To Obey, or Not to Obey …

This is my Bishop, I am proud to say.  Two weeks after he gave this homily in his parish, I began to offer a kneeler to my people in my parish.  It has made all the difference in the world!

Prior to offering the option of kneeling and receiving on the tongue (which was offered with much teaching), I may have had a small handful of people who felt comfortable enough to receive on the tongue.  Since offering the option, I now have 60-70% of my parishioners receiving this way. 

It is difficult to describe how much it has helped so many who were, as Bishop speaks about, “desensitized” before making the choice to receive in this way.  Now they approach in a much more discerning and serene way.  I have even noticed such things as people choosing to get a bit more dressed up for Mass.  Praise God!

A word of caution:  For those parishes who choose to do this, I would say that the divine benefits far outweigh the earthly costs. In other words, I have come to understand, over 22 years of priesthood, that if we are going to choose to do the hard work of reversing the trend in our churches of a growing ‘cult of the casual’ and ‘privatization’ of our faith,  we are going to be met with FIERCE opposition.  Having encountered such disproportionate hostility toward any efforts to call us to a deeper reverence (while introducing each effort with much love and much teaching), has left me convinced that this is particular turf the devil does not want to give up without a fight.  Which tells us this is all the more reason why this is a fight in which we must engage.

This is what it all boils down to for me … I may not be among the great intellects of our day, nor among the great writers and speakers, but I know what I have learned from the books I’ve read and the face of Christ I contemplated … that obedience is the evidence of our love:

The Books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy shows God’s will and ways and what He blesses.  As Christians we obey the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

  1. Leviticus 26:3-13 — blessings for obedience
  2. Leviticus 26:14-39 — curses for disobedience
  3. Leviticus 26:40-45 — restoration from repentance
  4. Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 4:9-12, 5:32-33 & 6:1-25, 11:26-32 — commands to obey
  5. Deuteronomy 7:9, 7:12-15, 8:1-10 — blessings for the obedient
  6. Deuteronomy 8:11-20 — curses for those who backslide
  7. Deuteronomy 11:8-25 — blessings for the obedient
  8. Deuteronomy 28:1-14 — blessings for the obedient
  9. Deuteronomy 28:15-68 — curses for the disobedient
  10. Deuteronomy 30:1-20 — blessings for the repentant

God’s promises in these passages are “yes” and “amen” for us individually and collectively.

 The New Testament reflects this:

God blesses obedience.  Luke 8:21
Jesus wants obedience.  Luke 6:46
Obedience to Jesus is evidence we are saved.  1 John 2:3-6
Obedience to Jesus is evidence we love God.  1 John 5:3, John 14:15

And so, I have come to understand that the more we obey, the more pure is our love.  And, delayed obedience is disobedience.  Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden light.”  What he meant was that, in that self-surrendering love, obedience comes with ease and promptitude.  Anything short of this swift obedience only reveals a measure of corruption, a lessening of our love.  I must obey, and I must do it now.

Personally, I cannot understand why, if our Holy Father places a kneeler in front of him, that virtually every church across this globe didn’t offer the same to their parishioners in the weeks that followed his encouragement.  Could delayed obedience such as this be one the primary reasons why such things as only 66% of our faithful today agree that “the communion bread and wine at Mass” truly become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ? Or that about 50% of Catholics believe abortion should be legal?

There is no doubt that we need more pure love for God … a love that finds us following His will with ease and promptitude.

16 Responses to To Obey, or Not to Obey …

  1. Kim Donohoe says:

    Thanks, Fr. Rick! I love this post! Our beloved and almighty Father in heaven is blessing His people so much through you!

  2. Agellius says:

    First, I didn’t know you were a priest.

    Second, wow! What a great idea! I have never heard of doing this in a parish church. And how wonderful — and how telling! — that the majority of your parishioners have chosen this option once it was offered.

    I have often wanted to receive communion on the tongue, kneeling, when attending Ordinary Form masses. But I never have because I feel like I’m being ostentatious. Having the priest offer it as an option makes all the difference. And your parish’s experience shows that there are plenty of people out there who like the idea, they’re just not normally given the choice!

    I absolutely agree that the “cult of the casual” is a major problem in the Church.

    Regarding obedience, I recently came up with these verses while pondering the subject:

    “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.” 1 Sam. 15:22

    Philippians 2:8 “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

    Hebrews 5:8 “Son though he was, he learned obedience through his sufferings.”

    Great post.

  3. DeProfundus says:

    Thank you, Father for sharing this inspiring story and for being obedient to the Bishop and the Holy Father no matter how “unpopular” it may make you! May God repay your obedience!

  4. Ben Trovato says:

    I always kneel to receive, and always on the tongue – regardless of what the prevailing trend in the particular parish is.

    I have been accused of ‘drawing attention to myself.’ of ‘thinking I’m better than everyone else,’ and much else besides. How my accusers know the state of my soul and my intentions is beyond me.

    In fact I find it profoundly embarrassing to be the centre of attention, and only receive in this way because I was told good reasons to as a child, and all the reasons I’ve been told not to strike me as shallow and bogus….

    Consider how St John, the beloved disciple who leaned on Our Lord’s breast at the last supper, responds on meeting the risen Lord: I fell on the ground, as one dead (cf Apocalypse). Stand to receive?… I wouldn’t dare.

  5. [...] In his entry, Fr. Heliman first presents a Youtube of Bp. Morlino preaching, I was alerted by a reader to an interesting post by Fr. Rick Heilman, a priest in the Diocese of Madison, on his blog Mary’s Anawim. [...]

  6. [...] in Basics, General Catholic, awesomeness. trackback A priest in the Diocese of Madison, WI, has a blog post concerning a recent change in his parish, where the bishop has encouraged all communicants to [...]

  7. Thank you, Father! For talking about the only Thing I care about! If we begin to realize the enormity of God’s Gift to us in the Holy Eucarist, then maybe we will act like it….or maybe if we begin to act like it, then finally we will understand!

    k.c.

  8. mercyknight says:

    Thanks, everyone, for the great conversation about this important topic. And “thanks” to Fr. Z. for including this post on his blog. I greatly admire Fr. Z, so it was a wonderful 22nd anniversary present for me.

  9. [...] 28, 2010 by Steven John Bosco From Mary’s Anawim comes this wonderful clip of Bp. Morlino of Madison preaching on the reception of Holy [...]

  10. Ben Trovato: quite true. I receive Holy Communion kneeling when I can, irregardless of the ‘custom’. It does feel somewhat awkward, although I get used to it. The big thing for me was simply the fact that standing felt too irreverent. I felt like I needed to kneel. And like you said, the criticisms you hear are pretty superficial – “don’t draw attention to yourself” “the norms of the bishops are standing…” “You don’t need to. God knows your heart” etc. There is definitely something to be said about external manifestations of belief, as the bishop so wonderfully pointed out.

    If any of you are ever near La Crosse, WI, I would encourage you to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is a BEAUTIFUL Church, and the priests their (Franciscans of the Immaculate) are wonderfully reverent. Thumb and forefinger and all the rest, and they encourage people to use the Communion Rail that is installed there. Most do.

  11. [...] was a very nice 22nd anniversary gift to have my May 25 blog post (To Obey, or Not to Obey) included on Fr. Z’s blog. I have much admiration for Fr. Z., and the way he seems to be leading [...]

  12. Rose in NE says:

    God bless you, Father! Even though I now almost always attend Mass in the Ex. Form, there are still those occasions when I must attend the NO Mass. I’m always too intimidated to kneel to receive at those Masses. There are probably many people out there like me who sense that kneeling is the proper way to receive our Lord, but feel it might be too disruptive. How wonderful it would be if every pastor gave the option for people to kneel and made it easy for them to do so.

    Thank you for your courage and obedience, Father.

  13. [...] In his entry, Fr. Heliman first presents a Youtube of Bp. Morlino preaching, I was alerted by a reader to an interesting post by Fr. Rick Heilman, a priest in the Diocese of Madison, on his blog Mary’s Anawim. [...]

  14. Rose in NE: I wouldn’t worry about it being too disruptive. I was concerned about that for quite a while, but I’ve gotten over it. I rarely get to go to EF Masses, but I usually kneel. The only real disturbance that you would have is if the priest or EMHC decided to cause trouble (which, thankfully, I’ve never seen, only heard of). The actual kneeling itself isn’t that big a deal once you just do it. It doesn’t really add time, etc, even though you’d think it would. Don’t know if this’ll help you or not, but I thought I’d say something.

  15. Rose in NE says:

    Thanks for the encouragement, Steven! Unfortunately I’ve had trouble with EMHC’s when trying to receive on the tongue while standing, let alone kneeling. I’ve had many just get flustered and one who refused saying, “We don’t do that here.” Luckily we have a wonderful FSSP parish here that I’m able to attend most of the time.

  16. Rose: That’s unfortunate. Apparently these people haven’t read Redemtionis Sacramentum. At least you have the opportunity for a TLM that is licit and fully in communion with the Church. :)

    I look forward to the day when there are Communion Rails in every Catholic Church once again, where everyone kneels as they should and receives on the tongue, and *priests* (no EMHC’s) can say “we don’t do that here” to those who want to receive in the hand.

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