Sunday, October 26, 2008

Anniversary of Dedication of St. Boniface

This weekend, we celebrated the anniversary of the dedication of St. Boniface Church in October, 1865.

The readings differed from the regular lectionary, as this is a solemnity for our parish. I chose a passage from 1st Kings, recounting King Solomon's prayer as his temple is dedicated; Psalm 84, with the refrain, "Here, God lives with his people"; the Epistle was from 1st Peter, about the Living Stone that is Christ, and we are also the living stones with which Christ is building his Church; the Gospel was the meeting of Zacchaeus with the Lord as told by Luke, which I chanted at 10:30 am.

We had incense and the bell choir at 10:30 am, and began Mass with "Laudate, Laudate Dominum!" a very nice chant with English verses. Scroll down the links column to "Laus Deo" to see all the music. I chanted most of the prayers, including the Roman Canon.

I am sorry I don't have the text of my homily, but my principal points were:

> Solomon was right--God did not dwell in the temple; I described the layout of the temple and the ark of the covenant, containing the tablets of the 10 Commandments and the jar of Manna--and those have disappeared; but we have the Word made Flesh and the Bread of Life in our tabernacle--God truly does dwell here!

> These are difficult times, we are concerned about the parish, the economy, the city, the nation and the future. Recall when this church was built: the 1860s, dedicated 1865. What was our nation going through? Only our worst crisis, the War Between the States! How many parents cried over sons that would never come home? How much wealth was consumed by a destructive war? Our forebears had less than we did--and yet, they built this church. They made an act of faith, in God and in those who would follow--in us.

> Each generation has built on what they did, and we are doing the same. Some requests are out for funds, including to restore our windows--will you pray for success of that? We are making an act of faith in those who will come after us.

> We might wonder, why did God put us here--in this place, in these times? Because as St. Peter said, we are called to make Christ present. This building, strong as it is, can fall; but Christ will never fail, and we, bound together by the Holy Spirit, will not fall! We are here to be Christ to those in pain, those in need, especially in the months ahead. That's why we're here; and Christ has, as it were, made an act of faith in us!

> At 4 pm Mass, I cited Zacchaeus caring for the poor as something we can do in this community--maybe that's why we're here--but I neglected to repeat that point this morning.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A swinging night in Piqua

Wednesday night was a great night for the City of Piqua, and I had the privilege of being there.

Over the past few months, the city has been renovating and restoring the old Fort Piqua Hotel, a massive edifice in the center of the city, built in 1891, but which fell on hard times some years back, and finally sat unused and decaying for the last few years. For years people have debated what to do. The cost of simply tearing it down would have been substantial, and no one really liked that idea, but the cost of doing something else always seemed too great.

Well, the city finally pulled together enough money--about $20 million!--from federal and state funds, and private funds, to redo it top to bottom. The plan was to relocate the city library there, and rent space on the first floor for a restaurant and a coffee house, and have the ballroom and other meeting space available for rent.

Sunday, the ribbon was cut, and fireworks exploded over the city. Wednesday night, we had a gala celebration, featuring the Glenn Miller Orchestra (under new leadership) and a duo that carries on the tradition of the Mills Brothers--who, you may not realize, were from Piqua.

I was at this black-tie celebration, in a packed ballroom, along with lots of my fellow Piquans, including many of the upper crust as you might imagine. It was a very nice event, and I'm grateful for being provided a ticket.

One striking thing was that almost no one danced! If I weren't a priest, I certainly would; although the Jitterbug is the one dance I never mastered, I always managed to improvise. A bunch of high schoolers were there, splendid in tuxes and evening gowns--they were there as go-fers and helpers--but most of them didn't dance either! Too bad, because this was some of the best music ever composed for dancing. Someone told me the dance floor up front was pretty crowded with tables, and that could be, I was sitting in the back.

The ballroom at the Fort Piqua Plaza (that's what it's called now that it's no longer a hotel) will be the site of a Roast and Toast in honor of Father Angelo Caserta, on December 7, 2008, from 6-9 pm, in celebration of his 90th birthday and 64 years of priesthood. It will be a fundraiser to benefit repairs and restoration of St. Boniface Church and Piqua Catholic School. The tickets are $100, only 320 will be available, and many have already been purchased, so if you are interested, send a request for tickets to:

"Roast and Toast for Father Caserta"
c/o St. Boniface Parish
310 South Downing Street
Piqua Ohio 45356

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What our new Archbishop said about the Extraordinary Form of the Mass

Dear friends in Christ,

Last month,* The Northern Cross reported on the Holy Father’s decision to relax restrictions on the use of the Tridentine Mass, the Latin-language liturgy that predates the Second Vatican Council. Pope Benedict XVI said that Mass celebrated according to the 1962 Roman Missal, commonly referred to as the Tridentine Rite, should be made available in every parish where groups of the faithful desire it. The Holy Father’s decision was promulgated on July 7 under the title “Summorum Pontificum” and will take effect on Sept. 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Over the past weeks, I have received questions about the implementation of these norms in the Diocese of Duluth. Put quite simply, of course, the response is that, on Sept. 14, “Summorum Pontificum” becomes the universal law of the church. As such, the norms must be followed in every parish and diocese throughout the world.

Practically speaking, I anticipate some challenges with implementation in the Diocese of Duluth. Primary among them is one that the Holy Father himself mentioned in a cover letter to “Summorum Pontificum,” which he addressed to the bishops of the world: “The use of the old Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often.” In order to celebrate the Tridentine Rite, or the “extraordinary form” of the Mass as it is called by “Summorum Pontificum,” a priest must be suitably qualified. This means that, for a legitimate use of the extraordinary form, a priest must have the minimum rubrical knowledge of the Mass as it was celebrated before the Second Vatican Council and the minimum linguistic ability to reverently and precisely recite the prayers of the Mass in the Latin language.

It should be remembered that the Second Vatican Council did not prohibit the use of the Latin language in celebrating the Mass. The Mass that is celebrated in our parishes today can properly be celebrated by any priest in either the English or Latin language, or for that matter in any other language, provided that the texts used have been authorized by the Holy See.

What the Second Vatican Council did do was modify some of the prayers of the Mass, allow for the priest to celebrate Mass facing the people, and promote greater participation on the part of the faithful in the celebration of the Mass.

“Summorum Pontificum” aims to provide more ready access to the Mass as it was celebrated prior to the modifications permitted by the Second Vatican Council. In addition to the Latin language and position of the priest at the altar, the difference between the celebration of the Mass as permitted by “Summorum Pontificum” (pre-Vatican II) and the celebration after the Second Vatican Council (post-Vatican II) might be summarized as displayed in the box that appears on this page.

In the cover letter to the bishops that accompanied “Summorum Pontificum,” Pope Benedict mentions what prompted him to make access to the pre-Vatican II Mass more available: “At the time of the introduction of the new Missal, it did not seem necessary to issue specific norms for the possible use of the earlier Missal. .. . Afterwards, however, it soon became apparent that a good number of people remained strongly attached to this usage of the Roman Rite. . . . [Others] desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them . . . because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. . . . And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.”

These latter comments of Pope Benedict XVI echo those of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II: “It must be lamented that, especially in the years following the post-conciliar liturgical reform, as a result of a misguided sense of creativity and adaptation, there have been a number of abuses which have been a source of suffering for many. A certain reaction against ‘formalism’ has led some, especially in certain regions, to consider the ‘forms’ chosen by the Church’s greatest liturgical tradition and her Magisterium as non-binding and to introduce unauthorized innovations which are often completely inappropriate.

“I consider it my duty, therefore, to appeal urgently that the liturgical norms for the celebration of the Eucharist be observed with great fidelity. These norms are a concrete expression of the authentically ecclesial nature of the Eucharist; this is their deepest meaning. Liturgy is never anyone’s private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated.. . . Our time, too, calls for a renewed awareness and appreciation of liturgical norms as a reflection of, and a witness to, the one universal Church made present in every celebration of the Eucharist. Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which confirm to those norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church” (“Ecclesia de Eucharistia,” 52).

With these words, we are reminded that, in the churches and chapels of this diocese, the observance of liturgical norms cannot be arbitrary. If Mass is to be celebrated according to the extraordinary form, it must be celebrated by a priest who has the minimum rubrical knowledge of the Mass as it was celebrated before the Second Vatican Council and minimum linguistic ability to reverently and precisely recite the prayers of the Mass in the Latin language. In such instances, too, the congregation must participate in the Mass by observing all the liturgical norms and using prayer books that translate the prayers and rubrics for them.

When Mass is celebrated in our churches and chapels, whether according to the ordinary rite or the extraordinary rite, there are also important liturgical norms that help to raise the mind and heart to God through the sacred mysteries celebrated. Here I mention just a few, but I encourage those who are interested to give a full reading to the “General Instruction of the Roman Missal” (GIRM) promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 2001.

Before the celebration of the Mass, “it is commendable that silence be observed in the church” (GIRM, 45). The chalice and other sacred vessels are to be made from precious metals. If they are made from less than precious metals, at least the chalice and paten are to be gilded on the inside. The use of glass or ceramic chalices, patens or ciborium is not permitted (GIRM, 328-329). For the priest, the chasuble is to be worn over the alb and stole (GIRM, 337). On entering and leaving the church, all genuflect to the Most Blessed Sacrament if the tabernacle is present in the main body of the church (GIRM, 273-274). The tabernacle is to be located either in the sanctuary or in a chapel that is connected to the church and suitable for private adoration and prayer (GIRM, 315). If churches do not have a chapel that is truly distinct and separate from the main body of the church, the tabernacle is to be located in the sanctuary. During the celebration of the Mass, people “should kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus until after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer, except when prevented on occasion by reasons of health, lack of space, the large number of people present, or some other good reason” (GIRM, 43).

In his encyclical “Sacramentum Caritatis,” Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that the faithful adherence to the liturgical norms has for 2,000 years sustained the faith life of all believers (38). This is the purpose of liturgy, regardless of the language in which it is prayed and celebrated.

With prayerful best wishes, I am

Most Reverend Dennis M. Schnurr
Bishop of Duluth**

* This article appeared in the newsletter of the Diocese of Duluth, in August, 2007.
** Now Coadjutor Archbishop of Cincinnati

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Coin & the Eucharist (Sunday homily)

It may not be obvious,
but there are a lot of politics in today’s readings.

The first passage refers to Cyrus.
Cyrus was the king of Persia,
and God calls him "his anointed"—
the word in Hebrew is "Messiah,"
the word in Greek is "Christ"!

How strange! What can this possibly mean?

It means this: God has a larger plan,
and whether he knew it or not,
Cyrus going to play a role in carrying out God’s plan.

To put in the terms of the Gospel,
even great Caesar himself, in all his pride and ambition,
ends up rendering to God, whether he wants to or not,
whether he knows it or not, because God is God.

Notice, Jesus asked for a coin.
"Whose image is this?"
Caesar gets what bears his image.

Picture the scene:
They thought they were asking just a preacher,
the way you and I ask each other,
"what do you think of the political situation?"

But they were asking the King of Kings!
All around him swirls
lust and greed and grasping for power—
and he alone has true power, in the snap of his fingers!—
What does he do?
Unnerving them with his calm, he says, give Caesar his due.

It is very hard for many of us
to remain so calm right now.
Many of us are especially focused on the issue of abortion,
so many lost children,
so many wounded mothers and fathers.
It is the fundamental human-rights issue of our time.
As a result, so many have great fears
about one candidate, and repose great hopes in the other.

And then, we fear an economic storm bearing down on us—
how bad will it get?

Too many already lack work,
and many more fear they are next.

Many are fearful for the future—for our Church,
our nation, our businesses, our jobs, our parish.

"If you can keep your head
when all about you are losing theirs"—
people will get very cross with you, have you noticed?
"How can you remain calm at a time like this?"
Yet the Lord did remain calm.

The coin that bore Caesar’s image; he handed it back.

But what about what bear’s God’s image?
That’s you and me—
our body and soul, our heart, our will and our lives—
that is what belongs to God!

Many want me to tell you how to vote on Election Day.
Okay: Vote according to your Catholic Faith!
If no candidate is completely in line
with Catholic teaching, look to see who comes closest.
And remember, while almost every issue involves some moral dimension,
all issues are not of equal weight.
Some are non-negotiable, such as defense of human life,
defense of marriage, rejection of bigotry and racism,
and fundamental human dignity and human rights.

But I ask you, how are we doing on remaining calm?

Many of you know I used to work in politics—
I’ve been through a few elections,
and many of you have been more than I, and you know:
every four years we hear it: "this election, this is it!"
McCain, Obama, the judges, Congress,
will all try their best, but:
they will not have the final word!

The Lord claims what belongs to him:
the hearts of all kings are in his hands.

So, we are active, we speak out, and we vote.
But do we trust?

Do cares about Caesar and the world
tense us up even now,
as we gather in the very presence of the King?
Once again, we are about to behold the Sacrifice,
the true and only power that can and will save the world!

Considering how easily we are dismayed and distracted,
what a gift it is that he does this,
in the Mass, day after day, year after year,
until His Plan is brought to completion.

Let Caesar have his coin, his ambition;
it is all a house of cards.
We have the Eucharist:
not an image but the Lord himself—
and in Him alone do we find grace and peace.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Cincinnati has new bishop

Email from Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk this morning:

I am happy to inform you that the Holy Father has appointed Bishop Dennis Schnurr, till now Bishop of Duluth, to be Coadjutor Archbishop of Cincinnati.

I know of all you join me in offering thanks to God and welcome to Archbishop Schnurr.

That's all I have for now.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

On my way to Dayton for 'Theology on Tap'

Sorry I didn't post this sooner, but life happens.

I'll be at Oregon Express at 7 pm tonight, telling my story. I picked up a cold from someone on Sunday, so I've been coughing and sniffling, but it's not big deal really--just distracting for everyone else, sorry about that--so maybe it won't be so entertaining as the organizers hope!

They billed this as "political hack to priest" or something like that, so I expect I'll get asked more political than theological questions, since priests who answer theological questions are a dime a dozen, aren't they? More the worse for the folks tonight, because I'll have to be careful, or else they'll be exposed to my wacky political theories!

Maybe I'll see you there? It's not too late! Put down the keyboard right now!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


This will be brief, as I can only connect for a few minutes.

I'm in Chicago for the International Catholic Stewardship Conference, lots of good stuff. But boo to Hyatt for not providing free internet despite high room rates!

Heading home Wednesday afternoon. More later.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Preferential Option for the Poor (Sunday Homily)

When Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians,
he was in prison. He did not know if he’d be set free,
or if he would be executed.
He was powerless; he had no choice
but to depend on others to provide his needs.

When Scripture talks about being poor,
this is primarily what it means:
not so much about what stuff we have,
but about being powerless and dependent.

This is why the Lord said,
“blessed are the poor in spirit”—
not that it’s blessed to go hungry; rather, it’s a blessing
to understand we depend completely on God.

The illusion we have control runs deep—
especially in our country.
So when we see the financial structure
of our nation and the world wobble, we can’t believe it:
Can it all really be that fragile? Yes!

Saint Paul has exactly the right answer:
whether I am well fed or hungry, I have Jesus Christ!

Meanwhile, people out of work,
folks in danger of losing their homes,
families going without food—demand our attention.
If we are headed into a recession as it appears,
such needs will demand a lot more of our attention
during the next year or so.

One important part of our Catholic Faith is called
“the preferential option for the poor.”

I am not poor. Thanks to you,
I have all my needs supplied.

I am considered “respectable”—
if I walk into a store or a restaurant,
no one tags me as “suspicious” and follows me around.
When I go and pray in the chapel,
no one shifts around uncomfortably.

The preferential option for the poor
helps to correct for all the ways
that those who are poor and powerless
get the short end of the stick.

Let me cite an example.
On the ballot is a measure concerning “pay day loans.”
These places will lend you money against your paycheck.
But the interest you pay is extremely high,
far higher than even credit card rates.
You don’t go there unless you have no other alternative.
But if you’re already in the hole…?
On the other hand, if we outlaw these places,
people who work there will lose their jobs;
and someone less savory
will step forward to make these loans.

So what do we do?
If nothing else, we recognize that the needs of the poor
aren’t just government’s concern,
or the Bethany Center’s, or someone else’s—
but our personal concern.
We are our brother’s keeper.

As your pastor, I have an uneasy conscience about this, for two reasons.

First: I am aware of the contradictions involved
in using Bingo to raise money.
I’d love to find another way,
but I don’t want to torpedo our school in the process.
If someone has a solution, and will help make it happen?
Please let me know.

Second, I wonder if we doing enough?
Each parish has a St. Vincent de Paul fund, and you are generous.

But what do we do with that money?
Some we use for individual situations,
but most of it goes each month to
Bethany Center or Salvation Army.

They use your money to help people with food, clothes, or medicine,
and they give us an accounting each month
of how they spend the money.

But the original vision for the Saint Vincent de Paul Society
was that volunteers would take personal interest,
visiting those in need,
finding out what was going on in their lives.
Sister Joan and I have often talked about
trying to recapture that vision.
If you are interested, call Sister Joan.

Also, here are three ways you can help right now:
> The Bethany Center always needs workers.
November is St. Boniface’s month.
> The Piqua Compassion Network helps connect people in need
with a variety of sources of help.
They need people to answer the phones.
> The Sidney Women’s Center helps women in trouble,
often facing pressure to get an abortion.
They need level-headed people who can be mentors,
bringing calm and wisdom to troubled situations.

We know that Christ comes to us
in the person of the poor;
I don’t want to be guilty of brushing him off!
Christ is coming to our parishes in all those rough-edged folks
who walk up and down Broadway and Downing Streets.
What shall we do?

Brazilian food orgy

Last night a friend and I had dinner at "Cena," a Brazilian churrasceria (sp?) at the Dayton Mall; given the restaurant name is Latin for dinner, and the style of serving food was--according to the menu--Roman style, and the objective of eating as much as possible was facilitated, then "food orgy" is certainly apt. (Hint: "orgy" can be used more broadly than you may think.)

Here's the set-up: the restaurant has three options on the menu: you can have the full "feast" which involves both a buffet table with lots of fillers but also some tasty delicacies, plus the roving waiters carrying skewers of varieties of roasted meat, from which they will carve you a chunk and move on. They roam around all night, and you can have as much of all this as you want. Option two is the buffet without the roving meat-bearers visiting you; option three is to order from a menu of "tapas," which were various small plates of various appetizers--I imagine one could easily make a meal of two or three of them.

I have not a clue about any of the tapas because I came for the roving meat-a-thon. It was all very tasty, but I confess I was a bit queasy this morning! (Now, I am sure you are wondering, "but father, but father! It was Friday, what about penance?" In fact, I did do penance yesterday of a different sort, precisely because of these plans.)

The restaurant is very nice, the meal was a bit pricey, although not surprising given the circumstances; unfortunately, it was not crowded. I always want new businesses to do well.

And I will say, cryptically, I had an ulterior motive in this post--I wonder if you can figure out what it is?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

'How are we doing with the Vineyard?' (Homily for Respect Life Sunday)

Again, I didn't have time this week to write out my text, so I can only give you some bullet points after the fact:

> I began with the refrain from the psalm: 'the vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel' -- since we are grafted in, this applies to the Church; since the Lord is concerned for justice (in the first reading), then we can apply it to the whole world.

> The point is clear enough: God expects us to take good care of the vineyard--of people--and insofar as this is Respect Life Sunday, we might look at how we are doing taking care of human life.

> "Justice" -- respect for human dignity, from conception to natural death, care for the poor.

> So let's ask ourselves, how are we doing?

> Both good and bad. The fact that the Catholic Church is recognized as powerful witness for human life and human dignity, opposing abortion and the death penalty for example, in our society, is something promising. We are bearing witness. How much worse things would be were we not here; we have influence out of proportion to our numbers. We are prominent. Another positive: so many parishioners do so much to bear witness.

> But the society is heading in the wrong direction. We can't be complacent. I cited the move toward euthanasia, and cited Martin Sheen's ad against assisted suicide in Washington, using his argument about how it would target the poor and weak. I cited "research" using unborn babies resulting from "in vitro" fertilization, and pointed out both candidates for president were for it and for us paying for it. This is not one of the positives.

> I also cited the younger generation is more prolife and I cited the Life Chain today and invited everyone to attend or say a prayer at the time.

> I made the point that we have a duty to bear witness and a right as citizens, contrary to those voices who say Catholics should keep their beliefs to themselves. I said it was a scandal to have Catholics in prominent positions, in office, using their power to advance abortion, and we have a duty and right to communicate directly with them, and urge them to change direction. We have to be concerned for their eternal salvation.

> I said we have no right to be discouraged, we have Christ! We have the consolation of the peace that St. Paul spoke about in the second reading. We can make a difference, we are making a difference.

> I pointed out that Respect Life Sunday began in 1972--before Roe; the bishops saw what was coming; the trends were underway.

> I said there was a prophet who warned us: Pope Paul VI, in Humanae Vitae, and that his words weren't accepted because the teaching on contraception was hard for many to accept; many Catholics do not accept it. But he said if we attempt to control the gift of life this way, governments would seek to do this, and they have; that abortion and promiscuity would follow, and it did. We should take another look at what this prophet told us because what he predicted has come to pass.

> I ended by emphasizing trust in the Lord being with us and helping us to turn things around; I'm sure I said it better but I cannot recall just how.

Sorry, have to run to the Life Chain. Please pray with confidence that the Lord will bring conversion and healing to our society!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

How I turned St. Francis Day into a two-day liturgical oddity

Thursday night, I prayed the Office of Readings for the following day, which is an option, and then getting up Friday, I thought, whoops, I forgot about Saint Francis! So I read the second reading from St. Francis and figured, well that'll have to do; then I offered Mass with the older schoolchildren, and told them that they couldn't understand Francis without reference to poverty--and along the way, challenged them to follow his example and make a fundamental choice to follow the Lord no matter what they might have to give up--and citing the great theologian Janis Joplin (that was for the grownups present), "freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose."

Then, last evening around 11, I finished my office for the day; and as I prayed the closing prayer for Vespers, using the prayer for St. Francis, it finally dawned on me: is October 3--not the 4th! Oops!

Well, I wonder now if all the folks in church thought I'd lost it, or did they even notice? I really thought yesterday was October 4, I'm sure I put it on every document! Then I thought: well, now I have to pray the same office over again for Saturday? I decided, oh well, I'll just reflect that much more on Saint Francis! So, I then prayed the Office of Readings (i.e., "Matins") for Saint Francis again, and will pray morning prayer for him shortly.

You may wonder if I committed a liturgical faux pas; well, not really. When you have a "ferial" day--meaning, a day on the calendar with no obligatory memorial or feast, a priest is free to choose any Mass, and any set of prayers for the office. So what I did, unwittingly, was offer a votive Mass and votive offices for St. Francis.

If any priests care to comment, have you done anything like this?