Friday, November 30, 2007

Two Minute Hate at the airport, continued...

This morning I'm flying out of BWI, back to Dayton.

My original plan was to take the Metro downtown, switch to Amtrak, then to the airport--just as I did Wednesday. "Oh, you don't want to do that," a gentleman advised me after the confirmation last night. Just take a taxi straight there, it'll cost you $50, $60 at the most."

Last night, when I returned to the hotel, I asked about arranging a taxi, and asked what time the clerk would suggest. "Oh, you'd better leave no later than seven." But my flight isn't until 11--I really don't need to be there till 9:30. "Yah, but it could take a couple of hours, you never know."

OK, 7 am.

I arrived at 7:50 am (we did leave a little before seven). It cost me $100.

Remind me not to take advice.

The all-benevolent Security has something extra special at BWI--a cheery video that helps us all feel good if we do what Big Brother says, and to feel bad if we are wicked and pack our bags badly or are disorganized or bring things that Security (pbui) assures us we really don't need. They've also got a sign -- one I didn't see in Dayton -- that forbids open containers of liquids; i.e., coffee. "For your convenience."

Well, I've got my cup of coffee, and I found a corner in the concourse where I can plug in my laptop. Free wireless? Hahahaha! But at least it's quiet now. There is a comfortable seat nearby, that even provides a massage--for a couple of minutes. Then it starts bleating, "please insert money...please insert money..." I'm waiting for a deaf man to come along, he'll get a great seat!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My whirlwind trip to Virginia

I arrived yesterday at BWI, no problems, ahead of schedule! (Kudos to AirTran.) I caught the Amtrak train from BWI down to Union Station D.C. As much as I dislike the huge subsidies to Amtrak, at least the seats are roomy and the ride comfortable. The station at BWI looks terrible. And, apparently, you can no longer buy a ticket and get on any "regular" train--the conductor was saying, you had to have a ticket for that train. Too bad; that, along with being able to buy your ticket on the train, was one of the nice features about rail travel along the NY-DC corridor. All in the name of Security (pbui). And, perhaps legitimately so, I can't say.

Once at Union Station, I hopped the metrorail up to the Basilica; I am very fond of that church, and as I had not offered Mass that day, I wanted to do so, there. This is one of the nice things that comes with being a priest--you can ask to offer Mass at any church, within reason, of course, provided you can show yourself to be a priest in good standing. (I think I'm remembering canon law properly; it's in there somewhere.) How this works in practice is that when a priest presents himself at major churches, the sacristan is accustomed to assisting the priest. So, visiting Rome, it is not at all unusual to pop in the sacristy and ask if one can offer Mass somewhere in the church; and if there is a sacristan--otherwise, the priest--will be helpful. What I did when last there was to stop by a major church say that morning, and ask about later in the day, or for the next day. No problem. You don't even have to have an alb.

So they set me up in a chapel nearest the sacristy in the lower, memorial hall. I could request a chapel, but I didn't. While offering Mass with the people is the norm, of course, a priest can, "for a just cause," offer Mass "privately," even without a server. A just cause being he's on vacation, or not feeling well, or on retreat, or -- in this case -- travelling. Anyway, for those of you thinking about the priesthood, there is something very special about offering Mass this way.

Then back down to Union Station, where I got dinner, then to my hotel.

This morning, I worked in my hotel room--I have a tough funeral on Saturday when I return, so I worked on the homily. Then I stopped by a bookstore to pick up a gift for my godson--he's into apologetics, so I got him a set of books by C.S. Lewis (he and his parents loved it!)--then over to my friends' house for dinner. They have six children and they homeschool, and visits are always a lot of fun--and I'm not just saying that because they read this blog! It's a lot of fun visiting with each of the children. After conversation and dinner, off to St. Leo's for the Mass. We arrived at 6:30 for a 7:30 pm Mass, because the parents were told seats would be a premium.

In the sacristy, I had a nice chat with the altar boys, and then the other priests arrived with the bishop. Bishop Loverde is a very charming man, and was very friendly with the servers. Altar servers often get nervous for these things, so kudos to his excellency for putting them at ease. The priest who serves the bishop as M.C. (master of ceremonies) seemed in control of everything; I've done that, and I found it nerve-wracking.

Mass proceeded as you would expect. Bishop Loverde gave a very substantive homily, talking to the confirmandi about the challenge of bearing witness to Christ, and cited specific instances: the peer pressure they would face to use drugs and alcohol, the need to oppose violence, including violence against the unborn, the challenge of chastity, including the specific problem of pornography. Each time, he said, these forces are powerful--but starting tonight, there is Someone in you who is more powerful! And if you listen, and allow Him, he will help you... He also managed to say something about baptism and the Eucharist, the Real Presence, the true Church, and apostolic succession.

Then about 100 young people came forward for confirmation, then Mass proceeded; then near the end of Mass, he gave a short talk about vocations, encouraging families to pray for vocations from their own families! I like that--and I will try that!

Afterward, a whole mob of folks went over to the gym for punch (red of course!) and cake and...this is a nice touch: a picture with the bishop! The bishop and his m.c.--still vested--didn't leave until about 10 pm. That had to be tiring for the bishop.

Well, I just got back to my hotel room a few minutes ago. I fly home tomorrow morning. It was great to be with my godson for each of his sacraments.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Two Minute Hate at the Airport

I am on my way to Washington, D.C., for my godson's confirmation tomorrow; and I arrived at the airport a bit ago. Of course I have time to kill, that's all part of the devious plan.

Actually, this went better than usual--but I'm only as far as the Sbarro just inside Security, where I had to do the following:

> Unpack, to retrieve my shaving kit, and place all liquids and gels in a ziplock bag. I gather the ziplock bag itself has nil security value on the airplane ("ah, brother, brother, we cannot go ahead! I cannot open this ziplock bag! Ah, what servants of Satan these American industrialists are!"), so I suppose it's to expedite the search in the Security line.

> Remove all articles of clothing...ah, I'm just kidding, but it increasingly feels like it. I only had to take off my overcoat and shoes. It is undiginifed, all the same; thankfully my socks had no holes in them (that I noticed).

> Not only take my laptop out of its case (they no longer make you turn it on, that's a plus), but now I must place the laptop and case in separate containers. So where I arrived at the airport thinking I wasn't carrying much -- the laptop in its case, plus a small bag with all my other gear -- suddenly I had a whole baggage train of items rolling down the security (oops, forgive me Almighty One, Security!) counter.

At least the priests and priestesses of Security -- er, I mean the "personnel" -- are behaving more curteously.

Meanwhile, it is soooo thoughtful of the Airport moguls to program all-Christmasy-music-all-the-time; may the travel gods forbid we go even five minutes without sleigh bells and winter wonderlands and wishes for a white Christmas!

Okay...I feel better now!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Who are the Farkians and why are they interested in me?

I checked my "site meter" to see if anyone was linking me; a site called "totalfark" was, but when I tried to go see what it was about, it said I have to buy a subscription.

Welcome Farkians; and if you would be so kind as to fill me in, thanks!

Should Klingons be baptized?

The other day, driving home from Cincinnati, I entertained myself with the following train of thought...

If and when man explores beyond our solar system, will the Church send missionaries?

If so, to whom? To other species?

If there are other sorts of intelligent beings elsewhere in the universe, and humanity meets them, do we preach the Gospel to them? Will they need it? Will they be stained by original sin? Even if they are, might God have provided another mode of salvation for them?

After all, we profess: "for us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven; he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man..."

The occasion for this is an idea I have for a novel: a group of Catholics sent off to another planet, in a nearby star system, where they aim to create a new civilization. And in order to do this, they must take with them bishops and priests; and because they expect to lose contact with the holy father for an unknown length of time, the pope must prepare instructions for them to guide them.

Imagine the situations that might arise:

> What is the liturgical calendar on a planet, where there may or may not be a moon -- so how does one calculate Easter? And in any case, "day," "week," "month" and "year" have different quantities.

> If only a group of fifty-to-sixty can go; the pope has to decide if the discipline of celibacy is reasonable in such a situation; so does he relax it for this group, with instructions "someday" to restore celibacy?

> And of course, the one I dwelt on, already mentioned: what if you meet other intelligent life?

My first thought was, perhaps you can't know if they need baptism, but you can offer it.

Very well then, I thought: that means they are eligible for the other sacraments...including marriage? Do these other species marry humans? Remember, you're in the Vatican, on Earth, trying to give guidance in anticipation of unknowns. Not to be indelicate, may be that such marriage is not meaningfully possible; or that it cannot be fruitful; what then?

But then I thought, that's not the hard question; rather, what if it is fruitful--what of the interspecial (is that the word?) offspring--human?

Because then the question is, would these non-human Christians be found suitable for ordination? Can a Klingon, Vulcan or blue-skinned Andorran (to use the better known fictional species from "Star Trek") act in persona Christi capitis? Only the males of the species?

And if they can't, then can they really be baptized? After all, to be baptized is more than removal of Original Sin and to become a follower of Christ--it is to be incorporated into Christ, to put on Christ, to share in his priesthood, and, with confirmation and the Eucharist, to be truly in union with him. Would it make sense, theologically, to say an entire race of beings cannot image Christ sufficiently to be qualified for ordination, yet could still be incorporated into Christ in baptism?

This may seem an idle question to some, but unless I'm missing something, it seems to me a real question we may face someday; and for all I know, some theologians have already thought about it. After all, the possibility of actually meeting another species may arise rather "soon" as the Church thinks of time, and if I were pope, I'd want plenty of time to think about it before I had to make a decision.

I fully recognize all the comic possibilities in this question, but I hope someone will either take the question seriously, are explain, seriously, to me, why it can't be.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Our King on a Cross (homily for Christ the King)

How very strange, our king upon a cross!
"Some king," they mocked, passing by.
"Look at him--there on the cross!"

This scene confuses us; it also haunts us:
what would we have done, had we been there?

Better question: what do we
How do we receive him as

He's here in the church, at all times, in the tabernacle.
He asks us to honor him in everyone we meet,
particularly the poor and all who suffer.
So, if we wish we could have stood with him, then,
we have every opportunity to stand with him, now.

And we have every opportunity to lift him up as king.
As you drive home today, let him be king behind the wheel!
Look for him among those who are suffering or neglected;
care for his wounds there.

There is something else to consider as we contemplate the Cross.
The Cross isn't something we Christians "invented."
The Cross was already in the picture long before Jesus came.

Crucifixion is what we all do to one another in our self-will,
our anger, and our indifference.
It is what our culture does, oh so seductively,
through advertising that sells happiness in a bottle,
and tells us, particularly our kids,
that we have to look a certain way to be happy.

Commerce is so important
that even one day of Thanksgiving can barely be tolerated.

Our nation is so powerful,
and we like to think we only use our power for good.
But let's not kid ourselves--
our nation was not conceived without sin.
At the other end of that power, in faraway places,
are a lot of crucifixions we never see.

Sometimes we want to look away from the Cross.
But until our King returns again in glory,
at the end of time, this is how we behold him.

One more thing: the Cross is a
It is where we choose between our path--
the path of self-will, of being our own king--
and the path of following Christ.

And this cross-roads is what the Mass is.

We wonder what it was like at the Cross that day;
we wonder what we would have done.
We don't have to wonder: the Cross is here!
The Mass is the Cross.
It happens, it becomes present, right here!

If we think of the Mass as merely people gathering together,
to say prayers or listen to readings,
we might wonder why that's a big deal.

But the Mass is the Cross!
You wish you could be with the Lord that day?
This is the Day!

You want to come to his Cross?
You want to touch his broken Body?
Do you long to be redeemed by his Blood?

Here it is:
His death for our life happens here;
His Body is offered here;
His Blood is poured out and shared with us, here!

We find our King on the Cross.
It may seem strange.
But then, when we consider our world, our own lives, we realize:
That's exactly where we needed him most.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What's the difference between Ron Paul and Barry Goldwater?

Jonah Goldberg of National Review has this op-ed on who is scarier: Ron Paul or Mike Huckabee?
His conclusion is that Huckabee -- who he sees as a "conservative" on various issues who nonetheless advocates using government the way liberals do, should be more scary; yet he is seen as more "mainstream" in the GOP, and that's what he finds scary.

This got me thinking -- doesn't Ron Paul sound a lot like Goldwater? (I mean the Goldwater of 1964, not when he got grouchy and said he was for gay rights and legal abortion later on.) I'm not saying they are identical, but I think Goldwater would love just about everything Paul is saying about limited government, honest money based on something like gold, and even a "humble" foreign policy.

Has the Republican Party given up on what Goldwater advocated?

(And just for added irony, I'd like to know: which GOP candidate running for President worked for Goldwater in 1964? Because Hilary did--no lie!)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Do you want to be like Me?" (Sunday homily)

When you see a movie about “Armageddon”
or “Judgment Day,” it’s all explosions and nightmares.

And yet, what did the Lord just tell us?
“Do not be terrified.”

When I think about trying to be calm
in the face of terrible events,
I think of one of my favorite saints,
Father Maximilian Kolbe, from Poland.

Early in his life, he had a vision of our Lady,
in which he was offered a choice between two crowns—one white, one red.
The white meant a life of purity; the red, to be a martyr.

He told the Blessed Mother he would accept both.
He was 12 years old!

But that is exactly what happened.
He became a Franciscan priest; he was very successful:
he formed a movement to promote devotion to our Lady,
and he traveled the world, setting up monasteries.

Then came the storm clouds of Hitler and war.
He was arrested and shipped to Auschwitz.

One day, the Nazis rounded up men to be executed.
One man pleaded for his life,
and Father Maximilian stepped forward and said,
“I will take his place.”

My point is, here was a man
who saw his world come to an end,
as much as anyone could;
he certainly had reason to be terrified.

If we get laid off; bills pile up; our health goes sour.
These, too, are terrifying.
If Saint Maximilian knew peace—in that hell on earth—what about us?
Can we know peace in our situation?

Speaking of “Judgment Day”—
if we find that frightening,
isn’t it because we fear we won’t pass the test?

We might wonder what “test” we will face.
Well, we won’t “pass” because we’re smart;
nor will we “pass” because of the good works we have.

No, it’s a lot simpler than that.
Judgment Day is like looking in a mirror.
We will be asked, Are we like Jesus?
The answer is “yes”…or “no.”

I don’t know about you,
but today, I am long way from saying “yes.”

Well, in that Judgment Day exam,
there’s a second question.
If you’re not yet like Jesus…do you want to be?

Again, that’s a “yes” or “no.”
If “yes”—then Purgatory;
If “no”—then all that is left is hell.

But here’s the thing: we cannot wait until then.
This is the question we work on, right now!

This is where we realize what a blessing
we have in our Catholic Faith.
The Lord has given us the way to become like him:
he founded the Church,
his guides the pope and bishops in leading us,
and he gives us the sacraments, above all, the Mass.

In each sacrament—above all the Mass—
we have a direct encounter with Christ himself,
and he gives us his own, divine power to change!

So in confession, we come and tell the Lord,
“I messed up every possible way!”
What does he do? He forgives completely! Totally!
And he gives you his grace to change.

“But why do I have to keep coming back?”
Because the coming-back is how we change.

This leads us to the awesome reality of the Mass.
As a younger man, before I was a priest—
I wasn’t a particularly good Catholic.
And I didn’t like coming to Mass.

See, I knew the Mass
was Jesus offering himself for my sins;
I knew he was challenging me to change,
but I wasn’t ready…
so I couldn’t come to communion.

Every Mass was a little Judgment Day—
and I didn’t like that.
But really, consider what a mercy that is!

At the climax of the Mass,
the priest lifts up the Lord Jesus himself, and says,
“This is the Lamb of God,
who takes away the sins of the world;
happy are those who are called to his Supper.”
The answer is, everyone is called, but not all are ready:
Not all have even heard;
Not all are ready to be baptized;
Still others have heard, but are considering if they can say a full “yes” to all the Lord asks.

That goes for us who are Catholics;
We aren’t always ready to say a full “yes.”

But as I say—the mini-Judgment Day at each Mass
is not condemnation, but mercy.

Jesus asks us, “Do you want to be like me?”
In the Eucharist, in himself, he shows us the Mirror;
and he offers the Remedy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The business of pastoring

Some examples of what a pastor does:

Last night, I was on the move. The other priest had Mass last night with the Sisters of Charity, at their convent; afterward, they always fix dinner for all the priests, so I stopped over at 6.

After a nice dinner and conversation, we all had meetings to attend. I stopped over at the Mission Commission, briefly, to say hello; then stopped in at a girls' basketball game. Those were at the north parish. Then to the south parish, for a PTO meeting, where I thanked all involved for helping with promoting SCRIP. Then to a maintenance meeting; finally to the Knights of Saint John.

This morning I got to stay home and work on my homily. It is fortuitous that I actually did, because I had some other parish business intrude. I should back up and explain we have a property for sale, the house I used to live in, at the south parish, but which is no longer needed since I now live in the rectory at the north parish. This house, I should explain, is apart from the traditional rectory at the south parish, which is used for offices. So it really is no use to us, now that its not a residence for the pastor. I should also explain that no one in the parish wants to keep it; selling it is hugely popular.

Well, anyway, yesterday afternoon, we received an offer, and so I had to fire off some emails to Pastoral Council, Finance Council and to the Archdiocese, advising all concerned. I expected to get some calls this morning, but not too many, so I did get my Sunday homily finished.

Into the office around 1 pm, at which time I found replies from many I had written; including from the finance guy for the Archdiocese--turns out I need to jump through a few more hoops on this. So I had to scramble to make that happen, and get people to pray (including you, dear reader!) that red tape won't mess up a deal on this property.

Meanwhile, I needed to spend some time with several staff members, and I had some phone calls. Oh, and guess who opens the mail? I do. Reason? I examine all bills and financial statements first, that serves as an accountability control, and it reassures all concerned.

Oh, and along the way, I was googling some recipes for a dinner I'm hosting Friday, for some parishioners who helped with an important project.

Well, it's almost 5 pm, time to go hear confessions and offer Mass. Later tonight I have my Bible study, then...I get to go home early, around 8 pm!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Resurrection (Homily for 32nd Ordinal Sunday)

My homily this week is the same as last week; last week, I presented it at St. Mary, this week at St. Boniface. It is a talk pitching parishioners to help the school and the parish through the SCRIP program. I didn't see it as meriting publication on my site. So, for your edification, here's a homily for this week's readings from 2004.

Let’s talk about resurrection.

What is it?

Life after death?
Yes, certainly—but something more.

In that first reading, we have the king,
trying to force people to disobey God—
And we have the faithful brothers and their mother.

The king was Greek;
They had a vague idea of life after death;
Meanwhile, their ideas about this life were very definite.
Their attitude was, basically,
“resurrection, schmesurrection—
it’s this life that counts! Period!”

That idea is still around—we call it secularism.
It says, “God, faith, Jesus? Eh!
But this world’s needs and demands?
They are what counts!”

Like those seven brothers,
We declare to the powers of this world:
The life to come is not vague and uncertain;
But God has made it known:
There will be a Resurrection.

What do we believe?
First, we believe our soul lives on after our body dies.

But you know what?
That Greek king believed that, too.

We believe something more—something astonishing:
Not only will our soul live forever;
But God will raise up our bodies again—
We’ll have them back: “new and improved”:
That’s Resurrection.

There are echoes of resurrection in our world—
But compared with what Christ promises us,
That’s all they are—echoes.

The cycle of four seasons, death and rebirth.
But when next spring comes,
It won’t be a whole new world—
But the old world, with another cycle.

A lot of people believe in that—
We call it reincarnation.

But we believe something different:
Not the same old world, over and over.
But a world made new!

We all sense this is what we really need.
Look at the election we just finished.
All the energy, all the money—all to do what?
Make things new, right?
And yet—no offense to anyone—
but what we’ll get won’t be all that new, will it?

The point? We can’t resurrect our world—
We can’t resurrect ourselves.
Only God can do that!
The classic scare story, “Frankenstein”—
that’s what it’s really about.

We can have what Christ offers—
Or we can try to pull it off only with human resources:
And we get the Frankenstein monster.

Notice how we all long for true resurrection:
Not more of the same, but something new.

For a world not polluted by evil and suffering;
For nations not divided by greed and bigotry;
For hearts not divided by sin.
We long to enjoy the goodness, without contamination,
And not just for a time, but forever!

Now, I want to emphasize how this is more
than merely believing in our soul living forever.
Sometimes we talk as though
we’ll leave our bodies behind for good.

But this world of matter, and stuff,
Of taste and touch and sight and sound,
Is not something to be escaped from.

God could have created us pure spirits, like the angels.
But that was not his design.

He created us with hands and voices to make music,
And ears to enjoy it;

He made us in a world full of pleasures and physical joys,
And the problem isn’t that we enjoy pleasure,
Only that we too often make a god of pleasure.

It is not God’s will that we escape this world,
Shaking off its dust, saying, “Good riddance!”

Rather, with Christ, we will redeem it.
Imagine: pleasure without sin;
Enjoying this world without greed or lust;
Sharing, not hoarding.

Our bodies, full of life, beyond death:
“New and improved”—
Just like Christ’s body on the first Easter!
This is Resurrection.

This means that life on earth
Is neither the the only thing that counts—
Nor is it something evil to be cast away.

For us Christians, this life is a school
to learn from Jesus Christ;
a journey to meet Christ.

That makes it pretty simple:
Our choices here matter!

Life here, with or without Christ: that is the choice.
Without Christ—resurrection holds no promise for us,
But only eternal darkness.

With Christ—shaping our choices here,
Then on the day of resurrection we’ll say,
As we sung in the psalm:
“When your glory appears, our joy will be full.”

Friday, November 09, 2007

What is Bishop Trautman thinking?

I just read my recent edition of the Newsletter of the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy. It headlined an address by his Excellency, the Most Reverend Donald W. Trautman, Bishop of Erie, Pennsylvania, and chairman of the committee.

His address includes several useful items: the bishops are working on recommendations for revisions in the Lectionary we use at Mass. Perhaps you have noticed some of the readings are difficult to read aloud! He also reports on the development of a new document, from the U.S. bishops, on the place and theology of music in the liturgy--something I believe the bishops aim to adopt next week (please pray for them). He reports on progress toward Spanish-English ritual books, which interests me very much; it was only with the kind and personal assistance of our own Archbishop that I located a bilingual ritual book for care of the sick. Being able to baptize in Spanish would be very helpful as well.

He also touches on the new translation of the Mass, and the holy father's recent decision to liberate the celebration of the older form of the Roman Mass.

But then, in conclusion, the bishop says the following, and I quote exactly:

"My words to you in that address [i.e., on October 9, 1996] are still true today. I said to you then, and I say again: 'A pre-Vatican II liturgical theology and practice have no chance of speaking to a post-Vatican II world... The full, conscious and active participation of all the people is the goal in the reform and promotion of the liturgy.' Do we accept this teaching of Vatican II? If we do, we should not be calling for a retreat from the reform of the liturgy of Vatican II. There should be no backsliding" (bolding added).


Under the circumstances, I assume the bishop has had plenty of time to reflect on these words which, after all, he chooses to cite and emphasize all over again. Can he truly believe that the "full, conscious and active participation of all the people" is something new with Vatican II?

After all, he then goes on to quote "the words of the great Joseph Jungman: 'For centuries, the Liturgy actively celebrated had been the most important form of pastoral care.'" But Father Jungman wrote that before the Second Vatican Council; yet according to Bishop Trautman, this was not part of the "pre-Vatican II liturgical theology"!

Now, what I think Bishop Trautman means is that this was largely unrealized in the liturgy prior to the Council, hence the need for some change. But then what he should be referring to is not a "pre-Vatican II theology" but rather, a pre-Vatican II practice. The theology that he identifies with the Council was, of necessity, "pre-Vatican II." These ideas did not--as he himself points out--spring full-grown, Athena-like, from the collective heads of the Council Fathers.

And since he brought it up, who exactly does he accuse of proposing to "retreat" from the Council's vision? This is a dressed-up version of a polemic one hears in parishes: "oh, you just don't accept Vatican II"--directed at people who: like bells at Mass; use "old fashioned" vestments; use Latin and chant; sing the prayers; don't sing the prayers; use incense and so forth. I'm sorry to say you hear it from priests, who should know better; but then, we hear a version of it here from a bishop who ought to know better. The truth is, what's actually going on is people label as "pre Vatican II" things they don't like, aren't used to, or associate with the past. The great irony is that any number of things I've seen or heard dismissed as "pre-Vatican II" are, if anything, post-Vatican II. I will give you two examples:

(a) A priest singing the Canon of the Mass. This simply was not done, in the Roman Rite, in the years leading up to the Council. Right or wrong, the priest said it sotto voce.

(b) Using a Scripture- and Missal-based chant refrain, either Latin or English, for the opening procession in preference to a vernacular hymn. Using vernacular hymns in place of the proper chants for the entrance, offertory and communion is a practice that long predated the Second Vatican Council, displacing chant--resulting in Pius X calling for restoration of chant; it was the Council that called for restoration both of chant and of a greater use of Scripture texts in the Mass.

I really don't know what he thinks of as "retreat," either now, or in 1996, when he gave the address he quotes. Is he complaining about Holy See's efforts to tighten up on how texts are translated? We know he doesn't agree with the Holy See's approach on that. Is he complaining about wider celebration of the older form of the Mass? If so, is he saying that people cannot participate actively, fully, and consciously in the older form of the Mass? If that be the case, that is simply nonsense. Yes, it's true that there were people, in the old days, who didn't participate well. Guess what? We have people who are that way today. I would be willing to bet some of the same people. And I suspect some folks who think they didn't participate before, may think their current participation is more than it is.

What I think we see here is exactly the sort of "hermaneutic of rupture" that the holy father has identified and faulted in relation to Vatican II. Of course, Bishop Trautman may be able to explain this better and who knows, maybe he will show up here and give that explanation; but it really looks like he has this idea that Vatican II marks the beginning of "full, conscious and active" participation.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding the bishop. Comments are invited from those who might offer an explanation. Comments that treat the bishop with disrepect (different from criticism or disagreement) will be deleted. If in doubt, err in the direction of civility and respect for a successor to the Apostles.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

'Great Mass, Father!'

Today St. Mary had its monthly Mass in Latin (per current Missal of Paul VI); only it was also a Mass for the schoolchildren, because they have no school on Friday.

Last week, I asked the principal if he saw a problem; he said no problem, it will be fine.

I prepared a shorter handout, since we only have about 50 booklets with all the prayers, and it would be a chore to make up another 150 more. To accommodate the children, I did the preface in English, and the Our Father and the prayers immediately afterward, but the opening rites were in Latin, as was the dialogue and the Eucharistic Prayer, and the conclusion. Right before Mass, I made sure all the children had the handouts, and I made a brief announcement explaining what we were doing. "By the way, you already know some of the Latin. Do you know how to say "Amen" in Latin? "Amen." "Alleluia"? "Alleluia." "Kyrie"? "Kyrie."

I also did a votive Mass for St. Martin de Porres, because here in the Archdiocese, the Dedication of the Cathedral takes precedence on his day (although I realize many priests don't observe that, but they should). So it's perfectly legitimate to celebrate Martin on another day, so long as there is no other saint or feast on that other day.

After Mass, two of the servers practically ambushed me in the sacristy: "Father, we loved that!" What did you like? "We liked the Latin." Why? "It really made us pay attention." And when I said, okay, we might do it again, they said: "can we serve when you do?"

A bit later, I stopped into the school office, and a boy came in. "Great Mass, Father!" Really, I said, what made it great? "The Latin; and when you did this"--he meant the Eucharistic Prayer--"I thought you were going to say the usual words, but you didn't!"

Sheesh--these kids today--what's wrong with them? Don't they know they're not supposed to like this sort of thing?

Remember, every first Wednesday, 8 am (okay, today it was 8:45), St. Mary, Piqua Ohio. Mass in Latin, for those wish to participate.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

'Behold I make all things new' (Annual Mass for the Dead)

When we are faced with the hard reality of death,
beyond the shock, the grief, the anger, the exhaustion,
what we face is the darkness of unknowing.

What really lies beyond?

As a priest, I visit with a lot of folks who are facing death, or grieving.
So many vivid memories, all so different.
I think of a woman who, during her final months, was so often afraid.
There came a point when she wasn’t afraid anymore, she was just tired.

I had a funeral for a woman who died of cancer in the prime of her life,
leaving a teenage son. Amidst all that was so painful was something beautiful—
as the day approached, her every thought was about her son.

I think of my own father, in the months and days before he left this life, at 97.
What made that hard was that he was so ready to go, but it didn’t happen.
In his final months, he said he saw his mother,
as well as my mother. He saw them come for him.

One part of me said, “that was just a dream.”
But on the other hand…who can say?
We don’t really know.
But from God’s Word we have some glimpses.

The first reading describes people doing, long ago, what we still do:
we offer a sacrifice for those who have died.
As Catholics, we do pray for those who have died.
Each of us, in our own hearts, knows what remains unfixed and incomplete in ourselves;

and we can only rely on God’s grace to make us complete for heaven.

This is what Purgatory is.
It’s not frightening, it’s a source of great hope!

Purgatory is the mud-room of heaven;
The writer C.S. Lewis talked about
someone arriving in heaven,
his clothes tattered and not quite clean,
and was told, “oh, can go in”—and the soul responded,
“yes Sir, but I’d like to be cleaned up first!”

This part of our Faith is very realistic.
There is something very reassuring about gathering,
as we do, to pray for those who have died.
It is reassuring to know that others will do this for us;
and it can bring great healing to us, as we go forward.

And not just to us—but to those for whom we pray.
You and I are bound by time.
For us, the past is past, we can’t go back.
But God is outside of time. It has no power over him.
So we pray, today, in this present;
But God can reach back, and bring a healing touch.

Still we are faced with unknowing.
This is where we come to the Lord Jesus himself.
Our faith as Christians does not rest on our own experiences—a dream, a reassurance—
Because we can so easily encounter unbearable darkness.
Our faith does not even rest on the Scriptures—
that may surprise you to hear me say that, but it’s true.

No, our faith rests on a Person, Jesus Christ himself!
Mary and Martha, in their grief, might have found comfort in Scripture,
but they wanted Jesus to come.
“If you had been here,” Martha said, “my brother would not have died.”

Did you ever consider the sacrifice Lazarus made?
From the gates of Paradise, he was called back to this world. Why?
This happened to strengthen those who believed in him

for the terrible darkness that lay just ahead.
It show them and us that Jesus Christ is Lord of all things, including death and life.

Shortly after this, Jesus faced death himself.
He showed us we didn’t need to be afraid,
and that we would not be alone,
and above all, that there is nothing—
not even death itself—that cannot be redeemed.

We still peer dimly into the void. What lies ahead? We know very little.
But we don’t need know. We know who is ahead: “Behold, I make all things new.”

But he is not far ahead, not far at all. When we gather for the Mass,
We come to the very gate of Paradise, Jesus Christ is that Gate!

In the Mass, He makes his death and resurrection real for us.
We are witnesses as our champion wins the Victory for us!
And to sustain us on our journey—for you and I are like Lazarus,
we must go back from the gate of Paradise,

to continue to bear witness in this world to the Power of Jesus Christ!—
to sustain us, from his wounded side he shares his Flesh and his Blood.

In the moment of Eucharistic communion,
we are at the Gate, we are united in Christ,
we are with him—and through him,
with all those whom we can no longer see,
but who stand in his presence, ready—
or being made ready—like a Bride.

This is the miracle of the Mass, and the Eucharist:
“Behold, I make all things new.”

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Psalms, the liturgy, the Mass

Today I went over to the Transfiguration Center in West Milton, Ohio, for a talk by Father Tim Schehr on the psalms. Father Schehr teaches Scripture at Mount Saint Mary Seminary of the West and generously gives talks on the Bible all around the diocese. If you see him scheduled--go! (He will be back, next Saturday, in West Milton, for part two.)

Perhaps I will write another post about his observations on the psalms, which I found very helpful, but I wanted to write down some thoughts that sprung out of this session, concerning the liturgy and the Mass.

The occasion of my reflections was a conversation, over lunch, with a gentleman attending the talk, who is almost completely deaf. He relies on an electronic device that, if paired with a proper transmitter, enables him to hear. As it happened, even though he had both devices, when he set the transmitter near me, it didn't seem to work; so, naturally, he did most of the talking--he didn't hear everything I was saying and I didn't want to shout, whereas I understood him just fine (Deo gratias).

We talked about church acoustics and sound systems; he is very interested in how well people can hear the Word of God at Mass; and he has many observations about how poorly that seemingly simple purpose is served. Meanwhile, as he's talking about amplification, I'm thinking somewhat the opposite direction: about the drawbacks of emphasizing amplification as opposed to a church being designed so that it's "alive"--sound carries without additional amplification. That, in turn, raised the question about spoken v. sung word, and who is really speaking to whom.

Well, our conversation touched on that briefly, but then it was time to return to another talk. But I continued to mull this over, especially as I drove home. I'll post my reflections here, but perhaps not in the most artful way:

Q. What is the Mass, in its essence? A. The Mass is essentially offering, gift, oblation. Ergo, all the other things that are included in the Mass, are not the purpose of the Mass, but serve its purpose. Example: we have readings, songs, movement, preaching, and more, in Mass, but these are not the main thing. They serve as part of a great offering.

Q. Who is the principal actor in the Mass? A. God the Trinity, of course; but if we mean, who is the principal earthly actor, then it is the priest: if Mass is essentially offering, he is the one who offers. And when you understand the true nature of the priesthood, then he is both a human actor, but also, mirabile dictu a divine actor, insofar as Christ acts in and through the priest, wretch that he is! The priest is a mediator, a "go between": he represents the people to God and God to his people--at all times in the person of Christ.

These lead to this observation about the "dialogue" or the communication that occurs at Mass. It is not mainly horizontal--people to people--but almost entirely vertical: between God and humanity, heaven and earth. Any "horizontal" communication occurs along the way.

Well, these observations may seem obvious, and yet can we not see how many things can happen at Mass that diverge--or tempt one to diverge--from where we ought to be going?

For example: given the above, what is our fundamental orientation in Mass? It is clearly of humanity toward God. (Hint: this illustrates why the question of where the priest stands and faces at the altar is so very important, and why so many are concerned that the "versus populum" orientation--i.e., the priest facing the people across the altar--is so problematic. For all its advantages, in making his actions at the altar more visible, and being engaging, it also risks expressing a "closed circle." Many think this is a "settled" question, but on the contrary, in years to come, we will see this question revisited, and folks who think they've seen the last of priests and people facing the same direction should prepare themselves to see it again.)

Also, this raises the question about how we emphasize comprehension. I'm not saying comprehension--understanding--are meaningless; I'm asking, how does this, as a good to be served, fit into the overall scheme of things? Or, say it another way: what sort of understanding are we aiming at? I can understand something on the level of abstract reasoning; or I can "get it in my gut." Or I can simply respond to something because it attracts me.

A priest gave a talk at the seminary; I can't recall the overall topic, but along the way, he talked about a conversation he had with students at the Catholic college where he'd been president for a few years. He was explaining why he'd put the kibosh on co-ed dorms, and the students protested, and he was addressing the issues involved.

He said something like this: there are so many levels on which men and women interact, come to know each other, and become intimate. They are different and all important. One of them--so very powerful--is sexuality. It is so attractive, so powerful, for good reason; so we like it and we are drawn to it, again for good reason. This sexual interaction is not bad! It's good; but it has to have its right place, and be entered into in right relation to all the others. But here was the key point: granted that men and women interact on all the different levels, does it make sense to collapse them all together, and have it all focus on the one dimension, the sexual? (Which is, of course, what happens so very often, because this aspect is so powerful and intense?) The priest's point was that he was trying to help the students avoid that pitfall; and he said they hated to admit that he had a point.

Well, I would apply a similar lesson to how we encounter the Mass.

Likewise, we experience the Divine, at Mass, on so many levels. But one that is so attractive, at least to so many of us, is the cognitive--the level of grasping intellectual content, words, ideas, and analyzing and digesting them. But a similar caveat applies here: should we not be wary of collapsing all the different levels together? Because this one very powerful dimension may overwhelm the others, and we miss out of them.

Of course, I'm not saying I don't care if the gentleman, with whom I had a pleasant lunch, hears and understands at Mass; I care very much. Rather, all this is an extended consideration of precisely what that "understanding"--"hearing" really is. What are we "hearing"? Is it simply a cognitive word--a word spoken to be grasped intellectually? Or, is it a sound? A melody? A poem, a rhythm--things that are heard and understood in other ways?

Obviously this all connects to the hot-button discussions we have around liturgy: whether we like or don't like the style or mood of the music; whether we understand what we're hearing, or even saying, because of the style of English, or even more, because it's Latin.

Again, it's not a matter of not caring if people like their experience of Mass, or understand what they hear or speak; but rather, what sort of understanding is called for, and ultimately, what sort of "response" is called for from us. On one level, we care if we and others "like" the Mass; but on another level, doesn't that seem inane? Or put it another way: what sort of "liking" are we talking about. Do I "like" the Paschal Mystery (God became man with the Cross and resurrection in view, that he might transform us by the Spirit to be one with the Trinity in a new form of divine-human life)? Well, I think we'd all feel rather awkward saying we "liked" the Crucifixion; and in other ways, we feel odd even asking the question, "do I like this"--isn't that the wrong question? But, if we must put it that way, well then, a thundering yes: "I like it!"

I'm not sure how to conclude this, these are merely reflections. But I have to confess, as I thought about all this, I was challenged as a preacher. Insofar as the Mass is essentially offering, then the Liturgy of the Word can only make sense as a movement toward that, rather than an end in itself; the same would be true of every spoken word in the Mass--including the homily.


It is far easier, as a preacher, to give a homily that focuses on the Scriptures, or our lives, or the Faith, or on God, etc., but ends up being a kind of "terminal" event, as opposed to what it must be, a transition. We are not at Mass primarily to hear a homily; the homily is important, but it must be a bridge; or, perhaps, an invitation to cross the bridge. The image that came to mind was from Ezekiel 37: the prophet among dry bones, commanded by YHWH "to speak a word that will rouse them."

I say that, as I prepare momentarily to head over to church, first for confessions, then for Mass; and my homily is all prepared: I will be explaining how SCRIP works, as a way to raise money for the school and parish. This is driven by practical necessities. We need a SCRIP program, and I need to get people on board, and that requires explaining it at a time everyone will hear...but what will I say that will rouse people to enter into the heart of the Mass? How do I do both? Sometimes homilies seem very earth-bound, but then so are we.

Well, time to go. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The ground did not open up...

...even though, today, for All Souls Mass in Saint Boniface church, I wore new, black vestments.

Pausing for all those who were so overcome with shock to recover.

Black vestments are not a big deal to me, but apparently they are to some folks, who react like Dracula just showed up. The fact is, they are a legitimate option for funerals, Mass for the dead, and All Souls.

So why did I order a vestment in black?

First, because it is a legitimate option; therefore, I think the faithful are entitled to have it if they ask; so we should have it, to provide the option. Second, as a wise priest, but not a "traditionalist," said once, not everyone is all about resurrection by the day of the funeral--purple or black may better match their mood. Third, because a parishioner approached me about donating some vestments, and so I got three we most needed: a new gold one, a rose one, and a black one.

Mass this morning was simple. We had Mass at church, rather than the chapel, because I didn't know if more folks would show up. (They didn't, but then this wasn't a regularly scheduled Mass for Friday.) We chanted some of the Mass--i.e., I chanted the opening and communion antiphons, and the Kyrie, the amens, the Alleluia and the Mystery of Faith. I used the Roman Canon, with all the saints mentioned, as I did yesterday for All Saints (that seems a no-brainer for me).

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Saints are our All-Stars (homily)

Why do we celebrate this day?
Why have an “All Saints” Day?

Who here is a baseball fan?
Right in the middle of the season, in July,
there’s a special event—do you know what it’s called?
It even sounds something like today’s Feast Day:
The “All Star” Game.

I grew up in Cincinnati,
and we had “the Big Red Machine.”

If you’ve heard of these folks, raise your hands:
At first base: Tony Perez
Second base: Joe Morgan
Shortstop: Davey Concepcion
Third base: Pete Rose
Outfield: Cesar Geronimo, George Foster,
and Ken Griffey—not Junior, his father!
At home plate, Johnny Bench;
and the manager: Sparky Anderson.

In the All Star Game in 1976,
eight of those ten fellows were in that game!
If you were a Cincinnati baseball fan then,
it was a glorious time!

All of us wanted to have their baseball cards;
we wanted to wear a jersey with their number on it.
All the kids looked up to Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan.

But here’s the thing.
Time passes, and such glory is fleeting.

One of the biggest names from then is Pete Rose.
He was one of the greatest baseball players ever.
He set a ton of records.
But while many of those other players’ names
Are in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Pete Rose’s isn’t.

Because while Pete Rose was a great baseball player,
It turned out he broke the rules.
He ruined his reputation.
And he broke a lot of people’s hearts.

It’s good to have heroes—we need them.
We need others to look up to, to admire;
We need them to set an example for us, to inspire us.

But as I said, the glory of this world doesn’t last.
The All Stars of 30 years ago have faded.

Today, we celebrate the Church’s All Stars.

But their glory does not fade;
they will not break our hearts.

The saints are our heroes,
Not because they played a game so well,
Or they were the best spellers,
Or they made a lot of money,
Or they were great artists or priests or parents—
Although they were.

They are our All Stars, our heroes,
Because—as the first reading describes—
They stand with Jesus!
They longed to see his face;
They chose Jesus as their hero,
and tried to be like Him—and it happened!

When we think of the saints, we are filled with hope.
Where they are, we hope to be.
The race we’re running, the struggle we face,
They’ve faced and overcome.
Now, from heaven, they cheer us on to victory!

We see them at the finish line,
saying, ‘come on!’ ‘You can do it!’

And we race and we strain for the prize!

As we race toward heaven—to join the saints—
Along the way, there will be times
others will get in our way, try to stop us,
or laugh at us for all the hard work we’re doing.
That’s what Lord was talking about in the Gospel:
He said: you will need to be meek and humble;
You will need to be clean of heart;
You will need to be a peacemaker,
If you want to run the race, and win.

Some will stand on the sidelines and make fun;
But keep running! Heaven lies ahead.
There the Saints, the true All Stars, are waiting.
They are with Jesus, which is where we want to be.