Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cooperation with Evil

In the last entry reference was made to cooperation with evil. What is that? How much is OK? Is it a sin for me to support a business that supports evil? All of these are questions that arise in the discussion.
To understand the morality of this issue, one must first look at the basis of morality. Too often morality has been seen in terms of can I do this and get away with it, i.e., Is this a sin. The true question one should ask oneself (and Christ) is, What more must I do to become holy? In other words, simply avoiding mortal sin is not good enough. It does not truly give God the glory He deserves. It is true, that if one manages to remain in a state of grace at the time of death, one is saved. I, for one, do not want to hear a list of things that I did to cooperate with evil and have only the defense, but that didn't constitute a mortal sin, did it?
Now, Satan has seen to it that we can scarcely avoid cooperating with evil in one way or the other. Often times we are left with choices between two or more goods, all of which cooperate with evil to one degree or another. That is the time where one has to choose the path of least cooperation with evil (we don't ever choose "the lesser of two evils" but rather the greater good or that which limits evil the most).
When one has the opportunity not to cooperate with evil at all, one should choose not to cooperate with evil at all. Even if the degree of cooperation is not such as to constitute the grave matter of a mortal sin, still, one should not electively cooperate with evil. Having just received my copy of the Boycott List from Life Decisions International, it is my intention to avoid cooperating with evil by avoiding patronizing corporations that give money to Planned Parenthood. When I have to lodge somewhere for the night, I will not stay at a hotel owned by a corporation that has given its sponsorship to Planned Parenthood. There are hotel from which to choose that do not, at least according to LDI's research, fund abortion. Sadly, Marriott, for whom I worked for over five years, has chosen to give to PP. Goodbye old friend. I have always preferred your lodging because I know it will be up to standards. Alas, I have found other places that have standards in their rooms and in the company they keep.
While Nike may mean victory in Greek, they have lost my business. There are other shoe companies that do not support the wanton slaughter of innocents with their money. Bank of America already earned my distrust when they posted a payment two days after they cashed the check from my account, conveniently late enough to charge me $35 for late payment. Their support of Planned Parenthood is over the top. Sadly other large banks have joined in as well. I'll be paying off the Chase card and shredding it. Wachovia and Wells-Fargo won't be getting my business either.
Now, there comes the sticky issue -- those companies or non-profit organizations (non-prophet?) that support Planned Parenthood and Embryonic stem cell research (in spite of the mounting evidence that it is a dead-end road). Some, in part may be because they do not themselves understand what it means to cooperate with evil. The Susan G Komen foundation (Race for the Cure), for instance, claims that it only paid for mamography services. It is sad that she would have anything to do with Planned Parenthood on the basis of their abortion record alone. What makes it ludicrous is that they are also one of the largest purveyors of artificial contraception in the county. HELLO! Have they not seen the research linking artificial contraception to breast, cervical, uterin, and ovarian cancer????? Why not just pay the fox to make sure the henhouse has not security problems! I am guessing that the American Cancer Society will have the same explanation [apologia] for their fund-giving. Did I tell you the devil was involved?? We are given the choice between helping these organizations raise money for cancer research, knowing that some percentage of it will go to Planned Parenthood? Fortunately, there are cancer centers that one can support without getting one's hand's stained with fetal blood.
There are a host of not-for-profit organizations that support embryonic stem cell research. In fact, if you name the disease, there probably is an organization on the list that thinks it would be OK to kill a few babies if it brings about a cure to their particular ailment. Is this not unbelievable? Michael J Fox, whom I used to respect, has a foundation in his name that thinks killing babies to cure Parkinson's is acceptable. There are organizations that want to kill babies for a cure for diabetes, cancers (many organizations, as there are many cancers), etc.
On the What-the-frak front, Save the Children, and the Council of Churches have both given money to PP. Then there's UNICEF -- Yes, I remember going around door-to-door asking people for money for UNICEF (thank you, Sister). Yep, they support (advocate) abortion and birth control.
The list is huge, and I recommend everyone go to the web site of Life Decisions International. Become a partner with them by donating. You'll receive a list, which will also help you to partner with them by letter writing and boycotting. For my part, I intend to the best of my ability, not to support any corporation or non-profit organization that has supported Planned Parenthood or embryonic stem cell research in any way. It will only be when people get the message out there that any contact with evil such as that taints an organization so badly as to make it unapproachable, that these organizations will back away from Planned Parenthood and embryonic stem cell research. When they back away, we will see improvements, because PP will run out of funds.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Distortions of Christianity

Well, the newest in the series of films about the witch-boy Harry has come out. Once again our young people who have been poorly catechized will be misled. Then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in 2003, wrote to a German scholar who had written a book about the problems and dangers of the Harry Potter series. He told her, "It is good that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly."
It seems pretty clear to most clear-thinking individuals where the current Roman Pontiff, now gloriously reigning, stands on the series. It is obvious that the series is dangerous to the formation of souls, especially of the young, but also of others who have not been thoroughly catechized (read here: those raised since 1965). It is clear that things such as the witches seen celebrating Christian holidays sends the message that Christianity and the black arts are not opposed.
It is also clear that the woman who wrote these stories is herself completely comprimised as far as Christian Moral teaching is concerned. Otherwise, she would not have made the big announcement last year that one of the big protagonists in the story suffers from same-sex attractions (SSA). Of course, having been compromised by modernism, she doesn't see his SSA as a problem, but just a different expression (much as witchcraft is just a different expression of Christianity in her world-view). Some have it, others don't ("muggles" or some such name is attatched to those who don't or can't practice the arts of Satan). Sounds like the "mundanes" of the world of Babylon-5 (which was infinitely more entertaining).
Now, having belonged to a gym that played movies in the cardio room, I have actually witnessed some of the movies (or parts thereof) from the series. Good cinematography and all that, but distorted. The lesson the children in these films show, much like the rest of the tripe Hollywood produces, is that you can do whatever you wish. They get away with doing things that are forbidden (even by the standards of their SSA-afflicted Headmaster), and get away with it. Typical Hollywood, the children disobey, and it turns out they were right after-all. How ingenious of them to come up with that. Hollywood has only run the disobedience saves the day subplot for 30-40 years! Oh, wait, isn't disobedience of the Devil? Subtle seductions as the Pope said.
Now, we have the unfortunate issue to deal with those who are in positions of influence over youth in our parishes, who take their children to see this stuff. This is scandalous! Of course, it's bad enough that any parents take their kids to see this. If there had not been an utter failure in catechesis over the last 30-40 years, we wouldn't have to worry about Catholic parents doing that. Unfortunately, most of us were just taught Jesus loves you, let's go make a banner! and nothing further. Hence, they see no problem with taking their children to see these movies.
Oh, did I mention that AOL-Time-Warner, who produces this tripe, also supports Planned Parenthood? Yes, that's right, your ticket to see the latest installment in the witch-boy series is remote material cooperation with evil! Still need a reason to stay home???

Friday, April 10, 2009

Vos fugam capietis et ego vadam immolari pro vobis.

In the second responsory for the Office of Tenebrae, the words of Christ are, in the literal sense of the word, con-fused. They are fused together. Please do not mistake this for the usual meaning of confused, as in mixed-up. This is a masterful fusing together, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Sad is my soul unto death: stay ye here and watch with me; now ye shall see the mob that shall surround me: Ye all shall flee and leave me and I will go to be immolated for you. Behold, the hour is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the hands of sinners. Ye all shall flee and leave me and I will go to be immolated for you.
The Office of Tenebrae, as pointed out on the New Liturgical Movement, is one of the most ancient of all liturgical celebrations in the Church. The Divine Office in the Roman Breviary is stunningly beautiful and expressive of the very mysteries that are being celebrated. If, as NLM recounts, St Benedict thought the Office of Tenebrae to be too ancient to change, why did Msgr Bugnini and his collaborators have no such scruples? If the Liturgies go back to the time before Benedict of Nursia, and are so expressive of the mysteries, why were they completely done away with?
If the Office of Tenebrae is one of the liturgical celebrations that the faithful attended other than Mass, why mess with it? This is one of those questions that will continue to be unanswered until the Last Day.
Last night, before mine eyes, I saw the this antiphon lived out. By the time I got devested, all the "faithful" had fled and left Him. It is truly heart-rending. I have never in my life been in a parish where this happened. I didn't expect there to be a huge crowd, but at least a few? Perhaps I should have learnt my lesson from 40 Hours, when none of the English-speakers came.
Again today, after the Solemn Afternoon Liturgy, having received the monition from me that the Church asks us to genuflect to the Cross, and leave in silence, I would have expected people at least to wait until they left the church building before beginning their inane conversations. You would think that the Lord's Passion and Death had not just been recounted and liturgically celebrated. Please, people, try to keep you conversations like those of the disciples of the Lord on the way home from burying Him.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Consummatum Est

As we begin Holy week, we see in the Liturgy a prime example of how fickle man can be. At the beginning of the week, the crowds are cheering as Our Lord enters the Holy City for the last time. They strew their cloaks on the ground before Him, and wave palm branches, shouting Hosanna Filio David, Rex Israel! Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini, Hosanna in excelsis! At the end of the week they are shouting Crucifige eum!
On Palm Sunday, we receive palm branches, which are blessed. They are a sacramental, that is to remind us that we wish to be in the former crowd, not the latter. By our works, we shout either Hosanna to the Son of David or Crucify Him. Sacramentals help us to be more open to the grace of God. The Church, in her wisdom, has established many sacramentals to aid the Christian Faithful in their journey to eternal life. One would be foolish to leave these tools of our salvation unused.
As Our Lord neared death, according to St John, he said consummatum est, as the Latin reads. The English translation does not do justice to this. There is nuptual imagery used here, consumation, by which the couple seals their marriage. The death on the Cross is the act by which our Divine Bridegroom sealed His marriage covenant with His Bride, the Church. There is also the connection to consume -- Christ, according to St Paul, takes up all history in Himself. He sanctifies all creation.
Many non-Catholics will use this passage to condemn the Sacrifice of the Mass. Of course, this is wrong, because they don't understand what they are condemning in the first place (they don't really know the Catholic teaching), and in the second place, they don't understand memorial.
In the Jewish understanding of memorial, it means more than just to commemorate or call to mind something or someone. When pious Jews celebrate the Passover, they understand that through that liturgical meal, God is making present the very events of their salvation from slavery in Egypt. They aren't just reminding one another about it! In the context of that celebration (probably anticipated), Christ establishes the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, commanding His Apostles Do this in memory of me.
The gift Christ gave to us in the Eucharist, through the gift of the Priesthood, is the ability to make present the events of our salvation. While celebrating the Passover for the last time, He transforms it and shows it to be a prefiguring of what He was to do. He then gives the power to His Apostles, who have handed it down through the generations, until He comes, to make the events of our salvation present in every time and place. The Jews knew that God transcends time and space, and is able to make events that are far distant present to us today.
When we celebrate the Mass, we are truly standing on the hill of Golgatha; we are peering with Sts Peter and John into the empty tomb; we are standing with the others on the Mount of Olives as He ascends! Imagine! Some think Mass is boring!
It is finished! At the same time, by the gift of the Eucharist, it continues through time and space to our present day, in our own town.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


As Our Lord hung on the Cross, he made the simple statement "I thirst." Like so much else in Sacred Scripture, this is meant to be polyvalent, that is to have many meanings. On the surface level, it means just what it says. After probably sixteen or more hours, since He left the Last Supper, Christ was thirsty. It is very doubtful that in the process of interrogating and beating Him, the Jews or the Romans offered a glass of water [although, the Romans could have done so just in order to prolong the torture of the Cross; they liked for the crucified to be around for a while]. Our Lord thirsted. His lips were dry, as was His throat. He had lost much fluid by the shedding of His Precious Blood, as sweat in the Garden of Gethsemane; during the "interrogation" by the Sanhedrin; during the scourging, the via Crucis and at last the crucifixion itself. In spite of this, He was no doubt perspiring quite a bit as well, since it was in the heat of the day that He was crucified.
As we look through this level of the meaning, it is important to know that it shows the humanity of Christ. His Sacred Humanity was not a veil or a ruse. Like the statement by Saint Matthew, He had fasted for forty days and forty nights, and He was hungry, this shows the reality of the Sacred Humanity that Our Lord assumed for our sake. He was not able magically to avoid hunger and thirst because of His Divinity.
On the deeper layer, peeling away at the onion, as it were, Jesus was athirst for souls. Mother Teresa of Calcutta saw it as her mission in life to quench the thirst of her Spouse for souls. In every convent of the Missionaries of Charity there is a Crucifix in the chapel with the words I thirst or Sitio near it, because Blessed Teresa saw this a crucial passage of Scripture for her spirituality.
The service she gave to so many in the slums of Calcutta was because she viewed them as being another Christ. She saw them as "Jesus, in one of His many distressing disguises." Taking seriously the scene of the Judgement in St Matthew's Gospel, she sought to give Christ food when He was hungry; give Him drink when thirsty, etc. She cared for Christ in the least of His brethren. All of this, of course is the quench His thirst for souls.
Christ thirsts for souls, not just for numbers, but on an individual level. Each and every person. He thirsts for your soul, and for mine. He thirsts for the soul of the person down the street; for the soul of the sinner who needs to repent. He thirsts for the soul of the person who has wandered far away from his Father's house that is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. He thirsts for the soul of those who have always remained faithful, that they may be further perfected in Him.
It is in coming to Him to be purified that we can then become icons of Our Lord. If we have responded to His grace, others should be able to see Him in us! Then, as we go about ministering to Him in others, they will be brought to Him. We will quench His thirst.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

La Virgen esta llorando

There is an expression I heard in Mexico, La Virgen esta llorando -- The Virgin is crying. I can only imagine the tears of the Virgin as she beholds the university that bears her name in South Bend Indiana.
So many have weighed in on the controversy of Notre Dame (Our Lady) University inviting THE MOST pro-abortion President to speak at their annual commencement this May. Even for the Casa blaca vacantist this is stunning, since, eligible or not, the man resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He has exercised the great power given him for evil time and again. To think he was compared by one Orthodox prelate to Alexander the Great. It seems he is more like Julian the Apostate when it gets right down to it.
The scandal comes from ND inviting him to speak at commencement, and worse yet, they're giving him an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree! How can a supposedly Catholic institution give a degree honoring the juris prudence of a man who has virtually signed the death warrents of thousands of children? How can you honor the juris prudence of a man who wishes to relieve physicians, nurses and hospitals of their right to choose (not to murder) while defending a woman's supposed right to choose (to murder)? This is unbelievable and tragic. My heart goes out to the thousands who are alumni of what was once a fine institution.
Archbishop Fulton J Sheen was correct when he pointed out that it would be less dangerous for the faith of our young people to send them to a secular college than to a place like Notre Dame, where they may be duped into thinking they are learning Catholic values and teachings [this was after the Land-O-Lakes accord, when ND and others declared their "academic freedom" from the Magisterium].
I urge alumni and other donors to make their dissapointment known the next time they receive a letter from ND asking for support. I urge parents and young men and women to seek a truly Catholic college to attend.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani?

Our Lord, from the Cross, quotes Psalm 21's opening verse, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" Right off, the Scripture scholars tell us, this means that He intends to place the whole of the Psalm in their minds. This Psalm is one that describes the Passion of Christ rather accurately: the dividing of the clothing, the piercing of the hands and feet, and so on.
This means, however, that Our Lord also intends the end of the Psalm which speaks of praise for the faithfulness of God. The Psalmist generally ends Psalms of Lament with such praise.
Christ bore for us the weight of our sins. This was the weight of the sins of the world -- all of them. If one mortal sin separates us from God, imagine the weight of them all. Many of course, will rush in to remind me that Christ always had the beatific vision. It is true that many theologians have held that through the centuries. However, it is not something de fide tenenda. Personally, I cannot tell you if He did or did not behold His Father's face at all times. I do think there is merit to the other theologians, who remind us that He emptied Himself, as St Paul teaches us, taking on the form of a slave. In other words, He became man, and man does not share the beatific vision in this life. Another point in favor, as we recall, is the teaching of the Angelic Doctor that it is not possible to sin or experience temptation in Heaven, because once we behold God, we could never choose an false good. If Christ beheld God the Father at all times, how was He tempted?
For our sake, Christ may have felt complete abandonment from His Father. Rather than deny His divinity, this strengthens it! What other so-called god of the ancient world would empty himself that completely? This is a ridiculous thought to non-Christians. God becomes man!
In his kenotic state (the state of emptiness), Our Lord was able to sense separation from the Father. This is how He loves us, that He emptied Himself that much!
Another side to the story is that the sensation of abandonment by God, is not reality. We know that the Father did not abandon the Son (or us for that matter). In the spiritual life, as we feel the most distance from God, we are, ironically, the closest to Him. So many spiritual writers remind us that it is when we feel the wood of the Cross in our own lives, that we are closest to Christ. It is as though, because the embrace is so close, we can't see Him.
When we feel abandoned by God. we remember that He is probably closer than we imagine. The cry of Christ from the Cross also teaches that it is OK to express ourselves honestly to God. So many think it would be irreverent to speak to God in any way other than grovelling. God wishes us to be friends and more sons in the Son. A son can tell his father how he is feeling. It is when we are most honest with God that our prayer is most pure.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ecce Mater Tua

One of the most tender moments of Our Lord on the Cross is when He looks at His Sorrowful Mother and says, Mulier, ecce filius tuus, Woman, behold your son. Then to the Beloved Disciple, Ecce Mater tua.
The Beloved Disciple, who stands for all of us, took him into his home, or as another translation could say, into his own. John, the Beloved, took Our Lady as his own mother. We also are called by Christ to take her as our Mother. She is Mother of the Church Mater Ecclesiae, the Mother of Christ -- the whole Christ, head and members. If we are to be members, truly united to Our Lord and Head, we must accept and take Our Lady into our own.
Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is not an option. We are commanded Honor Thy Father and the Mother. Mary is truly our Mother. The Blessed Mother cares for us with a maternal effection like no other. She is one of Our Lord's greatest gifts to us. Having given us Himself in the Eucharist, he also gives us His Mother for our own. This is integral to what it means to be members of the Mystical Body of Christ. We are given, as members of His Body, His Father and His Mother! O Bonum Commercium!
St Louis Marie de Montfort tells us that devotion to Mary will draw us closer to her son. As he and so many have pointed out, her words in Scripture tell us much about her: Do whatever He tells you. Let it be done unto me according to thy word. These are words of one who can do no other than bring her servants to Christ. The Saint tells us that when we, as loyal servants of Our Lady, when we present our humble gifts to Her Son, She, as it were, polishes them for us and perfects them. So great is her love for us, that she adds her grace and merit to whatever passes through her hands.
As so many fathers of the Church tell us, God willed to come to man through the Virgin Mary; He also wills that man come to Him through the Virgin Mary. It is not that Christ is inaccessible. It's that He desires that we approach through His most Blessed Mother.
Totus Tuus sum ego, Maria! Trahe me post te ad Filium Tuum.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Neminem Nisi Jesum

Today we hear of the Transfiguration of Christ, and of the Sacrifice of Isaac. Once again, the translators of the New American Bible have missed the boat. In the Sacrifice of Isaac, God asks Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son. In the Transfiguration God tells Peter James and John, that Jesus is His Beloved Son. But, we don't hear that connection in English, because in one place it is translated as your son, whom you love, in another, it is rendered Beloved Son. The Church, of course, wants that connection to be made in our minds. Since, however we are stuck with the NAB (for which the American Bishops have copyright), that connection has to be made by the homilist.
There is a connection between the Transfiguration of Christ and the second of the Seven Last Words of Christ. The Transfiguration allowed Peter, James and John to see a glimpse of the glory of Christ. This glory, not fully seen even after the Resurrection, was also seen by the good thief (St Dismas), but after his death. I know, this is a tangent, right. Well that's how this works. The glory of Christ, revealed to Peter, James and John on Mount Tabor was just an installment of the glory to be seen by all in Paradise.
St Dismas is promised to be taken to Paradise that day, not because of his good works. He was not known for any of those! He was a thief. He led a sinful life. What makes him a saint is that he knew who and what he was. He knew he was a thief. He knew that he had transgressed not only the Law of God, but also the civil law, and that his punishment was well deserved.
When the bad thief, who seems to have gone down in history with just that monicker, spoke, it was completely unrepentant. He was the thief who, in the words of Rhett Butler, was not sorry he had stolen, but was very sorry he had been caught. He asked Christ to prove that He was the Christ by saving Himself -- and while He was at it -- to save the two thieves as well.
It is Saint Dismas who says, Have you no fear of God? We deserve this sentence; this Man, has done nothing wrong. Then he adds something very significant, perhaps the most sincere act of contrition ever spoken, Remember me, Lord, when You come into Your kingdom. He, aware of his standing before God, does not even dare to ask forgiveness. He merely asked to be remembered. Christ, who is faithful beyond our wildest imaginings, not only remembers him, but promises him Paradise.
It is for us, during this season of Lent, to consider our place before God, and humbly to ask Him for pardon and peace. Christ has left us the Sacrament of His Mercy. Will we be like the good thief?
Memento mei quando veneris in regnum tuum!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Seven Last Words

As we enter into the Sundays of Lent, I have decided to focus in my preaching on the Seven Last Words of Christ. These sayings, taken from the Gospel accounts of the Passion, give insight and authentic teachings of Christ. Here on the Cross, He mounted the greatest pulpit and delivered the best sermon in history.
The Seven Last Words are:
  • Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34
  • Amen I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)
  • Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? -- My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matt 27:46)
  • Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit. (Luke 23:46)
  • Woman, behold your son; behold your Mother! (John 19:26-27)
  • I thirst. (John 19:28)
  • It is finished (John 19:30)
In each of the Sundays of Lent, and on Good Friday, one of these Last Words will be examined for our reflection.
The first saying of Christ, as he is being crucified and mocked, having already withstood the mock trial that the High Priests and Sanhedrin held and the terrible scourging at the pillar, is "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." In these words we can begin to plumb the depth of the Mercy of Christ. After a night without sleep; having been abandoned by all but a very few of His closest friends, and having suffered terrible indignities, Christ prays for those who persecute Him -- as He has commanded us to do. In His complete surrender, he shows His greatest strength.
It is this strength that he gave to his disciples, as we see in the case of Saint Stephen, who not too long after will pray to Christ for mercy for those who are stoning him. The mercy of Christ -- the Divine Mercy, extend to all who avail themselves of it. The mercy of Christ is not limited to those things we do without knowing, but also to those things we do with full knowledge. Saint Faustina was shown a vision of an ocean, which represented the Divine Mercy; she was made to understand that her sins were but a drop in a bucket in comparison. It would be utter foolishness to think anything is beyond the mercy of Christ.
As long as the perons repents of sin and takes advantage of the Mercy of God, especially as found in the Sacrament of His Mercy, God is always faithful to forgive sinners.
This does have a moral dimension for us. As I mentioned, Saint Stephen prayed for those who were persecuting him. We are commanded by Christ to do the same. As we pray the Lord's Prayer, Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, we remember the words of Christ, "The same measure that you use will be used for you." As we pray for those who have harmed us, it becomes easier to forgive them. As we show mercy to those around us, we are assured that the same will be shown to us.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

And so it begins......

Just over twenty-four hours into Lent, I am beginning to feel the burn, as they say. That one little thing (that comes in twelve-ounce packages) that would have made a great meal oh so much better. Boy was I tempted......
So now we enter into our Lenten fast. Along with many other reasons, we are also encouraged to fast by my friend Shawn Carney and his 40 Days for Life campaign. There is so much that could be said about acts of self denial in this world, and how they just aren't popular anymore. Suffice it to say, if it was good enough for Our Lord, it's good enough for me. That, and He commanded it!
I wish everybody a blessed Lent so that you can have a truly holy Pasch!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Holy Smoke

As has been discussed before on this blog, incense, among its many qualities, is known to be repulsive to demons. It is also a part of the ceremonies of the Mass in every rite I have ever experienced. Why then, is there so much opposition among the faithful to its use?
When we get to the offertory of the Mass, why would anyone not want to see incense rising from around the altar? Americans have a tendency to claim allergies to incense. Often the same people have allergies to the confessional, but that is another story. However, one has to wonder, when the coughing starts before the incense is even imposed, just how much is related to allergies, and how much is their imagination.
As the incense is imposed, it is blessed by the Priest. Traditionally, the prayer Ab illo benedicaris, in cuius honore cremaberis. is said as the incense is being imposed. It is blessed silently. Then the thurible is handed by the deacon to the Priest. First the Oblation itself is incensed. As a rupture from the past, the rubrics of the Ordinary Form call for there to be three swings (double) or a cross. This sad clarification in the General Instructions of the Roman Missal's most recent edition means that the Priest is no longer free to incense the Oblation with three crosses and three circles. After the Oblation is incensed, the Altar Cross and Altar are incensed as well. This is done with single swings of the thurible over or toward the altar.
A hermeneutic of continuity would lead one to incense the mensa (top) of the altar, then the sides, then continue around the back side (or as is the case in disoriented worship, around the front side) of the mensa, stopping, if necessary in the middle to incense the Cross. The other side of the Altar, and the Gospel Side of the mensa are incensed, followed by the front of the Altar. After this, the Priest hands the thurible to the Deacon, who incenses him and then the congregation. In the midst of this can be added any concelebrants, Deacons, Acolytes, or clerics in choir. The Priest and people are incensed as a sign of their being offered as part of the oblation to God the Father.

Friday, February 13, 2009


The New Liturgical Movement blog has a post about new chant settings of the Mass Ordinary in English (new translation). They are truly awesome work. If we can get these into our parishes it will bring about a renewal of the Liturgy. This fits in with the hermeneutic of continuity perfectly. It follows the call of the Church to give Gregorian Chant pride of place in Catholic worship of the Roman Rite, while still allowing for English translation of the texts. In a word, Brilliant!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Deafening Silence

One of the things that has been lost since the implementation of the New Order of the Mass by Paul VI in 1970 is silence. This, of course, is not something that was supposed to happen. In fact many documents speak of the need to have silence in the Liturgy.
What has opposed this silence is a false notion of what is meant by full, active and conscious participation. For starters, active is a lousy translation of actuosa, which we can see from cognates is more in line with English words actual or actualized than active, which comes from the Latin word activus, not actuosus.
This bad translation leads to the misunderstanding that participation on the part of the Faithful is to be full of activity. What happens, then, is that there is constant motion -- especially singing (more on that...). The lectors tend to go through the readings non-stop -- beginning the Psalm as soon as the Deo gratias is said, etc. There is no time of reflection given. The return of silence is awkward to people at first, but becomes a great part of the hermeneutic of continuity. Ironically, this is one of the reforms desired by the Council. Many of us have experienced Low Mass at which the readings are proclaimed in such a way as to indicate they are something to get through rather than a substantial part of the Mass. True, the Gradual (and its counterpart, the responsorial Psalm) and Alleleluia are supposed to be resonses to the Word of God proclaimed, and as such, by their nature, follow upon the Epistle in a more immediate manner. However, some slight pause for reflection is also good. The irony is, that many of these kind of reforms never made their way into practice in the Church!
The Offertory (or as they call it now, prepartion of the Oblation is generally silent as well. But, because of the mistaken notion of participation, one frequently hears, "Father, I want to say Blessed be God forever." They can't stand silence. It's deafening to them! Some how they feel as though they are participating in the Sacrifice better if they speak those words. The truth is, the best way for them to participate in the Sacrifice is to be silently offering themselves along with the Host.
This, of course, relates to the disorientation of the liturgy. You see, if the people can see all that is happening on the Altar, they will feel drawn to watch and to listen to the words and make responses, all of which distracts them from full, active (actual) and conscious participation because they are not entering into prayer as deeply, but rather stay at the superficial level of making responses. Because of the nearly universal taking of the option to say the prayers aloud (even when there has been a song at the offertory, which means the option doesn't exist), Priests who desire to say the prayers in silence are looked upon as somehow cutting the people off.
While we're at it, the horrible translation of the offertory prayers into English adds another reason to say them silenly -- the ability then to pray them in Latin.
About the music - As is quoted in a document on liturgy that a friend of mine is perfecting, St Pius X reminds us that in the Catholic liturgical tradition, we don't see at Mass, we sing the Mass. To often people want to use music as a way to be active in their worship. Frankly, they often just want to be like their Baptist neighbors by singing lots of hymns at church. In the case of the Offertory of the Ordinary Form, there is no assigned antiphon, but an appropriate hymn that is theologically rich could assist in participation in a proper way. A good choir that is able to sing motets, or a good organist who can play solo pieces, can add much to the ability of the Faithful to enter more deeply into the mysteries they are celebrating. This, while not being silence per se, is a way that allows the people to reflect.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Continuation of Continuity

As we reach the altar, the altar is greeted by a kiss. In an ideal situation (which I have not) this can be done from the front side of the altar, so as to begin planting seeds for ad orientem worship. As Mass begins, there is an incensation of the altar. Incense serves many purposes: it smells nice, and it looks good. Beyond those two superficial reasons, there is the respect that is shown for the altar by incensing it.
Incense is also an apatropaic substance. meaning it repels demons! Demons are allergic to incense! So many people claim allergies to incense, and one has to wonder how much is in their heads. This is especially true when they start hacking up a lung before the thurible has even begun to smoke! Seriously though, it seems good to use something in divine worship that drives away evil spirits, because it is they who are the cause of many (not all) of our distractions in prayer.
Again, incense is a source of continuity of worship with the Jews. The same people who are gritting their teeth because they aren't allowed to say the ineffible Name anymore (because they think saying it relates them to the Jews, whom they are actually gravely offending), are the ones who don't like incense.
Once the Priest has incensed the altar (if he's allowed to do so), he retires to the presider's chair. This is a break with previous practice for presbyters -- only Bishops read the Introit and beginning of Mass at the Throne. It is good, however, to have the chair facing North (liturgical), toward the Ambo. The celebrant should turn to greet the people, then turn back. Again, this stresses continuity in some ways. It also underscores that the celebrant is not just presiding over a community, as though it were a board meeeting. He is leading them in prayer. At this point in the Mass, it makes sense that he should at least have the Tabernacle in sight. It certainly does not make sense to be looking at the congregation when not addressing them.
Now, the Priest is bound to hear some complaints about this. "You should look at us more!" These complaints stem from an insecurity that requires their egos to be stroaked by the Priest constantly gazing at them, even when addressing the Father!
This, of course, is one of the biggest problems with proper orientation of the altar to begin with. That horrible polemical term with his back to the people has been used to poison the minds of the People of God for half a century or more. As one Priest friend pointed out, no one complains that the bus driver sits with his back to the people. No one complains that a military leader has his back to the people as he leads a charge. Yet, when the Priest who is leading us on our pilgrimage to Heaven stands at the fore of the Body of Christ, they decide he has turned his back on them. Ridiculous!
To me, it is the height of arrogance for people to want the Priest to go into God's house and stand with his back to God, who, while omnipresent, is most substantially present in the Eucharist. Where the Son is, there are also the Father and the Holy Spirit. It never occurs to people that it's rude to walk into someone's house and stand with your back to Him! A restoration if orientation in the Liturgy will go a long way toward applying a hermeneutic of continuity.
With my current situation, I am in a parish with the presider's chair on the south side, but placed diagonally (which is it's own problem -- more on that later), so that the Pastor can sit facing the congregation, at least partially. I am forced, then, to turn in the chair if I wish to face the Ambo from which the Word of God is being proclaimed. There just seems to be a problematic understanding of where one's attention should be. Oh, and the eyes cast downward custom applies here as well. Certainly there is no reason to watch the congregation (which always mutiplies during the readings). The Priest, like everyone else, is supposed to be listening actively to the Word of God being proclaimed -- not paying attention to everything else that's going on in the church.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

More on continuity

So many parishioners comment to me that I celebrate Mass like the Priests did when they were young (50s and 60s). The question is, why is this noticeable? I don't do anything extraordinary (forgive the pun). I just follow the General Instructions of the Roman Missal.
What is (sadly) unusual is that I interpret the GIRM with a hermaneutic of continuity. When I look at an instruction in the Roman Missal (Ordinary Form) I interpret it in light of tradition. It is interpreted in light of how things were done in the previous editions of the Missal (Extraordinary Form). Oh, and I alway follow the Latin instructions, never relying on someone else's translation.
From the very beginning the proximate preparation for Mass, in the sacristy, I try to interpret things as they have been done for time immemorial. I ask for quiet in the sacristy, as it is to be a place of prayer. I actually do pray the vesting prayers, beginning with the hand-washing, and finishing with the Forma Intentionis -- the statement of intention to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass according to the Rite of the Holy Roman Church.
The procession toward the altar and back to the sacristy are done, in the words of the Extraordinary Form's rubrics, oculis dimissis --with the eyes looking downward as a sign of one's own unworthyness. The procession is not a time to greet the people or smile and wave. It is a time of final preparation for Mass. It is a liturgical movement that requires a certain gravitas or solemnity. Sadly, many Priests use this as a time to be "friendly" by smiling and possibly even shaking hands with people on the way up the aisle. We should never confuse joy with silliness. This is what Cardinal Arinze, in the name of the Holy Father, really, called the Ars Celebrandi the are of the celebrant. We shall continue with a series of post on this over the next several weeks.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The empty seat in the Choir Stall

It is with inexpressible sadness that I write about the death of a dear friend from the seminary. The Reverend Mr. Adam Crowe, a transitional deacon from the Diocese of Ogdensburg, NY slipped from this world today. I can imagine the emptiness that will be felt by all as they look at his empty seat in the choir stalls of the chapel at Saint Charles Seminary. Every day, at least twice a day, they'll all be reminded of his absence.
We truly do not know the day or the hour when the Son of Man will come for us. No one could have ever expected that he would never see Adam alive again. If we did, we would have gone to see him one last time -- or called at least. It would have put a whole new priority on attending his ordination to the Diaconate last June. I would have flown to Washington to attend the March for Life with him last week. But, we didn't know.
No one can know the anguish that must be felt at Saint Charles tonight. How could we? Please keep the men at Saint Charles Seminary in your prayers, for the next several weeks will be bleak for them all. With God's grace, they will survive, forever changed by this day.
All of us who knew Adam are also forever changed by our brief time together. He was always one to brighten our day with his radiant joy.
Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

On the Hermaneutic of Rupture

There are some Priests who just don't get it. They love to tell you (me) things like, "that's how we used to do it before Vatican II. We don't do that anymore." Now, this was in the context of a discussion about couples cohabitating prior to marriage. I say they should be asked to separate until they are married -- he says that's how we used to do it. It seems, in his mind, that once they decide to get married, it's OK if they want to live together. They should confess a few days before the wedding and then abstain for a whole 72 Hours. We should counsel them to "try to abstain" until they are married, "if you can."
Would he counsel Ted Bundy to try to abstain from serial murders if he can? Would he suggest to pregnant women that they should try to abstain from abortion if they can? I just don't get it. There used to be a day in which Priests could talk to other Priests about things like this and get the same answer from anyone. Now, it's all up for grabs. Life is interesting!

If they're mad it must be good!

There is an article today on Rorate Caeli about certain persons who are a tad upset about the lifting of the Excommunications by His Holiness. In case you missed it -- His Holiness has remitted the penalty of Excommunication imposed upon the Four Bishops of the SSXP ipso facto when they were consecrated by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
What can I say? When some people get upset, you know something good is going on. These are the people who are so invested in the hermaneutic of rupture/discontinuity that they can't stand the fact that continuity with the past is being stressed. To them, it is a condemnation of their life's work (which was largely about destroying all that had been before in order to make way for the new).
Can you believe the fella who deems himself confident to declare "for them there is no place for the mercy of Christ?" Those kind of words tend to come back to haunt us. The sad thing is, he probably doesn't have any problem with being easy on pro-abort politicians.
Bishop Fellay of the SSPX has requested our prayers on two occasions in the past -- and they have been answered. He has asked through the BVM that the Mass be liberated, and this happened on 07.07.07; he asked that the excommunications be lifted (again through the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary (of Lourdes). Now he asked for clarifications to be made of certain theological concerns they have with Vatican II. Through the intercession of Our Blessed Mother, let us all ask Our Lord to direct these theological discussions to be fruitful and bring about unity. Our Lady brought about two seeming insurmountable goals toward reunification of the SSPX with Rome. She can and will bring about this third goal -- so let us begin our Rosary Crusade.
While we're at it -- let's ask her to do the same thing with the Orthodox. I truly believe that it is unity with those who have the Sacraments that is crucial.
Mary, Mother of the Church, bring about through your powerful intercession the end to divisions that separate Catholics from one another and from the Orthodox. Pray for us, most holy Mother of God, ut unum simus!

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Changing Face of the Episcopacy

With only a tongue-in-cheek nod to a book by a similar title, and with my usual taste for irony, I look at the changes that are coming for the Church in America. While I certainly don't agree with Fr Cozzens on many things, I can see a major change in the way things are going to be in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Holy Father will have the opportunity to appoint several new Bishops over the course of the next year or two.

Currently Vacant are the sees of:
  1. Charleston, SC (since August 2007, when the Bishop was appointed to Birmingham, AL)
  2. Biloxi, MS (since April 2008, when the Bishop was appointed to Mobile, AL)
  3. Gallup, NM (since April 30, 2008, when the Bishop retired)
  4. St Louis, MO (since June 27, 2008, when the Archbishop was appointed to the Signatura)
  5. Cheyenne, WY (since July 9, 2008, when the Bishop was appointed to Green Bay, WI)
  6. Duluth, MN (Since October 17, 2008, when the Bishop was named Coadiutor of Cincinnati, OH)
  7. Owensboro, KY (since January 5, 2009, when the Bishop retired)
  8. Oakland, CA (since January 5, 2009, when the Bishop was appointed to Detroit)
There are also several Bishops who have already submitted their letter of resignation, upon reaching 75 years of age:
  1. Edward Cardinal Egan (New York, NY -- April 2, 2007)
  2. Abp Eldin Curtiss (Omaha, NE -- June 16, 2007)
  3. Bp James Murray (Kalamazoo, MI -- July 5, 2007)
  4. Bp James Moynihan (Syracuse, NY -- July 16, 2007)
  5. Bp John D'Arcy (Fort Wayne-South Bend, IN -- Aug 18, 2007)
  6. Abp Alfred Hughes (New Orleans, LA -- December 2, 2007)
  7. Bp Arthur Tafoya (Pueblo, CO -- March 2, 2008)
  8. Bp Edward Cullen (Allentown, PA -- March 15, 2008)
  9. Bp William Higi (Lafeyette in Indiana, IN -- August 29, 2008)
  10. Bp Bernard Harrington (Winona, MN -- September 6, 2008)
  11. Bp Edmond Carmody (Corpus Christi, TX -- January 12, 2009)
  12. Abp Alexander Brunett (Seattle, WA -- January 17, 2009)
Additionally, there are those who will turn 75 in the near future:
  1. Bp Raymundo Pe~na (Brownsville, TX -- February 19, 2009)
  2. Bp William Skylstad (Spokane, WA -- March 2, 2009)
  3. Bp Patrick Cooney (Gaylord, MI -- March 10, 2009)
  4. Abp Daniel Pilarczyk (Cincinnati, OH -- August 12, 2009)*Coadiutor appointed
  5. Abp Eusebius Beltran (Oklahoma City, OK -- August 31, 2009)
This is not to mention the number of Auxilliary Bishops who are also past or near retirement age. We must pray and fast, because the potential appointment of these Bishops in 24 sees during 2009 could have a major change on the American Bishop's conference.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Rest in Peace Father Neuhaus

Yesterday, a giant in the public face of the Church passed to eternal life. Father Richard John Neuhaus was a Lutheran who converted to the True Church, and became a Priest of the Archdiocese of New York. He was an editor of First Things Magazine, where he wrote informative columns with intelligent commentary about the world in which we live. His voice will be missed in the Public Square.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Movable Feasts

On the Feast of the Epiphany it is traditional to proclaim the dates of the movable feasts for the new year. This is generally done after the Gospel.
So, what do you do when Epiphany becomes a movable feast? Really, what's up with that? In order to make the third most important feast in the liturgical year (behind Easter and Pentecost -- yes -- ahead of Christmas! -- see Dom Prosper Guaranger's Liturgical Year) more important, they have moved it onto the nearest Sunday. This, along with Corpus Christi, and now Ascension Thursday, er Sunday, has been moved by the United States Conference of Bishops. Fortunately, this movement is not binding for the Extraordinary Form, which will celebrate Epiphany on Tuesday, January 6 (as will the Pope!).
The Epiphany (or Theophany, as it is called in the East) of the Lord is important for many reasons. In this Feast, we celebrate the coming of the Magi (or in Philly, the three wise guys) to adore the Christ Child (who was not an infant -- apologies to the Franciscan Order). Also wrapped up in this celebration is the Baptism of the Lord (which was the Octave of Epiphany until 1970), and the Wedding at Cana (2nd Sunday After Epiphany in the EF) as well as the Finding in the Temple (1st Sunday after Epiphany EF). These are Epiphaniae -- manifestations of Christ's Divine Nature. In each case, something is shown to be "different" about Him.
With the visit of the Magi, the Child Jesus is presented with gifts that bespeak His nature. To quote a poem:
Sovereign Gold, but His brow was torn
When they hailed Him King with a crown of thorn
Frankincense that they might provide
Perpetual praise to a God who died.
But none so strange as the gift they gave
Of Myrrh to the clothes of a three-day grave.
It is no wonder Our Lady pondered these things and held them in Her Heart.
Next in the order of celebration is the finding in the Temple. Again, we can imagine the awe with which Our Lady beheld Her Son, standing in the midst of the elders and doctors of the Law, explaining things to them. This was a great manifestation of the wisdom that He had, even at that age, as well as the contact he had with His Father.
At the Baptism of the Lord, His Father manifests His destiny -- the Holy Spirit descends upon Him like a dove. Hearing the voice from the Heavens, "This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased" must have been a frightening experience for all around. We know that John the Baptist protested that Christ should be baptizing him, not the other way around.
Finally, at Cana in Galillee, we have the Wedding Feast. This is the first miracle of Christ, and marks the beginning of His Public ministry. This crucial even occurs at the request of His Blessed Mother. It is here that He is said to have raised matrimony to the Dignity of a Sacrament by His very presence.
All of these things are occurring in the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, as the Christmas Season unfolds. To my mind, it seems a shame to have moved this to a Sunday, because it takes something special away from the Feast. I don't recall thinking anything special about any of these great feasts that have been moved to Sunday when I was a child. I did know that Ascension Thursday was special, because so many of us attended Mass on that day, which is not a Sunday. Corpus Christi? That was just another Sunday to me when I was growing up.