I want you to imagine a magnificent painting. The artist is gifted beyond words, the brush strokes detailed. Let's imagine that the Catholic Church is a painting. The colours are rich and deep. The subject poignant, yet joyful. The characters -Our lady in a prominent position -radiating love-her beautiful gown. He gaze is turned upon Jesus -his eyes painted in such a way that they draw you towards him. So much love and peace and suffering and freedom contained in those eyes. You cannot help but stop and look. In the background-saints and martyrs to inspire us by their example. Other things too-unique to Catholic life. An intricate monstance containing the Blessed Sacrament. Precious metal chalices filled with the precious Blood. Kneeling children in Adoration.
What then if you took this picture and destroyed it-stamped it underfoot,tore it up, made a mockery of it. You'd hope that people would protest. You'd hope that Catholics would protest.
Imagine then that this destruction was more subtle. Imagine that the image was adjusted a bit here, altered a bit there. Imagine some well meaning soul wanted to make the image more child-friendly. Imagine some catholics went along with this. They took the image of Christ and diminished him-cartoonised him. People looked at this new Jesus and were not bothered. He was child friendly after all.
Over the years Our Lady's image was removed altogether. Some people thought she was old-fashioned. Her image become grey with dust. No one thought to clean her.
The saints and martyrs were painted over with rainbows and fluffy bunnies. No one thought children should see such disturbing things. And so old fashioned too, with their dark clothes-their robes and their habits-who wears such things anyway?
The Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance-someone painted over this with a loaf of bread. Children can't be expected to understand such things. This was helping children to understand wasn't it? And the chalices? Replaced with a glass of Merlot, because children don't get this old-fashioned stuff do they? And it helps them to understand.
Later still the kneeling children were replaced. Some lounged against pillars, some were on beanbags, some children were performing a dance for the audience, or the congregation as it used to be called. You can worship in any way you please, they said, no longer bound by the rigours and constraints of the past. This was welcomed. It wasn't fair they said to make children kneel. There's no need for it these days.
Let's go back and look at this new picture. Do you like it? My whole peer group looked at this picture. They didn't like it, they thought it was stupid. They had never been told about the Masterpiece. They rejected such a muddle. No one wanted to hang this on their wall.
"Do you know about the picture?", people would say to them. "Yes", they replied, "but we didn't like it, not on our walls will this picture hang."
For a tiny few of us, we took this picture home, because that is what we were given. Some of us had parents who told us where the Masterpiece was. And so we set to work. We labourously scrape away the old layers of paint. We have to be careful-so entertwined are the layers, we don't scrape off the original. Occasionally, we unearth some long-forgotten remnant-a rosary, a monstrance, a long forgotton lady, beautiful, and we cry, "Why did no one tell us about this!?"
We work at it. We ask a half-remembered God to aid us. We ask a lady, beautiful as the sun to hold our hand as we scrape, and scrape away the desecration of our heritage.