Sunday, September 30, 2007

Another Episcopalian swimming the Tiber

~A hearty "Welcome home!" to another Episcopalian swimming the Tiber. Mr. B.B. says:
...but I am truthful when I relate leaving the Episcopal Church, despite her wretched excesses of the past thirty years, has been a gut-wrenchingly difficult decision and one I have not rushed into. I was baptized a Christian in the Episcopal Church and my earliest memories of Sundays are being in an Anglo-Catholic church in Connecticut, standing while the grownups were kneeling, barely clearing the top of the pew (and gnawing on the top of said pew, I confess) and my dear mom, whenever I squirmed (frequently) propping the Prayer Book (1928) or the Missal in front of me, pointing out where we were and thus giving me my first reading lessons; that and of learning to roar out the glorious hymns found in the 1940 Hymnal.

...So it's off to Rome for me. I do not labor under the illusion all is milk and honey on the other side of the Tiber. It is not, the Roman Catholic Church, especially in the United States, is beset with woes, lousy liturgy and music being among the less egregious. But the Holy Catholic Church possesses something the Episcopal Church does not: sound doctrine, along with a Pope (especially the present one) and magisterium to ensure that it remains so. Sound doctrine will make it possible for me (I pray) to tolerate Masses where the priest sits in the Captain Kirk chair while the miasmal excrescences of Marty Haugen and David Haas waft into the nave.
Dear Mr. B.B., I hope you find a church with the Extraordinary Form. These are 'interesting times' to be in the Catholic Church with the buds of a 'new springtime' breaking through. So while Haugen/Haas et al might fight back with fierceness, still there is a quiet revolution going on accompanied by clouds of incense and chanting.

Angelus: Use of wealth for unrestrained luxury

AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

~translated by Papa Ratzinger Forum

Dear brothers and sisters!

Today the Gospel of Luke presents the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus (Lk 16,19-31). The rich man impersonates the iniquitous use of wealth by those who use it for unrestrained and selfish luxury, thinking only of self-satisfaction, without a thought for the beggar who is at their door.

The poor man, on the other hand, represents those whom only God thinks about. Unlike the rich man, he has a name, Lazarus, short for Eleazar, which means 'God helps him'. God does not forget those who are forgotten by everyone else. Those who do not count for anything in the eyes of man are precious in the eyes of the Lord.

The parable shows how earthly iniquity is overturned by divine justice. After he dies, Lazarus is welcomed 'in the bosom of Abraham', that is, into eternal beatitude, whereas the rich man ends up "in the torments of hell'. They have both gone on to a new state which is definitive and unappealable, about which one must provide for in life, because nothing can be done about it it afterwards.

This parable also lends itself to a social reading, about which Pope Paul VI's teaching 40 years ago in the encyclical Popolorum progressio is memorable. Speaking of the battle against world hunger, he wrote: "It is a question of building a world in which every man...can live a life that is fully human...where the poor Lazarus can sit at the same table as the rich man" (n. 47).

The Encyclical reminds us that the numerous situations of poverty are caused, on the one hand, by "the servitude which comes from other men" and on the other, from "nature that has not been sufficiently mastered' (ibid). Unfortunately, some peoples suffer from both these causes.

How can we not think, especially at this moment, of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, recently hit by grave flooding? Nor can we forget so many other situations of human emergency in different regions of the planet, in which fighting for political and economic power further aggravates human misery as well as the already significant environmental problems.

Pope Paul VI's appeal, "The hungry peoples dramatically confront the peoples of opulence" (Popolorum progressio, 3), keeps all its urgency today. We cannot say we do not know the course to take: we have the Laws and the Prophets, and Jesus tells us in the Gospel. Whoever does not wish to hear will not change even if someone comes back from the dead to remind them.

May the Virgin Mary help us to avail of the present time to listen and put into practice the Word of God. May she obtain for us that we become more attentive to our brothers in need, to share with them whatever we have and to contribute, starting with ourselves, to spread the logic and the practice of authentic solidarity.

Prayer before Holy Communion

Divine Master, Spouse of my heart, I will follow Thee everywhere with Mary, my Mother. Having Thee, do I not possess all riches? To love Thee and please Thee -- is not that the greatest happiness of life? To share Thy sacrifices, Thy sufferings, Thy death -- is not that the most glorious victory of love? O my God, my mind is made up! I make no more conditions or reservations in my love for Thee. I will follow Thee in all things, yes, even to Calvary! Speak, pierce, cut, burn! My heart is altar and victim!

~St. Peter Eymard

You have been saved by grace

~by St. Polycarp to the Philippians

Polycarp and the Elders with him, to the Church of God sojourning in Philippi: all mercy and peace to you, from God Almighty and Jesus Christ our Saviour.

When you welcomed those copies of the True Love and took the opportunity of setting them forward on their road, I rejoiced with you in Jesus Christ. The chains that bound them were the badges of saints, the diadems of men truly chosen by our Lord and God. I rejoiced too that your firmly rooted faith, so well-known since the earliest times, still flourishes and bears fruit for our Lord Jesus Christ. He bore the burden of our sins even as far as suffering death, and God raised him up, releasing him from the pains of the underworld; you did not see him but still you believed in him, in unspeakably glorious joy. Many desire to come into this joy, knowing that you are saved by grace, not by works, – not by your actions but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.

So gird up your loins and serve God in fear and sincerity. Leave aside empty vanities and vulgar error, believing in him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and gave him glory and a throne on his right hand, to whom are subject all things in heaven and earth, whom everything that has breath serves, who is coming as the judge of the living and of the dead: God will require vengeance for his blood from any who disobey him.

Now he who raised him from the dead will also raise us up if we do his will and walk according to his commandments and love the things which he loved, if we refrain from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, and false witness, if we do not render evil with evil, abuse for abuse, blow for blow, or curse for curse, but if we remember what the Lord taught when he said, Do not judge, that you may not be judged; forgive and you will be forgiven; be merciful and you will receive mercy. For whatever you measure out to other people will be measured out to you also Blessed are the poor, and they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Who is like unto God?

~by Fr. Tom Euteneuer of Human Life International
Let us take a moment to reflect on the glorious prince of the heavenly host, St. Michael the Archangel, the most potent of all God's helpers. We start with his name: "Michael" is of Hebrew origin and, literally translated, means, "Who Is Like Unto God?" It is actually a composite of three little Hebrew words that form one phrase: "Mi" (pronounced "mee" and meaning "who?"); "cha" (pronounced "ka" and meaning "like"), and "el" (the Hebrew name for "God.") The phrase, "Who is like unto God?" is not a statement about this angel being so close or similar to God - no one can claim that. Rather, it is a rhetorical question. It is what Michael uttered in his disbelief that someone would claim to be like God. That someone was another angel named Lucifer.

Tradition has it that Lucifer, the sublime Seraphim, ranked highest in the order of angels and proudly asserted that he wanted to "be like the Most High" (see Isaiah 14:14 for this). One faithful angel of a lower rank, unable to countenance the impudence of a creature thinking he were equal to God, courageously stood up in the divine assembly to defend the rights of God with a rebuke that issued from the depths of his being as a question something like: "And just who could possibly claim to be like God?" And so "Mi-cha-el" became his name.

Michael then cast Lucifer out of heaven with all his rebellious companions. No creature that rejects the sovereignty of God could ever remain in heaven. Michael is thus the defender of the rights of God and the one who manhandles the strongest of the demons. We have him to thank for showing us that proud Satan can actually be defeated and that the rights of God can be vindicated against all blasphemers.

Does God really have rights? You better believe it! The Lord of Heaven and Earth has, above all, the supreme right to be worshipped by all creation. God doesn't need our worship in an absolute sense, but all creatures need very much to worship Him and keep Him in the first place in our lives because that is how the order of the universe is maintained. When creatures replace Him with idols or arrogantly suppose that they, as creatures, are gods, then all things fall apart and man loses the very meaning of his life. God is the divine center that holds all things together and, as such, He has an absolute right to be worshipped by His creation.

Today we need St. Michael's aid more than ever. Never in the history of humanity has Satan convinced so many people to set up false idols to replace the worship of the True God. Never has Satan been so successful in getting people to abandon the worship of God and obedience to the moral law on such a massive scale. In the same way, never have we seen so much blasphemous conduct disseminated with such intensity throughout the human community by the power of modern communications; nor have we ever seen the glorification of Satan given such pride of place in the entertainment business.

We need a powerful and glorious angel to teach us to defend the rights of God again. St. Michael has been doing this since before time began and is eminently equipped to teach us to make sure that God remains as the absolute center of our lives and our society. Let us turn to St. Michael on his feast day and thank him for defending God and us against "the wickedness and snares of the devil." Let us invoke his protection over our loved ones and renew our friendship with him again on his feastday.

The word "angel" denotes a function rather than a nature

~by Pope St. Gregory the Great

You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels. And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.

Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform. In that holy city, where perfect knowledge flows from the vision of almighty God, those who have no names may easily be known. But personal names are assigned to some, not because they could not be known without them, but rather to denote their ministry when they came among us. Thus, Michael means “Who is like God”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”; and Raphael is “God’s Remedy”.

Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power. So also our ancient foe desired in his pride to be like God, saying: I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven; I will be like the Most High. He will be allowed to remain in power until the end of the world when he will be destroyed in the final punishment. Then, he will fight with the archangel Michael, as we are told by John: A battle was fought with Michael the archangel.

So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle. Raphael means, as I have said, God’s remedy, for when he touched Tobit’s eyes in order to cure him, he banished the darkness of his blindness. Thus, since he is to heal, he is rightly called God’s remedy.

Saint Michael, archangel

The name of the archangel Michael means, in Hebrew, who is like unto God? and he is also known as "the prince of the heavenly host". He is usually pictured as a strong warrior, dressed in armor and wearing sandals. His name appears in Scripture four times, twice in the Book of Daniel, and once each in the Epistle of St. Jude and the Book of Revelation. From Revelation we learn of the battle in heaven, with St. Michael and his angels combatting Lucifer and the other fallen angels (or devils). We invoke St. Michael to help us in our fight against Satan; to rescue souls from Satan, especially at the hour of death; to be the champion of the Jews in the Old Testament and now Christians; and to bring souls to judgment.

This day is referred to as "Michaelmas" in many countries and is also one of the harvest feast days. In England this is one of the "quarter days", which was marked by hiring servants, electing magistrates, and beginning of legal and university terms. This day also marks the opening of the deer and other large game hunting season. In some parts of Europe, especially Germany, Denmark, and Austria, a special wine called "Saint Michael's Love" (Michelsminne) is drunk on this day. The foods for this day vary depending on nationality. In the British Isles, for example, goose was the traditional meal for Michaelmas, eaten for prosperity, France has waffles or Gaufres and the traditional fare in Scotland used to be St. Michael's Bannock (Struan Micheil) — a large, scone-like cake. In Italy, gnocchi is the traditional fare.

~Catholic Culture

Saint Raphael, archangel

Our knowledge of the Archangel Raphael comes to us from the book of Tobit. His mission as wonderful healer and fellow traveller with the youthful Tobias has caused him to be invoked for journeys and at critical moments in life. Tradition also holds that Raphael is the angel that stirred the waters at the healing sheep pool in Bethesda. His name means "God has healed".

Saint Gabriel, archangel

St. Gabriel's name means "God is my strength". Biblically he appears three times as a messenger. He had been sent to Daniel to explain a vision concerning the Messiah. He appeared to Zachary when he was offering incense in the Temple, to foretell the birth of his son, St. John the Baptist. St. Gabriel is most known as the angel chosen by God to be the messenger of the Annunciation, to announce to mankind the mystery of the Incarnation.
The angel's salutation to our Lady, so simple and yet so full of meaning, Hail Mary, full of grace, has become the constant and familiar prayer of all Christian people.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Saint Wenceslaus, martyr

St. Wenceslaus, duke of Bohemia, was born about the year 907 at Prague, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). His father was killed in battle when he was young, leaving the kingdom to be ruled by his pagan mother. Wenceslaus was educated by his grandmother, Ludmilla, also a saint. She taught him to be a Christian and to be a good king. She was killed by pagan nobles before she saw him king, but she left him with a deep committment to the Christian faith.

Throughout his life he preserved his virginity unblemished. As duke he was a father to his subjects, generous toward orphans, widows, and the poor. On his own shoulders he frequently carried wood to the houses of the needy. He often attended the funerals of the poor, ransomed captives, and visited those suffering in prison. He was filled with a deep reverence toward the clergy; with his own hands he sowed the wheat for making altar breads and pressed the grapes for the wine used in the Mass. During winter he would visit the churches barefoot through snow and ice, frequently leaving behind bloody footprints.

Wenceslaus was eighteen years old when he succeeded his father to the throne. Without regard for the opposition, he worked in close cooperation with the Church to convert his pagan country. He ended the persecution of Christians, built churches and brought back exiled priests. As king he gave an example of a devout life and of great Christian charity, with his people calling him "Good King" of Bohemia.

His brother Boleslaus, however, turned to paganism. One day he invited Wenceslaus to his house for a banquet. The next morning, on September 28, 929, as Wenceslaus was on the way to Mass, Boleslaus struck him down at the door of the church. Before he died, Wenceslaus forgave his brother and asked God's mercy for his soul. Although he was killed for political reasons, he is listed as a martyr since the dispute arose over his faith. This king, martyred at the age of twenty-two, is the national hero and patron of the Czech Republic. He is the first Slav to be canonized.

~from Catholic Culture

All good shepherds are in the one Shepherd

~by St. Augustine

We have seen that Christ feeds you with judgement, and he distinguishes the sheep that are his from those that are not. The sheep that are mine, he says, hear my voice and follow me.

Here I see all good shepherds wrapped up in the one shepherd. It is not that there are no good shepherds but that they are all part of the one. To be many means to be divided, and so here the Lord speaks of one shepherd because it is unity that he is commending. The Lord does not avoid talking about “shepherds” in the plural because he cannot find anyone to take care of his sheep.

He did find shepherds, since he found Peter – and by the very choice of Peter he commended unity. The Apostles were many and to only one of them did he say Feed my sheep. May it never happen that we truly lack good shepherds! May it never happen to us! May God’s loving kindness never fail to provide them!

Now if there are good sheep then it follows that there are good shepherds, since a good sheep will naturally make a good shepherd. But all good shepherds are in the one Shepherd, and in that sense they are not many but one. When they feed the sheep it is Christ who is doing the feeding.

In the same way the bridegroom’s friends do not speak with their own voices, but when they hear the bridegroom’s voice they are filled with joy. Thus it is that Christ is feeding the sheep when the shepherds are feeding them. He says “I feed” because it is with his voice that they are speaking and with his love that they are loving. For even as he gave his sheep into Peter’s charge, like one man passing responsibility to another, he was really seeking to make Peter one with him. He handed over his sheep so that he himself might be the head and Peter, as it were, the body – that is, the Church – so that like a bridegroom and bride they might be two in one flesh.

Before he handed his sheep over to Peter he made sure that he would not be entrusting them to someone quite separate: Peter, do you love me? And he responded, I love you. Again: do you love me? And he responded, I love you. And a third time: do you love me? And he responded, I love you. He makes certain of love and gives a firm foundation to unity. He, the one shepherd, feeds the sheep in these many shepherds, and they, the many, feed them in him, the one.

Scripture is silent about shepherds and yet not silent. The shepherds boast, but whoever boasts, let him boast in the Lord. This is what it means for Christ to feed the sheep; this is what it means to feed the sheep for Christ, to feed them in Christ and not to feed oneself apart from Christ. When he said I will feed my sheep Christ did not mean “I have no-one else to give them to”, as if the Prophet had foretold a bad time when there would be too few shepherds. Even when Peter and the Apostles were still walking this earth, Christ, in whom alone all are one, said I have other sheep that are not of this flock, and these I have to lead as well so that there will be only one flock, and one shepherd.

So let them all be in the one shepherd and speak with the one shepherd’s voice, for the sheep to hear and follow their shepherd – not just any shepherd, but the one. Let all shepherds speak with one voice in him and not with separate voices: I beseech you, my brethren: say the same thing, all of you, and let there be no divisions among you. May that voice, cleansed of all division and purged of all error, be the voice that the sheep hear as they follow the shepherd who says The sheep that are mine hear my voice and follow me.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Audio files online of Extradordinary Form

~from Sancta Missa. You may listen to mp3 clips of the Mass text.

Ad Altare, what?

~from Catholic Church Conservation, an altar to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Brussels.

This reminds me of floral oasis used as the base for flower arrangements:

Art, Beauty, and Judgment

~continuing our series of posts on's one from Catholic Educators Resource Center by writer and philosopher Roger Scruton
A century ago Marcel Duchamp signed a urinal with the name "R. Mutt," entitled it "La Fontaine," and exhibited it as a work of art. One immediate result of Duchamp's joke was to precipitate an intellectual industry devoted to answering the question "What is art?" The literature of this industry is as empty as the neverending imitations of Duchamp's gesture. Nevertheless, it has left a residue of skepticism. If anything can count as art, then art ceases to have a point. All that is left is the curious but unfounded fact that some people like looking at some things, others like looking at others. As for the suggestion that there is an enterprise of criticism, which searches for objective values and lasting monuments to the human spirit, this is dismissed out of hand, as depending on a conception of the artwork that was washed down the drain of Duchamp's "fountain."

The argument is eagerly embraced, because it seems to emancipate people from the burden of culture, telling them that all those venerable masterpieces can be ignored with impunity, that reality TV is "as good as" Shakespeare and techno-rock the equal of Brahms, since nothing is better than anything and all claims to aesthetic value are void. The argument therefore chimes with the fashionable forms of cultural relativism, and defines the point from which university courses in aesthetics tend to begin — and as often as not the point at which they end.

...The works of art that we remember fall into the first two categories: the uplifting and the demeaning. The total failures disappear from public memory. And it really matters which kind of art you adhere to, which you include in your treasury of symbols and allusions, which you carry around in your heart. Good taste is as important in aesthetics as it is in humor, and indeed taste is what it is all about. If university courses do not start from that premise, students will finish their studies of art and culture just as ignorant as when they began.

Imagine now a world in which people showed an interest only in Brillo boxes, in signed urinals, in crucifixes pickled in urine, or in objects similarly lifted from the debris of ordinary life and put on display with some kind of satirical intention — in other words, the increasingly standard fare of official modern art shows in Europe and America. What would such a world have in common with that of Duccio, Giotto, Velazquez, or even Cézanne? Of course, there would be the fact of putting objects on display, and the fact of our looking at them through aesthetic spectacles. But it would be a degenerate world, a world in which human aspirations no longer find their artistic expression, in which we no longer make for ourselves images of the ideal and the transcendent, but in which we study human debris in place of the human soul. It would be a world in which one whole aspect of the human spirit — the aesthetic — would have become stunted and grotesque. For we aspire through art, and when aspiration ceases, so too does art.

Now it seems to me that the public space of our society has in fact begun to surrender to the kind of degradation that I have just described. It has been taken over by a culture that wishes not to educate our perception but to capture it, not to ennoble human life but to trivialize it. Why this is so is an interesting question to which I can offer only an imperfect answer. But that it is so is surely undeniable. Look at the official art of modern societies — the art that ends up in museums or on public pedestals, the architecture that is commissioned by public bodies, even the music that enjoys the favors of the public subsidy machine — and you will all too often encounter either facetious kitsch, or deliberately antagonizing gestures of defiance towards the traditions that make art lovable. Much of our public art is a loveless art, and one that is also entirely without the humility that comes from love.
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St Vincent de Paul, priest

St. Vincent was born of poor parents in the village of Pouy in Gascony, France, about 1580. He enjoyed his first schooling under the Franciscan Fathers at Acqs. Such had been his progress in four years that a gentleman chose him as subpreceptor to his children, and he was thus enabled to continue his studies without being a burden to his parents. In 1596, he went to the University of Toulouse for theological studies, and there he was ordained priest in 1600.

In 1605, on a voyage by sea from Marseilles to Narbonne, he fell into the hands of African pirates and was carried as a slave to Tunis. His captivity lasted about two years, until Divine Providence enabled him to effect his escape. After a brief visit to Rome he returned to France, where he became preceptor in the family of Emmanuel de Gondy, Count of Goigny, and General of the galleys of France. In 1617, he began to preach missions, and in 1625, he lay the foundations of a congregation which afterward became the Congregation of the Mission or Lazarists, so named on account of the Prioryof St. Lazarus, which the Fathers began to occupy in 1633.

It would be impossible to enumerate all the works of this servant of God. Charity was his predominant virtue. It extended to all classes of persons, from forsaken childhood to old age. The Sisters of Charity also owe the foundation of their congregation to St. Vincent. In the midst of the most distracting occupations his soul was always intimately united with God. Though honored by the great ones of the world, he remained deeply rooted in humility. The Apostle of Charity, the immortal Vincent de Paul, breathed his last in Paris at the age of eighty. His feast day is September 27th. He is the patron of charitable societies.

~from Catholics Online

Serving the poor is to be preferred above all things

~by St. Vincent de Paul

Even though the poor are often rough and unrefined, we must not judge them from external appearances nor from the mental gifts they seem to have received. On the contrary, if you consider the poor in the light of faith, then you will observe that they are taking the place of the Son of God who chose to be poor.

Although in his passion he almost lost the appearance of a man and was considered a fool by the Gentiles and a stumbling block by the Jews, he showed them that his mission was to preach to the poor: He sent me to preach the good news to the poor. We also ought to have this same spirit and imitate Christ’s actions, that is, we must take care of the poor, console them, help them, support their cause.

Since Christ willed to be born poor, he chose for himself disciples who were poor. He made himself the servant of the poor and shared their poverty. He went so far as to say that he would consider every deed which either helps or harms the poor as done for or against himself. Since God surely loves the poor, he also loves those who love the poor. For when one person holds another dear, he also includes in his affection anyone who loves or serves the one he loves. That is why we hope that God will love us for the sake of the poor. So when we visit the poor and needy, we try to understand the poor and weak. We sympathise with them so fully that we can echo Paul’s words: I have become all things to all men. Therefore, we must try to be stirred by our neighbours’ worries and distress. We must beg God to pour into our hearts sentiments of pity and compassion and to fill them again and again with these dispositions.

It is our duty to prefer the service of the poor to everything else and to offer such service as quickly as possible. If a needy person requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind. Offer the deed to God as your prayer. Do not become upset or feel guilty because you interrupted your prayer to serve the poor. God is not neglected if you leave him for such service. One of God’s works is merely interrupted so that another can be carried out. So when you leave prayer to serve some poor person, remember that this very service is performed for God. Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity. Since she is a noble mistress, we must do whatever she commands. With renewed devotion, then, we must serve the poor, especially outcasts and beggars. They have been given to us as our masters and patrons.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Child's Missal

~Now that Summorum Pontificum is in full force, I thought I'd repost this link to A Child's Missal from The Society of St. John which beautifully explains The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The illustrations come from a deep immersion in iconographic language and the pictures of the Mass show its timelessness. It's great even for adults. So if you're looking for a resource to teach the Mass, this is a fine one to add to your library. Best of all, you may download the complete book in pdf. However, it is worth getting hardbound.

Here are some sample pages:

I attended a conference with Steve Wood as one of the featured speakers and he said that if your child's catechetical book has butterflies and balloons on the cover, "Run away!" It's safe to say that this book has none of that and you can introduce the concept to your child (or yourself even) of Earth uniting with Heaven in the Sacrifice of the Mass.

Teens and Chant

~from the latest Adoremus Bulletin by Patrick Cunningham:
The guitar was never intended — and cannot be effectively used — to lead congregational singing. The use we made of it in a religious formation community of seventy people was about the limit of the instrument’s ability to accompany singing. When transferred to a congregation of several hundred, spiced up with harmony and syncopation, guitar music becomes a self-centered performance, not an experience of communal worship.

Fifteen years later, after intense study (and significant repentance), and with the encouragement of Lt. Col. Roger Darley and others, I undertook to complete Father Dreisoener’s unpublished work and brought out Chants for the Church Year, a collection of English Propers for the Mass — with authentic Gregorian settings for the most part — for the three-year liturgical cycle. It won a modest following. I dedicated it to Father Charles and considered it an ongoing act of penance, and an incremental contribution to the true renewal of Liturgy. As circumstances permit, I introduce the chant in the places I minister as deacon, including our own parish, where we sing Lauds every Saturday and Sunday to authentic Gregorian melodies, in English.

...By the time we prepared the April Mass, an Easter celebration, both sophomore Latin classes wanted to participate. I gave them the choice between two Easter Week Communion antiphons; they chose the shorter one. In this case, the result was a bit rougher because we had too many boys singing at once. We also used the psalm verses in English. In this case, the chant was used as an entrance chant. We prepared the school for the experience by a series of school bulletin announcements.

Before we tried to introduce chant into the school Mass, a religion teacher told me “the boys hate chant”.

“How do they hate something they have never heard?” I responded. In the end, most of the students believed that they had received something good from the use of chant at Mass. By incorporating young students who had never participated in sung worship before, and by using authentic Gregorian melodies and the Latin language, we introduced half a thousand adults and young men to the heritage of beauty shared by the universal Church, Latin rite.

Only God knows what can happen next, but we are not finished with this experiment. This year, I will introduce Latin chant through all the Latin classes and the Humanities class. Some experimental liturgy, the kind that is tightly connected to our heritage of art in worship, is very much in line with the authentic renewal of our liturgy.
He includes a confession of sorts of his time in guitar Masses.

About the 'long Lent'

~by Bishop Cordileone in the San Diego Tribune (hat tip to Gerald)
It would be impossible to summarize the entire 120-page report here, but it is worthwhile to note some of the more salient points. First, the study revealed that the problem of sex abuse of children and young people by Catholic clergy was, indeed, widespread, in the sense that nearly all dioceses across the nation reported at least one incident during that time. Also, the patterns applied consistently throughout all dioceses, regardless of such factors as its size and the region in which it is located. The majority of the clergy accused had only one allegation against them; in fact, 3.5 percent of the priests accused account for 26 percent of all of the allegations. Most of the verified incidents, however, involved more serious types of abuse. It was in this context that the report referred to the results of the study as “very disturbing.”

Furthermore, with regard to prevalence, the study demonstrated that a total of roughly 4 percent of all priests and deacons serving during these 52 years were accused of sexual abuse of minors, with 10,667 people making allegations. In basically all of the categories studied from the historical perspective (e.g., when the incidents occurred, the number of accused priests, priests accused as a percentage of all ordinations), the trend is the same: an increase in the 1960s with an upward spike around 1970, followed by a precipitous decline in the early 1980s. Indeed, 75 percent of the events were alleged to have occurred between 1960 and 1984. Along the same lines, the majority of priests accused were ordained between the 1950s and 1970s.

Of those priests with substantiated allegation(s) (80 percent of those originally accused), slightly over half were either dead or out of active ministry at the time of the allegation, or were voluntarily or forcibly removed. Of the others, 9.2 percent were reprimanded and returned to ministry; in most of the remaining cases, some precaution was taken before restoring the priest to ministry, such as evaluation, treatment and/or administrative leave. It should be borne in mind, though, that the way offenders were treated evolved with our growing understanding of the problem. Thus, in the earlier years of this period, when it was more common to believe this to be solely a moral fault, returning a priest to ministry after a reprimand was much more common; by the 1980s, the standard approach was to send the offender for treatment and not return him to ministry unless and until he had a positive evaluation of rehabilitation from a qualified professional.

While the patterns of Catholic clergy sexual abuse of minors more or less followed those of the general male population, one significant statistic stands out: 81 percent were perpetrated against males. Also worth noting is that 78.2 percent of the victims were between the ages of 11 and 17 when the abuse began. Also, of all offenders, only 3.3 percent were abused in more than one diocese. Indeed, with regard to this last statistic, in a letter to the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2004, the principal investigator of the John Jay study, Karen Terry, and its administrative coordinator, James P. Levine, wrote: “It is clear that transferring priests [among dioceses] with allegations of child sexual abuse was not a general response to the problem, and was limited to a finite number of cases.”

...In this area, no institution has been subject to greater public scrutiny, and self-scrutiny, than the Catholic Church in the United States. For those of us bearing the shame of our deviant confreres in the ministry, our greatest hope in this whole ordeal is that it has shed light on just how widespread and prevalent this problem is throughout our entire society. I pray that our painful experience may be a catalyst for all institutions to be held, and to hold themselves, so accountable, and for governments to enact laws and make provisions to enable families to more easily confront this problem in their own homes and to seek, and be given, the help they need to address it.

Short of this, we will fail to be a truly just society that protects and cherishes its children.
Read more

A new job for Cardinal Rigali

~from the Vatican Bollettino:
The Holy Father has named as a member of the Congregation for Bishops His Eminence Cardinal Justin Francis Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia.

Saints Cosmas and Damian, martyrs

This is one of the most ancient feasts of the Church, and these two martyrs have been honored in the East and West in many ways, including the building of churches in their honor in Rome and Constantinople. Along with St. Luke, they are the patron saints of doctors. Little is known of their true history, but the legend that has come down to us is of very early origin.

Sts. Cosmas and Damian were venerated in the East as the "moneyless ones" because they practiced medicine gratis. According to the legend, they were twin brothers, born in Arabia, who studied in Syria and became skilled physicians. They were supposed to have lived on the Bay of Alexandretta in Cilicia, in what is now Turkey.

Since they were prominent Christians, they were among the first arrested when the great persecution under Diocletian began. Lysias, the governor of Cilicia, ordered their arrest, and they were beheaded. Their bodies, it was said, were carried to Syria and buried at Cyrrhus.

What is certain is that they were venerated very early and became patrons of medicine, known for their miracles of healing. The Emperor Justinian was cured by their intercession and paid special honor to the city of Cyrrhus where their relics were enshrined. Their basilica in Rome, adorned with lovely mosaics, was dedicated in the year 530. They are named in the Roman Martyrology and in the Canon of the Mass, testifying to the antiquity of their feast day.

The great honor in which they are held and the antiquity of their veneration indicate some historical memory among the early Christians who came out of the great persecutions with a new cult of Christian heroes. Cosmas and Damian were not only ideal Christians by their practice of medicine without fee, they also symbolized God's blessing upon the art of healing and that respect for every form of science, which is an important part of Christian tradition.

~from The One Year Book of Saints by Rev. Clifford Stevens

The martyrs' deaths are made precious by the death of Christ

~by St. Augustine

Through such glorious deeds of the holy martyrs, with which the Church blossoms everywhere, we prove with our own eyes how true it is, as we have just been singing, that precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints; seeing that it is precious both in our sight and in the sight of him for the sake of whose name it was undertaken. But the price of these deaths is the death of one man. How many deaths were bought with one dying man, who was the grain of wheat that would not have been multiplied if he had not died! You have heard his words when he was drawing near to our passion, that is, when he was drawing near to our redemption: Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

On the cross, you see, Christ transacted a grand exchange; it was there that the purse containing our price was untied; when his side was laid open by the lance of the executioner, there poured out from it the price of the whole wide world. The faithful were bought, and the martyrs; but the faith of the martyrs has been proved, and their blood is the witness to it. The martyrs have paid back what was spent for them, and they have fulfilled what Saint John says: Just as Christ laid down his life for us, so we too should lay down our lives for the brethren. And in another place it says, You have sat down at a great table; consider carefully what is set before you, since you ought to prepare the same kind of thing yourself. It is certainly a great table, where the Lord of the table is himself the banquet. No-one feeds his guests on himself; that is what the Lord Christ did, being himself the host, himself the food and drink. Therefore the martyrs recognised what they ate and drank, so that they could give back the same kind of thing.

But from where could they give back the same kind of thing, if the one who made the first payment had not given them the means of giving something back? What shall I pay back to the Lord for all the things he has paid back to me? I will receive the cup of salvation. What is this cup? The bitter but salutary cup of suffering, the cup which the invalid would fear to touch if the doctor did not drink it first. That is what this cup is; we can recognise this cup on the lips of Christ, when he says, Father, if it can be so, let this cup pass from me. It is about this cup that the martyrs said, I will receive the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.

So are you not afraid of failing at this point? No? Why not? Because I will call upon the name of the Lord. How could the martyrs ever conquer, unless that one conquered in them who said Rejoice, since I have conquered the world? The emperor of the heavens was governing their minds and tongues, and through them overcoming the devil on earth and crowning the martyrs in heaven. O, how blessed are those who drank this cup thus! They have finished with suffering and have received honour instead.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sacred Art--Via Pulchritudinis

~Here is a wonderful website to explore about Fr. Felix Granda, founder of Granda Liturgical Arts. He says of sacred art:
"Sacred art should speak and teach about Christ, because art, by its spirituality, by its vagueness of expression, being sensible and sincere, speaks to everyone - to the wise and to the ignorant, to the believer and to the disbeliever."
His motivation for creating beautiful sacred art can be summarized by this verse from the Psalms:
I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of Thy house; and the place where Thy glory dwelleth.
The Via Pulchritudinis opens up the pathway for the search for God, and disposes the heart and spirit to meet Christ, who is the Beauty of Holiness Incarnate, offered by God to men for their salvation. (Via Pulchritudinis, Pathway for Evangelisation and Dialogue). All too often we are confronted by the ugliness of decadent art. And so the Way of Beauty awakens us to the mystery of God, through astonishment, gratitude, happiness and contemplation, elevates our minds to what is True and Good.


~A friend from my old Anglican parish called me to complain about how the Lord's Prayer is now being said. Can you guess? Chris Johnson reports that the Episcopalian bishops meeting in New Orleans are singing songs along these lines.
Mothering God,
you gave me birth
in the bright morning of this world.
Creator, source of every breath,
you are my rain, my wind, my sun.

Mothering Christ, you took my form,
offering me your food of light,
grain of life, and grape of love,
your very body for my peace.

Mothering Spirit,
nurturing one,
in arms of patience hold me close,
so that in faith I root and grow
until I flower, until I know.
Chris is astonished (and I join him): "Grape of love?" "Until I flower?" Excuse me a moment.

Times like these make me glad to be in the Barque of Peter....

On abandonment by God

~by Hans Urs von Balthasar (via Chris Blosser)
The Swiss theologian may not have had Mother Teresa in mind when he wrote this, but I couldn't help but think of the recent media flap spurred by Time magazine and disgruntled atheist Christopher Hitchens:
Active faith means following Jesus; but Jesus' mission leads him on a course from heaven deeper and deeper into the world of sinners, until finally on the Cross he assumes, in their stead, their experience of distance from God, even of abandonment by God, and thus of the very loss of that lucid security promised to the "proven" faithful. This paradox must be borne; and from the Christian point of view the juxtaposition of temporal moments -- of hours, days, years -- exists not least for the purpose of rendering possible the sequence of these seemingly incompatible Christian life experiences.

Paul experienced and formulated this paradox. He knows two things: that even amid all his sorrows (which can reach to the point of "despairing of life") God "comforts" him, and that his, Paul's, "sufferings in Christ" redound to the consolation and inner strengthening of the Church (2 Corinthians 1: 4-7). One can sense the many varied nuances possible here. A person can experience extreme affliction outwardly and at the same time be inwardly "comforted," that is, know that he is living fully within God's will: many martyrs knew this. It can also happen that a person experiences darkness in the depths of his being -- is submerged in God's "testing" -- and in his darkness radiates light to others, though he himself does not feel or realize it at all. . . .

It is God who arranges the "theological states" of the believer, plunging him at one time into the deep waters of the Cross where he is not allowed to experience any consolation, and then into the grace given by resurrection of a hope which brings with it the certainty that it does not deceive. No one is able or permitted to fit these "theological states" into a system that can be manipulated and surveyed to any extent by man. Their every aspect, even when they seemingly contradict one another, is christological and therefore left to God's disposition. [pp. 37-38]

* * *

The law of renunciation can become very difficult for the individual in times when genuine ecclesial life finds feeble expression and numerous sects offer the enticement of immediate "experiences." But no one who experiences this difficulty should think that the mystic, with his apparently immediate experiences of divine things, has an easier life. For every true mysticism, however rich it may be in visions and other experiences of God, is subject at least as strictly to the law of the Cross -- that is, of non-experience -- as is the existence of someone apparently forgotten in the desert of secular daily life. Perhaps the mystic has to pass through dry periods that are even more severe. Where this is not the case, where we are offered acquirable techniques to attain a mysticism without bitterness and the humiliations of the Cross, we can be certain that it is not authentically Christian and has no Christian signficance.

The church, like a vine, grows and spreads everywhere

~by St. Augustine

They are straying across the mountains and the high hills, they have been scattered over all the face of the earth. What does this mean, scattered over all the face of the earth? That they attach themselves to earthly things, the things that glitter on the face of the earth: they love and desire them. They do not want to die and be hidden away in Christ. Over all the face of the earth not only because they love earthly things but because across all the earth there are sheep astray. They are everywhere, but one thing, pride, is the mother of them all, just as Christians who are spread over all the world have one mother, the Church.

So it is not to be wondered at that pride gives birth to dissension while love generates unity. The Church is the mother of all, and everywhere the shepherd in her seeks those who are astray, strengthens those who are weak, cares for the sick and puts the broken together again. Many of them are not even known to one another, but she knows them all because she is merged with them all.

She is like a vine that has grown and sprouted everywhere. Those in love with earthly things are like sterile shoots pruned away by the grower’s knife because of their sterility, cut away so that the vine should not have to be cut down. And those sterile shoots, once they are pruned away, lie on the ground and stay there. But the vine grows over all, and it knows those shoots that remain part of it, and it knows the cut-off shoots that lie next to it.

But from where they lie she calls them back, for as St Paul says of the broken branches, God has the power to graft them back again. Whether you speak of sheep straying away from the flock or branches cut off from the vine, God is equally able to call back the lost sheep and to graft back the lost branches: the Lord, the true vine-dresser. They have been scattered over all the face of the earth and no-one misses them, no-one calls them back – no-one among the bad shepherds. No-one misses them – that is, no man does.

Well then, shepherds, hear the words of the Lord. As I live, says the Lord God... See how he starts. It is like an oath sworn by God, calling his very life to witness. As I live, says the Lord God. The shepherds are dead but the sheep are safe. As I live, says the Lord God. What shepherds are dead? Those who have sought their own interests rather than Christ’s. So what of the shepherds who seek Christ’s interests and not their own? Of course there will be such shepherds, of course they will be found: there is no lack of them and there never will be.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Of pilgrimages

Summer's end brings about some reflection. Here There Are Lions podcast on explorations. (Or what Argent sounds like with a cold)

Dr. Francis Beckwith

...will be on Journey Home tonight with Marcus Grodi at 8 PM. Please watch. Get your evangelical friends to watch, too.

How Joan escaped the stake

...Dan Brown syndrome alert, history revisionists at work: New book angers historians with claims maid was not an illiterate peasant but a royal (from The Guardian):
She was a peasant teenager inspired by voices from God to lead the French against the English, and burned as a witch before being recognised as a hero and saint. For centuries, France's cult of Joan of Arc has been seized on by politicians looking for patriotic martyr figures, including Nicolas Sarkozy during his presidential campaign.

Now a new book has sparked anger among historians by claiming the Maid of Orléans was not an illiterate peasant but a royal. She did not hear voices and was not burned at the stake, but escaped with the help of English soldiers and went on to live a happily married life.

In L'Affaire Jeanne d'Arc, or the Joan of Arc Affair, French investigative journalist Marcel Gay and former secret service agent Roger Senzig claim that France's most famous virgin peasant was the illegitimate daughter of the French queen consort, Isabeau of Bavaria, who groomed her for use as a political puppet. They claim Joan was manipulated in a cover-up they call Operation Virgin.

Joan was not inspired by voices from heaven to lead troops to miraculously lift the siege of Orléans and save France from English domination. Gay says she was trained for warfare, taught languages and well-educated for her mission. After her trial for heresy in 1431, she escaped, and an unknown woman was burned in her place. She later married a French knight, Robert des Armoises.
This is highly amusing.

Archaeologists Have Uncovered A Royal Palace Used By King Henry II

~We've not had an archeology post for awhile. From Newbury Today:
The Royal Palace of Fremantle has lain hidden under the Hampshire Downs at Tidgrove Warren Farm, in the parish of Hannington, for nearly 900 years.
Over the last three years the site has been excavated by staff and students from the University of Southampton in association with the Kingsclere Heritage Association local volunteers.
Explorations have revealed a medieval enclosed settlement surrounded by a massive ditch - larger than many contemporary castles.
According to Peter Woodman, treasurer of Kingsclere Heritage Association, the settlement was built in 1172 as a stopping place for King Henry II on his journeys to and from his French possessions. It was later used by King Richard the Lionheart and King John, before being demolished in about 1252.
Henry II whose outburst "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?" gave us Thomas Becket the martyr....and Canterbury Tales. Which reminds me...I should dust off The Lion in Winter.

Women's ordination....again

~from Carroll County Times (Maryland):
For Gloria Carpeneto, being faithful to God's call meant being ordained as a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church.

The ordination took place July 14 in New York City, where Carpeneto, a Catonsville resident, joined three other women who were ordained by Bishop Patricia Fresen - despite the fact the church officially forbids female ordination.

The women belong to a growing movement that no longer simply argues for women's rights but is creating an alternative Catholic church, whether the official church likes it or not.

"Women, thank God, are coming to value themselves as full human beings, fully in the image of God like men," said Andrea Johnson of Annapolis, one of the four to be ordained. "You can't put that back in the bottle."

The women bishops performing the ordinations were themselves ordained by an Argentinean Catholic priest who has broken ranks with the Vatican, and by European priests whose names are not public, Johnson said.

It is the custom and long tradition of the Catholic church that it takes three bishops to ordain a new bishop, Johnson said.

But according to Helen Osman, spokeswoman for the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, only the pope can appoint a bishop.

The women ordained accept that their ordinations are illicit under canon law 1024, which forbids female ordination.

However, they argue that, while illicit, the ordinations are valid because they can be traced back to the apostles of Jesus and because it has only been in recent years that only the pope could appoint bishops.

But to Monsignor Art Valenzano of St. John Catholic Church in Westminster, the official Roman Catholic Church cannot accept the ordinations as either valid or licit.

The pope has determined that some church dogma can't change, Valenzano said, and this includes a male-only priesthood.

Lack of ordination doesn't automatically bar women from authority in the church, he said.

For example, Mother Teresa had tremendous authority, Valenzano said.

But according to the newly ordained women, females are a disenfranchised caste within the church.

Mother Teresa had moral authority in the church, Johnson said, but no legal authority.

What is the Catholic Church?

The Roman Catholic Church can be defined in two ways, Carpeneto said.

There's the Catholic Church of the pope and the officials in the Vatican who set policy and act as the public voice of the faith.

Then there's the larger body of people who identify as Roman Catholic, whether they agree with official church policies or not. Some of these Catholics are so disaffected that they don't attend Mass regularly, Carpeneto said.

This is the group on which the women base their claim.

"If the people accept [female priests] it bubbles up from the bottom," Johnson said. "It's very messy. It's very slow."

But the church eventually will conform to the culture, she said.

Indicators point to lay acceptance of female priests, said Bendyna.

When CARA asked Catholics, if the church approved, would they support women's ordination, the majority of respondents said yes, supporting the women priests' point that it's the clergy on top, not the broader church, blocking their path.

And while the current dogma states that the pope has no authority to allow women to be ordained, there's no saying what future popes might decide, Bendyna said.

The Catholic hierarchy simply doesn't want the laity to know what's going on, Johnson said, because they are afraid the rank and file would accept female priests.

Be men of prayer

~from Zenit a report on Pope Benedict's address to recently-ordained bishops visiting at Castel Gandolfo
The Pontiff told the bishops that like the Twelve Apostles, "we were called above all to stay with Christ, to know him more deeply and to take part in his ministry of love and his relationship of full confidence in the Father."

"And the Apostles understood well that listening in prayer and then proclaiming what they heard must have first place among their many tasks," he added.

Benedict XVI said that the organizational tasks and commitments of a bishop are numerous, "but the first place in the life of a successor of the Apostles must be reserved for God."

The Pope also reminded the prelates that through prayer "the pastor becomes sensitive to the needs of others and merciful toward all." He added as well that "the pastor rooted in contemplation knows how to welcome the needs of others, which become his own through prayer."

Never tire

The Holy Father said that the bishop must also create opportunities for the faithful to pray: "In the cities in which you live and operate, often frenetic and noisy, where man runs and loses himself, where one lives as if God does not exist, may you be able to create places and occasions of prayer."

He encouraged the prelates to "never tire" of helping parishes, schools and families become places of prayer. He urged them in particular "to make the cathedral an exemplary house of prayer, above all of liturgical prayer, where the diocesan community gathered together with their bishop can praise and thank God for the work of salvation and intercede for all men."

"Be men of prayer!" urged Benedict XVI. "The spiritual fecundity of the ministry of the bishop depends on the intensity of his union with the Lord.

"It is from prayer that a bishop must draw light, strength and comfort in his pastoral activity."


~This has to be the most perversely puerile reaction to Summorum Pontificum. I can see this person stopping his ears and singing at the top of his lungs, "I can't hear you!" Via Rorate Cæli here is the line from church historian Alberto Melloni: since the motu proprio has not yet been printed in Acta Apostolicæ Sedis that SumPont exists in "Web tantum", in the web only. Absurd:
The fact that the motu proprio on the use of the Tridentine Missal, in force from September 14, has still not been published on the Acta, maybe in the expectation of solving some of the doubts which it brings, causes reflection....From [all of] this he wise decision to keep still in the boiling pan [lit. bain-marie] a text which is creating more problems than those which it does not solve: even at the cost of putting into force an act which exists (how to say it?) in "Web tantum".
New Catholic reminds us:
Can. 7 A law comes into being when it is promulgated.

Can. 8 §1 Universal ecclesiastical laws are promulgated by publication in the 'Acta Apostolicae Sedis', unless in particular cases another manner of promulgation has been prescribed. They come into force only on the expiry of three months from the date appearing on the particular issue of the 'Acta', unless because of the nature of the case they bind at once, or unless a shorter or a longer interval has been specifically and expressly prescribed in the law itself. [Translation: Canon Law Society of America]
Just to be sure, this is what the motu proprio says: "We order that everything We have decreed with this Apostolic Letter given Motu Proprio be considered as having full and lasting force, and be observed from September 14 of this year, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, notwithstanding any provisions to the contrary."

A grand gesture of charity is to pray for others

AP Photo/Plinio Lepri

~from Pope Benedict XVI's homily yesterday in Velletri:
Bonds of friendship link my native land to yours: This bronze column from Marktl am Inn, given to me in September last year in honor of my apostolic trip to Germany, is a testimony of that, and I wished it to remain here, as a further sign of my affection and my goodwill.

I know you have prepared for my visit here today with an intense spiritual journey, adopting as the motto a meaningful verse from the First Letter of John: "So we know and believe in the love that God has for us" (4:16). "Deus Caritas East," God is love: My first encyclical begins with these words, which pertain to the core of our faith --the Christian image of God and the resulting image of man and his journey.

I rejoice in the fact that you have chosen as your guide for the diocese's spiritual and pastoral journey this very expression: "We have known the love that God has for us and we have believed." Today's liturgy cannot but focus on this essential truth, on the love of God, able to impress upon human existence an absolutely new orientation and value. Love is the essence of Christianity, which renders the believer and the Christian community yeast of hope and peace in every situation, especially attentive to the necessities of the poor and needy. Love brings the Church into existence.

For the past few Sundays, St. Luke, the Gospel writer who more than the others is concerned to show the love Jesus has for the poor, he offered different ideas for reflection on the dangers of an excessive attachment to money, to material goods and to all that impedes us from loving the fullness of our vocation to love God and our brethren. Also today, through the parable that provokes a certain wonder in us because it speaks of a dishonest manager who ends up being praised (cf. Luke 16:1-13), and the Lord is offering is a salutary teaching. As he often does, he draws from current events: He speaks about a manager on the verge of being fired for his dishonest management of the affairs of his master and, to guarantee his own future, he tries to slyly come to agreements with his debtors. He is dishonest, but astute: The Gospel does not present him as a model to follow in his dishonesty, but as an example to imitate for his cautious craftiness. In fact, the brief parable ends with these words: "The master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly."

What does Jesus want to say to us? The Evangelist follows the parable of the unfaithful steward with a brief series of sayings and admonitions about the relationship we should have with money and the goods of this earth. Brief phrases that invite us to a choice that presupposes a radical decision, a constant interior tension. Life is in truth always a choice: between honesty and dishonesty, between faithfulness and unfaithfulness, between egoism and altruism, between good and evil. The conclusion of the Gospel selection is incisive and authoritative: "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (Luke 16:13).

Mammon is the original Phoenician term that evokes economic security and success in business; we could say that in wealth is found the idol in which one sacrifices everything to reach personal success. Therefore a fundamental decision is necessary -- the choice between the logic of profit as the ultimate criteria of our action and the logic of sharing and solidarity. The logic of profit, if it prevails, increases not only the disproportion between poor and rich, but also the devastating exploitation of the planet.

When, on the other hand, the logic of sharing and solidarity prevails, it is possible to correct the course of action and orient it toward proportional development, for the common good of all. In the end it is a decision between egoism and love, between justice and dishonesty, and a final choice between God and Satan. If loving Christ and our brethren is not considered as something accessorial and superficial, but moreover the true and final scope of our existence, we must know how to make fundamental choices, to be open to radical renunciations, even martyrdom if necessary. Today, like yesterday, the Christian life demands courage to go against the tide, to love as Jesus did, who ended up sacrificing himself on the cross.

We can say therefore, paraphrasing St. Augustine, that through earthly riches we should obtain those that are true and eternal: If in fact there are people who are ready for any kind of dishonest action to ensure material well-being, which isn't sure, how much more we Christians must try to provide for our eternal happiness with the goods of this earth (cf. "Discourses" 359:10). Now, the only way our personal gifts and abilities will be fruitful along with the wealth we possess is to share them with our brethren, showing ourselves to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. Jesus says: "Whoever is faithful in little, is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in little will be dishonest also in much" (Luke 16:10-11).

The prophet Amos speaks about this fundamental choice to be performed day after day in today's first reading. With strong words, he stigmatizes a typical style of life of someone who lets themselves be drawn in by a selfish search for profit in every possible way and is transformed into a thirst for gain, a contempt for the poor and in exploitation of the poor for their own advantage (cf. Amos 4:5). The Christian must energetically reject all of this, opening his heart, on the contrary, to feelings of authentic generosity. A generosity that, as St. Paul tells us in today's second reading, is expressed in a sincere love for all and is manifested in the first place in prayer. A grand gesture of charity is to pray for others.

The Apostle invites us first of all to pray for those who carry out tasks of responsibility in the civil community, because -- he explains -- from their decisions, if they tend toward the common good, result in positive consequences, ensuring peace and "a calm and tranquil life with piety and dignity" for all (1 Timothy 2:2). Our prayer is just as valuable, a spiritual support for the edification of an ecclesial community faithful to Christ and to the construction of a more just and supportive society.
Translated by Zenit

Insist upon the message, whether it be welcome or not

~by St. Augustine

The straying sheep you have not recalled; the lost sheep you have not sought. In one way or another, we go on living between the hands of robbers and the teeth of raging wolves, and in light of these present dangers we ask your prayers. The sheep moreover are insolent. The shepherd seeks out the straying sheep, but because they have wandered away and are lost they say that they are not ours. “ Why do you want us? Why do you seek us?” they ask, as if their straying and being lost were not the very reason for our wanting them and seeking them out. “If I am straying”, he says, “if I am lost, why do you want me?” You are straying, that is why I wish to recall you. You have been lost, I wish to find you. “But I wish to stray”, he says: “I wish to be lost”.

So you wish to stray and be lost? How much better that I do not also wish this. Certainly, I dare say, I am unwelcome. But I listen to the Apostle who says: Preach the word; insist upon it, welcome and unwelcome. Welcome to whom? Unwelcome to whom? By all means welcome to those who desire it; unwelcome to those who do not. However unwelcome, I dare to say: “You wish to stray, you wish to be lost; but I do not want this”. For the one whom I fear does not wish this. And should I wish it, consider his words of reproach: The straying sheep you have not recalled; the lost sheep you have not sought. Shall I fear you rather than him? Remember, we must all present ourselves before the judgement seat of Christ.

I shall recall the straying; I shall seek the lost. Whether they wish it or not, I shall do it. And should the brambles of the forests tear at me when I seek them, I shall force myself through all straits; I shall put down all hedges. So far as the God whom I fear grants me the strength, I shall search everywhere. I shall recall the straying; I shall seek after those on the verge of being lost. If you do not want me to suffer, do not stray, do not become lost. It is enough that I lament your straying and loss. No, I fear that in neglecting you, I shall also kill what is strong. Consider the passage that follows: And what was strong you have destroyed. Should I neglect the straying and lost, the strong one will also take delight in straying and in being lost.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Confession making a comeback

~from The Wall Street Journal
Sin never goes out of style, but confession is undergoing a revival.

This February at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI instructed priests to make confession a top priority. U.S. bishops have begun promoting it in diocesan newspapers, mass mailings and even billboard ads. And in a dramatic turnaround, some Protestant churches are following suit. This summer, the second-largest North American branch of the Lutheran Church passed a resolution supporting the rite, which it had all but ignored for more than 100 years.

To make confession less intimidating, Protestant churches have urged believers to shred their sins in paper shredders or write them on rocks and cast them into a "desert" symbolized by a giant sand pile in the sanctuary. Three Catholic priests from the Capuchin order now hear confessions at a mall in Colorado Springs., Colo.

Worshippers are answering the call. During a "Reconciliation Weekend" at churches in the diocese of Orlando, Fla., this March, more than 5,000 people turned out to confess. When five parishes in Chicago joined forces last year for "24 Hours of Grace," where priests welcomed penitents from 9 a.m. on a Friday to 9 a.m. the next morning, about 2,500 people showed up.

Several factors are feeding the resurgence. Aggressive marketing by churches has helped reinvent confession as a form of self-improvement rather than a punitive rite. Technology is also creating new avenues for redemption. Some Protestants now air their sins on videos that are shared on YouTube and iTunes or are played to entire congregations. And the appetite for introspection has been buoyed by the broad acceptance of psychotherapy and the emphasis on self-analysis typified by daytime talk television.

"Every day on Jerry Springer we see people confessing their sins in public, and certainly the confessional is a lot healthier than Jerry Springer," says Orlando Bishop Thomas Wenski, who last March sent out 190,000 pamphlets calling on Catholics to confess.

Why not Latin?

~from Bishop Serratelli of the Diocese of Paterson
There is a value to using a sacred language. We are not surprised when we attend a service in a synagogue to hear the ancient sounds of Hebrew. What a beautiful continuity in the Jewish community. Modern day Jews living in Jerusalem, New York or London hear the Scriptures in the very same language their ancestors did, in the same language Jesus heard the Scriptures proclaimed in first-century Nazareth. In any mosque, the imam recites from the Qur'an in Arabic. No one moans in dismay. The words and the language are important.

Here is a fact of human psychology. ‘In religious matters, people tend to hold on to what they received from the beginning, how their earliest predecessors articulated their religion and prayed. Words and formulae used by earlier generations are dear to those who today inherit from them. While a religion is of course not identified with a language, how it understands itself can have an affective link with a particular linguistic expression in its classical period of growth” (Cardinal Francis Arinze, Address, St. Louis, Missouri, November 11, 2006).

Language is for communication. The use of the vernacular in the Liturgy, especially in the proclamation of the Scriptures, helps us receive God’s Word more readily. Nonetheless, within the liturgy, there still remains a place for the use of Latin. The hymns, the chants, the parts of the Mass that we repeat every Sunday, when done in Latin, open the community beyond the narrow confines of parochial or national boundaries. Especially in liturgies where more than one language is used, the use of Latin can bind all together in a common expression of faith.

Some of us can remember how much a part of our Catholic worship Latin used to be. At times today when we hear the Sanctus or the Agnus Dei sung in Latin, we readily recall the time when Catholics of the Latin rite in every land and in every culture offered worship to God with one language. The use of one language gave a sense of the deeper reality of the mystery of the Church. It made visible that, no matter where we were, we belonged to the same Church, sharing the same faith.

If Jews and Moslems, Hindus and Buddhists have their sacred language, why should we be completely deprived of the use of the liturgical language of the Latin rite? Many people who grew up speaking only English now sing Spanish hymns? Why not Latin on some occasions?

Another Episcopalian Bishop 'swims Tiber'

~from TitusOneNine
September 21, 2007

To the Clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This is a very difficult letter to write as your bishop and colleague in the ordained ministry, and I hope that you will receive it in the prayerful spirit in which it is offered. A pastoral letter to the people of the diocese will follow in a few days. At the House of Bishops meeting about to be convened in New Orleans, my intention is to ask them for permission to begin the process to resign as diocesan bishop. The bishops must give their consent, and then I will step down by the end of the year.

The reason for this decision is that my conscience is deeply troubled about where the Episcopal Church is heading, and this has become a crisis for me because of my ordination vow to uphold its doctrine, discipline, and worship. An effective leader cannot be so conflicted about the guiding principles of the Church he serves. It concerns me that this has affected my ability to lead this diocese with a clear and hopeful vision for its mission. I also have sensed how important it is for those of us in this position to model a gracious way to leave the Episcopal Church in a manner respectful of its laws.

I believe that God’s call to us is always positive, always a to and not a from. At the clergy conference next week I hope to be able to share something of this. Many of you already know of my love for the Catholic Church and my conviction that this is the true home of Anglicanism. I will not dwell on this, however, so as not to lose sight of my responsibility to help lay a good foundation for the transition that you must now lead.

I also want to acknowledge with gratitude the pastoral support I have received from the Presiding Bishop and her office during this time. She has offered to visit, and I have invited her to be with us at the clergy conference the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 26, and perhaps also for that evening, for mutual conversation and the opportunity to know each other better in this time reserved for the clergy. I hope that you all can be present.

This has been an extraordinarily difficult decision to make because of the bonds I share with you and the people of this diocese. It has indeed been a privilege to serve alongside you these past seven years. With deep feelings I write, with regret for how this may complicate your own ministry, with profound gratitude for your prayers and support, and with much love for you. I pledge to you my prayers and friendship in these days to come.

Your brother in Christ,

+Jeffrey Steenson

Pastoral visit to Velletri

~from L'Osservatore Romano translated in Papa Ratzinger Forum

A people in feast welcome their beloved Pastor with open arms

The city of Velletri where Benedict XVI is making a pastoral visit this morning has two historic gates. One opens north towards Rome, and it is from there that the Successor of Peter will arrive with his Pilgrim's Staff, carrying in his 'spiritual knapsack' the riches of his recent trips to Loreto and Mariazell.

Velletri's other gate opens south towards Naples, the splendid city where Benedict XVI will be making his next pastoral visit on Sunday, October 21.

Velletri is another Marian port of call for the Holy Father. After having prayed at the Holy House in Loreto and at the Sanctuary of Mariazell, Benedict XVI this time will kneel before the venerated icon of the Madonna delle Grazie, in the Chapel of the Cathedral of San Clemente, Patroness of a diocese that has 12 out of its 27 parishes dedicated to Mary.

Joseph Ratzinger is paternally and profoundly linked to the suburban church of Velletri-Segni where he was the titular cardinal from 1993 until he became Pope. One can really say that every person in the diocese has a memory of the many visits made by Cardinal Ratzinger and so many signs of his pastoral attention.

Thus the people who live the Christian faith in this city so near to Rome, and for centuries so united to Peter, will experience the meeting today with the Holy Father as a homecoming. This pastoral visit will have the characteristic of simple familiarity in addition to the universality of the Church.

Moreover, starting today, Piazza San Clemente will be home to a commemorative column. donated by a hundred Bavarian municipalities, that was a gift for the Holy Father's 80th birthday last April. A similar column was erected in Marktl am Inn, the Pope's birthplace,
during his visit to Bavaria last year.

The column expresses the link between the Church of Velletri-Segni and the Successor of Peter. It is a reminder of the power of his Magisterium with his continual exhortation to conversion in the certainty that the God who is Love has a Face in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth.

Prayer in Preparation for Holy Communion

Prayer of St Symeon the Translator

O only pure and sinless Lord, who through the ineffable compassion of Your love for mankind assumed our whole nature through the pure and virgin blood of her who conceived You in a manner surpassing nature by the coming of the Holy Spirit and the good will of the Eternal Father. O Christ Jesus, Wisdom, Peace, and Power of God, through the human nature which You took to Yourself, You suffered the life-giving and saving Passion--the Cross, the nails, the spear, and death itself. Put to death in me the soul-destroying passions of the body.

Through Your burial You spoiled the dominion of hell. Bury with good thoughts my evil schemes and scatter the spirits of wickedness. Through Your life-giving Resurrection on the third day, You raised up our first father Adam who had fallen. Raise me up who am sunk low in sin and grant me the image of repentance. Through Your glorious Ascension You made the flesh which You had assumed become divine, and placed it on the Throne at the Father's right hand. Grant me to receive a place at the right hand with those who are saved through the communion of Your holy Mysteries. Through the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, You made Your holy disciples
to be honorable vessels. Show me also to be a recipient of His coming. You have promised to come again to judge the world in righteousness. Grant that I may go to meet You in the clouds, O my Judge and Creator, together with all Your saints, so that I may praise and glorify You for all eternity, together with Your eternal Father and Your most holy, glorious, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever and forever. Amen.

On weak Christians

~by St. Augustine

You have failed to strengthen the weak, says the Lord. He is speaking to wicked shepherds, false shepherds, shepherds who seek their own concerns and not those of Christ. They enjoy the bounty of milk and wool, but they take no care at all of the sheep, and the make no effort to heal those who are ill. I think there is a difference between one who is weak (that is, not strong) and one who is ill, although we often say that the weak are also suffering from illness.

My brothers, when I try to make that distinction, perhaps I could do it better and with greater precision, or perhaps someone with more experience and insight could do so. But when it comes to the words of Scripture, I say what I think so that in the meantime you will not be deprived of all profit. In the case of the weak sheep, it is to be feared that the temptation, when it comes, may break him. The sick person, however, is already ill by reason of some illicit desire or other, and this is keeping him from entering God’s path and submitting to Christ’s yoke.

There are men who want to live a good life and have already decided to do so, but are not capable of bearing sufferings even though they are ready to do good. Now it is a part of the Christian’s strength not only to do good works but also to endure evil. Weak men are those who appear to be zealous in doing good works but are unwilling or unable to endure the sufferings that threaten. Lovers of the world, however, who are kept from good works by some evil desire, lie sick and listless, and it is this sickness that deprives them of any strength to accomplish good works.

The paralytic was like that. When his bearers could not bring him in to the Lord, they opened the roof and lowered him down to the feet of Christ. Perhaps you wish to do this in spirit: to open the roof and to lower a paralytic soul down to the Lord. All its limbs are lifeless, it is empty of every good work, burdened with its sins, and weak from the illness brought on by its evil desires. Since all its limbs are helpless, and the paralysis is interior, you cannot come to the physician. But perhaps the physician is himself is concealed within; for the true understanding of Scripture is hidden. Reveal therefore what is hidden, and thus you will open the roof and lower the paralytic to the feet of Christ.

As for those who fail to do this and those who are negligent, you have heard what was said to them: You have failed to heal the sick; you have failed to bind up what was broken. Of this we have already spoken. Man was broken by terrible temptations. But there is at hand a consolation that will bind what was broken: God is faithful. He does not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

It is time for tradition to become avant garde

~by Punzo Vito in TEMPI via Papa Ratzinger Forum
He's not a Lefebvrian but he welcomed as 'good news' the return of the Latin Mass. In his latest book of essays published in Germany, he defends 'the beauty' of the traditional Roman Catholic liturgy.

He is Martin Mosebach and he is one of the most important contemporary writers in German. A lawyer by training, he has written dozens of novels, screenplays, opera libretti, and essays on art. He contributes to Frankfuerter Allgemeine Zeitung, and next month, he will receive the most prestigious literary prize in Germany, the Buechner Prize. One must note, though that not one of his works has been translated to Italian.

In support of the battle that Pope Benedict XVI has launched to file away the post-conciliar iconoclasm, Mosebach says in his essay "Liturgy is art" that it is time for tradition to become the avant-garde.

He is very severe about the post-conciliar era. Enough to compare it to the iconoclastic war in Byzantium during the first centuries of Christianity: "For the Roman iconoclasm asserted after the Second Vatican Council, Dom Prosper Gueranger had already anticipated a label in the previous century - he called it the anti-liturgical heresy."

"What we have gathered - thanks to the recent epoch that was emptied of sacred images, deprived of sacred spaces, and lacking any sacred music - is that one finds the greatest artistic configuration in traditional liturgy, and if any change is to be made towards recovering religious art of significance, it can only come from the traditional liturgy," Mosebach writes in an essay called 'Liturgy and art'.

Mosebach credits the Benedictines at the Abbey of Fontgombault in France for his liturgical 'discoveries'. it is where he says he redicovered the heart of the Christian experience. He says of Fontgombault: "Whoever decides to become a monk by joining the monastery at Fontgombault has committed himself to the education of one single person: himself."
N.B. My emphasis

Prayer and Politics

~from First Things by Edward T. Oakes, SJ
Last Friday, on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross (September 14), Pope Benedict’s motu proprio (a genre of decree indicating the pope is acting “on his own initiative”) titled Summorum Pontificum took legal effect. I cannot predict at this early date how much of a demand there will be for the Mass of Blessed John XXIII (otherwise, and somewhat inaccurately, known as the Tridentine Latin Mass), or what beneficial effects this new legislation will have on the way the ordinary form is celebrated, officially known as the Mass of John Paul II (which is a modest revision of the much more significant changes to the Mass enacted after Vatican II by Paul VI).

But, however murky the future, this motu proprio can certainly tell us a few telling facts about the past. First (and on this I think both supporters and detractors of the document can agree), the drumbeat of requests that kept coming into the Vatican from Catholics (especially those with no other particular sympathy for the Lefebvrists) tells us that the implementation of the liturgical reforms has not been an unmitigated or universal success. Especially in countries where the vernacular translations have been clumsy or even inaccurate, dissatisfaction was bound to increase by the year, at least among those sensitive to the beauties of their native tongue. Further, moments and junctures in the rubrics that allow for more spontaneity by the celebrant have often been abused. Such abuse harms the Church, because unauthorized alterations in the rite only draw attention to the presiding priest and thus away from the Lord, who should be the focus of the worshiping gaze of the assembled community.

All these problems, and more, reminded me of a title of a book I had read long ago, Prayer as a Political Problem, by the French Jesuit Jean Cardinal Daniélou, especially these lines: “[T]here can be no radical division between civilization and what belongs to the interior being of man; there must be a dialogue between prayer and the pursuit and realization of public policy. . . . In other words, there can be no civilization where prayer is not its representative expression. Correlatively, prayer depends on civilization.”

That connection between cult and culture binds all civilizations, Christian or otherwise (Cicero is explicit on this point). The contemporary problem, though, is that we live in a time characterized by what Nietzsche called Great Politics. Just about everything is “bleared, smeared” with political markers. By that I mean, for the most part, politics comes as a “package deal.” Liberals are liberals across a range of issues, just as conservatives stay conservative on most matters (the war in Iraq being the major exception). This holds true especially nowadays in this era of the so-called culture wars, which are now raging just as much inside the Catholic Church as outside. So my question, in this unique setting, is: Will Catholics of different political persuasions now cluster toward one rite over another?