Today is the anniversary of the death of the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. (1968)
Yesterday's (Saturday) post touched upon the work of American Benedictines dating back to the 1920's and the founding of the first U.S. publication on worship, Orate Fratres, in 1926. Here is a link to a 2012 Notre Dame essay on the impact of the early liturgical reform movement, "Re-reading Orate Fratres: The American Liturgical Movement is Born (1926-27)."
Today is the anniversary of the death of the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. (1968)
Given that I am on the road, I-95 to be exact, for Thanksgiving, (I didn't say I'm moving on I-95, which is rare) I am posting a link to "Words at the End of the World" at Commonweal Magazine. The final Sundays of the Liturgical Year address "the last things" and judgment.
Given the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation on Tuesday, I have a link to an excellent essay in today's Washington Post on Luther and the dissemination of his ideas, with significant implications for today's writers, theologians, and catechists.
The Catechist Café gets an overhaul. Read about it here.
This entry is a repeat of Tuesday's post (September 12). I sketched out some new themes for daily posts. Your suggestions are welcome. You can post them publicly here or privately by the email form on the host page.
I spent some time in the yard yesterday (Tuesday) removing detritus from Hurricane Irma. In my area we dump the limbs, branches, and bags of leave out on the street for the city to collect. At about mid-day the piles from my side of the street were meeting the piles from across the street, which seemed like a good place to stop. Early this morning I was able to get to our grocery store and round up about 80 industrial trash bags, which gives you an idea of the mess a storm leaves behind (no pun intended.) Our yard may end up looking better than it has in some time by Sunday night, though I hope no one in the neighborhood drops a lit cigarette anywhere near the curb.
A man has a lot of time to think while sawing, lugging, and raking, and my own thoughts turned to (1) a distressing number of roof shingles I was finding in my yard, and (2) the future direction of our daily blog. We are coming up on our third anniversary of the Catechist Café, and I hope you are enjoying it as much as I have satisfaction in researching and writing it. Looking ahead, there are some past successes to continue and some new woods to explore.
The anchor days of the Catechist Café are Monday [morality], Thursday [Catechism] and Saturday [sacraments]. These days draw the highest number of “regulars” and guests. Tuesdays [the Sunday Gospel] draws well. However, given that the Café is three years old at the end of this year, we will have provided commentary on all three years of the Sunday cycles. Commentaries on the Sunday readings are readily available from many sources—many of them very good, others less so. Consequently, what I will do on the home page is provide links to the best weekly offerings for your use, along with published commentaries like the ones we have used each week. That info will go up in October and November, as Cycle B (Mark) begins on Thanksgiving weekend.
So, what will Tuesdays look like at the Café? I am proposing that the Tuesday posts focus exclusively on the first reading, which except for the Easter Season is drawn exclusively from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament. The Hebrew Scriptures are intimidating to the solitary Catholic reader, particularly without benefit of a good commentary. Given that Jesus lived, worshipped, and died as a Jew, and that the Christian church was exclusively Jewish in its first two decades, it is nearly impossible to know Jesus without knowing his religious outlook. Starting in late November I am going to treat of Sunday’s first readings on the Tuesday post. For those of you wanted to jump the starting line, Father Lawrence Boadt’s Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction; Second Edition (2012) is your ticket. (This is a revised edition of the 1984 original.) I will add other commentaries as we go along.
October 31, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. This is one of the most critical events in the history of Christianity; we forget that at least 50,000,000 persons were killed in the “Religious Wars” that finally ended in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. To understand “Reformation” it is critical to understand what Catholicism looked like in the century or so prior to Martin Luther, and to the evolving philosophies and technologies of the time, such as the printing press. The Reformation was not one event, but occurred in waves even before Luther.
The Lutheran Reformation came first, but it was followed by more radical waves of change, under John Calvin and the Reformed tradition, and later the Anabaptist movement. There are learning opportunities for us as we look at what led to successive spasms of unrest. The Catholic response, often called the Counter-Reformation, was slow in generating but when it did, the Council of Trent (1545-1563) established norms that remain influential to Catholics today. Our 1993 Catechism is heavily influenced by the Roman Catechism, a product of the Council of Trent.
I am not sure which day to designate for Reformation posts, but I feel strongly that this should be done. I am not seeing much publicity anywhere in catechetical publications or church bulletins about the observance of the Reformation. To ignore the history and development of other Christian faiths is contrary to the writings of the Vatican II Fathers and the tangible gestures made at that Council to promote Christian Unity. We forget that Orthodox and Protestant churchmen and theologians were invited to the Council as official observers.
Moreover, Protestant and Catholic traditions alike are facing very similar problems: alienation from mother churches toward non-denominational assemblies or dismissal of religious observance outright. I find it intriguing that Catholic and Protestant traditions both find themselves wrestling with Luther’s preaching of semper reformanda, “always in need of reform.” I think there is plenty to treat of in the next year or more. While it is nearly impossible to tackle the subject in one book, the Cuban theologian Carlos M.N. Eire comes very close in his 2016 work Reformations: 1450-1650, reviewed splendidly in National Review last year.
I keep a notepad of issues for future treatment. Forgive me as it is very subjective, but right now I have listed (1) Catechetics, Parishes, and substance abuse; (2) Catholic and Protestant definitions of preaching; (3) the “nourishment of religious enthusiasm;” (4) the nature of priestly celibacy in the Roman West; (5) women and Holy Orders. These are matters for greater reflection and research.
In the present scheme of things, the Wednesday post is labeled “professional development.” As you have probably noticed, there are many weeks when it is not filled. I’m not quite sure if this is the result of my own schedule or some doubts on my part about what exactly should be treated under that heading. The Wednesday stream was conceived as a place to integrate mental health issues with ministry, since healthy interactions are the mother’s milk of healthy parish life and ministry. I don’t want to jettison that idea just yet, but the posts might be spread out less frequently than weekly.
Finally, I am always open to suggestions—for one-time questions or prolonged discussions. Let me know your areas of interest or ways I can help your ministry or personal pursuits.
I'm home! It has been a pleasure to visit a number of our parishes and schools this week to provide theological education days. From left to right, the visits included Blessed Trinity Parish in Ocala, Holy Family Parish in Orlando (several days) and a grand finale yesterday with catechists at Good Shepherd Parish in Orlando. Yesterday marked the final offering of our catechist/teaching training program. Effective today my diocese is now partnered with the Archdiocese of Chicago for on-line instruction. I lost my "professorship" to technology, LOL. Teaching catechists, ministers, and school teachers has been a very rewarding experience. I expect I will find something else to do, including showing up at the Café more often. I don't know if this involved a message from on high, but yesterday's students and I had to wait nearly two hours until a violent rain and lightning storm passed over. I expect to be posting regularly for the next few weeks, at any rate.
In fact, yesterday's Sacramental Saturday post, "Speed Versus Thought," went up today at 2 PM on the Saturday stream.
I hope you are all enjoying your weekend. I am in the teeth of my busiest season--my diocese offers a wide range of theology courses for Catholic school teachers, staff, parish catechists, during the month of June. Yours truly is teaching four courses in eight days, so my posting of late has been limited.
However, next Saturday will be my last course, as this program is going on-line in July, and we face-to-face instructors will be put out to pasture. Truth be told, I am glad to see the upgrade in the diocesan program, and I do welcome the opportunity to do more writing, including the daily (?) posts on the Cafe Blog.
I had a fine day yesterday in Ocala, Florida, working with the faculty of a pre-school conjoined to a large Catholic parish/school, Blessed Trinity. One of the pleasures of teaching has been the opportunity to talk with Catholics in different parishes about their ministries. I was quite impressed with the wide scope of services to the poor. Blessed Trinity is a tithing parish and thus active Catholics are able to enroll their children in the Catholic school at a nominal or minimal fee. I had heard about this years ago, but a school mother of three explained to me exactly how it works...evidently very well.
My students yesterday entertained me far more than I did them. A great deal of conversation in the course about the Church and catechetics. It is just about always true in my experience that Catholics have a great deal to say, and they are looking for clearer answers and explanations than the Church is used to offering. In rare free moments I am reading Richard Gaillardetz's "A Church with Open Doors: Ecclesiology for the Third Millennium." He makes the point that the health of the Church of the future will depend upon our discipline to listen--to our own members, to other Christian believers, to all people of good will, and even to our enemies.
To be honest, I have often thought that we are somewhat arrogant in our certainty about how and to whom the Holy Spirit can speak. Harnessing God's saving love is a risky business. I see in the paper last week that a New England bishop has ordered his priests to deny deathbed Communion to someone in a same sex marriage unless he or she repudiates the union. Sometimes it is relatively easy to know where the Spirit is not speaking.
I wrote on Wednesday’s post (June 14) that I would address the issue of Church Law and the rights of lay Catholics in their parishes and dioceses. I am looking to complete that post for next Wednesday’s stream on professional development. But in searching for supplemental or introductory material, I came across a long-forgotten friend, Our Sunday Visitor. My guess is that OSV’s weekly paper appears in the vestibule of more churches than any other. My mother and father met as pen pals late in the 1930’s through OSV.
Leaving nostalgia aside for a moment, I found an excellent introduction to Church Law in a 2016 edition of OSV, “Laity Turn to Church Law to Challenge Decisions.” (2012) I recommend this as an introduction to the subject of Church Law. For any Catholics with Perry Mason blood in their veins, I call your attention to James Corrida’s Introduction to Canon Law (2004), a full text available on Kindle and Amazon Prime.
While I was reading OSV, I came across two other essays not unrelated to our issue of law and rights in the Church. “Lapsed Catholics Weigh in on Why They Left the Church” (2014) and “Young People Are Leaving the Faith. Here’s Why.” (2016) I was particularly intrigued by the latter, which concluded that Catholics decide to leave the Church on average at age 13. Young people apparently judge the Church as antithetical with science and history; OSV observes that fewer and fewer Catholic youth are educated in Catholic schools, where religion and science are taught conjointly. If one thing is clear, the issues surrounding catechesis and evangelization are much more complicated than most of us believe.
ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
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 the law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops legitimately established.
(3.) Therefore, no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.
In 2003 Francis Cardinal Arinze (Prefect, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments) addressed a convention in San Antonio, Texas, and in his own way provides a commentary on Section 22: “At the beginning of Mass the priest can trivialize by amusing the people on the weather, by saying "Good morning everybody" instead of "The Lord be with you" or "The grace of Our Lord... ", which are the proper liturgical opening greetings. He can banalize by an exaggerated autobiographical introduction and trite jokes in his misguided effort to warm the people up for worship!” The Cardinal continues “The Roman liturgy is not a free-for-all experimentation field where each celebrant has the option to tag on his cherished accretions. Repeated and laid-down action is part of ritual. The people are not tired of it, as long as the celebrant is full of faith and devotion and has the proper ars celebrandi (art of how to celebrate).”
Ten years earlier Pope John Paul II lamented “It cannot be tolerated…that certain priests should take upon themselves the right to compose Eucharistic Prayers or to substitute profane readings for texts from Sacred Scripture. Initiatives of this sort, far from being linked with the liturgical reform as such, or with the books which have issued from it, are in direct contradiction to it, disfigure it and deprive the Christian people of the genuine treasures of the liturgy of the Church "
Extremes beget extremes. I do not envy the more thoughtful bishops of Vatican II who understood the necessity of a true reform of Catholic worship to its “noble simplicity”—specifically, the prayerful participation of the faithful—and yet realized that sanctioning the development of a new mindset and new rites would embody a considerable amount of Darwinian species struggle. I leave it to Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Arinze to provide the day’s example of the post-Conciliar liturgical struggles, some of which continue to this day, such as the scourge of banality. Section 22 is the effort of the Council to set some authoritative principles regarding the process of liturgical reform.
The official rites for all liturgical celebrations come from Rome. The rites are promulgated in several ways; each Sacrament, for example, has its official bound ritual. When you attend Mass, the (usually) red prayer book used by the celebrant is the official rite text of the universal Church, with the accompanying Lectionary of assigned readings for the liturgical calendar and special observances. If you wandered into the sacristy you would find a book shelf of much smaller hard cover books, the official rituals for all the other sacraments, though I suspect that only the cathedral has the hard cover ritual for ordinations. (Come to think of it, though, my own diaconate ordination took place in my major seminary/friary chapel, and priest ordination at St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, Maryland, to accommodate family and guests—there were nine of us ordained together in 1974.)
Section 22 goes on to say that the authority guiding the sacraments and rites is delegated in certain matters to bishops, and then specifically to “various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops legitimately established.” This is a reference to national bishops’ conferences, such as our USCCB. When Sacrosanctum Concilium was promulgated in 1963, the Council had not yet finalized the organization and full scope of authority of bishops. In the post-Council years, the immediate responsibility of bishops’ conferences was translations of the released Latin texts. Many English-speaking bishops’ conferences banded together to form the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, or ICEL. The current U.S. representative is Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Patterson, New Jersey. ICEL submits its drafts to the Vatican for approval. Thus, the Vatican owns the Latin rituals, ICEL’s members own the translations.
Rome has liturgical authority over many matters: these are spelled out from time to time by letter to bishops’ conferences from the Vatican, which continues to specify certain liturgical details, such as policy regarding the use of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, or the material of chalices (gold, silver). The USCCB, on the other hand, can request or initiate an exception to general liturgical law. The best example is the American practice of kneeling during the entire Eucharistic prayer. The USCCB years ago requested and received an indult or special permission for Catholics to kneel; the ICEL translation states that “the posture of the people during the Eucharistic Prayer is different in various countries and regions; in the United States, the people normally stand until the "Holy, Holy", and then kneel until after the "Great Amen." Mass posture was hotly debated at USCCB meetings years ago, until Bishop Francis O’Keefe of New York famously declared that “our biggest posture problem in the Church is that too many Catholics are reclining on Sunday mornings.”
There is no doubt that in the two decades of so after the Council many priests—this one included—took liberties with the rites. In our defense, our professors had stressed to us that among the primary purposes of Sacrosanctum Concilium was the importance of bringing people back to Church and bringing all Catholics closer to the Eucharistic celebration, figuratively and literally. I would point out, though, that my bishops rarely if ever gave me any grief. If a complaint was made to the chancery, it was brought to my attention but as more of a heads up than anything else. I know that some Catholics went to neighboring parishes because I was too “progressive,” but the reverse was true, too.
Section 22 states that no one, not even a priest, can change the rites of the liturgy. However, the rite of the Mass, for example, during my years in ministry (1974-94) contained multiple options throughout, and actually called for the celebrant to compose his own words at certain points. This is still true in the ICEL 2011 English translation. After the formal greeting at the beginning of Mass, the Missal states: “The priest or another minister may then briefly introduce the Mass of the day, saying something about the readings, the feast, and/or the special occasion being celebrated.” Similarly, the Missal does not provide a strict formula for the Prayer of the Faithful.
In short, there were several generations of young priests ordained to view the Roman Missal as the official text of the universal Church while enjoying a measure of artistic and pastoral responsibility to make local changes as we saw fit.
Looking back from the vantage point of seniority, I can see that there is much to be said for common ritual in terms of Church unity. Moreover, I can honestly say that I am not the artist or liturgist I fancied myself in my 30’s, and I probably subjected my congregations to celebrations that cannot fall under the umbrella of ‘noble simplicity.” Although the Church is more buttoned-down liturgically than in my day, it is regrettable that some of the less helpful innovations of days’ past have become incorporated into the “new normal:” really bad music, banality, and the cult of priestly personality. We have a ways to go to reach noble simplicity.
SUNDAY WILD CARD or READERS' SUGGESTIONS