Monday, October 31, 2011

All Souls' Day: More Than Just a Visit to the Cemetery

Every year on November 2, Catholics in our local parish go to Mass and then visit the local Catholic cemetery. When we first moved here, I went to the Mass, but I never went to the cemetery; for one thing, it was usually a cold, windy day, and I didn’t want to brave the weather. For another thing, I simply did not understand the significance of that visit.
Now, with the experience and wisdom (ha!) gained in my whole almost-ten years of being a Catholic, I do understand – at least a little more – about that visit to the cemetery. I learned several years ago that one can gain a plenary indulgence for visiting a cemetery and offering prayers for the dead on All Souls’ Day (and actually, on any day from November 1 to November 8).  I even learned what a plenary indulgence is.
How did I learn this? Well, it was not from attending Mass on All Souls’ Day and hearing the priest talk about sin, indulgences, prayers for the dead IN PURGATORY, and the like. If anything, all I ever heard about the dead was that they were in heaven praying for us. Purgatory? Well…let’s just think happy thoughts about heaven.
No, I learned about indulgences from my spiritual director, who explained to me what they actually were, and who recommended a book, A Modern Guide to Indulgences, by Dr. Edward Peters. I read the book and found that, like all authentic Catholic teaching, the whole concept of indulgences and purgatory and praying for the dead was integrated, logical, and simply beautiful.
That visit to the cemetery after Mass on All Souls’ Day is not just something we do to “honor the memory” of the dearly departed. We don’t go there just to put flowers on graves and shed a few tears for the family and friends we’ve lost – which does nothing for the dead, but simply gives us opportunity to indulge our own sentimentality.
No, there is much more to it than that.
We go there to pray for their very souls. We go because there is sin in our lives, and there was sin in theirs, and we do not know whether or not these souls have gone to heaven. The Church tells us that almost certainly the deceased are in purgatory, being…well…purged…as the word tells us! They are being prepared to enter the court of the King of the Universe. And we can help them. We must help them, because they can no longer help themselves. That’s why praying for the dead is a spiritual act of mercy.
Even when I have heard people talk of purgatory, it’s been in a sort of off-hand, dismissive way, as if purgatory isn’t all that bad, and hey, you’re on your way to heaven if you at least have made it to purgatory, so no big deal. But then I read another book (I have been told by more than one person that I read too many books): Hungry Souls, by Gerard J. M. Van Den Aardweg. This book makes it very clear that purgatory is real…and painful. Yes, painful. Having every one of your sins laid bare, made excruciatingly present in your mind in the sight of God…well, that’s pain. There’s lots more about the pains of purgatory in Hungry Souls. Read the book.
So…about that visit to the cemetery: through this act, we can gain graces which are passed on to the souls in purgatory, and we also gain graces for ourselves because of the act of mercy in which we participate.
There’s a catch, though. Indulgences don’t come by wishing. There’s work involved. If you read about particular partial or plenary indulgences, you will often see the phrase “under the usual conditions”. What are the “usual conditions”?
For a partial indulgence, one must:
1.      Be baptized
2.      Be in the state of grace
3.      Have the intention to obtain the indulgence
4.      Perform the works or offer prayers correctly
And for a plenary indulgence, one must:
1.      Meet all the requirements of a partial indulgence
2.      Not be excommunicated
3.      Have no affection for sin, not even venial sin
4.      Receive the sacrament of reconciliation and Holy Communion and offer prayers for the pope’s intention within 8 days before or after the indulgenced day
A true appreciation of indulgences brings one to the realization that:
a.       Sin exists (!)
b.      Sins must be forgiven in order to be indulgenced; that means going to confession.
c.       People who die do not automatically go to heaven, no matter how much we love them!
d.      Indulgences can only be granted through the Catholic Church
And finally, it is very important to know that to obtain an indulgence, one must have the intention to obtain it. I’ve noticed that older prayer books often suggest a prayer to this effect: “I wish and purpose to gain today all the indulgences which it is possible for me to gain.” When I pray that prayer, I automatically think about how long it’s been since I went to confession, because that will have some bearing on whether or not I qualify for a plenary indulgence. And both confessing my sins and obtaining an indulgence (whether for myself or for someone else) are good for my soul.
I think that if all the faithful had a greater appreciation of indulgences, there would be more visits to the confessional. I think there would be fewer funeral Masses that sound like beatification ceremonies, and more that sound like the prayer for God’s mercy that they are supposed to be.
My conclusion: The effort to obtain indulgences leads to more prayer, more awareness of sin, prayers for the dead, and the salvation of our souls. Sounds like a good thing.  Too bad we don’t hear more about it from our priests and bishops!
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine. Et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

My Daughter is Getting Married! (Someday)

My daughter is getting married! Well…someday.
That’s what she thinks anyway, and I am inclined to agree with her. At almost 18 years old, what she wants most in life is to be a wife and homeschooling mom (maybe my husband and I HAVE done something right!). I’ve mentioned the possibility of a religious vocation to her, but she’s pretty sure it’s “not for me”.  She’s been planning her wedding since she was about 12 years old, and likes to joke, “All I need now is a groom.”
I’m happy to say that my daughter has also put some thought into planning her marriage – at least as far as someone of her tender age is able. In a college-level writing class she took during her senior year in high school (just last year), she wrote every essay assignment on some aspect of marriage: traditional marriage (stay-at-home wife, working husband), working out problems in marriage, making marriage last. She and I discussed some of her relationship issues, as well as marriage generalities and specifics, and I think it’s been a good thing.
She does have a groom in mind, and this steady relationship has been going on for more than a year. The two of them have had some disagreements and “issues”, and they “almost” broke up a couple of times. But they have worked things through each time, and continue to consider themselves a couple.
I have to admit, though, that sometimes my husband and I have doubts about this young man she’s dating. Why? Well, he’s a nice kid, but he’s not Catholic. In fact, he’s barely Christian. He’s declined our daughter’s invitations to attend Mass with her, saying he doesn’t like that “formal” type of Christianity. He has a stubborn streak, too, and tends to dig in his heels when he thinks he’s being “pressured” - which is to say the subject of religion has not been mentioned.
So, while I pat myself on the back for “teaching” my daughter how great it is to be a stay-at-home wife and homeschooling mom, at the same time I berate myself for failing to inculcate in her the importance of having a Catholic husband. Still, our conversations about weddings and marriage have opened the door to some further instruction on our Catholic identity.  We’re a work in progress, I guess.
Sometimes I wish some nice Catholic boy would come along and sweep my daughter off her feet. Michael Voris (of RealCatholicTV and the Vortex), during his coverage of World Youth Day, commented that he was meeting “lots of young people…lots of young men” who were passionate about their faith, orthodox in their outlook, and serious about their spirituality. As if he could hear me through the computer screen, I yelled, “Where?!?” Unfortunately, I don’t think any of those young men live in our town. (Seriously. There really are not all that many nice Catholic boys in the right age range for our daughter!)
Of course, there is also the slight complication that my daughter is not looking for anyone else to sweep her off her feet. So I pray daily for the boyfriend’s conversion; I pray that I will properly guide my daughter; I pray that Our Blessed Mother will guide my daughter in her choice of a husband. Sigh.
I also remind myself that when my cradle-Catholic husband married me, I was not Catholic. In fact, I was pretty anti-Catholic. I became even more so after we were married. But in the end, I became Catholic! How did that happen?! It’s a long story, but I think the answer is: by the grace of God.
Perhaps God has a plan like that for my daughter and her boyfriend.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Rachel Weeps

"A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not." (Matthew 2:18, also Jeremiah 31:15) 

What we are doing to our children is unfathomable...

In Iraq, this report says, children of Christians are killed and displayed as if crucified in order to terrorize and torment the parents and force them to leave the country. What sort of mind a) conceives of such a vicious plan; and b) actually puts it into action? Who could do such a thing to a child?

In China, women are dying along with their unborn babies as abortions are forced on those who are pregnant without the necessary permission. There are plenty of stories of these atrocities from LifeSiteNews. The agony of these women and their families as their children are destroyed is unbearable to consider, yet we must confront it.

In the US, there are certainly many abortions that are coerced if not physically forced (though I believe there are accounts of the latter as well). Many other abortions are consented to by women who have bought the lie that "it's just a blob of cells", but who afterwards discover the truth, or recognize what they knew in their hearts was true, and then suffer the anguish and guilt of knowing they killed their own children.

All of this is horrendous and incomprehensible if you take even a couple of minutes to think it through. If you can't conjure up mental pictures, just do a google search online, and you'll find plenty of evidence of the horrors we are visiting upon our children.

That's not the end of it, though. These examples are all about physical harm - deplorable and disgusting and horrifying, of course. But what about spiritual harm, and even spiritual death? Is society not visiting that harm upon our children as well? Think about sex education at increasingly young ages, for instance. What is accomplished by this? How does it teach our children to think about sex? And now, of course, the homosexual political agenda is thrown into the mix, and we have children thinking about sex and becoming convinced that they are "gay". We have them exposed to contraceptive thinking early on;perhaps even more insidious is the information they are given on  how to prevent disease as well as pregnancy when they are having sex  - which is presented to them as their right and as something they should desire, and should be allowed to experience.

And of course there's homosexual marriage to consider. What does this issue say to our children? What is a marriage? What is a family? If parents are not actively teaching their children the answers to these questions - answers that up till fairly recently were so well-known and accepted that no explanation was needed, because most people were living examples of them - then their children will be indoctrinated into the liberal world view of "anything goes".

All of this exposes our children to spiritual harm, if not death. Their unformed consciences are battered by untruths which, in many cases, their parents are at a loss to combat, perhaps not even knowing what lies their children have been exposed to. And the more the lies and immoral lifestyles are played up in the media, the more numb a child's conscience will become, until finally there is no hope of resuscitation.

Rachel weeps - not just for the physically harmed children, but for the spiritually harmed children, too.

And I suspect Rachel weeps for the contracepted children as well. I know I do. But that's another story.

Check It Out: A Few Good Blogs

I have a post on AnytimeEvangelize blog today, titled "Confessions of a Lousy Evangelizer". "Anytime" is an interesting concept; see what it's all about in the "Welcome" message. Anyone can join and post their thoughts...just do it!

I've been remiss in not mentioning the blogs of my friend Deacon Pat Kearns; see them here and here. He always has lots of good photos and videos.

Then there are two other blogs you should see: Accepting Abundance and Little Catholic Bubble. I "met" these two bloggers via (which you should check once or twice a day for the latest good blogging). They have both fun and serious posts, and sometimes a combination of the two. And lots of children. Yay!

Finally, check out La Nueva Primavera. I know nothing about the author and he doesn't give any info on his profile page, but I'll tell you this: he doesn't pull any punches and he generally documents the things he says with links to the sources.

So go...check out some of these blogs!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Like a Roaring Lion

If you don't think religious persecution - especially of Catholics - is on the horizon, think again. In fact, I think it's pretty much already here. We just haven't seen the full force of it yet. Start reading the Roman Martyrology for inspiration!

At Accepting Abundance, Stacy has some comments:

"Rose Marie Belforti is a town clerk in Ledyard, New York who refused to sign a marriage license in August for two women after the state enacted the Marriage Equality Act in July. The two women... don't even live in New York; they own seasonal property in a nearby town and actually live in Florida. One is an attorney and the other is a filmmaker.

"They knew that Rose Marie, a mother of four and a grandmother, had already made it known that she would not sign a same-sex marriage license, but
she would arrange for someone else to do it. The two women chose to come to Ledyard, this small farming town where they don't even live and where Rose Marie has been the elected clerk for the past ten years, just to press her on her beliefs. Rose Marie did not back down, but did offer to arrange for someone else to provide a legitimate signature. There are only around seven licenses a year to even sign at all. She has since turned over the responsibility of signing (all those!) marriage licenses to another clerk.

"So in a rational world, everyone should be happy. Right? ...Not so in this case. The two women are suing the town of Ledyard, and the situation has become national news. ... And rather than just "getting married" now as they so wanted to do, the two women have declared they won't stop until they get her to
sign the license."

Visit Accepting Abundance to read the rest of Stacy's excellent analysis.

Then consider this story, in which we learn that Muslim students at a CATHOLIC University are upset and say their rights are being trampled? Why? Because the school will not allow them to have a Muslim club, and neither will it give them classrooms just for Muslims - classrooms that don't have that offensive crucifix affixed to the wall.

Oh. My. Goodness. It's a CATHOLIC University! Do ya s'pose a Muslim university would bend over backwards to accommodate the needs/desires/demands of Catholics students? 'Course not.

Make no mistake. This is about persecution of the Catholic Church. It's coming. Sooner than you think. Arm yourself with the Truth, and with faith in God.

Sobrii estote, vigilate. Adversarius vester Diabolus tamquam leo rugiens circuit quaerens quem devoret. Cui resistite fortes fide...
 (1 Peter 5:8-9)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Blessings" at Communion: Just Say No!

I’ve been heartened the last few weeks as a couple of bishops have made the headlines by correcting some liturgical abuses: Bishop Morlino in Madison, Wisconsin, adhering to the established norms of offering only the Body of Christ, and not the Precious Blood, at Holy Communion; Bishop Olmsted in Arizona doing the same, and also accepting only male altar servers in his Cathedral. (As an added bonus, limiting reception of Holy Communion to one species also ends up correcting the error of having multitudes of lay ministers administering the chalice.)
This all puts me in mind of another abuse that I find particularly offensive: a communion procession interspersed with non-communicants who approach the priest or extraordinary minister for a “blessing” instead of receiving Holy Communion. It’s certainly not an unfamiliar experience in the Catholic Church in the United States. In fact, one priest of my acquaintance regularly gives these instructions just before Communion: “If you have not received your first Communion, or you are not disposed to receive Communion, please place your hand over your heart and you may receive a blessing. Everyone is welcome at the table of the Lord!”
Of course, I suppose we can acknowledge that while there is nothing in the rubrics to indicate that a blessing should or may be given to non-communicants during Holy Communion, neither is there any explicit prohibition of the practice.

However, in November 2008, a letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments surfaced on the internet regarding this conferral of a “blessing” to non-communicants at Mass during Holy Communion. The letter was a response to an inquiry which consisted of two questions:

1. Is this a custom that is within the faculty of a pastor, the local Ordinary, or a Bishops’ Conference to establish? That is, is this custom something that can be regulated without recourse to this Congregation?

2. Are there particular guidelines or restrictions from this Congregation concerning a) which ministers of Holy Communion may give these blessings and b) what forms these blessings may take?

The letter from the CDW stated in part:
  1. The liturgical blessing of the Holy Mass is properly given to each and to all at the conclusion of the Mass, just a few moments subsequent to the distribution of Holy Communion.
  2. Lay people, within the context of Holy Mass, are unable to confer blessings. These blessings, rather, are the competence of the priest (cf. Ecclesia de Mysterio, Notitiae 34 (15 Aug. 1997), art. 6, § 2; can. 1169, § 2; and Roman Ritual De Benedictionibus (1985), n. 18).
  3. Furthermore, the laying on of a hand or hands -- which has its own sacramental significance, inappropriate here -- by those distributing Holy Communion, in substitution for its reception, is to be explicitly discouraged.
  4. The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, n. 84, "forbids any pastor, for whatever reason to pretext even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry." To be feared is that any form of blessing in substitution for communion would give the impression that the divorced and remarried have been returned, in some sense, to the status of Catholics in good standing.
  5. In a similar way, for others who are not to be admitted to Holy Communion in accord with the norm of law, the Church's discipline has already made clear that they should not approach Holy Communion nor receive a blessing. This would include non-Catholics and those envisaged in can. 915 (i.e., those under the penalty of excommunication or interdict, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin).
The intent here seems pretty clear to me: liturgical actions are kept in proper order both within the liturgy and according to the competence of the ministers; erroneous impressions of approval are avoided; and Holy Communion is recognized for what it is.
At the time the letter came out, I shared it with lay people and priests – and met with scoffing and sarcasm from some most. One friend asked, “Are we as lay people not to say ‘God bless you’ when someone sneezes?” From priests, I heard comments that tried to show “pastoral prudence”, such as: “How can we deny people a blessing which they have come to expect?” and “People will be upset and might leave the Church!” Or this one (see my eyes rolling?): “If we deny them a blessing, we are not showing them love, and after all, what would Jesus do?! Surely he would not deny them!”
The CDW letter, even if not “official”, still contained a clear statement that giving a “blessing” at Communion is inappropriate. But the fall-back position of several priests I spoke to, who objected to the idea of denying the blessing, seemed to be: “I’m not changing anything until I’m explicitly told I have to.” I do know one priest who was willing to withhold the blessing; he was told by his bishop that he must give it! Sigh. I think that the “spirit of Vatican II” is alive and well, while the spirit of obedience to authority is pitiably lacking!
What surprises me the most is that most of the people I have mentioned this to seem to be completely unaware of the underlying message that the “blessing at Communion” sends. The CDW letter mentions it briefly: “To be feared is that any form of blessing in substitution for communion” might give the wrong impression.
I would argue that indeed it does give the wrong impression, and has for many years. It has given the wrong impression so strongly that it has detracted from the belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. It has detracted from our sense of sin. And it has convinced us that it is not really so urgent that we go to confession. And three years after the CDW letter came out, nothing has changed in my diocese.
Hmph! Well, I think this calls for a limerick:
The faithful want to be blessed,
Because they haven't confessed.
Rome says not to.
The bishop says "got to" --
Just as one would've guessed.

If the offended should all leave the Church,
The bishop'll be in the lurch.
There won't be enough money!
That wouldn't be funny.
It would require a new funding search.

They won't change the wrong for the right,
Or the "faithful" will exit in fright.
Pastors stick with the wrong
To maintain the throng,
And we end up with Katholic-Lite.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Illusory Catholic Hospital - Part II

[On September 9, I posted "The Illusory Catholic Hospital, part I."]

A Catholic hospital is in the news again: LifeSiteNews reports that a “Catholic” hospital in Barcelona, Spain, admits to continuing its practice of committing abortions and vasectomies, even though the Cardinal Archbishop there has ordered it to stop doing so (see also the links to several other stories LSN has run about this hospital at the end of their article).

So, it’s not just the US that has this problem with “Catholic” hospitals, but I’ll keep my focus on American hospitals just because I have some experience with them.

Scouting around on the web, it looks to me as though most of the Catholic medical service nets in existence in this country are run by non-Catholics. That begs the question: How can an organization maintain a truly Catholic vision when the administrators are not Catholic? Frankly, I think it is unrealistic to expect that non-Catholic administrators will be able or willing to fully grasp the significance of key Catholic health teachings such as sterilization and in vitro fertilization.

In addition, it seems that most Catholics-on-the-street either don’t care or don’t pay attention to the “ethics” of a hospital – a conclusion I reached as a result of a brief stint on the Ethics Committee of the Catholic hospital in my parish. Now that was an interesting episode in my short Catholic life! Let me explain…

I was the parish secretary at the time, and sat at my desk listening to the parish priest and a religious sister discussing the hospital ethics committee. She was saying she didn’t have time to serve on the committee any longer, and he was voicing his own reluctance to take on the duty.

“I’ll do it,” I volunteered.

They both looked at me, and then at each other, and in a manner reminiscent of the old “Life” cereal commercials with little Mikey, they said, almost in unison, “Yeah! Let Jay do it!”

So I was duly appointed and approved. And I attended a grand total of two meetings. After attending that second meeting, I was "banned" from further attendance and participation. My offense? Well, in my first meeting, I questioned a Catholic doctor who was advocating for a tubal ligation for his patient. In the second meeting, I informed the (mostly non-Catholic) committee that the tubal ligations they generally approved qualified as “direct sterilization”, which was inconsistent with Church teaching. Since they were almost all non-Catholics, they were a little reluctant to grasp the concept. It didn’t help that a previous bishop had encouraged – even requested – the hospital to come up with a protocol that would allow tubal ligations under a very broad range of “exceptions”.

Prior to that second meeting, I had emailed the hospital administrator who was in charge of the ethics committee. I told him that I had researched the sterilization issue, and that there were problems with the hospital’s protocol for handling them, and that we needed to discuss this as a committee before any more decisions were made. He told me that we would discuss it “later”.

And, also prior to that second meeting, I informed our parish deacon, who served on the committee, that I was going to insist that the issue of these illicit sterilizations be discussed. He was so distressed by this prospect that he declined to even come to the meeting, and he later resigned from the ethics committee.

Well, that second meeting was very short…though to me it was an eternity, because I really don’t like confrontation, and it was a very tense meeting. I made my point about sterilization; the administrator squelched me; and then a request for a tubal ligation was presented. No one would comment because I had just said we couldn’t approve such requests. So finally, when it was clear that no one else was going to broach an opinion, I said, “Well, obviously we have to say no, because this is a direct sterilization.” Someone asked “How do you figure?” and I explained it again. The administrator decided that we would have to table the discussion, and that the meeting was adjourned. The whole thing took about 20 minutes.

It was actually a full two weeks later when the pastor of our parish told me that the hospital administrators had “banned” me from any further meetings. The priest was upset, but not about my being booted from the committee. He told me, “At least they’re not mad at me.” So although my concerns about the hospital’s practices were legitimate, I was unsupported – even castigated – by a deacon, a priest, and a “Catholic” doctor. Fortunately, Bishop Vasa did appreciate and understand the significance of the information I was able to give him, and he was able to put a stop to the wanton approval of tubal ligations.

In the final analysis, one might wonder if it is even realistic to believe a Catholic hospital is a viable concept. There simply seems not to be a demand for it. Even among the faithful themselves, those lamenting the loss of their Catholic hospital are few and far between. Since Catholics use artificial contraceptives and have themselves sterilized in the same proportions as the general population, it seems doubtful that there will be a huge outcry among these “faithful” when formerly Catholic hospitals start doing these procedures without having to justify them in some way.

So what is the “next step” for Catholic medical care? The cards are stacked against it, especially given the Obama administration’s stance on conscience clauses and health care in general; but some of those cards are, sadly, part of the Catholic deck. This suggests to me that a strong program of catechesis is necessary in order to bring errant-thinking Catholics back into the fold. Too long have the faithful been allowed – and in some cases, even taught – that it is okay to disagree with the Church on artificial contraception, sterilization, in vitro fertilization, and even abortion. In the almost ten years I have been Catholic, I have heard virtually no teaching on the evils of artificial contraception and sterilization from my parish priests. Although my experience is admittedly limited, a number of friends, acquaintances, and family members affirm my suspicion that this is not a topic anyone wants discussed. That would be tantamount to declaring that “the emperor has no clothes”.

But such a declaration must be made – and clarified – if we as Catholics want to make a serious run at the Culture of Death in this country. It is clear that some additional episcopal guidance is in order: merely withdrawing the "Catholic" designation of a hospital is not enough. A hospital stripped of its Catholic affiliation generally keeps its Catholic-sounding name (e.g., St. Charles), and might even maintain that cross on the top of its main building. With condoms and other contraceptives being sold in the pharmacy and tubal ligations and other unethical procedures being made available, uncatechized Catholics may assume Church approval in these matters.

Taking a firm stand with “Catholic” hospitals that do not comply with Church teaching is an important first step. We’ve seen a few bishops taking this step recently, and they are to be commended for it. But taking a firm stand with the faithful must be implemented as well.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Update on Thanks to Tito and New Friends

Just a bit of an update: see Stacy Trasanco's thank you to Tito at Accepting Abundance. Great blog!

Stacy suggested that the two of us do a joint thank-you to Tito. She notes that Tito creates ThePulp.It twice daily "simply out of the kindness of his heart. It is a labor of love for his fellow Catholics. People who read the digest benefit tremendously because it saves them the time of browsing and sorting through lots of blogs."

Two other bloggers I have "met", and whose blogs are well worth checking ou,t are Leila at Little Catholic Bubble and Anita at V-For-Victory. See for yourself!

Carry on!

Thank You, Tito Edwards!

I don't even know this man, but I want to send a big "thank you!" to him. He's had a significant effect on my short blogging life!

You may recognize his photo, or you may recognize his name: he is Tito Edwards, the editor of ThePulp.It.

Twice daily (at least) ThePulp.It publishes a "digest of the best punditry in the Catholic blogosphere". He's listed my posts there a few times, though I have no idea how he found them! I am so new to blogging, that I had barely discovered I could view my blog's "stats"; then, when I saw a huge jump in numbers, I was at a loss to explain why. I figured it out, though! It was thanks to Tito Edwards at ThePulp.It.

Also because of Tito and his work, I have discovered some great blogs out there! And in discovering those blogs, I discovered that I'm NOT ALONE! I live in Eastern Oregon, in the Diocese of Baker. Our diocese is one of the largest in geographical area and one of the smallest in terms of Catholic population. Add to that the fact that I'm sort of...well...some people would say "rabid", but I just think of myself as "orthodox"; however you describe it, it's not a popular stance in these parts. So it's easy to feel that the whole Catholic world is against me at times. (Sniff sniff...yes, I feel sorry for myself occasionally, but I have friends who don't let me do it for long!)

You should visit ThePulp.It at least once every day!

Officially, then:

Thank you, Tito Edwards!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fr. Michael Rodriguez: A Priest with Fortitude

Fr. Michael Rodriguez gives me hope. (He’s the El Paso, Texas, priest who was banished to a far, desolate corner of his diocese for publicly defending the teaching of the Church on homosexuality.)
An interview with Fr. Rodriguez appeared in The Remnant on Oct. 12. He has some very interesting, edifying, and encouraging things to say. We should all be paying careful attention to his example of fidelity to the Church, obedience to his superior, and devotion to the Sacred Liturgy.
Fr. Rodriguez is not afraid to express his affinity for the older form of the Mass, and he is not afraid to say that he prefers it to the Novus Ordo. Asked if he is a “traditionalist”, he says (my emphasis):
Liturgically, I'm 100% behind the Traditional Latin Mass, which is without question the true Mass of the Roman Catholic Church. Theology, liturgy, Catholic spirituality and asceticism, and history itself all point to the obvious superiority of the Classical Roman Rite.
I must agree. There is something eminently superior about the extraordinary form compared to the ordinary form. Even when the most devout and reverent priest I know says the novus ordo Mass in Latin and ad orientem, there is something missing. It makes me sad that so many people want to keep themselves cut off from the extraordinary form – or worse yet, to keep others from experiencing it (actually, the latter makes me downright angry!). In my little corner of the Catholic world, I see a dismaying lack of vitality in the faith. And I think it’s largely due to the watering down of the prayers and rubrics of the Mass.
Fr. Rodriguez didn’t start out to be a “traditionalist”; he was “raised” with the novus ordo, both in his pre-adult years and in his priestly formation. It was only six years ago, he says, that he began to learn the EF.
As the weeks passed, I began to study the prayers and theology of the Traditional Latin Mass. The more I studied, the more my awe and amazement grew. I was "discovering" not only the true Catholic theology of the Mass, but also the true Catholic theology of the priesthood, and so much more!
Yes, again, I agree. One of the first things I saw about the extraordinary form of the Mass was that it lets a priest be a priest. In the novus ordo, the priest has become a talk-show host – at least in the parishes where I have attended Mass, and especially when the Mass is said in English, and the priest faces the people.  The priest faces the temptation to adlib prayers, to insert a little commentary, to make sure to try to make the people chuckle at his introductory comments. After all, you have to make the people feel good about giving up their time on a Sunday morning to come to the Fr. Friendly Show…er…Holy Mass…right?
Fr. Rodriguez continues:
Throughout my first nine years of priesthood, I had struggled to make sense of the very serious problems which exist in the Church. At this point, it was obvious that an extreme crisis pervaded the Church and her hierarchy, but why? I just couldn't quite understand how all of this "diabolical disorientation" had come to pass . . . until the brilliant light of the true Catholic Mass ("Emitte lucem tuam et veritatem tuam . . .") began to penetrate my priestly soul. This "discovery" of the Traditional Latin Mass has been, by far, the greatest gift of God to my poor priesthood.
And the greatest gift of God to my poor spiritual development. It is a great gift to anyone who will accept it.
But going back to the point about just how the current crisis we face in the Church came to exist in the first place, Fr. Rodriguez is drawing a connection between the liturgy and the issues of the day. In fact, I made the same connection in my article “Abortion, Contraception, and the Liturgy” (Homiletic and Pastoral Review, October 2009):
The main thesis of this article is that the current tragedy of abortion has its roots in the widespread acceptance of artificial birth control, and that Catholics’ current attitude toward and use of contraception are related to the abuses and problems that have plagued the sacred liturgy since Vatican II. 
Towards the conclusion of the paper, I wrote:
Now let’s connect the dots: all of a sudden, right around the time of Humanae Vitae and Roe v. Wade, Catholics were being shown that it was acceptable to tamper with the liturgy, to make it “more relevant”, to not follow the rubrics. What would this tell them about the Church? If we may interpret the “source and summit” the way we want to, then surely we may interpret other Church teaching that way, too. And surely we should be living contemporary lives; maybe the Church is just behind the times on this contraception thing. We’ve got to help her along and make the change ourselves so that the Church will be more relevant to others.
Fr. Rodriguez, I think, would agree. He notes:
The dismal response of both civil and ecclesiastical authorities to the authentic teachings of the Catholic Church in regard to homosexuality demonstrates how extreme the current crisis of faith actually is. It really can't get much worse. There's hardly any faith left to lose! Even a pagan, bereft of the light of faith, can arrive at the conclusion that homosexual acts are intrinsically evil. Reason, natural law, and consideration of the male and female anatomy more than suffice to confirm this moral truth.
It may seem simplistic to insist that the answer to the issues of the day lies in the Mass. But really, at the heart of the issues of the day is our faith. And what is at the heart of our faith? The Mass, the Eucharist. A proper understanding of the Mass underlies Catholic teaching. If the extraordinary form of the Mass leads to greater reverence, greater appreciation, greater spiritual advancement among the faithful, it should be promoted. Fr. Rodriguez sees the truth in that, sees the value of the “traditional Latin Mass”, and is not afraid to discuss it (emphases in original):
In the accompanying letter to the world's bishops (July 7, 2007), Pope Benedict XVI writes, "What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church's faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place." These remarkable words of our Holy Father are also being disrespected and disobeyed almost universally, especially by many bishops. Finally, Universæ Ecclesiæ, No. 8, states very clearly that the Ancient Rite is a "precious treasure to be preserved" and is to be "offered to all the faithful." Where in the entire world of Catholicism is this directive actually being obeyed? The same number from Universæ Ecclesiæ emphasizes that the use of the 1962 Roman Liturgy "is a faculty generously granted for the good of the faithful and therefore is to be interpreted in a sense favourable to the faithful who are its principal addressees." This is an astounding statement. This statement from Rome means that the use of the 1962 Missal doesn't depend on a particular bishop's liturgical views, preferences, or theology. It's not about the bishops! On the contrary, it's about the faithful! Where in the entire world of Catholicism is this directive actually being obeyed?
Rem acu tetigisti, Fr. Rodriguez! You have hit the nail on the head!
Fr. Rodriguez is already paying for his political incorrectness regarding his outspoken stance on homosexual marriage, and I suspect he will pay the price for defending and promoting the extraordinary form of the Mass.
But I also suspect that Fr. Rodriguez will endure. He will be an example to all of us. He is an example and an inspiration to me.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Antependia I have loved, and ugly altars

A Catholic church cannot be a church without an altar. This is where the Holy Sacrifice takes place. This is where the host is transubstantiated into the Real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our lives as Christians, and it is at Mass where we see the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
What then should be the primary visual focal point in the sanctuary?  The altar!
Making the altar a dignified and awe-inspiring element of the sanctuary helps us to achieve a greater sense of reverence concerning the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
How should an altar be decorated? The answer, truly, is not at all. However, an altar may and should be “vested” just as the priest is vested appropriately for Mass. A traditional way of creating a “vestment” for the altar is the antependium or frontal.
It is always nice to see a properly vested altar! Here are some examples from my own experience:

I think it's rather majestic-looking, but too bad this altar hides a wonderful high altar and reredoes!

Nice little altar in a nice little chapel...

Same altar, same chapel, different antependium.

They're not all perfect examples of altar/sanctuary arrangements, but they are pleasing, I think.

Here are some examples of what NOT to do to altars:

Well-intentioned, I guess, but showing a complete lack of understanding of what the altar is really all about.

To what is your attention directed?! The altar? What altar? I see a bed sheet being used as a backdrop for the floral arrangement!

Do I really need to say anything? Okay: Ugh.

And NOT use the altar as a desk or catch-all for the priest's notes, etc.
 Here are some links to great articles at The New Liturgical Movement blog:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

You Rock, Fr. Rodriguez!

On October 10, I posted "Musings about Frs. Euteneuer, Corapi, Pavone, and Rodriguez". Tonight I watched The Vortex episode on Fr. Rodriquez (see below). What an inspiring bunch of people! They know their faith, and they are defending it! They want the Truth. Me, too!

I am so inspired, I'm re-posting what I wrote before about Fr. Rodriguez:

...And last but not least, Fr.Michael Rodriguez. Now here is a priest who is a hero, in my book. He spoke clearly and eloquently and humbly to defend the teachings of the Church in his town (I watched some of the videos); I think his actions were important in educating the faithful of his parish; I think he talked the talk and walked the walk. His bishop didn't appreciate it. That's too bad, because I think Fr. Rodriguez set an example that other priests and bishops would do well to follow.

Now Fr. Rodriguez has been shunted off to a remote parish in the middle of nowhere, apparently. (And the people in that parish should be thanking God for the gift He has given them!) But from what I can see, he's not complaining. He's looking forward. He seems to feel that no matter where God places him, he should simply do his best as a priest. I think he knows that the people in that middle-of-nowhere parish deserve his full attention, just like the ones in his previous parish. I love this quote from The Big Bend Sentinel:

“Obedience to my bishop is essential to the priesthood,” Rodriguez said. “My bishop has transferred me to another assignment, and I intend to be obedient. The priesthood is my greatest joy. In the present circumstances, I intend to try even harder to be a good, holy priest.”

Fr. Rodriguez discussed his plans for his new parish - plans to introduce the extraordinary form of the Mass. Why? Because he's trying to "regain the Catholic faith".

“We’ve lost a great deal of Catholic faith,” Rodriguez said. “Marriage is looked upon differently. Many young people and children don’t know how to pray. Many don’t know about Judgment Day. A lot of elements have been lost, and that’s what I’m going to concentrate on.”

You rock, Fr. Rodriguez. You are probably the least well-known among the priests listed here, but I think you are the brightest star and the best example of what the priesthood is all about.

Here's the Vortex:

Musical Memories of Mass, and "Mystical Body, Mystical Voice"

I have some memories about coming into the Church that have to do with music.
First, I remember thinking that Catholic music was particularly bad. Of course, I was comparing it to the “contemporary Christian” music which was played at the Pentecostal church I attended. The music at my church was better, I thought, precisely because it was contemporary; it was “relevant”. It also had a beat, and you could dance to it, which we did. Oh my!
Back in those RCIA days, I said I was going to maintain dual citizenship because I wanted to go to the Pentecostal church - for the music. I only went back once, though; learning about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist made me acutely aware that, despite what I felt about the music, something was certainly missing at the Pentecostal church.
Second, I remember when Lent started and the “adult choir” (as opposed to the “folk group”) sang the Agnus Dei. In Latin. Gregorian chant. I had not a clue what was going on; it was so far removed from what we’d been singing that I turned to my husband and asked him what it was. It was different, I thought. In a good way.
The third memory is from the second Easter vigil I attended – the one year anniversary of my having been received into the Church. We had moved from California to Baker City, Oregon in that year, and I was experiencing the Easter vigil at the Cathedral. It happened that a certain monk – a hermit – also attended.  I have written of it elsewhere:
As Mass began, I spotted a tall, hooded figure in the procession. Turning to my cradle-Catholic husband, I asked, “What is that?” This was also my first introduction to Gregorian chant: The Monk sang the Exultet. I didn’t know what I was hearing, but I knew it that it was ancient and sacred, and it evoked in me a new depth of longing for God. (From “My Favorite Priest”, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, May 2007)
He didn’t even sing it in Latin. But it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard.
On The Chant Café, I found posted the full text of Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth's speech at the 2010 Southeastern Liturgical Music Symposium, August 21, 2010. It’s well worth reading in its entirety. Here are some of his comments (my emphases):
…I am sure that many of you here today were among the first to recognize that a change of translation, a change which implies a difference of style, register and content, would have considerable implications for our liturgical music. I am sure it will have occurred to you that it would not just be a matter of adapting our current settings and songs to the new texts, rather in the way that one might alter an old and well-loved garment to meet the demands of an increasing or decreasing waist-line! But rather, the new texts would quite naturally inspire new music which responds more directly to the character of the texts themselves, reflecting in an original way their patterns of accentuation, their cadence and their phrasing. Is it too much to hope that this might be a wonderful opportunity for reassessing the current repertoire of liturgical music in the light of our rich musical patrimony and like the good housekeeper being able to bring out of the store treasures both new and old?
Unfortunately, I am seeing in our diocese a tendency to want to do just exactly what Msgr. Wadsworth suggests is a mistake: adapting current musical settings to the new texts. The new translation – the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal – contains more music than any previous edition. And folks, it is NOT music by Marty Haugen and Bob Hurd! And we do have a “rich musical patrimony” to draw from, but it is NOT meant to be accompanied by guitars, tambourines, and/or trumpets. It is Gregorian chant. In the new Missal, it is Gregorian chant in both Latin and English; it is simplified and certainly singable (and will make you thirst for the authentic Latin stuff!). It makes sense in the context of the Mass itself. What a concept!
Having attended a workshop which utilized some materials from the Mystical Body, Mystical Voice program, I understand exactly what Msgr. Wadsworth is saying in this next paragraph:
Maybe the greatest challenge that lies before us is the invitation once again to sing the Mass rather than merely to sing at Mass. This echoes the injunctions of the Council Fathers in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and reflects our deeply held instinct that the majority of the texts contained in the Missal can and in many cases should be sung. This means not only the congregational acclamations of the Order of Mass, but also the orations, the chants in response to the readings, the Eucharistic prayer and the antiphons which accompany the Entrance, the Offertory and the Communion processions. These proper texts are usually replaced by hymns or songs that have little relationship to the texts proposed by the Missal or the Graduale Romanum and as such a whole element of the liturgy of the day is lost or consigned to oblivion. For the most part, they exist only as spoken texts. We are much the poorer for this, as these texts (which are often either Scriptural or a gloss on the Biblical text) represent the Church’s own reading and meditation on the Scriptures. As chants, they are a sort of musical lectio divina pointing us towards the riches expressed in that day’s liturgy. For this reason, I believe that it is seriously deficient to consider that planning music for the liturgy ever begins with a blank sheet: there are texts given for every Mass in the Missal and these texts are intended for singing.
In the workshop I attended, which was sponsored by the Society of St. Gregory the Great, participants were reminded of the rich Catholic heritage that lies beneath the surface of the Liturgy, building on 2000 years of Christianity as well as several thousand years more of our roots in Judaism. The Mass is more than it appears on the surface, and participants were led into a renewal of their understanding of the liturgy's spiritual depths and its true meaning. Instruction in singing the Mass was also included, making use of all that music in the new edition. This highlighted the fact that the USCCB is encouraging priests and the faithful to reclaim some of the lost traditions of the Church by singing the Mass from start to finish.
So…from my scattered memories of my initial Catholic music experience, coupled with my experience with chant over the last few years, and joining that to the potential of the new translation, I must simply urge you:
Go! Run – do not walk! – to the nearest “Mystical Body, Mystical Voice” workshop (or use the on-line resources)! But SING THE MASS!!!
If you live within a half-day’s drive of Bend, Oregon, plan on attending the “Mystical Body, Mystical Voice” workshop there on Nov. 11-12. See the SSGG blog for details.