Wednesday, June 06, 2012

On reverence in prayer and toward others...

Recently I was approached just prior to Holy Mass and asked to lead a public Rosary.  I agreed.  And in the middle of reciting a decade, I was interrupted by another parishioner who began to lead the prayer.  I simply followed along silently for the rest of the Rosary.  What is so disturbing about this is not that I was cut off (I'm quite content with praying the Rosary quietly, something I do every day and before every Holy Mass).

No, what is disturbing is the attitude of irreverence which this reveals.  Dietrich von Hildebrand explains that, "Reverence in its primitive form is not only the basis of every religion, and, above all, of the receptiveness to the Lumen Christi, to the word of God; but it is also a constitutive element of faith, hope, and love of God.  Complete, fully ripened reverence is a component of a true relationship with God and specifically with the God of Revelation." 

In addition, reverence is the basis of all true personality.  Again Dr. Hildebrand explains: "The significance of reverence for the full personality can easily be grasped.  The greatest natural endowment, the greatest latitude of talents and capacities can never lead to true personality if reverence is lacking For the latter is the basis of the second essential component of personality, the perceiving of values, an organic contact with the world of values, and - most ultimate of all - the dying to oneself, the preparation of inner room for Christ.  The man without reverence is necessarily flat and limited.  This lack is an essential mark of stupidity.  Even he whose mind is obdurate and helpless, but who possesses reverence, does not manifest that offensive, tactlessly persistent stupidity of which it is said that 'even the gods struggle against it in vain.'" (Liturgy and Personality, pp. 50-51).

Because lack of reverence may have two roots, Dr. Hildebrand notes that, "..there are two different types of men who lack reverence: the arrogant person and the senseless, blunt one.  The root of the first is to be found in pride.  The man who lacks reverence because of pride and arrogance approaches everything with conceit and presumption, imagines that he knows everything, that he sees through everythingHe is interested in the world only insofar as it serves his self-glorification, insofar as it enhances his own importance...He thinks himself always greater than that which is not himself.  The world holds no mystery for him.  He treats everything tactlessly, with easy familiarity, and everything seems to him to be at his disposal.  To his insolent, conceited gaze, to his despotic approach, the world is sealed, silent, stripped of all mystery, deprived of all depth, flat and limited to one dimension.  He stands in desolate emptiness, blind to all the values and secrets of being, circling endlessly around himself...

There is however another form of irreverence, one which is born of concupiscence.  The concupiscent man is interested in the world only as a means of procuring pleasure for himself.  His is a dominating position in the face of being - not because he wills domination as such but because he wants to use being   for his pleasure.  He, too, circles around in the narrowness of his own self.  He does not face the world with arrogance and conceit but with a blunt stupidity.  Stubbornly imprisoned in his own self, he violates being, and seeing it only from the outside, he thus misses its true meaning.  To this type of irreverent man the world also refuses to disclose its breadth, height, and depth, its richness of values and mysteries." (Liturgy and Personality, pp. 49-50).

And so, this parishioner approached the most holy mysteries of the Rosary with irreverence.  The need to be "in control," to dominate the prayer in effect, undermined any reverence for objective value.  St. Louis de Montfort assures us that, "A single Hail Mary said properly [in other words, with reverence] is worth more than a hundred and fifty said badly." (The Secret of the Rosary, Forty-first Rose).

In his Forty-fourth Rose, St. Montfort explains that one fault, "commonly committed in saying the Rosary is to have no intention other than that of getting it over with as quickly as possible.  This is because so many look upon the Rosary as a burden, which weighs heavily upon them when it has not been said...It is sad to see how most people say the Rosary.  They say it astonishingly fast, slipping over part of the words.  We could not possibly expect anyone, even the most important person, to think that a slipshod address of this kind was a compliment, and yet we imagine that Jesus and Mary will be honored by it!"  In his Forty-fifth Rose, St. Montfort says simply, "I would like to add that the Rosary ought to be said reverently.."

All around us, we are witnessing a world which has succumbed to pride and arrogance.  The result is that so many desire to control everyone and every thing around them - including conversation (tell me with a straight face that you haven't experienced this).  This is characteristic of the irreverent man.  As Catholic Christians, we are called to put on the new man.  The Catholic formed by the Liturgy and by the authentic spirit of the Rosary will be reverent toward his neighbor.  He will not treat his neighbor as an obstacle to be smashed down or dominated.  Not if he expects his prayer to have any value.  Not if he expects his prayers to be answered.


Jonathan said...

And then there are those who come to Mass talking loudly and carrying on as if they were in a sports bar or in a night club, with absolutely no thought of Who resides in the tabernacle.

The fruit of poor catechesis. Or none at all!

Ellen Wironken said...

Jonathan, Pope John Paul II said that: "Every act of reverence,
every genuflection that you make before the Blessed Sacrament is important because it is an act of faith in Christ, and act of love for Christ. And every sign of the cross and gesture of respect made each time you pass a church
is also an act of faith." (September 29, 1979).

But the opposite is also true. Every sign of disrespect, every sign of irreverence, displays a lack of faith in Christ Jesus or a lack of love.

It is has gotten out of hand lately. Many people receive without reverence and without modesty. Others have loud conversations as you mentioned.

There is a crisis in faith. Marcus Grodi told the tale of a Protestant who said, "If I believed in the Real Presence as you Catholics CLAIM to believe, I would enter Church on my belly."

That is reverence.

jac said...

In France, the first irreverence against the Rosary was made when the pre-conciliar Our Father translation was dropped for a "modernist" one. The politeness plural "Vous" was changed for the more familiar "Tu" (while it was not in the Hail Mary). Everyone complied, even myself but reluctantly though I never accepted the new end of the prayer: "Et ne nous soumets pas à la tentation" that in my opinion borders to blasphemy whereas it aims to make ignorant people believing that it is God Himself who tempts the sinner, not the Devil.
A new modernist translation for the Hail Mary was introduced but, thanks God, nobody except very few people recite it.
Anyways it looks very odd that now in the Rosary God is prayed with less reverence, like a good friend, than His human creature the blessed Mary.

jac said...

Padre Pio echoed the words of Marcus Grodi in saying: "If people could grasp what truly the Eucharist is, they would come to receive our Lord in the communion, not standing, not kneeling, but crawling on the ground.

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