Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bishop Vasa Fights the Good Fight

Bishop Robert F. Vasa (Diocese of Santa Rosa) is in the news again, getting the “progressives” all riled up with another “Affirmation of Faith” type of document similar to the one he introduced in the Diocese of Baker some years ago. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports that:

The Santa Rosa Catholic Diocese is requiring its 200 schoolteachers to sign an agreement affirming that "modern errors" such as contraception, abortion, homosexual marriage and euthanasia are "matters that gravely offend human dignity.”

The document apparently includes this statement:

"I am especially cognizant of the fact that modern errors – including but not limited to matters that gravely offend human dignity and the common good such as contraception, abortion, homosexual 'marriage' and euthanasia – while broadly accepted in society, are not consistent with the clear teachings of the Catholic Church."

And of course, some teachers are upset about that because they think it infringes on their “rights” – the right to hold “personal beliefs” that are in opposition to Catholic teaching.  Well, of course, they have that right! But they do not have the right to teach at a Catholic school if they do not agree with what the Church teaches.

Again, this statement is very similar to the “Affirmation of Faith” Bishop Vasa included in his pastoral letter, Giving Testimony to the Truth: A Diocesan Guide for Pastoral Lay Ministers (April 2004, Diocese of Baker). The statement the Santa Rosa teachers are being asked to sign touches on the same points, it seems. The primary issues addressed by both documents are still the primary issues causing division in the Church right now.

A year after the “Affirmation of Faith” was introduced, Bishop Vasa issued Entrusted with Sacred Duties (Diocese of Baker, May 2005), a pastoral letter on the implementation of the previous letter. Entrusted did not give specific guidelines as to the implementation of the “Affirmation”, though, and contrary to popular opinion and report, the bishop did not require anyone to sign it (the Press Democrat article also makes that same error). Instead, the pastor was required to provide to the chancery office a list of lay ministers, and the pastor was required to sign a statement to the effect that he knew that these people had given their assent to all of the elements of the affirmation. I know this because as parish secretary I was involved in the process, in communications with the chancery, and in the implementation in our parish.

This is not to say that no one was required to sign the “Affirmation of Personal Faith”; in some parishes, they were required to do so by the pastor. Some people signed, some refused to do so, and some actually asked to sign even when it was not required.  

But the bottom line is that it hasn’t made any difference in the Diocese of Baker.

I know for a fact that in my local parish, many people who would not have agreed to sign the document if required to do so have continued in their “ministries”, even though they know they are not in compliance with Diocesan law.

Will things be different in the Diocese of Santa Rosa? At least in that diocese, the teachers are being required to actually sign the statement.  That’s a more definitive step than Bishop Vasa took in the Diocese of Baker. Perhaps being required to actually sign on the dotted line will encourage teachers to be honest about their beliefs; if they disagree, and especially if they are Catholic and disagree, they will be forced to confront that “disconnect”.

By requiring this statement of fidelity from teachers, Bishop Vasa has perhaps opened another can of worms, too, though. The article quotes one anonymous teacher who had problems with the statements about the sinfulness of homosexual behavior:

"I know this sounds like a cliche, but some of my very best friends are gay married couples. We have kids here whose parents are gay partners," the teacher said.

Whoa! “We have kids here whose parents are gay partners”? That raises another red flag for me! Remember the flap in Boulder, Colorado, where a parish priest denied admission of some young students because the parents were a lesbian “couple”? And that wasn’t the only case, either. Perhaps Bishop Vasa will move on to address the problems such a situation presents for his schools.

But let’s return to the issue at hand: the teachers’ fidelity to the faith. The article notes that:

… [Bishop Vasa] questioned whether someone "can teach what the Catholic Church teaches with zeal and enthusiasm while holding, as they say, 'in the privacy of their heart' " views that are contrary to Catholic doctrine.

I agree whole-heartedly with Bishop Vasa that it is very difficult to teach “with zeal and enthusiasm” when you don’t believe what you are teaching.

Case in point: in one parish, a deacon stated explicitly to me that he did not agree with Church teaching on the sinfulness of homosexuality, nor on the sinfulness of artificial contraception. That was scandalous enough – he was a deacon, after all! Then I also became aware that this deacon was teaching some of the marriage preparation classes in the parish; concerned, I mentioned to the pastor the fact that the deacon dissented from Church teaching on contraception. The pastor’s response was, “That’s why he’s not teaching that part.”

There are a lot of things wrong with that statement! For one thing, why has no one corrected this dissenting deacon? Why is he teaching anything in the Church? And even if he doesn’t teach “that part” about contraception, what if couples ask him about it anyway? What should he say? “Oh, I don’t agree with what the Church teaches about that, so I’m not going to address it”?! No matter what he says, his dissent will be evident to the couple.

Not only that, but this same deacon also taught the high school RE class, along with a young woman who is now leading an openly homosexual lifestyle. Thankfully, that young woman is no longer teaching RE, and was also relieved or her duties as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion – primarily because I’m such a trouble maker and insisted on pointing out the problem. But I still wonder if the pastor or anyone else tried to explain to her why homosexual behavior is wrong.

I’m sure many readers have similar stories – there always seems to be a dissident ex-nun teaching RCIA, for instance. How does that happen?! Why is it allowed to continue? But continue it does.  

Pushing dissident Catholics along the path toward assent is a difficult job. It’s not appreciated at all! (Believe me, I speak from experience.) Nevertheless, it is an act of charity to point out to a person that their beliefs and actions are not in line with Church teaching. How else will they get to Heaven? Bishop Vasa is thinking about this question, and that is why he is taking the steps he takes; it’s why he took similar steps – which were similarly “unpopular” – in the Diocese of Baker.

“I want us to help each other get to Heaven,” Bishop Vasa told the faithful of his new diocese when he was transferred to Santa Rosa in 2011. “Nothing else really matters.”

And of course, that is absolutely true.

I hope Bishop Vasa is able to stay the course. If the comment section at the end of that article is any indication, though, he has a long, uphill battle on his hands. Pray for him!

My NFP Book is Available!

My book is now available at Amazon, both as a 266-page paperback, and on Kindle.

Natural Family Planning:: Trojan Horse in the Catholic Bedroom?

Here's the description on Amazon:

What’s wrong with Natural Family Planning? Taking a Catholic perspective on the subject, Dr. Jay Boyd explains that the use of NFP to avoid pregnancy is often promoted as “God’s family planning”. But is using NFP to prevent pregnancy really trusting God? If we take control of spacing births, how can be sure this is “God’s plan”, and that the children came “in God’s time”? And most people fail to “read the fine print” that says that NFP is to be used only when a couple has serious reasons for avoiding pregnancy. The reason many people think of NFP as “Catholic birth control” is because that’s how it is used by many well-meaning couples. Claiming that a couple using NFP is “open to life” while they abstain from sex during the woman’s fertile period in order to intentionally avoid pregnancy – well…that’s a contradiction in terms. It can easily be argued that using NFP to avoid pregnancy is an expression of a lack of trust in God’s will and provision. It’s an active effort on the part of the couple to second-guess God’s timing for the family’s new members. Dr. Boyd takes a close, objective look at NFP from the standpoint of the teaching of the Catholic Church. She examines the basic problems with NFP, along with its philosophical underpinnings; and she delves into the important concepts of marital chastity and trust in Divine Providence.

Why We Need to Pray: Vortex

It is imperative – more so than ever before, I think – that we pray fervently that a good and holy and strong and bold pope be elected.

In the Vortex of 2/27/13 (embedded below), Michael Voris points out that:

Almighty God preserves the Church from error, but not disaster. That should be self-evident given the current condition of the Church.

…The Church is preserved from error out of love for sinful and weak man. Period. In short, so we don’t mess it up. This guarantee however is not extended to the election of a Pope. The Church has had bad popes before – meaning immoral scoundrels. It has also had holy men who have not excelled at the necessary administrative qualities needed to govern such an unwieldy body of believers scattered across every continent.

 …What we have as a guarantee is the man who standing in the shoes of the fisherman, in the office of Supreme Pastor, will not preach error. We do NOT have as a guarantee that that man will be well-suited to the office or the times in which he reigns.

That’s why we need to pray.

There’s certainly been corruption in the Church from the beginning (remember Judas?), because of our fallen human nature. After all, we wouldn’t need a savior if we didn’t sin, right? I don’t know if the corruption is worse now than it’s ever been, but it stands to reason that it would be.  We can surely see that the amount of sin in the world – and the acceptance of it – is increasing at an alarming rate. The world has been made much smaller by technology: the internet, cell phones, texting, twitter, etc. , allowing sin to  spread its tentacles more easily.

Now toss into the mix the scandalous reports of a “gay mafia” wreaking havoc within the Church. While some have tried to downplay the scandal, I think that most of us are pretty sure there is at least some truth to the reports. Anyone who’s read Good-by, Good Men by Michael S. Rose, can hardly be surprised by the rumors of homosexual corruption “at the top”. Of course, Rose was also criticized and pooh-poohed by some who considered him an alarmist or irresponsible, but if even only a fraction of what he reported is true,  a lot of good men didn’t become priests because of the “gay” agenda that forced them out of the seminaries. Though patience and prudence may often be necessary in dealing with problems, it seems that our Church has been very good at ignoring the elephant in the living room when it comes to homosexuality in the clergy.

And don’t forget the recent report by a Polish priest, which was discussed on the Vortex of 2/22/13 (also embedded below). Here’s an excerpt from the script:

…a blockbuster report [long, but well worth reading] has just emerged produced by a Ph.D. priest at the Pontifical University in Krakow Poland where he says he was asked to prepare this report by various bishops and even cardinals. It details how the secretive homosexual lobby of priests and bishops in the Church is trying to gain a stronger foothold in his native Poland and how much damage has already been done by them in other parts of the Church throughout the world.

From active homosexual clergy among priests, to active homosexuals among bishops and those that are friendly to them that protect them and promote them, as well as those who had hidden and covered up the resultant child sex abuse at the hands of predator homosexual clergy.

… He says near the conclusion, “We must clearly, explicitly and reservedly say: yes, there is a strong homosexual underground in the Church…[S]uch circles in the Church strongly oppose the truth, morality and Revelation, cooperate with enemies of the Church, [and] incite revolt against Peter of our times.”

And in another telling line he says, “It is for [his] accuracy of opinion that he is so vehemently opposed, or even hated by some in the Church, especially by members of the homolobby which represents the very center of internal opposition against the Pope.”

Clearly this "homolobby" within the Church is a problem; just as clearly, it is strong; and if it is active and strong among even the cardinal electors, then we have a problem. As Michael Voris says, “Pray to the Holy Spirit… hard… everyday… with a longing like you would long for eternity that he send us NOT the pope we all deserve, but the pope we NEED.”

Here's the Vortex from 2/27/13:

Here's the Vortex from 2/22/13:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pray for a Holy Pope

I'm all for humor, but somehow, my heart is just not in some of the jokes I've seen about the papal conclave. It seems like such serious business to me, especially now, with the scandal about the "gay mafia" and its power within the Church. I think that when a new pope is announced, we will be given a very important "sign of the times". If we get the pope we deserve, we'd better buckle down and fight for our lives...and souls. If we get the pope we need...well, we'd better buckle down and fight for our lives and souls, then, too! Our new Holy Father can't succeed in his mission without our prayers.

That said, I saw this admonition on the ChurchMilitant.TV Face Book page:

Have you said a prayer to the Holy Spirit today specifically for the election of a Holy, Bold, Strong Pope? Faithful Catholics need to pray massively for our loving Father to give us the Pope we need, not the pope we deserve. Holy Spirit, command the conclave to do your will. Amen!

Starting tomorrow, February 28, the date of Pope Benedict XVI’s abdication, it is my intention to devote quite a bit of time and energy to praying for the election of a good and holy pope. That may mean a decrease in blog posts for a while.

Here is a prayer for the election of a bishop; I have prayed it for the election of a bishop for the Diocese of Baker, the Diocese of El Paso, and the Archdiocese of Portland, but I assume it’s a good one for the universal Church seeking the election of a new Bishop of Rome, as well.

Lord God, you are our eternal shepherd and guide.
In your mercy grant the Church a shepherd
who will walk in your ways
and whose watchful care will bring us your blessing.
We ask this through Our Lord…

For those who like to pray in the official language of the Church, here’s the Latin:

Deus, qui pastor aeternus,
gregem tuum assidua custodia gubernas,
eum immensa tua pietate concedas Ecclesiae pastorem,
qui tibi sanctitate placeat,
et vigili nobis sollicitudine prosit. Per Dominum.

Here’s a prayer for the Pope. I pray it every day for Pope Benedict XVI, though I guess after February 28, it doesn’t quite “fit” because he will no longer be the Pope. Still, he will remain in my prayers! And surely it doesn’t hurt to pray this prayer for the new Pope, even before we know who he is.

V. Let us pray for N, our Pope.

R. May the Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies. [Ps 40:3]

O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant N, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

And here it is in Latin:

V. Oremus pro Pontifice nostro N.

R. Dominus conservet eum, et vivificet eum, et beatum faciat eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius. [Ps 40:3]

Pater Noster, Ave Maria.

Deus, omnium fidelium pastor et rector, famulum tuum N., quem pastorem Ecclesiae tuae praeesse voluisti, propitius respice: da ei, quaesumus, verbo et exemplo, quibus praeest, proficere: ut ad vitam, una cum grege sibi credito, perveniat sempiternam. Per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Amen.



Monday, February 25, 2013

NFP: Trojan Horse in the Catholic Bedroom?

Update: Now available in paperback and on Kindle!

I’ve almost completed the process of publishing a book which is a compilation of my posts on NFP; it’s entitled Natural Family Planning: Trojan Horse in the Catholic Bedroom? The book will probably be available on Amazon by the end of this week – I’ll keep you posted! In the meantime, I’m posting the “Conclusion” of the book.


Marriage is intended to be fruitful; God said so Himself! God's plan for the sanctification of the married couple includes their cooperation with God in procreating new souls destined for Heaven. NFP doesn't explicitly fly in the face of such an understanding, but it is dramatically not submissive to God. NFP is all about a degree of control that is objectionable in any traditional Catholic understanding of marriage or Catholic spirituality in general.

NFP promoters attempt to elevate non-abstinence (that is, the circumvention of the need to abstain from the marital embrace) to the level of a virtue, achieved by gaining knowledge of God's designs so as to frustrate them. In other words, NFP promoters see the marital act as having “unitive” value that trumps its procreative value; therefore, engaging in marital intimacy when there is no risk of pregnancy is considered good in and of itself.

But sex is not an end in itself. To long for sexual pleasure but seek to avoid its consequences is, objectively, concupiscence seeking a remedy. Certainly we would say this of an unmarried couple (it’s called “fornication”). The traditional understanding of marriage is threefold: 1) the procreation and education of children; 2) mutual care and support for the married couple in their journey to Heaven; and 3) a remedy for concupiscence. And once upon a time, people actually got married first and then realized those ends. Nowadays, people seek the “remedy for concupiscence” (i.e., sex) first, and only afterwards might consider the other two ends. In the past, some couples probably got married primarily as a remedy for concupiscence, knowing that indulging their sexual appetites might lead to pregnancy; today we have a Pill to take care of the anxiety about the possibility of pregnancy, and many consider that license to satisfy their sexual appetites outside of marriage.

Taking the traditional view of marriage, if a man and a woman long to engage in the marital act, but are not prepared to have children, they should postpone marriage until they are truly “open to life”. They should not be thinking of ways to have sex that allow them to avoid that “consequence.”

The same goes for a married couple, really. When a married couple thinks the time is not right for pregnancy, the first option is abstinence; but, if desire is too strong, then charity demands that they engage in the remedy for their concupiscence. This remedy may be NFP. NFP as a “remedy for concupiscence” sounds, to me, a lot more honest in its presentation than touting it as a “way of life” or a “virtue.” From a marketing standpoint, though, NFP as a “remedy for concupiscence” doesn’t sound nearly as appealing as “NFP as a way of life”, or “God’s plan for the family”.

It seems silly to claim that one is “open to children” when one is organizing one's life around having sex not likely to be fruitful! The NFP “way of life,” when not practiced to achieve pregnancy, is all about sterile sex – sex that is meant only to make the couple feel good, with no consequences attached to that pleasure. The “background music” of the NFP way of life is always about sexual intimacy: “when we can, when we should, when we can't, and when we shouldn't”.

Our culture has a lot to do with our understanding of human sexuality. In a recent article addressing this issue, an insightful author notes that “Teen Pregnancy is Not the Problem”. Instead, she says, the problem is how the world presents the topic of “sex”:

The world says sex is primarily for pleasure. That sex doesn’t have to be for unity or procreation. That everybody’s doing it. That there is something wrong with you if you aren’t.

 …The world tells us to act on all our urges as soon as possible. To get what we want, when we want it, always. To control our fertility instead of ourselves if we aren’t prepared to become parents.

 ...It’s time to use our lives to tell the world sex is primarily for procreation and unity…

Couples marry today with certain expectations about both marriage and sex shaped by public media. Sex is supposed to be “good” with a “good partner” and “personally satisfying”; in other words, sex is “all about the couple” – a variation on the theme of “it’s all about me”.  

People enter marriage today with a culturally-conditioned expectation that “sex is like what I've seen in the movies” – which is to say it looks really great, and fun, and exciting! The NFP ideology (and that is what it is) does little to teach the true meaning of marriage, sex, or chastity, but is an unwitting participant in the unchaste sexuality that is rampant in our culture. To teach engaged couples about “family planning” of any kind is conceding that “family planning” (a.k.a., birth control) is a presumed need and value in today's Catholic marriages.

Certainly, today, the Church is failing badly in this area. Part of the reason for that stems from the 1960’s Church taking seriously the warnings from secular “experts” that the world was becoming overpopulated. Birth control was cautiously embraced because Church leaders didn’t recognize the errors in the overpopulation argument. The apparent needs of the temporal world loomed larger than the spiritual needs of parents that are met through generous parenthood providentially orchestrated by God. It seems as though, for a brief moment, Church leaders wondered if God maybe needed a little help in controlling population: hence, the concept of “responsible” parenthood, and the subtle movement from condoning periodic abstinence in certain serious situations to the idea that couples should rely on their own consciences to determine when to conceive a child.

I predict that, in the future, the Church will clarify what it teaches today, dramatically redefine the “serious reasons” necessary for use of NFP, and encourage it as a “remedy for concupiscence” rather than a positive, virtuous practice. My prediction stems in part from my belief that what is being taught today, and the verbiage being used to teach it, is, for the most part, wrong – at least on the very liberal end of the NFP spectrum. 

There’s another, more pragmatic reason for my prediction: far from becoming overpopulated, the world is now beginning to suffer from the effects of decades of population control. We need more babies. People are now coming to an understanding of some principles of the economics of population growth which were previously unknown, unexplored, or ignored. I’m not an expert in this area, but even in the secular media we are beginning to see a growing awareness and concern about the need for more young people. And so if the Church wants to continue to meet the needs of the “modern world”, She will have to acknowledge that birth control should never be touted as a Catholic principle, and that now more than ever Catholic couples should be open to life, open to “generous parenthood” that puts the procreative end of marriage in its rightful place of primacy.

In the end, I think that might be called “virtuous parenthood”.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday: Sports or God? asks Fr. Andersen

A homily by Fr. Eric Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, Oregon
February 24th, 2013
Dominica II Quadragesimae, Anno C

During these forty days of Lent, we accompany Jesus to the Cross. Last week, we heard that Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights and was hungry. Then the devil tempted Him. Where else do we find this number 40? We find it with Noah, who built an ark which saved him and his family and the animals within while it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. Moses ascended the mountain, Mount Sinai, where he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in prayer for the sins of his people, and preparing to receive the Law from God. Then there is Elijah who journeyed “through the wilderness. On his way, an angel gave him to eat: and ‘strengthened by that food he went on for forty days and forty nights, when he reached God’s own mountain, Horeb’” (Danielou, The Lord of History, 260-261).

Elijah was then assumed into heaven. He did not die. The scriptures tell us that a chariot of fire came and swept him up into heaven. What about Moses? There is a rabbinic tradition that Moses was also assumed into heaven. The book of Deuteronomy tells us that his body was buried in the valley of the land of Moab but its tomb has not been found (cf. Deut 34:6).  The scriptures also tell us, in the epistle of St. Jude, that Michael the Archangel disputed with the devil over the body of Moses; not over his soul, but over his body. We do not know what the dispute was about.

“The common interpretation is that St. Michael conveyed the body of Moses out of the way, and from the knowledge of the Israelites, lest they should pay to it some idolatrous worship; whereas the devil, for that end, would have it buried, so that the people might know the place and adore it.” (Haydock, p. 1626, fn 9)

We see that temptation fulfilled here with St. Peter wanting to build a shrine, a tabernacle, on that spot for Moses and for Elijah. These two prophets were so highly revered by the Jewish people because they experienced a privileged intimacy with God that others were never given.

The Book of Deuteronomy tells us that “there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses whom the Lord knew face to face” (Deut 34:10). This is very important because God also told Moses that no man can see the Face of God and live (cf. Exod 33:20). But Moses looked upon the face of God. God spoke to him face to face. And now, Moses and Elijah appear speaking to God face to face, on the Mountain; Our Lord Jesus Christ is transfigured before them and they converse with Him. This scene serves as a fulfillment to a promise from Deuteronomy when Moses told the people: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you…him you shall hear” (Deut 18:15). God the Father tells us just that: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” Let us listen to Him through the teachings of the gospels. But let us not only listen to Him; let us obey Him.

Our Lord has commanded that we make holy the Lord’s day. The Lord’s day is Sunday. Every Sunday is the Lord’s day. The whole day Sunday is the Lord’s day. You should not work unless you have to. You should not go shopping on Sunday. You should not participate in school activities or school sports on Sundays. Let me repeat that: You should not participate in school activities or school sports on Sundays – any Sundays – but especially on Palm Sunday. I bring this up because Gervais High School is hosting the Oregon Latino Basketball Tournament which is scheduled to take place on Palm Sunday and on Holy Saturday. This is not appropriate.

The Catholic Daughters were offered an opportunity to do some fundraising at this event, selling hotdogs. In considering the event, I became aware that it falls on a Friday of Lent, continues on Palm Sunday, and finishes on Holy Saturday. Needless to say, Catholics should not attend or support this event. Palm Sunday is not a time for a Basketball Tournament, Latino or otherwise. Holy Saturday is not a time for this type of activity either. Holy Saturday is a day for fasting and not for eating hot dogs. Holy Saturday is a day for praying and preparing for Easter the next day, not for playing basketball in a Youth Jam.  Furthermore, this event is going to be serving meat on the Friday of the event. Remember that the Church asks you to abstain from eating meat on all Fridays through the whole year and that it is a sin to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. If you eat meat on Fridays during Lent, you must go to Confession before receiving Holy Communion again.

Now, if you are engaging in school sports on Sundays you need to make a choice. Will it be sports or God? You have six days to play sports. You have six days to work and make money. God only asks for one day. He not only asks but He has commanded it: Make Holy the Lord’s Day. The principle here is that we do not do anything on Sunday that would accomplish something. We sacrifice getting something done. We sacrifice to God the yield of a day’s labor on Sundays. We sacrifice getting things done. That includes doing homework, or doing anything to earn money. That includes physical labor even if it is a personal project around the house or the yard. Sunday is not a day to tear out a flowerbed in the back yard or to build a new shed.

On the other hand, Sunday is a day to enjoy your family. You can play a game of basketball with your brothers or your uncles, but it should be for fun and not to advance your team’s record. If it is a team that you play for, then you should not play on Sunday because you are accomplishing something, and by doing so you are working. Sunday is a day for rest, for leisure, for family, and most importantly for God. I am asking you to stand up to the schools. They do not dictate how you are live your faith. God dictates that. The schools schedule these events because people go along with them. As Catholics, we need to speak up. Our children will not be involved in such things on Sundays. Our children are not available on Sundays for anything outside of God and the family. If people would stand up to the public schools, things would change. Until very recently, it was unheard of that any school would schedule anything on a Sunday. The same went for Wednesday evenings. Wednesday evenings were reserved for church activities and catechism. Now, the parish is told that the children are not available on Wednesdays because they have sports. We are also told that the children are not available for church on Sundays because they have sports. Beloved in Christ, we have a choice to make. Sunday is the Lord’s Day. It belongs to him. He has a right to command us to cease our work for one day a week.

I realize that some of you are cheering inside because what I say today helps you in your struggles with your children. I received so many thank you’s from parents last night. But I also realize that some of you are shaking your fists at me. I am making life more difficult for you. But I am placing this choice before you because I respect you enough to tell you the truth. I respect you enough to provide you with the information you need to freely make a choice for or against God. And I know that this is a difficult choice placed before some of you. The Latino Basketball Tournament was the springboard for this sermon. But this applies to everyone whether you are Latino or not. I don’t bring this up in order to make your lives more difficult. I bring this up because I love you as your spiritual father in Jesus Christ. I care about your soul. I care so much that I am willing to stand up here and tell you this even when I know that some of you will reject what I have to say. I know that some of you may even go to another parish because the message there is easier.

Well, my dear ones in Christ, the way is narrow that leads to eternal life. There is no such thing as an easy Christian faith. If you want easy, go ahead. You can probably find a priest somewhere who will tell you whatever it is you want to hear. If not, you can make up your own religion and add to the 40,000+ splinters of the Christian faith that are already out there. I may not always tell you what you want to hear, but by now I think you know that I will speak the truth to you because I respect you. The truth will set you free. Jesus Christ is the Truth and He has said that the Truth will set you free. With freedom comes responsibility. We are free when we obey God’s law.

And so I ask you this day to commit to making Sundays a holy day every week. I also want to ask you to boycott the Oregon Latino Basketball Tournament because the organizers have scheduled this event during the most holy time of the year for Catholics. Please do not participate in this event. I say this with love as your spiritual father because you are so precious to God and His commandments are the way to eternal life. Which way will you choose? Will it be sports or God? 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Liturgical Muzak Concert and Workshop in Bend, OR

I was appalled interested to see the following blurb in the Diocesan bulletin in the “Parish News” section:

Catholic Composer, author, and workshop presenter David Haas will present an evening concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 8 and liturgy workshop Saturday, March 9 from 8:30-2:30 at St. Francis Church in Bend [Oregon]. A few of Haas’ well known songs are “You Are Mine,” “Blest Are They,” and “We Will Rise Again.”

Actually, I have no problem with these people bringing in David Haas for a “concert”; there’s no accounting for personal taste, after all. I do wish they would hold the concert in the parish hall rather than the church itself, though; that kind of “worship” music really does not qualify as sacred liturgical music, and so shouldn’t be presented in a church setting. The proof is in the pudding, indicated by this addendum:

People involved in all ministries from all faiths are welcome to attend.

How very ecumenical. There are probably people from “all faiths” who like that music, largely because there’s not very much authentically Catholic about those tunes. So let them all join the fun, but let’s not pretend that it’s the sacred liturgical music of the Catholic Church.

So it’s not the concert, but rather the “liturgical workshop” that bothers me. To my mind, the composer of “pop” worship music has no business conducting such a workshop. For one thing, his music has no place in liturgical worship!

In our Diocese, far-flung as it is, with little communication between parishes, there are different modes of “worship music” being used, but mostly things are pretty sad, with plenty of piano and guitar accompaniment, and the occasional tambourine thrown in for good measure. In the “Spanish” Masses, there’s often a tendency toward mariachi band music, or just the use of what seems to be the standard Hispanic hymnal, “Flor y Canto”.

I know of at least three priests who are trying to improve the quality – and liturgical correctness – of the music used at their parishes. One priest went on a quest to find something to replace “Flor y Canto” in his largely Hispanich parish; I do not know whether he was successful. Another priest replaced the standard OCP fare with a “The St. Michael Hymnal”. Still another is implementing training of the “choirs” in his cluster of parishes to sing the “Gloria” that is included in the new Roman Missal.

That last development brings us to another point: the “new translation” implemented in Advent of 2011 brought us a new edition of the Roman Missal which includes more music than any other previous edition. The intent of the bishops was clearly to induce the priests and the faithful to “sing the Mass”, rather than to “sing AT Mass”. As I’ve noted before, prior to the implementation of the new translation, the USCCB’s website promotion of the changes stated (my emphases):

[The Church] has been blessed with this opportunity to deepen its understanding of the Sacred Liturgy, and to appreciate its meaning and importance in our lives… [T]he parish community should be catechized to receive the new translation.  Musicians and parishioners alike should soon be learning the various new and revised musical settings of the Order of Mass.

That did not happen in our diocese. Oh yes, there was some “training”, almost after the fact, but it did not emphasize singing the Mass, nor were the musical settings of the Order of Mass given much attention. The main thing that happened throughout the diocese was that cards were placed in the pews with the new words people needed to learn for the Gloria etc., but there was no mention that we should be changing our liturgical music habits as well. And we didn’t.

There was an attempt in our Diocese by the Society of St. Gregory the Great to bring the idea of “singing the Mass” to our parishes. The Society is a membership association of Catholic laity formed in 2008 to promote divine worship in accordance with the Supreme Magisterium of the Church.  Though it’s been somewhat squelched by the powers-that-be, the Society, for a time, had its own schola cantorum, and regularly sponsored presentations and workshops on the Sacred Liturgy, Gregorian chant, and sacred polyphony. This isn’t happening currently…and sadly.

Without the leadership and direction of the bishop, there will not be uniform changes to the liturgical music used in a diocese. Across the US, there have been some bishops who took action toward catechizing the faithful about the music: Bishop Thomas Olmsted in the Diocese of Phoenix; Bishop Joseph B. McFadden of the Diocese of Harrisburg; and Bishop Alexander Sample of the Diocese of Marquette (and, please God, he may bring new life to liturgical reform in the Archdiocese of Portland when he takes on his new assignment!). I’m sure (at least I hope) there are others, as well. But not here.

Here, in the Diocese of Baker, we see those few priests already mentioned struggling against the OCP pop music tide; but then we find that the pastor of a large and influential parish (where a new church seems to be supplanting the Cathedral as a place for ordinations) is promoting exactly the kind of music other priests are trying to eschew. Lord help us!

Although Bishop Vasa did address some liturgical abuses through his pastoral letters when he was our bishop, he did not do much about the music. (Of course, he was transferred to Santa Rosa before the New Translation was instituted, so I don’t know what he might have done with that.) When Bishop Vasa came to the Cathedral for Christmas, Easter, and the Chrism Mass, he would often chant the preface and some other parts of the Mass. It was always a startling disconnect to hear him intone a prayer only to have it followed by a country western version of a sung response be the people, complete with tambourine-jangling and upbeat guitar-strumming. I always wondered why either he or the “folk group” did not hear the discontinuity and adjust for it!

When, oh when, will priests and bishops recognize and respond to the facts that a) Gregorian chant has pride of place in the Mass; b) the organ has pride of place in the Mass; c) Gregorian chant propers (and ordinaries) are the preferred music – in particular the text of those chants – for the Mass? The few bishops who have provided leadership in this area give me hope, but I am tempted to despair when I look at the Diocese of Baker.

“Save the liturgy, save the world”, says Fr. Z. If bishops all over the country don’t start to understand this and do something about it, things are going to get worse and worse in the world.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bishop Paprocki Speaks Out Again

This is a great message from Bishop Paprocki:

Winter in Eastern Oregon

This winter, I felt (for a few weeks, at least) like I was living on an iceberg. We had a long cold snap that kept a solid layer of ice under a thin covering of snow, and it just stayed cold. Low and high daily temperatures both well below freezing for weeks at a time, just gets old. It's warmed up a bit lately, but it's still way to early to hope for spring here. 

But there's always the beauty to comfort us! God's majesty is so evident in His creation...and all we have to do is look out the window.

Here are some of my favorite winter pictures of this year.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

St. Philothea of Athens

February 19 is the feast day of St. Philothea of Athens.

She’s an Orthodox saint, so you won’t find her listed on any Latin rite calendars.  I discovered her several years ago; I was so enamored of St. Francis de Sales’ Philothea that I decided to look for a saint by that name. I found St. Philothea of Athens, and later discovered St. Philothea of Argesh, patron saint of Romania.

Here is the story of St. Philothea of Athens, gleaned from several websites (noted below):

The monastic martyr Philothea was born in Athens, Greece, and was given the name Revoula Benizelos; some sources say she was born in 1522, some in 1528. Whatever the date, she came into the world during the Turkish occupation. Her parents, Syriga and Angelos, possessed both material and spiritual wealth, and were recognized as deeply devout. Syriga prayed for many years that God would grant her a child, and her prayer was answered.

Though she was a prayerful child given to ascetic practices, she was also a wealthy heiress, and was sought after by noblemen. At the age of twelve, little Revoula was betrothed to a nobleman against her will, but she consented to marry him to please her parents. Her husband was brutally abusive toward her, but he died after three years of marriage. After her husband's death, Revoula returned to her parents' home for ten years, until they both died. During this ten-year period, she lived as a hermitess in her parents' home, leading a life of prayer and fasting.

After her parents’death, Revoula built a convent for women, and dedicated it to St. Andrew, who had given her the design for the monastery in a vision. She took monastic vows under the name Philothea, which means, friend of God; and she, her own maidservants, and many young women of the city, became the first nuns there.

Among other things, Philothea founded schools in Athens, protected women from Turkish abductions and conversion to Islam, and cared for the poor and the sick. She was so free in her almsgiving that more than once the monastery was left without food or other necessities of life, and the sisters began to complain about her. But each time, large donations appeared unexpectedly and saved the community from starvation.

Due to the Turkish occupation, many Athenians had been made slaves of their conquerors. Philothea did all she could to free her fellow countrywomen, ransoming many from servitude. Once, four women ran away from their Turkish masters, who had demanded that they renounce their Christianity, and took refuge in the monastery established by Philothea. The angry Turks surrounded the monastery, seized Philothea, and brought her before the judge. She refused to deny Christ as they demanded, and was sentenced to death; but some influential Athenian Greeks intervened on her behalf and obtained her release.

Relics of St. Philothea
 in Athens cathedral
Philothea, after this experience, redoubled her prayers, her apostolic labors, and her works of mercy, and was soon granted the gift of working miracles and healings. She founded a new monastery in Patesia, a suburb of Athens; here, she struggled in asceticism with the sisters.
During the Vigil for St. Dionysius the Areopagite, the Turks, angered by her increasing influence, again seized St. Philothea and tortured her. Finally, they threw her down on the ground half-dead. The sisters tearfully brought the holy martyr, flowing with blood, to Kalogreza, where she died on February 19, 1589. Shortly thereafter, the relics of the holy Monastic Martyr Philothea were brought to the Athens cathedral church.

Twenty years after her repose, a beautiful scent began to issue from her tomb. Her precious relics, venerated at the Cathedral in Athens, remain incorrupt to this day.

It seems to me that St. Philothea’s story should inspire us as we consider what we are up against in our society today. We may not have Turks occupying our country, but the godless government that is trampling on our rights and trashing our Constitution is not much better. And persecution is coming, we’ve been told, by cardinals and bishops. In fact, persecution is here, but has not yet become bloody.

At any rate, let us hope that all of us – laity and clergy alike – may be as persistent in our service to the poor, as strong in our defense of the defenseless, and as steadfast in our faith as was this martyr saint.

St. Philothea, pray for us!

The websites from which I took this information are located herehere, and here.