Thursday, March 28, 2013

Holy Thursday: Foot-Washing Fiasco

I have a post about the Holy Thursday foot-washing rite over at Catholic Stand today. It's a revision of the post I did last year on the same topic. Here are the opening paragraphs: I noted in a comment, Catholic Stand opted not to publish my article, so I'm pasting the rest of it in down below. You can now read the whole thing right here!

One of the most egregious, widespread, and commonly accepted liturgical abuses in the Church will take place on Holy Thursday: all over the US, as parish after parish struggles to make sure they can be considered “inclusive”, priests will wash the feet of women and children during the Holy Thursday Mass.

It’s bad enough that in many parishes, women’s feet are washed. The washing of the feet is directly linked to the male-only priesthood; the Mass on Holy Thursday has as its focus the institution of the Priesthood. At the Last Supper, Our Lord washed the feet of the apostles, all of whom were male. That was no accident. Washing women’s feet, just to be inclusive, sends the wrong message and a wrong teaching about the Holy Thursday Mass.

The washing of children’s feet, I maintain, trivializes the rite. I say this, NOT because I think children are unimportant. I do not think that at all. But when you involve children in just about anything that is generally done by adults, it becomes merely “cute”. Children are unpredictable: they giggle, they squirm, they say funny things, and they are often just plain adorable.

That’s all well and good, and I enjoy children’s innocent antics as much as the next person. But that’s not what the ceremony of the washing of the feet is about.

When 12 adult men have their feet washed, they look uncomfortable. I think that’s appropriate. Don’t you think the apostles were uncomfortable with it? Didn’t Peter even try to refuse to have his feet washed?! It is a humbling experience to have one’s feet washed by anyone, let alone a priest, who is an alter Christus. And it is a humbling experience for the foot-washer as well – as it should be.

Twelve men having their feet washed by the bishop becomes a serious rite, one with meaning, symbolism, and significance. It becomes a mystical experience for all concerned. It is not “cute”, and it was never intended to be.

This standard response that “the USCCB says it’s okay” is probably familiar to all who have ever voiced an objection to including women and/or children in the washing of the feet. In fact, a couple of years ago, I was told exactly that when I complained to the bishop that the feet of twelve children were to be washed at the Holy Thursday Mass. My objections were summarily dismissed because, “Oh, that happens in many places in the US. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s an effort to be more inclusive.”

To the pastor  of souls who employs this kind of thinking, I might point out that, in the interest of: a) "pastoral prudence", "evangelical charity" and avoiding "divisiveness" (and all those other buzzwords bishops are wont to bandy about); and b) fulfilling the promise of obedience to the Holy Father he made on the day of his own episcopal ordination (not to mention Vatican II's Sacrosanctum Concilium n. 22[1] and Canon 838[2]); it would behoove him to do what the Church obviously intends. Anything else merely demonstrates that he thinks he is the master and not the servant of the Sacred Liturgy – that the liturgy is his personal plaything, to be made and shaped according to his personal whims.

In February 1987, the USCCB claimed, via the Chairman of the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy, that the washing of feet is merely an act of charity, and thus may properly include both men and women. It took a little less than a year for the Vatican to issue a corrective document entitled Paschales Solemnitatis which said (emphasis added):

The washing of the feet of chosen men which, according to tradition, is performed on this day [Holy Thursday]... This tradition should be maintained, and its proper significance explained.

Since this document was published, there has been nothing new from the Vatican that might indicate a change in “policy”.

Here’s the bottom line: The Lord washed the feet of the men he was about to make priests at the Eucharist, so this act is intimately connected to the priesthood. The Holy Thursday Mass commemorates and re-enacts that act. The rubrics and documents that regulate this rite state that only men are to have their feet washed; that only a priest or bishop should do the washing; and that it is only the feet that are to be washed. When some other variation is done, it confuses the faithful and dilutes the meaning of the rite. Such variations constitute a grave abuse because they detract from the sacred character of the priesthood instituted by Christ Himself. 

[1] SC 22. (1) Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See, and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.
(2) In virtue of power conceded by law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of bishops' conferences, legitimately established, with competence in given territories.
(3) Therefore no other person, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.

[2]Can. 838 ß1 The ordering and guidance of the sacred liturgy depends solely upon the authority of the Church, namely, that of the Apostolic See and, as provided by law, that of the diocesan Bishop.
ß2 It is the prerogative of the Apostolic See to regulate the sacred liturgy of the universal Church, to publish liturgical books and review their vernacular translations, and to be watchful that liturgical regulations are everywhere faithfully observed.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Concelebration on Good Friday...Not

Re-post from last year:

...Let’s consider another issue that seems to come up with some regularity: “concelebration” at Good Friday's Liturgy of the Lord's Passion. 

Last year, Fr. Z featured this question from a reader of his blog:

There is a big debate happening among some of us concerning the vesture for the Liturgy of the Passion on Good Friday. On one side the camp, there is the argument that ALL priests in attendance should vest in chasuble, as if for Mass. I am in the camp that argues that there is no need for that, since there is precisely NO Mass. Hence, the “celebrant” only needs to vest while the others can be as in choro. I see that the Liturgy at the Vatican uses this model; while the liturgy at Westminster Cathedral preferred the former….  What say you?

Fr. Z’s answer was concise:

It isn’t Mass.  There can’t be concelebrants in the same sense.  There seems to be no reason for anyone other than the sacred ministers immediately concerned with the ceremonies to be in sacred vestments.

Let all others be in choir dress.

Concelebration in the Roman Rite is limited to Mass. On Good Friday, there is no Mass – only a Liturgy of the Word, a Liturgy of the Veneration of the Holy Cross, and a quasi-Liturgy of the Pre-sanctified Gifts...but no Mass per se: the bread and wine is not transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ (indeed, there is neither wine nor Precious Blood); it happened the night before at the Holy Thursday Mass.

Bishops and priests can also take their cue from St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican: despite the presence of numerous deacons, priests, monsignori, abbots, bishops, archbishops, cardinals - ONLY ONE is vested in sacred vestments: the Holy Father himself, as well as his deacons. Doesn’t it make sense to follow the Holy Father’s example – even if “this isn’t Rome”?

Fortunately, some places do get this right. Others - like the Archdiocese of Chicago - get the principle correct, but flub the application: "The liturgy for Good Friday makes no provision for any form of concelebration, since it is not Mass. Assisting ministers, however, including priests, may be vested." Right: it’s not Mass. Why, then, would other priests present at the celebration be vested as if for Mass?

The ignorance of attending clergy who attempt to "concelebrate" at a Good Friday Liturgy of the Lord's Passion is glaringly on display when they vest as if for Mass: alb and (at least) stole, if not also addition to the bishop or priest who is "presiding" at the day's Liturgy.  

One priest I know admonishes his brother priests in this manner:

No, Father: if you're going to be in attendance at all (which, incidentally, is a good thing), the only appropriate attire is what the Church calls "proper choir dress": cassock/soutane and surplice (use of biretta is optional). If you don't have these requisites of priestly attire because you can't afford them (?), or are too lazy to acquire them, or you disdain wearing the proper vesture of a Roman Catholic cleric, then you have no place in the sacred Liturgy - either in the sanctuary, in the choir/chancel, or in the nave. If you're not willing to dress appropriately - according to the mind of the Church - in the vesture of a member of the clergy, then why did you accept ordination at all? - to do only those things you felt like doing?

Indeed, a priest, at his ordination, promises to celebrate the liturgies of the Church according to the Church’s tradition, not his own whim.  Note this passage from the Rite of Ordination of Priests:

124 After the homily, the elect alone rise and stand before the Bishop, who questions all of them together in these words:

Dear sons, before you enter the Order of the Priesthood, you must declare before the people your intention to undertake this office....


Do you resolve to celebrate faithfully and reverently, in accord with the Church’s tradition, the mysteries of Christ, especially the sacrifice of the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation, for the glory of God and the sanctification of the Christian people?

I do.

Case closed. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

CMTV: Dolan and the Dolanites

Thank God for the courageous and honest analysis of Michael Voris and ChurchMilitant.TV. In this Special Report, Michael Voris takes Cardinal Dolan to task for multiple offenses against the Church and Our Lord, including the Cardinal's latest escapade of allowing abortion-supporting Vice-President to receive Holy Communion at a Mass where the Cardinal was presiding.  

This report is not "bishop-bashing"; it is an act of charity. Our shepherds are held to higher accountability than we, the lay faithful.  It is time that some of them realize that their own actions are scandalous and perpetuate the crisis in the Church. Their own souls are at stake here. Pray for our bishops and priests. case you hadn't heard...Bishop Vasa has backed down on his requirement that teachers in Catholic schools in his diocese sign an affirmation of faith. Sigh.

Our Lady said to the children at Fatima: "Stop offending God, for He is already so much offended."

Prayer. Penance. 

The report includes this quote from St. John Eudes:

"The most evident mark of God's anger, and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world, is manifest when He permits His people to fall into the hands of a clergy who are more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than the charity and affection of devoted shepherds. They abandon the things of God to devote themselves to the things of the world and, in their saintly calling of holiness, they spend their time in profane and worldly pursuits. When God permits such things, it is a very positive proof that He is thoroughly angry with His people and is visiting His most dreadful wrath upon them." 

More prayer. More penance. 

May God have mercy on us.

Vortex: The Media, The Church, and The Agenda

Another good Vortex from yesterday, March 25.

I’ve presented some excerpts from the script; you can read the entire script here.

It’s always a wonder, nearly stupefying, how much ink is spilled and bytes exchanged in the digital world over any news about the Catholic Church.

And why is that? You almost never hear anything at all about the Baptists Church did this, or the Evangelical Council of whatever said that. But boy oh boy, the Catholic Church does ONE thing, and a swarm of media descend to cover it, report it, distort it, spin it, and so forth.

Why? Why does the media care SO MUCH about what happens with the Catholic Church…?

 …[W]hy continually talk about the Catholic Church while at the same time practically NEVER reporting on and virtually ignoring any other religion here in America? The majority of their audience is Protestant. The majority of them – the reporters and producers – are Protestant or at least not Catholic, so why the constant attention and discussion and non-stop talking heads chatter about the Pope or the Vatican and so forth?

Most of the coverage is either innocently incorrect or purposely distorted. So why the constant blabber? Could it be an effort to ASSURE irrelevancy? An effort to make the Church look bad, out of touch, out of date?

Well, sure it is. But why? If the Church is so out of date and out of touch and no one cares about – why report on it at all?

It is because the Catholic Church is founded on the Rock, and will not yield or bend or disintegrate or take one step back from truth. She will never give in – ever – and because of this She draws down upon Herself the real-world equivalent of the Eye of Mordor.

The world and its values , expressed through the media, hate the Catholic Church. Our Lord told us they would, so no great news there. But what Catholics must learn from all of this attention is the simple lesson that even the enemies of Christ admit His sovereignty – if even in a grudging way – by their nonstop attention…even if most of it is negative.

Our Blessed Lord established one Church – the Catholic Church. It, and it alone, has been fashioned by God to be the bulwark against evil because only it has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and ability to save, that outside of which there is no salvation.

Without admitting it – or even knowing it – even the media testifies to it.

And I would add that this use of the media to focus on and attempt to discredit the Catholic Church comes out of the playbook of the Socialist/Communist agenda. I think it’s probably in Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. The radical socialist/communist agenda is Satan-driven – hence the acknowledgement of and hatred for the Catholic Church.

If you haven’t watched this video before, I challenge you to do so soon...maybe after Holy Week. It’s an eye-opener. And no, I am not wearing a tin hat. The title is "Agenda: The Grinding Down of America". It's not produced by Catholics, so it doesn't address the Church as a target, but you'll get the point. Watch it here.

That little descriptor at the top says that "It's not just another conspiracy theory". The film's creator, Curtis Bowers (former Idaho state representative), explains that a conspiracy is something planned in secret. The Marxist/Communist movement, on the other hand, has always been very public about their plans; their goals are on public display in many books of their own writing. That's why Bowers calls it an "agenda" - it's a list of things to be accomplished.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Lenten Meditations and Prayers for Humility

Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despondency, lust of power, and idle talk.
But grant rather the spirit of chastity,
humility, patience, and love to thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother,
for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen

Litany of Humility

O Jesus meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
 deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled…
From the desire of being honored…
From the desire of being praised...
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted…
From the desire of being approved…
From the fear of being humiliated…
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes…
From the fear of being calumniated…
From the fear of being forgotten…
From the fear of being ridiculed…
From the fear of being wronged…
From the fear of being suspected…

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That in the opinion of the world,
others may increase, and I may decrease…
That others may be chosen and I set aside…
That others may be praised and I unnoticed…
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I become as holy as I should…

Abandonment Prayer - St. Francis Xavier

Little Girl Gets some Help From Divine Providence
I adore you, God the Father, who created me;
I adore you, God the Son, who redeemed me;
I adore you, O Holy Spirit, 
            who have so often sanctified me,
            and are still sanctifying me.
I consecrate to you my whole day 
            for the pure love of you,
            and for your greater glory.
I do not know what is to happen to me today,
            whether troublesome things 
            or pleasant ones,
            or whether I shall be happy or sad,
            in consolation or in grief.
It will all be as you please.
I abandon myself to your providence,

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday is Easter in Bud: Fr. Andersen

A homily by Fr. Eric Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, Oregon

March 22nd, 2013 Dominica in Palmis de Passione Domini

On the feast of the Epiphany, we commemorated the three Gentile kings who came to pay homage to the Infant who was King of the Jews. Today, the same King of the Jews is acknowledged by the Jews themselves. The Gospels tell us that in the end times, the Jews will acknowledge Christ as the Messiah. Today’s first Gospel, read before the blessing of palms, is a prefigurement of the end times, when the Jews hail Him as Messiah King just before He finishes His earthly mission. They do this holding palm branches. In the Old Testament, on the feast of Tabernacles, God commanded that His people take branches of palm trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows, along with ripe fruit, and rejoice. Holding palm branches in a procession is a sign of joy, so when the children of the Hebrews come out waving palm branches, it is a sign of joy. And there is a strange sense of joy on Palm Sunday. It is joy mixed with sorrow. We begin hailing the King of the Jews and we end by shouting out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him who called Himself the King of the Jews.”

Let’s return to this joy for a moment. We have been focusing on self-denial, repentance, sin, and God’s mercy through these forty days. In the Easter Season, we will recall to mind the gift of Baptism that gives new life through water and the Holy Spirit. Water is life-giving and we see that outside. Spring is in bloom. Nature is coming to life and as the flowers begin to bloom, the sun and the rain refresh them and nourish them with new life after a long winter. This Sunday has been historically called by the name of Pascha Floridum which means “Easter in bud,” about to burst forth in flower. The state of Florida got its name from Spanish explorers who discovered it on Palm Sunday in the year 1513, the day of Pascha Floridum, and named it Florida in honor of this great feast of Our Lord.  

Our souls are like those flowers which have waited out the long winter of salvation history. Our souls are like gardens filled with buds about to burst forth. The Father has determined the times and seasons and brought us to this springtime of great promise. Jesus is like the sun which lights our way and warms us. The Holy Spirit is like the rain which refreshes us and gives us life. So if today is Easter in bud, about to burst forth in bloom, then we need to take special care of these gardens which are our souls. We need to take special care that the buds do not wither before they have a chance to bloom. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Collect for Saturday of Passion Week

In general, I find all of the (extraordinary form) collects for the days of Passiontide edifying and inspirational. I particularly like the collect for Saturday of Passion Week:

Proficiat, quaesumus Domine,
plebs tibi dicata piae devotionis affectu:
ut sacris actionibus erudita,
quanto majestati tuae fit gratior,
tanto donis potioribus augeatur.

Let us pray
We beseech thee, O Lord,
may the people who are dedicated to Thee
advance in piety and devotion:
and instructed by these sacred rites,
may they abound in ever greater gifts,
as they become more pleasing
in the sight of Thy Majesty.

Friday, March 22, 2013

ChurchMilitant.TV Retreat at Sea Videos

ChurchMilitant.TV's "retreat at sea" has concluded, and the 14 conferences that were offered  during the course of the event were recorded and are available on DVD (go here to buy the set). 

CMTV premium subscibers will be able to watch the conferences as they are released weekly as part of CMTVprogramming - go here to become a premium subsciber.

Also, Conference #9 is available online for free right now, so I've embedded it here for your edification.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Pope Faces a Devastated Vineyard

This is a great homily from Fr. Michael Rodriguez for Passion Sunday. It’s long – almost 40 minutes – but important. I’ve summarized it below, but I know I haven’t done it justice. You’ll be greatly rewarded if you find time to listen to it in its entirety!

Fr. Rodriguez opens his homily by reading from the visions of Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich and her description of the sufferings Jesus will have to endure. There are four great sufferings Our Lord has to endure:

·          His own torture and death on the Cross
·         The sufferings of His Blessed Mother
·         The future sufferings of His Mystical Body, the Church
·         His own sufferings in the Blessed Sacrament

Our Lord’s awareness of these future sufferings made His experience all the more painful and sorrowful. Fr. Rodriguez draws particular attention to the description of the abuses Our Lord has to endure in the Blessed Sacrament – the offenses and outrages committed against Him there.

Here’s a sample – I’m not sure if Fr. Rodriguez actually read this section, but it at least gives the flavor of the vision (I found it here):

…Angels came and showed Him, in a series of visions, all the sufferings that He was to endure in order to expiate sin; how great was the beauty of man, the image of God, before the fall, and how that beauty was changed and obliterated when sin entered the world...

The soul of Jesus beheld all the future sufferings of His Apostles, disciples, and friends; after which He saw the primitive Church, numbering but few souls in her fold at first, and then in proportion as her numbers increased, disturbed by heresies and schisms breaking out among her children, who repeated the sin of Adam by pride and disobedience. He saw the tepidity, malice, and corruption of an infinite number of Christians, the lies and deceptions of proud teachers, all the sacrileges of wicked priests, the fatal consequences of each sin, and the abomination of desolation in the kingdom of God, in the sanctuary of those ungrateful human beings whom He was about to redeem with His blood at the cost of unspeakable sufferings. The scandals of all ages, down to the present day and even to the end of the world — every species of error, deception, mad fanaticism, obstinacy, and malice — were displayed before His eyes...

Fr. Rodiguez devotes the second part of his homily to three topics: 1) obedience, love, and prayer for our new Holy Father; 2) the grave crisis in the Church today; and 3) the importance of each of us making reparation for sins.

On the first point, Fr. Rodriguez notes that all Catholics are required to pledge obedience to our new Pope, to try to grow in love for him, and to pray and sacrifice for him. Why? Because of our love for Our Lord Jesus Christ; the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, and so we have a unique love, obedience, and devotion to him.

However, this obedience and love takes place in a context: we are required to obey God’s Commandments and the Traditions of the Church. As the Vicar of Christ, the Pope also stands for these things – he is not separate from them.

The second point in Father’s sermon is the fact that the main issue in the Church today is the grave crisis in which we find ourselves. While we should certainly have joy in the election of a new Holy Father, we must not lose sight of the fact that there is a crisis. The vineyard of the Lord is devastated: there is a loss of faith, of a sense of  the supernatural. The new Pope is being called to correct the crisis.

Cardinals, bishops, and others are offering many commentaries on the new Pope, but, says Fr. Rodriguez, “not too many are weeping over the wounds of Holy Mother Church and everything she is suffering.” We need to pray for the Pope because he has his work cut out for him. “In practically every parish in the world, the Catholic faith has been lost and lessened.”

The evidence of the devastation is the fact that Church dogma and doctrine are not being taught any longer. Fr. Rodriguez offers a list of the truths that seem to have gone missing:

·         Extra ecclesiam nulla salus – outside the Church there is no salvation
·         Christ must reign in both private and public life
·         The authority of the Pope, not “collegiality”, is a supreme authority
·         The sanctity of marriage
·         The sanctity of life (sinfulness of abortion and artificial contraception)
·         Belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist

What sense is there in talking about the election of the new Pope if we don’t acknowledge the reality of the crisis, and recommit ourselves to fight for our Catholic identity and the truths taught by the Church? According to news reports, says Fr. Rodriguez, the vast majority of cardinals seem to use as their priority for selecting a pope, the likelihood that he would deal with the reform of a corrupt Roman Curia – all the while expressing the notion that more collegiality is needed.

Fr. Rodriguez contends that there is corruption in the Roman Curia because of the loss of faith. Why point solely to the Roman Curia? he asks. Shouldn’t these cardinals be thinking about their own diocesan curia back home? The same devastation of faith that seems to be taking hold of the Roman Curia exists in every diocese in the world.

Cardinals, suggests Fr. Rodriguez, should make every effort to bring about reform and restoration of the faith in their own backyard. They should make sure their priests are preaching the truths of the faith. It is hypocritical to talk about corruption in the Roman Curia without also talking about the corruption in dioceses everywhere.

Fr. Rodriguez uses this loose analogy: the foundation of the Church is Peter – the rock. A false foundation has been laid in the post-conciliar period; it’s supposed to be “new” and “better”, but this new foundation is cracked and falling down. The Church doesn’t need collegiality, he concludes. The Church needs “greater love, fidelity, respect, honor, and prayer for the Vicar of Christ. The Church needs a rock-solid papacy.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ gave the keys to the Kingdom to Peter and his successors; he didn’t make 12 sets and give one set to each of the Apostles; he didn’t break up the one key and divide it amongst them. When it comes to dogma, “collegiality” is only one small part; the greater part is the papacy.

In all the hoopla about the election of the new pope – which is a good thing – we must not lose sight of the devastation in the vineyard. And that brings us to the third point: reparation. 

Fr. Rodriguez returned to the point that we must look to ourselves and not just point fingers at the Roman Curia. Bishops and priests must pay attention to and make reparation for abuses going on in their own dioceses and parishes. And the laity too must make reparation.

The two areas where the abuses are most rampant and dangerous are in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in the attitude toward the Eucharist. Fr. Rodriguez reminds us of the beginning of his homily, where he read from the vision of Venerable Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich, in which she describes the horrible abuses of the Sacrament that Jesus Christ must suffer. He exhorts us to make reparation for the abuses that occur in the liturgy and against the Blessed Sacrament by being more reverent in our own actions. He suggests that we offer our Holy Communion for all those who are receiving unworthily, and for other sacrileges that are being committed against the Eucharist.

We should also pray for the restoration of the Traditional Latin Mass, Father reminds us.
Fr. Rodriguez mentions the sermon in which Pope Francis said he was dreaming of a Church that is poor, and that is for the poor. While acknowledging that that is an admirable thought and sentiment, Fr. Rodriguez notes that he himself would dream of and long for a Church that seeks the Glory of God above all things, and the salvation of poor souls; and insofar as poverty is a powerful means to achieve that, so be it.

And in the TLM, Fr. Rodriguez maintains, that is what the Church is doing: give glory to God and saving souls. Those are the goals of the Traditional Mass. The Novus Ordo, on the other hand, he says, “was not fabricated with those goals in mind. The motivation was active participation of the faithful, and an effort not to offend non-Catholics.” With these motivations, we cannot expect the Novus Ordo to achieve what the TLM can achieve, even when the NO is said with reverence and devotion.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Passion Sunday Homily (Belated): Give Pope a Chance!

A homily from Mass in the Extraordinary Form for Passion Sunday:

The scene from today’s Gospel passage takes place in Jerusalem, in the Temple precincts.

Jesus is approaching the end of his three-year ministry, and the dark clouds of persecution have appeared in the sky: His enemies have already tried to kill him at least once.

He and His disciples have departed Jerusalem for Galilee, because things were getting a little too hostile. 
When the feast of Tabernacles approached, Jesus’ disbelieving cousins – James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas – encourage Him to return to Judea (where Jerusalem is located), “so that your disciples may see the works you are doing”, as they put it. “No one works in secret if he wants to be known publicly. If you do these things, manifest yourself to the world.”
Eventually He does go up to Jerusalem, secretly, arriving halfway through the week-long feast. He heads directly for the Temple, and there begins to teach. And immediately His teaching causes consternation: his hearers “were amazed and said, ‘How does he know scripture without having studied?’” So He didn’t graduate from a recognized yeshiva, a seminary! Horrors!
Then Jesus confronts His critics directly on their accusation that He couldn’t be from God because He “broke the Sabbath”: He had healed the paralytic at Jerusalem’s Pool of Bethesda . . . on the Sabbath!

Jesus said to the Jews: “Why are you trying to kill me?” [i.e., capital punishment by stoning]  The crowd answered, “You are possessed! [i.e., insane] Who is trying to kill you?” Jesus answered and said to them, “I performed one work and all of you are amazed because of it. 

“Moses gave you circumcision...and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man can receive circumcision on a Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I made a whole person well on a Sabbath? Stop judging by appearances, but judge justly.”

The problem with the Scribes and the Pharisees – the legal and religious leaders of the Jews – was that they didn’t have a “pigeonhole” in which to fit this upstart from Galilee. He wasn’t of the priestly tribe, he wasn’t known to be a student of any of the recognized rabbinical schools, and yet here He was – in the TEMPLE!!! – presuming to teach the people. Just who did He think He was?!?

No doubt they had heard the tales of his teaching and miracles in Galilee – including the claims that He had cured lepers, expelled demons, gave sight to a man who had blind from his birth, and even raised the dead (!) – and were both skeptical and jealous of His increasing popularity with the people, who regarded Him as a prophet. In the process, they had closed the ears of their hearts to the voice of God, to what the Holy Spirit was doing in their midst.

Jesus said to the Jews: “Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God.”

And so they realized that He was becoming a threat to the status quo: to their own stature among the people. They had to find some plausible way of accusing Him of sin, of publicly discrediting Him...and, if necessary, of getting rid of Him once and for all.

“Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”

This phenomenon is not something that happened just two thousand years ago. It is not something that happened solely to Our Lord. It has continued to happen over and over again.

Did not Our Lord warn The Twelve at the Last Supper:

John 15:18.   “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”

While it is not difficult to apply these words to ourselves as the victims of persecution, it is perhaps more challenging to consider whether or not we ourselves have taken on the role of the persecutors. Jesus’ enemies repeatedly tried to pigeonhole Him, and when they couldn’t find a convenient category to which to consign Him and thus to dismiss Him, they sought to discredit him...and eventually killed Him.

Are there people whose words and actions defy our own preconceived “pigeonholes”? What is our reaction or response to someone who thinks, speaks, and acts outside our own frame of reference? Are we attentive to the possibility that the Holy Spirit might be challenging us – as It challenged the Scribes and Pharisees – to consider anew that the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-merciful, all-just God of the universe is not bound by the fallible constructions of limited, human thought?

This past week the cardinal electors chose His Eminence, Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, as the 266th Successor to the Prince of the Apostles, Bishop of Rome, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, and Vicar of Christ. Within seconds of the announcement from the balcony of the loggia of St Peter’s Basilica, the five thousand accredited journalists gathered in Rome began sending their stories to their respective news outlets across the globe.

The initial reaction was surprise – the first Jesuit, the first non-curial cardinal, the first from the Americas, etc., etc. The most common adjective used to describe the pontiff-elect was “humility”.

And within hours critics on both sides of the political spectrum began digging for “dirt”: that he was anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-divorce; that as Jesuit provincial he was complicit in the kidnapping and torture of two of his priests, that he failed to fix the “dilapidated state of his clergy”; that he was lukewarm to implement Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 Apostolic Letter, Summorum Pontificum that lifted the restrictions on the offering of Mass in the older form, etc.

Ever since the white smoke was first seen rising from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel and the announcement “Habemus Papam” was made, I have been asked repeatedly, from multiple sources both inside and outside the Diocese, some variation of the same question: “Will Pope Francis suppress the Latin Mass?” And to all, I give the same answer: “I don’t know.”

The only information I have is what I read on the Internet, which I’ve learned long ago to take with a very large grain of salt. What I’ve seen is replete with speculation, innuendo, prognostications, and rumors . . . but very short on facts. In sum, I find insufficient data to make any reasonable assessment or prediction in this regard.

Nevertheless, our obligation as Catholic Faithful is first and foremost to be ever more open to the working of the Holy Spirit, conforming our minds and our hearts to Our Lord.

“Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God.

Do we “belong to God”? Do we hear the words of God speaking to our hearts at every moment? Or have we – like the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day – already decided in our hearts what God is permitted to say and not say, what His servants are permitted to do and not do?

Of course, God is never ‘yes’ one moment, and ‘no’ the next, as St. Paul tells us. Not even a pope can teach something that contradicts Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. But in the ordering of the life of believers there have always been, from time to time, some aspects of ecclesiastical governance that have been necessarily refined or corrected in order that the purity of the Gospel may shine more brightly in a world that sits in darkness, in the shadow of death.

Every vocation – every authentic calling from God – has its own charism. Every newlywed husband and wife, for example, soon realizes that, although the charism of “husband-ness” and “wife-ness” is conferred in the administration of the sacrament, it takes time and effort for the humanness of the individual to conform itself to the grace of the vocation.

So also is it with the vocation to the Petrine ministry, to the papacy. Cardinal Bergoglio will need the space of time to conform himself to the grace of his new vocation as the Successor to St. Peter, as the Vicar of Christ. Give him that space, give him the support of your prayers and sacrifices. Be not quick to judge him for not conforming to preconceptions of what he ought to do or not do. Rather, show yourselves as “belonging to God”, eager to hear the words of God.