Saturday, January 30, 2010

Giving Vatican II an aggiornamento of its own

First, I ask that you read Vatican II's (short) decree on social communications, Inter mirifica.  Then realize how woefully out of date it is.  Time for some aggiornamento ("bringing up to date"), no?

Second, read Fr. Z's post on an article in The Catholic Herald about Pope Benedict, priests, and blogging.  (See also here.)

Third, read Pope Benedict's recent message for World Communication Day.

I'm not saying the Magisterium needs to expend time and resources and energy on some official document about clerical blogging — I think the Pope's recent comments suffice, really — but I am curious how many Catholics recognize this as an actual fruit of the Council, as a positive meeting point between the Church and the modern world.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

If I were on "Deep in Scripture"...

I think I would choose these passages to talk about with Marcus Grodi:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God — not because of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Likewise, my brethren, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. (Romans 7:4)

And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

And so, from the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:9-10)
If I had to pare it down, I would choose Ephesians and 2 Corinthians, but really, all four excerpts together paint the picture:
  • We are saved, not by good works, but for good works
  • God has prepared these good works for us ahead of time:  they are His will for us
  • We are enabled to carry out these good works through Christ's Resurrection
  • God provides for us that we may carry out these good works and bear fruit for God

Language in the liturgy

I just finished reading one of my Christmas gifts, Beyond Smells and Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy by Mark Galli.  The final chapter, "Words of Living W-A-T-E-R," discusses the use of a particular form of language in the liturgy.  I think these paragraphs are apropos to the conversations, debates, and arguments surrounding the new English translation of the Roman Missal:
In a media age, words come at us from all directions, like arrows from a thousand bows.  Most of these arrows are marketing words, advertising words, words designed to manipulate us, to sell us something. [...] For these reasons, among others, we distrust words, especially words that have been fashioned and shaped for the occasion by Madison or Pennsylvania Avenue.

So it's not surprising that many are put off by the words of the liturgy.  Surely, if we're trying to worship sincerely, praise a God who loves us as a father loves his children, we want to use language is "authentic."  What child uses formal speech to communicate with their "daddy"?  We want nothing to do with pretension, stuffiness, and any rhetoric that prevents us from being real.

In our desire to be real, we start thinking that authenticity is another word for spontaneity, as if everything we say at the spur of the moment is more true, more sincere than words we craft carefully.  For many, the Freudian slip is considered more authentic than the measured reply.

Indeed, sometimes what we blurt out thoughtlessly is actually what we mean and feel.  But more often than not, what we blurt out is ill-considered and something we either need to quality or apologize for.

The liturgy's answer to crafted language that deceives or manipulates is not to abandon crafted language but to shape it so that it reveals reality.  The most carefully crafted language in our culture tends to be poetry.  And poetry at its finest moments subverts our best attempts at hiding from reality. [...] The poetry of liturgy has just this power.  The liturgy contains words that have been shaped and crafted over the centuries.  It is formal speech.  It is public poetry.  As such it reaches into us to reveal not only the unnamed reality of our lives but the God who created us.  "In worship the voice of the Church calls up thoughts and feelings often far beyond us," wrote one liturgical theologian, "yet to which something in us faintly but firmly responds." (pp. 113-114)
I liked this book a great deal.  It's written by an Episcopalian, so it doesn't always portray a view of liturgy (and certain liturgical actions) that coincides with the Catholic view, but it is an excellent book about what the liturgy has that attracts us to it.

I might share a few other quotes from this book.  It will certainly be in the bibliography of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the Priest.  (I'll need to read it again with a highlighter and a notepad handy, though!)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Weekend Roundup

I really need to stop starring articles in Google Reader to read later, because I rarely actually get around to reading them.  I'm trying to read some of them now (while my wife does some cardio with EA Sports Active); consider this a three-day weekend round-up of worthwhile posts (most of which are from before this weekend).

The Pope of Christian Unity on Ecumenism

Benedict XVI then went on to thank the members of the congregation for their efforts towards "the full integration of groups and individuals of former Anglican faithful into the life of the Catholic Church, in accordance with the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus. The faithful adherence of these groups to the truth received from Christ and presented in the Magisterium of the Church is in no way contrary to the ecumenical movement," he said, "rather, it reveals the ultimate aim thereof, which is the realisation of the full and visible communion of the disciples of the Lord." (Source)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

News on Haiti

Archbishop of Port-au-Prince dies in earthquake (Catholic Spirit)

Donate now through Catholic Relief Services.

Charity and material gain

(This post does not address the issue of the tax-deductability of charitable donations.)

The idea of the Vatican selling its artwork to feed the hungry of the world was brought up recently.  A few days ago, Will Smith has said he will participate in an art auction to raise money for the hungry in Haiti.  And now, following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, I imagine there will be similar ventures to aid Haitians in this most dire time of need.

Why does charity, to the secular world, always seem to involve getting something tangible back?  Let's take the example of the Vatican auctioning off its artwork and giving the money to feed the hungry.  It wouldn't be giving its money to feed the hungry, it would giving the money of the auction-winners to feed the hungry; the end result would be:  1) the hungry fed (for a while), 2) the auction-winners in possession of beautiful artwork, and 3) the Vatican no longer in possession of beautiful artwork.  Why couldn't the auction-winners just circumvent the whole process and donate the money themselves without receiving the benefit of artwork?

Thoughts on The Feast of Faith

One of my Christmas gifts was Card. Ratzinger's The Feast of Faith, a collection of essays and other writings on "approaches to a theology of the liturgy".  I'm 100 pages into it (of 150), and it's full of excellent insights into the liturgy, full of observations which are timeless and timely.  His praise and his criticisms of the liturgical reform which followed the Second Vatican Council are sometimes specific, sometimes general, but he continues to return to a necessity of continuity.

What I have read so far dealt with 1) the theological basis of prayer and liturgy, 2) the form of the Eucharistic celebration (is it a meal? a sacrifice? both? which first?), 3) the structure of liturgical celebration, and 4) what it means for some things to be mutable (changeable) or immutable (permanent) in the liturgy.  The remaining four sections deal with liturgical music, the significance of Corpus Christi, orientation during liturgical prayer, and parish life 15 years after the Council.

A Pastoral Magisterium: Bp. Nickless' pastoral letter (part 5)

This is part five of a ten-part series on the recent pastoral letter of Bishop R. Walker Nickless for the diocese of Sioux City, Iowa.  I will be providing the full text of this letter (slightly edited for formatting) with emphasis and commentary.

(Warning:  This is a long post!)

Bishop Nickless is addressing two fundamental aspects of the life of the Church:  her inward identity as the Body of Christ called to holiness, and her outward mission to evangelize the whole world and sanctify it.  Let us turn our attention to Section IV, Pastoral Priorities for the Diocese of Sioux City. There are five priorities given, all of which are meant to first turn our discerning gaze inward (to measure ourselves against the full stature of our Lord) and then outward (to take up our vocations in sincerity and faithfulness).  Each of the five priorities will be given a separate post. The first is:
1. We must renew our reverence, love, adoration and devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament, within and outside of Mass. A renewal of Eucharistic Spirituality necessarily entails an ongoing implementation of the Second Vatican Council's reform of the liturgy as authoritatively taught by the Church's Magisterium, the promotion of Eucharistic Adoration outside of Mass, regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Eucharist and our Mother.
Each of these points (liturgical reform, Eucharistic adoration, regular Confession, devotion to the Mother of God, with the addition of one other, the Divine Office) will be covered individually in the following paragraphs, after a lengthy introduction to the liturgy in general.  Remember that the core of these five points is renewed Eucharistic spirituality.
The Eucharist is the "source and summit" of the Christian life because it contains our entire spiritual good, namely, Jesus Christ himself. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 10; Lumen Gentium 11) His "once and for all" sacrifice is made present on our altars, offered to the Father on our behalf and received as food for our pilgrim journey. (Heb. 7:27; cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia 11) All that we are and do should flow from our participation in the Eucharist and lead back to it. It is absolutely central to our identity and faith as Catholics. It enables us to engage in our mission. Without a proper reverence, love, adoration and devotion to the Eucharist and the liturgy, we are lost.
Drawing on the documents of the Second Vatican Council, and using what is probably the most well-known phrase from the Council — surpassing "full, conscious, and active participation" and even "the People of God" — Bishop Nickless explains briefly what the Eucharist is:  it is the making-present of Christ's perfect sacrifice which is then offered to the Father (something often overlooked) before it is given to us in the Paschal banquet.  ("The Eucharist is not a meal among friends," said Pope Benedict in his homily at the close of the 2008 International Eucharistic Congress, but rather "a mystery of covenant.")

As our source and summit, everything we are and do as Catholics (identity and mission) flows from our participation in the Eucharist (whether by reception or offering or contemplation) and leads us (and others!) back to the Eucharist.

That being said about the Eucharist, Bishop Nickless now turns his attention more generally to the liturgy and its purpose and object:
The primary purpose of all liturgy, and especially of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is the worship of God. We sometimes forget this. We go to Mass to worship God, simply because He deserves to be worshiped, and we, his creatures, ought to worship him. Too often we forget that God is transcendent and ineffable, incomprehensibly greater than we can imagine. He is infinite truth and goodness shining forth in radiant beauty. He has created us, keeps us in existence, and redeems us from our sins. In short, He is worthy of our worship.
That first sentence should be memorized by every Catholic, period.  Liturgies (and Mass in particular) are not occasions of socializing.  We do not go to Mass to hear parish announcements.  We do not go to Vespers to hear the choir.  We do not go Eucharistic benediction so we can be somewhere quiet for a change.  We might hear announcements at Mass, we might hear the choir at Vespers, and we might be somewhere quiet for a change at benediction, but those are not the reasons we participate in these liturgies.  The liturgy is meant first and foremost for the worship of the Triune God.

Bishop Nickless points out some particular characteristics of God:  transcendent, ineffable (i.e. indescribable); truth, goodness, beauty.  It is God who made us in the first place, Who sustains us even now, and Who redeemed and redeems and will redeem us.  Why do we worship God?  Because He deserves it!  After describing Who God is, he continues by describing how God comes to us:
He comes to us at Mass as a Father through His Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. He makes Himself tangibly present to us in the assembly, the ordained ministers, and the proclaimed Word of God. He is also present most especially and immediately in the Eucharist, which has a perfect and infinite value before His eyes. He graciously comes to us, not only to be with us, but also to raise us up to Heaven, to the Heavenly liturgy, where we worship in union with all the angels and saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the eternal offering of Jesus Christ to the Father on our behalf. Thus we enter the heavenly sanctuary while still on earth, and worship God in the full manner that He laid out for us!
Here we find a condensation of the liturgical catechesis contained in Pope Pius XII's Mediator Dei and Vatican II's Sacrosanctum Concilium.  First, he gives a simple Trinitarian understanding of the Mass:  God the Father comes to us through His Son (cf. Matt. 21:37; John 20:21) in the power of the Holy Spirit. (cf. Matt. 1:18; Luke 3:22; Acts 10:38)  Second, he explains the modes by which God is present at Mass:  in the assembly, in the ordained ministers (especially the priest who celebrates Mass in persona Christi), in the Word, and most importantly and wondrously in the Blessed Sacrament.  Third, he explains that God comes down to us to raise us up to Himself, to Heaven, to the eternal liturgy with all the angels and saints (portrayed in the book of Revelation).
When we worship God in this way, He sanctifies us, that is, He makes us holy. This is the second purpose of the Liturgy. We are made holy by Jesus when we participate in His divine Sonship, becoming adopted sons and daughters of the Father. We are changed, transformed from the inside out. This comes about through hearing and acting on His Word and by being strengthened and steadily sanctified by a worthy reception of Holy Communion. This in turn leads to a true communion of saints within the local and universal Church.
By worshiping God, we are sanctified.  These are the two purposes of the liturgy:  glorification of God and the sanctification of His people.  At my previous parish, I was a reader (i.e. a "lector", more properly, the substitute in the absence of an instituted lector) and at every liturgy at which I was to proclaim the Scriptures, I made a habit of saying this prayer beforehand:  "I beseech You, O Holy Spirit, be in my heart and on my lips, that I may worthily and fittingly proclaim that Word which You inspired in prophets and apostles, unto the glorification of God and the sanctification of His people. Amen."  This prayer, based on the prayers of the priest or deacon before proclaiming the Gospel, reminded me of the two purposes for which the Scriptures are read at Mass:  to give glory to God and to build His people in holiness.

True participation in the liturgy comes from membership in Christ, sharing His divine Sonship by means of adoption through the sacrament of Baptism.  We listen to the Word of God and act on it. (cf. Luke 6:46-49; Luke 8:21; Phil. 4:9; James 1:22-24)  We prepare ourselves to receive the Lord in the Eucharist by prayer and penance.  You can go through all the motions of the Mass, but without that interior participation which is made possible through Baptism, exterior participation is hollow.
Too often, the purposes of our participation in the liturgy, worship and sanctification, are passed over in a misplaced attempt to "create community," rather than to receive it as a fruit of the Holy Spirit's activity within us.
In other words, we do not "create community" with the liturgy.  Rather, the Holy Spirit builds community (or better, communion) among us by our participation in the liturgy.  The liturgy is not an occasion for creative and often artificially designed community-building exercises.  Rather, the liturgy is for the worship of God and the sanctification of His people, and any genuine community must flow from that worship and sanctification.  Community — communion — is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in us, which is why one of the greetings used in the Mass is St. Paul's closing words to the Corinthians:  "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all." (2 Cor. 13:14; cf. 1 John 1:1-3)
Since, in the Church's liturgy, we meet God in a unique way, how we worship – the external rites, gestures, vessels, music, indeed, the building itself – should reflect the grandeur of the Heavenly liturgy. Liturgy is mystical; it is our mysterious encounter with the transcendent God, who comes to sanctify us through the sacrifice of Christ made present in the Eucharist and received in Holy Communion. It should radiate Heavenly truth and goodness. This radiance, the splendor of truth, is called beauty. Our liturgy should radiate true beauty, reflecting the beauty of God Himself and what He does for us in Christ Jesus. It should lift up our soul – first through our intellect and will, but also through our senses and emotions – to adore God as we share already in Heaven's eternal worship.
Remember the Bishop's description of God as "infinite truth and goodness shining forth in radiant beauty"?  He returns to this description when describing the liturgy.  The Church's worship of God must be a vibrant expression of God, a mirror reflecting His majesty, which fittingly conveys our awe in His presence.  It must draw our attention to things of Heaven, and so it must be mysterious and mystical.
In this vale of tears, the liturgy should be a lodestar, a transcending place of wonder and comfort in the midst of our day-to-day lives, a place of light and high beauty beyond the reach of worldly shadows.
This sentence is footnoted with a reference to p. 901 of The Lord of the Rings.  The passage being evoked is: "There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach."

A lodestar, in navigation terms, is a star by which one navigates (often associated directly with Polaris, the North Star); lode comes from lead, rather than load.  In more general terms, a lodestar is a model, guide, or exemplar; it is a principle that guides one's actions.  Because the Eucharist is our source and summit, the liturgy of the Eucharist, through which we participate in the Eucharist most fully and perfectly, should be our compass as we complete our pilgimage here on earth, keeping us on course:  growing in holiness (identity) and witnessing Christ to the world (mission).
So many people only connect with the Church, and sometimes with prayer and God, through Sunday Mass. Should we not offer an experience of beauty and transcendence, compellingly different from our day-to-day lives? Should not every facet of our offering be proportionate to the divine reality? Many small details can make liturgy either beautiful or banal. In recent decades, in place of beauty and "noble simplicity," our main principle for discerning and choosing the "little things" has tended toward utility, ease, and even cheapness. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, before his election as Bishop of Rome, wrote the following about Church music, that is easily applicable to all parts of the liturgy:
Vatican II, in describing the liturgical reform it envisioned, spoke of the rites as being "distinguished by a noble simplicity." (SC 34)  Furthermore, speaking of sacred art as being "oriented toward the infinite beauty of God" (SC 122), the Council Fathers said the following:
122. ... Holy Mother Church has therefore always been the friend of the fine arts and has ever sought their noble help, with the special aim that all things set apart for use in divine worship should be truly worthy, becoming, and beautiful, signs and symbols of the supernatural world, and for this purpose she has trained artists. In fact, the Church has, with good reason, always reserved to herself the right to pass judgment upon the arts, deciding which of the works of artists are in accordance with faith, piety, and cherished traditional laws, and thereby fitted for sacred use. ...

124. Ordinaries, by the encouragement and favor they show to art which is truly sacred, should strive after noble beauty rather than mere sumptuous display. This principle is to apply also in the matter of sacred vestments and ornaments. Let bishops carefully remove from the house of God and from other sacred places those works of artists which are repugnant to faith, morals, and Christian piety, and which offend true religious sense either by depraved forms or by lack of artistic worth, mediocrity and pretense. ...
How many of us have walked into churches built since Vatican II which fail to evoke the supernatural world and the infinite beauty of God as did so many churches of the last several centuries?  How much traditional art and architecture has been replaced by works which are banal, unbecoming, unbeautiful, mediocre, and lacking in artistic worth?  This is an example of the hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture which is a false and dissenting interpretation of the Council.

The words of then-Cardinal Ratzinger on music, from Feast of Faith, p. 126:
A Church which only makes use of "utility" music has fallen for what is, in fact, useless. She [the Church] too becomes ineffectual. For her mission is a far higher one. As the Old Testament speaks of the Temple, the Church is to be the place of "glory," and as such, too, the place where mankind's cry of distress is brought to the ear of God. The Church must not settle down with what is merely comfortable and serviceable at the parish level; she must arouse the voice of the cosmos, and by glorifying the Creator, elicit the glory of the cosmos itself, making it also glorious, beautiful, habitable and beloved.... The Church is to transform, improve, "humanize" the world – but how can she do that if at the same time she turns her back on beauty, which is so closely allied to love? For together beauty and love form the true consolation in this world, bringing it as near as possible to the world of the resurrection
Bishop Nickless continues, quoting Pope John Paul II on the state of the liturgical reform in 1998:
Pope John Paul the Great, addressing some bishops of the United States on October 9, 1998, recognized the same urgent spiritual needs:
To look back over what has been done in the field of liturgical renewal in the years since the Council is, first, to see many reasons for giving heartfelt thanks and praise to the Most Holy Trinity for the marvelous awareness which has developed among the faithful of their role and responsibility in this priestly work of Christ and his Church. It is also to realize that not all changes have always and everywhere been accompanied by the necessary explanation and catechesis; as a result, in some cases there has been a misunderstanding of the very nature of the liturgy, leading to abuses, polarization, and sometimes even grave scandal ... . The challenge now is to move beyond whatever misunderstandings there have been . . . by entering more deeply into the contemplative dimension of worship, which includes the sense of awe, reverence and adoration which are fundamental attitudes in our relationship with God.
Many liturgical abuses are the result of a failure to acknowledge what the liturgy truly is, an encounter with the mystery of God.  Catechesis about the nature of the liturgy, especially its contemplative dimension, is necessary to fix the root of the liturgical abuse problem.

From here, Bishop Nickless addresses specifically the five points.  Remember that this letter, while pastoral, is an instruction to his diocese; pay close attention to his exhortations and encouragements and statements of support.  First he deals with ongoing liturgical reform under the guidance of the authentic Magisterium of the Church.  He dwells for some time on the definition of participation in the liturgy:
It is imperative that we recover this wonder, awe, reverence and love for the liturgy and the Eucharist. To do this, we must feel and think with the whole Church in "reforming the reform" of the Second Vatican Council. We must accept and implement the current stream of magisterial liturgical documents coming from the Holy See: Liturgiam Authenticam (2001), the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal, and its new General Instruction on the Roman Missal (2002), Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (2002), Ecclesia de Eucharistia (2003), Spiritus et Sponsa (2003), Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004), Sacramentum Caritatis (2007), and Summorum Pontificum (2007).
It is refreshing to hear a Bishop of a diocese, as opposed to one sequestered to some arm of the Curia in Rome, speaking of thinking with the Church (sentire cum ecclesia).  Even more refreshing is seeing a Bishop providing a list of recent magisterial liturgical documents.  Each of the documents listed is significant and important.  Liturgiam Authenticam is about improving the translation of the Roman Missal from Latin into the vernacular; it governs the new English translation which will be received in the next year or two.  Ecclesia de Eucharistia is Pope John Paul II's encyclical on Eucharistic spirituality, Spiritus et Sponsa is one of his documents on liturgical reform, and Redemptionis Sacramentum is an instruction from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments about the proper celebration of the Eucharist (including plenty of details on particular liturgical abuses).  Perhaps the most significant document in the list is the last one, Summorum Pontificum, which was the Apostolic Letter of Pope Benedict XVI which acknowledged the 1962 Missal of Bl. John XXIII as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite and promoted its celebration.
It seems that all is not well with the Liturgy, and the Church is trying to help us. The pendulum swings, the hermeneutic of discontinuity, and the divisions within our Church have been seen and felt in the Liturgy more than anywhere.
When there are liturgical pronouncements from the Church, these are meant to help us celebrate the liturgy better.  It is not an intrusion on something private, for the liturgy is the public worship of God by the whole Church.  Neither is it an attempt to make things harder or more complicated, although it may present a challenge to us.
The Church's Magisterium, not our private opinions, is our authoritative guide in this ressourcement. The liturgy belongs to the entire Church, and in a special way to the faithful – not to a particular Diocese or parish, and certainly not to individual priests. I exhort everyone, especially our priests, to keep up with the Church. I expect them to read, study, and understand the above documents and their inner logic and place within the ongoing reform of the Church. It is vitally important that we offer resplendent worship to God alone, with understanding and excellence, obedient to the Church. My own liturgies at the Cathedral, though imperfect, are also meant to be exemplary for the whole Diocese.
Not only does he provide a list of these documents, but he says he expects the documents to be read and followed!  Certainly not every member of the diocese has to sit down and read them, but priests and others responsible for liturgical celebrations should read and be familiar with them and convey the necessary information to the faithful.  These documents, not our opinions and whims, govern the celebration of the liturgy.
It is a grave error and a form of clericalism, whether by clergy or lay ministers, to change the liturgy, or even to choose ungenerously among legitimate options, to suit only our own preferences and opinions. This respect for the whole of Tradition is not simply for the sake of "rules and regulations"; this is not legalism, as some have said, but our love for Christ, so that from His Eucharist with all its preeminent beauty and sanctity, He can shine forth for all to see and love.
Concerning the liturgy, we have certain rights, one of which is the right to the liturgy celebrated properly!  This means a liturgy without illicit changes.  When the liturgy is celebrated according to the mind of the Church, it is more clearly about God and His glory, and less likely to be seen as a pageant or performance or display centered on us.

Next Bishop Nickless turns his attention to topic of liturgical participation:
The Council's goal in reforming liturgy was, of course, to facilitate the "fully active and conscious participation" of all the faithful. We have made great strides in this area. In the same address to bishops cited above, the Holy Father said:
Full participation certainly means that every member of the community has a part to play in the liturgy; and in this respect a great deal has been achieved in parishes and communities across your land. But full participation does not mean that everyone does everything, since this would lead to a clericalizing of the laity and a laicizing of the priesthood; and this was not what the Council had in mind. The liturgy, like the Church, is intended to be hierarchical and polyphonic, respecting the different roles assigned by Christ and allowing all the different voices to blend in one great hymn of praise.

Active participation certainly means that, in gesture, word, song and service, all the members of the community take part in an act of worship, which is anything but inert or passive. Yet active participation does not preclude the active passivity of silence, stillness and listening: indeed, it demands it. Worshippers are not passive, for instance, when listening to the readings or the homily, or following the prayers of the celebrant, and the chants and music of the liturgy. These are experiences of silence and stillness, but they are in their own way profoundly active. In a culture which neither favors nor fosters meditative quiet, the art of interior listening is learned only with difficulty. Here we see how the liturgy, though it must always be properly inculturated, must also be counter-cultural.

Conscious participation calls for the entire community to be properly instructed in the mysteries of the liturgy, lest the experience of worship degenerate into a form of ritualism. But it does not mean a constant attempt within the liturgy itself to make the implicit explicit, since this often leads to a verbosity and informality which are alien to the Roman Rite and end by trivializing the act of worship. Nor does it mean the suppression of all subconscious experience, which is vital in a liturgy which thrives on symbols that speak to the subconscious just as they speak to the conscious. The use of the vernacular has certainly opened up the treasures of the liturgy to all who take part, but this does not mean that the Latin language, and especially the chants which are so superbly adapted to the genius of the Roman Rite, should be wholly abandoned. If subconscious experience is ignored in worship, an affective and devotional vacuum is created and the liturgy can become not only too verbal but also too cerebral.
Full, active and conscious participation: we have made great strides in this over the years. But often this has happened in a superficial, partial way resulting from a narrow and truncated interpretation of these terms. It is time to dig deeper, "to put out into the deep," into a new and authentic liturgical spirituality that is both old and new, active and contemplative, historical and mystical, Roman and Iowan, familiar and challenging. All of this also applies to our "fully active and conscious participation" in liturgy outside the Holy Mass, especially in Eucharistic Adoration, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Marian devotions, and the Liturgy of the Hours.
True participation in the liturgy has both an internal and an external dimension (analogous to the two themes of this letter).  To just be "doing" something at Mass without knowing what you're doing and why you're doing it is akin to empty ritualism.  Conversely, our participation at Mass does not necessitate a physical act; we do not have to be the ones reading Scripture:  listening is part of our participation.

Bishop Nickless calls for the both/and approach to the liturgy, rather than an either/or approach.  (I thought the "Roman and Iowan" was a nice touch.)

Then he addresses the other four topics he will mention in the next few paragraphs.
Eucharistic Adoration is not, as some have said, a distraction from the central meaning of the Mass, or from the reception of Holy Communion. It is instead a great help and one that I wholeheartedly support and encourage in the parishes of this diocese. Eucharistic Adoration is an extension of our reception of Holy Communion, and brings about a deeper longing and preparation for our next reception. Just as you cannot be exposed to the sun without receiving its rays, neither can you come to Jesus exposed in the Blessed Sacrament without receiving the Divine Rays of His grace, love and peace. I exhort all communities of the diocese to explore ways of making the Eucharist more central in our lives through periods of Exposition, Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and Eucharistic Processions.
One of the "some" who recently spoke of Eucharistic Adoration was Fr. Richard McBrien, who called the devotion a step backwards.  Also note another one of Bishop Nickless' statements of encouragement and exhortation.  When the Eucharist is central to the lives of Catholics (the way it is central to the life of the Church), the Church's mission in the world will be more fruitful.
In far too many places and among too many of our people, the regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation has fallen by the wayside. This must be remedied if we are to grow in humility and holiness, and truly benefit from the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist. Without this Sacrament, we lose a sense of sin in our lives, and overlook the obstacles it places in our path. Unless we confess our sins, they fester in our hearts, corrupting our good works and spiritual practices. Indeed, many, without knowledge and unheedingly, now receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin, making their Communion unfruitful at best and damning at worst. Too many parishes only offer one hour of Confessions, and sometimes less, on Saturdays. I exhort and encourage priests to make themselves available in a generous way for this great Sacrament, on days and times convenient for the faithful. If priests set aside time, and preach on the need for repentance and sacramental confession, they will come.
The need for Confession is far greater than the apparent demand.  The sacrament is necessary for growth in humility and holiness (identity) so that the Church's mission can be genuine.  Bishop Nickless draws attention to the problems that arise from not receiving this sacrament; it is refreshing to see a Bishop address the issues of the effects of sin and of the travesty of unworthy reception of Communion.  And he again exhorts and encourages his priests to provide greater access to this important sacrament.
Devotion to the Blessed Mother, such an important part of our tradition and spirituality, also leads to a deeper appreciation and love of the Blessed Sacrament. She is the Mother of the Eucharist, the one who gave Jesus Christ to the world. She is also our Mother in the Order of Grace. "Having been Assumed, body and soul, into Heaven, she does not lay aside her saving office," but always and everywhere leads souls to her Son, telling them, "Do whatever He tells you." When we are fervently devoted to the Blessed Mother, especially through the Rosary and Consecration to her, she leads us to her Son, most especially present in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Devotion to Mary cannot be divided from, and in fact is ordered to, devotion to Jesus Christ her son, and especially appreciation and love of His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.  Her words from John 2:5, which Bishop Nickless has quoted, were the words which convinced me that true devotion to Mary is never about detracting from Christ in any way but in being directed to Him in the best possible company!

The final topic he mentions is the Divine Office (the Liturgy of the Hours) which is the "other" official prayer of the Church, next to the Divine Liturgy (the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass).

The Liturgy of the Hours is the prayer of the whole Church. By this constant prayer, we consecrate the day and all its activities to our Savior, and offer ourselves in union with His suffering. Priests and deacons are required to pray the office every day. It is and can be a great source of support and help in pastoral ministry and growth in personal holiness. The Church has always desired that the faithful also share in this Liturgy. I encourage all parishes to consider how they might develop such opportunities.
The Second Vatican Council, in its document on the liturgy, commended the participation of the faithful in the communal prayer of the Divine Office:  "Pastors of souls should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts. And the laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually." (Sacrosanctum Concilium 100)  Bishop Nickless is simply echoing the Council and expressing his desire to be faithful to the Church and her liturgy:  clerics are obligated to pray it, and the laity are encouraged to pray it.  Once again, he draws the connection between the gaze inward (growth in holiness) and the gaze outward (effectiveness in pastoral ministry).

The next post will deal with the second of the five priorities for the diocese of Sioux City:  to strengthen catechesis.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Update: Second Edition of The Prayers of the People

I've been working on revising the first volume of the Praying the Mass series.  The second edition of The Prayers of the People is due out by the end of the week (assuming the proof copy I receive is up to par).  A dozen pages of additional content, but the same price of $12.

I have finished copying the new content to the book's web site.  If you have the first edition (or if you just want to know what's new in the book), you can read all thirteen blocks of new content here.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Bishop Vasa on reasons for and purposes of excommunication

This comes from Fr. Zuhlsdorf's blog, What Does the Prayer Really Say?
The press would undoubtedly accuse Bishops who talk or even think about excommunication as being tyrannical power mongers but this is unfair. Excommunication is a declaration, based on solid evidence, that the actions or public teachings of a particular Catholic are categorically incompatible with the teachings of the Church. It is intended primarily as a means of getting the person who is in grave error to recognize the depth of his error and repent. A second reason, while somewhat secondary but no less important, is to assure the faithful who truly are faithful that what they believe to be the teaching of the Church is true and correct. Allowing their faith to be shaken or allowing them to be confused when Catholics publicly affirm something contrary to faith or morals, seemingly without consequences, scandalizes and confuses the faithful. This is no small matter. The Church, and particularly bishops, have an obligation to defend the faith but they also have an obligation to protect the faithful. We do not generally see the dissidence of public figures as something that harms the faithful but it has a deleterious effect upon them.
Read the whole thing at Fr. Z's blog or at The Sentinel.

Outline for Exodus 1-12

This is what I'll be using to teach 6th-graders tomorrow about the first third of the book of Exodus.

1.           From Joseph to Moses (Exodus 1)
a)      What did the Lord prophesy to Abram? (Genesis 15:7-21, esp. vv. 13-14) your descendants will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs … slavesoppressed for four hundred years; but I will bring judgment on the nation which they serve … they shall come out with great possessions.
b)      What happened to the descendents of Jacob in Egypt? (Exodus 1:7-22) They multiplied in number and made slaves because a new Pharaoh did not know of Joseph.  Pharaoh wanted the male children killed at birth (compare to Herod, China), then he told the midwives to drown the boys in waterWater = major theme.
c)      AllegoryEgypt is to Israel, as what is to what? Pharaoh=Satan, Egypt=sin, Israel=us.  Egypt separates Israel from God.  Israrel forgets who they are and who God is.  God is going to take Israel out of Egypt, and Egypt out of Israel.
2.           Moses (Exodus 2-4)
a)      Why learn about Moses? Summary in Acts 7:17-45.  He prophesied and prefigured Christ:  Deut 18:15; Luke 24:27,44; John 1:45; 3:14; 5:46; 6:32; Acts 3:13-26; 7:37
b)      Birth and life in Egypt (Exodus 2)
1.      What was supposed to happen to Moses at birth? He should have been drowned.
2.      How did Moses survive? His mother hid him for three months, then put him in a basket ("ark") in the river.  Pharaoh's daughter saw him and adopted him.  His own mother was chosen as his paid nurse!
3.      What does his name mean? "Drawn out"
4.      How did he grow up? Nursed by his mother (knowing his culture) and then he lived as an Egyptian until he was 40. (Acts 7:20-22)
5.      What did he do that lost him the favor of Pharaoh? He slew an Egyptian that was beating a Hebrew.  The next day he saw two Hebrews fighting, and one asked "Who made you a prince and a judge over us", a prophetic question.  Pharaoh finds out about the murder and Moses flees.
c)      Exile and Mission (Exodus 3-4) Moses spends next 40 years in the wilderness.  He is like Joseph, sent ahead of Israel for their good. 
1.      How is Exodus 3:2-10 similar to Genesis 15:13-21?
1.      How did God manifest Himself to Moses? Mysterious fire (flaming torch, burning bush)
2.      What does God say about Israel's condition? They will be enslaved but He will liberate them
3.      Which covenant-promise to Abraham does God say He will fulfill? Land
2.      What does Moses say the people will ask, and what does God reveal? What is His name?  "YHWH", "I AM WHO AM"
3.      For what purpose is God freeing the Israelites? So that they can offer sacrifice (render worship) to Him
4.      What will happen when Egypt lets Israel go? They will despoil the Egyptians
5.      How does Moses complain, and how does God respond?
1.      First time (Exodus 4:1-9) They won't believe me or listen to me – God gives him signs to perform
2.      Second time (Exodus 4:10-12) I'm not a good speaker – God will give him the words
3.      Third time (Exodus 4:13-17) Send someone else – God will send Aaron, Moses' brother, with him
6.      What is God's message to Pharaoh? (Exodus 4:21-23) Let My firstborn (Israel) free to serve Me, or I will slay your firstborn.  (The other nations are God's "other" children.)  God sends Aaron to meet Moses.  Moses and Aaron return to Egypt and speak to the elders of Israel, showing them the signs God had given him.
3.           The 10 Plagues (Exodus 5-13)
a)      Moses and Aaron meet Pharaoh (Exodus 5-6) Moses' last 40 years are spent taking Israel out of Egypt
1.      What does God want of the Israelites? He wants the Israelites to take a three-days journey into the desert to serve Him (via sacrifice).
2.      What does Pharaoh want of them? He wants the Israelites to stay and serve him (via slave labor).
3.      What is Pharaoh's reaction to Moses' request? He makes the work harder for the Israelites, not supplying them with straw and expecting the same output of bricks.  The Israelites are angry with Moses and Aaron.
4.      How does Moses respond? He complains to God that since he came to Egypt Pharaoh has made it worse for the Israelites, and He has not saved them yet.
5.      What does God say He will do? (Exodus 6:6-8) I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment, and I will take you for my people, and I will be your God … And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.
b)      The First Nine Plagues (Exodus 7-10) Moses has Aaron throw his staff to the ground and it becomes a snake.  Pharaoh's magicians can do the same thing, but Aaron's staff consumes theirs.  God proclaims judgments on Egypt's gods.
1.      What is the first plague? (Exodus 7:19-22) Nile turns to blood, copied by the magicians
2.      What is the second plague? (Exodus 8:1-3) Frogs overrun the land, copied by the magicians
1.      What does Pharaoh promise?  Does he keep his promise? He will let the Israelites go to sacrifice if Moses removes the frogs; no.
3.      What is the third plague? (Exodus 8:12-15) Gnats from the dirt
1.      How is this plague different from the previous ones? Pharaoh's magicians can't copy it
4.      What is the fourth plague? (Exodus 8:16-19) Swarms of flies
1.      What happened to the Israelites? No flies for them
2.      What is the compromise Pharaoh offers? Sacrifice to God here, but it would be an abomination (because of the animals which would be sacrificed)
3.      What does Pharaoh promise?  Does he keep his promise? Sacrifice but not too far away; no.
5.      What is the fifth plague? (Exodus 9:6-7) Cattle dying
1.      What happened to the Israelites? Their cattle didn't die
6.      What is the sixth plague? (Exodus 9:10-11) Boils
7.      What is the seventh plague? (Exodus 9:22-26) Hailstorms
1.      What happened to the Israelites? No hail
2.      What does Pharaoh promise?  Does he keep his promise? Stop the hail and I'll let you go; no.
8.      What is the eighth plague? (Exodus 10:12-15) Locusts
9.      What is the ninth plague? (Exodus 10:21-23) Darkness
1.      What happened to the Israelites? No darkness.
2.      What is the compromise Pharaoh offers? Go worship God but don't bring animals.
3.      What does Pharaoh threaten Moses with? Death
c)      Passover and the 10th Plague (Exodus 11-12)
1.      Remember God's words in Exodus 3:21-22 vs. Exodus 11:2-3. Israel will leave Egypt with plenty of possessions.
2.      How does God respond to Pharaoh's threat? (Exodus 11:4-7) He will take the life of the firstborn of Egypt.
3.      What is the Passover ritual? (Exodus 12:1-11) Get a lamb on the 10th of the 1st month (Nisan), inspect it until the 14th, then kill it and mark the doorposts with its blood, then roast it and eat it with unleavened bread.
4.      Why is it called Passover (Pesach / Pascha)? (Exodus 12:12-13, 26-27) God would pass over where the blood of the Lamb is on the doorposts.  Israel would also be passing through the Red Sea, and passing over the Jordan into the land promised to them.
5.      What happened through Egypt? (Exodus 12:29-30) All the first-born of the Egyptians died, from the lowest slave all the way up to Pharaoh.
6.      Is this the lamb of God? (Exodus 12:3) No, each family has its own lamb
4.           Links between the Passover and Christ
a)      Get the lamb on 10 Nisan – Christ enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday
b)      Lamb is inspected until 14 Nisan – Christ is "inspected" by the Pharisees and everyone; Pilate says he finds no fault in him (John 18:38)
c)      Not a bone is to be broken (Ex 12:46; John 19:36)
d)      The Eucharist is the new Passover sacrificial meal
1.      "Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed" (1 Cor 5:7)
2.      "You know that you were ransomed … with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot" (1 Pet 1:18-19)
3.      "I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain" (Rev 5:6)
4.      "The marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready … Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Rev 19:7-9)

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Protestant perception of the "Lord's Supper"

This post comes from a thread on the Coming Home Network International forums.

One poster, "Pange Lingua" (Michael), wrote:
I think that Baptist minister is probably much closer to Catholicism than he would ever venture to suspect. If all of these things [the bread and wine for the "Lord's Supper"] are meant to be mere symbols, then it shouldn't make a great deal of difference how they're dispensed or how they're dispensed with. If his heart tells him there's something more to it ... then the little disposable cups he probably uses in his own services begins to become suspect. How the leftover grape juice is poured down the drain begins to become suspect. What happens to the rest of that loaf of French bread he's using starts to matter - and the little kids running up to grab a hunk after the service - well, that starts to matter too.

I think the simple realization that things matter is a huge part of the journey.

Sometimes the journey home has to start at home as well, within the Church. Last year some noise had to be made in my own parish because it was discovered that the chalice was being cleaned improperly, with the remnants of the precious blood being poured down the drain. Perhaps we needed a sensitive Baptist to help us out. Perhaps he'll be able to within not too many years.
Another poster, Steven Barrett, responded:
I knew I was in a deep "cultural hole" and ready for some steady teasin' at the Baptist church we used to attend and I was a sexton for, on the day I refused to vacuum up the little pieces of remaining communion bread.

"I'm NOT sucking up the Lord!" sez I. They couldn't believe I was that respectful for the communion they allowed to fall on their rugs, which were no doubt ground down a few times ... and you wouldn't want to know how they treated their Bibles, which in a Baptist Church are more important than their portions of Communion.
Here is my response:

Imagine if a wife threw out the bouquet of roses her husband gave her 10 minutes later. She'd explain, of course, that the roses were a symbol of her husband's love for her, and she received them and so spiritually/symbolically received his love, and now the flowers had served their purpose and, really, they were only ever just flowers: the husband's attachment of his love to them didn't change them in reality, just in perception, and now the perception (as far as the wife is concerned) is gone, the actual love having been acknowledged.

But no wife does that (do they?!). Yes, even wives with no belief in the Eucharist or Jesus Christ at all keep roses, ordinary flowers that serve as mere symbols of love (romantic, erotic, etc.), around longer than many Christian communities keep their "Lord's Supper" around after it has been received.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Additions to my library

I received the following books today during my family's Christmas gift exchange:

Happy 2010

Things I plan to do, blog-wise, in 2010: