Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ann Barnhardt: The Changing of the Guard and the Mass

Check out this two-part article by Ann Barnhardt, posted on May 28, 2012, and entitled “Here Rests In Honored Glory…”.

She presents us with a video of the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery, and draws some parallels with the Mass. Well…not those "clownish, degraded, irreverent Novus Ordo Masses of the last 45 years, or Superfun Rockband church[es]”. (She's not pulling any punches, is she?!) No, Ann Barnhardt is talking about the extraordinary form of the Mass.

Here’s the video. 

And here’s an excerpt from Ann Barnhardt’s article:

After watching the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns above, I want you to imagine the guards walking about casually, maybe wearing a partial uniform jacket, but with jeans and sandals. Imagine the guards walking out and introducing themselves, "Hi, my name is Lieutenant Jones, but you can call me Jake." Then the guard might say something like, "Isn't it a beautiful day today? It sure was rainy yesterday. I had to wear a rain jacket. I'm so glad you all could make it to my shift today. I'm going to be guarding the tomb for the next few hours, and I know that it can sure get BOOOORING! That's why I have asked a local band to come in and play some music for you guys, because I want this to be A FUN EXPERIENCE for all of us!"

If this happened, you would be shocked and disgusted, right? Do you understand that what I have just described is a watered-down comparison of what has happened to the Mass? The Mass went from being even more reverent than the rubrics of the Tomb Guard to what I just described above - and many times even worse than what I described above.

Ann Barnhardt goes into great detail on the many parallels with the Mass, and I think her analysis is highly instructive. Be sure to read the whole thing.

My hopes are the same as the one she articulates:

I hope the sense of reverent awe and solemnity you feel when watching the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns helps you understand what exactly it is that has been robbed from you.

Yep. We’ve been robbed. 

See the “TLM” tab at the top of the page for more of my posts on the EF Mass, the NO Mass, and liturgical abuse.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The EF Mass Isn't Just For Old People

I think she likes the extraordinary form of the Mass!

Just Click Your Heels...

Sometimes, as Dorothy says at the end of The Wizard of Oz, you don't have to look any farther than your own back yard to find your heart's desire!

In a small private chapel...the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass...Heaven on earth.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Liturgical Abuse: Sweating the Small Stuff

I’m sure you’ve heard this one: “Rule Number One is, don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule Number Two is, it’s all small stuff.” 

No, really;
DO sweat the small stuff!
That may be a workable adage for earthly matters, but not for spiritual concerns. In the Kingdom, everything is turned upside down: the meek shall inherit the earth; when I am weak, then I am strong; we must die to self in order to truly live. In the Kingdom, sometimes the “small stuff” is the truly important stuff. And in the Kingdom, it’s definitely not all “small stuff”.

Concerning the liturgy, the “little things” spelled out in the rubrics or in Canon Law or in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) are all there for a reason, and the net effect of a correct implementation of each part is a more beautiful portrait of the Heavenly Banquet. In his book Worship as a Revelation, Laurence Paul Hemming states,

A further part of this textual character of the liturgy as a whole is the vestments the furnishing and ordering of the church interior, the shape and character of the sacred vessels, the materials from which all is made, its exact placing and so forth. Everything in a church intends a meaning, so that the whole of the liturgy, its chant, what is performed, by whom, and how, where, and when, form a whole textual complex with intricate significance. (p. 11)

It seems to me that the average Catholic – the one who goes to Mass on Sunday and maybe holy days of obligation (wait…is that really average any more?) – well, anyway, the average Catholic: a) doesn’t know what the rubrics say about how the liturgy is supposed to be celebrated; b) doesn’t care; and c) is fine with keeping things just as they are. “This is how we’ve always done it”, and they don’t want anything to change.

The result is that – at least where I live – we have Catholic parishes that look, act, and think more like Protestant churches: the focus of worship is more human-centered – it’s all about ‘us’. The music is “what makes us feel good”. The homilies are pablum (actually, a lot of Protestant homilists are serving meat, while many Catholic priests stick to cereal). We want to be “inclusive” and make people feel “comfortable”.  

The liturgy is too significant to take lightly or to meddle with unnecessarily: It is “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10). It is the source and summit of our life as Christians (Lumen Gentium, 11). It is the earthly sign of the heavenly banquet and our communion with the saints: “In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims…” (SC, 8). What can possibly be “small” in such an important piece of our Catholic Christian identity?

Here’s a list of some of the “small stuff” that bothers me at Mass:

  • Sloppily attired altar servers
  • “Contemporary” music
  • Priest adding “Good morning” at the beginning of the liturgy, and “Have a nice day” at the end
  • Inappropriate items placed on the altar
  • Using the altar as a background for “seasonal” decorations

And here’s a list of some of the “big stuff” that makes me cringe:

  • Priest adlibbing the Lamb of God and/or any other prayers
  • Calling for “spontaneous” general intercessions
  • Inappropriate vestments
  • Lay ministers performing tasks that should be reserved to priests, deacons, or acolytes
  • Unvested lay ministers entering the sanctuary to receive Holy Communion
  • Acolytes and deacons performing tasks that should be reserved to priests
These are just a few examples, and you may agree or disagree as to whether they are “small stuff” or “big stuff”. To me, frankly, they’re all “big stuff”. These errors violate the sacred structure of the Mass, disdain tradition and apostolic teaching, and contribute to a general lack of reverence for the liturgy.  

The point is, in the liturgy, we need to sweat all of the “stuff” in order to make sure that the big picture is not out of focus.

But my view is not shared by many in the parishes I’ve experienced. An entirely different attitude prevails: one of casualness. One parishioner asked me in all sincerity, “Do you really think that stuff matters to God?” She also wondered aloud why my opinion on liturgical matters should matter more than hers or some other parishioners’. My explanation that it was not my opinion, but rather, what the Church demands of us for Her liturgy, fell on deaf ears. This parishioner – and she’s not the only one – has no concept of the authority of Church teaching, documents, or tradition. She doesn’t know the difference between an encyclical and an encyclopedia, or between the GIRM and the missalette (“Isn’t everything we need to know in the missalette?” she inquired).

Another parishioner told me didn’t understand why we should have to follow a bunch of rules about the way the sanctuary was furnished and how the altar was covered. “I think people should be comfortable when they come to church,” he said.

Yep. He's comfortable...
Sadly, this comment is probably the most telling of all. I would say that people are definitely “comfortable” in our Catholic churches. They are so comfortable that they feel free to traipse through the sanctuary at will, with a quick nod of the head toward the tabernacle. They feel comfortable enough to enter the sanctuary and stand right next to the altar to receive Holy Communion. The altar servers feel comfortable enough to slouch and yawn their way through Mass. The priests are comfortable enough to treat their role as one of talk-show host. Once, I suggested to a priest that if Jesus entered the room, we would all fall on our faces in adoration, not just greet him with a casual, “Oh, hi, Lord.” He laughed and said he would probably do the latter.

In truth, most priests probably do follow the rubrics quite well… or at least intend to. For most, any errors are probably due to oversight or ignorance, rather than willful disobedience. Busy parish priests may find it difficult to take the time to study the GIRM. However, shouldn’t this have been covered in the seminary?!

I also understand that priests are faced with “parishioner pressure” – those pillars of the local parish community who tell the priest, “But this is the way we’ve always done it”. And certainly, re-catechizing such parishioners can be a daunting task. In my own little parish, I have had unfruitful conversations with others regarding liturgical issues.

But I think priests and bishops are making a big mistake by “going with the flow” in their parishes and dioceses. If they are not moving toward greater liturgical excellence, then they’re going backwards. And they are doing a disservice to the faithful.

When priests and bishops dismiss liturgical abuses as insignificant they do two things: First of all, they allow the faithful to persist in their errors, and hand these errors on to the next generation of parishioners (“that’s how we’ve always done it”). They dilute our Catholic identity.

Second, they cause scandal. When a faithful Catholic discovers the truth about the liturgy, he’s bound to wonder why the shepherds of the Church have failed to teach it. When a faithful Catholic begins to see the beauty, wisdom, majesty, and pure depth of Catholic tradition, he is bound to wonder why the shepherds of the Church have hidden it.

And he begins to wonder if those shepherds are really wolves in sheep’s clothing. That is not a good thing.

Personally, I’ve been maligned by the pastor of my own parish (and beyond) because of my orthodox views, and my willingness to insist on liturgical correctness. I’ve been censured by an acting bishop. So what I see is that the leadership of the Church cares very little about the liturgy, but very much about popular opinion. And since my “opinion” is not popular, they don’t care about it.

It doesn’t bother me that the powers-that-be (or even my friends, family, and fellow parishioners) don’t care about my “opinions”.  Sometimes, I don’t care about theirs, either!

What bothers me is that they are so quick to dismiss what the Church has to say about the liturgy and how it should be celebrated. This is not a matter of opinion, and shouldn’t be dismissed as such. It is a matter of truth.

When people say the rubrics are optional or don’t matter for some reason or another, what they are really saying is that their opinion should hold sway! And they tell me I’m too “rigid”.

To them, I offer this thought from Pope Benedict XVI, writing as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger:

The life of the liturgy does not come from what dawns upon the minds of individuals and planning groups…[It] becomes personal, true, and new, not through tomfoolery and banal experiments with the words, but through a courageous entry into the great reality that through the rite is always ahead of us and can never quite be overtaken.

Does it still need to be explicitly stated that all this has nothing to do with rigidity? (Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 168)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Taking Possession of the Diocese: Bishop Cary

Bishop Liam Cary
The Bishop of the Diocese of Baker is coming to his cathedral! (Well, of course we knew he would eventually).

This announcement appeared in the cathedral parish bulletin this week:

Bishop Liam Cary in Baker City - ...Bishop Liam Cary will make his first official visit to the Cathedral on the weekend of June 30 - July 1. He will also use the opportunity to ‘take possession’ of the Cathedral as its pastor. That weekend he will celebrate Mass…in the Cathedral on Sunday July 1 at 9:30 AM, as well as a Spanish Mass at 12 noon. The Folk Group have volunteered to participate at the morning Mass, the Spanish Folk Group will also participate at the Spanish Mass, and the Altar Society have been notified about possibly hosting a reception after Mass. More details to come. Stay tuned.

Now, if I didn’t know better, I’d start getting real excited about the possibilities here. And, in fact, I did. But…there are warning signs even in the announcement: "folk group" = guitars, and possibly tambourines. These people are good musicians, and there are many beautiful voices among them, but as I've said before, bad music sung well is still bad music.

And anyway, as soon as we start reading the Ceremonial of Bishops, the problems begin to make themselves painfully apparent.

Okay, first of all, Bishop Cary is not taking possession of the cathedral as its pastor; he’s taking possession of the diocese which is represented by the cathedral. The Ceremonial of Bishops tells us that (my emphases throughout):

1139  If the bishop-elect is ordained in his own cathedral church, he takes possession of the diocese through the very rite of ordination, in which the apostolic letter is shown and read and the newly ordained bishop is installed in his chair (cathedra)…

Here in the Diocese of Baker, the waters have already been muddied. The bishop-elect was ordained, but not in his cathedral; nevertheless, the letter was read, and the bishop-elect was “installed in his chair (cathedra)”…which had been unceremoniously uprooted from the cathedral and hauled half way across the state so that the new bishop could be seated in it. But the cathedral was nowhere in sight.

Ignoring our confusion for the moment, we continue reading the The Ceremonial of Bishops:

1140  If the bishop-elect…has not received ordination in his own cathedral church, he takes possession of the diocese in accord with the provisions of law as stipulated in the rite of reception

How it's s'posed to be done...
Okay, then. He wasn’t ordained in his cathedral, so he hasn’t taken possession of the diocese yet…has he?! The book says he “takes possession” via the rite of reception. So, moving onto the next paragraph, we find described the “Reception of the Bishop in His Cathedral Church” – and it sounds so very regal!

1141  …[The bishop] is received by the gathered community of the diocese and with the celebration of a stational Mass when he comes to his cathedral church for the first time.

1142  The bishop is received at the doors of the church by a minister dressed in cope, who is either the ranking member of the cathedral chapter or, where there is no chapter, the rector of the cathedral church. He offers the bishop a crucifix to be kissed, then a sprinkler of holy water, with which the bishop sprinkles himself and those present. The bishop may then be escorted to the blessed sacrament chapel, where he kneels for a moment in adoration, then to the vesting room (sacristy). There the bishop and the concelebrating presbyters, the deacons, and the ministers put on the vestments for Mass, which is celebrated in the form of a stational Mass.

Chapter”?! Are you kidding? Oh, if only…! Okay, we’ll settle for the rector as the minister who greets the bishop at the door.

1143  After reverencing the altar, the bishop goes to the chair (cathedra) and there, upon completion of the entrance song, greets the people. He then sits and puts on the miter. One of the deacons or concelebrating presbyters first shows the bishop’s apostolic letter to the college of consultors, in the presence of the chancellor of the diocesan curia, so that he may record the matter in the acts of the curia. Then at the ambo the deacon or presbyter reads the apostolic letter, to which all listen, then respond with the acclamation “Thanks be to God” or with some other suitable acclamation…

Well, darn. The letter has already been read, but not in the cathedral of the diocese of which the bishop is taking possession. Do we do it again?! I can pretty much guarantee that there will be no college of consultors, nor a chancellor, present at the Mass on July 1 in Baker City, Oregon. Well, one makes do with what one has…will the rector of the Cathedral read (er…re-read) the letter then? I’m guessing…not…

The Ceremonial of Bishops continues:

…The bishop is then customarily greeted by…the rector of the cathedral church…

…[S]ome members at least of the diocesan clergy, [and] members of the faithful…go to their bishop and offer some sign of obedience and reverence.

Of course, this is not explained any further than that; perhaps in some other rubrics, in another document? I don’t know. And frankly, I’m pretty sure that the rector of the cathedral doesn’t know either. When I was the secretary at the cathedral, there was not even a copy of the Ceremonial of Bishops in the parish office. I provided my own (and I'm willing to loan it out).

So in a way, it is not unexpected that the rector doesn’t know what to do; he’s not been taught, and he lacks the resources (unless he’s had the foresight to buy a CoB sometime in the last few years). And besides, there aren’t too many priests who want to listen to a lay woman tell them what the book says. But…continuing:

The penitential rite of the Mass is omitted…the Gloria is sung…

Again, I wonder if the liturgy planners know this. If they don’t have the book, how would they know?

1144  In the homily after the gospel reading, the bishop addresses his people for the first time.

Oops. He’s already done this…at the ordination in Bend, at the Aztec handball court. He was seated on his cathedra, and he addressed the people, and he became the principle celebrant…even though he was not in his own cathedral.

So…how should this reception of the bishop in his cathedral commence? Should all that happened in this regard – which is recorded on DVD for posterity, and is available for anyone to purchase for $20 – be repeated in the cathedral, where it should properly have taken place? Or should it all be ignored, since it’s already been accomplished…elsewhere?

Ahhh…it could have been so grand!

Still, even if this ends up just being a regular Mass with the bishop presiding (which I’m betting on), there are things that could make it special.

In the cathedral parish, there are at least 5 or 6 instituted acolytes, in addition to a permanent deacon. And then there’s the priest, of course. Imagine the grandeur of the occasion if those acolytes were all pressed into service, and vested in cassock and surplice! Maybe another couple of deacons could be imported, too (three is the rule for a bishop’s stational Mass). Throw in a few altar BOYS to round out all the necessary positions.

Now, it’s going to be a novus ordo Mass, which means that any music at all will be allowed and tolerated, and even encouraged. At least, that’s my experience. But imagine how it would be to have Gregorian chant propers, and the Missa de Angelis, all in Latin! Sung by a schola tucked away up in the choir loft! Imagine that incredible, silent-for-many-years organ put into play! Wow!

Umm…Okay, let’s get real. That’s NOT going to happen on July 1, 2012 in Baker City, Oregon. But still, there could be SOME Latin (the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei, perhaps?) And the Mass of the Angels could be used, in English (sigh).

Reality is rearing its ugly head now. And if you think I'm being uncharitable, well, let me remind you that the faithful have a right to correctly celebrated liturgies. Really, shouldn't we be actively trying to preserve our Catholic identity? And for what it's worth: I AM willing to help make this a liturgically correct and beautiful celebration of our new bishop's arrival.

Please…just pray that the tambourines remain hidden in the back room. And that the little girls in high heels aren’t invited to be altar servers. And that we don’t sing the Gloria with the “clap-clap” in it.

I think I’ll plan on attending the Spanish Mass at noon.


For related posts, click on the “Bishop Liam Cary Posts” tab at the top of the page.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Phamily Photos Just Phor Phun

 My son Sky visited here a couple of months ago. He lives in Virginia, and we don't see each other very often, so it was a treat to have him come and see our place in Oregon for the first time. 

I've only seen my grandson Willow a handful of times. He's ten years old now, and looks very much like his father (and has from day one)!

Here are some photos:

Three generations!

Half-siblings Sky and Ruthie

The family resemblance runs strong down hereditary line from Sky's father:
Sky with his dad (my ex-husband)

Willow with his grandfather

And here's a video Sky and friends made to advertise their inn/hostel in Charlottesville, Virginia:

Friday, May 25, 2012

SSPX Thoughts

I stumbled upon this cartoon yesterday (at this blog):


I’ve never attended Mass at an SSPX chapel.

I don’t claim to know even a fraction of all the intricacies of the SSPX issue.

But I do know that there’s been a lot left to be desired in the fidelity of our shepherds to the true teachings of the Church over the last 50 years.

An article entitled “The USCCB and Pogo” points out that “we have met the enemy and they are us”: our American bishops have, for decades, supported liberal social policies, ignored Canon 915, and left the faithful floundering with an ineffective “voter guide”; so they should not be surprised that at the results we are reaping now.

Of course, many suggest that this is all the fruit of Vatican II. The author of the above-mentioned article states:

…No one can really state that Vatican ll caused the decline of the Catholic Church; however, the fifty years since the end of Vatican ll have been a disaster for the Church. The number of priests has greatly declined even as the population has increased. The religious women have had an even greater decrease in numbers and those who are left have drifted so far from Church teaching they are now not even recognizable as nuns - especially those who sport business suits and mannish haircuts. Catholic schools have closed by the hundreds, and many parents refuse to send their children to those that remain open. Only a handful of Catholic colleges can really be classified as Catholic. After Notre Dame awarded an honorary law degree to Barack Obama it was renamed “Notre Shame” by true Catholics and even some Protestants. There are currently Pro-Homosexual (Pride) Clubs at 107 Catholic Colleges. Bankruptcies have occurred in eight dioceses due to the sexual abuse scandal. And the list goes on and on and on.

The author cites also the destructive “Spirit of Vatican II” that has led to such widespread abuses. He points to Pope John Paul II’s apparent lack of interest in governing the Church, and his inattentiveness to the lack of moral and doctrinal discipline within the Church – even among bishops he had appointed. There’s more…see the article; it’s worth the read.

And so, it all begs the question: how is it that errant heterodox priests and bishops have been allowed to wreak havoc in the Church for the last half century with impunity, while the SSPX – desiring conformity to Church doctrine, and faithfulness to the liturgy – has been condemned?

A friend of mine put it much more colorfully:

I could care less about canonical regularity. What does it matter in this age of confusion? Puppet Masses, Father Light in the Loafers, Father Showtunes, Sister Gaia all are in communion, but the priests, brothers, and sisters of the SSPX and associated orders are not? Silly. I think of the Great Western Schism, three popes, and various groups all "excommunicated", yet there were faithful Catholics and Saints. Go figure.

Personally, I’m thinking that if the SSPX is brought back into the fold – but allowed to maintain every ounce of their orthodoxy – this may be a way for the Church to overcome the abuses perpetrated in the name of Vatican II.

As my friend further noted, the SSPX liturgies are:

No nonsense, no confusion, all Latin, all correct, and most of all, all Catholic!


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Is "Sex" A Gift From God?

Well, I can hear a multitude of voices shouting “Yes! Of course sex is a gift from God!” I have some doubts, so I think it might help to first talk about what we mean by “sex”: I’m assuming in the context of our NFP discussions that those saying “sex” is a gift from God mean sexual intercourse, or the sexual act. Let’s start there.

Sexual intercourse may well be a gift from God, but it is a gift that, because of the Fall, and because of its intensely pleasurable nature, is vulnerable to all manner of abuses and perversions. Therefore, it is a gift that comes with some qualifiers and constraints. First of all, “sex” is for married couples (one man and one woman – isn’t it a shame that we have to clarify that point?!).  Why? Because “sex” is tied inevitably and intentionally to procreation. Marriage provides the proper environment for the rearing of children.

Other constraints concerning “sex” include the following: Masturbation and mutual masturbation are forbidden. Homosexual sex is forbidden. Sex between a man and a woman who are not married to each other is forbidden. Contraceptive sex is forbidden. Why? Because all of these things turn us away from God and in on ourselves. All of these prohibited examples are fruitless, sterile: their aim is solely to enjoy the pleasure of sex without any responsibility. Sterile sex means we are submitting to our concupiscence.

My friend Dr. Stacy Trasancos has a good post related to this issue – “The Case for Not Calling It Sex”. She notes:

 “Sex” comes from the Latin word secus which refers to the state of being male or female, specific qualities associated with being male or female, males or females collectively, sexual organs. It is that thing that, only in part, defines a man as a man and a woman as a woman. Sex really has very little to do with intimacy, except to identify gender and to describe bodily functions associated with that gender.

Intimacy” comes from the Latin word intimus which refers to the inmost, deep-seated, inner nature or fundamental character of a thing; essential; intrinsic. It is that thing between a husband and wife that is the deepest union, and it is not isolated to a physical act. It encompasses – is the very wellspring – of the entire union and relationship. Intimacy is uniquely human. Animals mindlessly have sex to procreate; humans, however, can experience intimacy in the marital bond to bring forth new life in love. See the difference?

The “old” words for “sex” (meaning the act of sexual intercourse) were terms like “marital embrace”, the “marital act”, the “consummation of marriage”, “conjugal love”. These terms, in addition to clinging to a sense of modesty, make clear that “sex” isn’t divorced from love and intimacy, and it isn’t divorced from procreation. Procreation is always assumed. Is that just because the ancients (and the pre-moderns) didn’t know how to regulate births?

I don’t think so. I think it’s just that they took “sex” seriously. I think they understood – better than we do, in our current hyper-sexed culture – that “sex” is easily abused and perverted. Currently, there are abuses and perversions in our current society that would make any saint – and many a sinner – from earlier times recoil in horror and disbelief (and they would use terms like "fornication" and "sodomy"). But we’ve become habituated to it. It doesn’t surprise us. That’s at least in part because, for the past half-century, we’ve separated “sex” from its procreative function. Now we are reaping the dubitable fruit of that process.

"Sex" itself may be a gift from God (what good thing isn’t?); but it’s the intimacy that we can achieve in marriage that is the greater gift. It’s the fact that we can approach “sex” with reason and will; we (ideally) enter into the goodness of “sex” only in marriage – marriage between a man and a woman, with the full knowledge and hope that children will come from our intimate union.

In Casti Connubii, Pope Pius XI tells us that

…amongst the blessings of marriage, the child holds the first place. And indeed the Creator of the human race Himself, Who in His goodness wishes to use men as His helpers in the propagation of life, taught this when, instituting marriage in Paradise, He said to our first parents, and through them to all future spouses: "Increase and multiply, and fill the earth." (par. 11, my emphasis)

In other words, if “sex” is a gift, then it is inextricably tied to the gift of children, since the child holds “first place” among the blessings of marriage. In an article entitled “A Theology of Life-Giving”, (Homiletic and Pastoral Review, August/September 2007)Fr. William M. Gardner notes that if we leave out the procreative aspect, the gift of “sex” is imperfect. The sexual act is directed by nature to procreation, though it does have benefits that accrue even if procreation is not achieved in a particular act. Fr. Gardner explains that

…the sexual act can only reach full perfection in conception. A non-fruitful act of sexual intercourse may be morally licit and mutually beneficial to the spouses and may also consummate a marital commitment (in each case, reaching a real level of perfection), but it is not a fully perfected sexual act since human life has not been transmitted. The sexual act has not achieved the end that distinguishes it from all other kinds of human acts.

He also quotes Blessed John Paul II: “…fecundity is the living testimony of the full reciprocal giving of the spouses” (Familiaris Consortio, #28).

Today, it seems to be taken for granted that fertility can be – and maybe even should be – controlled (whether artificially or "naturally"). Consequently, people enter marriage with rather vague expectations about children, at least in comparison with marriage only a hundred years ago: "Yeah, we'd like to have kids, eventually, probably no more than two, preferably a boy and a girl."

But for centuries, marriage had nothing whatever to do with "sexual partnership" or "soul mates" or "institutionalized immodesty." Marriage was a social institution for the procreation and education of children even before the Church came on the scene and taught about marriage from the point of view of God.

If “sex” is a gift from God, we should be viewing it with much greater reverence than prevails currently. Why aren't Catholics embarrassed to have authors like Gregory Popcak writing books in their name with titles like "Holy Sex!: A Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving"? The very title itself is immodest and a potential occasion of sin! This is the same Gregory Popcak who tells us to use NFP while we're trying to discern whether God wants us to have a child at this time, and who opens his daily "advice show" on EWTN with encouragement to expect a great sex life through Theology of the Body principles! In the life of what saint was "a great sex life" a priority?

I think there's something
wrong with this picture.
If we don't obsess about our fertility and our need for sex and just live our married lives, sex will happen, procreation will happen, and God will be pleased. I don't see how "intimacy" is enhanced by all this concentration on "charts" and "mucus" and then talking about it with each other!

Perhaps married couples, and marriage preparation classes, should focus less on "marital harmony" and "sexual fellowship", and more on marriage as a vocation which is intended to lead the couple and their children to Heaven. If we focus on becoming holy, "charts" and "mucus" and "when should we have sex" become self-evidently embarrassing. To the protest, "Are you saying that we should not strive to have a good sex life?!", I want to answer, "Yes, that is what I am saying." As Pope Pius XI put it:

This conjugal faith, however, which is most aptly called by St. Augustine the "faith of chastity" blooms more freely, more beautifully and more nobly, when it is rooted in that more excellent soil, the love of husband and wife which pervades all the duties of married life and holds pride of place in Christian marriage. For matrimonial faith demands that husband and wife be joined in an especially holy and pure love, not as adulterers love each other, but as Christ loved the Church. (Casti Connubii, #23; my emphases)

I don't think that has anything to do with “sex”. 

For other posts on NFP, see the tab at the top of the page.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Same-Sex "Marriage"/Contraception Link

A friend sent me a link to a very interesting article that led me to think more about same-sex “marriage” in conjunction with the contraceptive mindset of our society.

On his blog “Father Talks Too Fast”, Fr. Faulkner addresses the question of same-sex “marriage” in an engaging and creative way  [sorry...I've been alerted that Fr. Faulkner's post was removed in obedience to his bishop. Update: Fr. Faulkner has assured me that the excerpt I have quoted is not erroneous or under question in any way by his bishop.]. I’ve heard parts of the argument put this way before, but not as clearly as Fr. Faulkner presents it. I highly recommend reading the whole article; it makes you think!

Here’s an excerpt (my emphases throughout):
The other counterpoint to a Natural Law "societal good" argument is that a lesbian couple may be just as good of a societal building block as a straight couple. The classic refutation would be: "Perhaps so, but the lesbian pairing doesn't make and rear children, so there's not the reason to privilege it." The immediate response would be that they could get inseminated or adopt. The rejoinder to that will be that since their union doesn't produce the children, the state still doesn't have the same interest. The obvious rebuff to this will be that, then, infertile straight couples should not be considered married. To which the reply would probably be, "Yes, but to grant a privilege to a couple that should likely be fertile (and later on could still be) and then take it away from them is quite different from granting a privilege to a couple that can never be fertile." This is probably enough to convince some on the fence, but not all, nor will it likely convince the staunch same-sex advocate.

This is the most common, and, I think, a pretty darn compelling argument for states enshrining faithful, permanent, childbearing marriage in a protected (and exclusive) status. Religious and non-religious alike have argued it for years. [A recent, much-crisper version of this argument from an economist's point of view comes from
Adam Kolasinski at MIT.] The argument it reasonable, does not rest on bigotry, nor on religiously-revealed truths, nor does it address anything other than civil marriage.

And up until about two years ago, I thought it answered the question, and was exactly what the one man-one woman camp needed to use to get over the accusation of trying to make this an imposition of religious moral views.

But while I still believe the above argument is utterly valid in theory, I don't think it remotely works in America in 2012. It may have been valid in 1950, but not now. The reason is simple: America is not a country dedicated to preserving marriages or forming children within those families. Given that abortion and no-fault divorce are enshrined rights, and that contraception and sterilization are the sine qua non of the "modern family", it's ridiculous to say that civil marriage exists for the procreation, formation, and welfare of children, or that the U.S. values the family as the firm bedrock on which our society rests.

I think Fr. Faulkner is on to something here; he goes on to suggest that the civil marriage should just be abolished – but read his whole post before you scream, “Whaaaaat?!?!” He has some good points.

Regarding the contraception-homosexual “marriage” link, in the comments section of his post, Fr. Faulkner adds the following observation:

A great summary of Lambeth's essential role in this comes from Mary Eberstadt in "The Vindication of Humanae Vitae" in First Things, Aug/Sep 2008:

"By giving benediction in 1930 to its married heterosexual members purposely seeking sterile sex, the Anglican Church lost, bit by bit, any authority to tell her other members—married or unmarried, homosexual or heterosexual—not to do the same. To put the point another way, once heterosexuals start claiming the right to act as homosexuals, it would not be long before homosexuals start claiming the rights of heterosexuals."

Get that? “Purposely seeking sterile sex”.  That doesn’t mean just “artificial contraception”, when you think about it. It can refer to any type of birth control, including NFP, where couples purposely seek sterile sex during the woman’s infertile times and purposely avoid procreative sex during the fertile days. (Yes, I know it’s a licit practice…if there are “serious reasons”.)

Just sayin’.

See also: Is "Sex" A Gift From God?
                Notre Dame, Contraception, and NFP

The Sequence for Pentecost: Liturgical Hijinx

Here’s everything you ever wanted to know - and more! - about when to sing the Sequence for Pentecost! This information comes to you from one who is much more knowledgeable than I am regarding such matters.

The question arises: is the Sequence for Pentecost sung before or after the Alleluia? This becomes an issue only for the Novus Ordo; the answer is quite clear in the Extraordinary Form.

Sigh. Welcome to the world of ecclesiastical politics.

The present state of affairs leaves us in the conundrum of both "A" and "B" (which are mutually exclusive) being correct (for now, at least), depending on where the Mass is being offered. Nevertheless it is important to know which of the two "correct" positions is the more appropriate.

The current (2011) English translation of the General Instruction to the Roman Missal (GIRM), "Including Adaptations for Dioceses of the United States of America" states:

64. The Sequence, which is optional except on Easter Sunday and on Pentecost Day, is sung before the Alleluia.

The GIRM is liturgical law for the Roman Rite throughout the world. But note that this quotation (no. 64) is from the approved English translation of the GIRM that includes "Adaptations for Dioceses of the United States of America". When we compare this same article to the Latin original of the GIRM that is used throughout the rest of the world, we find exactly the opposite:

64. Sequentia, quae praeter quam diebus Paschae et Pentecostes, est ad libitum, cantatur post AllelĂșia.
(64. The Sequence, which is optional except on the days of Pascha and Pentecost, is sung after the Alleluia.)

Either the Vatican's designated approvers of official vernacular translations didn't catch the error in the English edition, or the change was approved as an authorized adaptation for Dioceses of the USA. I'm inclined to think that it was a case of the latter: the prelates appointed to oversee linguistics didn't have a background in sacred liturgy, let alone in sacred music. They failed to understand and appreciate what a Sequentia is, what it is meant to do, and why it is called "Sequentia": it follows sequentially after the Alleluia, as a florid jubilation on that same Alleluia.

Well-meaning priests and bishops had long noted (well, "long", anyway, after Pope Paul VI's new Mass came out in the 1970’s) that, with the new – and misunderstood – emphasis on EVERYONE having to sing the "Gospel Acclamation" (i.e., "Alleluia"), the people were all standing to sing the Alleluia, and then everyone had to "just" stand there while someone (often just a cantor, since the choir wouldn't learn to sing the Sequence) sang this long solo.

Or, worse yet (following down that rabbit trail of "active participation"), this is all viewed as the apparent anticlimax of the entire congregation having to stand (oh, my Gawd!) and recite (because we HAVE to "participate"!! – and because the chant is TOO HARD for the congregation to learn – and besides, chant is SO pre-Vatican Two!). Meanwhile the deacon/priest stands at the ambo "wasting his time", waiting for this unnecessary intrusion into HIS ministry of proclaiming the Gospel.

With this kind of mindset, coupled with sheer ignorance, the historical placement of the Sequence after the "Gospel Acclamation" made no sense whatsoever.

Ergo, voila! We'll just move the Sequence to before the "Gospel Acclamation"...a sort of extended meditation, before we get on to the real business of the congregation leaping to its feet to "welcome" the Gospel. And this is what happens when you let "liturgists" (cf. "terrorists") run things.

So when it comes to the Sequence in the Novus Ordo Missae (i.e., ordinary form), the present state of affairs is dismal: in the USA, it is sung before the "Gospel Acclamation"; everywhere else in the Catholic world, it is sung in its rightful and historical place: after the Alleluia.

Now just sit back and relax and listen to it...aaaahhhhh....