Having referred to Patrick Madrid’s Life Lessons: Fifty Things I Learnt in My First Fifty Years (US, UK) in my last blog, I have found it both so readable and so full of wise reflections based on his own experiences (which could easily be the reader’s experiences too), that I will highlight another chapter here.
Madrid relates that, as a full-time Catholic apologist, he was once giving a lecture on the Catholic faith when a Mormon in the audience asked if he could speak to him later on. During their conversation, which happened to be on the Eucharist and the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, the Mormon remarked, “I really don’t get the impression that most Catholics believe what you have just said about ‘the Eucharist’.”
Madrid was taken aback, commenting: “As a Catholic I figured that I’d know a whole heck of a lot better than what he, a Mormon, could possibly know about what Catholics believe, especially on something as central … as the Eucharist.” Then the Mormon explained that he had been to several Catholic weddings and to other Catholic Masses “And the Catholics I’ve seen there sure didn’t seem as though they believed in what you just said about Jesus being in the Eucharist.”
He went on: “I’ve seen Catholics going forward [for] Communion chewing gum… Some Catholics look pretty bored. I’ve seen some waving to others as they go forward.” Even after receiving Communion, “they look disinterested and indifferent”.
Naturally enough, Madrid began to feel very uncomfortable, realising that what the Mormon described was often the case and that “the generalised lack of respect for the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament that stems directly from the generalised lack of faith that he is truly present – was actually true.”
The Mormon repeated his earlier remark, saying: “I’m not trying to be disrespectful or anything, but I just don’t think Catholics believe what you believe on this issue.” But what he said next was an even larger indictment: “If I believed what you believe… if I truly believed that it is really God himself and not just a symbol, I would fall flat on my face and be prostrate before it – him. I would be so overcome with awe and worship. And I’ve never seen any Catholic show that kind of respect. So… I guess they just don’t believe it.”
Madrid concludes that the Mormon “had spoken a terrible truth so clearly and with such devastating accuracy that it’s all I could think about for the rest of our discussion”. The “life lesson” he learned was that Catholics do not always edify and evangelise non-Catholics; indeed, “We can also dis-edify, discombobulate and de-evangelise them without ever trying… simply by dint of our sheer laziness and complacency and our lack of reverence for sacred things.”
At the end of every chapter Madrid adds the appropriate passage from Scripture that reflects the “lesson” he has learnt. Here it is “Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28). The Mormon’s remarks were a wake-up call to me, too. I have heard other people outside the Church make the same point: “If you Catholics really believed what you say you do…” What we purport to believe is awesome. Reverence and recollection at Mass should guard us against allowing it to become simply a routine weekly exercise.