Sunday, October 9, 2011

First Phoenix, now Madison

It appears (Via Fr. Z) that the Catholic Church in Madison. Wisconsin, under the shepherding of his excellence, Robert Morlino, will return to communion under one species as the norm.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Phoenix Issue

In other news, word was released by the Diocese of Phoenix that Bishop Thomas Olmstead, ordinary of that diocese, intends to reduce the frequency of distribution of the Eucharist under both species (that is, under the appearance of bread and under the appearance of wine.) The Press release makes clear that this is not, as many will portray it, a restricting of access to the Eucharist. Nor is it, as certain voices in the media may claim, a "turning back the clock on Vatican II." It is, in fact, a return to precisely what Vatican II called for in regard to the distribution of the Eucharist to the faithful.

The last forty or fifty years of liturgical development have been anything but an organic growth or reform of the liturgy. Surprising as it is for Catholics to hear, Vatican II was not the tremendous revolutionary moment it is portrayed to be, least of all in regard to the liturgy. Few of those in the revolutionary camp of liturgical "reform" have any familiarity with Sacrosanctum Concillium, much less a thorough knowledge of it. Particularly for young people, the status quo is assumed to be exactly what was called for by the Council. They assume the reason we have the priest standing behind a wooden table placed several feet in front of the altar, an army extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion gathered around him during the Eucharistic prayer, abstract art in place of images of the saints, pews arranged in a campfire circle, hand-holding during the Lord’s Prayer, and guitars strumming along to “Lord of the Dance” must be because this is what the Holy Spirit wanted the bishops to establish as the norm.

Hearing that “Latin is to be retained as the language or the Liturgy”, that “the people should be taught the parts of the mass in Latin that pertain to them”, that Gregorian chant is to be given “pride of place” among liturgical music, that the Council documents are entirely silent on the issue of versus populum celebration of the mass are all shocking to this generation of young adult Catholics.
Sadly, this too is the case with issue of distributing communion under both species. While specific conditions were laid out for the distribution of the chalice to the laity, those have long since been disregarded and universal distribution of the chalice at nearly every mass has become the norm. To enable this new norm requires using lay ministers to help distribute the Eucharist in a capacity that is far from “extraordinary”. Now, when a priest or bishop decides to employ the criteria established by Vatican II many faithful are up in arms, crying “clericalism” or “this grieves the Holy Spirit.”
It is quite a claim to say something grieves the Holy Spirit. The fact is that it was the Holy Spirit that was operative in the bishops at the Council, and the Holy Spirit that is operative in those bishops today in communion with the Pope. The Holy Spirit cannot grieve at the actions of the faithful bishops of the Church. Rather, the Holy Spirit grieves at the deliberate misinterpretation and misapplication of the liturgical principles laid out by the magisterium. The only spirit grieving over this decision is that old specter, the "Spirit of Vatican II."
The "Spirit of Vatican II"
What about the “Fully conscious and active participation of the laity” that Vatican II called for? Fully Conscious and Active participation does not mean an army of lay “ministers” milling about the altar nor the untold instances of spilling the blood of our Lord. His blood was spilled once for our salvation and that was sufficient. Anything beyond that is disgraceful.
If the laity are fully conscious of what is going on in the liturgy and why it is happening, then there would be no misunderstanding. But alas, we have lots of “active” and very little “conscious” in liturgical participation these days.

The question becomes an issue of redundancy when one considers the Church's Eucharistic theology holds that Christ is fully present, Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity, under either form. When one receives the "bread" alone, one is still fully receiving the Lord. There is no "partial" Eucharist.
Some opponents of this decision appeal to historical precedent or to the easternlung of the Church where reception under both species is customary. In either instance the argument is founded on an apples-to-oranges comparison. If apostolic or eastern custom is sufficient cause to amend the discipline of the Latin Rite, then I ask, are those making this appeal willing to accept the other customs that surround the apostolic or eastern practice? Will they readily accept an ad orientem celebration of the Eucharist? The “obstruction” of their view of the altar by an iconostasis? The total absence of lay ministers, extraordinary or otherwise, in the distribution of the Eucharist? Receiving the Eucharist directly into an opened mouth rather than in the hand? These are all of a piece, not a liturgical buffet from which we can choose a la carte style.

The liturgical arguments can and will go on, but what is really at issue here is obedience to one’s bishop, and on that matter I will make my own appeal to Tradition, which unanimously exhorts the faithful to “do nothing without the bishop” (St. Ignatius of Antioch) and to “revere the bishop as the Lord himself.” (St. Cyprian of Carthage). Our obedience should not be mere assent of the lips, but of the will as well. For it is not enough to say, “yes, Father,” with his lips if he does not then go into the field and work. (cf. Matt. 21: 28 – 31). Is obedience a challenge? Most certainly, and yet it is the easy yoke of humble obedience that we must shoulder on the path to salvation.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

After a Summer Hiatus, Farewell to the Chief

After what has been undoubtedly the best summer of my life, I am back to teaching, and now back to blogging as well. Two big bits of Church news worthy of note.

First, after battling Lymphoma, various surgeries, chemo & radiation, and a stroke, Archbishop Daniel Buechlein has been allowed to retire by Pope Benedict XVI. His nearly two decades of pastoral reign in the archdiocese have been years of fruitful service that have left the diocese in many ways vibrant and healthy. The con is now in the capable hands of blogging auxiliary bishop Christopher Coyne, apostolic administrator of the diocese.

Archbishop Buechlein intends to return to St. Meinrad Archabbey where he professed solemn vows half a century ago, where he will continue to serve Christ and His Church in whatever way he is able. This, I thought, was a poignant lesson for my students, that one never ceases being a member of the body of Christ, and though our personal vigor and vitality wane, the privilege of Christian discipleship is never vacated.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Call a Spade a Spade.

Ok, I'm not going all Bill Donahue here, but the Rainbow Lights on the Empire State Building bother me. They don't bother me because of any personal bias against homosexuals (because I don't have one), nor is it because of the management's refusal to honor Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta on the centenary of her birth (though deserving, I don't think it's the sort of thing she would go for.)

It bothers me only because the ESB fails to say of that which is that it is and of that which is not that it is not. There published guidelines "state clearly that we do not accomodate [sic] requests for religious figures or requests by religions and religious organizations." and that, "The Empire Building's tower lights recognize key milestones, events, charitable organizations, countries and holidays throughout the world, not political or religion related events." (emphasis mine)

Not only is the recent passage of the marriage equality law certainly under the umbrella of political events, but it would seem that the early June blue and white lighting "In honor of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York" would fall under the umbrella of the above-mentioned excluded "religious organizations."

The guidelines conclude with the caveat that, "We are privately owned and our policies and practices are subject to change in accord with ownerships's [sic] preferences."

ESB, you are indeed privately owned and certainly at liberty to do as you please, but you could have saved yourselves a good deal of time (though certainly not time spent on proof-reading) if you had simply and clearly stated the last line and left it at that. Anything beyond that is just a farce.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Christ the Good Shepherd

Jesus said:
“I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,
and the wolf catches and scatters them.
This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.

I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock, one shepherd.

This is why the Father loves me,
because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.
I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.
This command I have received from my Father.”

Monday, May 2, 2011

" A Christian never takes pleasure from the fact of a man's death, but sees it as an opportunity to reflect on each person's responsibility, before God and humanity, and to hope and commit oneself to seeing that no event become another occasion to disseminate hate but rather to foster peace." -From the Holy See Press Office on the death of Osama bin Laden

Blessed John Paul II forgiving his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca
December 1983

As usual, at our monthly department chair meeting I was asked to pray. I scratched this down on an index card a few minutes before the meeting:
Dear Heavenly Father,
you have blessed your Church with the ministry of your servant, Blessed John Paul, who once forgave his would-be assassin. Help us not to exult in the failings of our enemies, but to be mindful of our own sinfulness and to instead rejoice in your Divine Mercy.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Praying in the Church's "Native Tongue"

This week my school is observing "World Language Week" so in my theology classes students are learning a handful of phrases in Latin and Greek, listening to prayers in Hebrew and Aramaic, some are learning the Pater Noster and Ave Maria, and well, some of them are reading this little essay of mine:

A few thoughts about language to begin:
First, language is largely symbolic in itself. That is to say that the words we use to communicate merely represent the thoughts, actions, emotions, or truths we are trying to convey. In this sense, God transcends language. We find evidence of this transcendence when Moses asks God his name, and he responds with the ineffable "Yahweh" or "I AM". As such, I do not think that God hears my prayers more clearly if they are in Latin, or if he does, it is not merely because they are in Latin, but because the use of a language that is not my vernacular has forced me to focus on the intention of my prayer and to be conscious in a way that I might not be if I were rattling off the same prayer in English.

I will also add that the Latin prayers that are the patrimony (heritage) of the Church are usually quote potent and poetic to the point of being sublime. Beauty, the Catechism tells us, is one of the transcendentals which means if we pursue it in its authentic forms it will lead us to God. The Latin prayers retain that beauty and potency in a way that most contemporary English translations do not. (Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, author of the blog, "What does the prayer really say?"calls these the "lame duck translations" for precisely this reason. A quick perusal of his blog will provide many examples.)

Jesus does, of course, tell us that when we pray we are not to "babble on like the pagans who think they will be heard because of their many words." However, an eloquent prayer, as I said, does not increase the likelihood of God hearing it, but rather it does lift the heart, mind, and soul of the pray-er to God. And too, there is the difference between a liturgical prayer which is formal, planned and extemporaneous prayer, which is "off the cuff." In addressing the latter Jesus is telling us not to be anxious about what we will say, for our Father already knows what we need. If communicating to God were the only purpose of prayer then all we would have to do is think. But prayer is entering into a conversation with God and a shift of language or tone can help us to develop a keener perception of the conversation.
Latin, which has enjoyed pride of place for centuries, is not the "original" language of the Church. Jesus and his contemporaries spoke Aramaic, Hebrew, and likely Greek. These are the languages in which the New Testament authors wrote, the languages in which the Apostles preached, and the languages in which the infant Church prayed. At the end of the apostolic era and beginning of the patristic the locus of the Church shifted westward and Greek began to wane, being replaced by Latin, the language used by all of the western Fathers.
The reign of Latin lasted for over a millennium and it was in Latin that the formative doctrines of the Church were first articulated and took shape. In this sense it is truly the Native language of the Church. Sacrosanctum Conclium, the Vatican II document on the liturgy, said that a "suitable place" could be allotted to the various vernacular languages of the world in the liturgy, but that Latin remained the official language of the Church and her worship, and that pastors should make every effort to ensure that the faithful were able to pray in Latin the parts of the mass that pertained to them. This seed from the tree of Vatican II has never really germinated, let alone come to fruition.

Finally, ours is truly a Catholic, a universal Church and that requires a universal language. The Latin language favors no living culture or ethnicity, and all people can feel equally welcome (or alienated) by it. (Preventing the latter is why pastors were to catechize their parishes in Latin.) When we pray in Latin we not only transcend the boundaries of culture or ethnicity, but the very boundaries of time, for we cry out to God in the same tongue as countless saints and holy ones of ages past.

There may come a time, and it may already be here, when English or Chinese is to the world what Latin was for over 1,000 years. Living languages are in flux, always changing. To try to translate liturgical texts into the vernacular always presents the challenge of capturing the essence of a word or phrase in an idiom that speaks to another time or culture. Using Latin, which is a static, unchanging language, creates a sort of standard or template by which one can objectively critique any future translations. It facilitates the continuity and unity that Christ so desperately wanted for His Church...and it just sounds Divine. Check out any of the videos below - each only about a minute long, and see if, at some level, you don't agree.

Ave Maria (Hail Mary) (Listed as "music to relax to"?)