown during mass? Do children sit around the altar? Do lay people give homilies?
We have lost the sacred. Unless and until we regain it, we will continue to lose our churches.