I was asked this question by new Catholic friends a couple of weeks ago. Specifically, their teenagers had been invited to a big event at a nearby Baptist Mega-Ministry. From my experience I related what I could predict would be the itinerary of the evening; there would be cool Youth Pastors, Skits, Comedy Routines, a sappy worship song set, a performance stage with lighting, fog, drums, guitars, and singers. There will be games, give-aways, food, and the quintessential end of evening, so-called ‘altar call’. What could be wrong with all that Americana Christian Fun?
I asked the question, “do you know the reason my family and I are becoming Catholic? It is because you have the most important thing; the Eucharist”. Of all the things church, religion, or christianity CAN be about, there is nothing to be more central than the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, Soul and Divinity.
The emotional pull, the excitement, the tantalizing show, can be so powerful, and evoke so many goose-bumps, one could genuinely believe they are ‘encountering’ or ‘experiencing’ God when truly its just he sensation of having fun with friends all evening, a guilt trip laden sermon, sappy music, and the waves of the bass speaker passing through them, rather than the true and living Christ, and His Holy Spirit.
Is that dangerous? Not if all of Christianity is make-believe(it’s not). But since we truly believe Jesus is the Son of God, let’s consider that there is an affront to the truth of Him, an assault against what is truly Christ, there has been and will be, an imitation.
So what must a Catholic do? Teach your children and teenagers why you go to Mass/Divine Liturgy; Jesus is there. Every Sunday, Jesus Christ is present in what appears to be bread and wine. He is Truly Present, Soul and Divinity. And He is nourishment to us.
It’s been said the Eucharist is the ‘source’ and ‘summit’. What better shows us the way of the Cross? What better contextualizes our entire Christian Faith? Our need for a Savior, our need for spiritual food? Our need for a propitiation? Our need for a Savior? The Love of God manifest in Christ? The Providence, the Grace, the unmerited favor of God, the longing of God for His Creation?
So my answer; you may have the cheerleading, the modern church rock shows, the fog, the comedians. I don’t judge you. I know that I am hungry, hungry for the Bread come down from Heaven.
As a former Protestant Pentecostal, I don’t look down on the experiences I’ve had in church all through my life, I see them as what has led me to this point, the point of hungering for the body and blood of Christ, true nourishment. But that is good for a former protestant coming to the Catholic Church, but for Catholics, you must now, more than ever, affirm to your posterity why you do what you do, why you believe what you believe. What the Church is to you, what she is to be to them. Warn them of the attacks to come, the detours, the trap-doors, and keep them in the Presence of Jesus.
Back at the ‘big event’, what will happen? The Catholic will be invited to answer an altar call to make Jesus Lord of their life and ‘get saved’ by repeating a prayer and believing it in their heart. In doing this, completing negating the ‘working out’ of salvation as perscribed by the Apostle Paul. This experience may also communicate to the catholic youth that there is something lacking in liturgy, and something more emotional needed, and more convincing needed. There are many doctrinal dangers, but one of the most dangerous, is the notion that religious experience must be emotional. There are many times doing what’s right, what’s Godly, is against what our nature and our emotions are telling us. The Eucharist teaches us this and more. The broken body and blood of our Lord shows us that pleasing the Father in Heaven is more than emotion and certainly more than lip service. It is love, manifest in obedience and sacrifice.
And worst of all for the Catholic Youth, this entire ‘big event’ evening will by its very existence and performance, denigrate the Eucharist, which is the source and summit.