In an article entitled, The Secular War on the Supernatural, Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand writes: “In 1965 my husband, Dietrich von Hildebrand and I had a private audience with Pope Paul VI, in which my husband ‘shot from the hip’ as usual, saying ‘Your Holiness, you realize that the Church is going through the worst crisis in history, worse than the Protestant Reformation’ … The Pope seemed to be surprised and my husband continued: ‘What has taken place is that people have lost sight of the supernatural.’”
Dr. Von Hildebrand goes on to say, “Now let us abolish the terms ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal,’ the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ which are secularistic. I suggest that we say from now on ‘those who have kept the sense of the supernatural and those who have lost it.’ That is the great divide, that is the essence … Do you look at the Church and her teaching, whether dogmatic or moral, with a supernatural eye, or do you look at it with secular lenses? That is the divide. Left and right confuses the issue.”
The dangers of living ‘etsi Deus non daretur’ [as if there were no God] as a way of life, warns Pope Benedict XVI, are “the risk of falling into spiritual atrophy and emptiness of heart. Without God at the centre, human life and intellectual endeavour gives way to a sterile worship of the individual … In this cultural context, there is the risk of falling into spiritual atrophy and into an emptiness of heart, sometimes characterized by surrogate forms of religious membership and vague spiritualism … Secularization is not just an external threat to believers, but has for some time been evident in the bosom of the Church herself. It invades all aspects of daily life and causes the development of a mentality in which God is effectively absent, entirely or in part, from human life and conscience.”
Resurrecting the sacred — the sense of the supernatural — will begin when a sense of the sacred (supernatural) is restored to our worship of our Eucharistic Lord. What do I mean by this? The Catechism of the Catholic Church, following historic Christian theology since the time of the early Church Fathers, refers to the Catholic Church as “the universal sacrament of salvation” (CCC 774–776), and states: “The Church in this world is the sacrament of salvation, the sign and the instrument of the communion of God and men” (CCC 780).
Now, as the sign and instrument of the communion of God and men, we hold that the Holy Eucharist, Vatican II tells us, is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen gentium, no. 11; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1324). The Eucharist is the source of grace in a number of ways. First, the Eucharist is Christ Himself, the Author of grace. Other sacraments are actions of Christ, to be sure, but only the Eucharist is Christ Himself, under the “appearances” of bread and wine (CCC, nos. 1324, 1373-1381).
Here’s the point … once we began treating the source and summit (Eucharist – Christ Himself) of the sign and instrument [in the world] of the communion of God and man (Catholic Church) in a profane way we, effectively, blocked THE primary source of the sacred and supernatural from the world — a source that would permeate the world in the natural, by Catholic example, and in the supernatural, by the power of grace. In other words, if the once sacred Catholic Church with the once sacred Holy Eucharist no longer worshipped as if this truly was the Real Presence of Christ, where else were we to find sources of sacred anywhere in the world? Vague spiritualism?
If we hope to see the sacred return to such things as marriage, family, neighbor and all life from conception to natural death, we must begin with THE “primary source” and make every effort to approach our Eucharistic Lord in the MOST reverent and awe-inspiring way. This means that everything must come back onto the table for prayer and discernment — church architecture and environment, sacred vs. profane music, vestments and vessels, Latin, Communion in the hand, appropriate attire, silences, chant, etc.
There are many hopeful signs that the sacred is being resurrected in the world today. On the first day of the new millennium, Prince Charles of England said, “In an age of secularism, I hope, with all my heart, in a new millennium we will rediscover a sense of the sacred in all that surrounds us.” We are all feeling the effects of a loss of the sense of the sacred. That is why I believe we are witnessing a growth in such things as Eucharistic Adoration and reverent celebrations of the Most Holy Eucharist.
The sacred is being resurrected. No longer will they say, “Where is your God?” “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:11b).