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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What if I am being fed at a megachurch? And I really love the style of worship at the megachurch--there's something there for everyone! Doesn't God just want to be worshipped by His creatures, in whatever way speaks to us?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, 
         and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Short answer:  no, God doesn't just want to be worshipped by His creatures in whatever way speaks to us.  That is a man-made tradition. One can search the entirety of what God has revealed and never find anywhere that God has said we may worship Him in whatever manner we find personally pleasing and fulfilling.  

God has given us the highest form of worship:  the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Other churches, while prayerful,  lively and animated,  may indeed have Christ's presence there ("For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”); however, their worship is man-made, not God given.  

(This is not to say that the prayers and worship of members of these other churches are wrong or not pleasing to God.  I think they are indeed pleasing to God.  It just ought not be considered a worthy substitute for the Mass.)

This Sunday is the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, also known as the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  It is for this reason that we go to Mass:  because He is present there in His Most Holy Body and Blood, at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, where we partake in the Eternal Sacrifice of Calvary and stand at the foot of the cross with Him.  

God Himself has revealed to us how He wants to be worshipped.  The apostles received this revelation and then went on to proclaim to the early Christians this sacred, God-instituted form of worship. This Sunday we will hear the apostle Paul speak of this worship:

I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, 
that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, 
took bread, and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me."
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, 
"This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, 
you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes
 (1 Cor 11:23-26)

Although Paul was not present at the Last Supper, we can conclude that he received this from the Lord through the other apostles. And in this text above we read that he has already proclaimed it (presumably through Sacred or Oral Tradition, not through the written letter)  to the fledgling Church.  (This verse is also another verse which supports that God's revelation is not through Scripture alone, but rather through Scripture and Oral Tradition.)

From Apologist Jim Blackburn:

In an all-too-common tragedy these days, a poorly catechized Catholic attends a worship service at a megachurch, mistakenly believing the worship service simply to be a modern, non-Catholic version of the Mass. The Catholic feels emotionally drawn to the megachurch worship service and decides Mass, in comparison, is boring. A typical view might be, “Wow, I’m being fed here like I’m not being fed at Mass.”

The American Heritage Dictionary defines megachurch as “a large, independent, usually nondenominational worship group, especially one formed as an offshoot of a Protestant church. Also called seeker church.”

“Large” is right. Among the better known megachurches are Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston (attendance 43,500), Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago (attendance 23,000), and Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church (attendance 20,000) in my backyard in Orange County, California.

Many megachurches are known for their concert-style worship services, consisting of passionate preaching accompanied by emotionally driven music.  I often hear stories about local Catholics in my diocese who venture into one of Saddleback’s worship services—only to be “sold” on this new style of worship, and never again to return to the Catholic Mass.

“Something for Everyone”
From a superficial perspective it’s easy to see why ill-informed Catholics can be drawn in so easily. A quick visit to Saddleback’s Web site ( reveals a veritable menu of Sunday worship services to satisfy the taste of just about any self-indulgent seeker. For example, consider these six offerings, as described on the site:

•         Worship Center Times: You’ll engage in an array of contemporary worship music and enjoy live teaching that is video cast to our other venues.

•         Fuel Times: FUEL is our newest venue for young adults ages 20s to 30s (but everyone is welcome). Join us in Refinery main auditorium for live teaching, worship, food, and relationship building. All of this and more, packed into a shorter service.

•         Overdrive Times: This service is filled with guitar-driven, rock-infused worship sure to amplify your experience. You’ll feel like you’re worshiping in a musical concert setting! The message will follow, video cast live from the Worship Center.

•         Praise Times: This venue is filled with inspiring gospel music that will move your heart and encourage your spirit. The gospel choir will get you up off your feet in whole-hearted praise to God. Worship is followed by the video cast message.

•         Terrace Cafe Times: Grab a cup of coffee and relax in this outdoor worship environment. Located on the top of the Plaza Building, the Terrace Cafe is a perfect place to bring your friends for fellowship and a casual worship experience.

•         Traditions Times: Enjoy a warm, small church community and a traditional approach to worship through hymns and choruses.

Now, each of these forms of worship can be perfectly fine. The problem arises with the gross misconception that such worship is in any significant way comparable to the Catholic Mass. The truth is there really is no comparison at all.

The Day of Obligation
Down through history, the Church Fathers attest that the Eucharist has been the constant and most sacred form of authentic Christian worship. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Catholic Church continues this form of worship and obliges Catholics to participate.

The authority to oblige Catholics in such a way was endowed to the Church by Jesus himself. He said first to Peter and later to all of the apostles, “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:19, 18:18).

The Church has always recognized in these words the authority to enact disciplinary laws which the faithful must follow. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

The power to “bind and loose” connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter . . . (CCC 553, emphasis added)

Today the obligation to attend the Mass is found in the Code of Canon Law: “Sunday, on which by apostolic tradition the paschal mystery is celebrated, must be observed in the universal Church as the primordial holy day of obligation . . . On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass” (CIC 1246 §1–1247).

Symbol or Reality?
Not long ago, Rick Warren announced, “We’re adding the Lord’s Supper . . . to 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm Sunday evening services every week!”

Some people have wondered whether “the Lord’s Supper” at Saddleback Church is the authentic Eucharist. The answer is no. The power and authority to consecrate the Eucharist has never been available to just anyone; it has always been necessary to be appointed by one of the apostles or their successors. Luke provides evidence of this: “[T]hey [Paul and Barnabas, in this case] had appointed elders for them in every church . . .” (Acts 14:23). As does Paul: “This is why I left you [Titus] in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you . . .” (Ti 1:5).

The term “elders” in these passages is translated from the Greek word presbyterous, from which we derive the English word priest. It is clear in the passages just cited that priests were necessarily appointed in every Church. In part, this was for the valid consecration of the Eucharist.

Since megachurches like Saddleback Church do not have priests ordained by successors of the apostles (i.e., Catholic bishops), they do not have the power or the authority necessary to consecrate the Eucharist changing its substance into the body and blood of Jesus.
Also, I’m not aware of any megachurches that recognize the life-giving presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, for Catholics the “source and summit” of the faith. In describing its Lord’s Supper, Saddleback Church’s Web site states: “The elements of bread and wine or juice are symbols of Christ’s broken body and shed blood. Communion is not a means of salvation.”

Mass Is Not Optional
There is no comparison between a modern megachurch worship service— however entertaining it might be—and the Eucharist instituted by Jesus. A person should never mistake such megachurch worship as any sort of alternative to the Mass. And, if he’s a Catholic, he must never neglect his obligation to participate in the Mass.

If a Catholic wishes to indulge in megachurch worship, and he can do so without endangering his own faith or scandalizing others, he is not explicitly forbidden from doing so. Even so, he cannot licitly participate in a megachurch communion service. This is forbidden by the Code of Canon Law: “Catholic ministers administer the sacraments licitly to Catholic members of the Christian faithful alone, who likewise receive them licitly from Catholic ministers alone . . . ” (844 §1).

The bottom line is this: Jesus didn’t instruct the apostles to perpetuate megachurch-style worship services, nor did he indicate that such worship would be life-giving. But he did institute the Eucharist, commanded the apostles to perpetuate it, and promised life to those who participate in it. Don’t we owe it to him to worship as he commanded? 

And this youtube video brings a smile to my face:  a parody of these Sunday worship services, posted with a wink and a smile, with no disrespect intended.  Again, there is no doubt that God is pleased with worship and praise offered to Him.

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

Catholics Come Home

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15


  1. Hi! I just found your blog yesterday and I wanted to tell you that I think you're doing a great job! My husband and I both enjoy Catholic Apologetics and we love coming across new resources such as yours. I like how you address each situation/question with various sources and facts - not only Scripture, but also theology, history, etc. It's all very impressive and I look forward to going over your past posts about the older topics. Thanks for doing this - we need more of this in our faith!

    1. Thanks for the pat on the back!

      If you love apologetics I suggest you join the Catholic Answers Forums. It's easy to join and fun to dialogue with others about the Catholic faith!

  2. Ok I see you will not post my rant against CAF. Probably a good thing. I guess you do not see the bias against Traditional Catholics there. But let me ask you this. Are you familiar with the recent decision by Cardinal Dinardo of Houston to allow a protestant ordination ceremony to be held in a Catholic Church? Now I realize the Cardinal has a right through canon law to be able to do this. But shouldn't we, as the laity, be allowed to criticize this? Don't you think this would cause confusion about apostolic succession to many Catholics?

    1. I hadn't heard anything about this; I googled it and couldn't find anything except a Traditionalist website saying that it happened.

      Will investigate further...

    2. I posted the question on the CAFs and there's an interesting discussing ensuing:

    3. A fair assessment of the story:

  3. Yes...came to the same conclusion I, and many others, have. So why was my post deleted on CAF? Again...nobody is arguing the right of the Cardinal to do this. And not a totally fair assessment of the story. It seems to have left out a pretty important issue. The United Methodist Church is pro abortion.

    1. After being on the CAFs a long time my assessment of why your post was deleted was because, while it may not have an anything outwardly vitriolic, it may have had a simmering opprobrium. I highly doubt it was deleted because you said "What value do Catholics have from confusion on apostolic succession?"

      As far as the UMC being pro-abortion, that is, of course, terrible. But we already know that they are separated from I don't know why that would be any more troubling than, say, their rejection of the Real Presence. Or rejection of Mary. Or rejection of the papacy. Or...

  4. where two or more are gathered God is there... but not when i'm all alone... boo whooooo

    1. I don't know if that is your pastor's belief, but what you have proclaimed is not part of Catholic belief. God is present in our Catholic lives, whether we are two or more, or when "I'm all alone."