Fr. Roger J. Landry
Putting into the Deep
May 23, 2014
The May 12 saga at Harvard made many Catholics and other interested observers aware of a subject that most would prefer to know little about: the reality of black masses.
The centerpiece of this Satanic ritual isn’t worship of diabolical images, or reading sinister scriptures, or chanting hellish canticles. It’s the desecration of a validly consecrated host in a ceremony meant to mock the Catholic liturgy.
In the early days of black masses — so called because they would be held in dark woods or underlit rooms —rebellious ex-priests consecrated the Eucharist during the ceremony before the host, which Catholics believe is Jesus under sacramental form, was defiled with spit, blood, excrement, sexual fluids and blasphemies. Since renegade clerics willing to debase what they once adored are hard to find, however, Satan worshippers eventually began to resort to stealing consecrated hosts by breaking into Church tabernacles or stealing them from Mass.
In the Harvard situation, there was considerable confusion about whether the Satanic Temple was planning to use a consecrated host. The organizers first said they were; then, upon much criticism, said they weren’t; then a spokesman admitted that he didn’t believe any host could be consecrated, meaning that to him a host is nothing more than bread no matter what a Catholic priest may have prayed over it. To me it’s likely that we were dealing with a consecrated host from beginning to end, since to hold even a reenactment of a black mass without a consecrated host would be like having a barbecue without meat. It’s also much easier to snatch a consecrated host from an inattentive minister of Holy Communion than it is for a stranger to purloin an unconsecrated one from a Church sacristy; one of the consequences of the indult given in the 1970s allowing Communion on the hands is that it has unintentionally made pilfering consecrated hosts easy.
Real Satan worshippers, moreover, are not only just as aware as devout Catholics about the difference between consecrated and unconsecrated hosts, but some even seem to be able to distinguish between the two. In a bone-chilling interview published a few years ago with a French ex-Satanist named Nicolas, a journalist asked why he never stole hosts from Protestant services. He replied because Satanists knew they remained just bread. He added that if a consecrated host from a Catholic Mass was placed alongside nine unconsecrated ones or hosts taken from Protestant communion services, he would immediately be able to decipher the validly consecrated one. When the incredulous journalist asked how, Nicolas replied, “Because of the burning hate I would feel toward that host, apart from all the others.” If we take him at his contrite word, it seems that he had received some of the devil’s spiritual capacities to recognize what surpasses normal human detection.
The reality of black masses requires Catholics to become as reverentially protective of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist as Satan worshippers are irreverently intent on profaning Him.
Several years ago when I was a pastor in New Bedford, a young woman approached me after Mass informing me that she used to participate in Satanic masses with hosts she had stolen from Catholic parishes in the city. I asked a few questions to decipher whether she was spinning a tale, but after I listened for a few minutes to minute details of parishes, looting techniques and black mass specifics — not to mention beheld her intense sorrow for what she had done — it was obvious she was credible. She implored me to do something about how easy it is in many parishes to rip off consecrated hosts. That’s one of the reasons I’m writing today’s column.
Priests and deacons, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and indeed all the faithful must become more vigilant to ensure Jesus in the Eucharist isn’t shoplifted, by safeguarding that he is consumed immediately upon reception, especially when someone receives holy Communion on the hands. When someone begins to walk away before consuming the Eucharist, we have a duty to follow him to confirm that he has received, and that he’s eligible to receive. To do this is not to try to embarrass anyone, especially if the person turns out not to be Catholic and simply doesn’t know any better. The point is to protect the Lord from profanation or desecration. The Eucharist is not birthday cake at a birthday party, a slice of which customs of hospitality dictate everyone present should be offered; rather under sacramental form it’s the God-man who was crucified out of love for us.
Many priests tell horror stories about finding hosts in pews and missalettes. When I was a high school chaplain, one of the students stole a host from Mass and began to write all over it in class until others brought it to the principal’s and my attention. In Toronto, other seminarians and I saw a communicant do a sleight-of-hand, pretending to receive but then returning to her pew and furtively putting the host in her pocketbook. When we politely but firmly insisted that she give us the host, she opened her pocketbook and there was a jar with over 150 stolen hosts inside!
I’ve occasionally heard people say in opposition to this elementary religious duty to protect the Eucharist, “The Lord can take care of himself.” I find it dubious that such words would have consoled the Blessed Mother on the Via Dolorosa. Such sanctimony won’t please her today either. Nor will it comfort the blessed Fruit of her womb, who told St. Margaret Mary that his heart is wounded by the “indifference, irreverence, coldness, sacrilege and scorn” that people have for him in the “Sacrament of his love.” He’s particularly wounded, he added, when those who are consecrated to him and ought to know better behave toward him in this way.
In 258, the twelve-year-old acolyte St. Tarcisius died protecting Jesus in the Eucharist from desecration by a mob. He knew he wasn’t just defending something holy, but rather Someone. His faithful, loving witness calls each of us to ponder what we’re willing to do to protect our Eucharistic Lord not only from unworthy or sacrilegious reception but from those who intend to treat Him under sacramental disguise as diabolically as the Roman soldiers desecrated him on Good Friday.