Posts tagged: Church

It Started With the Liturgy

By , April 15, 2014 5:47 am

Back in the 1940’s and 50’s, bishops, priests and theologians were for the most part very relaxed about the Church. Most of them thought that everything was just fine and they never dreamed that an explosive development was coming down the pike that would be known in history as the Second Vatican Council.

However, there had been certain glimmers of approaching change and they first began to appear in the liturgical life of the Church. In the Western Church, everything was in Latin, not just the Mass and the Sacraments, but it was the working language of the Church. It was really a good thing for people who traveled a great deal. If you were a Frenchman attending Mass in the Congo, you were right at home with the Latin, but for most of the faithful the Latin language served as background music. They understood nothing but found it comforting.

Pope Pius XII had worked hard to encourage theologians to go back to the scriptures and he unleashed a very strong surge of dramatically improved scripture studies. Scripture would soon be overlapping in the world of liturgy and question began to be asked about certain things that might be accented too much or not enough.

Liturgists began to organize, liturgical and scripture scholars began to communicate more effectively, and suddenly there came to be a sense that not all was well in the inner-life of the Church.

In 1958 a wonderful, fulsome, Italian bishop from the Alps was elected to the Chair of Peter and he took the delightful name of Pope John XXIII.

He had been listening to that questioning and wondering himself about the need for updating the inner-life of the Church and then finally he did it. He called for a meeting of all the bishops of the world to come together under the dome of St. Peter’s and to pray, study, test, debate and decide on how the Church could more effectively move forward. In calling the Council, it generated an explosion of excitement and hope. The bishops answered his summons and met for several months a year for four years. Needless to say, the first issue that they took up was the sacred liturgy and they published an extraordinary document that would have awesome repercussions around the world.

Let’s take a look at that subject tomorrow.

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Reaction From The Right

By , March 28, 2014 5:12 am

Many times I have pointed out in this space that Pope Francis is manifesting great determination to make the day-to-day structuring in the Church more sensitive and more effectively pastoral. He has done that time and time again, not only by his words and directions, but also by his simple, loving manner of dealing with the people.

He has convened the bishops of the world to a special Synod to be held in Rome in October of this year and he has let us know that the Synod must consider many pastoral problems, not the least of which is the question of committed Catholics, living in civil unions, being denied the Eucharist as they are today. I have been raising this topic for my entire priestly life and so I am thrilled to see that the Church is going to make an effort to deal with this important issue.
Do not be surprised, however, that the right wing is manifesting vigorous opposition to any changes in our present pastoral policies. Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, who is head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has stated that this change cannot be made. Happily, other bishops, including Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga in Honduras, have challenged Cardinal Müller pointing out with a bit of humor that since Cardinal Müller is a German Theologian, he can only see black and white and never anything in-between. Other Church leaders are also supporting the possibility of a pastoral solution to this long-time problem.

Now comes Dr. Robert Fastiggi, a professor of systematic theology at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary. Fastiggi does not challenge the pope directly but rather goes after Cardinal Walter Kasper who gave a lengthy talk to introduce a February 20-21 discussion by the College of Cardinals on family life. Cardinal Kasper is conscious of the fact that priests all over the world are providing pastoral solutions based on individual cases rather than using the formality of an ecclesiastical Tribunal and there seems to be a greater acceptance of this temporary solution. Fastiggi challenges that and states that an ecclesiastical Tribunal could handle these cases more effectively studying them from afar and on the basis of written documents rather than a priest in direct contact with the couple. My guess is that Fastiggi thinks that the world operates with the neatness and simplicity of a classroom.

Onward through the fog, but the fog is beginning to lift thanks be to God.

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Can Sadness and Joy Co-exist?

By , March 20, 2014 5:11 am

Well, we are nearly halfway through the Holy Season of Lent and this is a good time to ask ourselves how are we doing? Lent is not just a name for part of the liturgical calendar. Lent is a program, a spiritual program. In Lent, we are asked to set aside a very small portion of the Church year, roughly six weeks, and to use that time to systematically endeavor to improve and strengthen the quality of our spiritual lives.

This is a serious undertaking and it does not happen automatically. One must set goals and in daily prayer ask ourselves, did we do better yesterday? Am I really trying to improve at least a little bit today?

Lent should be a time of joy because we can become more conscious of our closeness to God. We can see more clearly that this awesome historical figure, the carpenter from Nazareth, did not just live 2,000 years ago, but is alive today within us and around us. Lent is a time when we can grasp more clearly that the Holy Spirit is a reality, is within us and around us, strengthening us. With our minds and hearts clearly focused on God’s love for us, everything else falls into place. Has sometime in the family developed cancer? Is your brother-in-law still out of work after 14 months? Does that distant aunt still seem to reject the rest of the family? And is the crisis in Crimea threatening world peace? All of these things are problems and all of them give us concern but if we are steadfast in our relationship to our Divine Lord, each of them will ultimately be resolved as we continue towards eternal life.

Lent is a time of joy not of sadness.

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Adam and Jesus

By , March 8, 2014 4:01 am

March 9th, First Sunday of Lent
It started last Wednesday where those of us who went to Church on that day, were marked by and reminded that life on this planet is limited, very limited. Today’s readings go beyond symbols and confront us with profound ideas about reality, about our relationship with God and the reality of temptation and sin. In St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, he reminds us that sin entered into the human story at the very beginning where Adam turned away and severed the relationship with his loving Creator.

Sinfulness has marked the human story from the very beginning. It was a depressing story, except for a thin line of hope that, through the prophets, Yahweh had promised that a Savior would come. Just as through Adam’s sin we were all damaged, when that Savior arrived the damage would be undone, redemption would be achieved.

Today’s text frames Adam and Jesus together each producing awesome results – Adam’s sinfulness and Jesus’ redemption. The Church calls upon us to meditate on this reality and to embrace it. The Church encourages us to look at the fact that when divinity stepped into the human story and dealt with us through a very real human nature, that Jesus was one with us, not in sinfulness, but in experiencing temptations. Jesus goes into the desert to prepare for the beginning of his public life. Time after time, he is tempted to commit the sin of pride but he pushes temptation to do evil aside and confronts with the devil a steadfast commitment and faithfulness to Yahweh.

“You should do homage to your Lord, your God and him alone should you adore.”

The text says that when the devil left, the angels came and waited upon him. We are invited to do the same thing during the next six weeks.

Lent is here, let us utilize this spiritual gift.

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The Sad Story of Philip Seymour Hoffman

By , February 14, 2014 5:04 am

Every one of us who follows the media with some consistency knows that Philip Seymour Hoffman died a tragic death. A wealthy, Academy Award-winning man of great talent, he had many years to live. His life was cut short not by an assassin’s bullet or a destructive form of cancer, but by his own choice to begin to utilize the awesomely destructive drug that we call heroin.

I really have nothing to say about this. The media has rolled over all of us with far more details than we would really care to read or watch. I do think, however, that such an unnecessary, tragic, highly publicized death would grab the attention of many people and help them to realize that drugs in general, and heroin in particular, are not toys to be played with but explosives that when self-detonated destroy not just the life of the user but that person’s beloved family and friends.

There are international aspects of the drug crisis that are undermining so much of the life in this country. Cartels in Mexico have developed an industry in securing and delivering dangerous drugs for the ever expanding market north of the Rio Grande. A new complication is the fact that for various reasons there is a surge in heroin production in Afghanistan, and it is much cheaper and more easily secured than was the case in the recent past.

For decades, our government has wrung its hands in frustration while spending billions of dollars in opposition to this evil, and continues to face and admit to the reality of defeat. We are not overcoming the drug trade in our nation. It is threatening to overcome us.

And what is the role of the Church in all of this? While the Church cannot compete with the resources of the U.S. government, it certainly has the moral power that could make a difference in thousands of individual families, and hopefully through those families reach a large portion of an American society that feeds itself on drugs due to selfishness, loneliness, meaninglessness. The Church has the answer to these needs but the Church, like the government, is proving itself to be woefully ineffective.

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This Is A Big One!

By , January 4, 2014 5:01 am

Many times over the past couple of years I have referred in this spot as to how much I love what the Church calls the liturgical year. It is the whole story of salvation from creation to the end of time centering, of course, on Christ’s coming and redeeming us.

The year is speckled with a wide variety of feasts and celebrations. While naturally we are all conscious of Christmas, I am delighted to see that the great feast of the Epiphany is upon us this weekend. It has everything! We have mysterious wisemen from strange countries, awesomely valuable gifts being presented to a newborn child, we have a stable stocked by the proper animals with angels providing backup. We have seen the shepherds, those humble, Jewish herders, but in a spectacular sense the spotlight leaves the Valley of Bethlehem and illuminates these men, by their coming, representing in a very effective way the rest of the human family. What a story – what a story!

In some respects, I think that the Epiphany is more symbolic than the Christmas story. Jesus came for the whole world. At Christmas we see Jesus, the Holy Family, the shepherds and the angels. Most of us are not there! Let’s hear it for the mysterious men from the East. They have brought us along with them.

Happy Epiphany and if it is not too late, Happy New Year!

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The Reality of Christmas

By , December 18, 2013 5:56 am


As we prepare to once again celebrate the magnificent feast of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, our minds and hearts instinctively go out to those who are closest to us. But because faith in Jesus generates generosity, most people reach far beyond the confines of their own personal interests and endeavor to bring aid, help, encouragement and, most of all, hope to those who are vulnerable and lacking in necessities.

Since we should not limit ourselves simply to material gifts, I think we should look deeply into the great mystery of the Nativity and see far more than we usually do. This central event in human history is God coming to us, giving us Himself, joining us and lifting us through Jesus to God the Father.
In my opinion, Christmas should make us more conscious of wanting to share our faith. We have the faith. It gives us hope and joy. Now those are really wonderful gifts to be shared. Shouldn’t we try to do that?

I think that I am naturally optimistic but I try to live in the real world and occasionally I see things about the Church that really saddens me. I have been saddened by the tragic decline in missionary interest in our beloved Church over the last 30 or 40 years. I am very hopeful that the leadership of Pope Francis is going to change that. He infuses joy in every direction and I think that this joy will transfer in the rest of our lives to wanting to rekindle the missionary fire that needs to burn within us.

Those words, “Go out into the whole world and preach the Gospel in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria and even to the ends of the earth and beyond…I will be with you always,” should be a challenge ringing in our ears.

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Every Sacrament Has A Communal Aspect

By , October 18, 2013 5:04 am

The Sacraments are among the greatest gifts that God has given to the Church. They are sacred and intensely serious. Nevertheless, their celebration is frequently the cause of a great deal of festivity and joy. The Church does not discourage this. We have all been to Baptisms, First Communions and weddings when a large portion of the family turns out to joyfully celebrate together. That is a good thing but sometimes some of us are confused.

We see the beautiful baby in the arms of the godmother. Everyone stands around happily and later on toasts are given. The same is true when families celebrate First Communions and weddings. But be careful. We see the beautiful little baby in the white dress and laugh when the baby is not wildly enthusiastic about the suddenly arrival of the water on their head. However, there is something very important here that should not be neglected.

That baby and/or those children are being made the adopted brothers and sisters of Jesus of Nazareth. If they are the brothers and sisters of Jesus of Nazareth, they are children of God. By all means, let’s celebrate but let’s celebrate for the right reason.

When we go to communion on Sunday we certainly receive our Divine Lord as individuals but keep an eye on the communion procession. We are a gathering of people sharing faith and journeying TOGETHER moving on towards our union with God. Whenever we sin we not only disobey God but we weaken the religious community which is the Church. So penance has a profound communal aspect to it. We have failed our brothers and sisters and we are sorry.

And so it goes until we reach the end of life and while the priest anoints the dying person with consecrated oil, it is the community of faith that is lifting our loved one spiritually towards heaven, thanking God that we have had the opportunity to share life with this person and looking forward to the time when we will certainly follow.

Sacraments certainly unite us to God through Jesus Christ but they also unite us with each other. We need to be more conscious of that and thank God for this aspect of the sacraments that occasionally we seem to forget.

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Catholicism- A Family Tradition

By , August 13, 2013 5:50 am

Family life, family life, family life! The Church is appropriately always talking about the importance of family life. Most parents who are committed Catholics endeavor to carry out their family responsibility in the context of Catholic values. If that is true, and I certainly believe that it is, why is it that so many parents relate to me how sad they are that one or another of their children has ceased the routine practice of the faith or formally gone off in a different direction?

There are certainly many reasons, and every situation is different. A couple factors, however, are in play across the board. If you are raising teens, or maybe college-aged kids, they have lived most of their lives in an overall environment that is indifferent to religious practice, and often even hostile. A second, sadder reason is that many religious formation programs in the last forty years have been woefully inadequate. That’s true regardless of whether they were in public or private schools, by the way. Yes, there are marvelous and engaging religious education programs for teens out there, but I’m afraid the majority of youth would not describe their RE in glowing terms. Additionally, most of these youth have experienced constant negative onslaughts from the movies, television, internet, and the influence of their peers, who are so often completely negative.

Wait,though, because there is a good side. Very frequently these young people return to ardent practice of the faith after they have entered marriage and a baby is on the scene. Things that were utterly unimportant, or worse, boring when they were free and easy now move to center stage in their lives and they begin to feel the need for value and meaning, and want to create the very best environment to support and raise their own children.

What to do?

First of all, while an individual family has great influence over its children, the fact is that it is not always dominant. Do not be discouraged. I would encourage parents to vigorously LIVE their faith, always giving good example to their kids. Be calmly confident that if you continue to push the importance of your own beliefs, and constantly express your faith and love to your children, there is a fine chance they will return to the tradition of their parents and grandparents.

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Huge Parishes Churches – A Tragic Mistake

By , August 5, 2013 4:52 am

As I get older, travel is more difficult for me. My hometown is Houston. It is only 155 miles but I don’t go there very often. I did, however, get an opportunity to spend a delightful two days there last week. One of the things that I did was to go see several of the new churches that have been constructed since last I was in those parts of the city. I saw three of them. Each seated between 1,500 and 2,000. They are really magnificent buildings, well-constructed, with comparable buildings for offices, classrooms, etc., etc. I am sure that the parishioners, the clergy who serve them and even the whole Archdiocese are proud of these buildings. They solve a problem. We have so many Catholics and so few priests that decisions have been made to build the churches larger and larger.
I consider this to be a tragic mistake if you are really interested in evangelizing our people!
We have many parishes where there are two priests and 25,000 parishioners. Together they can build big churches but will they know each other? Will they have the warm strong community support that faith builds in smaller communities where everyone knows and supports one another?
In San Antonio, Texas there is a small Hispanic seminary that prepares Hispanic men and women for the preaching of the Gospel. They don’t provide much by way of theology or church history but they do a good job of getting their students excited about the bible. This little place is churning out about 30 to 40 students a year. After they are commissioned or called, they might assist an existing Hispanic Protestant mission or they might open a storefront church themselves. They reach out to lonely, frightened immigrants or to poor people and draw them into a loving, supporting faith-filled community. They are no longer frightened, no longer alone and where they feel that the presence of Jesus himself is touching their lives.
Which system do you think would be most effective?

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