Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Exegesis on Sunday's Gospel

I don't have time to post much this week, but as I am working on my homily, I thought you might like to see my "exegetical notes." One of the ways I prepare a homily is to spend some time doing "exegesis"--i.e., drawing meaning out of the text. What follows may -- or may not -- find its way into my homily for Sunday.

Why did Simon say, "Go away"? What was he afraid of?

He has the startling revelation of who Jesus truly is. Like Isaiah in the first reading, to realize one is in the presence of Almighty God is a terrifying moment; and in the brilliance of God’s own light, the sins we may not have thought much of, stand out as terrible stains.

Simon’s "go away" suggests he does not see himself changing or becoming other than he is, "a sinful man." But the Lord does not "go away"!

What did the great catch of fish mean—why was that frightening?

Simon and his fishermen partners fished all night, the proper time, and failed; Jesus—not a fisherman—fished in the day, the wrong time, and succeeded marvelously and effortlessly.

In the Old Testament, command of the seas and all it contains is seen as something only God has.

Simon first calls Jesus "Master"; after the catch of fish, he addresses Jesus as "Lord," the first person to do that in Luke’s Gospel. (Elizabeth calls him Lord in her dialogue with Mary before their children were born.)

This is where Simon’s name is changed. He will routinely be called "Peter" after this (in Luke, at any rate), until the issue of his denial arises.

While not certain, this may not have been the first time Simon and the Lord met.

The Gospel of John describes the Lord's encounter with Andrew and John, who are followers of the Baptist, when the Baptist says, "Behold the Lamb of God" -- and they leave the Baptist and follow Jesus. Then Andrew brings Simon to the Lord, who says, you will be called Cephas (Aramaic for Rock, akin to Petros, our Peter). If John's Gospel is describing a different incident, then the episode of the great catch could be a subsequent encounter when Simon "gets it" and actually does follow the Lord.

Sometimes Simon Peter and the other disciples are described as "poor." That may be overstating it.

Note it says the boat belonged to Simon, and that he and Andrew were partners with James and John. Matthew tells us they worked with Zebedee, James’ and John’s father; and Mark tells us they had "hired men."

So, we’re talking about a small business. They caught fish, and they sold fish. They might have been poor; they might also have done better than that—something like what we’d later call "middle class."
Sometimes the Apostles will be described as "illiterate." Again, I would question how certainly people say that.

Here’s what we know: the cultures of their time were not pre-literate: both their secular and religious lives involved reading and writing: commerce and government involved keeping accounts and records, same as today; the Gospels mention this, as well as mentioning our Lord standing up to read in the synagogue.

When he does, while it may be that not everyone could read, the passage doesn’t suggest his ability to read made him extraordinary; in fact, it makes the opposite point—the people considered him so much like themselves they were offended by him asserting a greater authority.

(In fact, "books" -- very much as we know them -- existed at this time: words written on paper, bound at the side. Paper was relatively cheap, and therefore, could be much more widely used than scrolls made of animal skins. The New Testament documents were all written on paper, if memory serves, and only later copied onto scrolls, which last longer. Of course, the limitation for books then, until the 1500s, was they had to be hand-copied; but at least they became a lot cheaper. It stands to reason a society that is interested in producing books, is one in which a good number of folks read, as opposed to a mere few.)

Following that thought…as businessmen, selling their wares in the marketplace—either directly to consumers, or perhaps to others who would sell the fish—then they might well interact with a variety of people, both Jews and Gentiles, and very likely, both speakers of Aramaic, and Greek-speakers.

They may well have been bilingual, speaking at least some Greek, in addition to Aramaic. They may even have had a few words of Latin.

After all, look at our world: ordinary people frequently are bilingual or a little trilingual today. Spanish-speaking working people in this country are often bilingual; go overseas, and if you go where lots of tourists go, you’ll find people who speak a fair amount of English, in addition to their native tongue. They often speak it fairly well.

When I was in Korea for a month, as a seminarian, the Korean seminarians I was with spoke a fair amount of English, and they knew a little Chinese. After all, China is their neighbor, with over a billion people!

So, these men, the Apostles, and their lives and world, are more like our own than we may realize.

"Put out into the deep" the Lord says. This is a key phrase.

Why was it necessary for the Lord to say that? It suggests they wouldn’t have tried it, otherwise; or perhaps they’d tried and failed. In any case, you’d think the fishermen would know their business!

Simon let down his net—even though (a) he wasn’t very convinced, and (b), he’d already cleaned his nets—he’d have to do it again. This is an admirable act of submission or obedience.

That Our Lord focused his comments to Simon suggests one or both of two things: he saw Simon as the leader; and it may just be possible that he already was something of a leader in this group.

Our late, beloved holy father, John Paul the Great, used this phrase and image in his letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte -- at the Beginning of the New Millenium, found here.

Monday, January 29, 2007

New Blogger, new color

I finally surrendered to the "New Blogger" collective. Resistance is futile.

Allegedly, this is a lot easier. We'll see; so far, it seems the same, but with more bells and whistles. As it is, some of what I had on my page has gone away, so now I must get it back.

But--I did get to change the color. I thought green for Ordinary Time would be nice. What do you think?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Catholic Education: readiness for times of trial (Sunday homily)

In the first reading, God prepared Jeremiah: Jeremiah would play a decisive role,
in a time of crisis. Just as God formed Jeremiah, physically, in his mother’s womb,
so he also formed Jeremiah spiritually and intellectually—
with faith, and knowledge of his ways.

What difference did it make?

God’s people thought all was well; but in a flash, everything they counted on, crumbled.
And when it did, Jeremiah saved the day: He’d kept them connected to God,
so that in their crisis, they knew where to turn.

Hasn’t that happened for you?

When our crisis comes, that’s when we’re glad someone told us about Jesus Christ;
when we have no words for prayer, that’s when we’re glad
someone taught us an Our Father, a Hail Mary, the Rosary, the Memorare.

How fast can our world fall in on us? Lose a job, or face a divorce, and you’re there.

This Sunday begins Catholic Schools Week. And it’s important to talk about
why we have Catholic schools—why we make so many sacrifices to keep them open.

Piqua Catholic, and Lehman High do for our children, our families, and our community,
what Jeremiah did for his people, in his time: ensure they know the Lord,
and have a foundation of faith for when everything else falls apart.

I know many of our children attend one of the city or county schools.
Parents, that is your decision, I respect it.

But I would fail in my duty, if I left the impression there wasn’t a big difference.

Now, someone can always cite an example where someone did better at a public school;
but our academics are very strong.

When our Piqua Catholic children get to Lehman, they’re ready;
Lehman’s high standards, in turn, make them ready for a job, or for college.

When one of our children transfers from Piqua Catholic to a city or county school,
they are ahead of the game.

Academics matter; but something else is supremely important.

When you walk into our Catholic schools, you see the name Jesus Christ in huge letters!
When a student or teacher is in trouble, the class, the school, can pray together, right there.

In our Catholic schools, our children meet priests and nuns walking the halls.

I wish that were true of our public schools; but our youth minister and I
are not allowed in, unless we’re invited. Two years, I’m still waiting.

Yes, we have a religious education program on Sundays. Our catechists do a good job.

But again, I would be lying if let you believe our Sunday school equals
what we do every day in our Catholic schools.

On Sunday we have, at best, 75 minutes. Realistically, it is more like 50-60 minutes.

Now—that is about the same as Piqua Catholic—for kindergarten.

Starting in 1st Grade, at Piqua Catholic, our children get 150 minutes of religious instruction—
that’s 2-1/2 hours every week. From 5th grade on, they get 225 minutes—
more than 3-1/2 hours—every week!

Now, of course, parents can—and many do—sit down during the week,
and provide another 2 hours of dedicated instruction in the teachings of the Faith;
but if not, then our Sunday school, good as it is, cannot come close
to what happens in a Catholic school.

After all, children don’t ask questions on our tidy schedules.
In our Catholic schools, they can ask how Scripture fits with biology;
how the Holy Spirit influences history; how the ten commandments relate to social studies.

But at Miami East, answering those questions is against the law.

So I fully respect your choice about where your children attend school,
but I do want to highlight the advantage of a Catholic school.

And for those who have chosen a public school, I want our parish to do our best to help you.
If you have suggestions, please let me know.

Some of our families home-school—and that is admirable.
For those can’t do that; we provide Catholic schools.
And for those who don’t attend a Catholic school, we provide all the help we can.

For example, I have been looking at resources for home-school religious instruction—
give our office a call for more information.

When Jeremiah was needed in a time of peril, it was a good thing
he’d been prepared for that time. It was good he’d been able to prepare God’s People.
You and I have the same, urgent task in our time—to know our faith well, and where to turn.

Not only for ourselves, but so we can prepare the next generation,
for the trials of faith that always come.

When you and I equip our children for the future—not just in this world, but in eternity…
When we give them a foundation of faith that will stand, when all else fails…
We are giving them the greatest gifts: “Faith, hope…and the greatest of these is love.”

My week

The gap from Tuesday to now tells the tale.

Tuesday was a down day -- almost. Yes, I did spend the morning drinking coffee and writing about the March for Life; but I also had to prepare for a funeral the next day, and visit the funeral home that evening. Not too bad.

Wednesday is usually my stay-home-and-write-my-homily day. This week, I had the funeral in the morning, then to the office for about an hour, then up to Maria Stein for a get-together with other priests ordained in recent years. Father Kyle Schnippel, our vocation director, was there, and he posts on this gathering here (please do go visit his blog and try to think of something nice to say).

Well, parish business finds you wherever: up in Maria Stein, Ohio, cell-phone signals are pretty rare, but one got through to me long enough to tell me about a funeral for Monday. OK.

Thursday. After the morning in Maria Stein, back to the office. Several problems awaited me, which I took a couple of hours to resolve. (You do realize, dear reader, that there are lots of things I never describe here because they involve people's lives and private business? You only get part of the story.) We had a penance service that evening for our children making their first confession, and I went over to church, with our youth minister/coordinator of religious education, to set things up. It was cold in church. We mashed buttons on the programmable thermostat (my idea to lower temp during non-usage times, to save $$$). Came back later, an hour before--it was now colder. Mashed more buttons, flipped the on-off switch, have no idea what I did that worked, but apparently I appeased the thing, so it started giving us heat. I promise never to offend the almighty thermostat again (this is why we keep the thing locked up).

Then I ran over to the other parish, where I had Mass at 6:30. The penance service started at 7. How was I going to manage this, no doubt you are asking. As follows. I had asked the parochial vicar--who isn't feeling well, as you know--if he'd be willing to lead the service. If he hadn't been, I'd have asked the retired priest to do so; but I thought the vicar would want to do it, and he said he would. Meanwhile, I went over and had Mass, but I kept things short. We normally have confessions at that parish, after Mass; I explained the situation in the homily, and said, "I'll happily hear your confessions, but I have to do it at St. Boniface." Some parishioners helped me out by putting things away, turning out lights and locking the doors. Thanks a lot!

I left my alb on, and drove back to St. Boniface. I got there just at 7, ahead of schedule; I figured on showing up a little late, and slipping in. So we all came out for the penance service. (But not before one of my many screwups came back to haunt me. A priest showed up I wasn't expecting. Turned out I'd talked to him, he agreed to come--but I'd totally forgotten to write it down. Boy, was I embarrassed! I apologized every which way, and he was nice about it, and as we really didn't need him, nor did I have a place set up for him to hear confessions, he went home.) Penance Service went fine, this year I didn't wear the cordless mic into the confessional. Unfortunately, our music director fell ill, so he couldn't provide music; our youth minister had to pinch-hit with his guitar, but he did a good job. Our children have things they call "sorry sacks" they wear, with sad faces on one side, and happy faces on the other; when they come out of the confessional, their parents turn them around. Then they go light a candle up front, and everyone gets a rosary, which the vicar blessed at the end. I provided the liturgical dance.

Haha, got you on that one, didn't I!

Here's a subtle thing for you to consider. There is one change I made from last year, in the certificate the children received. I changed the wording from, "____ received the sacrament of reconciliation" to something like, "____ participated in a celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation." Can you guess why?

I was supposed to have a Pastoral Council meeting on Thursday as well; and I very stupidly forgot to advise the president of pastoral council about the conflict until the day before. I told him I'd be willing to meet later, but he elected to cancel it.

Friday again found me running. I had Mass with the older schoolchildren at St. Mary, then immediately left there to head to Lehman High School for Mass there. Kept my alb on, which drew kidding from the priest chaplain when I walked in. I was in such a hurry, I left the vessels on the counter in the sacristy, at church, to put away when I returned, around 11 am. After putting everything away (Don't worry, I purified the vessels at the end of Mass), I met with the parishioner who is overseeing the work on the rectory at St. Mary.

Everything is going well, although it takes time. For example: they found a leak in one of the bathrooms on the second floor, and it was damaging the ceiling below, so that involves two repairs, and it slows the work below. The first floor is coming along nicely, however. What's being done is relatively straightforward: a new, full bath so that the vicar can live on the first floor, some fresh paint in most rooms, and some new carpeting in some rooms. In the front hall, we are taking up the carpet, and polishing the hardwood floor below. Other than some work in two bathrooms upstairs, again it's a matter of fresh paint; as well as some new drapes here and there.

There is also exterior work: new windows, a new roof, and tuckpointing a couple of chimneys, that sort of thing. The latter will cost serious money. But the interior work I described? We are getting it for a ridiculously low amount of money, thanks to several very generous people, who are either donating their own labor, or that of their employees, as well as donated materials.

After that I headed to the office. Realize this is now Friday afternoon, and I've been in the office a total of maybe 4 hours this week. I have stacks of messages, mail and emails. Still haven't written my homily. And I need to call the family about the funeral on Monday. I do reach them, and we agree to meet at 4 pm. So now I have about 2 hours in which to write my homily, while I do three or four other things. Well, I get a good start anyway. I help the family pick the readings for the Mass, as well as the music, and we have a good visit. Then I have a dinner appointment at 6, for which I leave late. Back home by 10 pm.

Saturday: I get to sleep late! So, naturally, I wake up at 7:30 am. The vicar had confessions; I told him I'd gladly take them for him--but he wants to be doing things. So I get to make coffee and drink it, and pray my office quietly, and do a little blogging. In a bit, I'll get cleaned up, head to the office for some appointments, try to refine my homily (it's too long; this may surprise you, but writing lots of words is easy; winnowing them down, down, down to something manageable and focused is what takes a lot of time), before hearing confessions at 3:30 pm, and Mass at 5 pm.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

March for Life 2007, Part I: Getting there

I wish I could think of a witty theme, expressed in the headline, a la Hunter S. Thompson (God have mercy on his soul). If the headline remains, "March for Life 2007," then you know I didn't come up with one by the time I post this report.

Flew out of Dayton International (sic) Airport at around 5:30 Sunday evening, on Air Tran, no problems, either departing or arriving. First time I've flown since the toothpaste-in-a-baggie rule, so I wondered if I'd have to throw out my deodorant and find some in downtown D.C. Fortunately, my stick of Old Spice was not deemed a threat to national security, to the benefit of everyone I encountered the next day.

Tip to air travelers--make sure your socks have no holes in them, as the Government compels you to undress partially in the cattle-pens they call "security" at the airport. Tip to the TSA contingent at the Baltimore-Washington Airport that works Monday evening: it costs you nothing to be pleasant. You don't have to bark and glare at us as if we are convicted felons checking into Sing Sing. I'm pretty sure "please" and "thank you" will not endanger the Republic. (To be fair, most of the time I have found the security personnel at the airports are pleasant and respectful. When they're not, they deserve censure. On the premise that these indignities are truly necessary, then it is absolutely incumbent on this gendarmerie to show their fellow citizens, a free people, respect as they exercise power over them. And I'll stop here before this turns into another "two minute hate" against the air travel industry.)

After landing at BWI, I shuttled over to the Amtrak Train station. An enterprising cabbie caught my attention, informed me of an hour delay for the D.C. train, and suggested I'd do better sharing a taxi to D.C. rather than rely on Amtrak. Inside the dreary station, I found one train was an hour late, but another train was due shortly, delayed but 10 minutes. Relying on that claim, I bought a ticket from the kiosk, as well as a return ticket. Just when the train was actually due, the, uh...dang, what is the term for the sign that shows all the trains? In Penn Station, they used to have an old-fashioned one that made neat clickity-click sounds every few minutes--far more interesting than the dull, colored-light-on-black ones. Well anyway, that's when I discovered the train I wanted would now be 25 minutes late. I got a bad feeling; so I stood up, asked if anyone wanted to share a taxi to D.C. Three others joined me; we got refunds on our train fare, and crammed into a cab. We made a little small-talk on the way down; we mainly chuckled at the driver's recommendations on transportation policy: "get rid of SUVs! Can't see around them, can't see through them! Get rid of all front-wheel drive cars, only rear-wheel cars, that's the answer."

He dropped us all off at the subway entrance to Union Station, which was as close to my hotel as the grander, front entrance; I hoofed it around the corner, and was inside the Phoenix Park Hotel. Very nice, usually pretty expensive. One of our seminarians organized a trip for his confreres, and he kindly booked me a room at about $130. Now, that's a lot, but in downtown D.C.? Not bad at all. And for the march, being out in the boondocks isn't a very good plan, as you then have to drive in--and that drive in costs something, too.

I quickly checked in, and headed to the restaurant/bar, which is called the Dubliner. The two or three times I've stayed at this hotel, for the march, there are always priests and seminarians in the place, and I was pretty sure I'd see familiar faces. Sure enough, the moment I walked in, I saw two deacons from the seminary sitting with some other seminarians I didn't know--they turned out to be from St. Louis. They were finishing up, but the Cincinnati guys stayed, and we had a beer, or two, or... Before long, a couple of priests came in, joined us, more of our seminarians, and the personnel at the table kept changing. A couple of bishops came in and sat at a nearby table, and we chatted a little. The poor waitress was working very hard, looked very frazzled--"she looks like she's on the 12th hour of an eight-hour shift," one of the guys remarked. We tried to be nice to her. The place was pretty busy, past midnight.

March for Life 2007, Part II: the Mass

The other priests and I met again for breakfast at 8:30, after which we'd head to the Verizon Center for Mass, a few blocks away. This is when my errors of judgment came back to haunt me. I packed in a blur the prior afternoon, and didn't give enough thought to the stole I brought. Would it be red, for St. Vincent the deacon, or green for ordinary time? I brought those two; then opted for the red, since I had to carry my stole, alb and cincture to the Mass. (I took one of the plastic laundry bags from the closet; hopefully, the hotel won't charge me for it.) Well, as the immortal crusader in the Indiana Jones movie quipped, "he choose poorly." The celebrant, Archbishop Wuerl, wore purple, and most of the concelebrants wore white; a few, green; I did spot one other fellow with a red stole, who perhaps was just as gratified to see mine.

The Mass was a loolapalooza--some 10,000 in attendance; in fact, it started with a "youth rally" about an hour prior; the assembly was hooting and swaying to a band about 20 minutes before Mass was due to start. At one time, there was a "seminarian Mass" held at a nearby church, but that was ended a few years ago, and supposedly this took it's place. I think that is a shame; however, Archbishop Wuerl did recognize the seminarians.

The music was heavily in Christian-rock vein. Meh. After the long procession (credit to the D.C. liturgist--they did have all the deacons and priests process in, but alas, not the seminarians), the Archbishop, before the opening Sign of the Cross, bade all to sit. He then made all the introductions, leading to various contingents to cheer for their diocese when their bishop was named. Archbishop Wuerl introduced the papal nuncio by saying, when you go back to Rome, please tell Pope Benedict of our loyalty and love--and everyone jumped to his feet, and the nuncio actually gave some arm-pumps, which charged up the crowd even more. The rest of the bishops got rousing reactions from their own contingents, and polite applause from everyone else. The bishops jumped to their feet to applaud the priests, which was nice (and everyone stood, too); the priests and all jumped to their feet to applaud the religious and seminarians; but unaccountably, the deacons did not get a standing O.

Well, after everyone had applauded everyone, we began Mass. When all that lasted about 25 minutes, I dreaded how long the rest of the Mass would last, but it proceeded nicely. A priest, the chaplain for University of Maryland, gave the homily, which was rather good. I gather he was chosen because he was expected to deliver a rousing message that would elicit strong responses from the assembly, and he did not disappoint. (It is rather telling--and I guess a sign of some humility--that no bishop was judged suitable for this mission.)

He started curiously, talking about junk food: I think junk food should be good for you...and playing video games should make you muscular; candy should cure acne...that sort of thing. Then he said, do you agree? Let's vote. "Yes," everyone thundered. Of course, he said, that's not how it works; we don't get to vote on reality. Truth is truth regardless of a vote. And so he segued into the prolife issue. Along the way, he also made some good points about chastity, and he told a moving story about a girl who came to him, pregnant, and how he helped her tell her family. He talked about personal vocation, plugging priestly and religious vocations, and he made a great point about how you know God's plan for your life--start by following his general plan: go to Mass, go to confession, do what you already know is right; because if you don't do these things, you are shutting him out of your life.

Well, he made other good points, but let us move on...Mass proceeded in the usual fashion from there. I forgot to mention the Mass had a bilingual quality--one of the readings was in Spanish, as were some of the petitions; a program helpfully provided translations--i.e., the printed text for what was in English, was Spanish, and vice-versa. Yes, I did think that this would have an excellent opportunity to use some Latin; and a little did make its appearance, in a contemporary, English-Latin Agnus Dei and a choir of seminarians chanted Adoro Te Devote and Adoremus te Christe. I wanted to sing along, but alas I do not know the words by heart. What if these had been printed in the program? (Dirty little secret--this is what priests do when they attend these big Masses--we critique everything.)

The gifts were brought forward by a coterie of folks with various disabilities, including several I believe had Downs Syndrome. And the thought that struck me will shock you, but here it is: If abortion is, indeed a kind of holocaust, then "the Jews" are people with Downs Syndrome: because they are the ones who are being exterminated. When you next meet someone with Downs Syndrome, realize that you are meeting a member of a group that are being wiped out from existence, because of pregnancy testing that identifies babies considered likely to have Downs Syndrome--and the fact that the vast majority of babies so identified are destroyed in the womb. Now there is a push to check every unborn baby. Search and destroy.

Also, as I watched the Archbishop warmly greet the gift-bearers--who were accompanied by able-bodied friends or family--I realized that in all our chest-thumping about the dignity of those with disabilities, it is in particular families that the rubber meets the road, as it were. If you are a parent, or a sibling, of someone with a disability, there are challenges and demands placed on you, perhaps very severe, perhaps for your whole life. It's fine for me to say, those with disabilities have dignity; but families to whom such folks belong are the rescuers, the "righteous gentiles" (a term Jews apply to non-Jews who aided them during the Holocaust) of our time.

Another thing I think most priests do, at a Mass like this, is watch to see how something so gargantuan, so complex, is organized. How will they consecrate so much bread and wine? How will they provide the Eucharist in a timely and orderly fashion? Confession time: there is a little, dark part of a priest that senses a train wreck may be in the offing, and feels a certain morbid fascination.

Well, I say with full admiration, they handled it about as well as I think they could--from what I saw. While the organizers might have had an altar big enough for all the bread and wine, as it happened, they had tables set up, at the edge of the arena floor, in front of the two sections where the concelebrating priests were. On these were placed bowls of bread and chalices of wine. Quite a bit was placed on the altar per se.

(Note: Roman Canon was used, with all the saints. The Mysterium Fidei and Per Ipsum were intoned, in English, by Archbishop Wuerl, who sang nicely, leading me to wish he'd sung more of the prayers. The priests spoke their parts--the epiclesis, words of consecration, and the offering, aloud, and made the gestures proper to the Roman Canon: bow, striking their chest. They joined in the Per Ipsum, and that was very nice.)

MCs--masters of ceremony--showed up, at the right time, with bowls containing the Body of Christ, so that the concelebrating priests could receive the Body of Christ with the Archbishop. Then we were led down, row-by-row, to those tables in front of us, to complete our communion with the Blood of Christ--and for those in the first several rows, to take bowls so as to distribute to the assembly. Priests were given slips of paper, presumably indicating where to go. Considering we had 10,000 people on three levels, it worked well. I was not needed to distribute, so I and my returned to our places after receiving the Blood of Christ. The MCs gathered all the hosts after communion, and with the help of several deacons, purified all the vessels in the proper fashion, and everything went smoothly. Mass ended fairly promptly--there was a practical announcement about exiting, meeting buses, and picking up signs.

Well, we processed out to another pop-rock sort of song (I really think the assembly would have responded as well to other musical choices. I'm not dead-set against all this sort of thing, but I do believe a little goes a long way, and shouldn't we have diversity?) -- it ended up being a rather quick-step recessional--maybe the servers or priests ahead of me, setting the pace, had too much coffee before Mass. Getting unvested and out of the arena, like the Mass, was remarkably orderly under the circumstances. Full kudos to all the hard work planning this.

One of the priests I was with wanted to hobnob with a bishop; the other had to hit the mens room, and said, I'll meet you at the corner of 7th and F. When we got out there, there were about 2,000 people at that corner--miraculously, we saw each other.

Here, again, another of my errors of judgment came back on me. I hadn't checked out of the hotel; I figured on returning, so that I wouldn't have to carry my alb, stole and cincture with me through the day. Had I been smarter, I would have checked out, stowed my luggage in the lobby, and then I'd have had a choice--because at that moment, I'd just as soon stayed gone ahead to the march. But too late--so I headed back to the hotel. In a few minutes, I'd stowed my liturgical gear in my bag, along with my scarf and gloves, as the temperature was near 40 degrees and low wind. I kept my cassock on; I figured it not only represented "flying the flag," but it would help keep me warm, which it did. It would, however, get muddy in the mosh pit where they have the "rally." But more on that in Part Three.

March for Life, 2007, Part III: When do we march?

Well, now I'm hoofing it back toward the rally that precedes the March. I've been to the March several times over the years, and one lesson I have learned is, avoid the rally! Or, at least, stay to the periphery.

I love the folks who put this together, overall their hearts are right, but the rally is such a weak spot. For one, I wouldn't let a single politician say word one. The organizers let various pols show up, or phone it in (the President); but you know what? Talk is cheap, and in Washington, talk-inflation makes it virtually worthless. You politicians want us to think you're prolife? Do something. Don't make us stand either on a miniature glacier (some years) or in a soup of mud while you echo one another in pledging undying loyalty to the cause. *Yawn*

Beyond the politicians, I wish the organizers would give more thought to who else gets up there. I didn't hear the name, but some yo-yo got up there and bellowed something about, "we want a holy land, not Homoland!" Well, that's clever but stupid.

First: it's mean. We don't need to call anyone names. If we have something to say about homosexuality, then just say it.

Second: why are we talking about homosexuality at a prolife march? Here's where a lot of my conservative friends, well intentioned, make a mistake. Instead of focus, they insist on a kind of comprehensive agenda. So a prolife rally also has to be a rally against homosexuality, and--what else? Higher taxes? Confiscating guns? Big Labor? Let's really draw up a good list, so that we can winnow down a crowd of 100,000-plus to the few thousand true believers we are willing to stand with!

So, for example, folks will show up at the March for Life with signs saying, "Democrats for Life" and "Gays for Life." What's the problem? The smart thing to do is to say, again and again: "We are people from all walks of life, all political parties, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist--if we talked politics or religion, we'd have a terrible fight on our hands; but we agree on one thing, and that's why we're here: to stop abortion!" Whatever you or I think about homosexual behavior, I am glad to have "Gays for Life" present. I think they sometimes get snarky comments, but in the main, I hope they're treated decently. Why not?

After all, there's little question that the March for Life is dominated by Catholics. Judging by appearances, you might think we represent 80-90% of the crowd, but that may be because we do a better job being visible--our Protestant brothers and sisters don't do so well, seems to me, on the outward regalia as we do. Now, I suppose, we could just take it over -- and shove Mary and saints and Eucharistic adoration and the Rosary down the throats of our separated brethren. Ah, that'll show 'em! (As it is, I do wonder if any Protestants attending the march do feel overwhelmed; for example, there's no way you can avoid the Rosary on the march--it gets prayed from front to back. I led the Lehman High School group in all 20 decades, which got us from the rally to the steps of the Supreme Court.)

So--message to the planners: maybe you could consider a different approach to the rally. I can see why you might need to have something while we gather--but maybe just music?

Another question I'd have for the planners: why did you change the location for the rally, and the route of the march? As it has been 3 years since I was at the march, I hadn't realized this had changed, and I would have walked all the way to the former site, the Ellipse in back of the White House, but that I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in about 12 years, who got me going in the right way. The problem with the new location is that it seemed more cramped than before. If this was to make the march shorter, I don't know that it worked.

Well, anyway, it took awhile actually to start marching, which is to be expected. An ambulance had to come through the crowd! and remarkably, it did so without incident, even though there were people inches from the rear-view mirrors!

One of the curious facts of life of something like this is all who show up. I am sure the pro-aborts were there, but I never heard or saw them. Of course, various other folks show up to promote their particular causes: someone handed me literature about the "true" Catholic Church--a bunch who had oddly worded signs about "Vatican II soul exterminators"--their purpose was to stress their own view of the ancient principle, "outside the Church there is no salvation." (Short answer on this headache-inducing topic: the Church teaches that people who are outside formal membership in the Catholic Church can be saved, but if they are saved, they are, for various reasons, deemed to be part of the Church, implicitly, even if not--on earth--explicitly. There's a lot more to be said about it, but not here, not now.)

There were also folks who set up huge copies of extremely graphic photographs of aborted children. There is disagreement about this--I tend to think these images, most of the time, are counterproductive. Notice I included the terms, "tend" and "most of the time." Others reach different opinions. I will concede that there probably is a time and place when people should be confronted with the stark reality of abortion, but that time and place is not "all the time," and everyplace.

These good folks made another mistake many prolifers and others make--they used the swastika in their imagery. Of course, what they want is to indentify abortion with the Nazis-- a valid point. That being said, there are two mistakes here.

First, you run the risk of getting into an argument with people who might otherwise be with you, but who don't agree with that linkage. If you push it too hard, your result is alienation, not alliance. What's important is opposing abortion--not agreeing on the arguments for that goal. I'm not saying we can't make the point about abortion and euthanasia and way Nazis thought and acted--but don't overdo it.

Second--never, never, never, never use the image of the swastika! I don't care how insightful your point, or how clever you are depicting it. The swastika is so radioactive an image, the point you are making is lost--all people see is the swastika, or the Nazi banner. So when you're making your signs, the night before, and you think it would be clever to use the swastika--go ahead, make one, show it to your friends, everyone agrees how clever it was--then rip it up and don't use it.

Now, I should say a word to anyone who had never been to this march--or, for that matter, to any sort of demonstration like this.

For whatever reason, I never had any qualms about this sort of thing. Could be because, when I was a boy--I think the very year Roe v. Wade was handed down--my parents took us to a demonstration in Cincinnati. My upbringing imbued me with a very strong sense that, this both our right as Americans, and our duty as moral people, to demonstrate and to speak out.

But I think some folks have the sense that going to a demonstration is extreme, or perhaps on the edge of what is appropriate, whether morally or civilly. Also, I realize some people have images of demonstrations that are ugly, confrontational, and violent.

I have been to many demonstrations and protests over the years, for various causes--I've never been in one where anyone was arrested (not that that, per se, would be bad; sometimes getting arrested is accepted as a helpful part of the demonstration--such as sitting at a lunch counter). I've never been at one where the police had any reason to worry or react.

As it is, this is one of the most peaceful, most orderly, most prayer demonstrations you will see. Even outside the halls of Congress and the Supreme Court, all you hear is either chants like "hey, hey, ho, ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go!" or you hear prayers. Nothing ugly, nothing wrathful.

Is it kind of a circus? Of course! How could it not? But it a fun way.

Some people just really don't like big cities, and they don't like crowds. If so, this March is definitely not for you.

The sight of all those people is always inspiring; and it is very encouraging to see so many young people, from elementary school up. Of course, our Catholic school system deserves credit, and this is a major reason we show up in big numbers. I have to think the young people who come to this are themselves inspired to realize--they aren't alone, even though they may feel alone, in their prolife views.

One of the opportunities you have, after the March, is to visit your congressman or senators. I haven't done that for a few years for various reasons. It's a good thing to do, but please, don't let them snow you. They know where you stand, and they want you to think they are your best friend. Don't let some hot chocolate and nice talk fool you. It's action that counts--and not the easy, feel-good actions, but the hard work of really fighting the fight. Lots of congressmen will vote for largely meaningless bills such as non-binding resolutions, or extremely marginal bills like banning sex-selection (which sounds good, except I can't see how it would prevent even a single abortion--all it would do is say, you can kill the baby for any reason but this one). But how many will cosponsor, and seek roll-call votes, on the Life at Conception Act, which actually will overturn Roe v. Wade?

(Many do not realize that Roe did not declare abortion a constitutional right; rather, on the premise of a right of privacy, the Court said that it could not say if unborn children were persons under the 14th Amendment -- but that if they were, then the right to abortion would "collapse." I.e., in the absence of clarity on the personhood of the unborn, the claims of the woman--clearly a person--prevailed. So who can say unborn children are persons? The Roe Court said, not us. And it pointedly did not say the Constitution ruled it out. The Court left it an unanswered question. So who can answer the question?

(Well, the 14th Amendment says that Congress has authority to implement the Amendment. So the Life at Conception Act does what the Court said it cannot do: it declares unborn children persons under the 14th Amendment. On the terms of current abortion jurisprudence, this seems the most promising way legislatively to overturn Roe--at least until such time as we have enough justices, which we may never have.

(The Life at Conception Act has been introduced many times, drawing many cosponsors; and if the GOP leadership had not been phony about, well, all their claimed principles, then we'd have had a roll-call vote already. But it is still a useful bill to introduce, as a benchmark; and while House rules make a vote there very unlikely, it's very possible to do in the Senate. We'll see.)

Well, I reached the Supreme Court around 3 pm, so I started back to the hotel. I headed over to Union Station, which was mobbed, to get a bite to eat and wait for my train to the airport. Thankfully, I had the impulse to ask an attendant about using my ticket on an earlier train--and she pointed out my departure time was 5:25 am--I'd missed the train I'd booked! Not too long ago, you could simply step on the train, and either buy a ticket on board, or they'd accept a ticket for an earlier train. But not anymore. So at about 4:40 pm, I'm in a long line, wondering if they'll have a seat. They did, no problems.

As it happened, the group of seminarians and I were all on the same flight back. You may wonder why we flew; the answer is, it was cheaper. They got a fare of about $110, I, $160. They went up on Saturday, came back Monday, so renting the bus all that time isn't cheap. If I'd driven, the wear-and-tear on my car would be quite a lot more than that.

Except for the unpleasant security personnel, no problems coming back, and I was back home by 11 pm, whereupon I had a snack, surfed the 'net and had a nice night's sleep, and slept a little late today, and have given you this over-detailed report.

See you there next year?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Running all the time

For all those who may think Saturday is a day off for priests, think again. As it happens, Saturday is the best day for me to meet couples preparing for marriage; I am not free most weeknights, and they can't come during the work day. With confessions in the morning, I can usually meet two couples on a Saturday -- then I have to prepare for the vigil Mass.

This past Saturday followed that pattern, plus I had to wedge in a drive 30 miles north, to a retreat center where our 8th graders were on retreat preparing for confirmation. We had exposition and benediction for them. I got there just barely in time, I quickly briefed the server, and we had a holy hour. Then I had to fly back to the parish for 4 pm Mass.

After that, a baptism (with two parishes, I can only do baptisms on Sunday after the last Mass at St. Mary; so for folks at St. Boniface, we either do it during a Sunday Mass, or after the Saturday evening Mass.

After that, a party for the ushers at St. Mary; it was my idea, but I didn't do very much. Several of the ushers, with their wives, did all the work. My contribution was to bring some pop and beer. The reason for the party? Just to meet and get to know them. That got me back home around 10 pm.

This morning, up for 7 am Mass; then pick up doughnuts on the way to the 9 am Mass at the other parish; I needed doughnuts because I was meeting with some catechists -- again, a "get to know you" event -- after 9 am Mass. After that, I checked in with the parochial vicar, who hasn't been doing well (please pray for him), to see if he would still take Noon Mass; he said he could (and he did).

Back home around 11:30 am; after something to eat, I went out and shoveled my walk and my driveway; then a phone call to a man whose father died Friday; his funeral is Wednesday. I wanted to make sure all was in order; we'll talk Tuesday about the readings.

In a moment, I'm going to get my gear together and head to the airport to fly to D.C. for the March for Life. If the weather cooperates, I'll get into Baltimore around 7, into D.C. around 8. I have no idea where I'll concelebrate Mass tomorrow, but I'm sure I'll find out about something when I get there. After the march, I have a flight back tomorrow evening around 7:30 pm, if memory serves. Then back to the grind here on Tuesday -- although I'll probably take it easy then.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hear, Respond, Act (Sunday homily)

The first reading reminds us
how important it is for us—
not only as individuals but also as a community—
to hear the Word of God.

Many parishioners say they wish they knew more
about the Scriptures.

Well, one opportunity is daily Mass.

Also, I have a Bible study
almost every Wednesday evening—
I say, almost, because this Wednesday
I won’t be there—but every other Wednesday.

We meet in the Caserta Center at St. Boniface.
Anyone, any age is welcome.
If you want to do study on your own,
I listed some resources in the bulletin.

It is not only important to hear the Word of God,
but also to respond.

In that first reading, when they heard God’s Law,
they bowed down, and wept.

Why? Because they remembered
all God had done for them,
and how far they had wandered.
Yet God did not forget them—
he brought them back!

As they made a fresh start, Ezra and Nehemiah
reminded them what we prayed, today, in the psalm:
God’s Word is spirit and life!
When we set aside God’s Word,
we go sour—our society goes sour.

As many of us know,
Monday marks the anniversary,
of the Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade.

The consequences of that have been terrible.
Over 40 million tiny lives lost in this country;
many other countries have followed our example;
and untold numbers of men and women
have also been scarred by this.

Monday, I will be in Washington, D.C.,
along with some of our parishioners,
including some Lehman students.

Along with many others,
we will do, for our time,
what Ezra and Nehemiah did, in theirs:
Calling our nation back
to the life-giving ways of God!

Some say that goes too far—
that while we may regret what the court did,
we should leave the law as it is,
and just be “personally opposed.”

Last week, we celebrated Martin Luther King Day.
I don’t know what Dr. King said about abortion;
but I do know that he was never
merely “personally opposed”
to segregation, and lynching, and violence!

He knew what the Gospel said:
that the Spirit of the Lord anoints and sends us
“to bring glad tidings to the poor…
liberty to captives…
recovery of sight to the blind,”
and “to let the oppressed go free.”

Dr. King did not wait for the Lord to do it.
The Lord anointed Dr. King, with many others,
and they changed our nation for the better!

You and I have the same task today.

Yes, this is our moral duty as Catholics—
it’s not a choice.
The Spirit impels us to protest the present situation,
and to change things, including our laws!

We do it with our words and example,
with prayer, with peaceful protest,
by supporting alternatives,
outreach to women in desperate situations,
bringing healing to those
who have been wounded,
and yes, we take political action and we vote.

Some say, there are many “life issues.”
That is true.
But this is clearly one of them—not optional.

I mentioned providing healing to the wounded.
Many women and men suffer terribly and silently.
You and I, with simple kindness and encouragement,
can bring liberty to those in a terrible bondage.

Again—see the bulletin for information
about Project Rachel, which offers healing and hope.

When Ezra and Nehemiah challenged their people
they did weep, when they realized how far they’d strayed.

And yet they said to the people,
Do not weep—this a holy moment, a time of joy!

When the Holy Spirit challenges us,
He also gives us the power to respond and change.
And that is reason to rejoice.

When you and I put faith in Jesus Christ;
when we come to the sacraments, to confession,
to the Eucharist—he fills us with his Spirit—
and that is joy—and that will be our strength.

(Resources mentioned in the bulletin:

* The Navarre Bible. A series of in-depth commentaries on the Bible, several volumes.

* Ignatius Study Bible. Also a series, on various books of the Bible. Not all books of the Bible covered, yet.

* The Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology. An online resource, by Scott Hahn. Free!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Am I boring you?

Folks keep visiting, but fewer comments lately.

Just wondering if you don't like what you see -- or if someone is experiencing technical difficulties.

I know, I know; you probably want more "day in a life" posts . . .

OK: Mass at 8 am; I was tired getting up, so I was a little late starting Mass. Probably talked too much on the Letter to the Hebrews. Stopped at Tim Hortons for coffee and some doughnuts, intending to head home to work on homily; saw a couple of parishioners, chatted with them a bit.

Worked on homily for Sunday rest of the morning, into early afternoon, then to office. Moved paper around, made phone calls, wrote a few letters for various things, handled a few matters with staff, reviewed the two bulletins for Sunday. Did a little 'net surfing late in the afternoon, am about to head over for the weekly Bible study. Home by 8:30 when I'll have dinner.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Bringing back Latin, redoing the liturgy -- a great explanation

Father Rob Johansen, a pastor in the Diocese of Kalamazoo, has a blog where he posts his thoughts and homilies, as do I and many other priests.

I chanced upon this homily in which he explains, to his parish, the reason it is important to keep Latin in the liturgy, to have a proper translation of the Mass. I would add that it gives an explanation for the "reform of the reform" movement that is catching on around the country.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Thank You, Dr. King

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and it invites some reflecting.

This holiday was controversial not that many years ago: did we really need another national holiday? Was Dr. King really deserving of a holiday; was this about him, or about more contemporary politics?

Many of my conservative friends point out -- rightly -- that beyond what Dr. King is mainly known for, he took positions on issues of the day that located him very much on the left-liberal side of things. If all the respect and admiration for Dr. King makes it impossible to point this out, and critique it, then conservatives who opposed this holiday had a point.

Also, there is a little-appreciated, principled, small-government conservative point of view that laments the distortion of our constitution that came with federal civil rights laws of the 1960s -- namely, the distortion of the First Amendment and the balance of power between the federal government and state and local power.

That state and local power was being exercised in such an ugly cause: segregation and racial oppression -- makes this latter argument very hard to make; but as we witness the metatasizing of government power, now in the name of "defending America from terror" and in the name of "protecting our system from political corruption," etc. ad nauseam, perhaps it becomes a little easier to view such things with detachment. If the Left is now going to start considering libertarianism and states rights, then it's time for the Left to stop labeling all conservatives who have long talked about such things as racists.

One gets a lesson in the way of things when one contemplates how the self-described "absolutists" about the First Amendment -- so active when it comes to Nazis marching, or removing a cross from public lands, or about the "speech" content of hard-core pornography -- have absolutely nothing to say about encroachments on the freedom of association, likewise protected by the First Amendment, that were part-and-parcel of the 1960s Civil Rights enactments. It is a more honest argument to say it was price worth paying, or one we had to pay, than what usually happens: either to pretend there was no encroachment on the First Amendment, or to bluster that anyone who utters a peep of criticism is a crypto-klansman.

Anyway, if we're grownup about this, we can appreciate and honor a man and a movement, while also acknowledging flaws and drawbacks. Were Dr. King alive today, he might well be more controversial, had he continued to be involved in causes other than the Civil Rights movement.

All that said: Dr. King led a just and necessary cause; and he made our nation a better place. I don't mean, just a portion of our nation -- I mean our whole nation. And how many of us would like such an epitaph -- and how few of us can reasonably hope to receive it?

That men be judged by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin, is a great moral vision that almost none of us would actually disagree with; and yet, that is not how things were at the time of his movement, and they still aren't -- not yet; ironically, the situation has somewhat reversed, so that we have racial preferences carried out in the name of Dr. King and Civil Rights. Fault the successors of the movement, fault Dr. King himself if you wish; but the vision he enunciated is right, and he deserves credit for that.

He also deserves credit for bringing a reconciling, Christian spirit to a movement that might otherwise have been something very ugly and destructive. There were, after all, vengeful and violent actors in the cause of liberating black Americans; I think Dr. King deserves credit for helping to keep them at the margins.

There is some irony in arraying government power against segregation and Jim Crow, and some dishonesty, insofar as some want you to think segregation and Jim Crow were primarily private, non-governmental actions. In fact, they were enforced by government, and by violence; whereas it was in large measure by private action, and appealing to the conscience and decency of both white and black Americans, that Dr. King and others brought it down.

I certainly understand why Dr. King, and African-Americans generally, would look to government for redressing wrongs; under similar circumstances, I doubt I would be so pure in my libertarian views. Nor am I pretending that the government policy of oppression wasn't matched by bigotry and indifference in people's hearts. But I do mean to say that it isn't honest to harness these issues, and the history, into bolstering the left-liberal narrative of virtuous Government vs. greedy, wicked individualism. After all, remember that the tactic of the preservers of segregation and racial oppression used state action to protect those things, as well as relying on state connivance with private actors terrorizing people -- both black and white -- into leaving things alone.

Someday, I hope we can de-couple the cause of civil rights from the cause of Big Government.

After all, the continuing crisis of race and poverty in this nation is, to a significant degree, a product of government policy. The dissolution of family structures and the wreckage that is government-run education in cities must be laid at the feet of government. Continuing to rail against racism, and the ghosts of the past, does next to nothing about the problem of so many children born and raised without fathers, without families, and put onto the grim treadmill of crime, poor education and despair.

And you can accuse me of middle-class myopia, but I fail to see how it helps the cause of young black men and women, that we as a society mute our voices when it comes to the crime-glorifying thugs and poseurs in the entertainment industry who serve as modern-day minstrels for well-off suburban white kids, but are Pied Pipers for inner-city black kids for whom they claim to be an "authentic voice." God have mercy on them, and on these absurd apologists who have landed jobs in academia or in "think tanks," and who regularly crop up before the tv cameras to give either a pseudo-intellectual gloss to this whole tragedy, or to deflect attention away from the real problems, to vital issues like reparations, the revolutionary power of broken English, the true skin color of Cleopatra, and the great conspiracy that explains everything (except themselves; if these clowns actually admitted being paid agents of "the Man," that would actually lend credence to "the Conspiracy.")

I can't know, of course, but I hope that, were Dr. King with us still, he would have used his mighty voice to say needful things about this mess. What a shame Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton can't be bothered; thank heaven for the candor of Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey -- and note the yawning, embarassed silence that greets their common sense observation that a man is happily walking down the street wearing only a silly crown on his head, and no one seems to know it but them.

In short: much of the task remains unfinished.

Yet Dr. King did all Americans a great service in awakening the nation's conscience, in enunciating a vision of reconciliation and brotherhood, centered on fundamentally American and Christian values, and pursuing a path of non-violence and reconciliation.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Wedding at Cana (Sunday homily)

There are an abundance of blessings
in this Gospel story—
allow me to share some of them with you.

“There was a wedding—
and the mother of Jesus was there.”

In this Gospel, the Apostle John,
never calls Mary by name,
but always “mother” or—
in two places—“Woman.”

The thought of a wedding invokes many images:
Joy. Celebration. Family and friends. New Beginning.

Everything here signals we are talking about
things on two levels: natural, and supernatural.

The Old Testament prophets used images of abundance
to describe the coming of the Messiah.
The first reading describes God
making a marriage with his people.

And wine is often an image of the Holy Spirit.

This story begins with Mary, the Mother.
She is already there when Jesus arrives with his disciples.

Before this, Jesus had gone down to the Jordan,
to be baptized; then he started gathering followers:
then he comes back to Galilee to the wedding.

When Mary last saw her Son, he was alone;
now, she sees him return, with followers.
Mary, who ponders all these things in her heart,
knows something is starting to happen.

John, emphasizing Mary as mother,
means not just for Jesus, but for all the faithful.

This is why Jesus calls her “Woman.”
That will get you in trouble if you call your mother that!

But hear it on the spiritual level:
this refers back to the first woman.
In Genesis, Adam called her “Eve,
because she became mother of all the living.”

Jesus is the New Adam—and he is calling Mary,
the new Eve, because she will be mother
of all who have life through him.

Mother Mary is eager for her role in bringing
her Son’s plan of salvation to birth.
She’s ready for the abundance about to happen.

So we’re puzzled when Jesus responds,
“how does your concern affect me?”
That’s a hard phrase to translate;
it often expresses challenge or distance.
But that won’t work in this story.
The meaning becomes clear when he says,
“My hour has not yet come."

The Lord is not offended by Mary’s eager intervention.
Calling her “Woman” signals he wants her
to be the New Eve, mother of all the faithful.
What he is saying is, “not yet.”

He is not objecting to the miracle.
Some think Mary “talks him into it”—
but I don’t believe that.

I believe he intends to do the miracle,
and Mary—very spiritually attuned—
picks up on that.
If you look very closely at this story,
you will realize there’s a dialogue between them
that isn’t expressed in words.
That shows how closely knit her heart is to his.

In what we might have thought
a chilly conversation
is actually a tremendous compliment—
The best compliment the Lord ever paid anyone:
I cannot think of any other occasion where
God had to slow someone down
in pursuit of his work of salvation!

Would that the Lord said that to us:
“You’re so eager for my plan,
you’re getting ahead of me!”
That’s what his “not my hour” means.

The next—and only other—
time he calls her “Woman,”
they will meet again at the Cross.
Then his hour will have come;
and then, Jesus will say, “Behold your mother!”
He gives her the green light!

Why is Mary so eager? She is full of the New Wine:
the Holy Spirit, who filled her from her conception.

When I first meet with couples preparing to marry,
we read and discuss this Gospel.

I invite them to see in the water-made-wine,
what Jesus wants to do in their lives.
He turns the ordinary into extraordinary.

Not just any wine—but the very best!
Not just some, but filled to the brim!

He makes abundance happen through us,
and we become a blessing to others.
The abundance the Lord wants to give
comes when we submit ourselves to him:
His to command and dispose of—
to be a blessing to others.

The abundance of priests we need—
this is how it will happen.

The deep conversion we need in our lives—
This is what opens the door.

This is how marriages persevere—no other way.
This is how couples get past
the cramped mindset of our society,
that only has so much room for children.

Voices around us tell us to be afraid
of the challenge of faithfulness,
the challenge of family life.

Many families have told me about
the disapproval and mockery they face
when a fourth, or fifth child, is on the way.

Voices say it is “irrational” to have large families.
And yet, Europe, Russia and Japan
are having so few children, they are dying out.

Their economies are stagnating;
They face huge problems with social security.
You’ve heard it said that China
has “too many” people; in fact,
they face the same problems in later decades.

As does our country.
Our growth is mostly from immigration.

The problems we hear about with Social Security
are almost entirely because we have too few
new workers coming into the system.

Our schools have too few students.
Piqua isn’t growing; Ohio isn’t growing—
and our economy suffers as a result.

When the Lord is in charge—
there is always abundance—
not “too many people” or “too few resources”;
that is seeing things without spiritual vision.

God gives abundance—our world’s problem
is that we mismanage that abundance!

Notice those jars were there for another purpose.
But the Lord took them, and changed their purpose.
He will often do that with us.

Our day—our lives—
often unfold in ways we don’t expect.
Maybe we resent it; sometimes it means real sacrifice.
Still, the new wine our lives become
always proves to be the best of all!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Big Labor killing Detroit -- Liberal Journalist

Those of you who get irritated when I bring up Right to Work -- that is, the idea that no one should be coerced into joining or supporting a union, but rather should be free to choose to affiliate with a union -- really won't like the article I'm linking in this post.

Mickey Kaus is an online journalist whose been associated with "mainstream," liberal-leaning media: Newsweek, Washington Monthly and the New Republic. He makes the case as well as anyone for what's wrong with compulsory unionism, in Slate column, "Unionism Isn't Killing Detroit?"

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sinai-Calvary-Mass (Daily homily)

We continue to reflect
on the Letter to the Hebrews…

In a paragraph right before today’s reading,
Moses is mentioned.
Then comes what we just heard,
which quotes Psalm 95:
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

All this recall the covenant at Mt. Sinai—
so let’s paint the scene.

Moses led God’s people from slavery, to Sinai,
where we went up and met God;
Moses mediated the great covenant
between God and his People.
God revealed himself, his Law, to Israel,
and gave his unbreakable pledge to his people.

Up on Sinai, God was enshrouded in fire and cloud,
untouchable, terrifying in his power and glory.
The mountain shook at the thunder of his Voice.

In the fullness of time, comes Jesus:
Jesus not only brings God’s Word—
is God’s final Word to humanity.

Jesus leads all mankind from slavery to sin;
he is the deliverer, who brings us to God,
for a new and everlasting covenant.

In Jesus, the fearsome, unreachable YHWH
comes down the mountain,
and pitches his tent in our very midst,
becoming our brother!

Moses went up a mountain—Jesus ascended Calvary!

Moses offered animals in sacrifice;
Jesus offered himself as the Lamb of God!

Moses sprinkled the people with the blood of goats;
Jesus pours out his own Precious Blood,
one tiny drop of which would have been sufficient
to save everyone who ever has, or will, exist!

At Sinai, with all the wonders the people beheld,
Moses said: God is in your midst: yield to him;
Don’t harden your hearts!

The Holy Spirit, whose glory enshrouded Sinai
with cloud and fire, says the same to us:
YHWH-Jesus! Hear his Voice!

The Gospel actually connects to this:
it strikes us odd that Jesus keeps saying,
“Don’t tell anyone.”
Here’s why: like the people at Sinai,
they see—but they don’t see.

At Sinai, the people saw the fireworks,
they saw the Manna—“free bread!”—
but missed the reality of God coming to save them;
and the same thing happens in Jesus!

What do people see? A potential new king;
a military leader; a giver of goodies!

They don’t really see: God became man,
to be the priest—and offering!—
of a new and everlasting covenant!

Now lets come right to the present.
We wonder how those folks missed it;
well, here we are, and a greater than Sinai happens here!
we’re the new covenant people—it’s US!

Sinai—Calvary—the Covenant—right here!
The same Spirit comes down, right here!
The Lamb—his Flesh and Blood—offered here!

We are always in danger
of missing the awesome event
that happens before us.
We priests are often tempted
to be minimalistic or rote
in how we offer the Mass.

Holy Spirit: help us not to harden our hearts!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Homilies on Hebrews

Two years ago, when last the Letter to the Hebrews appeared in the daily lectionary, I prepared a series of homilies on this text. I thought you'd like to see them. What follows are two homilies, the first corresponds to the beginning of the letter -- but those readings got bumped by the Baptism of the Lord on Monday. The second homily, below, corresponds to today's readings. Let me know if this is worthwhile.

(Heb. 1:1-6; Ps. 97; Mark 1:14-20)
During the whole month of January,
we’ll be hearing from the Letter to the Hebrews.
That tells us the Church thinks this is important.

We’re not sure who wrote this Letter
(actually, scholars think it’s a homily…pretty long!).
Many associate it with St. Paul, but that was disputed,
even in the early church, and scholars—
who don’t agree that often—feel pretty strongly about this.
In any case, it’s beautifully crafted in elegant Greek.

It’s called “to the Hebrews” because it seems directed
to Jewish Christians; we remember
the first Christians were Jews, often Greek in culture.
The writer of this exhortation writes to people
who know both Scripture and Greek philosophy.

We start by hearing about the Son of God: who is he?
In a few days, we’ll begin hearing about
the priesthood of Jesus Christ—
and the power of his sacrifice; that’s the heart of this letter.

When the author—whoever he is—
exhorts us to persevere in faith,
we do so because we know who Jesus is:
Jesus is God’s full and final Word to humanity;
the Bible is complete with Jesus,
because there’s nothing more to be “said.”

You might have noticed
how well today’s Gospel fits with this:
Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the four;
while many focus on the humanity of Jesus,
I think the brevity of Mark’s Gospel shows his
when Jesus speaks, things happen, lickety-split.
That’s a sign of divinity, as in Genesis:
God spoke, and light was made.

The crux of our faith always comes to this: Who is Jesus?
Our readings remind us
that it’s not a vague Jesus whom we follow.
Jesus is the fullness of God,
come in human flesh, to save the human race.
Did the Apostles get all that in an instant?
I doubt it; but they knew someone
utterly real and powerful was calling them,
and so they left all to follow him.

And we do the same.

* * *

(Heb. 2:5-12; Ps. 8; Mark 1:21-28)

Our first reading teaches us something very important:
it’s better to be human than to be an angel.
Now, in some ways, angels are superior—
angels know things we don’t;
angels have powers we lack.

And we hear that the Son of God made man
was made “for a little while lower than the angels.”
What does that mean?

Well, several things.
It reminds us of his humiliation on the Cross.
We recall that angels are God’s servants,
and God abased himself at the Cross
in a way even his servants don’t suffer.

But to say God went low is to say man was lifted high!
Recall the words the priest says at Mass,
when he adds the water to the wine:
“By the mystery of this water and wine,
may we come to share in the divinity of Christ
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

As so many Fathers of the Church have said:
“God became man so that men might become God”!
And that is not a privilege offered to the angels.

So let’s clear up something here:
when we die, we do not go to heaven to become angels!
God’s goal for us is to become fully human.
Heaven—for us—is to experience
the full glory of being human;
of being fully alive as flesh-and-blood.

And that’s why the Resurrection is important, too:
our final destiny is not to be disembodied spirits,
but to have our bodies back—new and improved—
united to our souls, and united fully to God.

That’s being fully human—fully alive in Christ!
Being an angel is great—but being human is better.
As St. John Chrysostom said,
we can “glory that the Son of God is bone of our bone,
and flesh of our flesh, a privilege not given to angels.”

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Meaning of Epiphany

I wish I'd seen this post at Catholic Sensibility before I offered my own post below. This includes an article from an Anglican bishop that is very good in unpacking the meaning of this feast.

All I would add is to highlight the connection in the readings between the prophecy of Isaiah, and the fulfillment of Matthew: a reference to gold and frankincense (but not myrrh, hmmm!); and the reference, in Isaiah, of kings walking "by your shining radiance." Insofar as the Gospel does not refer to "kings," but Magi, I suspect the idea they are kings may have been influenced by the Isaiah passage. The historical-critical observer would say Matthew got the idea of the gifts from Isaiah; may I point out that, on sound historical-critical grounds, the Isaiah prophecy may have been offered among the exiled Jews -- i.e., in Babylon! -- so it's not unreasonable to suppose that the Magi were, in fact, influenced by Isaiah: we know a Jewish community remained in Babylon; and if that's where the magi came from, it's hardly a stretch to suppose they'd have consulted Jewish wise men on the matter... It's all speculation, anyway . . .

What did you see & hear for Epiphany?

For Sunday-goers, today is the final feast of Christmas (liturgical geeks such as myself know that we still have the Baptism of the Lord; and you get a PhD in said geek-ology if you know why the Baptism of the Lord is sometimes celebrated in the U.S. on a Sunday, but some years, i.e., this year, on a Monday. (See end of post for explanation.)

My sense of the regular Catholic churchgoer's perception of things is that Epiphany isn't a major feast. Am I right? In any case, the Church, in her liturgy, deems Epiphany to be a major feast indeed. The Church ranks Epiphany on the same level as Christmas, Ascension and Pentecost, Sundays of Advent, Lent, and the Season of Easter. This is one of the occasions when a special insert is provided for the Roman Canon (hence a reason to use it if possible, seems to me); Epiphany is one of three days with a special proclamation provided -- that of the calendar for the year -- although it is optional (as is the Christmas proclamation; the Exsultet for the Great Vigil of Easter is not optional, if memory serves).

This feast is an even bigger deal for the Eastern Christians, than it is for us Romans; would it be fair to say that it is a bigger deal for them than Christmas Day? I will let any Eastern Christians comment on that themselves.

Also, when Epiphany is celebrated on its proper day, it is the "Twelfth Day of Christmas"; unfortunately, when it's moved, this spoils that connection. Many customs come down to us in association with Epiphany that reveal its significance in the broader and deeper tradition of the Church, including gift-giving (wonder why!) and a celebration of the Magi.)

Finally, there is the theological reason for Epiphany to be a big deal -- it forms a kind of "couplet" with the Nativity: on December 25, we celebrate YHWH's being born; but that was a quiet, relatively hidden coming; you can also see it as a being-made-known to his own people; hence the emphasis on how that fulfills prophecy of a comming Messiah -- i.e., for the Jewish People. (Then, the Octave is completed with the circumcision -- i.e., Jesus is shown to be a good Jew. Here again, the change in the calendar, making January 1 the Solemnity of the Mother of God, obscures this.) With this Solemnity, the Messiah-for-the-Jews is, for the first time, adored by the Nations and manifested as the Light for all peoples. Epiphany, in a sense, "completes" the mystery of Christmas . . . although you still have the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord, which -- to me -- seems anticlimactic. But the Baptism gives an emphasis on mission -- and on the commencement of our Lord's public ministry. (A little aside: the liturgy for Epiphany attempts to conflate three events -- the Magi's visit, the Wedding of Cana, and the Baptism; yet the liturgical year spreads them out, with the two feasts of Christmas, and then the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, always having the Gospel story of the Cana Wedding.)

Ah well, that's enough about that (probably too much). What did you see or hear?

At both parishes, the Magi showed up. Some liturgical purists say don't do that (i.e., they should be there from the get-go, along with il Bambino); I say, "who cares?" If I'd had my druthers, I'd've added even more candles -- i.e., more light -- but I couldn't think of a way to do it, and besides, can't do everything.

At 4 pm Mass last night, at St. Boniface, and at Noon today at St. Mary, I sang almost everything. (The 7 am Mass is a "no music" Mass -- no musical accompaniment -- so adding just some singing is kind of a trauma. I led a hymn for the opening, and sung some of the prayers.) While I'd prefer to have someone else lead the calendar proclamation, I did it at my Masses; the music director and I have agreed it's one of those things we'll get to in future years. I mangled it last night; I did a lot better today. FYI, I chose to do it after the post-communion prayer, i.e., just before the final blessing. I did a short blessing as a result.)

I also chanted the Gospel, something I do three or four times a year, i.e., Christmas (when I'm not green at the gills, as I was this year), Epiphany, Easter and Pentecost. I chanted the entire Roman Canon, including all the saints listed, at Noon. I even chanted my introductory remarks right after the Sign of the Cross (chanted too) -- i.e., briefly explaining the feast and leading to the penitential rite, also chanted, with the triple litany ("Lord Jesus, you are Mighty God and Prince of Peace...Kyrie, Elieison...)

Perhaps it was too much chant? Our youth minister says it kind of hypnotizes him; that could be good or bad, if you think about it.

The music is listed at our Music Director's site, which is also linked in the column to the right side of this page: Piqua Catholic Community Choir. You'll see all the hymns were standard ones.

(One thing we do at all Masses now is the psalm texts chosen must be proper translations; regrettably, the hymnal publishers weren't very diligent in that regard (and perhaps blame goes to the bishops for not insisting), and so many of the psalms provided in the hymnals have the proper refrains, but the texts are paraphrases, and often incomplete! I.e., they don't match the lectionary, as they must. The psalm at Mass is not just a song; it is a proclamation of the Word of God--so it should not be paraphrased. So, at my direction, a psalm-setting can't be used at this point unless it's an approved translation.)

Did I use incense? Is the pope German? (Seems to me, given the circumstances, incense especially makes sense on this day...) In future years, I want to have the server incense at the consecration; but that was a "bridge too far" this year. And of course I used gold vestments!

Finally, as you see below in my homily, this also marks the beginning of Vocation Promotion Week; so my homily keyed in on that, rather than the theological significance of the feast. A better or more diligent homilist might have done both, but oh well!

Well, if you've read this far--do tell what you saw or heard where you participated in the Mass.

(The Epiphany is properly assigned to January 6, and the Baptism of the Lord is to be celebrated on the Sunday following; in some places -- including, I believe, all U.S. dioceses, Epiphany is always transferred to a Sunday; thus, this year, Sunday, January 7. When that Sunday comes after January 6, then the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on the very next Monday, and then Ordinary Time begins. Next year, for example, Epiphany will be on a Sunday; and then the Baptism will be on the 13th, as late as it can be, I believe.)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The courage to follow your Star (Epiphany homily)

Today we recall a star
that led a group of seekers to Christ.

Notice: the star didn’t drop out of the sky.
First they had to look for it.
Then they had to follow it.

There are a lot of stars up there.
Which one is for you?

My star is called “priesthood.”
A lot of men see it—but they hold back,
because they think the journey will be too difficult.

Some say there aren’t enough men
called to the priesthood.
I disagree. God is calling more than enough men—
more than we have, now.

But, if we never go outside at night, and look up—
how will we ever see the Star?

It’s more than a question of hearing God’s call;
It’s a question of having the courage to answer.

Men, if you want an easy life, don’t be a priest!
Don’t be husband or father; in fact, don’t be anything.

It’s takes guts to be a priest.
To lay down your life for others?
Yes, that takes courage.
Is it worth it?

Our men and women in uniform;
Fathers and mothers who sacrifice for their families:
you want to tell them it wasn’t worth it?

Love is the key.

The quality of love . . .
Whether a parent for a child,
a friend for a friend, a sister for a brother,
a married couple for each other,
or a patriot for his homeland…

. . . is that you realize,
“This—for this I will lay down my life!
And I will be glad to do so!
This is what I want my life to be for!”

In the movie “Braveheart,”
the hero, William Wallace, before a battle, said this:

“I see before me an army of my countrymen
here in defiance of tyranny.
“You have come to fight as free men,
and free men you are.
What would you do without freedom?
Will you fight?”

A soldier calls back,
“Fight against that? No, we will run, and we will live.”

“Aye, fight…and you may die! Run—and you’ll live.
At least a while.
And dying in your beds many years from now,
would you be willing to trade all the days
from this day to that for one chance,
just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies
that they may take our lives,
but they'll never take our freedom!?”

Yes, it takes courage to be a priest of Jesus Christ,
to be a religious sister,
like Sister Joan Clare, and Sister Mary Alice.

And many voices will say, “Don’t take a chance!
It’s too dangerous, too costly! Wait for another day!”

And you may wait. And wait. Until it’s too late.

It takes courage from all of us—
every one of us has a role in giving the invitation;
and in supporting those who answer the call.

This will shock you, but it is true:
Many times a boy or young man
will express interest in being a priest…
a young woman, in being a sister;
and friends, family, even his parents,
will, in various ways, discourage that call.

Parents, you too need courage to believe
that when your child hears the call,
whatever lies in that path,
know that it is the path
that will make him or her most happy.

I am very happy as your pastor.
Father Ang could have quit years ago;
Father Tom could quit anytime he wants.
But they don’t! You think they’ve found their purpose?

And everything I’m saying applies,
no matter what your call in life will be.

People ask me about my call.
A priest asked me to think about it—and I said I would.

I prayed about it;
and the desire started to grow, day by day.
As it grew in me, I had to do something—
I had to ask questions, I had to find out!
I stayed with a priest for several days, so I could see.
I checked out the seminary; I stayed;
I came here as an intern; I came back as your pastor!

I don’t feel very courageous!
But the soldier on the battlefield,
the father staying up all night,
the sister who teaches children, or cares for the sick…
they don’t feel courageous either.

You just do it. That’s what it feels like.
That’s how it happens.

You follow the star—wherever it leads.
The trials and sacrifices are the joy!
It’s a package deal.

The first step is the hardest.
After that you discover,
“this is my star—this journey was made for me.”

And we also discover that Jesus not only waits for us
at the end—he is with us every step along the way.

There are a lot of stars up there.
Which one is for you?

Friday, January 05, 2007

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
His Most Serene Highness Lord Martin the Charming of Walk upon Water
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Biretta tip: Domenico Bettinelli.

You can be a vocation-promotion machine . . .

At Rich Leonardi's Ten Reasons, he has this post on vocations, particularly for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

In the comments, Father Kyle Schnippel (whose site is here), thanks Rich for his good words about our diocese's relative success in recent years, but adds, "we could be doing much better."

I agree with my friend and brother priest. They are there; you and I and all of us have to dedicate ourselves to assisting them.

Pray. Invite. Encourage. Support the priesthood. (When someone bashes a priest, how can a young man, hearing that, find that encouraging?)

Sacrifice. Offer penance. Promote the priesthood in what you say about it, and how you regard it. Support your priest -- yes, even if, and despite the fact that, you find faults in him.

Tell your sons, grandsons, brothers, nephews, uncles, that you think being a priest is swell, and you would be thrilled if they were a priest. Tell your children stories about the heroism of priests. Fr. Mychal Judge died at 9/11, because he was assisting others who were suffering and dying.

When you meet a man, young or not-so, and you think he might be a good priest, TELL HIM. No pressure; just encouragement. You never know.

When you meet a boy, and you find out his name, say, "Gee, 'Father Josh' has a good sound to it, doesn't it?" He'll grin, and usually nod. Who knows?

Add this prayer at every meal: "Please send us more holy priests!" Six words. You can memorize that, and tell it to others.

Our auxiliary bishop, Carl Moeddel, pointed out one time in a homily at the seminary, that when our Lord said, "pray to the Lord of the harvest for more workers," it was one of the few times Jesus told us, specifically, something to pray for; Bishop Moeddel added, "we should pay attention to that."

Next week is Vocation Promotion Week; but that's what every week should be.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Why are red and green Christmas colors?

Does anyone actually know?

I did a pretty quick Internet search, and didn't turn up anything that seemed insightful to me.

One thought that has occurred to me, which I offer for you to critique:

Recall what I posted on Christmas Eve about the Christmas Tree originating from the Paradise Tree that was the central feature of "mystery plays" held on Decembe 24, during the years of high Christendom in Europe (ca. AD 1000-1400)...

Recall how those trees were decorated -- with fruit; very likely, with apples (both due to the similarity between malus, the Latin word for "bad, evil" as in, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Bad, and malum, the Latin word for apple, and because what other fruit would be available in December?)...

Picture the scene: a fir tree decorated with apples . . . what colors do you see?

A GREEN TREE adorned with RED APPLES? (And perhaps some green or yellow apples too?)

Just wondering . . . If anyone has anything scholarly or authoritative to offer, chime in...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Liturgical Questions re: Ford Funeral

This is for anyone knowledgeable about liturical norms in the Episcopal Church . . .

Watching the President's funeral now, and can't help noticing certain things that differ from a standard Catholic funeral:

* The family all preceded the casket into the church, rather than follow it in (maybe due to practical considerations);

* The color guard preceded the casket, and the national flag remained on the casket (in a Catholic funeral, the flag would come off at the doors, and a pall, recalling the baptismal garment, would be placed on the casket. The flag could be replaced on the casket when it returns to the doors at the conclusion of the liturgy). I don't know the exact rules about a color guard, although I can hardly imagine it; it seems to me it would remain behind at the doors as well.

* I didn't notice any sprinkling of the casket with baptismal water.

* I also noted the procession was silent, except for one of the clergy reciting some verses; would there ever be provision for that to be sung?

* The opening collect was also recited. No surprise, but disappointing -- the cleric couldn't sing that?

* Former President Bush just got up to offer comments...

* Four eulogies! That doesn't surprise me, that sort of thing happens at Catholic funerals, although it shouldn't. I am surprised at the sequence; if this were a Catholic, non-Eucharistic liturgy, they wouldn't come at this point.

* Now, the Gospel? Is this usual for an Episcopal, state funeral?

* The Rev. Dr. Robert Certain appears to be an officer in the military -- he has medals on his stole!

* Now the Our Father is sung by a soloist. Someone correct me, but this is something mainline Protestant churches often do, isn't it? A while back, I had someone ask about having the Our Father sung as a solo at a Mass, and I said no, we always pray it together. Can anyone tell me otherwise? Prior to the reform of the liturgy, would this have been done in a Catholic liturgy?

* Now the petitions of the people; is this sequence -- i.e., after the Lord's Prayer -- normal?

* A note on the location, the Episcopal National Cathedral. It's every bit as stunning as it seems on TV. But when I visited one time, a few years back, noting all the political stuff, I thought, "we don't have an established church in this country, but I wonder sometimes if the Episcopal Church got the memo?" Occasions like this certainly reinforce that impression.

(By the way, if you watched, and you are wondering where the altar is, I believe it is usually where the casket was placed, although there is a "high altar" back in the apse. I have no idea if that is ever used.)

* "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" -- anyone have an objection to this hymn? It isn't clear whether the congregation was invited or even helped in singing it (do they have the words or a hymn number in their programs?)

* It is a shame they didn't use incense.

* Where is the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Kathryn Shiori? Has she not been installed yet? That wasn't she, holding the book for the cleric doing the commendation? And how come they didn't have servers to hold books for the clergy?

* Now, with the closing hymn -- "For All the Saints" -- everyone seems to be singing. Too bad they weren't given the opportunity previously.

I don't know if anyone reading this got a chance to see this funeral, but if you did, feel free to let me know what you think. And certainly, anyone familiar with the Episcopal Church -- I'm curious to know how this squares with norms in the Episcopal Church.

Update: Two commenters think I am being critical of the Episcopal Church, comparing its rites unfavorably to Catholic pratices.

I am sorry that anything I said gave that impression; however, I think if one attends closely to what I said, you will see that is not the case. Yes, I did offer some mild criticism: "disappointing" that the cleric didn't sing the opening prayer; a "shame" that they didn't use incense; and "too bad" folks weren't encouraged to do more congregational singing.

However, none of these represent Catholic v. Episcopal ways of doing things! I.e., it's not true that Catholics sing prayers more often, or use incense more. If anything, I wouldn't be surprised to find it the other way round.

Yes, I did contrast this funeral with the Catholic way of doing it; but the reason is, that's what I know. It would have been pretty foolish of me to try to compare this with Episcopal norms, as I might guess about them, but I have no idea what they really are. That's why, at the very opening of this post, I asked for those who are knowledgeable about such things to give me their comments.

Really, I think some folks are hyper-sensitive.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Te Deum on Dec. 31?

Did you hear a Te Deum yesterday?

There is a tradition of singing the Te Deum on the last day of the year; I don't know why. The Church even provides a plenary indulgence for praying it publicly on December 31.

Here's what we did: I discussed with the music director how best to do it; it's a hymn, so ideally it should be sung. He could not, however, find a sung version of the English prayer. The best he could find was a lengthy version of "Holy God We Praise Thy Name," which is a free rendering of the Te Deum. I consulted with the archbishop, and he agreed it was not a proper translation of the prayer.

The music director recommended he sing the Latin chant; we ran off copies of the prayer, in English, and placed them in the pews. He sang it at the beginning of communion, then followed with "Angels we have heard on high."

So I explained during the homily the indulgence, and that our music director would sing it, but that we could follow along with the text. I didn't mention that he'd do it in Latin, and that might have been helpful to say.

After Mass, a fellow said to me, "you know, when we use Latin, could you have something in English to follow along?" So, sometimes people don't listen very well...

We could have simply recited it (and we did at 7 am with no musical accompaniment). What do you think?

Also, does this apply to a vigil Mass for Sunday, on December 30?

Any opinions? Did anyone else hear a Te Deum or even, "Holy God, we praise thy name?"