Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fr. Andersen's Homily for The Holy Family

Really, I AM taking a break from blogging, but this homily is too good not to share!

A Homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, OR

December 30, 2012 Sunday in the Octave of Christmas: The Holy Family

A little over a week ago, our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI gave his annual pre-Christmas address to the Roman Curia (Dec 21st, 2012). In his talk, he said that the family is in crisis not only because of a false understanding of freedom, but from a defective belief in what it means to be human. This is where we must begin. What does it mean to be human? This is probably one of the most important questions being debated today. He cites Gilles Bernheim, the Chief Rabbi of Paris, France who has raised awareness against a philosophical shift which has replaced the distinguishing word ‘sex’ to identify either male or female, with the word ‘gender’. There are consequences for this change of verbiage.

He begins by recalling a quote from Simone de Beauvoir who said: “ ‘one is not born a woman, one becomes so.’ We can easily be drawn to this quote because it is witty, it is romantic, and it shows a sense of confidence. But it betrays a shallow knowledge of what it means to be human. “These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term ‘gender’ as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society” (Benedict XVI). The Holy Father is referring here to a denial of the basic anthropology of man.

The Ecumenical Council of Vienne in the year of our Lord 1312 defined and decreed that the substance of the rational and intellectual soul is the form of the human body (cf. Denzinger, 902; Council of Vienne, Constitution Fidei catholicae). The soul is the form of the human body. Why was it necessary to define such a thing? Because in the previous century, a certain Franciscan by the name of Peter John Olieu, OFM, had proposed otherwise. So you see, there are no new ideas. There are no new heresies. Every heresy that arises in our day is just the revision of an old one. What was false then is false now. What is true is always true. The soul is the form of the human body.

Our Holy Father has cited a new philosophy of gender in which certain people believe that “sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of” but rather they believe that “it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society” (Benedict XVI). Our Holy Father comments:

“The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves” (Benedict XVI).

You see, the Holy Father is referring to the fact that our nature is decided for us by our physical bodies. If my physical body is male, then my nature is male. That means that my soul is male because, remember, the soul is the form of the body. My physical body determines my soul. There is no such thing as being a woman trapped in a man’s body. There is no such thing as a neuter soul. There is no such thing as an androgynous soul. My soul will be male after my body dies and my male soul will await the reunion of my male body at the General Resurrection and Last Judgment. This is because the soul and body are so intimately united that they cannot be separated. My soul will never belong to another body. The body I will receive at the Resurrection will be the same body I have now, albeit perfected and glorified. So, the nature of my soul is not up to me to decide. It is given to me by God. It is a fact. It is who I am physically and therefore who I am.

The Holy Father continues:

“According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. The words of the creation account: “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27) no longer apply. No, what applies now is this: it was not God who created them male and female – hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves. Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will” (Benedict XVI).

This brings us back around to the family. A family is defined as husband and wife and children. A husband is a man and a wife is a woman united in the sacrament of Matrimony. Through the sacramental act between husband and wife God may grant children to that marriage and a family grows out of that. This is defined by God. It is not a social construct, nor can it be changed even if one rejects society or changes society. But this is a bigger issue than society. It is about God and it is about the identity of being human. Our Holy Father continues:

“Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. Bernheim shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain” (Benedict XVI).

It is a subject of great sorrow when a husband and wife cannot conceive and bear children. But that also is decided by God and we cannot treat the child as an object which people have a right to obtain by any means.

Our Holy Father concludes on this topic:

"When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man" (Benedict XVI).

On this feast of the Holy Family, I wanted to share with you these words of Pope Benedict. It is important today as Catholics that we are literate. I want to encourage every person in this room to read something this year written by Pope Benedict XVI. Here he is writing on something important about family life. The family is defined and created by God for us. At Christmas we can look at the beauty of the Holy Family: Joseph and Mary and the Holy Child Jesus. They are an example to us of what family life looks like.

As Catholics we are called to defend authentic family life. We must understand authentic family life in order to defend it. Our Holy Father’s address to the Roman Curia helps us to understand some of the issues being disputed today. During this Year of Faith, let us resolve to become literate Catholics and grow in our faith. We need to be reading our Bibles and reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Let us do so as families for ages upon ages have done. St. Joseph certainly read to his family from the Holy Scriptures and from the teachings of the Rabbis. Fathers today are called to imitate St. Joseph as the spiritual heads of their families. Fathers: read to your families at the dinner table. Read to them out loud each night a chapter from the Holy Scriptures and a section from the Catechism. By doing so, you will set a good example for your children and you will show your love for God and your love to your family as a provider of God’s loving words, a protector of their souls, and a teacher of divine wisdom for a blessed life. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Put It On Pause

I'm taking a break from blogging for a couple of days. 

See you next week!

Meanwhile, here are a few winter scenes from around our place:

There's a lot more snow on the mountains now; this
photo is from last year. But the moon is cool, huh?

The view as we drive up our road...


Friday, December 28, 2012

The Holy Innocents

Below are lessons 4, 5, and 6 from the Divine Office of Vigils (Matins) for the feast of the Holy Innocents. One aspect that strikes me is that there is an emphasis on the fact that Heaven is our homeland.

Even if we suffer severely here on earth, it is only temporal suffering. It will end. It may seem unbearable in our immediate experience, and indeed, we may die of it, as have countless martyrs through the centuries. And yet, it will end. Eternity lies beyond that end, and we have the hope of spending that eternity in Heaven, with all the saints, adoring and praising God endlessly.

I think that’s one of the things we forget when we suffer ourselves, or when we read of others’ sufferings (as in the children of Newtown, who must of course come to mind today).

Here are the lessons, combined:

From the Sermons of St Augustine, Bishop of Hippo. 10th on the Saints.
Dearly beloved brethren, to-day we keep the birthday of those children, who, as we are informed by the Gospel, were massacred by the savage King Herod. Therefore let earth rejoice with exceeding joy, for she is the mother of these heavenly soldiers, and of this numerous host. The love of the vile Herod could never have crowned these blessed ones as hath his hatred. For the Church testifieth by this holy solemnity, that whereas iniquity did specially abound against these little saints, so much the more were heavenly blessings poured out upon them.

Blessed art thou, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, which hast suffered the cruelty of King Herod in the slaughter of thy children; who art found worthy to offer at once to God a whole white-robed army of guileless martyrs! Surely, it is well to keep their birthday, even that blessed birthday which gave them from earth to heaven, more blessed than the day that brought them out of their mother's womb. Scarcely had they entered on the life that now is, when they obtained that glorious life which is to come.

We praise the death of other martyrs because it was the crowning act of an undaunted and persistent testimony; but these were crowned at once. He That maketh an end to this present life, gave to them at its very gates that eternal blessedness which we hope for at its close. They whom the wickedness of Herod tore from their mothers' breasts are rightfully called the flowers of martyrdom; hardly had these buds of the Church shown their heads above the soil, in the winter of unbelief, when the frost of persecution nipped them.

And here is the hymn for Morning Prayer for today’s feast. I found it very touching!

ALL hail, ye little Martyr flowers,
Sweet rosebuds cut in dawning hours!
When Herod sought the Christ to find
Ye fell as bloom before the wind.

First victims of the Martyr bands,
With crowns and palms in tender hands,
Around the very altar, gay
And innocent, ye seem to play.

All honor, laud, and glory be,
O Jesu, Virgin-born to thee;
All glory, as is ever meet
To Father and to Paraclete.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

St. John, Apostle and Evangelist: Fr. Andersen

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart in Gervais, Oregon

December 27th, 2012 St. John the Evangelist, Apostle

It is said that the greatest sacrifice of love to God is martyrdom, but second to that is the sacrifice of virginity. Our saint today is called the beloved disciple. He is one who followed the Lamb wherever He went. But God did not demand his blood from him in martyrdom. St.   John lived out the white martyrdom, offering to God his virginity.  

Tradition tells us that St. John left “not only his father Zebedee, but even his betrothed, when everything was prepared for the marriage” (Gueranger, The Liturgical Year, Vol. 2, pg. 250).

The Old Roman Ritual contains in it two blessings of wine on the feast of St. John. This wine is blessed at the end of the Mass after the Last Gospel is read and is then to be drunk at dinner on the feast. The story comes to us that in Ephesus, St. John preached the Gospel and “idol-worshippers stirred up a riot among the populace, and they dragged him to the temple of Diana and tried to force him to offer sacrifice to the goddess. Then the saint proposed this alternative: if by invoking Diana they overturned the church of Christ, he would offer sacrifice to the idols; but if by invoking Christ he destroyed Diana’s temple, they would believe in Christ. To this proposal the greater number of the people gave their consent. When all had gone out of the building, the apostle prayed, the temple collapsed to the ground, and the statue of Diana was reduced to dust.”

In response, the high priest Aristodemus incited the people against the apostle. He then challenged St. John, saying: “If you want me to believe in your God, I will give you poison to drink. If it does you no harm, it will be clear that your master is the true God.” St. John consented. But first Aristodemus had two condemned criminals released from prison and, in the presence of the crowd, gave them the poison to drink so that St. John would have to watch them die and it would fill him with a greater fear for his own life. “Then the apostle took the cup, armed himself with the sign of the cross, drained the drink, and suffered no harm, and all present began to praise God” (Voragine, The Golden Legend. Vol. I., p. 53).
“St. Clement relates. . . that the blessed John once converted a handsome but headstrong young man and commended him as a ‘deposit’ to a certain bishop. Some time later, however, the young man left the bishop and became the leader of a band of robbers. Eventually the apostle came back to the bishop and asked him to return his deposit. The bishop, thinking that he was talking about money, was taken aback, but the apostle explained that he meant the young man whom he had so solicitously entrusted to his care. The bishop answered: ‘O my venerable father, that man is dead, spiritually at least; he lives on yonder mountain with a band of thieves and has become their chief.’ At that the saint tore his mantle, beat himself about the head with his fists, and cried: ‘A fine guardian you have been for the soul of a brother whom I left with you!’

“Quickly he ordered a horse saddled, and rode fearlessly toward the mountain. The young man, seeing him coming, was overwhelmed with shame, mounted his horse and rode off at top speed. The apostle, forgetting his age, put spurs to his mount and chased the fugitive, calling after him: ‘What, my beloved son! Do you flee from your father, an old man, unarmed? My son, you have nothing to fear! I shall account for you to Christ, and be sure I will gladly die for you, as Christ died for all of us. Come back, my son, come back! The Lord himself has sent me after you!’ Hearing this, the young man, filled with remorse, turned back and wept bitterly. The apostle knelt at his feet and, as though repentance had already cleansed it, began to kiss his hand. Then he fasted and prayed for the penitent, obtained God’s pardon for him, and later ordained him a bishop” (Voragine, 53-54).

“According to St. Jerome, Saint John stayed on in Ephesus into his extreme old age. He grew so feeble that he had to be supported by his disciples on his way to the church and was hardly able to speak. At every pause, however, he repeated the same words: ‘My sons, love one another!’ One day the brethren, wondering at this, asked him: ‘Master, why are you always saying the same thing? The saint replied: ‘Because it is the commandment of the Lord, and if this alone is obeyed, it is enough’” (54-55). 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Altar at Christmas

As we escape our abominable Advent altars, we must now face the Christmas altar…that is, if you can actually FIND the altar! Before we turn to the abuses, though, let’s look at a couple of pretty nice ones. 

I found this one (and most of the ones below) by googling…it’s one of the few decent jobs that showed up under “altar decoration Christmas”:


This next one is from a parish in my diocese – nice job, Father! You can actually see that there’s an altar here!

And kudos to Father for the 6 candles AND a crucifix
on the altar!  I haven't seen this in the parishes
in our diocese that I've visited.
Once I put 6 candles on an altar in a certain parish,
and the priest moved them into triads
on either front corner of the altar so that
the people could see him better.

Now we will see the multitude of examples of how NOT to treat your altar at Christmas! 

Shawn Tribe, in 2009 article (well worth reading in its entirety) at The New Liturgical Movement, concludes:

This desire to place these items in front of or around the altar seems to stem from a desire to mark certain liturgical seasons with some kind of additional decoration, and in a certain sense, is very likely rooted in a recognition of the central importance of the altar since it desires to ornament it or tie it into those seasons in some fashion. 

Without excluding a proper manifestation of these things, I would take this opportunity to again propose that as regards the altar itself, far better and far more liturgical is it to do so by vesting the altar with a proper altar frontal, letting the colour of the liturgical season speak to the time in the liturgical year. This has the effect of not only fully vesting the altar, but further emphasizes the centrality of the altar itself, thus accomplishing both ends.

Sadly, it would seem that few have heeded these wise words.

Let’s take a look, and try to maintain a sense of humor. And also, I must say that I think that some of these are really nice decorations…and should be transferred to a more appropriate location, like the parish hall.

There's always the temptation to overwhelm the altar with a nativity scene:

The altar is well-hidden and disguised as a ceiling of sorts.

OMG. This one is bad on many, many counts! this in a mall?

Nativity scene with large rectangular ice block behind it?

From the pews, I'll bet the altar is barely visible.

Do you get the impression that the floral arrangement is primary?

Um....couldn't they have found room
for a few more poinsettias?

As my daughter would say: "Seriously?! I mean...seriously?!"
Sigh. Our Lord deserves better. How did YOUR parish do? I welcome photos!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Homily: Fr. Andersen

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, Oregon
December 25th, 2012 In Nativitatis Domini

“In the forty-second year of the reign of Caesar Octavian Augustus,  the whole world being at peace…”

On the Ides of March, in the year 44 BC, Julius Caesar was murdered. His grand-nephew and principal heir, Octavian, came to Rome to claim his inheritance. The young Octavian allied himself with Marc Antony to secure the Roman Empire and take revenge on Brutus and Cassius, the murderers of his uncle. Octavian obtained great victories in battle and won his troops over to his side securing himself the title of Pontifex Maximus in Rome.

The vast Roman Empire was then split between Marc Antony in the East and Octavian in the West. Marc Antony married the sister of Octavian, but the marriage was not to last. He soon put away his wife having become infatuated with a woman named Cleopatra who brought about his downfall. Octavian declared war against Cleopatra and, upon his victory, Marc Antony and Cleopatra both committed suicide. Octavian ended up with the entire Empire at his command––East and West.

“In the year 27 B.C., three years after his assumption of office, the Roman Senate had already awarded him the title Augustus…meaning ‘one worthy of adoration.’” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: the Infancy Narratives, p. 60). He was hailed as Saviour and Redeemer (cf. 60) because he ushered in the Pax Romana, or Roman Peace. This was an era of so-called “universal peace” that lasted for about 207 years. It was a time of great prosperity in the vast Roman Empire. Caesar Octavian Augustus “was a patron of art, letters, and science, and devoted large sums of money to the embellishment and enlargement of Rome. It was his well-known boast that he ‘found it of brick and left it of marble.’” (Healy, “Augustus”, The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. II. 1913. p. 107).

During this time, “the Romans built a Temple of Peace and placed a statue of Romulus in it.” The Roman god Apollo was invoked for an oracle and asked how long the temple would stand, and the answer was that it would be until a virgin bore a child. Hearing this, the people said that the temple was eternal, for they thought it impossible that such a thing could happen; and an inscription TEMPLUM PACIS AETERNUM, was carved over the doors” ( Voragine,  The Golden Legend, Vol. I, p. 37).

And then, “In the forty-second year of the reign of Caesar Octavian Augustus, the whole world being at peace, JESUS CHRIST, eternal God and Son of the Eternal Father, …was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judah, and was made man” (Roman Martyrology for December 25th. Roman Missal. 3rd Ed. Appendix I). On that “very night when Mary bore Christ, the temple crumbled to the ground”(Voragine, 37). The Temple of Peace Forever, which crumbled on the day of Christ’s birth, was replaced by the Church of Santa Maria Nuova which stands upon that very site today.

So who is the true Prince of Peace? At that time, the world claimed it to be Caesar Octavian Augustus. He was hailed as a Savior. But the Pax Romana was only a relative peace. “Romans regarded peace not as an absence of war, but the rare situation that existed when all opponents had been beaten down and lost the ability to resist” (Wikipedia, “Pax Romana”). So the Roman Peace was maintained by worldly means and by force.

But true peace cannot be obtained by man. The United Nations will never achieve world peace because peace cannot be regulated. It must first dwell in the heart of every man. The United Nations cannot bestow that gift. In fact, peace is not a gift at all. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Peace requires man’s cooperation, but it does not originate from man, nor can man achieve such a thing. True peace can only come from God. Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace. He sends His Holy Spirit to fill us with His gifts. Peace then is a fruit which is borne from one cultivating the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Peace “is the tranquility which follows upon joy arising from charity” (Ripperger, Introduction to the Science of Mental Health. p. 422). “When one’s heart is made perfectly peaceful in one thing…he is not able to be…disturbed, for he thinks of other things as nothing. As a result, as one’s heart comes to rest in God alone through charity, then peace arises as the …fruit of the Holy Spirit of peace” (422). St. Augustine defined peace “as the tranquility of order. When various parts within a society or a person are rightly ordered among themselves, then tranquility arises” (footnote 38, p. 422).

Contrary to peace is idolatry: “Anything which goes contrary to the teachings of revelation, resulting in man committing idolatry by having something other than God as his good, goes contrary to peace” (422). This is why the Fathers of the Church stressed detachment from worldly things and love for God alone. St. Augustine taught that one should use and enjoy those things of creation that God has given, but one should not love such created things. One should love God alone above all things. This protects one from idolatry.

Peace in itself became an idol to the Romans during the time of the Pax Romana. They wanted to achieve peace at all costs. It was preserved by means of might, and therefore it was not true peace. True peace is not obtained overnight, even by the most fervent of souls. The spiritual life is a lifelong commitment. If we cooperate with God, we grow ever so gradually towards perfect union with Him. Peace is a fruit which means that it must be ripe before it can be enjoyed. The soul must be cared for, watered, fertilized, and pruned. Fruit comes at harvest time. We cannot be in too much of a hurry to harvest, or else we may end up with unripe and bitter fruit.

Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, has come to us in such a gentle way at Christmas, as a baby. He is so lovable. We can approach Him as a baby and immediately feel His peace. This Christmas let us put away any idols that have crept into our lives, especially the idol which promises a false peace at any cost. Let us demolish the false Temple of Peace Forever in our own lives in favor of the true God who gives us real peace in our souls. In other words, let us clean up our lives, put things in order, live by the laws of Christian morality, make holy the Lord’s day every Sunday, and give true worship to Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, here in this Temple of God. Let us pray that our bodies will be worthy temples of God, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and that be cultivating that gift, we may bear the ripe fruit of peace in our souls forever.

Merry Christmas!

 Merry Christmas!

Introit for Mass of the day on Christmas:

Puer natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis:
cuius imperium super humerum eius:
et vocabitur nomen eius, magni consilii Angelus.
V. Cantate Domino canticum novum: quia mirabilius fecit.

Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.
The insignia of His reign is on His shoulder
and His name shall be the Angel of Great Counsel.
V. Sing unto the Lord a new song,
for He has done wonderful things. I am with Jerry and Ruthie in a "Christmas Past" photo...I'm thinking 1997:

Monday, December 24, 2012

One Last Look at Abominable Advent Altars

Yes, I know it's Christmas Eve, and maybe I should be posting something more pious and uplifting...but really, this is kind of amusing.

Besides, I'm looking at it in a positive light: a side benefit of Christmas - in addition to the general wonderful-ness of the season - is that you won’t have to look at abominable Advent altars for another year!

A reader sent in this photo of the altar at his parish:

He notes:

We were told that the stump (they called it a tree) represents Our Lord, and the branches are his people. I don't know what the tags represent. The first Sunday of Advent the stump showed up. The second Sunday it had the tags on it with no explanation.

He went looking for the answer, though, and discovered that the tags on the stump were decorations made by the school children; maybe they are just decorations and nothing more, with no other significance?! No,wait! I think maybe they are the "leaves" on the tree...

My correspondent adds:

I hope yesterday was the last day I have to look at it. This is something that should have been kept at the school and not in front of the altar.
Here's the "big picture":

When I commented on the rather…uh…tasteless design of the sanctuary, this poor soul told me:

If you think it looks bad now, you should have seen it before the remodel. There was this thing over the alter that looked like a space ship. The joke was "beam me up Scotty".

He also added:

The band was up and running yesterday: Three guitars, one piano, and a few wind instruments. We have an organ but it wasn't used. Maybe someday it will get back on track.

Hope spring eternal! Let us pray, pray, pray. There’s been a rumor circulating that a very orthodox, liturgically-correct bishop may become the new Archbishop of Portland! And that could initiate a big swing back toward good liturgy in archdiocese as well as the neighboring dioceses!

Reflection for the Last Days of Advent

From a commentary by Origen of Alexandria

…What way shall we prepare for the Lord? A way by land? Could the Word of God travel such a road? Is it not rather a way within ourselves that we have to prepare for the Lord? Is it not a straight and level highway in our hearts that we are to make ready? Surely this is the way by which the Word of God enters, a way that exists in the spaciousness of the human body. The human heart is vast, broad, and capacious, if only it is pure. Would you like to know its length and breadth? See then what a vast amount of divine knowledge it can contain.

Solomon says: He gave me knowledge of all that exists; he taught me about the structure of the universe and the properties of the elements, the beginning and the end of epochs and the periods between, the variations in the seasons and the succession of the months, the revolution of the year and the position of the stars, the nature of living things and the instincts of wild animals, the force of the winds and the thoughts of human beings, the various kinds of plants and the medicinal properties of roots.

You must realize that the human heart is not small when it can contain all this. You ought to judge it not by its physical size but by its power to embrace such a vast amount of knowledge of the truth.

But so that I may convince you that the human heart is large by a simple example from daily life, let us consider this. Whatever city we may have passed through, we have in our minds.  We remember its streets, walls, and buildings, what they were like and where they were situated. We have a mental picture of the roads we have traveled. In moments of quiet reflection our minds embrace the sea that we have crossed. So, as I said, the heart that can contain all this is not small!

Therefore, if what contains so much is not small, let a way be prepared in it for the Lord, a straight highway along with the Word and Wisdom of God may advance. Prepare a way for the Lord by living a good life and guard that way by good works. Let the Word of God move in you unhindered and give you a knowledge of his coming and of his mysteries. To him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

(Selection from Journey with the Fathers: Commentaries on the Sunday Gospels, Year C, edited by Edith Barnecut, OSB; emphases added)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent: Fr. Andersen

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, OR
December 23rd, 2012 
Dominica IV Adventus, Anno C

Roráte caeli, désuper, et nubes pluant iustum. . .

“Drop down dew from above, you heavens, and let the clouds rain down the Just One; let the earth be opened and bring forth a Savior” (cf. Isaiah 45:8).

The prophet Isaiah greets us in today’s Entrance Antiphon and helps us to prepare for Christmas. Dr. Pius Parsch writes that “(Isaiah’s) cry must become our own. Before God comes to us, He demands preparation. He will not force His gifts upon us. We must desire them, we must be spiritually hungry.” Parsch makes this great statement: “Advent desire means that we must cultivate a fruitful soil for the seed of grace, that we become receptive to God’s kingdom” (The Church’s Year of Grace, Vol. I: Advent to Candlemas, p. 134). This applies directly to these words from the prophet Isaiah: “Drop down dew from above, you heavens, and let the clouds rain down the Just One; let the earth be opened and bring forth a Savior.” This prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled with the coming of the Divine Child. By analogy, we can say that He has come down from heaven as a drop of dew from the clouds.

Though this is an analogy, this imagery is quite accurate. Remember the Gospel of the Annunciation. The Angel Gabriel said to Mary: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” She is full of grace. She is filled with the Holy Spirit to overflowing. Because the Lord is with her in a singular way, she is the soil that is receptive for the dew which drops down from the clouds of heaven. In fact, it is a cloud from heaven that dropped down upon her. The angel announced: “The Holy Spirit will descend upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” It was the glory cloud of the Holy Spirit. That same cloud descended upon the Holy of Holies in the Temple. When the cloud descended, God took His seat on His throne upon the Cherubim. And when that cloud descended upon Mary, God claimed His throne in the Immaculate cloister of her womb. The drop of dew which is the Word of God, found a receptive soil in her. “Drop down dew from above, you heavens, and let the clouds rain down the Just One; let the earth be opened and bring forth a Savior.” Mary was the Immaculate rich soil which brought forth the Savior.

The Eternal Word entered into human flesh. That is really the meaning of the word ‘Advent’. Ad means ‘into’ and vent from the verb ‘venir’ means to come. So, the Eternal Word came into this world, into human flesh, into the womb of Mary, so that He could come into our hearts.

The consequence of the Eternal Son of God entering into human flesh, is that He has entered into time. Time is fleeting. So, the moment Mary has heard these words, she begins planning her journey. She sets out in haste. Immediately, the Word of God sends out His Holy Spirit to those around Him. From the womb, Jesus sends His Holy Spirit to the infant John in the womb. “St. Augustine is even of the opinion that the unborn Baptist was miraculously endowed with the use of reason and will so that he could joyfully recognize, believe in and say Yes to his Lord” (Saward, Redeemer in the Womb, p. 25). Whether this is true or not, the Church has not defined; but it is certain that this event fulfills the prophecy made by the angel Gabriel to Zechariah promising that “[John] will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). “The grace of the Holy Spirit flows from Jesus through Mary to John and from John to Elizabeth” (Saward, 26).

And where does this happen? It happens on a mountain. Mary hastens to the hill country. She ascends the mountain in order to meet the Just One in the clouds whence He came, having dropped down like dew from above. He has come to her from heaven and she now goes to be near heaven to prepare and to be of service to her Son’s first disciple, still in the womb himself.

Mary makes haste. We too must make haste. Time is short and God has given us these last days of Advent to prepare. In those days, Mary came to the mountain. This day we have come here to this holy mountain: the altar of God; as near to heaven as we can come in this life. Mary received the Word of God and she conceived and bore fruit in her womb. We have received the Word of God in this Mass. Let our souls now be prepared as rich soil for the Word of God that will drop down like dew from the clouds of heaven.

“Let the earth be opened and bring forth a Savior.” 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ember Saturday in Advent

The (EF) Mass for Ember Saturday (today) contains numerous readings and prayers, and they make a wonderful meditation as Christmas grows nearer and nearer.  I’m unable to find an easy cut-and-paste means of presenting them here, but if you go to this website, you will see them all, in English and Latin!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Unanswered Letters

I guess I’m a little slow, but finally, after lo, these many years, I have figured out why priests and bishops so often fail to answer my letters.

I’ve written plenty of letters about liturgical problems – especially blatant abuses that ignore clear instruction and direction from various Church documents. I have received precious few responses, and those I did receive ranged from petulant whining to vague dismissal. Why?

It’s not that my letters were rude rants with no solid ground for complaint. I have always endeavored (and succeeded, for the most part, I think) in being respectful, and laying out my objections in a reasonable and logical fashion, citing Church documents to show that I’m not arguing for my own opinion, but for what is clearly the mind of the Church.

So why the silence from the powers-that-be?

Well…duh! If they were to respond, and if they had an ounce of intellectual honesty, their letters would have to say something along these lines:

Dear Dr. Boyd[1]:

You are correct in your reading of Documents X, Y, and Z. The liturgical anomalies you have noted and brought to our attention are indeed problematic, and should be corrected.

However, we choose simply to ignore the abuse, because that’s the way we’ve always done it. Even if the Church says otherwise, we want to continue doing it our way.

Thank you for your concern. Now please sit down and shut up.

Bishop Benign and Fr. Flapdoodle

Well! What self-respecting prelate or priest would want to admit that in writing!

Besides, even if they did respond, and even if they did make the correction in liturgical practice, there would be 99 people to my 1 complaining about the change in “how we’ve always done it”.

And if there’s one thing bishops and priests seem to be obsessed with, it’s numbers – as in, “We can’t possibly provide the extraordinary form of the Mass, because there are just not enough people interested.” (Of course, the plummeting numbers of Catholics attending Sunday Mass every Sunday isn't discussed...) And then there’s the overgeneralization – when any hint of orthodoxy is implemented, that “ so many people have complained”. (I have figured out that when the number of people asking for the EF Mass is, say, 3, that is considered “too few”; but when people are complaining about correcting a liturgical abuse that they are attached to, the number “3” is considered “so many”.)

The underlying fear, of course, is that “They will stop giving their money.”

Ha! The pastors of the parishes I’ve been affiliated didn’t even know how much money my husband and I were giving in the weekly collection; even if they had known, I somehow doubt they would have chased us down as we walked out the door, begging us to come back with our $$$ and promising to do whatever we wanted.

And the whole numbers game is so contrary to the examples we see in Scripture! There was Abraham, for instance, arguing with God (Genesis 18:23-32) about the imminent destruction of Sodom: “Will you save the city for the sake of 50 righteous people? Yes? Okay, how about for 40? Yes? Then how about for 20? For 10?” God did not ever say, “No, sorry, there just aren’t enough of you.”

And of course a glaring example from the Gospels is the Good Shepherd pursuing the one lost sheep while leaving the 99 to their own devices for a time. The Good Shepherd did not say, “Well…if there were more than just a handful straying away, I’d go after them, but since it’s only one…”

In actual fact, it is the 99 who are lost when liturgical abuses distort the theology of the Mass and undermine the faith of the souls attending. The “one” is on the right track, but many of those who have a correct understanding of the liturgy and the desire to see the worship of God carried out correctly and reverently are becoming lost in the sense that they are losing faith in their “shepherds” because those shepherds are turning out to be wolves in sheeps’ clothing.

It’s pretty clear to me at this point that letters aren’t going to accomplish much in my diocese. I think it’s time for a different tactic. I think it’s time to create a local group that sponsors talks about the faith in a secular setting (a room at the local library). Let the faithful of the parish attend if they like, but seek to convert others to Catholicism – bring in a whole new crop of Catholics that has a foundation in the critical moral issues of our time, as well as an appreciation of Tradition and the meaning of the Mass.

That’s where I’m heading in the new year.

Perhaps I’ll start with a pro-life presentation to commemorate the anniversary of Roe v Wade, entitled, “Where Do We Go from Here? Abortion, Contraception, and Catholic Moral Teaching”. Would anyone come? Frankly, it’s doubtful in this community. But it’s worth a try.

[1] By the way, I’ve yet to have a bishop address me as “Dr. Boyd”; I thank you readers who have addressed me as such out of respect for the tons of bucks and the years of toil I spent to earn that darn degree. I’m not at all attached to being called “Dr.”, as I have made clear to those of you who used that title, but it’s always nice to be acknowledged in that way.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's Trendy to be Traditionalist: Vortex

According to a secular publication, the Traditional Latin Mass has become the new “avant-garde” – it notes that “it’s trendy to be a Traditionalist in the Catholic Church”. O God, let it be true! It’s just so hard to see it in Eastern Oregon; but then Eastern Oregon isn’t exactly known for being on the “cutting edge” of anything, as far as I know!

I do keep hearing rumors of the counter-revolution happening in other places, though, and it’s clear that in some diocese, the TLM is actually supported by the bishop…and in a few, even celebrated by him! So…I keep praying, and I find hope in listening to the stories from other places.

Here’s today’s (12/20/12) Vortex, with the script below:

When the world notices something you’re doing, it means you’re making a splash.

In a recent article in the very respected Economist Magazine – we’ve attached the link – there is a very concise piece on traditional Catholicism with the banner headline that Traditional Catholicism is all the rage…at least in England.

But that is the case all over the western world. It’s avant-garde, trendy – almost like a hipster to actually bow before God and receive His Body and Blood on your tongue.

It’s a fashion-forward statement for priests to be in cassocks and nuns in habits. Oh My. Imagine all the shock and horror bouncing off the walls of the Church of Nice chanceries downtown. Unable to hold or inspire their own flagging parishes, where are these other “nut job” Catholics coming from?

You know who we’re talking about: the women who wear those doilies on their heads – also known as veils – out of respect for the presence of the Almighty; and fathers who stroll into the pews with a brood of as many children as Our Blessed Lord has willed them to have, and they have been happy to cooperate with.

AND most of all, the young people. Oh, my! The young people at these traditional gatherings, whether it’s Mass, or a procession, or a particular devotion. It must really be a mystery deeper than the Blessed Trinity itself to the more modernist-friendly usual parish at the Church of Nice.

And here’s the heart of the mystery for them: why are their dominant parishes shrinking and closing up, and these young upstart new kids on the block groups busting at the seams?

Well, the answer is pretty simple. Because the Church of Nice – by which we mean the saccharine syrupy hand holding ultra-feminized altar girl protestant hymn singing social justice priest facing with his back to God staring at the people and them staring back at him Church (in short practically every parish in the western world) – this version of Catholicism is REALLY the new kids on the block.

It’s only been around for about the past 50 years. Not very long in a Church that’s 2000 years old. But JUUUUST LOOONG enough so that it LOOKS like the way it’s always been the case for anybody who’s under 55.

But until the decade of the evil 1960’s, it was never this way. People all over the western world went to Mass and wouldn’t dream of sticking out their hands and grabbing the host with their fingers and plopping it in their mouths.

Nor would the thought even enter their minds to stand in the presence of the King, instead of kneeling. Altar girls? No way. The sanctuary was the domicile of the masculine because of the intense focus on the sacrifice.

But when the altar became a table, the masculine left the sanctuary and the feminine rushed in, because the sacrifice turned into a nice meal where we all hold hands.

That sort of thing USED to happen in the social hall…AFTER Mass. It was called donuts and coffee.

There used to be processions, but the only processions you’ll find in the Church of Nice are the ones straight to the parking lot after going up and “getting your bread.”

And make sure you avoid that mad rush from the altar to the parking lot. You just might get trampled as people dash to get to the mall 3 minutes earlier than if they would have stayed and told God thank you for the gift of Himself.

And hovering over all this is the simple undeniable truth [that] tradition is growing, despite being deeply opposed by many leading lights in the Church as well as ignorance on the part of many in the pews.

And the Church of Nice is shriveling up. Now in the competition between the modernist manufactured machine versus the Ancient Faith, the modernist version does have the upper hand, no doubt. It holds almost all the cards…ALMOST all.

It runs the bureaucracy, owns the property, controls the schools, determines the educational material, etc. But despite its massive advantage, it’s contracting, and the traditional ORIGINAL non-manufactured one is expanding.

Think down the road a generation. Is it logical to suspect that the Church of Nice will always enjoy the advantage it currently enjoys? Uh no. It only enjoys that advantage because it has the numbers on its side…right now.

But we already have mountains of evidence that those numbers are not only growing smaller, but will continue to into the next generation. Less and less Catholic couples getting married, certainly having fewer children – and the children of today who are raised in the Church of Nice for the most part don’t care or don’t know about their faith.

What do you think they are going to do in 10 years when they are young adults? Stick around a Church or parish that they have no real intellectual, psychological, and most of all spiritual attachment to?

They’ll leave just as the past two generations have largely left.

And what about people who are on an HONEST search for the truth? What will their reaction be when they encounter the Church of Nice. Well, since they hear only a smidgeon of the truth in it – IF they come to it – they aren’t hanging around for long.

But when these same people encounter the non-manufactured Traditional Church that thunders Truth from the pulpit, that bows down in adoration before Her God, that is unapologetically and undeniably CATHOLIC – well, that’s a different story.

In THESE pews, divorce is not common – but children are. Contraception and dissent do not rule the minds and hearts – but love for the faith coupled with a knowledge of it do.

In the end, as it has always been, it is the truth that people are attracted to…those who WANT it. So when they find it they come, and when they don’t find it, they leave; sooner or later, they hit the bricks.

Anyone who thinks that the Church of Nice’s days aren’t numbered needs to get out more often. They could start by reading the attached brief article in a SECULAR publication. If the world is noticing…there’s something to notice.