Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Tantum Ergo Sacramentum
While doing my dissertation research, I made the acquaintance of an elderly laicized priest. I got in touch with him because, though not a professional scholar or musicologist, he had published an important piece of scholarship in the 1990s in a semi-obscure journal -- the only work on its subject written in English. I can't emphasize enough how invaluable his research was to my own, and I cited him copiously -- almost reverently -- in my dissertation, and sent him a copy when I was done.
He has put me on some sort of email list now, and forwards items about the usual sorts of things that appear to preoccupy elderly laicized priests -- the ordination of women and whatnot -- so I usually delete them without reading. Today, though, the subject line of his email caught my interest: "Real Presence and Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration." I have a great love for the practice of adoration, so I read the email, only to find that it was the text of a recent article by Fr. Richard McBrien, well-known professor of theology at Notre Dame, in the National Catholic Reporter. McBrien's article purports to analyze the revival of interest in Eucharistic adoration, and in so doing he descends from the theologically sound -- explaining that during the Canon of the Mass, the bread and wine, though they retain the properties of bread and wine, are changed sacramentally into the body and blood of Christ -- to the insulting -- scoffing at traditional beliefs and pious practices surrounding the Blessed Sacrament. Even so, I found his concluding sentence -- "Eucharistic adoration, perpetual or not, is a doctrinal, theological, and spiritual step backward, not forward" -- shocking, and in fact felt almost physically ill when I read it. This sort of thing makes me wonder if the Traditionalists aren't right when they hint darkly that the priests and bishops are actively seeking to destroy the Catholic Church from within.
The irony is that the musicological work my contact did in the 1990s was on Father Hermann Cohen, a.k.a. Père Augustin-Marie du Très Saint Sacrement, who initiated the practice of perpetual adoration at Sacré Coeur in Paris.