No sacramental grace for you! You’re on your own, lay faithful.
Buckle up your boot straps, and best of luck to you.
Your bishops and priests
This is essentially what the USCCB, and so many other bishops around the world, are telling their flocks.
By locking the doors of their Churches, from the inside no less, bishops are effectively turning off the spigot of sacramental grace flowing to the Church.
By denying the lay faithful the opportunity to partake in the Mass and to receive Holy Communion, the bishops will have to answer to God. As if that was not bad enough, the Sacraments of Holy Matrimony, Confirmation, and even in some cases, Baptism, are all being denied to the lay faithful. As if that was not terrible enough, some bishops have outlawed the Sacrament of Confession, as well, except in the case of being on death’s doorstep.
All this due to the fear of the spread of a physical disease, COVID-19. Where is the concern over the spiritual well-being of the lay faithful?
LET US TURN OUR ATTENTION TO SACRAMENTAL GRACE
“Jesus Christ by His passion and death gave to the sacraments the power of conferring grace.” (Catechism of St. Pius X)
“Grace is divided into sanctifying grace, which is also called habitual grace, and actual grace.” (Catechism of St. Pius X)
“Sanctifying grace is a supernatural gift inherent in our soul, and rendering us just, adopted children of God and heirs to Paradise.” (Catechism of St. Pius X)
“Besides sanctifying grace the Sacraments give another grace, called sacramental.” (Baltimore Catechism)
“Besides sanctifying grace the sacraments also confer sacramental grace.” (Catechism of St. Pius X)
“Grace is given us by God chiefly through the sacraments.” (Catechism of St. Pius X)
“The Sacraments always give grace, if we receive them with the right dispositions.” (Baltimore Catechism)
“Sacramental grace is a special help which God gives, to attain the end for which He instituted each Sacrament.” (Baltimore Catechism)
“The sacramental grace…aids us in attaining the end for which each Sacrament was instituted and for which we receive it.” (Baltimore Catechism)
“Sacramental grace consists in the right acquired in the reception of a sacrament, to have at the proper time the actual graces necessary to fulfill the obligations arising from the sacrament received. Thus when we were baptized we received the right to have the grace to live a Christian life.” (Catechism of St. Pius X)
Fr. John Hardon, S.J. sums all this up when he defines sacramental grace as follows:
“The grace conferred by the valid and fruitful reception of the sacraments. It may be one or more of several kinds: 1. sanctifying grace is communicated in baptism, penance and in anointing of the sick when needed; 2. sanctifying grace is always increased when a sacrament is received in the state of grace; 3. actual grace is given by all the sacraments, either actually at the time of reception or also by title as a person needs divine help; 4. the sacramental character is indelibly imprinted on the soul in baptism, confirmation, and the priesthood; and 5. a distinctive sacramental grace is imparted by each of the seven sacraments, corresponding to their respective purpose in the supernatural life of the soul.”
REFUSING SACRAMENTAL GRACE TO THE LAY FAITHFUL IS A TERRIBLE ABUSE
“‘Sacramental grace’ is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior” (CCC 1129).
Isn’t union with Christ the entire goal of the Catholic Church?
Shouldn’t every bishop, priest, deacon, and layman desire that each and every soul to experience union with the God-man, Jesus Christ? After all, that is certainly God’s desire (1 Tim 2:4). And every day, are we not to pray that God’s will be done on earth, as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10)?
Not only do the sacraments help to attain unity with Christ, but “[t]he Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation” (CCC 1129, emphasis original).
“I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. For, apart from me, you can do nothing,” proclaims Jesus (John 15:5). And it would seem the bishops are the ones cutting the vines connecting their sheep to the Good Shepherd, Jesus.
The sacraments are necessary for our salvation. They are our lifeline to divine grace. The Council of Trent, in its Seventh Session, declared the following canons:
“If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification;-though all (the sacraments) are not indeed necessary for every individual; let him be anathema” (CANON IV).
Are the lay faithful to conclude that the sacraments are superfluous (unnecessary), based on the behavior of the clergy? If they do, what is their fate?
“If any one saith, that these sacraments were instituted for the sake of nourishing faith alone; let him be anathema” (CANON V).
Catholicism is an incarnational faith. By that I mean that the faith is to be lived out in the physical world with good works. Our faith is not some Protestant notion of existing just inside one’s heart or between one’s ears. “Faith without works is dead,” after all (James 2:17). We are not to live spiritually as if mere faith is all we need to get us by. And yet, that is the position in which the bishops have put us all.
“If anyone saith, that by the said sacraments of the New Law grace is not conferred through the act performed, but that faith alone in the divine promise suffices for the obtaining of grace; let him be anathema” (CANON VIII).
Or, to put it in the positive how the Cathechism does, the sacraments work ex opere operato (“by the very fact of the action being performed”) (1128). In other words, a sacrament “effects what it symbolizes.” And so, shouldn’t the lay faithful be allowed to receive the sacraments, so as to better live faithfully to Christ?
TO TAKE JUST ONE EXAMPLE, LOOK AT ALL THE GRACES NOT BEING MERITED BY THE DENIAL OF MASS ATTENDANCE AND RECEPTION OF HOLY COMMUNION
Just showing up to Mass merits grace for those with faith. The Catechism points out that the name “Holy Mass” is appropriate for the liturgical celebration because Mass comes from the word Missa, a sending forth (mission), on a mission. What mission? To take the grace of God “to fulfill God’s will in their daily lives” (CCC 1332). Yet, the grace available through the scaraments just to get through day-to-day life is being denied to us.
“The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’ ‘The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch’ (CCC 1324).
The Christian life flows from reception of the Eucharist. And the Christian life culminates in reception of the Eucharist. Like a loop. Christ strengthens us by His grace and sends us forth, and then we return to be nourished again.
To that point, “[t]he catechesis about the Eucharistic Mystery should aim to help the faithful to realize that the celebration of the Eucharist is the true center of the whole Christian life both for the universal Church and for the local congregations of that Church” (Eucharisticum Mysterium).
All that has been taken from us. This is no small matter. This is spiritual ruin!
CELEBRATION OF THE EUCHARIST SANCTIFIES THE WORLD
“The Eucharist both perfectly signifies and wonderfully effects that sharing in God’s life and unity of God’s People by which the Church exists. [The Eucharist] is the summit of both the action by which God sanctifies the world in Christ and the worship which men offer to Christ and which through him they offer to the Father in the Spirit. Its celebration ‘is the supreme means by which the faithful come to express in their lives and to manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the true nature of the Church’ (Eucharisticum Mysterium, cf. CCC 1325).
Pretty incredible. How can anyone be denied access to this?
This Eucharistic celebration is our chief means to express our love for our Lord. We are proclaiming our unity with our Divine Savior and our unity with His Church at each Mass. This is our primary way to express our love for our God, and it is being denied to us, supposedly for our own good?
And while it is true that “we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12), the Catholic Church realizes any good we do or merit we earn comes first from God’s grace. And yet, since the bishops are denying us sacramental grace, they are seemingly asking us to resort to our mere natural abilities to merit eternal salvation. That simply cannot be done; we have that on the highest authority: “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Rom 11:6).
Sacramental grace is being denied to us. Heaven, help us. For, our earthly shepherds have abandoned us to the wolves. You’re on your own, lay faithful.
Is it any small wonder that demonic activity has increased dramatically since these voluntary shutdowns of the Mass have begun, according to exorcists? One reports, “Really, the oppression is everywhere now.”
Let us end on this sobering thought from the Vicar of Christ on earth: “Those proponents of new ideas who are eager to foster true piety in the people should consider that, with the frequency of the sacraments diminished or entirely eliminated, religion slowly languishes and finally perishes” (Pope Gregory XVI, Quo Graviora, 1833 A.D.).
(Special thanks to MyCatholicSource.com for many of the great citations above from the Pope Pius X and Baltimore Catechisms.)
Please chime in with a comment on our bishops denying us sacramental grace during this global pandemic of the Coronavirus.