Posts tagged: anniversary

Fiftieth Anniversaries Surround Us

By , April 16, 2014 5:48 am

Have you noticed that we are surrounded by a very plethora of anniversaries marking the 50th anniversary of this or the 50th anniversary of that. If it tells us anything at all, it should be that the 1960’s were an extraordinarily important period. It is fifty years since the riots in Watts, fifty years since the death of Jack Kennedy, fifty years since Lyndon Johnson led the change in America by the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It is also fifty years since the first session of the Second Vatican Council.

These American events are being rather well marked but for some reason the Catholic bishops of the United States have done little or nothing to remind the 60 million of us that the Council was an extraordinary event widening horizons, creating hope and helping to lead us into the future. Maybe one of the reasons why it has not been spotlighted so much in this country is that many of the younger bishops would just as soon forget it! That is a tragedy but it is not an enduring tragedy. The Council is being brought back to life by our magnificent leader Pope Francis.

A few days ago I started a series of blogs on the documents of the Council. Since I find it so refreshing to go back and study them, you may appreciate or enjoy at least a brief mention to various segments of them as I plod through the next few weeks.

The other day I stressed that the first and most exciting of the Council documents was the one on the sacred liturgy and how it got started. Now I would like to go very briefly through certain segments of this document that has touched each and every one of us in this country and actually every Roman Catholic across the world. I break Roman Catholics into two groups about the Council. Older men and women who remember it taking place fifty years ago connect it with a time of change and tension and the most visible thing they remember is that Latin ceased to be imposed on the Universal Church and all the countries of the world were able to use vernacular language. Imagine – the Church decided to put worship into a language that the worshipers understood. What a breakthrough!

To discuss the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy would require volumes and believe me many volumes have been written about it. With the constraints of this space, I want to simply break it into two key components. Many subdivisions are possible.

The first thrust of the document centers on the fact that the Eucharist is the absolute center of the Church’s prayer life. Certainly, the other sacraments are important and they draw us closer to Jesus and private devotions and prayers of individuals are very valuable. However, it is in the Eucharistic liturgy that the entire Church prays and we pray in unison and with one faith and one heart. The Eucharist is the center of the Church and it unites each and every one of us together. We are believers.

Secondly, the liturgical document calls forcefully and urgently for a resurgence in the study of sacred scripture and more effectively integrating scripture into the Eucharist liturgy and all the other sacraments as well. I am happy to report that this early Council directive has been rather well implemented. While there is much work to be done, it is a very measurable accomplishment.

In the meantime, what we need is millions of small groups across the world taking time out of their lives, day by day and week by week, to study God’s word, to see their own lives in relationship to it and to be guided by that word. We are a long way from there but I think we are moving in the right direction. For that I thank God.

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Remembering? The Titanic, Yes – Vatican II, No!

By , April 24, 2012 5:47 am

50th Anniversary

I was thrilled to see that in the last week of March all the dioceses of France sent leaders and representatives to a major session in Lourdes in order to prepare for the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. That is now fifty years ago.

I was also fascinated by the way that this country has memorialized the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. It was an agonizing story reflecting, as most human events do, both heroism and cowardice. It is natural for Americans to remember such a catastrophic event, but should American Catholics not also be memorializing the Second Vatican Council? Many young Catholics know nothing about the Council and even those of us who are older are affected by the effects of the passage of a half a century. I would hope that the American bishops would decide to use their energies and vast resources to properly communicate the most important religious event of the last 200 years. I am sure somebody is working on it but I have not heard about it yet. If we should not mark this awesomely important event, it would give many the impression that many leaders in the Church would just as soon forget that it ever happened. Oh, do I want to be wrong on this one.

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A Missed Anniversary!

By , September 19, 2011 4:56 am

I am very embarrassed. In May, the Church marked the 50th anniversary of
Pope John XXIII’s magnificent encyclical Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher).
This great document would be followed a short time later by Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth). These two documents occurred during years of great hope and optimism, both for the Universal Church and for the political and economic development of the non-Communist world. The European Union was in the process of development and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization had strengthened the confidence of the West in the face of Communist military threats.

There is no practical way to classify the individual popes on the basis of their effectiveness or accomplishments, at least not within a short period of time. The personality of John Paul II has dominated the life of the Church in a sizable portion of the planet for the last thirty years. The thing he is most remembered for is the fact that he was instrumental in hastening the decline and collapse of Communism and that will always be remembered as an extraordinary achievement.
However, in my personal opinion, Pope John XXIII will prove to be more important in the history of the Church during the 20th century and maybe in the history of the planet as well. Not only did he move forward the teachings of the Church in terms of how the larger society ought to be restructured on the basis of justice and peace, but he called the Second Vatican Council, which produced extraordinary change in the relationships not only of the Church and world, but the Church inside itself. He came to office as an elderly man already in poor health and reigned for only five years. But what a five years! In my opinion, he is the greatest blessing the Church experienced in the 20th century and I thank God for his presence among us.

Onward through the very thick fog.

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A Priest Forever!

By , May 27, 2011 5:03 am

Maybe not forever, but at least 55 years! Yesterday I celebrated my 55th anniverasary as a Catholic priest. On May the 26, 1956, along with a dozen classmates, I lay prostate on the floor of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Galveston, Texas, and was ordained to the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church. I rose to face what I could not imagine- an extraordinary life filled with faith, love, conflict, misunderstanding, poverty, litergical celebrations, and divisiveness that so tragically marks the human condition.

I found that my priesthood lent itself easily to all of those situations. I have never known a set of circumstances, new opportunity or even tragic situation that the fact of my priesthood could not lend itself beneficially to the moment.

I loved the work, and God knows there was enough of it! It has often seemed to me that while the modern world organizes itself around the 40 hour work week, the priests I knew either worked 80 hours or 10. In a large parish, you never really get “off duty”, but of course, you can hide. When that happens, it’s a tragic, misspent life.
Most people love their days off, and live for that glorious vacation of several weeks in the summertime. Did you ever think that if a parish priest is going to take a day off, he has to leave the rectory, and cannot enjoy a stay at home vacation? Many priests have this in common with doctors! When people approach you with a crisis, you cannot say “I’m sorry, it’s my day off”. Therefore, the only real way to have a bit a privacy is to be elsewhere. Please realize this, and bite your tongue before you tease your priest on Sunday morning and comment “today is your only day to work!”

Back to my 55 years, though. While I have worked in many parishes, I was only the pastor in three of them, but I also served in some very interesting administrative roles at the diocesan, state and national levels. All in all, those 55 years were a magnificent mix of human experiences, endured most of the time with laughter and optimism.
I’m on to year 56!

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