The Heart of the Church

Guest Essay | by Andrea Chamberlain

Four years ago my husband decided to start asking God in prayer to “know the truth”. At the time we were fully modernized nominal Catholics disinterestedly attending the Novus Ordo Mass every week in the cry room (when we could find one). We were simultaneously as certain of our salvation as we were oblivious to it, unwittingly raising our children to go through all the motions of being Catholic on Sundays – and little else. Looking back now I know I could not have possibly imagined all of the implications his prayer would have for us, and maybe that was a good thing.

The extent of what we had been missing about our faith became clear to me in an instant a few months ago when I watched a documentary about St. Padre Pio. On the morning of March 28, 1913 Jesus appeared to him along with a vision of innumerable priests who Jesus was staring at with tears rolling down his cheeks. “Butchers!” He exclaimed to St. Pio, revealing the inconceivable pain He was constantly experiencing at the hands of indifferent priests who did not display the true reverence due to His Body and Blood in the most Holy Sacrament of the altar.

St. Pio’s letters on the subject are gut-wrenching. “My Heart has been forgotten” Jesus said to him, “nobody cares for my love; I am always grief stricken… my priests that I have always protected, who have always had my favor; they should comfort my grieving heart; they should help me in the redemption of souls, instead – who would believe it? They repay me with ingratitude and rejection.” He continued “I see, my Son, many of these… (He paused, sobbing) who hypocritically betray me with sacrilegious Communions, stomping on the grace and the strength that I constantly give them.”

I shudder when I realize that He expressed these emotions in 1913, long before Vatican II…

Something about the humanity of Jesus became real to me through these words. It felt like meeting Him for the first time, and it made me remember when I was growing up how my father always used to talk about the reverence of the “old Mass” and how much he missed it. He was not a saint by any stretch of the imagination, but when it came to the Eucharist he was adamant that he would never receive in his hand no matter what. When my brother was receiving his first Communion and the priest at his school told my father that going to his first confession was no longer considered a prerequisite he drove my brother to another church on his own to go to confession.

Memories like these had disquieted me at times when we went to Mass with our oldest girls, so when my husband suggested going to the Tridentine Mass in our community it sounded like the right thing to do. After we had our fourth child we started driving an hour every Sunday to go to that Mass (even though they didn’t have a cry room), passing four other Catholic Churches on the way. Almost immediately it seemed like our prayer life began to change. Insights would come quicker and we would become aware of God’s designs in a situation more easily. We gradually realized what changes we needed to make in our speech, habits, clothing and entertainment choices, etc. to begin to rid our lives of all sin. My husband started listening to sermons on Youtube from traditionalist priests such as those on Sensus Fidelium, like Fr. Chad Ripperger. We wondered why neither of us had ever heard sermons like this before in Church. We started going to confession every two weeks, got enrolled in the brown scapular, joined a rosary confraternity and began the daily family rosary. We completed the First Friday and First Saturday devotions, St. Louis de Montfort’s Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, and formally enthroned the Sacred Heart of Jesus in our home.

My husband began researching topics we heard about on the Youtube sermons and discovered issue after issue that we had been completely ignorant about our whole lives. We also realized that we could not expect to get accurate answers to our spiritual questions from just any priest and began to seek out traditionalist priests to interrogate about what he had discovered. At a certain point the enormity of what we should have been taught growing up, since we were both lifelong Catholics and went to Catholic schools, and what we actually had been taught felt completely overwhelming. It was akin to becoming “unplugged” in one of The Matrix movies.

So now here we are after four years, feeling surreal and completely isolated – like we are now part of a secret underground sect of the Church, an increasingly vocationless Church who appears closer to death now than she ever has before, just as Pope Leo XIII was warned about by Christ on October 13, 1884 (exactly 33 years before the Miracle of the Sun). The Church now seems to me to be patiently suffering the most unbearable agony in all of human history in complete silence – as her Divine Spouse did on the cross – and it almost feels like Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has become himself a living symbol of this suffering and silent Church, mirroring St. John, the faithful and beloved disciple, at the foot of the cross.

Throughout history God has always raised up great saints to help heal the church in moments of chaos like these. Where are these saints now? As has been written by others recently what feels most palpable in the Church right now is a deafening silence. Could it be that the ones God planned to send to us in this hour of need were prevented from being born by the widespread use of birth control and abortion in recent decades? Look at other great saints who have sustained the Church like St. Catherine of Siena, who was the 24th child born to her parents… The implications of this possibility are terrifying.

The Church is the Body of Christ, and every body is sustained by the heart. This is what I think is missing in the modern Church. Everywhere and every day, from the pulpits and the Magisterium, we hear exhortations to love our neighbor. This is the second greatest commandment and of course no one can underestimate its importance. But why does no one ever speak anymore of loving the Lord our God with “thy whole heart, thy whole soul, thy whole mind and all of thy strength” (Mark 12:30)? This love for Christ, our adorable Savior, the love He Himself gives in abundance to those who ask it reverently and earnestly of His Most Sacred Heart, this is where our love of neighbor must originate. The modern Church seeks to constantly give love away without drawing enough from its source. This is simply unsustainable.

If the Eucharist, the visible representation on Earth of the love contained in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is the “source and summit of the Christian life” as Lumen Gentium stated, where is the reverence for the Eucharist in the modern Church – where the priest turns his back to Christ in the tabernacle (if one can even see or find the tabernacle) and He is given out by unconsecrated hands to standing recipients who self-communicate? St. Peter Julian Eymard once said “An age prospers or dwindles in proportion to its devotion to the Holy Eucharist. This is the measure of its spiritual life and its faith, of its charity and its virtue.”

Herein lies the reason and the remedy for the sacrileges and heresies of our age. Bring back honor and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through profound reverence for Him in the Eucharist, in every Mass and in our daily lives, and the emphasis on receiving Him only in a state of grace, and we can avert schism in our Church. The progress Satan has made in weakening the Church can be reversed and many souls can be saved. God will restore to us “the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25) and an unequivocal consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as Cardinal Raymond Burke has proposed, can become the unanimous desire of the Magisterium. The long awaited triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary can become a reality.

Most Holy Trinity, through the intercession of the Queen of the Universe and her most Chaste Spouse and by virtue of your unfathomable and incomprehensible abyss of Divine Mercy, let that world be the one in which we get to see our children grow up. Blessed Imelda Lambertini and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, pray for us!

Andrea Chamberlain received her doctoral degree in 2003. She has written guest articles on theology for various publications for over a decade. She is a laywoman in Florida and has five children with her husband of 13 years.

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