Father Cassian Folsom of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute relates this short story of his days as a substitute chaplain in snowy New England:
As we approached the door of the girls' dorm, two of the students happened to be coming out at the same time. They weren't expecting us, but as soon as they saw that I was carrying the Blessed Sacrament, without a moment's hesitation, they knelt down in the snow in honor of Christ present in the Eucharist. That gesture made a profound impression on me.On my mind this week is "active participation" at mass because that's the topic at Friday's upcoming Liturgy & Lager. Father Folsom's article on active participation is worth reading in its entirety. What it made think of is that when the "spirit of Vatican II" Catholics think of "active participation", they immediately think it has something to do with lay readers, Extraordinary ministers of communion and sing along hymns that "celebrate our diversity". But active participation begins first with the actual rubrics of the liturgy and doing what you're supposed to do and knowing why you do it.
In these our days, when the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist is often very weak -- when there are some people who don't even know what it is that they receive -- it is imperative that we show by our gestures the faith we believe. Actions speak louder than words! So let us kneel. Flectamus genua. Carefully, deliberately, reverently. That will reinforce our own belief in the Real Presence of Christ, it will teach our children by example, it will inspire our fellow Catholics, and it will scandalize a world that does not believe.
Though what struck me here in this passage was the last line: it will scandalize a world that does not believe. How often do our words scandalize unbelievers? In this age of timid men not often. How much less often do our actions scandalize unbelievers! ("Unbelievers" here includes anyone who denies the Real Presence of Christ in the transubstantiated Eucharistic species). It is a scandal to them for anyone to adore what they think is mere bread. For the Protestant, it's idolatry and for the naturalist it is superstition.
Now we don't cause scandal for scandal's sake obviously; but just as an sinful man scandalizes the upright by his evil, a devout man will necessarily scandalize the sinful and the unbelieving by doing what is right.