Monday, September 29, 2008

Paul as explained by Peter

Fr. Peter Cameron, O.P., that is. Fr. Cameron, as you may know, is the editor of Magnificat, a monthly spiritual guide for Catholics. He came to my parish this evening to say Holy Mass for us (which I regrettably missed) and to give a presentation on how St. Paul learned to pray the Our Father. Being the guy I am, I took copious notes (3+ pages worth), and I'll provide them here in a couple days. For now, though, I just want to make a few comments:

While I missed Mass (I had a late dinner and was finishing a Jolly Rancher as I pulled into the parking lot, anyway), I arrived just in time for the Agnus Dei. After it was done, I entered the nave and knelt behind the last pew as he held aloft the Lamb of God. After he had consumed the Host, it was a blessing to see the reverence with which he collected the particles from the paten into the Chalice. Once the congregation arose to receive Communion, I arose and went downstairs (to the parish hall, where the presentation would be).

I love the witness which priests and religious give by their very attire. Wearing his white habit with deluxe over-sized Rosary ;) is like walking with a cross on one's back, hunched over not in shame but in humility, not in pride but boasting in our Lord. Branson, a candidate in the RCIA program (for whom I am sponsor) asked me about the enormous wooden Rosary around his waist. The answer I gave -- and if I'm wrong about this, someone, please correct me! -- was threefold. First, it is a visible sign to others of his faith. Second, it is a visible reminder to himself of his faith. Third, it is a more traditional and historical form of the Rosary, since the original prayer "beads" were actually knotted ropes of considerable size.

His presentation was phenomenal, and not only did I take notes on his content, I also have some points on his demeanor and candor. I'm giving a presentation this Advent on Eucharistic Adoration and its link to the Incarnation (and how Mary is our guide in Adoration... hmm, a magnificat link is there...), so knowing how to give a presentation from paper without sounding like I'm just reading an essay out loud is important. (If anyone reading has advice in this regard, I will be eternally grateful, God-willing.)

There were a few things he said -- so casually! -- that pass as something of a Shibboleth in my book. Once such thing was when he recalled the recent instruction from the Holy Father (by way of the CDWDS and the CDF) which directs us to refrain from pronouncing the tetragrammaton (YHWH, usually pronounced "Yahweh") in the liturgy. Although I've seen that instruction, and I know Bishop Serratelli has (and thus, I would hope, all the Bishops in the USCCB), I do not know how many priests have had this latest prudential decision of the Church passed on to them. It's refreshing to hear it.

My growing Scriptural awareness, my fledgling fascination with Latin, and my steady diet of Church documents came in handy. He asked a few questions throughout his talk, some of which I was able to answer. What is the etymology of "companion", he asked? Com = "with", panion > pan = "bread", said I. Is being Christian the result of an ethical choice, he asked? Prompting us to recall the first paragraph of the Holy Father's Deus Caritas est, I recalled that His Holiness wrote that being Christian is the result of an encounter with a Person, Jesus Christ. It's more than that, even: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction." And among others, when he asked about Jesus repeating someone's name ("Saul, Saul...", Acts 9), I proffered "Martha, Martha" (from Luke 10:38ff); he responded with an anecdote concerning the manner in which Jesus might have said that name once, and then a second time: "Martha..." -- no response -- "MARTHA!"

Finally, Fr. Cameron is very personable, not like a celebrity or performer, but in a genuine way which cannot be rehearsed -- at least, I haven't been able to rehearse it successfully -- and is most certainly the result of grace. I know some priests who have this personable quality about them -- and not sound biased, but my brother and my pastor are two of them -- and God is truly glorified by their conduct both within and without the liturgy.

Stay tuned for my notes on the presentation. Things fell so beautifully into place.


Gretchen said...

Oh, thank you for posting about this! I subscribe to Magnificat and I've always admired Fr. Cameron for the wonderful job he does with it. Can't wait for the notes.

Weekend Fisher said...

The best luck I've had with presentations is when I just bring the outline with me in my hand in case I get lost, but other than that say it fresh while I'm talking rather than reading it. Fwiw. ;)

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Adoro te Devote said...

On giving talks...know what you're going to say, write it in outline form, which allows you to expand on certain points without losing your place.

Being solid in what you know is key. If you miss details, if you have the main points, it's fine.

Either that, or memorize your essay and then practice it by talking to doors, mirrors, walls, etc. (That's what we did when I was on the Forensics Team in High School...each speech had to be exactly the same and we weren't allowed to use our script more than once or twice.)

And...pray! That way the Holy Spirit can work and you might end up saying something that you don't even remember. (That happened to me was really weird).