I was amazed at arriving in New York a little over a month ago to find that, for such a big city, there are very few Catholic churches with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on more than just the first Friday of the month, and not one with perpetual Adoration (at least not that I have found thus far; if you know of one please tell me).
Perhaps my own concern for the matter has been somewhat hyper-sensitized after having been blessed with a chapel in my house in Ecuador where I was able to adore the exposed Blessed Sacrament every day as a missionary with Heart’s Home.
I wonder, though, how much this decline in sacramental devotion has to do, ironically, with a desire for the Catholic Church to succeed especially in a time of such hostility to orthodox Christianity and attacks on religious freedom.
An article posted at Roma locuta est helps to explain my point. The problem is parishes’ “extra curricular activities” at the expense of true devotion to Christ in the Sacraments and liturgy. Some excerpts:
Somewhere in the last half century, we have forgotten this basic movement of the soul, that essential exitus reditus after which St. Thomas Aquinas structures his theology. From God we have come (exitus) and to God we must return (reditus). I speak here not of secular culture: we all know it long ago has replaced God with humanity. Rather, we have lost this basic movement even within the Church. This has become increasingly clear to me over the last several years as I have watched various parishes add programming on top of programming while an emphasis on liturgy remains mostly unattended. . . .
I am a huge fan of education – it is, after all, my profession – and I recognize that one cannot love what one does not know. Yet I wonder whether all of the catechetical opportunities in the form of national speakers, musical entertainers, and Catholic comedians are replacing the basic life in faith offered in the Sacraments and even detracting from personal vocations. . . .
The . . . problem is the definition that these activities end up imparting to our sense of “authentic faith.” This is the problem of introverts-need-not-apply. “Faith” becomes defined not by one’s reception of the Sacraments and subsequent acceptance of the grace offer by the Church, nor is it defined by one’s life of quiet prayer and contemplation, but instead by the manner in which one is “involved” in parish life. . . .
The Catholic faith welcomes a wide variety of spiritualities, but none have been more grounded in history and tradition than those centered around quiet contemplation. However different St. Ignatius was from St. Dominic, or St. Francis from St. Benedict, it is clear that all of the great spiritual masters have mastered the art of quiet contemplation. Or rather, they have allowed the contemplative life to master them. If anything, there seems to be a primacy of introverted activity in the historical life of the Church. Every spiritual classic I have read insists that the highest form of prayer is one in which the soul is completely inactive, allowing God to do the work. The soul is simply called to rest. Yet the myriad of social engagements and educational opportunities that we find in the weekly Church bulletin seem to have more to do with our external involvement.
As St. John Vianney said: “If we could comprehend all the good things contained in Holy Communion, nothing more would be wanting to content the heart of man. The miser would run no more after his treasures, or the ambitious after glory; each would shake off the dust of the earth, leave the world, and fly away towards heaven.”