Monday, July 22, 2013

The Cathedral and the Casino

I hope you like my latest at Crisis Magazine, which reflects on a recent visit to Vegas. It concludes as follows:

Secular institutions thrive on creating spaces that are driven and purposeful, that make it nearly impossible for the individual encountering this world not to be completely surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of the intended idea behind the institution.

Meanwhile, our Churches are shy, cautious, and confused about the purpose of why we do what we do, cautious about our historic forms, wary of being the real alternative to the casino culture, and even unknowledgeable about how to go about realizing the fullness of our own tradition and ritual.

People are drawn to institutions that believe in their purposes and put the evidence of it up front so that it is apparent to all who walk in the door. The casino makes an effort to transport its customers in order that they might come to believe things that are mostly fiction and all untrue.

The Catholic faith, which is that one space in this world that is charged to provide the fullness of truth in time and eternity, needs to make similar efforts to transport its people to a world of truth that no one else is willing to take on. The key to doing this is found in our heritage and liturgy, which, if we accept in its organic development as it has emerged through the centuries, give us a spectacular template for the art and sensory signals that put on display the mystical reality that liturgy puts before us.

The claim of the Mass of the Catholic Church is more impressive than that offered by any other institution. “Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Would someone walking into Mass for the first time be convinced that we really believe and teach this?

Let not our symbols and rituals be taken from us and made to serve mammon. We can make them our own again, not to win superficial games but win souls and the whole world.

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