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Iconoclasm follow up

May 5, 2024

Follow up In regard to the recent series on iconoclasm and in particular the iconoclasm in the Catholic Church in the 1960s and on, we have seen the devaluation and depreciation of things that Catholics have always held to be sacred. This overflowed in many different ways and in particular, at the end of the day, it led to a lessening of the respect given to the Holy Eucharist. For instance, the idea that bowing in front of the tabernacle of the King of Kings was a suitable substitute for kneeling is one of those cases. That is something like saying that nodding at someone you love is the same as kissing them. This lessened respect for the Blessed Sacrament led to the desire to completely remove the tabernacle from the church or to at least put it off to the side – out of the way. This has all led to such an extremely casual attitude in the presence of the Lord of all things and our Savior that now many – priests, religious and lay – just walk by the tabernacle as if it were nothing more than a piece of furniture.

Now why do I bring this up, you might ask. Well, if you recall, in last week’s article I was citing concrete examples of the iconoclasm in the Church, I wrote how this led to my eventually receiving a tabernacle – with the Eucharist still inside. I was asked to tell you the rest of that story. The reason why I began by citing the lack of respect given to the Eucharist and the change from genuflecting to bowing in front of the tabernacle is because this whole story is the fruit of changes like that which ended up leading to a greater lack of respect for the Eucharist and to a total lack of awe in the physical presence of Christ among us and the way He is treated in all levels of the Church. The level of disregard for the very miracle that the Eucharist is has bred the idea that I can treat Christ with such a level of familiarity that I do not treat Him any differently than anyone else or even less respectfully, in spite of His Divinity.

The tabernacle incident, we will call it, took place while I was working at a very large parish in the suburbs of Chicago. At one time, Chicago was a place of great religious fervor and activity, with many parishes and religious houses and convents. This is no longer the case. As respect and love for the Eucharist declines, so do vocations and practice of the faith. In this particular situation, it took place on a Saturday. Saturdays were busy days for me. We had morning Masses, catechism classes to teach and then evening confessions and Masses while preparing for the 8 Masses and confessions to come on Sunday. Saturdays were one of the days I taught catechism for the 7th and 8th grade children in our Polish school, some of the nuns at the parish also taught and it started as a pretty normal day. As I am going through the lesson with my students, there is a knock on the door. I stop for a moment and say “prosze” (a Polish word which in one of its meanings is to say “please come in”) Sr. Maria sticks here head in the door and says (obviously in Polish, but we will stick to the English translation) “Father, can I speak to you for a moment? There is a situation” to which I reply “Yes. What is the situation, Sister?” She then proceeds to tell me that there are two gentlemen outside who came to her with a tabernacle and said that “We have Jesus” (literally their words). After first asking her once again to repeat the story, I managed to pick my jaw up off the floor and proceeded to follow her out to the main doors where she has these two gentlemen waiting for me. I get there and there are two Polish contractors, blue collar working men in their 30s-40s, who proceed to tell me that “Father, we found Jesus”. At this point I am still in disbelief and trying to wrap my head around the situation, thinking of the Good Lord and how He has been treated in the Eucharist, how could this have happened?! One of the men goes back to the vehicle, opens the back door and pulls out a tabernacle, which he proceeds to bring to me, while the other man explains that they were working on the remodel of a house (apparently it had been a convent of some sort) that had been sold and they were told to clear out the things that had been left. This tabernacle was a chapel size tabernacle. They asked the owners what to do with it, since whoever had sold the place left it behind. They were told to throw it in the dumpster. So, they remove it from what at some point had been a chapel (most likely it had been stripped of any ornamentation and whitewashed at some point as that was the mode of the 60s and 70s) and are preparing to throw it away as they were told. The man tells me “Father, when we took it out, we heard something banging around inside as we carried it, but it was locked. We pried the door open, and inside we found Jesus”.

What they found was a ciborium with consecrated Eucharist inside a locked tabernacle that had been abandoned there.

They literally had found Jesus, and He was abandoned and about to be thrown in a dumpster. They brought it over to my office at the parish where I proceeded to thank them and bless them for their understanding, love and respect for the Eucharist. I took care of the Eucharist in the proper manner. I still have that tabernacle and ciborium to this day.

Let’s think about how our Good Lord is treated in the Most Blessed Sacrament and ask ourselves if we could maybe show Him more love and respect, could we maybe bend the knee a little more to the God of heaven and earth who dwells among us, in particular out of reparation for those who do things like this to Him. Could we receive Him with more reverence in Holy Communion? Can we ever show Him too much respect?

God love you, Fr. Anthony

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