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.