Rorate Caeli

"This is the most beautiful Mass our parish has ever celebrated."

Only... in this week of Corpus Christi (or Corpus Domini, as it is called in Italy), the pastor (Parish priest) of a church in Palermo, Sicily, used these words to refer not to a Holy Mass, but to something else entirely.

Altar eliminated to open up space for the immigrants; pastor: "the most beautiful Mass."

... In the parish of San Giovanni Maria Vianney (Falsomiele), as was the case in other churches in Palermo, the pews were moved to make space for beds. “We substituted the altar for beds” said the parish priest of San Luigi Gonzaga, Rosario Francolino, who, since Sunday has been co-coordinating the arrival of 700 Africans –“I think it is the most beautiful Mass the community has ever celebrated.” [source, translated by Francesca Romana]

Yes, Christ is often in the face of those most in need - He Himself said so. But the use of the most sublime of the realities of our Faith, the Sacrifice of Our Lord and His Presence made Real in Holy Mass, as something inferior to this supposed work of mercy is troubling to the extreme. It once again shows the doctrinal blob that dominates the minds of priests who do not even seem to realize that such propositions show their belief in their own irrelevance: if each center for recent arrivals is more beautiful than a Holy Mass, then such priests should rather leave their positions and become plain social workers, whose job is clearly more useful, more beautiful and of a higher nature than their Sacramental celebrations.


An anonymous Italian priest, who knows what he is talking about, is amazed with this attitude; especially because, as he says, such displays are NOT needed,  for in Sicily and in the Continent there is plenty of room in public places other than the very naves of fully-functioning churches. Appropriate space exists everywhere, except perhaps in the case of the frontline sheltering centers in places where these immigrants arrive and are examined (and that are overwhelmed by the unbelievably high number of immigrants coming from the coasts of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica after the Western-led collapse of any kind of government in Libya), such as Lampedusa. In Palermo itself, the unused and deconsecrated church of San Carlo is being used for this purpose.

But the pastors using consecrated churches when there is room available elsewhere (as it is known by all) are doing so in order to score cheap ideological points, which is highlighted by the way they make their virtue known by explicitly placing it above Holy Mass itself. (And perhaps, as recalls the editor below, which would be even worse but is entirely possible, some may be doing it to maximize public Italian and European Union funds available to those places welcoming immigrants, that usually receive such funds by the number of people sheltered.)

In view of the distressing images, the anonymous Italian priest speaks up.

I don’t need demagogy. I don’t need dances and beds in churches. Can you simply give me back the Faith of my father?

Over the past few days, various photos and video reports are being shown - undoubtedly springing from a sincere desire to help the poor. (Italian editorial note: we hope that it is not , by way of contrast, the usual business of Italian and European public funds being passed off as Christian charity )

Memories of my father come to mind. He used to enter the church as if he were going into a royal palace. Even when he was old and ill, he wanted me to accompany him, first, to the Tabernacle, since the Master of the House , Our Lord, was there. I saw him kneel there as best he could – even in pain.

Not long ago, being there for some pastoral meetings, I saw twenty, thirty and more ‘operators’ come into a church. They had to cross the nave to reach the room where the meeting would take place. Well, for three nights, not one person gave a thought to the Tabernacle, nor showed a sign of reverence or paused for a second. They passed through the church as if they were crossing a street.

Then I remembered that one evening in that same church, I saw a lot of people wiggling their hips (please forgive the verb, but the picture needs to be rendered graphically) around the altar, and in their midst a Monstrance, which “danced” following the rhythm of those ‘invocations.’ Now everything and anything is done in churches - from dancing to parties.

It is called “fraternity”, but it is always a moment of conviviality. Village fairs are not less convivial simply because they are worldly. We do not lack [other] rooms and places in which one can show one’s conviviality.

After all this, I am not surprised at the unbecoming show we are at presently witnessing, where some churches have been reduced to dormitories. To be sure, we do not lack other suitable places to welcome those in need.

The problem is not in the act of charity, but the perception that one has now of the worship due to God. The places destined for this worship end up being infected by this new degraded religious sentiment.

Yet, the Catechism of the Catholic Church reasons in a totally different way: paragraphs 1180-1183 recall the significance of the building destined for the act of worship - its sacredness and function.

The problem – I repeat – it not the brother we must help.

The problem is the idea that we have adopted about the worship of God. Even more paradoxical if we consider that only a short time has passed since the end of a highly illuminating and fecund pontificate (for the generations that will read about it in the centuries ahead).

I don’t need demagogy.
I don’t need dances and beds in churches.
Can you just give me back the faith of my father?
A priest.

[Source: Traditio Catholica. Translated by Contributor Francesca Romana, op-ed text adapted where needed to improve readability.]