Saturday, May 4, 2013

Counsels of Perfection: The Holy Mass

I am late posting this reading.    Chari reminded me that I am also soon to become very busy.  

Next week my dear daughter graduates from college, and the week after that, she is getting married to my dear future son-in-law.     Considering that, and having some trouble doing justice to the scheduled reading, I have decided to telescope these last chapters of Part 3 into one post.    Then, next week, I will try to write a sort of wrap-up post, and I hope you will consider sharing what you have gotten out of this book (assuming you read part or all of it) and what you are hoping or intending to do as a result of the reading. 

The title of Part 3 is The Means Par Excellence.   Remember that Part 2 was The Means, simply. 

It is all about the Mass.   I'll quickly summarize.  You can find more at the Counsels of Perfection blog.

The whole section is interesting historically.   There were a lot of changes around the turn of the century when Msgr was writing.    First of all, France was just getting past the effects of the Jansenist heresy.   Jansenists tended to think that sin was more powerful than grace; so their tendency was to discourage frequent Communion.    Mass attendance was required weekly, of course, but receiving Holy Communion was often limited to once a month or even less.   Msgr is making a case for frequent (worthy) Communion as a great aid against lukewarmness.    His enthusiasm for daily Communion and communion for little children was quite new in his time, but now, of course, it is standard.   In his time it was also thoroughly doctrinal, not "progressive" or dissenting in any way.    

Chapter 1:  The Holy Mass

This chapter deals with  how crucial, literally, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is to our faith.   Our Savior's death and resurrection is the center of our faith.    St Paul tells us:

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
Msgr's recommendation is that we remember what the Mass really IS and not  let our attendance become a matter of routine.    If we are frequently at Mass, it should not become ho-hum for that reason. 

Chapter 2:  Visits to the Blessed Sacrament

Visiting the Blessed Sacrament can also fight against lukewarmness.   I only got the courage to homeschool after our parish instituted Perpetual Adoration and I signed up for an hour a week.  What graces!  
Chapter 3:  Holy Communion

Here Msgr Lejeune makes his case for not just attending Mass frequently, but also receiving Communion.    In those days it was not customary for people to receive communion whenever they went to mass, and often spiritual directors discouraged it. 

Chapter 4:  The Communion of Children and Young People

Children and young folk (adolescents) need frequent Mass participation and frequent communion as much as we mothers do if not more.    Adolescents are often sorely tempted to impurity.    He says that while frequent communicants may still struggle, those who give up frequent communion often give up the struggle against temptation as well.

Perhaps we could all agree to pray for our Catholic young people.   They have a hard road nowadays!

Chapter 5:  The Communion of Little Children

At the time of the writing of this book, the holy St Pope Pius X had just changed the regulation of the Church so that any child of the age of reason, properly disposed, could receive his first Communion.    Before that, often children did not receive the Sacrament until age 14 or older.

Let us pray for the little children receiving communion for the first time.  As he points out, the Second Communion is even greater than the First; in other words, the child has a lifetime ahead of deepening his relationship to the Lord Jesus.  
Chapter 6:  The Eucharistic Education of the Child

Considering that children as young as six or seven could now receive the Blessed Sacrament, Msgr Lejeune makes a case for the Eucharistic education of the young child, yes, even from his baby days.    While reading this I felt glad that so many of us are doing this quite naturally, not even thinking about how this wasn't a commonplace in earlier times.  I think in those days, perhaps, toddlers were left at home with nannies while older members of the family attended Mass.  Nowadays, it is quite usual to bring an infant and toddler with us to services.    Hard, perhaps.  Rare, no. 

Chapter 7:  The Church

This has a prophetic sound; it could have been written today.  Msgr Lejeune tells us that picking and choosing between dogmas does not lead to holiness.  Dogma is all of a piece.  You can't take one element and drop another.    I suppose that the times in which he wrote were Modernist even as our day is perhaps Post-Modernist.   In addition to mandating the preparation of young children to receive First Holy Communion, Pope Pius X also spoke strongly and eloquently against Modernism.  

More to Read:

My Notes:

As a convert, the day I read the Catholic explanation of John 6 (a different version here) was the day I started taking the possibility of the truth of Catholicism seriously.    As an Evangelical, I had always wondered about 1 Corinthians 11: 27-29, to the point where I rarely celebrated communion in that rite because I felt there was something missing in the explanation of the scripture referring to the Lord's Supper.   When I heard the Catholic doctrine, I found the missing piece.   I can't express the difference it made, albeit over time, not immediately.   

I have talked to other converts who were also changed by an encounter with the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence.    One homeschooling dad I talked to walked into a Catholic Church and immediately realized Jesus was there.   Chari mentioned that her conversion process was influenced by a book about Eucharist miracles.  

The main point I get out of this part besides the historical perspective and the reflections on the mystery of Christ's life, death, resurrection and invitation to share His life with us, is that none of us are any good on our own. 

I read quite a lot of self-help books -- productivity manuals, weight loss testimonials, house-decluttering how-to's.   To paraphrase St Paul, you can be immensely productive and successful, be fit and healthy and thin, have a perfectly organized and minimalistic home, and still, without love, be nothing.  And the kind of love he is talking about is the kind that doesn't come from inside ourselves but is given as a gift, without our deserving it in the slightest.    

So this part brings it all completely back to Jesus Himself, which is where it all begins and ends:   Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and end, the first and the last.  


  1. Praying for your daughter in these exciting weeks! (and you too!)

    I just wanted to say that I appreciate all you're doing in discussing this book, although I have so little coherent to say about it. :)

    1. Thank you, Amy, the prayers are very much appreciated.

      I notice it is typical for a book discussion not to get much commentary after the first few posts. This used to happen on Yahoo groups too. I still think they are good to do occasionally and it appears from the stats that people do read the posts even if they don't say much. Chari and I are hoping to discuss a book about friendship this summer.


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