Thursday, March 20, 2008

Monkey See Monkey Do

Most of my posts are cited with documents or news reports offering a commentary on them or with them on a particular topic. Well, today's post is going to be a bit different. Today my source is my armchair. Or rather the desk chair I bought at Target for $50. It has armrests and reclines a bit so I guess it's qualified.

You guys ever watch The Apprentice? Long story short, Donald Trump grabs a bunch of enterpreneurs, splits them into two teams, which then compete against each other. The competition involves pitting the teams against each other in several different business situations: real estate, retail, marketting, fundraisers, etc. Whichever team makes the most money wins. One person from the losing team is kicked off the show with Donald's obigatory catchphrase, "You're fired." And on from there.

I learned something very valuable from one of the episodes, a few seasons ago. No, not a business strategy, more like an insight into our particular societal behaviors.

Like I said before, there are two teams competing against each other on the show. Many times the task is aimed at consumers simply walking outside a shop. One team had an interesting, albeit unethical, way of getting people's attention and getting them in the door.

There was a black guy on the team, an accountant, late 20's early 30's, used to play basketball in college. What his team did to draw people into their store was stick him at a table with a sharpie, with someone else outside saying so-and-so was giving out autographs. They used his real name, they never said he was never in the NBA, only that he played basketball.

They had a line down the sidewalk.

He was signing basketballs, taking pitctures with kids, really getting the celebrity treatment. For a few hours he was the most famous accountant in New York.

I'll remind you that the team never lied about him, they just didn't tell the whole truth and kinda pulled a fast one on the consumers. But I'm not interested in whether it was ethical, I'm interested in how they turned this accountant into a basketball celebrity.

It worked because he was treated like a celebrity. His team propped him up like someone special so he was treated by passers-by as special as well, not even looking into if it was merited or not. They played off the actions of others to intuit that he was a celebrity. Where it was unethical is that they manipulated the consumers' intuition.

Unethical, but utterly brilliant.

This happens all the time. We constantly take others' words for it that someone's famous or worthy of national praise, or part of an elite class of American society. Take for example, Paris Hilton. Why is she a celebrity? Has she done anything to merit the amount of attention she gets? No. She's a celebrty because the media props her up like a celebrity because she's a household name's daughter.

Or how about Hanna Montana? Or Hilary Duff? They didn't merit any attention or celebrity status until the Disney Channel told us so. Notice once the gem in Hilary Duff's hand turned red (aka she got too old to appeal to the target demographic) she was dropped for Hanna Montana.

Yesterday they weren't there, today some no-name has a hit single, posters, t-shirts, chart-topping album, and all the tabloid exposure that goes with it. Instant celebrity: just add reporters. And we fall for it every time.


Because they are treated like celebrities. People intuit from how they are treated and then think that they're worthy of fame and their adoration. Their masters prop them up, usually change their name, spends a ton on marketting and usually has all of the merchandise ready to roll before anyone's ever heard the single.

But just because someone or something is treated like it was famous or valuable, doesn't mean it's not and we're being manipulated into thinking it is. There are plenty of things very worthy of celebrity status, or at least the same respect and go unnoticed:

Jesus Christ.

In videos of the TLM we see, after the consecration, the priest holds index finger to his thumb. This is because those were the fingers that had touched our Lord; every particle of which is so precious, that such care was taken so that no particle would accidentally fall from the priests fingers and be profaned. He holds those fingers together until they are washed into the chalice and then consumed. Needless to say the new rubrics don't retain this act, so the vast majority of priests don't do it.

How many of you have caught an extraodrinary minister of Holy Communion or even the priest dust off his hands after handling our Lord? My mother said that on a televised mass celebrated by a bishop, he did this same thing. I never saw it, but I take my mother's word for it.

How many of you have been to parishes that have no perpetual adoration? Or perhaps the tebernacle is hidden off in some corner of the sanctuary, if even in the sanctuary at all? Or maybe the tabernacle is nothing more than a nondescript box, something you'd half expect to find mail in, let alone our Lord?

How many people have you seen in the communion line, versus how many you see in the confession line?

How many complaints have you heard from other Catholics that communion is for Catholics only and should be for everyone?

How can we teach that recieving our Lord unworthily, we eat and drink condemnation on ourselves when we hand Him out to anyone and everyone, in a state of grace or not, even within the Church or not?

If Jesus was walking around today, would we dust Him off, stick Him in a corner by Himself while the priest takes all of the attention, hand Him over to be at the mercy of anyone, in the state of grace or not? Would we tell Him that everyone in the parish is too busy to keep Him company for one hour? Would we do nothing to show others that He is not just some man? Yet in the Eucharist He is treated as just some bread. We do all of this to Him all the time.

I had a comment on my 1962 vs. 1970 post that honestly helped inspire my train of thought for this post. He said, "And the whole "bread" thing throughout the Novus Ordo is just wrong. You can't continuously refer to it as "bread" and expect the people to believe it's more than that."

And he's exactly right.

Why is there such a huge decline in belief in the True Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist? Because it isn't teated like it is true. Remember what St. Francis said, "Evangelize always, use words when necessary." (paraphrase) He's asking us to act and live so wholly and obviously christian that people can intuit our faith without even asking. We can talk about, quote scripture, quote the Church Fathers all we want on the True Presence, but until Catholics treat it like it is, how can we expect anyone to believe us? How can we expect this belief to hold firm for everyone when everything they intuit from our actions (or lack thereof) is the opposite?

If we and even our priests in some instances don't reinforce the truth of the True presence with our actions and our respect, it's no wonder the belief is so little held among us.

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