We Need to Respond Versus the Violence

We Need to Respond Versus the Violence                 Thurs. Sept. 5

Each day we hear how our world around us is in a crisis of violence.

You would think that Peace might be in the world by this modern man age of Two Thousand Thirteen—alas, it is not.

I think of Jesus’ words:  In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.

He is our Peace.

Yet not too many in the world seem to know Jesus and His Peace.  Even Christians have been not so great a witness.    We were asked to be “Peacemakers” by Jesus–it is in His basic recipe for living in the Beatitudes of the Sermon On The Mount’s beginning.

Violence needs to be met by the Jesus in us.   Jesus can be the calm to the storm, if we let His life reign in our hearts.   Only He has the answer. Man on his own does not have it.

A line from Paul the apostle to the Church urges us:  “Let Christ’ Peace reign in your hearts.”

In response to the international crisis of violence in Syria, Pope Francis has asked us to pray this weekend for the Lord’s peace and justice to come into willing hearts.   I suggest your joining the rosary at 4:50 p.m. on Saturday afternoon in the church.  If you have any lack of peace in your soul, then also take advantage of our Confession time from that 4’oclock hour (up to 4:50) in church.  I will be the confessor.

We are nearing the 9-11 anniversary.   From many commentators on the effect of 9-11 in the Church (in the USA)–we have all not been changed much by that humbling event.   That’s not good, as it was a big spiritual opportunity for us.   We have some time, but not a lot of it– to awaken to a time for the Lord to find wide open hearts and minds to His Plans and His Ways.

Our ways haven’t succeeded.  Oh–we HAVE changed the security proceedures in airports and at large public events and in postal deliveries and other means, all with screening for danger.   Yet I am talking about hearts and minds.  That is–GOD is talking about it (using voices in the Church)–He is prophetically saying:  Your spiritual security system is still pretty weak and vulnerable.   Shore up big time in the spiritual life, says The Lord.    (*See the Pope Francis Youth Day quote on the next blog; the Holy Father’s own sizing up the spiritual situation.)

Last weekend I gave a homily about the absolute need for humility in the believer.   We can choose to be humble.   God is looking for the bowed-down invitation to work in us and shape us and use us.  We have always had  the Virgin Mary’s example.   Remember her humility, such as in this prayer of response to God (and His angel messenger)?  She said: “I am a handmaid of the Lord, let it be done according to Thy Word.”

My homily on humility was not to a full church.   For a 700-800 household community of registered households, we didn’t show it by our numbers that last weekend or in August (or was half of our folks on a month’s vacation?).   So, the message was missed by some of our flock.    A 9 or 10 yr. old boy was asking me–true story this week–of “why the church is more full at Christmas but not much of the rest of the year?”   I thought to myself– well, it takes humility and faith to be a constant follower of Christ and for His Church.  It costs us some pride and self-attention to gather at Mass and be with the Living Lord Jesus amidst His other believers in this Bowie-area community of faith.   We humble ourselves before Him and reverently to one another…. I thought a quick answer for the child’s question:  “Next Sunday we will hear Jesus say in the Gospel that there is a cost in following Him.  Listen to the gospel at Mass and notice it.  Maybe people don’t like the cost of their time and surrender of themselves to Him.”    Yes– I thought a little longer about it later—maybe some people don’t come to Mass much because they think God in Christ Jesus (Who is Present There) might be asking something of them of which they don’t want to deal with.   God does ask us for actions of love and faith, right?  By going to Mass we are putting ourself in a place of dealing straight with God.   And we know there is a sending forth from Mass for us to be loving and saying and doing things Jesus wants.    Like sowing peace instead of violence or division or non-care of others.

Violence and lack of peace….. a daily occurrence. There were break-ins on Mitchellville Road this week.   The police blog was in the paper.   There is some violence in a break-in.  People are coming by force for something to take that is not theirs.  Taking away the security of others is something a criminal does–and they don’t even care about it.    Ever since our break-in at the office this year, I have been a little more on edge.  Just this past week I noticed people behind the church in the late night/early morn of darkness.  What were they doing there?   I secretly investigated (holding my cell phone in hand) but they left the area and I couldn’t identify what was going on.   (I don’t think they were praying.)

I have had two episodes in the past three weeks of being involved in someone’s road rage or violent actions behind the wheel.   What’s the matter with these people?   There are some angry folks driving around out there (many more than I have seen before).

This is all related to violence.

Finally, in the 50th anniversary gathering of the March for Jobs and Freedom in late August, I was disappointed at what was ignored.  In and around remarks that seemed to stoke racism (rather than promote what the Reverend MLK Jr. was dreaming and praying for at the original march), there was nothing said about the continued problem of violence going on in the black community that needs our concern and help.  As we look for equality for all in a brotherhood/sisterhood of one people, how is it that the various organizations and movements (and churches) are not having hardly any impact on helping our black youth and young adults away from the trouble that so plagues them?   A high percentage have gone to drugs and crime and then prison (for ones who get caught).  A high percentage have routine abortions to end pregnancies.  There is a lot of violence going on, especially black on black (?!) that needs address.  It hardly gets a mention.  At the march’s anniversary events, at least, it didn’t.   Not from what I heard reported.

I couldn’t go to the live events, but I went and walked the area of the Lincoln memorial and tidal basin and up to the Capitol too, petitioning the Lord.   I prayed for the kind of things I saw as quotes by Lincoln, on display in the little museum section on the ground floor.   Our 16th president was an avid Bible reader and a great respecter of the Creator and His plan–you could tell that by Lincoln’s words that He saw that liberty and justice are found and lived as With God, Who authored them for humanity.    As he saw a civil war (of a land in violent disturbance) going on in our nation, he prayed he could be used for unity and peace.

We need to pray the same.   The world needs men and women and children of God to be fully who we are supposed to be.   The nation needs it.  Now is that time for following Christ and not counting the cost.

The Day Gets Underway

The Day Gets Underway with Cardinal O Boyle’s invocation   Aug. 28, 1963

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“Faith” Encyclical of Pope Francis: A Review, Part 3

Start of Part III     “Faith” Encyclical

Hurrah!  You are still with me in this blog of reviewing Pope Francis’ first encyclical, Lumen Fidei.

The earlier blogs reviewed the first parts of Lumen Fideo.  It covered a summary of the faith of Abraham and the faith of Israel. This time,we move into Christian Faith. This is how Pope Francis is leading the encyclical. We go from the Hebrew Faith revelation to the Christian Faith one of fulfillment.

(I have remarked in an earlier blog how most Catholics know that Pope Benedict was the one who had started on this Light of Faith encyclical, before he was moved by God to step down from the papacy.   When Benedict gave in to allow a healthy, new successor to take over—it was to no surprise that new Pope Francis would want to complete this papal encyclical, to bless us in The Year of Faith.)

The turning point in man’s relationship with God came with Abraham and Israel. Faith, as revealed through Abraham and Israel, is not just a belief that God exists. Rather, it is a belief that opens up into a relationship. Abraham and Israel acted within this relationship: Abraham by moving to the land promised him and his descendants and by trusting that God would give him descendants; Israel, by leaving Egypt, following Moses into the desert, and promising to keep God’s law.

What is the faith lesson for both?  It is that: Here is a God Who can be trusted, counted on, and to whom we can entrust our whole life.

Christian faith has all of these elements, yet now, we have a definitive fulfillment of faith. The full revelation and the fulfillment of all God’s promises are now present in the person of Jesus Christ. Now, the word of God upon which Abraham and Israel entrusted their lives is the incarnate Word of God. This Word reveals God’s love for us and the Trustworthiness of his promises by Christ’s death on the Cross.

Additionally, the grace of Jesus Christ is the source of our faith, a grace and a faith which even an infant can receive. The sacrifice of Christ is the source of grace for this faith and is also the object of this faith, since the sacrificial death of Christ proves God’s love for us and the trustworthiness of all the promises given to us by Jesus.

Continuing with Pope Francis’ encyclical, we move to the account of salvation by Christian faith.  Faith opens us up to the life of God, of the Blessed Trinity. Through faith, God lives in us through Jesus Christ. The law was inadequate to achieve salvation since it did not include this gift of the Divine Life. The law was not able to make us holy as God is Holy. This failure is manifested in two ways: one is openness to a deeper relationship with God, the other is a prideful self-satisfaction with one’s own ability to keep the law. Jesus encountered both. He found openness in His Apostles and Disciples (He found it most profoundly, of course, in His Blessed Mother). He found prideful self-satisfaction in the scribes and Pharisees.

Faith centers our lives on Christ, not on ourselves. While the law turns us to ourselves, Christ turns us to God and neighbor. Jesus is closer to us than we are to ourselves. This expands our lives into an infinite horizon. No longer closed to ourselves, we can see ourselves as God sees us, we can live a life in which Christ lives in us. This is salvation, having Christ live in us that we may live with Him in His love for His Father in the Holy Spirit.

End of Part III

“Faith” Encyclical of Pope Francis: Review, Part 2.

Review, Part 2

(You need to read Part I, first, in this series.  Also, you can read the encyclical online at the Vatican web site, or numerous other ones.  Or buy the encyclical at the Basilica/Shrine bookstore in D.C.)

Continuing with Pope Francis’ encyclical, Lumen Fidei (Light of Faith), we now enter chapter 1.  In this chapter the Holy Father looks at the different manifestations of Faith in Salvation History, beginning with Abraham. For Abraham faith opened up a way, a new horizon, opened up by God’s word. The faith of Abraham is a kind of faith that is only possible in relation to God’s word. Because it is the word of God, and God is absolutely faithful to his word, we can give our lives in reliance on the word of God. The word faith in Hebrew is derived from the word “to uphold.” Faith upholds our relationship with God and his promise, while God’s faithfulness upholds his own word and promise.

Faith in God is not something alien to Abraham. He has sensed it in the core of his being. The Holy Father introduces a concept here in his words that could sound strange to us: “memory of the future.”  Say what?  How can we remember the future?

What is being remembered in Abraham is the promise given by God. The promise given to Adam and Eve, but, even more, the promise imbedded in us as creatures created by God. In this, the Holy Father expresses a concept from Pope Emeritus Benedict. As creatures, we already have the truth of who we are in us. Original sin, while it damages creation, does not destroy it. God’s revelation and grace revive what was damaged. So, in a sense, we “wake up” from our fallen state and discover who we were created to be. God promises an heir to Abraham. God reawakens this hope for Abraham. The horizon of faith opened up for Abraham is connected to the hope for descendants, a hope that is the center of our hopes in our natural lives.

So we are reviewing the Faith of Israel, and how Pope Francis sees that period of faith and its lessons with the patriarchs…  all related to the light of faith.

Now, we move on to Israel’s Faith.

Abraham’s faith tapped into a “memory” of a relationship with God.

This is a concept that Pope Francis takes from his predecessor’s early work on this encyclical on faith. Pope Benedict the XVI had an Augustinian-influenced theology.  This section on Israel’s faith will look at it from the Augustinian acknowledgement of “original sin” and how this clouded the heart-view of man to God.  Yet, while man is yoked with original sin, St. Augustine would teach how there was still a kind of “memory” of a relationship with God.

That memory is sort of understood by man’s empty heart and emptiness, which so troubles him….. or understood some, too, through man’s lost or confused and limited mind, which keeps reminding him of how is must be capable of so much better.   Three are the voids and question marks of man.   We are a marred creature…

Yet what has marred mankind?  This is a question he does quest to find an answer (even when man wants to keep denying religious practice or observances).   Man still sees or knows that a separation of man occurred from our Source or Creator, as we chose self over the reign of God, as it seems obvious that selfishness is a big dilemma of man.

As I person tried to explain her disturbing self-absorbion:  “I can’t help it, this being selfish and greedy and all, as I was just born this way!”

Yet there is another option out there:  living by Faith.  What does it lead to?   An acknowledgement of God, and an obedient and loving trust before Him.   We desire to get back into friendship with God.

But what of this desire of recovery back to God-ly cooperation and friendship?

Abraham’s faith was based on this “inchoate” memory of this relationship.  Abraham acts to respond back to God.   It is a start back.

What does “inchoate” mean?  in·cho·ate [ in kṓ ət ]

1. just beginning: just beginning to develop  2. imperfectly formed: only partly formed    3. chaotic: lacking structure, order, or organization

Synonyms: undeveloped, incipient, immature, beginning, starting, budding, developing, emergent, early, embryonic.

Now, in the follow-through after Abraham, of a NATION of faith response, Israel’s faith will rest on memory, too. But, not an inchoate memory or sense but a remembrance of concrete actions performed by God on their behalf: the release from slavery in Egypt, the giving of the Law, the wandering in the desert, the manna, the water from the rock, the entry into the promised land. Israel’s faith is based on God’s actions in forming and saving them.  Faith responds to God’s first move.

Another aspect of Israel’s faith is the constant temptation and frequent fall into idolatry. The hiddenness of God is something Israel must contend with in its faith life. The making and worshiping of the Golden Calf is the first instance of Israel trying to make something with their own hands that they could worship. This is the constant drama of Israel’s faith lived out in a fallen, pagan world. God’s faithfulness to the covenant, despite the people’s repeated failures,becomes an important revelation of who this merciful God is.

A third aspect of Israel’s faith is the presence of a mediator in Moses.  Not only can the people not make an image of this God, they cannot directly meet Him. They have to not only trust God– they need to trust the people He sends to represent him. Pope Francis here brings out the challenge modern man faces in this aspect of faith:  modern man wants to know on his own. Modern man wants to know directly, not relying on anyone else. But, this way of knowing also shows our ability to share knowledge. Knowledge becomes a source of a relationship. It is a kind of knowledge that rests on love.

This is a lot to digest.   It is our history of faith, and it is worthy to know.

Next time we move into Christian Faith and the centrality of love in that faith, as we keep examining “Lumen Fidei.”

“Faith” Encyclical of Pope Francis: A Review: Part 1

During the Summer, Pope Francis issued his first encyclical letter.   It has not a surprising title for The Year of Faith; it’s called “Lumen Fidei” (Light of Faith) and you can find the papal work online in a few places, such as the Vatican website.    Let’s take a look at what it is about…

As he begins, the Holy Father compares our modern times with ancient pagan times. He notes that in ancient times there was a cult of the Sun, the Sol Invictus or victorious Sun. For ancient cultures, the rising of the sun every morning was interpreted as the light’s victory over darkness. Pope Francis notes, though, that the Sun cannot overcome all the darkness that we face as human beings. It may illuminate the visible, material world around us, but it does not disclose the meaning of our lives nor does it penetrate the darkness of evil and death.   Yet, this big fire ball in the sky does give a message–there is a need for light for physical life.   So, one can arrive easily at another conclusion:  we need light for spiritual, soulful life.

The Holy Father then brings up a modern philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who lived in the latter half of the nineteenth century.  Nietzsche, you may recall, was a German of the latter 1800’s who challenged all the foundations of morality, claiming there was no one to answer to, and he was going around a lot in his time saying “God was dead.”  Nietzsche got a lot of press for that audacious stand.  However, as it the way of man, Nietzsche would die.  And he did.   In a philosophy book I saw a two-phase cartoon with commentary…

Nietzsche:  August 23rd, 1900:  “I declare that God is dead.”

God:  August 26th, 1900:  I can confirm it here, and so can you there:  “Nietzsche is dead.  P.S.  I am still living, and always will be.”

Citing a letter from Nietzsche to his sister, the Pope highlights the distinction Nietzsche drew between faith in God and the search for truth. He told his sister that if she wanted peace and happiness– then believe!–because it is a nothing pursuit, but, if she wanted truth, then she had to seek it, because it was made up of some ‘reality,’ so Nietzsche concluded, but only to man in his private life, and not in any higher sense (like to God or any higher power–thus no absolute truth) .

This is a distinction that still holds in our culture. To seek the truth is considered a noble endeavor. But, it has to me your own truth; what is true for you. We are encouraged, indeed, we are compelled by a kind of moral imperative, to seek our own truth, our own rules, and to construct our own reality.  Modern philosophers may not go around saying God is Dead, but say:  Our need for soulful absolute truth is dead.   We do better on our own, than trusting in God.  Therefore, turning to faith in God is seen as a weakness, a failure in taking up this call.   That’s the rebellion that some people have now versus God and versus people of the Catholic Church who live by faith.

But, if we are to take their advice and go seek out our own truth without God, where will we look? We have no other choice than this world. The point the pope makes is that in this situation we are no better off than the ancient pagans who were worshipping the Sun. The same lack of light on the meaning of our lives and on evil and death is still there. This world reveals nothing on these questions. Whether the light is the Sun or the light is our own will to power, we will still be in the dark on these central questions of human life. Only faith in God reveals to us the complete truth of who we are and what our lives are about.

We can say that this pursuit of having one’s own truth, and rejecting that there is a God of Truth will better and even excellent principles to follow, is a will to power.   Man wants to shake his fist to the sky and say “neh!”

In this introductory section of the encyclical, then, it compares the philosophy of Nietzsche, the “will to power”, with pagan worship of the sun. Both can only illuminate part of our reality. Neither can deal with the questions of sin, evil, suffering, and death. Nor can they open up the horizons of understanding as Faith in God can. The introduction goes on to speak of the future. In our secular society, the future becomes a dream, a dream to which we are called to give our full effort to achieve. This future dream is held out to be inevitable (the right side of history). It is also posited as reason limited to a scientific account of reality. So, there is a kind of moral imperative attached to supporting this dream future. There is also an imperative to leave out any transcendent account of the human person and his destiny.

The future for us, the baptized into Christ, is full of hope. But, this is a hope that transcends what this world can offer. This hope does not negate the call to bring God’s love into the world. It, in fact, frees us to do so in ways that are radical and truly self-denying. Without faith in God, there is nothing left but this life and the things it promises.

Without faith, we would just be going around in circles.

True progress comes from the increase in the manifestations of the Kingdom of God; in the presence in the world of that transforming love of God and of the horizon of understanding that is opened up to us by God’s revelation and self-gift in Jesus Christ.                  End of Part 1

Civil Rights March 50 years ago

Our current Catholic newspaper has memories and photos of the Civil Rights March and gathering at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.   It took place in late August.  Thus, people are remembering it now.   Plans are being made to pray and remember the 50th anniversary, and to see where we are before the Lord and our neighbor in racial equality.  0815132138

I visited the Lincoln Memorial last night.   There were many people there, even at 10 to 11 p.m.   The inside welcome center had a film and some photos that recalled the event that gathered so many with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.    We watched it, taking in the significance of that protest.  I thought how our Catholic Archbishop was there (he did the invocation to start it, as someone very involved in hosting travelers and planners of the March) and I know how Catholics were involved in this protest for social change in America.   It was a social justice issue that we had many Catholics on board to bring to the nation’s attention.   (O’Boyle went on to do many more things for racial justice.  The Black Catholic Office he established to work with the chancery office is still in operation, led by Deacon Al Turner, and he is working with the 50th Anniversary.)

Back to my tour of the Lincoln Memorial….   I was reading the walls of the lower Memorial of all that Lincoln wrote for racial equality.  In letters and speeches and Presidential positions on the matter, he campaigned for a better America.   He emphasized to Americans how our Declaration of Independence and Constitution recognizes how we are “all created equal in God’s sight.”   Lincoln called us to see the divine plan and to honor it.    He said that the unity of the nation had been disrupted by the slavery issue, and he wanted unity again: E  Pluribus Unum.

0815132218a     Nearby the Washington Monument, I also noticed in my evening stroll on the Mall that the construction is begun on the Smithsonian to African American history. Good.   And, with a president in the nearby White House who has African-American Black heritage, I noted that some of King’s dream speech is finding realization here in Washington.

 

A Convention to Review and Renew Vatican II Part 4

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In a final thought from the Convention, and thinking about Vatican II…

Vatican II did not do away with a sense of sin; yet some Catholics act like it was part of its message.  Some things that were strong before in the Church, like devotions, holy hours and adoration, confessions, fidelity to Sunday Mass, respect to priests, and supporting vocations to service to the Church, these things have taken a hit in the last few decades, and it points to a serious problem of people in the Church who have tried to no longer acknowledge sin in their lives and their continuing need for conversion into the holiness of Christ.   One can mis-call it “freedom.”   Yet we are not free from our responsiblities as members of the Faithful and disciples of Christ and His Eucharist.   What we are called to be free from is our sin .   The Catholic petition at Mass is:  “Deliver us, Lord, from every evil… In your mercy, keep us free from sin and…distress.”  In John’s epistle, God writes through his apostle to the church:  “Little children, do not sin.”

Vatican II has been used as an excuse for true living of the Catholic Way. “They have pushed away from guilt, thinking it to be liberating, but when all the time it has been the convictions of the Holy Spirit they have put off,” said a person at “Participation: Liturgy-Life-Mission.”  In our so-named convention, I would have liked to have heard more of this kind of straight talk.  In fact, even amidst all the great music of the conference, I wondered why I had not heard from any speaker in how we are dealing with such a sinful the world at this time.   Pastoral musicians need to ask: Are we writing music and prayers in response to the crisis about us? Are we calling people to repentance to God?  Are we urging people to confess their need for God?  Many are hurt and lost, and some sins are quite grave that are commonplace today.

As I learned a few new songs of crying out to God, I was glad that some convention songs touched on this theme, such as:  Marty Haugan’s song “I will glory in The Cross” and Nicholas Palmer’s “Fix Me, Jesus” and Irene Nowell ‘s Grail Psalm rendition of Psalm 88 (Lord my God, I call for help by day, I cry at night before you), yet along with it, I wondered if a speaker could have addressed our regress in these times meant for progress:  there is much disobedience and scandal and sinning going on right now.  Vatican II and its renewal is getting terribly slowed by sin in the Body of Christ.

Are we not clear in the Body of Christ, sometimes, of what is displeasing or pleasing to the Lord in coming to His table or into His house?  While the nice song goes: “All are welcome here” should we not also remind people Who the Host of this Assembly is, and what He might expect from gatherers?  All behavior is not welcome here.  Jesus, Who calls us, began His ministry in saying: “Repent.”

While God is merciful and just and slow to judge, He eventually will want us to respond into His mercy (which requires repentance and conversion) and He will want us to act in justice (which ain’t easy!!) and He will expect us to move to His grace, not to stay stubborn and hard-to-get.  Some want to come to the banquet of the Lamb table without their wedding garments on.  It’s not a good plan.  Jesus told a parable about that.  Matthew 22.  So–when does that parable of the Lord apply, and to whom?  Who needs to be cleansed and walk in holiness to our God?

Yet in first coming into the House of God (the Catholic church), I would hope the sinner in search of grace will not first meet judgment or coldness or indifference from the Lord’s member of the House.   That IS important, and probably the message behind the song: “All are welcome.”

But back to addressing the Catholic who might think that conversion is not their call. When we come into God’s Presence, He has a change waiting for us.  He wants to take away dark and put in His Light.  He wants to take out fear (by our repentance of it) and put in His courage and strength.  He wants us to know Him better, not just as an acquiantance or pal.   Do some Catholics think that acknowledging the Lordship of Christ and cooperaton into His holiness is an option (leaving room for serious sin to remain comfortably in their lives)? ! I raise this thought here because I thought I caught some of that mindset even among some conventioneers and perhaps in an ’elder’ of the movement this week.

Reluctance to submit to God is everywhere.  Yet Scripture says it clearly:  “If you do not acknowledge Me before the Father in Heaven, then I will not acknowledge you.”  Luke 12:8 and Luke 13:27.    We still have a call to obedience under the Lord. Acknowledging God is accepting His Truth and Authority, among other things.  We also regard God’s purity. Jesus did say in the Beatitudes                                                       !cid_3D7E6060EC804FBD9390C2A4743F086A@IBMA8CFDB28EA7  motherdolor_00000001394

that ”Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”   With that in mind, I still think that repentance and purity is the call to all fellow Catholics, with a regular use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation for their proper presentation to Our Lord at Mass.  I think that a serious sin–unrepented to God via His Church–is a stain brought to the liturgy.   It disrupts the liturgy more than we know.  People ought to confess their serious sins to God and be at peace with Him as they best preparation for liturgy.  (I go once a month.)

The convention did offer two sure opportunities for people to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the week, so I know the leaders believed in it (in the NPM office)!

Yet I am not convinced that many regular Catholics “get” this part of their faith.  Jesus inspired St. Paul to say to the Church in Corinth:  “And all things are of God: He has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation.  Know this: That God comes in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, through a Redeemer, so not to leave us to our own trespasses and guilt; but has committed to us His Word.  Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”

It sounds to me by that verse that God is still in the reconciling work, and not retired from it after the Cross, but instead applying His Mercy from Calvary to needy persons for reconciliation, or friendship back to God. God also has chosen ambassadors for reconciling work (to use The Sacrament) and it is clear that Paul the Apostle and priest understands himself to be such a man of ministry for this work.

In Liturgy, I am usually a bit concerned for the whole parish that they may not be using me (or other priests) properly and frequently enough for cleansing of their sins, so as to approach the altar in all sincerity. They may be awfully downplaying their need for confession in The Church.        Some Catholics even might be a bit casual about their sins.   But a Bible verse of our Saviour suggests a different course:  Matt. 5:24 says:
“Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother: and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift.”  (Douay-Rh. Bible)

That Bible verse does not need an “updating” of fixing up or reinterpretation— I think it holds true that God wants people to use the Sacrament of Reconciliation more often.

In Vatican II’s call for openness (Aggiornamento, Italian for “A bringing up to date”), I heard that as a call from God through His pontiff John 23 for freshness in the Church.   God says: Get the stale air and stagnancy out and flee from the status quo mentality.   Then, Let the Spirit work!

Some hear it in another interpretation, as if they are being given an ‘open’ permission to look past their own sins as “no big deal”, and to likewise look past sins in other people, and to simply to love the sinner.   Yet the Catholic adage is to love the sinner but still hate the sin.   Sin is still bad.   We will need to be a people who keep fighting against it.

So–is openness a new word for an excuse for unrepentance?  There’s the tough one to sort out theologically and socially! Some argue what that Aggiornamento word means.  Yet how are we to be “up to date,” but while sinning, when following the Lord?  Hmmm….   Why is the Cross of Jesus still our Catholic symbol? Does it have to do with our present need for it?  Or our need for the Lord’s Sacrifice over and finished?  Like, “I’m saved and that settles it.”  Does that approach hold up before God?

So I was wondering…. What modern things, so unbecoming to God, are being passed on, in the culture, as seen to be an up to date and ok issue (an not a sin problem to them)?  I think that the living together (fornication) issue pretty much applies here as an example of something that is not excused by “openness.”    (Yet at the Convention, a few people wanted to apply that Aggiornamento expression to mean open leniency from God and the Church on sexual issues.  ‘Interesting.)

Well, we do have a great need for our Savior, and we have a Great Savior for our need.

I can end with the words of a Spiritual that we were re-introduced to at the convention:  Here’s the words:   There is more love somewhere, somewhere.  There is more love somewhere, somewhere.  I’m gonna keep on till I find it.  There is more love somewhere, ‘gonna keep on till I find it.

A Convention to Review and Renew Vatican II Part 3

This is Part Three of my comments on a Catholic convention I just attended.

0729131336-1-1  Throughout this Pastoral Musicians convention, references keep going back to the Church documents of Vatican II.   We reflected on the liturgical changes that began 50 years ago.   Mass in the vernacular was the biggest change.   Yet other changes came along that have also greatly impacted us. …..

For example, the reinstitution of the Rite of Christian Inititiation of Adults (RCIA) was a major deal.   The Church looked back to its 2nd to 6th century processes of initiating a new member into the fold, and they returned to that way of doing things.  It has helped us today in 2013 to have a communal welcome and instruction to our new members. In the past, conversion classes were just in private with a priest and it kept the general parish out of connection and celebration, but the Vatican II changes brought the parish community to get involved and care for the newly-interested in the Church.   Music and liturgical rites developed for the Holy Mass to receive and welcome those persons in the RCIA, in compliment to the classes being more welcoming for the person to the community.   While priests may still instruct the RCIA persons as much as they’d like, now also does he have help and support and a connection and celebration into the Mass with the newly-interested in the faith.  We ‘conventioneers’ gave that renewal of the Church a thumbs up.  We also look forward to the rites of Lent and the Easter Vigil that receive our new Catholics.

Another change we pondered from 50 years ago to now was how we included the Scriptures in Holy Mass and other liturgies in a new way via Vatican II’s direction.  A 3-year cycle was put in for an across-the-board Sunday plan of reading the main parts of the Bible in that time, complimented with a 2-year cycle of daily Mass readings.   It all was a clever, complimentary work.  It does amaze us these days how often the various 4 Scriptures match up or play off of one another.  It was probably the Holy Spirit arranging all of this, right?   (Not just a lucky work by some Vatican II men. 🙂   In today’s Mass of August 4th, I was gleefully aware of how the Psalm (90) had a perfect compliment to the Gospel (The “Poor Fool” dying in Luke with tons of grain left in his storehouses) and it also worked well with the Ecclesiastes and Colossians selections of the Mass, fitting nicely to a homily message of “Investing for the Future.”  It all easily inter-connected.  Fascinating.   I couldn’t have orchestrated it better if I had tried.     (Yet someone had obviously worked on themes and matches and timing of verses, upon Vatican II’s call to renewal.)

Another thing that was brought up at the convention by a speaker is that Vatican II brought the Church back to the basics.  Besides going back to Scripture, the basic symbols of our Church received a come-back.  Back to a prominent place were the altar, the baptismal font/pool, the holy oils, the bread and the wine.  The liturgy brought us back to a dialogue prayer.  There was more give-and-take with one another.   There was even a rite of peace and some more exchange and acknowledgement of one another in the pews.    As Vatican II looked to take us back to our roots, we recalled how the original Mass and subsequent Masses of the early Church were indeed home or communal gatherings. Mass was not so much a big production or overly formal event, but rather it was an assembly of believers (“Koinonia” in the Greek, which means a group of co-participants).   Vatican II had the Church take a look at her worship gatherings and re-visit the question: Is the Mass a koinonia and an intimate or homey gathering?   With gates and rails and large separations of the clergy at altar from the people in the congregation– the people of Vatican II saw they had some work of renewal to do.   For a good part, they accomplished a bringing together or assembly style worship again to the Mass.

The convention talks and presentations agreed that Women’s inclusion and lay inclusion in the Mass was a big step forward of Vatican II (though some said not thoroughly enough yet).    Yet 50 years has brought a change to the Mass of who is participating now–it is so evident!  As I pondered this point, I thought of the ways in my life where and when I was invited forward (as a layman) to be of help to the liturgy.   I had not been an altar server, which was the traditional way for a boy or young man to assist the Mass.  However, from high school life through college, I had been a participant at Mass in many ways (of which Vatican II had opened up), as lector, cantor, extraordinary eucharistic minister and folk group member, which then led me to becoming a sacristan too.  I felt like Vatican II invited me more closely in to assist the priest.   (Later, it would lead me to consider the priesthood, which beforehand I had no interest in). I will also say that the greater dialogue at Mass from the laity did appeal to my participation.  In my childhood, I viewed the Mass to be mostly about the priest.  We had more of on onlooker role–and that’s how the Mass was set up.  It was a clergy-heavy lead.  Laypersons were followers.  Priests were the only ones called the celebrants of the Mass. Now things have changed in recent times.  I like that we all are called celebrants now.  As a priest for 25 years, I know that I want others to have the joy to be at Mass, and to be “engaged” in the Mass.   I know from experience as presider that it is built-in that I can have a meaningful time at the altar, with all the parts I have as presider.  Yet the best Masses I have prayed have been when I have noted that all the others at Mass are enjoying it and finding meaning and participation in it.  That’s all more possible after Vatican II.  Priests (that used to have mostly a self-centric style of the Mass) have had to relent that concept of it being “their” Mass to that of it being “our” Mass (or as Vatican II dubbed it: The People’s Mass).   In Vatican II’s renewal to the Sacred Liturgy, it was a welcome thing to disclose everyone else’s importance in the Mass.  It should be a Mass enjoyed by all.  Vatican II shared with us the Biblical understanding of “the priesthood of the laity,” based on themes and definitions from the book of Hebrews.   It was a huge acknowledgement of “all” the Church’s members.   So, anyway, at this convention of 97% laity in it, they were happy for 50 years of “priesthood of the laity or believer.”   (Today’s Sunday Week 18, C reading in Colossians does say it:  that all united before God as one, irregardless of gender, age, race, origin or Gentile or Jew. )  While the Holy Mass still seems a little clergy-heavy at times, the mix is much better, it seems,  than it used to be in pre-Vatican II.   Prayerful inclusion was increased with Vatican II’s implementation.

At Vatican II’s renewal, The Sacred Liturgy also received a sense of purpose for its other meanings.  Besides a rite to receive Holy Communion, which people seemed to readily comprehend as a reason to go to Mass, Vatican II challenged people to also see the Mass in broader ways.  It was now more of a prayer of intercession. It was also now a plea for justice, and a call to evangelism and witness, and an invitation to more community.   Right on.

At the convention, we heard Vatican II described as a “happy surprise:” For God, because His Church actually heard and responded to His call. For the Church, in that we found ourselves able to undergo renewal, even with our central Mystery, the Holy Mass.

Convention speakers hoped for more “faith-surprise” to come ahead, even in our carrying forth the Vatican II spirit.  One presenter reminded us of the words from the opening speech of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pope John 23 had said:  “The substance of the ancient doctrines of the Deposit of Faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another.”  John 23 was calling for new forms of presentation.   Here he was distinguishing between substance and form, and he was reminding the bishops of the world that they had to address the need to change the form of many of our rituals, our ways of expressing and teaching doctrines, and so forth.

In quoting another speaker at the convention, they put it like this: “People in ministry have to think about the form of what they say and do.   Form is something that can be developed, but usually it can be developed only through some type of evaluation, review, continuing education,mentoring.  Bad form, however, is not to be accepted any longer.  If we are insensitive and could care less, then the result is a less-than-edefying and effective Church.”

Perhaps the pope could have just said it less formally, and bluntly, by just saying:  Let’s be less boring.  Let’s be all engaged in our prayer, rather than staring around stoicly.  Let’s remember that what we do and how we do it must work out together–substance and form.  One without the other hurts the celebration.       Let’s aim for more celebration in what we do.

I can just hear Pope John 23 doing that and saying: Church: Wake up.

Celebration is not just a personal thing with the priest praying the prayers, as Vatican II said that we all are to be involved in the Mass.   The Mass is for all the members of the Body to join to the Head, Who is Jesus Christ. participation in the Life of God among us, brothers and sisters.   This– I sense–was a message of the council.

When I saw a few thousand laity at a convention, all whom serve a purpose to assist the liturgy and prayer of the Church, I was thinking:  Hooray!  There’s lots of help for liturgy.  For any awful place to be is alone as a priest to generate all the appeal and work of a liturgy.  He’ll just burn out, and he cannot pull it off too well.

The large banner behind the stage of the convention featured the large word:  PARTICIPATION.       I say Amen to that!

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The convention met this year on the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, so people were remembering back to the past times in the Church.

I remember being a youth at Mass and seeing all the things that the priest was doing, and which he was enjoying (or at least keeping busy about), and then I compared it to the less active part I had in the Mass.  I wanted to feel a part of that intimacy of Mass.  So I would close my eyes and try to ponder heaven or God’s presence being just past my sense of sight, and I longed to have a vision of God or some experience of His closeness to me.

I was onto something.  I realized that there was much more going on in the Mass, and that I might be able to tap into it.

Another thing that could have brought me into more participation in the Mass was in altar serving.  Yet I was didn’t ever have that opportunity until my first day in seminary.  It probably could have helped a lot, yet the participation I wanted more of did have something, pray tell, to do with being included more in the pew and not being left out in any big way.

Vatican II was happening all around me as I was growing up.  It was all happening at once, though things took their time to fully change.  I recall we had half modern English and half Latin prayed Masses at one time. Curious!  That was in the mid-60’s, I think.

I was a Catholic parochial school student from 1962 and on, so this experience and perspective probably gave me more of an inside view of things as a kid.   I could notice that the priests and sisters were under a fairly radical change to the way they always did things.   My First Communion was as a Vatican II Communicant (1964–2nd grade). I still received the Lord at an altar rail and on my tongue.  That year I would receive my First Confession, too, and in the confessional box.   Yet later in my growing up it would all change for me, and not too long afterwards, in receiving Holy Eucharist standing up and (optionally) in the hand, and I would no longer enter a “box” for confession, but be introduced to a “reconciliation room” and told I didn’t have to visit it as often as I had visited the “box” for admitting my sins.  That was a startling change.

I was at St. Pius X parish from fourth grade up through high school graduation (1975), and the period of change to the liturgy was pretty dramatic from 1966 and on.    In sitting at a liturgy convention this past week, it dawned on me all the ch-ch-changes that we’ve been through in the liturgy.   The latest has been in praying with the new 2011 Missal, and to try to deal with its challenges.   Also, I have been more perplexed of how to help our young generations to understand the Mystery of Christ that we have going on in our Catholic Faith, and not to see them get lost in the secular humanism of the day.   I wonder what God is doing through all this.  We cannot see easily of what His works are, except by these realities of the unseen into the seen of the Church and her Sacraments and her liturgy.  May her liturgies show the beauty and grace of Christ.

A Convention to Renew and Review Vatican II Part 2

A Convention to Review and Renew in Vatican II’s Liturgy Reform   Part 2

Imagine a week of all sorts of Catholic music, from horns and organs, to choirs of all types, and contemporary and tradition singers galore.   That was the convention I just went on.  The 5 days were filled with music.

While we also had talks and workshops and a big ‘store’ to sample and look at things or hear live musicians demonstrating their new cd/ download … the experience of all the music to God’s glory was the best.

0729132053-1  Much of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians Convention was a celebration of music to God.  The Convention was not just held in a hotel, but also spread out in churches all over the city.  Here above shows a brass ensemble playing some beautiful music in St. Matthew’s Cathedral.                        Down below shows  a large choir singing heritage Gospel music pieces that did deeply touch the soul.  It was held in Nativity Parish. 08011319380801131937and the church was interesting, too!

 

Here below is a sung Mass with Cardinal Dinardo of Houston/Galveston.  It was held in the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, complete with all kinds of music.  Much of the Mass parts were chanted (clergy and lay parts).  The church was filled, and it resounded with so much loveliness in pastoral music.   Wow.  (Too bad I don’t have a sound byte.)

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Yet the bulk of our music time was in the Convention Hall.  We were introduced to lots of music there, and people enjoyed learning and singing along with it.   I have a couple of pics showing that here…

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In some of our smaller workshops we also sang music.  I enjoyed a survey of the Psalms in one workshop, that studied passages from a new book on the meaning of the Psalms, and then we would sing the psalm and try to convey the meaning of it.

Another rich experience was taking an hour one night for Taize Prayer.  This special kind of meditative sung and musical prayer was not new to me, but Taize always conveys a newness and peacefulness about it.

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As we gathered in this conference, we tried to do so with a look at what Vatican II did to the Church.   Actually, I liked the quote that someone said, “It is not what we do to the liturgy, but what the liturgy does to us.”   They also reminded everyone that the Church is a growing, moving onward people in pilgrimage, and not a static community.  Movements like Vatican II are inevitable, if the Holy Spirit is at work among us.  He will do to us what we need to have done to be children of God.

Discernment of what the Spirit is saying and leading is the key thing.  The Spirit will work with the Church’s leaders, as He is given to them for unity and truth and a way of crying out to God together, saying “Abba, Father!”   It is important to remember some things along this line that Pope Benedict had taught.

May 23, 2012.  Wednesday audience.  Vatican City.  Pope Benedict

Dear brothers and sisters,

Last Wednesday I showed how St. Paul says that the Holy Spirit is the great teacher of prayer and teaches us to address God with the affectionate words of children, calling Him “Abba, Father”. This is what Jesus did; even in the most dramatic moment of His earthly life, He never lost confidence in the Father and always called out to Him with the intimacy of the beloved Son. In Gethsemane, as He feels the anguish of death, His prayer is: “Abba! Father! All things are possible to Thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt” (Mark 14:36).

From the very first steps of her journey, the Church received this invocation and made it her own, especially in the prayer of the Our Father, in which we daily say: “Father … Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (cf. Matthew 6:9-10). In the Letters of St. Paul we find it twice. The Apostle, as we just heard, addresses himself to the Galatians with these words: “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!'” (Galatians 4:6). And at the heart of that hymn to the Spirit, which is Chapter 8 of the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul affirms: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: ‘Abba! Father!'” (Romans 8:15). Christianity is not a religion of fear but of trust, and of love for the Father who loves us.

The Holy Spirit is the precious and necessary gift that makes us children of God, that effects that filial adoption to which all human beings are called, for as the divine blessing contained in the Letter to the Ephesians states: God, in Christ, “chose us before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and immaculate in his sight in charity. He predestined us to be his adopted sons (daughters) through Jesus Christ.”  (Eph 1:4)

In the manner of a music conference, the Spirit was in much of the Song.  He is the Church’s New Song.

 

 

 

 

A Convention to Review and Renew Vatican II Part One

A wonderful Catholic convention just took place in Washington D.C. last week.  It was the National Association of Pastoral Musicians Annual Convention.  Catholics (and others) in liturgy and worship positions in the Church (and Christian churches in the U.S.) gathered to share music and stories of faith, while also reflecting on how life since the Vatican II Council has affected people into the pews and their experience of liturgy (that would cover, thus, the past fifty years).

I attended this convention.   All of its main speakers each day (5) would address the Vatican II impact on liturgy and worship.  The opening liturgy was quite a celebration, showing gladness for the renewal that came to our Mass and prayers together.  They processed banners (which formed a Vatican picture of the 1963 Council event), and they had dancers with streamers and symbols of winds of change, and it was accompanied by boisterous and dramatic music.  0729131336-1-1  banners coming 0729131337-1 singers and ‘streamers’0729131337b-1 and a convention choir.0802131200                                       The Theme:  Participation!  Liturgy  Life  Mission.

Of some brief lines from the convention speakers that followed the next few days, Father John Baldowin recalled that liturgical reform was not just in the air in the 20th century, but astir even in the two centuries before it.  He said that it was not 1963 but 1786 when the synod of a diocese suggested several changes that are now taken for granted, such as one altar per church, earlier and more frequent reception of Holy Communion, the ending of the silently prayed eucharistic prayer by the priest into a heard one, and a simplified liturgical rite.  Fr. Baldowin mentioned movements, such as the Benedictines in France (Solesmes) in the 19th century and many French theologians in the 20th century.  He mentioned Pope Pius XII and his Liturgical commissions, and renewal of the Holy Week and Easter rites, while also saying that such thinkers as of the Tubingen school put forth ideas like “Liturgy realizes itself in a common priesthood… Liturgy is action of the whole Christ: Head and members.”  Baldowin concluded that many things were leading up to the sweeping reforms of Vatican II to the Sacred Liturgy, the Church was evolving.
Convention Speaker Rita Ferrone talked about memorable days for the Church in her lifetime.  She said that ‘most Americans will remember Nov. 22, 1963, as the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, but liturgists will note that date also as the day the Second Vatican Council approved the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.” ‘ (It was the document of Vat. II with much anew to say on our celebration of Mass.)  She said that the bishops and leaders at Vatican II there asked for the faithful to put forth a “full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy and to do so before all else.” She said that made this point 28 times in a document.  She said that what they asked for what we live an “actuosos” or a full active bundle of energetic participation in the Liturgy. Wow.  Those really were words of revival.    She told us that the purpose of the Vatican II Council, as defined by those leading it, was “to bear Good News to the world–to engage the world.   4 key words were used for the Mission:  Adapt    Renew   Share(Ecumenism)  and Evangelize.

In the Adapt part, the Church was to be willing to make changes to connect with the world, involving words and books, rites and approaches, and where to emphasize our life of faith.   In the Renew part, the Church was to go back to Jesus her source and remember her original call.     In the Sharing/Ecumenism part, we were to learn of the Spirit on how to be one, and live in the balance of people being both children of the divine and people of the earth, with reverence in the center. She said this would mean ‘being in the tension between the human and the divine, of being present in this world, yet not being at home in it.’  We were to better understand our part in the liturgy”, as Ferrone said, “though an aggriemento (of doors and windows wide open for freshness)” In the Evangelism part, the Church was to take on the shape of the Sacraments, living the dying/rising Mystery of her Lord.  She said that now more people understand the term “mystagogy” (the guiding into mysteries, of a people formed for Christ but needing to keep going on). She said, jokingly, that in the old days, we might have misheard it as Mister Gogy.

Ferrone said she was happy with 50 years of renewal, while also sounding a little grumpy that more hasn’t come along and about.  She said how we still need much more renewal, either in a better implementation of what we received 50 years ago, or from a Vatican III, she amusingly suggested.0729131335-1
The food for thought was surrounded by sessions of listening to new music in the Church (by original artists) and/or participating in it (especially in singing it).  Much printed music was distributed for all to enjoy and go along.  A wide variety of persons attended the conference, a few thousand in all.  Most of them were pastoral musicians, bringing music to the Church in full time or part time positions in their parishes.

Summer Ritual: MLB Baseball Games

The first major league game I ever attended was in the 1960’s to go see Mickey Mantle and the Yankees at their stadium in the Bronx part of New York City.   That was old Yankee Stadium (“the house that Ruth built”).   Now they have a new Yankee Stadium, and I go almost each Summer now to see a game there in the new and improved park (though with accompaning higher ticket prices).  Still, I love to go there.  I remember being first a boy who loved baseball.  I had my dad or my grandpa to take me to see the big leaguers.  I had a pack of baseball cards in my pocket and a scorecard and/or a transistor radio.  It was a favorite Summer time thing to do.  I had my #7 Yankees t-shirt to wear back then (Mick’s number) and ballcap, which permitted me to daydream a bit of what it was like to be Mickey and club those long homers.   I ate my hot dog (always with mustard) and I cheered for the players in pinstripes.

My move to Maryland in the latter 60’s changed me into an Orioles fan.  0803131824a-1Since the Yanks and O’s competed in the same league (and later division), I had to cheer up on the B’more Birds and start hoping that the New Yorkers would lose and fall behind in the standings.    (As I write this, the standings are to my likings as the O’s are 3 games better than the Yankees.  Hurrah!   Yet both teams are trailing the Boston Red Sox and the upstart Tampa Bay Rays for first place.  It’s quite a 2013 pennant race.)

Anyway, the new guys in the late 1960’s to replace my affection for Mickey Mantle (who retired anyway in 1968) was O’s first baseman Boog Powell and fellow O’s players Frank and Brooks Robinson.    As I went to an Orioles game this week in Orioles Park at Camden Yards, there was Boog signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans.   Although he hasn’t played in years, adoring fans remember his time in the 1960’s-70’s when the O’s were a great team.  He will always be popular until the day he dies for helping them win and getting the Birds to the World Series four times and into the play-offs numerous times.  His 1970 season especially stands out with fans as memorable.0803131824-1

Brooks and Frank are equally popular with Orioles fans, yet Boog shows up for most home games at the ballpark now, and is a willing person to take a couple of hours and chat with fans.   (He is inspired to do so mostly because he has a Boogs barbeque stand to attract fans to eat what he is selling!)   Still, it is a great thing that he is there, and everybody wins in it:  Boog, the O’s and the fans.    Here is a photo of him with a fan.

In other related news, the O’s lost the game that night to the Seattle Mariners, 8 to 4.   Michael Sanders hit two homers for Seattle to seal their victory.  Two Orioles also hit solo homers in the loss, but we could have used a hitter like Boog last night to catch up and win the game.

Well, anyway, the barbeque sandwich was good!

And sitting and watching a ballgame was just great– a rite of Summer.