Monday, October 25, 2010

My First Homilies

Second Theology at the NAC means the beginning of Homily Pratica. I finally get the opportunity to try my hand at writing some homilies and delivering them to small groups for feedback. It's a great system, I think, and one that really sharpens a seminarians skills for the real deal. I find myself enjoying it rather well!

A few people, knowing that I've begun working on my homilies, have asked to see what I've written. I've decided to go one step further and put some of my favorites in the form of a podcast. I'm rather new at this, so I'm just slapping them together until I get the hang of the program that I'm using on my Mac. So, my apologies for any fuzzinesses in the recordings, or other amateurish mistakes.

Anyway, today I'm posting one of my first homilies (it's actually my fourth). It is for Thursday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time - that's Thursday, October 21st, 2010. The gospel is from Luke 12: 49 - 53. Listen to it and tell me what you think.

Oh you can access this podcast on an RSS Reader. Here's my blog's feed url:

Just type this in when you want to subscribe to an RSS feed, and you should be able to listen to it. It worked for me, anyway.



Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Great Prayer in Honor of St. Paul

Here's a great prayer that my parish is using in connection with our special study on the Pauline Epistles for the Year of St. Paul. The prayer was composed initially by the Diocese of Harrisburg, PA, but we liked it so much that we adopted it for use here at St. John, Westminster. It's a really great prayer that touches on a lot of the major themes Paul writes about in his letters. I hope you like it!

Prayer for the Year of St. Paul

God our Father, source of mercy and truth,
through the preaching of St. Paul the Apostle,

You teach us and deepen our faith.

Grant that we may follow St. Paul's example
and grow in holiness.
Strengthen us to continually turn
our hearts and minds to You.

Enliven us to live by the Spirit
in faith, hope, and charity.
Inspire us to hand on to others
what we have received from You.

Fortify us to pour out ourselves
and serve You with humility and compassion.
Move us to unite ourselves
to the sufferings of Christ, that we may
die with Him in order to rise with Him.

Help us to trust that nothing
can separate us from Your love.

Direct us to seek only the things of heaven
so that after running the race
and fighting the good fight,
we might share the crown of glory
promised to those who love You.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
Saint Paul the Apostle, pray for us.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Little Diversion - Thoughts from Rome on Proper "Ars Celebrandi"

While letting issues of greater depth and importance stew in my mind, I'll give you all a little diversion to occupy you in the meanwhile. Not to say that what I have to say now isn't something worthy of focused meditation and serious consideration. What I have here is a little article, published recently in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, The Roman Observer, and translated by the NLM (I should start paying royalties for all I borrow from them). Thanks again to Gregor Kollmorgen.

As you read this article, even though you may be neither a priest nor seminarian, reflect yourself on your own experience of Sunday Mass. Think about your most "satisfying" experience of Mass, and ask yourself why it was such. What about moved you to greater Faith and Love of God and His Son Jesus, but most of all, what about it moved you to a greater appreciation and devotion of His Real Presence in the Eucharist. Compare that with the article, and maybe post a comment telling me what you think. I hope this article really inspires and clarifies for you all the purpose of Liturgy, and why the manner in which it is celebrated is of utmost importance. I plan to address this question in greater detail as soon as things quiet down in my life, as it is for me a question of great importance.

That said, I hope you find this article enlightening. All emphasis belongs to Gregor Kollmorgen and The New Liturgical Movement. Enjoy:

The Art of Celebrating the Liturgical Service

A reflection in the light of the teaching of the Church

By Nicola Bux

In order to celebrate the liturgical service with art, the priest must not resort to mundane artifices but focus on the truth of the Eucharist. The General Instrucion of the Roman Missal states: "A priest also ... when he celebrates the Eucharist, ... must serve God and the people with dignity and humility, and by his bearing and by the way he says the divine words he must convey to the faithful the living presence of Christ." The priest does not make up anything, but with his service he must render as well as possible to the eyes and ears, but also to the touch, taste and scent of the faithful, the sacrifice and thanksgiving of Christ and of the Church, whose tremendous mystery may be approached by those who have cleansed themselves from sins. How can we draw near to Him if we do not have the feeling of John the precursor: "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3, 30)? If we want the Lord to walk with us, we have to recover this awareness, otherwise we deprive our act of devotion of efficacy: the effect depends on our faith and our love.

The Priest Is Not Master of the Mysteries

The priest is minister, not master, administrator of the mysteries: he serves them, and does not use them to project his own theological or political ideas and his own image, to the point that the faithful become focused on him rather than look to Christ Who is signified by the altar and present on the altar, and high upon the cross. As the Holy Father recently warned, the culture of the image in the worldly sense marks and conditions also the faithful and the shepherds. The Italian television, as a comment to this discourse, showed a concelebration in which some priests were talking on the mobile phone. From the manner of celebrating Mass many things can be deduced: the chair of the celebrant in many places has decentralised cross and tabernacle, occupying the centre of the church, sometimes overtowering in importance the altar, ending up by resembling an episcopal cathedra, which in Eastern churches [Don Bux is also lecturer for comparative liturgy at the Ecumenical Institute of Bari - NLM] is outside of the iconostasis, to one side clearly visible. It was thus also with us before the liturgical reform.

The ars celebrandi consists in serving with love and fear the Lord: for this is expressed with kisses of the mensa and the liturgical books, bows and genuflections, signs of the cross and incensations of people and objects, gestures of offering and supplication, and the showing of the Evangeliary and of the Holy Eucharist.

Now, such a service and style of the priest celebrant or, as people love to say, the presider of the assembly - a term that leads to misunderstand the liturgy as a democratic act - can be seen from his preparing himself at vesting in the sacristy in silence and recollection for the great action that is preparing to do; from his going to the altar, which must be humble, not ostentatious, without indulging in looking to the right and left, almost as if to seek applause. Indeed, the first act is the bow or genuflection before the cross and the tabernacle, in short before the divine presence, followed by the reverent kiss of the altar and possibly by the incensation. The second act is the sign of the cross and the sober greeting of the faithful. The third one is the penitential act, to be made profoundly and with eyes lowered, while the faithful might kneel, as in the old rite - why not? - imitating the publican who pleased the Lord. The readings will be proclaimed as a word not of our own, thus with a clear and humble tone. Like the priest bows while asking for his lips and heart to be purified in order to worthily proclaim the Gospel, why could not the lectors do the same, if not visibly as in the Ambrosian rite, at least in their hearts? The voice will not be raised like in the streets, and a clear tone will be maintained for the homily, but a quiet and supplicatory one for the prayers, solemn if in song. The priest will compose himself bowed down to celebrate the anaphora still "with humble spirit and contrite heart."

The Eucharistic Wonder

He will touch the holy gifts with wonder and astonishment - the Eucharistic amazement about which John Paul II often talked - and with adoration, and the sacred vessels he will cleanse calmly and carefully, as so many fathers and saints call for. He will bow over the bread and the chalice in saying the consecrating words of Christ and while invoking the Holy Spirit at the supplication or epiclesis. He will elevate them separately fixing his gaze on them in adoration and then lowering it in meditation. He will genuflect twice in solemn adoration. He will continue with recollection and a tone of prayer the anaphora until the doxology, elevating the holy Gifts offering them to the Father. He will recite the Our Father with his hands raised and without holding others by the hand, because that is proper to the rite of peace. The priest will not leave the Sacrament on the altar to offer the sign of peace outside the sanctuary. Instead he will break the host solemnly and visibly, and then genuflect before the Eucharist and pray silently asking again to be freed from every unworthyness in order not to eat and drink his own condemnation and to be preserved for eternal life by the holy Body and precious Blood of Christ. Then he will present the Host to the faithful for communion, supplicating Domine non sum dignus, and bowed he will himself communicate first. Thus he will serve as an example to the faithful.

After communion there will be thanksgiving in silence, which better than sitting can be done standing as a sign of respect or kneeling, if possible, as John Paul II did until the end, with head bowed and hands joined; in order to ask that the gift received be for us a remedy for eternal life, as is being said while the sacred vessels are being purified. Many faithful are doing this and they are an example for us. The priest, after the final greeting and blessing, going the altar to kiss it, again lifts his eyes to the cross and bows, or genuflects to the tabernacle. Then he returns to the sacristy, recollected, without dissipating with glances and words with the grace of the mystery celebrated.

Thus the faithful will be helped to understand the holy signs of the liturgy, which is a serious matter, and in which everything has a meaning for the encounter with the mystery present.

Paul VI, in the instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium, recalls a central truth propounded by St. Thomas: "This Sacrifice, then, as the passion of Christ itself, even though it is offered for everyone, 'has no effect if not in those who unite thmesleves to the passion of Christ through faith and charity ... To them, still, it helps more or less according to the measure of their devotion'". Faith is a condition of participation in the sacrifice of Christ with all myself. In what consists the action of the faithful, different from the priest who consecrates? They, remembering, give thanks, offer and, conveniently disposed, communicate sacramentally. The most intense expression is in the response to the invitation of the priest shortly before the anaphora: "May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church."

Without faith and devotion of the priest there is no ars celebrandi and the participation of the faithful is not favoured, above all the perception of the mystery. Because to the Lord "are known ... [our] faith and devotion" (Roman Canon) which express themselves in the sacred gestures, bows, genuflections, hands joined, remaining kneeling. The lack of devotion in the liturgy impels many of the faithful to abandon it and dedicate themselves to secondary forms of piety, widening the gap between the one and the other.

Since the sacred liturgy is an act of Christ and the Church, not the result of our ability, it does not foresee a success which to applaud. The liturgy is not ours but his.

The Tradition of the Church

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum reminds the priest of his promise of at ordination, renewed from year to year during the Chrism Mass, to celebrate "devoutly and faithfully the mysteries of Christ for the praise of God and the sanctification of the Christian people, according to the tradition of the Church"(No. 31).

He is called upon to act in the person of Christ, he must therefore imitate Him in the supreme act of prayer and offering, and he must not deform the liturgy into a representation of his ideas, change and add anything whatsoever arbitrarily: "The Mystery of the Eucharist 'is too great for anyone to permit himself to treat it according to his own whim, so that its sacredness and its universal ordering would be obscured'."(Ibid., 11). The Mass is not the property of the priest or the community. The instruction abundantly expounds how Mass should be rightly celebrated, that is the ars celebrandi: seminarians first must learn it carefully so that they can implement it as priests.

Benedict XVI, in Sacramentum Caritatis devotes attention to the ars celebrandi (No. 38-42), understood as the art of celebrating properly, and makes of it the condition for active participation of the faithful: "The ars celebrandi is the fruit of faithful adherence to the liturgical norms in all their richness; indeed, for two thousand years this way of celebrating has sustained the faith life of all believers"(38). In the note 116 Propositio No 25 specifies that "An authentic liturgical action expresses the sacredness of the eucharistic mystery. This should be evident from the words and actions of the priest who celebrates, as he intercedes to God the Father both with the faithful and on their behalf." Then the exhortation recalls that "The ars celebrandi must foster a sense of the sacred and the use of outward signs which help to cultivate this sense, such as, for example, the harmony of the rite, the liturgical vestments, the furnishings and the sacred place" (40). Speaking of sacred art, it recalls the unity among altar, crucifix, tabernacle, ambo and chair (41): attention to the sequence which reveals the order of importance. Together with the image, the song must also serve to orient the understanding and the encounter with the mystery.

The bishop and the priest are called to express all this in the liturgy which is sacred and divine, in a manner that truly manifests the creed of the Church.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


I've been thinking a lot lately about hope. If you've been following my blog entries for the last couple of months, you may have noticed that I've been experiencing a rather rocky year, especially since the beginning of June. Plans have changed, sin has weighed me down, the struggles of the spiritual life on top of everything else has left me feeling burnt-out and exhausted. And through it all there have been times where I've just wanted to throw up my hands and say: "Forget about it! It's too hard to be a Christian any way!" Fortunately, God has kept such lines of thought from maturing into anything truly dangerous. He's always taken the time through it all to remind me that with Him - if I let Him do what He wishes - all things are possible.

I was deeply moved the other day reading an article about the cause for cononization of a certain French criminal in the Our Sunday Visitor. It was a rather controversial article, and indeed the man it is about is a very controversial figure. The article I speak of had dubbed this man the "saintly killer."

Jacques Fesch was born a Catholic, and even a devout one through his youth, but before long his family was broken to pieces over his not-so-devout father's adulterous escapades. Dissilusioned with his faith, Jacques quickly became an incorrigible juvenile delinquint. He was expelled from his school, and after getting his girlfriend, Pierrette, pregnant, married her at the young age of 21. He had a chance at a more dignified life, of cleaning up his act, when he was offered a position at his father's bank, but he soon found himself leaving that job, and eventually his wife and daughter, Veronique, to pursue a somewhat wild dream to sail away to the South Pacific. His parents would have not part in it, refusing to pay for a boat, leaving Jacques in desperate need of money. Turning to theft, he tried to rob a money changer, but couldn't pull off the heist. As he fled the scene, a police officer by the name of Jean Vergne tried to arrest him, but Jacques did the unthinkable. He pulled out his revolver and shot Vergne three times, killing him. Jacques was soon caught by the angry mob the rose up in response to the officer's shooting, was quickly tried, then sentenced to death.

So far you might be thinking "has the Church lost her mind? This isn't a saint! This guys a cold blodded killer!" And if this were the end of this man's story, I would agree with - and so would the Church for that matter. But there's more to it. After spending a year on death row openly mocking the Catholic faith of his lawyer, something happened very suddenly an unexpectedly on February night in 1955. Recorded in his journal, and quoted from the OSV article, his recounting of his conversion experience went like this:
" 'I was in bed, eyes open, relly suffering for the first time. It was then a cry burst from my breast, and appeal for help. Instantly, like a violent wind which passes over without anyone knowing where it comes from, the spirit of the Lord seized me by the throat. I had an impression of infinite power and kindness and, from that moment onward, I believed with an unshakeable conviction that has never left me.' "
And from that moment onward, Jacques Fesch lived and died in a state of grace. He even reconciled with his wife and daughter the night before he died. What makes this story so powerful is that God would not reject what society counts as a lost cause, an absolute evil, the scum of the earth. No matter how sick with sin, diseased in our hearts we may be, there is hope in Christ! There is great opposition to the canonization of this man, as you may be able to imagine, because of the potential mixed message it may send to society. But I think that the Church has never sent a more clear message about the great saving power of our God. We're in a world today that saps hope from every quarter. We see the media heaping upon our young women impossible demands about how they should look and act, leaving them feeling hopelessly inadequate, and somehow worthless; we see relativism and secularism draining us of our moral and spiritual convictions, reducing them to mere "opinions," instead of the absolute truths that they are; and we see desperate young people, confused, dissillusioned with life, reaching out for something, but finding only ashes in the vain, passing pleasures of this life... and how many of them end their lives so soon...?

That's why the Church needs a saint like Jacques Fesch, to show us that there is never such a thing as vain hope, so long as our hope is in Christ. He has won for us all the grace necessary to melt the heart of even the most hardened sinner, if only he (or she) opens that door in the tiniest bit. Let us pray for the cause of Jacques Fesch, and let us pray for a great abundance of the virtue of hope in our world. It's never too late to turn back to Him. Let us pray for those who seem lost in darkness, with little hope of finding the light again!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I was just reading a very interesting article today on the NLM by Italian journalist Gianluca Biccini. The interview was with Msgr. Guido Marini, the Pope's Master of Ceremonies, and was concerned principally with the recent change in the papal pallium to a style more continuous with what popes have worn in previous years. By its self, this article may not sound particularly interesting, like some ecclesiastical fashion piece, but upon a closer look (and one doesn't have to look too close to find it), its quickly apparent that this article, and indeed this whole change from one style pallium to another, has everything to do with the Holy Father's philosophy regarding liturgy. Gregor Kollmorgen, who posted the article on the NLM, says of this interview with Marini: "It may be considered a milestone in the pontificate of Benedict XVI in its liturgical aspects, since it fully and very publicly explains the motivations and reveals the programme behind the liturgical changes we have seen..." Indeed, the pontificate of Benedict XVI has been very interesting to watch in regard to the careful, but very clear and bold messages he has been sending to the Church throughout the world as to the proper practice of the liturgy, as well as the direction of its development. A very powerful message he is sending now, reminding all of the importance of "development in continuity" with the traditions of the Church.

I've here posted the full translation of the article, which I received from the NLM. As you read the article, pay close attention to what Msgr. Marini has to say about some of the Pope's "innovations" in regard to papal liturgies as of late. The rationale he gives is very interesting, and may begin to open the doors to the possibility of many of those "innovations" becoming full-fledge liturgical reforms in the near future. I hope you find the interview edifying. All emphases in bold italics are the Gregor Kollmorgen's.

From 29 June onwards the pallium worn by Benedict XVI for the solemn liturgical celebrations changes. The one which the Pope will use for the Mass of Saints Peter and Paul will be of the shape of a closed circle, with two end pieces that hang down in the middle of the chest and the back. The cut will be wider and longer, whereas the red color of the crosses which adorn it will be preserved. "This is the development of the Latin form of the pallium used up to John Paul II," explains the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations, Monsignor Guido Marini, explaining historical and liturgical reasons for the new insignia in this interview to "L'Osservatore Romano."

What are the elements of continuity and innovation compared to the past?

In light of careful studies, regarding the development of the pallium over the centuries, it seems that we can say that the long pallium crossed over the left shoulder was not worn in the West as from the 9th century onwards. Indeed, the painting in the Sacred Cave of Subiaco, dating back to ca. 1219 and representing Pope Innocent III with this type of pallium, seems to be a deliberate archaism. In this sense the use of the new pallium intends to meet two requirements: first of all to emphasize more strongly the continuous [organic] development which in an arch of more than twelve centuries this liturgical vestment has continued to have; in second place the practical [requirement], because the pallium used by Benedict XVI since the beginning of his pontificate and has led to several annoying problems from this point of view.

There remain differences between the papal pallium and the one which the Pontiff imposes on the archbishops?

The difference remains even in the current pallium. What will be worn by Benedict XVI from the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul onwards takes the form of the pallium used up to John Paul II, albeit in a larger and longer cut, and with the color red for the crosses. The different form of the papal pallium vis-à-vis the one of the metropolitans highlights the diversity of jurisdiction which is signified by the pallium.

Since a few months the pastoral staff that the Pope uses in [liturgical] celebrations has changed. What are the reasons for this choice?

The golden pastoral staff in the shape of a Greek cross - which belonged to Blessed Pius IX and was used for the first time by Benedict XVI in the celebration of Palm Sunday this year - is now used constantly by the Pontiff, who has thus decided to replace the silver one surmounted by a Crucifix, introduced by Paul VI and also used by John Paul I, John Paul II and by himself. This choice does not mean simply a return to the old way, but attests to a development in continuity, a rootedness in tradition that allows you to proceed in an orderly manner on the way of history. This pastoral staff, called "ferula," corresponds in fact in a more faithful way to the form of papal pastoral staff typical of Roman tradition, which has always been in the shape of a Cross without Crucifx, at least since the pastoral staff began to be used by the Roman Pontiffs. And then we must not forget also an element of practicality: the ferula of Pius IX is lighter and easier to handle than the pastoral staff introduced by Paul VI.

And the pastoral staff made by Lello Scorzelli for Pope Montini in the mid-sixties?

It remains available to the papal sacristy, along with so many objects that belonged to the predecessors of Benedict XVI.

The same goes for the choice of vestments worn by the Pope in the various celebrations?

Also in this case it must be said that the liturgical vestments chosen, as well as some details of the rite, intend to emphasise the continuity of the liturgical celebration of today with that which has characterised the life of the Church in the past. The hermeneutic of continuity is always the precise criterion by which to interpret the Church's journey in the time. This also applies to the liturgy. As a Pope cites in his documents Popes who preceded him in order to indicate continuity in the magisterium of the Church, so in the liturgical sphere a Pope also uses liturgical vestments and sacred objects of the Popes who preceded him to indicate the same continuity also in the Lex orandi. But I would like to point out that the Pope does not always use old liturgical vestments. He often wears modern ones. The important thing is not so much antiquity or modernity, as the beauty and dignity, important components of every liturgical celebration.

An example are the voyages in Italy and outside Italy, where the papal vestments are prepared by the local churches.

Of course. Just think of the one to the United States or to that in Italy, first to Genoa and then to Salento. In both cases it were the diocese who prepared the liturgical vestments of the Pope, in agreement with the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff. In the variety of styles and with attention to characteristic local elements, the criterion adopted was that of beauty and dignity, typical dimensions of the sacred action which takes place in the Eucharistic celebration.

At this point could you anticipate for us some particular liturgical aspect of the next international voyage?

I can say that the time of preparation was very fruitful and the collaboration found in Australia very cordial and ready. Pope Benedict XVI will meet once more young people from all over the world and we all pray that once again this meeting may be the cause of great grace for all, an opportunity to come to know with more intensity the face of Jesus and the face of the Church, a spur for a prompt and generous response to the Lord's call. The hope is that also the liturgical celebrations, prepared with care and really participated in because lived from the heart, may be privileged occasions for the reception of this grace.

What can you tell us about the high papal throne, used on occasions like the consistory, and abot the Cross which has been returned to the center of the altar?

The so-called throne, used in special circumstances, is simply meant to highlight the liturgical presidency of the Pope, the successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ. As for the position of the cross at the centre of the altar, it indicates the centrality of the Crucified [Lord] in the Eucharistic celebration and the correct orientation which the whole assembly is called to have during the Liturgy of the Eucharist: one does not look at each other, but we look to Him who was born, died and rose again for us, the Saviour. From the Lord comes the salvation, He is the East (Orient), the rising Sun to Whom we must all turn our gaze, from Whom we must all receive the gift of grace. The issue of liturgical orientation within the Eucharistic celebration, and also the practical way in which this takes shape, has great importance because with it is conveyed a fundamental fact which is at the same time theological and anthropological, ecclesiological and concerning the personal spirituality.

Is this also the criterion to understand the decision to celebrate at the ancient altar of the Sistine Chapel, on the occasion of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord?

Exactly. In circumstances where the celebration takes place in this way, this is not about turning the back to the faithful, but rather about orientating oneself together with the faithful towards the Lord. From this point of view "the door is not closed to the assembly", but " the door is opened to the assembly", leading it to the Lord. Particular circumstances can be found in which, because of the artistic circumstances of the sacred place and its unique beauty and harmony, it becomes desirable to celebrate at the ld altar, where among other things the correct orientation of the liturgical celebration is preserved. There should be no surprise: it suffices to go into St. Peter's in the morning and to see how many priests celebrate accoring to the ordinary rite which resulted from the liturgical reform, but on traditional altars and therefore oriented as the one of the Sistine Chapel. [NLM note: While the reference to particular artistic circumstances is made again, like it was at the interview in January when the Pope celebrated ad orientem for the first time in the Sistine Chapel, the excellent theological explanation which Mgr. Marini gives is really applicable to all liturgical celebrations. From this and from the reference to the normality of such celebrations in St. Peter's basilica, we may infer that this is another instance of Pope Benedict's modus operandi in small, innocuous steps, firmly pursuing the reorientation of the liturgy, but without causing upheaval.]

In the recent visit to Santa Maria di Leuca and to Brindisi, the Pope has distributed Communion to the faithful in the mouth while kneeling. Is this a practice destined to become habitual in the papal celebrations?

I really think so. In this regard it must not be forgotten that the distribution of Communion in the hand still remains, from a juridical point of view, an indult [i.e. an exception] to the universal law, granted by the Holy See to those bishops' conferences who have requested it. The manner adopted by Benedict XVI aims to underline the validity of the norm valid for the whole Church. In addition one could perhaps even see a preference for using this manner of distribution which, without taking away anything from the other [manner], better highlights the truth of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, helps the devotion of the faithful, and introduces [them] more easily to the sense of the mystery. These are aspects which, in our time, pastorally speaking, it is urgent to stress and recover.

What does the Master of Liturgical Celebrations respond to those who accuse Benedict XVI of wanting thus to impose preconciliar models?

First of all I like to stress the cordial and convinced adhesion which is also noticeable regarding the liturgical teaching of the Holy Father. As far, then, as terms like "preconciliar" and "postconciliar", used by some, are concerned, it seems to me that they belong to a language already overcome, and, when used with the intent to indicate a discontinuity in the path of the Church, I think they are wrong and typical of very reductive ideological visions. There are "things old and things new" that belong to the treasure of the Church of always and should be considered as such. The wise man knows to find in his treasure the one and the other, without invoking other criteria than the evangelical and ecclesial ones. Not everything that is new is true, as on the other hand also not all that is ancient [is true]. The truth transcends the old and the new, and it is to it [truth] that we must strive without preconceptions. The Church lives according to that law of continuity by virtue of which She knows a development rooted in tradition. What is most important is that everything comes together so that the liturgical celebration is really the celebration of the sacred mystery, of the crucified and risen Lord Who makes Himself present in his Church, re-actualising the mystery of salvation and calling us, in the logic of an authentic and active participation, to share up to the extreme consequences His own life, which is a life of the gift of love to the Father and to the brethren, a life of holiness.

Today still the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, on the use of the Roman liturgy prior to the reform carried out in 1970, seems to give rise to contrasting interpretations. Are celebrations presided by the Pope according to the extraordinary form, which is this old one, presumable ("ipotizzabili")?

That is a question to which I cannot give an answer [literally: do not know to give an answer; a very guarded response]. As for the motu proprio referred to, considering it with serene attention and without ideological notions, together with the letter addressed by the Pope to the bishops of the entire world to present it, a twofold precise intention becomes apparent. First of all, the [intention] to facilitate the achievement of "a reconciliation in the bosom of the Church", and in this sense, as has been said, the motu proprio is a very beautiful act of love for the unity of the Church. Secondly - and this is a fact not to forget - its purpose is to encourage a mutual enrichment between the two forms of Roman rite: in such a way, for example, that in the celebration according to the missal of Pope Paul VI (which is the ordinary form of the Roman rite) "will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage."

Monday, June 23, 2008

An Unexpected Blessing

Hey all. I've been pretty busy recently, so I haven't been able to write posts on some of the more burning questions and issue that I've been wrestling with lately. To give you a preview, I'll say that I've been thinking more about Dawkins' book, the God Delusion and am eager to really break it open and see what he has to say. I've also been digging into the question of the Protestant views of salvation and justification, and how they compare to the Catholic views. Pretty cool stuff, and I'm really eager to write about them and share my thoughts with you on them. But, in the meantime, I'll just leave you this...

I was eating lunch today with my pastoral supervision, Fr. Steve Hook, and a friend and fellow seminarian. Since it was during the day, Fr. Steve and I walked into the diner with our clerics on, and the area we live in is not one that has been historically very welcoming to the Catholic Church. But there we are, eating our diner food (and was it good diner food!) when an older gentlemen approaches our table and sets some small, pocket size pieces of paper at the edge of the table, saying something along the lines of "just in case you don't have this at your parishes," and walked away. Not too sure of what they were, and even what religion the fellow was, we hesitated. But finally I picked up the materials and was instantly warmed and surprised to find this written on them

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Unborn

To help stop the anti-life push in the U.S., Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen encouraged the spiritual adoption of an unborn child. This is done by praying that one particular but unknown child's life be spared abortion and be allowed to continue to and after birth.

To accomplish this, it was recommended an individual say the following daily prayer for a period of one year:

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I love you very much. I beg you to spare the life of the unborn baby that I have spiritually adopted who is in danger of abortion."

During your earthly life this spiritually adopted child of yours will be known only to God, but in the world to come and throughout eternity both you and the child will find happiness in each other's company.
Indeed, a very heart warming thing to find. It's wonderful to be able to see the little ways in which God reveals Himself throughout the day. Truly, every second of our day He blesses us somehow, in some way. We must only open our hearts so that He can give us the faith to see it. May He bless you today and everyday and give you the grace to see His presence in your lives. Then, He will be able to fill you with "the peace which surpasses all understanding" (Phil. 4:7a). I hope to be able to write more extensively soon. Until then, in the words of the Ven. Fulton Sheen, "Good night, and God love you!"

Monday, June 9, 2008

Another Long Hiatus

I seem to do this a lot. Just when things really get moving with this blog, something has to come up in life that seriously distracts me. This time it was a number of things, from finals to graduation, vacation to my summer parish assingment...there's just been so much going on. And its been mostly good. It's good to stay busy, although one must be careful that he doesn't loose sight of himself and what really matters. God always wants us to be able to look up at the world, see where we're going, and really drink it all in. If we're too busy, we'll never be able to see His hand at work in the little things around us.

And indeed sometimes his Hand is hard to see. I'm in kind of that place right now. About a week ago today I found out that the Archbishop has decided against sending me to the North American College this Fall. It was a blow to the stomach. I had been so ready, so excited, I'd told everyone I knew, my parents were so proud! I was even almost all the way packed! And the Archbishop told me he wants me to stay. It turns out that there are few things that I need to work on before I will be at my best, and ready to tackle the extreme stresses of seminary in Rome.

Although his decision was hard for me to take, and even to agree with at first, I knew that I had to see this all as an opportunity from God. It seems that God is reminding me that I am not perfect, that I have a lot of areas in my life that are broken, that are in need of healing. It's a hard thing to admit--it's very humbling (even humiliating), but it is for my greater health, spiritual and mental. I have to believe that, because if I don't, He'll never be able to work in me and through me as the priest that I think He is calling me to be.
It's a somewhat confusing time for me now. Although I trust in the Lord and am confident that He will show me His way when He sees fit, it's a little bewildering to have had a plan in place, and have it change very suddenly on you in such a manner. As for what I'll be doing in the Fall, I have not yet been told, and so I must take my summer placement one step at a time. Indeed this is an opportunity to learn what it means to trust in Lord always. I only pray that he grants me a deeper sense of His Providence, and a mighty faith that will cling to Him no matter what trials I shall face. May He do the same for you!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Prayer for Conversion of Sinners and the Perfection of the Faithful

I was just reading one of my favorite blogs, Mount Carmel Catholic Blogger, and I ran across a beautiful prayer that I just had to post on my blog. It's a prayer for the conversion of souls in the state of mortal sin, and also for the grace of those who are in the state of grace to advance to saintly perfection by the frequent reception of Holy Communion.

I love this prayer because I can't say enough about the absolute importance and centrality of the Holy Eucharist. The Second Vatican Council said of this sacrament in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, that it is "the source and summit of the Christian Life." And in Lumen Gentium it says:
"The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch."
There is nothing more vital and necessary to the life of the soul than the Bread of Life, Jesus, our source of every nourishment. Everything we do, no matter how mundane, worldly, or ordinary our tasks maybe, all of it finds it's light and sustenance in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Pray this prayer often. There is nothing better you can do for the good of souls than wish that they commune ever so intimately with Savior. And let it inspire you to make frequent and devout Holy Communions.

O Sweetest Jesus, Who camest into this world to give to all the life of Thy grace, and Who, to preserve and sustain it, didst will to be the remedy of our daily infirmities, and our daily food; humbly we pray Thee, by Thy Heart, all on fire for love of us, to pour out Thy Holy Spirit upon all, so that those who are unhappily in mortal sin may be converted to Thee, and recover the life of grace which they have lost; and those who by Thy gift still live this Divine life, may every day, when they are able, approach devoutly to Thy holy table, where, in daily Holy Communion, receiving every day the antidote to their daily venial sins, and nourishing the life of grace in their hearts, and purifying more and more their souls, they may come at last to the enjoyment with Thee of eternal beatitude. Amen.

Heart of Jesus, burning with love for us, inflame our hearts with love of Thee!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Contemplating the Face of Jesus

I've been struggling lately. I've been faced with many challenges to holiness, and have found myself face-flat on the dust more often than anything. It's been a tough school year, full of many faith-shaking and hope-sapping events for me. On top of that, this year has been marked with numerous personal failings. Some years are like that, I suppose, but I'm ready for it to be over. I'm ready for something to really lift me up and inspire me again. I'm looking forward to beginning Major Seminary in Rome, as I think that all the Faith and Antiquity in that Eternal City will be a wonderful source of grace and joy.

Again, in response to the words of my confessor this evening, I find that all my problems stem from one: I loose focus on the Face of Jesus. All the book learning, all the catholic culture, all of it is beautiful indeed; but all of it is for a purpose. And that purpose is the pursuit of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The ultimate remedy to any sin, to any challenge to personal holiness, is to contemplate the face of Jesus in personal prayer. I don't know why I always forget this. I think my spiritual director reminds me of it almost every time that I meet with him. But it's just the thing that the Devil is trying so hard to make all of us loose sight of amidst all the clutter of our everyday concerns. This is my great challenge! I do not pray as often as I should!

And why? Why is it that I fail to? I think for one, prayer is hard, it's frequently unrewarding, and its contrary to the inclinations of our wounded human nature. But, the Lord knows this, of course, and he supplies us with His grace, which slowly and surely must build upon our nature, so Aquinas says. But more importantly, in His wisdom, when prayer gets difficult, if we're faithful despite the challenge, He makes the difficulty the means by which we are transformed to His likeness. It was in the cross that his love was made known to us! So it is that our love is made known to Him. I let that thought encourage me when prayer is difficult. And I always try to remember that after the cross there is always that Easter joy we celebrate throughout this season.

I seem to be reflecting quite a bit on this issue lately. Perhaps that Lord is putting it on my heart that I may inspire someone who is struggling like me. And so, I say with greater confidence than ever that there is nothing more vital to the sanctification of the Christian than prayer. How else can we learn the ways of God, unless we sit at the feet of the Master. And so let us turn to Him daily, if only for a little while, and listen to His Word. The gospels are a great place to begin to know Him. And even if we don't experience anything particularly awesome at first, in the long run we will find ourselves drawn ever closer to Him. We must only be patient with ourselves and persist!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It's the Home Stretch...

Sorry that I haven't been posting much lately, but it's fast approaching the end of the school year, and I have a lot of work to do. On top of that, I have to complete my application for the North American College by the end of the month, and that sucker is beastly. As such, I really don't have a lot of time for thinking and writing. Please bear with me and pray for me as I trudge on through to the end! It's going to be tough, but with God's grace, anything is possible.

To hold you over until then, let me draw your attention to the upcoming "apostolic journey" of the Holy Father to the United States by posting his message to America. I think he'll give you plenty to chew on in the meantime until I can get my own act together. Peace, and God bless!