Saturday, December 27, 2008

Liturgy of the Hours in the Octave of Christmas

Saying the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church's prayer, during many seasons can be complicated and challenging to the novice. Use of a liturgical calendar can be very helpful.
In the past it seemed that just about every household displayed a calendar upon which were listed all of the saint's feast days as well as the Solemnities and Holy Days of obligations,as well as the national holidays and more mundane fare. In the present time, it seems that many Catholic households do not follow this practice, and it is few and far between the student who can name the particular saint's feast of any given day.
The Octave of Christmas is rather unique in the Liturgy in that the Invivatory, the Morning prayer, and other readings are taken from the feast days, but the Evening Prayer is taken from the seasons. The antiphons and psalms for the evening are taken from Evening Prayer II on Christmas day, while Night Prayer is taken from Sunday Prayer II.
So except for Holy Family Sunday, which has its own readings, during the Christmas Octave, for the Church, time effectively stops. In our joy we repeat the Evening Prayers, or at least parts of them through the whole Octave. Our joy at the birth of Our Lord, His Incarnation into human flesh is so great it cannot be constrained to single day or even a single week.
And so one must keep in mind the day, the date and the position of Christmas and Holy Family Sunday in the rythm of the Calendar.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Excommunication of a schismatic priest.

I wrote previously about Monsignor Dale Fushek and the Rev. Mark Dippre, once both heavily involved in Life Teen and now at odds with their bishop, Thomas Olmsted. Fushek was removed from public ministry due to charges of sexual misconduct, but insisted on presiding at non-denominational worship services at a convention center.

Both priest have now been excommunicated for their disobedience to the Church. Both priest, who are still clerics at this point, have been declared guilty of schism. From the The Diocese of Phoenix website:

“Fushek and Dippre have incurred the censure of excommunication because they have chosen to be in schism with the Catholic Church by establishing and leading an opposing ecclesial community known to the public as the Praise and Worship Center.”
Prayers for both men that they may repent their actions and rejoin the community of the Church.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Liturgy

While the majority of the worlds Catholics celebrate the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite, that is the Mass of Pope Paul VI, the so called Novus Ordo, there are actually a number of liturgical rites and variant practices that a Catholic can attend to meet their requirement for assisting at a Mass on Sunday or other Holy Days of Obligation.
There are any of the Divine Liturgies celebrated by the Eastern Churches in union with Rome. There are the liturgies of the Latin Church; the Ambrosian, Mozarabic, Carthusian and Benedictine Rites. There are the variations of the Latin rite. Masses said using the Zaire Use or Anglican Use of the Roman Liturgy. There is even the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite.
One of the amazing aspects of the Mass in the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite is that it can be said strictly by the allowed rubics and still vary greatly depending upon the episcopal conference area and wishes of the presiding priest.
Note I'm not talking about so-called clown Masses or other liturgical abuses, but Masses said which adhere to the GIRM and other guiding documents and to the authorized translations of the Roman Missal. Note that some of the allowed options are held by some people as to not be preferable options, but they are indeed allowed by Rome and so are licit practice.
So while some would hold that a Mass where congregational songs, accompanied by a modern band, ahould not be allowed, such a practice is allowed. Attending such a Mass, said in English, with the priest facing versus populum is probably more common than the Mass at the other end of the spectrum. That is, a Mass in the Ordinary Form, said in Latin, accopanied by Gregorian Chant, with the preist clebrating ad orientem.
Both Masses are valid and it is up to the faithful to decide which more accurately fufills their need to give worship to God.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Marian Musings V

The Rosary of Mary

The term rosary comes from the Latin rosarium which means garland of roses. The rosary can best be described as participation in the life of Mary, whose focus was on Christ.

Originally the use of beads by monks was centered on the Liturgy of the Hours, where the beads were used to keep track of the Psalms, which the monks recited in their entirety over the course of the day. As many of the laity could not read they substituted the Our Father for the Psalms, using a knotted cord to keep count. Eventually the Hail Mary was substituted for the Our Father. The English church first grouped the beads into decades, each of which was begun with an Our Father. The practice of meditating on the mysteries, which were grouped into three sets of five; the Joyful, Glorious and Sorrowful Mysteries, originated in Germany. After the Fatima Apparitions happened in 1917 the addition of the Fatima prayer, also known as the Decade Prayer, to differentiate it from the other three prayers taught the children at Fatima, was added after the Glory Be(doxology).

In 2002 Pope John Paul II instituted the Luminous Mysteries.

The need to pray the rosary has been reported in Marian apparitions for centuries. At Lourdes Saint Bernadette stated that at the initial meeting...”The Lady took the rosary that she held in her hands and made the sign of the cross.” At Fatima the Lady identified herself as “the Lady of the Rosary.”

Names of Mary

There are over 6000 titles and names of Mary. Some are used in prayer and liturgy. Others are associated with specific ministries or locations. Here are but a few:

Blessed Virgin
Blessed Mother
Fairest flower of our race
Consolation of all souls
Comfort of Christians
Hope of Christians
Hope of sinners
The New Eve
Immaculate Virgin
Lady, full of grace
Our Lady of Charity
Our Lady of Fatima
Our Lady of deliverance
Our Lady of Divine Providence
Our Lady of Good Hope
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of New Orleans
Our Lady of MaryKnoll
Our Lady of the Cape
Our Lady, Star of the Sea
Mother and Queen
Mother and Virgin
Queen of Heaven
Queen of Angels
Queen of Apostles
Queen of sorrows
Ark of God
Blessed chalice
House of the Most High

Mary as the model of Christian life

Mary was the first disciple. From the first time we meet her in Scripture she points the way to her Son and shows us how we should respond to God. When the angel visits her with news of the Incarnation Mary's answer should be our answer, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to God's will.”

Upon visiting Elizabeth, who greets her, “Full of Grace,” Mary's answer, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor and his lowly servent...the Mighty One has done great things for me...”

Later at Cana we hear her final recorded words in Scripture, “Do whatever he tells you.” What better guideline could she give us for reaching salvation?

Marian Prayer

Many formal Prayers to Mary have been used by Catholics. The most well known is probably the Hail Mary, which we have already discussed. The Angelus is a devotion in memory of the Incarnation. It is prayed three times a day, at 6 am, noon and 6 pm and is accompanied by the ringing of the Angelus bell. The Magnificat is said as part of Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours, and Night Prayer ends with an Antiphon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, often the Hail Holy Queen (which also ends the rosary) or the Regina caeli (Queen of Heaven) or a simple Hail Mary.

Various litanies have been composed to Mary. Litanies are used in the Eastern Churches as part of the liturgy, but the practice has also become a practice of the Western (that is the Roman) Church. A litany is a series of short petitions and exhortations which are sung or recited. A well known litany used as part of the Mass during certain seasons and occasions is the Litany of the Saints. Dozens, if not hundreds of litanies have been composed to Mary.

The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a version of the Liturgy of the Hours which is said in Mary's honor. Certain congregations of religious and Third Orders use the Little Office and it is also prayed by some members of the laity.

We will end with the Memorare. Note: Most traditional formal prayers of the Church were originally written in Latin. In Latin it is the custom to designate a particular prayer based upon its beginning. Hence the Magnificat which begins “Magnificat anima” or the Hail Mary(Ave Maria). Memorare means “Remember.”

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known
that anyone who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help,
or sought thy intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence
I fly unto thee,
O Virgin of virgins, my Mother.
To thee do I come,
before thee I stand,
sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Marian Musings IV

The Immaculate Conception

The Immaculate Conception is the belief that Mary was born without the stain of original sin. Like the rest of us Mary received salvation through the sacrifice of her Son, Jesus. Unlike the rest of us God applied this sanctifying grace to Mary from the time of her conception. She was created a perfect tabernacle for the incarnation of her Son, free from stain from the beginning.

Like the Assumption, the Immaculate Conception of Mary was a belief held for many centuries, back to even the second century, which was only recently formalized. Pope Sixtus IV established the feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1476. The belief was defined as dogma by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

The Marian Apparitions

An apparition is an appearance of a heavenly being, Christ, Mary, a saint or an angel, to a human or group of people. Heavenly apparitions have been recorded throughout history, both in Scripture and in the writings of many of the saints.

The first testimony of a Marian Apparition was reported by Gregory of Nyssa in 395AD. Since that time over 2200 visions of Mary have been granted official recognition by the Church. The Church never declares that an apparition is real or authentic. After a thorough investigation the most the Church will do is allow that a certain apparition is “worth of belief.”

Some Marian Apparitions are very well known. The most famous probably occurred in December 1531. At that time Juan Diego Cuanhtlatoatzin, an Aztec convert was walking on his way to what would one day become Mexico City to attend Mass. He was met by a Lady who spoke to him in his native language. She asked him to inform the bishop that a church should be built on that hill. The bishop was less than impressed. The bishop demanded a sign. The lady showed Juan Diego a miraculous rose garden. Blooming in the middle of winter. She bade him gather roses to show to the bishop, which he did in his cloak. When he showed them to the bishop an image, a portrait of what became known as Our Lady of Guadalupe was on the cloth. It is as Our Lady of Guadalupe that Mary is patron of the Americas.

A more recent apparition was Our Lady of Lourdes in 1858. In Lourdes the Lady directed Bernadette Sourbirous to dig, revealing a miraculous spring at which many unexplained healings have happened, numbering over 5000. Significantly the Lady identified herself to Bernadette, who was a peasant girl of scant theological training, as the “Immaculate Conception” at a time when that dogma had barely been formalized four years before.

Another well know vision was at Fatima in 1917. There the Lady appeared to three children. Two things made Fatima different from other apparitions. The first is the Miracle of the Sun. Before a crowd of 70,000 people, which included atheists and other non-Christians the sun became a colorless silver disk and danced in a multi color sky while members of the crowd screamed in terror, wept and prayed. It lasted for ten minute before returning to normal.

The second was that the children received three secrets. The secrets were revealed to the local bishop and eventually to the pope. The first 2 were revealed in 1927. The first predicted the Second World War. The second warned that if Russia did not convert it would spread its errors throughout the world and many nations would face annihilation. The third secret was not disclosed until 2000, when it was published by John Paul II. The Holy Father believed it predicted the attempt on his life that occurred in 1981, and credited the Blessed Mother with saving his life.

It should be remembered that the Church holds that any revelation made by even an apparition declared as “worthy to be believed” is a private revelation. Public, dogmatic revelation ended with the death of St. John, the last Apostle. No one is required to believe private revelation.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Marian Musings III

Mary in Tradition

For Catholics Tradition (big “T”) is as important as Scripture. Before we had Scripture (at least New Testament Scripture) we had Tradition. Not everything that was written in the early Church was incorporated into the New Testament. Not everything that was left out was false or even bad, it was simply not inspired. Christians have always known things about Mary that were not recorded in Scripture.

One of these writings, The Protoevangelium of James, is thought to have been written as early as 150 AD. This document was specifically mention by Origen, the late second century theologian. He did not considered it to have actually been written by James. This is the James who according to the manuscript was the son of Saint Joseph by a prior marriage, and the brother of Jesus mentioned in the Gospels, often called James the Just. James was a leader in the early Church in Jerusalem. It was often common at the time for authors to attribute their works to well known saints or religious leaders.

This document contains much of what is now generally accepted about Mary's history which is not recorded in the Gospels. It names her parents Anna and Heli, who is also known as Joachim. He was of the royal family of David. Anna was said to have been of the priestly family of Aaron, so in Jesus was combined the bloodline of both the royal and priestly families.

Mary is also said to have been presented at the Temple. Under Jewish law it was required, under the covenant, that first born males be presented to the Temple to be consecrated to God. And so Jesus was, in what we called the Presentation. Sometimes other very special children were also presented at the Temple to be consecrated to God. So it was said of Mary. Tradition (little “t”) says that Mary was 3 years old at this time and took a vow of virginity.

Tradition also tells us that St. John the Evangelist eventually settled in Ephesus, in Greece. As previously mentioned this was where the Council of Ephesus was held and the synodal letter of that council reads:
Wherefore also Nestorius, the instigator of the impious heresy, when he had come to the city of the Ephesians, where John the Theologian and the Virgin Mother of God St. Mary estranged himself of his own accord...
There are several places in the Eastern world which lay claim to spot where the Blessed Virgin left this mortal pale. No one claims to have her body, nor have they ever. Catholics, from the days of Early Christianity, have venerated and honored the relics of the Saints. The location of the graves of St. Peter and St. Paul are known to us, as is the resting place of St. Steven the first martyr mention in Scripture. Christians have never claimed to have relics of the Blessed Virgin. One of the earliest feasts celebrated by the Church declares that Mary was assumed directly into heaven. In 602 AD this feast was formalized for the Universal Church as the “Falling asleep of the mother of God” as it is still known today in the Eastern Churches. While this has been a belief of the Church from early times Pope Pius XII in 1950 proclaimed it a dogma and created it as a major feast. It is also celebrated in the Eastern Churches on the same date of August 15.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Marian Musings II

Mary in Scripture

The first prophesy in which Mary is mention is in Genesis. Adam and Eve have just been tossed out of paradise. God has described the burdens they will now carry because they have turned their backs on Him. But God does not let the tempter who had lead them into sin go unpunished, and in this punishment is a prophesy and a promise:

I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed; he shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for his heel.

Now the serpent represents Satan. The woman is not Eve, who has just been banished from the garden and promised the pain of childbirth and death, but Mary, whose seed is Jesus Christ. So just as Jesus is often called the New Adam so too is Mary called the New Eve. Where Eve said no to God, Mary said Yes. Just as through Eve's no were we all cursed with the burden of sin so through Mary's yes were we saved.

The second prophesy about Mary is from Isaiah:

The Lord Himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel .

The Third prophesy about Mary is in Micheas:

And thou, Bethlehem, Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Judah: out of thee shall be come forth unto me that is to be the ruler in Israel, and his going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity.

In the Gospels Luke says more about Mary than anyone else. He starts with the genealogy of Christ. Then St. Luke describes the Annunciation, the coming of the Angel Gabriel to Mary in her home in Nazareth. The Angels words are echoed in the Hail Mary. “Hail Mary, full of grace the lord is with you.” Mary responds to the Angel's announcement with the words “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to Your will.”

After the Annunciation Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth in a city of Judah. This is called the Visitation.

Elizabeth's words to Mary are the basis for the next stanza of the Hail Mary, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of you womb.”

Mary's answer to Elizabeth is recorded by Luke in 2:46-55. This canticle, the Magnificat, is said every evening as part of the Liturgy of the hours. In it Mary points to the Lord God “who has done great things for me.”

The evangelists tell of Mary's betrothal to Joseph. The trip to Bethlehem in fulfillment of the prophesy in Micheas. The Presentation in the Temple and the flight to Egypt. The last we see of the holy family is in Luke when the boy Jesus becomes lost in the temple.

Two events during Jesus public ministry concern Mary directly. The first records the last words said by her in Scripture and are recorded by John.

On the third Day there was a wedding at Cana and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited. When the Wine ran out the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me. My hour has not yet come” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Once again Mary points to God. Her words directed to us as much as to those first century waiters.

We see Mary for the final time in the Gospels in John standing at the foot of the cross.

Meanwhile standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clo'pas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” and from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

So Mary become our mother and mother of the Church.

In Acts it says that Mary stayed with the eleven in the upper room awaiting the appearance of the Advocate on Pentecost. Mary does not appear explicitly again, Like John Paul never mentions her by name in any of his Epistles.

In Revelations John tells of the Woman

...a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in agony of giving birth.

The woman of Revaluations is at once both Mary and the Church, who both share Jesus' messianic mission. Mary is the symbol of the triumphant Church that awaits and intercedes for us. She is also the first disciple. The first to say yes to Christ.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Marian Musings

Recently I gave a talk on Mary to an RCIA group. I'll be posting parts of it over the next few days.

Mary, Mother of the Church.

For more than 2000 years Mary, the mother of Jesus, has been written about, prayed to and adored. It is important to remember we do not worship Mary, but venerate her. In Latin the term for this veneration is hyperdulia. Dulia is veneration of the saints. Hyperdulia is therefore the highest form of veneration, but does not equate to worship. The word which is equates to the worship reserved to God is Latria. So theologically we differentiate the honor due God from that due the saints, and after God the highest honor is given to Our Lady.

Mother of God (Theotokos)
Though Latin is the official language of the Latin Church, the first language of the Church was Greek. That was the language that most of the new Testament was written in. This was also the language of the Old Testament scripture used by Christ himself, the Septuagint. And this was the language of the educated theologians and Church fathers who met at Ephesus for the Third Ecumenical Council in the Year of our Lord 431. This council was called to deal with the heresy of the Nestorians. Nestorius was the Bishop of Constantinople, which was at that time the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire.
Nestorius claimed that Mary was the mother of Jesus, but not the mother of God. He also declared that only Jesus' human side suffered and died on the cross. This belief made of Jesus two different persons and denied the reality of the Incarnation.
This could not stand and so a council was called. At that council it was declared that Jesus, the Word, the second Person of the Divine Trinity was Incarnate, that is he was en-fleshed in the womb of Mary. The divine nature of the Son was united with the human nature, in one undivided person: Jesus.
Since that is so, Mary who was and is the mother of Jesus must be the Mother of God, and so she is. This belief is held to this day by the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and even some Protestant groups. In Greek the word for "Mother of God" is Theotokos.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Structure of the Church

The Catholic Church is not only the deliverer of the Gospel and "a pilgrim now on earth...necessary for salvation" (CCC 846) it is also a hierarchical institution which has existed for over two thousand years, a vast period of time almost unmatched in history.
The head of the Catholic Church is its founder Jesus Christ. As his vicar on Earth Jesus appointed Peter, the first Bishop of Rome. Every Pope since has been the successor of Peter. For most of the last 2000 years the Pope has resided in Rome. As the Supreme Pontiff the Pope presides not only over the Latin Church, that is the Roman Catholic Church (Latin Rite), but also the 22 Eastern Churches in communion with Rome. The Pope is also the head of state of the Vatican, and as such is entitled to the same protocol as any head of state. As an independent nation the Vatican accepts and appoints ambassadors to other nations. Papal ambassadors are called nuncios and work for the Vatican's Secretariat of State.
The pope is elected by the College of Cardinals. Cardinals are members of the clergy who have been appointed by the pope. Most Cardinals today are bishops, but the Pope can appoint any clergyman, deacon, priest or bishop, a Cardinal. Any member of the clergy is eligible to be elected Pope, but in practice elections usually select a member of the College of Cardinals to become Pope.
The Pope is assisted in carrying on the administration of the Church by the Roman Curia. The curia is divided into the Secretariat of State, the Roman Congregations, the Tribunals, the Pontifical Councils, The Pontifical Commissions, the Swiss Guard and the Pontifical Academies.
Some of the more important and well known Congregations are the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, The Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, sometimes called the Holy Office, is responsible for safeguarding the doctrine of the faith. They do this by promulgating documents which support Catholic doctrinal positions. They also review the publications of Catholic theologians and others for conformity to Catholic Doctrine. The Congregation can require that both clergy and lay theologians recant positions that conflict with Catholic doctrine and even punish those who refuse. They can also correct any Catholic who is guilty of heresy or other action that would scandalize the faith.
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints oversees the process which leads to the canonization of saints. After the case is prepared it is presented to the pope who decides whether to proceed with beatification or canonization.
The Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments handles affairs relating to liturgical practice of the Latin Rite. The Eastern Churches handle their own liturgical matters. This includes the liturgical calendars and music as well as the propers of the Divine Office and the Mass. This is the office responsible for ensuring that liturgical abuses are avoided, usually by informing and supporting bishops, who are responsible for the proper celebration of the liturgy in their diocese. The proper celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, that is the Mass and Sacraments performed in Latin according to the forms used prior to Vatican II is vested in the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.
The Church community is governed according to formal regulation set out in the Code of Canon Law. The Catholic Church has a complete legal system, one of the oldest in the world. This includes a complete appellate courts system. Most of the cases heard under canon law today are marriage annulment cases, but cases also include petitions for redress of punitive and non-punitive actions such as excommunications.
Worldwide the Church is divided into 2782 episcopal sees, which are called dioceses. Each diocese is headed by a bishop. Some few are lead by patriarchs. Eastern Church sees are called eparchies and lead by an eparch.
Vatican II established that bishops responsible for specific geographic areas be organized into national episcopal conferences. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is the national episcopal conference for the U.S. Many tasks and authorities are relegated to the episcopal conferences, particularly in the area of setting liturgical norms for the Mass. The USCCB also works with the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) and the Bishop conferences of other English speaking countries on approved translations of the Liturgy. All liturgical documents are composed originally in Latin.
Besides the bishops, priests and deacons which are in the dioceses there are members of the church, both clergy and the laity, who are in the consecrated life. The majority of these people are in one of the religious orders. Members of religious orders are usually under the authority of a superior general. Usually they are independent of the authority of the local bishop, though often they are required to coordinate with him in matters that effect the faithful in his diocese. Some few religious orders, such as the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) report directly to the Pope. Some orders. Like the Benedictines have houses which are independent.
Opus Dei is a unique order called a Prelature. It is a personal prelature which means that it's bishop's jurisdiction covers all persons in Opus Die, laity and clergy where ever they are. Such people are not under the authority of the local bishop although they are expected to coordinate with the ordinary within his diocese.
Diocese are typically organized into ecclesiastical provinces which are headed by an archbishop. Such archbishops are called metropolitan bishops, and exercise a limited degree of authority over his suffragan bishops. Often dioceses are divided into vicarates, each having a diocesan vicar.
Each parish is by design a geographical unit with specific boundaries. A pastor administers the parish and is sometimes helped by a parochial vicar and other parish priests. Often a group of parishes are assigned to a single pastor who is responsible for their administration. Deacons, although they work in parishes are assigned under the authority of the bishop and although they help the pastor they are assigned by the bishop and actually work for him.
The pastor is typically advised by a number of parish committees, including the parish council and finance committee.
Besides the hierarchical structure of the church described above there is a separate structure which is made up of the various religious orders, many of which contain both clergy and members of the laity who have given themselves up to a consecrated life.
Initially the orders were founded on the three principles of chastity, poverty and obedience. These are called solemn vows. Some members of religious life take simple vows. The basic difference is that in simple vows a person maintains the right to own goods while in solemn vows the person renounces the right of ownership. Most religious orders, even those under solemn vows allows that the order may own goods, but there are exceptions to even that, with a few order completely dependent on the will of God for their maintenance.
Though in most orders (and in single consecrated life) a vow of chastity is required there are exceptions. Members of the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) who are members of the Third Order of Franciscans may be married and are not bound by public vows. There are other orders where married members make public profession and are bound to marital chastity, that is bound to their spouse.
Some orders are have houses that are autonomous, as are the Benedictines. Others are more or less hierarchical in organization having a single leader, usually appointed by the Pope, though sometimes the members of the order are allowed to nominate an individual for the Pope's concurrence.
Many members of the religious orders serve others, the poor, the sick and the disenfranchised. Others are teachers, councilors, pastoral ministers, religious educators and even parish priests.
The structure of the Church is forever changing, though usually slowly and in small ways. New orders are founded and new commissions established, and so too do orders die out and curial offices become vacant or combined. This is a short snapshot of the Church structure as it exists today.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Dissent III

Dr. William E. May, Michael J. McGivney Professor of Moral Theology at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University in Washington, D.C. writes at on Authority and Dissent in the Catholic Church. Good background for explaining to those who think that a "ardent" Catholic can dissent from the teachings of the Church on contraception or abortion.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Upon this Rock

On the road to rescuing Princess Fiona, Shrek tries to explain to Donkey the complexities of ogre personality. "Ogres are like onions," he says. "They have layers."
Scripture is like ogres...I mean onions. It has layers. What does this mean? One of the primary characteristics of Scripture, is, being inspired by God, it has meaning when it was revealed, relating to the time and place to which it is tied. Scripture also has meaning throughout time, off times in relationship to salvation history, that is, to the story of our salvation through Christ. It also speaks to us today, in our own lives. One thing this means is that trying to tie a single definitive meaning to a specific scriptural passage is a chancy thing. Almost all passages of scripture have more than one authentic meaning, as well as an almost unlimited number of incorrect interpretations, hence the danger of solo scriptura and the need for the Magisterium of the Church.
One place where scripture is very much part of our daily lives is during the Mass. Scott Hahn does a very good job of explaining how The Book of Revelations is a map to the Mass, as well a probable writing on the first century Roman Empire, as well as a possible hint of the end times. See, like an onion?
One place that scripture is very visibly in the Mass is during the readings. When the Mass was revised after Vatican II the cycle of readings was changed from a single year cycle, which is still used in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, to a three year cycle. Readings were added and an attempt was made to try together at least two of the readings. This most often results in a common thread running between the first reading, which is most often from the Old Testament and the Gospel.
For the Twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary time, cycle II (or B) we hear from Isaiah 22:19-23. The story concerns Shebna, who was the steward of Hezekiah, King of Judah, that is the Southern Kingdom of Israel. In those days the king's steward was the government comptroller, secretary of the treasury, head butler and chief of staff all rolled into one. The crux of his duties and the source of his power was that he held the keys of the king. When it was time to pay people he had the keys to the treasury. When someone wanted to see the monarch he held to keys to the door they would have to pass through before they could enter the king's presence. The king held the real power, but folks understood that the steward held authority too. That authority came from the king, but like the power of the king that authority ultimately came from God. Shebna was reminded of this fact when God sent Isaiah to toss him out of office and anoint Eliakim to take his place.
Now the Gospel comes from Matthew 16:13-20. This is one of the readings that Protestants dance around and write whole books about how Catholics have got it wrong. This is the place where Christ gives the Keys of Kingdom to Peter. Like Eliakim he will be able to open or close doors and from that will flow his power to bind and loose, a term that in Jewish law was concerned with the ability of rabbis and judges to interpret law and contracts. Like Eliakim his power does not come from his own authority, but from the authority of the King. In Israel the position of steward was hereditary with the power of the keys being passed down to the Eliakim's heirs.
Now it was a sure bet that the Apostles knew the story of Eliakim. They would have recognized the meaning of Christs words, when he used the terms "keys", "binding" and "loosing." Even after Jesus' death, before Pentecost, they, the Apostles, gathered around Peter and recognized his authority. Which is why Mary Magdalene sought him out when told to tell the Apostles about her meeting with the Lord following his resurrection. And why the other Apostle, even though he reached the tomb first on Easter morning, allowed Peter to enter first, out of respect to his position as leader of the Apostles. Even Paul, who was appointed an Apostle by Jesus himself, sought out Peter to bless his ministry.
Often you'll hear a Protestant apologist claim that the early Church fathers don't mention the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. They don't mention the existence of the Emperor either, or the geographic location of Rome or the color of the sky. Why not? Because those were assumptions that they knew were accepted by their readers already. One does not explain or defend that which is already accepted.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Dissent II

Last month I wrote on Dissent, describing the various aspects of the magisterium. That post was the result of a conversation with someone over the right of Catholics to dissent from Church teaching. In that discussion the other person sited support for their position in the writings of several noted (liberal) theologians.
My answer was that I could site numerous theologians who disagreed with that position. Why did I think my theologians were better than her theologians? Because, I stated, in this battle of dueling theologians mine worked for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
What I was thinking of at the time was DONUM VERITATIS, On The Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian. This CDF document makes it quite clear that a distinction exists between the Magisterium of the Teachers (or, experts) (magisterium cathedrae magisterialis) and the Magisterium of the Pastors (the bishops and the pope.) The theologians get to propose and theorize, but the pastors get to decide. This is not new, but has ever been that way in the Church.
So it does not matter how many theologians might believe that its not heretical to dissent from the teachings of the Church on abortion or contraception, the Magisterium of the Church teaches us that it is.

The Vindication of Humanae Vitae

Mary Eberstadt writes in First Things on the vindication of Paul VI's reaffirmation of traditional Christian doctrine in light of modern social science. A thought provoking read.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Over the millenia Christians have used many symbols, the Cross being perhaps the most well known. Protestants commonly use a plain cross, while a Crucifix is more common among Catholics. A symbol very common among modern day Christians, is the fish.
How did the fish, which is never mentioned in scripture as a symbol related to Christ come to be a Christian symbol?
In Greek, the language of the early Church, ichthus is the word for fish. In Greek ichthus is spelled ΙΧΘΥΣ. That is Iota(Ι), Chi(Χ), Theta(Θ), Upsilon(Υ), Sigma(Σ). Each of these letters can be made to stand for a word, a kind of code for those who know.
Iota(Ι) is the first letter of Iesous, Jesus in Greek. Chi(Χ) is the first letter of Christos, Christ, which means "anointed One" in Greek and can be translated more correctly into English as Messiah. Theta(Θ) is the first letter of the Greek word Theos. While god is most commonly described using the word Dios, this word is typically applied to the pagan Greek gods. The translators of the Septuagint used the word Theos to refer to the God of Jacob. Upsilon(Υ) is the first letter of the Greek word uios, meaning son. Sigma(Σ) is the first letter of the Greek word for Soter, which means savior.
So Ichthus (ΙΧΘΥΣ) can stand for Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior.
The symbol of the fish was use by followers of the Way to mark places where they met and is also believed to have been used as a sign between Christians who did not know one another.
Today many Christians display the ichthus proudly to proclaim they are followers of the Son of God.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Breathing with two lungs

John Paul II once described the Church as breathing with two lungs, through the Eastern Rite and Western Churches. For too long have East and West lungs not breathed together. Certainly the Eastern Rite Churches contribute greatly to the function of the body of the Church, but still a great number of our Orthodox breatheren are separated from us, by ancient divisions in theological points.
Today two hopeful occurrences have happened to make it more hopeful that in the future East and West may breath together more powerfully, something which, considering the state of the world, can only be for the good.
The first is discussion by the Ukrainian Catholic Church with the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople for a system of "dual-unity" by which they would be both in union with Rome and with the Orthodox Churches. This would be a big deal, effectively turning back the clock one thousand years. This is a good thing.
The next is the Mass for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul at which Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Churches joined the Holy Father. The Holy Father and the Patriarch together recited the creed, in Greek (without the troublesome Filioque clause), Bartholomew and Benedict gave the blessing with the Book of the Gospel, after which the Gospel was sang by an Orthodox deacon. Both the Holy Father and the Patriarch gave addresses at the homily.
This is too a big thing.
The Orthodox bishops are real bishops, with apostalic succession going back the the apostles. As is says in the Guidelines for the reception of Communion:
"Members of the Orthodox Churches...are urged to respect the discipile of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic Discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object the the reception of Communion by Chrisitians of these Churches."
It is also permissible for a Roman Catholic to receive Communion in an Orthodox Church, at least according to the Code of Canon Law, provided a valid Catholic (Roman or Eastern Rite) Mass is not available. In both case the disciplines of the Orthodox Church may not permit this.
There have certainly been cases of even Orthodox bishops recieving Communion in a Roman Catholic Mass, though it is hardly routine. Perhaps someday it will become so. Considering the very close theological beliefs of East and West it can only be for the good.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


The teaching authority of the Church, its magisterium, is exercised through her bishops in union with the supreme bishop, the Roman Pontiff. All Church teachings held through the magisterium are true, but not all teachings are held to be infallibly true. Those teachings which are not held to be infallibly true are said to authoritatively true.
Church teachings whether infallibly true or authoritatively true are proposed to be held as true by the faithful.
So what does this mean?
Some Catholic teachings are dogma. That means they are held to be irreformally true, that is infallibly true. They are divinely revealed and are defined by an ecumenical council or the Pope speaking
ex cathedra. This the Extraordinary and Solemn path of magisterial action. Dogma can also be revealed in the ordinary and non-solemn action of the bishops in union with the Pope. As Lumen Gentium says:
Although the bishops individually do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim the teaching of Christ infallibly, even when they are dispersed throughout the world, provided that they remain in communion with each other and with the successor of Peter and that in authoritatively teaching on a matter of faith and morals they agree in one judgment as that to be held definitively.Doctrine which is not divinely reveal may also be Extraordinary and Solemn. Such truths are revealed by the Holy Spirit and are typically inimately linked with revealed truths. Such truths make up Definitive Doctrine.

The rest may be said to reside under the heading of Authentic Doctrine. These truths are reformable in the light of the formation of faith, but are still authoritative, that is they must be adhered to by the faithful.

None of this was controversial at all until the post Vatican II period, specifically after July 25, 1986. What happen then? Pope Paul VI promalgated Humanae Vitae which did nothing but confirm traditional Catholic teaching on abortion and contraception.
100 theologians, among them Fr. Charles E. Curran, who was then a professor at Catholic University of America, issued a statement claiming that Catholic's individual consciences can prevail over non-dogmatic teaching, effectively rendering Authentic Doctrine meaningless. At the same time the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the infamous Winnipeg Statement, which effectively said that Catholics were free to dissent from the teachings of the Church based on their own consciences.
This is not the teaching of the Catholic Church, though some theologians continue to support it. This has been addressed by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. The CDF holds that while theologians may question the content of proposed authoritative teachings in the pursuit of their vocation, such views are publish only so that they may be may be reviewed by their peers for submission to those within the Church who have the authority and responsibility under the magisterium to discern such doctrine. At no time are the faithful free to accept such proposed positions if they conflict with the present Authentic Doctrine as taught by the Church. Holding any
other position is contrary to the Obsequium, that is the submission of will and intellect required for Authentic Doctrine.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

That Catholic Show

That Catholic Show. I can't believe that I haven't blogged on it before. One of the best podcast on the Web on fundamental core Catholic concepts.
Buy the first season on DVD. Support Greg & Jennifer Willits in their efforts to
respond to the Church’s call to use the media for religious information, for evangelization and catechesis and for formation and education.


Stuff Catholics Like expounds usefully on Catechisms.
Catholics can’t remember anything, God bless us. With great effort and much discipline we can sometimes remember the Gospel until the homily starts, but most couldn’t guess the number of readings done on Sunday let alone the subject matter. We enjoy Palm Sunday when the Gospel is written out like a play and we have our own part. Because of our bad memories and the importance of tradition in Catholicism, it is imperative that we write down everything. Everything (and in every language). Catholics have Sacred Scripture. Catholics have Canon Law. Catholics have Lectionaries and Sacramentaries. Catholics have encyclopedias and dictionaries. And Catholics have catechisms. Boy do we have catechisms.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


As a catechist I've spent a good part of my time working with teenagers. I have been fortunate enough to be able to accompany groups of teens to Steubenville Youth Conferences, accompanied groups of young people doing mission work in West Virginia, chaperoned them as they worked in soup kitchens, prayed outside Abortion clinics and attended retreats. I have also engaged in social ministry, spending time with teens just discussing their lives, their school, the world. I have been struck by the knowledge of Roman Catholicism exhibited by some of them and the ignorance of their religion shown by others.
The most amazing thing that I have found is that, as a rule, they are happier with a orthodox view of the world than with the package that secular society is trying to sell them. They want to be challenged to be holy. They would rather, in the long run, be called on their mistakes, than be "validated."
That being said I have lately dabbled in adult catechesis. This area can best be divided between candidates for RCIA and Catholic adults. RCIA candidates, one would suppose, range from those who are converting based on a long search and those going through the motions for reasons of marital peace, either before or after matrimony. Catholic adults, I have met, are at many different stages of both spiritual growth and of orthodoxy. As a developing adult Catholic myself I struggle with issues just like everyone else, but continue to believe that the catechist must espouse authentic Church teaching just as much with adults as with teens.
Of course, many times adults don't want to hear authentic Church teachings when they go against their own positions. I'm attempting to improve my skill at being tactful, a skill my wife will tell you I can be somewhat lacking in. I've found it always helps when dealing with a controversial subject to bring out the big guns, i.e. not to say something along the lines of, "..the Church teaches..." but rather "...the Catechism of the Catholic Church says..." or " The USCCB say in the Norms for Distribution and Reception of...". After all this isn't a discussion between me and another person debating opinions, it is, or should be, me acting as a conduit of Church teaching in such a way as to edify the others journey to holiness.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Works of Mercy

Much is being said about the pastoral actions of the Archbishops of New York and Kansas City in their public announcements relating to the actions of two pro-abortion politicians who are self-described Catholics.
In the modern post Vatican II era we hear a lot about our responsibility to practice the Works of Mercy. Most often the Works emphasized are the seven Corporal Works:
  1. Feed the hungry.
  2. Give drink to the thirsty.
  3. Cloth the naked.
  4. Welcome the Stranger.
  5. Visit the imprisoned.
  6. Visit the sick.
  7. Bury the dead.
Indeed the many ministries which are common at almost every Catholic Church often concern themselves with fulfilling the requirements of meeting the Corporal Works of Mercy.

All too often the other Works of Mercy, the Spiritual Works of Mercy are overlooked. They are:
  1. Admonish the sinner.
  2. Instruct the ignorant.
  3. Counsel the doubtful.
  4. Comfort the sorrowful.
  5. Bear wrongs patiently.
  6. Forgive all injuries.
  7. Pray for the living and the deceased.
It seems to me that it is a lot harder to be faithful to the Spiritual Works of Mercy than to the Corporal Works of Mercy. Even many secularist (especially of liberal leanings) agree that the requirements of the Corporal Works should be done. Who would speak against feeding the hungry, or clothing the naked? Yet many otherwise faithful Catholics do not feel bishops should admonish sinners.
Oh they're all for general comments on the evil of sin, but start naming names and they talk about how the bishop is overstepping. Now don't misunderstand, naming names is not something to be done lightly. A private sin is just that, private. If confessed, it is between the sinner and their confessor. Even if the sinner does not confess the sin and is unrepentant in most cases informing other third parties of the sin is no more than gossip, and is sinful in itself.
Public sin is another story. A public sinner flaunts their sin. They bring scandal to themselves, and if unadmonished to the Church. They lead others into sin by their example and in some cases even encourage others to sin. When their actions also contest a dogma or doctrine of the Church they flirt with heresy, also a not very popular term in the modern secular world.
One should remember that the purpose of admonishment as well as instruction is correction of the individual with the purpose of the salvation of their soul. So the Spiritual Works of Mercy, like the Corporal Works are to be performed in a spirit of charity, not of pride. Liekwise they are not relegated only to the actions of the Ordinary, but the duty of all Catholics.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Mathematics Platoism and Natural Law

One of the most interesting and vexing questions in (and about) mathematics is the so called discovery question. Is mathematics discovered or invented? The U.S. patent office, in the face of the common wisdom of antiquity, and I would say common sense, has declared that mathematics is invented, and therefore patentable. So is created the situation where one must pay a corporation thousands of dollars to use an algorithm which is the result of the flow of mathematical relationships.
Science News has an article which quotes a paper from last June's issue of the Newsletter of the European Mathematics Society which speaks against the discovery theory of mathematics, called the Plato theory of mathematics.
Platonist note that mathematical statements are either true or false independently of the personal beliefs of the mathematician. In base ten 1+1 will always equal 2. That makes mathematics independent of human belief and existence.
In his article in EMS Davies states:
Platonists believe that our understanding of mathematics involves a type of perception of the Platonic realm, and that our brains therefore have the capacity to reach beyond the confines of the physical world as currently understood, albeit after a long period of intense concentration. If one does not believe this then the existence of the Platonic realm has literally no significance. This type of claim has more in common with mystical religions than with modern science.

In that Davies makes the mistake of many secularist who ignore the theory of Natural Law and many physicists who while realizing that the universe is written in the language of mathematics fail to see the hand of the divine within that writing.
I remained unconvinced that calculus, which circumscribes the behavior of fluids in a piston or electron containment in an accelerator is a happy accident of human invention as opposed to a deep extension of divine will revealed to human knowledge by the grace of God.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

On the Road Again

Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them, "What are you discussing as you walk along?"
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?"
And he replied to them, "What sort of things?"
They said to him, "The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see."
And he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?"
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, "The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!"
Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
If the Last Supper was the first Mass, and it surely was, then the second Mass took place in the village of Emmaus, on that first Easter Sunday. Amazingly the Apostles were not present, but instead two ordinary disciples and perhaps their families. As in Mass today, in all the forms of the many rites, first the scriptures were opened-- then Christ was made visible in the breaking of the bread, in the Eucharist. And for those present Christ who was with them all along, as He is with us was made truly present in the act of the Mass.
The location of Emmaus which is typically translated as seven miles from Jerusalem is described by Luke as sixty stades. A stade is a unit of distance equal to about 607 feet. Some manuscripts give other distances, up to eighteen miles outside Jerusalem. The location of Emmaus has been lost to history. The village was likely no more than a collection of huts and tents beside the road. But the most important event which ever happened in this little town has been preserved for two thousand years, by the Evangelist. The message of Emmaus is not apologetic, that is it is not aimed at defending Christian belief, rather it is catechetical.
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.
So how much of what is contained in the Gospels which explain the references to Jesus from the Psalms, the prophets, and even Genesis was first heard from the mouth of God himself on that road? We might never know, but the Gospel tells us that at least two heard it.
This passage should also touch catechists to their heart, because just has when we feed the poor, clothed the naked or visit the sick, when we catechize we are doing what Jesus did.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Pots & Kettles

I picked up or rather was given a copy of CATECHISTS, a magazine for, well, catechists. Generally it is fairly good, but.. (you knew that was coming) .. this issue contained an article which particularly irked me. Enough so that I sent a letter to the editor. It concerned a feature proporting to have advice from "Master Catechists."
My letter follows:
I am writing about an answer given by Kate Ristow's in answer to the question "Can a catechist disagree with Church teaching." While I certainly agree with Ms. Ristow's position that a catechist must teach in accordance with the Church's position on subjects, the example given by her in the article is an example of her doing exactly what she says a catechist must not do, impose her own beliefs in preference to the teaching of the Church.
Her example? To quote:
" Let's say, for example, that one of the topics your textbooks addresses is the Ten Commandments. As you teach the Fifth Commandment- You shall not kill -and the text rightfully emphasizes the sacredness of life, you simply can not tell the kids that you personally the death penalty is an acceptable option for punishing murderers. You must teach that it is our duty to protect life in all circumstances and that only God has the right to decide when someone's life should end."
A very nice sentiment, except it is not what the Church reaches. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2266) says:

"2266 Preserving the common good of society requires rendering the aggressor unable to inflict harm. For this reason the traditional teaching of the Church has acknowledged as well-founded the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty. For analogous reasons those holding authority have the right to repel by armed force aggressors against the community in their charge."

While many individual Catholic leaders have, on their own authority, spoken out against the death penalty, the teaching of the Church itself is that use of the death penalty can be legitimate, depending on the circumstances, and Ms. Ristow's statement that it is not, is a case of her disagreeing with Church teaching, and presenting her view as the Churches. While elementary students are likely not capable of understanding the full scope of the Church's teaching on when it is legitimate to impose the death penalty, the use of force under the Just War doctrine and when it is permissible to kill in self defense and at other times these are subjects that high school students should be learning and the lesson needs to come out of the CCC and other Church documents and not from people's opinions.
And, of course the subject is even more complicated than that. A philosopher I know (really, she is a real Doctor of Philosophy, and teaches said subject,) can give a very precise and logical argument on why imposition of the death penalty is never morally defensible, based on the principle that execution for revenge is never moral, and that execution of a captive who no longer has the ability to harm society is also not morally right. These are very compelling arguments, perhaps enough to say that in the modern world, at least in the United States, capital punishment does not meet the requirements of CCC 2266, of execution being necessary to "rendering the aggressor unable to inflict harm." But this does not mean that execution is thus wrong in all cases in all places. Indeed this is the stand of the Church, that there are some circumstances where legitimate authority does have the right. and the duty, to impose the death penalty. And this is what a catechist should teach.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New sins?

The Main Stream Media (heretofore known as MSM) typically doesn't get it. Getting information on Catholic teachings or Church positions from the MSM is perilous at best. So it should be no surprise that this article from Reuters has it wrong.
Is pollution really a sin? While some of us my chaff at the way some liberals have embraced environmentalism (to the extent for perverting the Stations of the Cross into something that is not Christ centered or Catholic) the fact is that pollution is a sin and has always been a sin. As Christians we believe that God has given us stewardship over the Earth. Stewardship means oversight and is related to pastorship. We have jurisdiction over the Earth and it is our duty to protect the lessor species. We are allowed to exploit them for legitimate purposes but poisoning and destruction of the Earth is not the same as the governance of resources that we are allowed as stewards. Remember a steward does not own what he manages, he merely manages for another. The Earth is God's and we are just tasked with its care.
Likewise in the realm of bioethics the sins are no more new than murder has ever been. It was no more right in ancient times to create a human life by conventional means to use for purposes of medical experimentation than it is now to create a life using scientific means for experimentation. To start with all life is created by God, man sometimes acts as God's agent in the act, but God is the creator, and the life, if it is human life contains a soul made in the image and likeness of God and possessing of inherent dignity based on that fact.
Even the more bizzare of the bioethic questions, such as blended human-animal DNA simply leads back to the traditional sins of offenses against the dignity of the soul and the immorality of the treatment of the human as a commodity.
Certainly it is the duty of the Church to continue to remind the faithful of this and clarify the new acts that are old sins, but idea that there could be new sins attempts to undermine the constancy of Church teaching and the Churches role as the Earthly representative of the unchanging God.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Friday Frills

Another Lenten Friday, which means another day without meat. Just a few more and then its ok to dig into that Friday night steak, right?
Well maybe not. Present disciplines on the rules for fasting and abstinence are rooted in Pope Paul VI's Paenitemini, and the rules imposed by your local episcopal conference. In the United States, during Lent all Roman Catholics 14 years and older must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and on all Fridays in Lent. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday all Roman Catholics who are 18 to 59 must Fast. Fasting requires that only one full meal be eaten along with two smaller meals (collations) which do not equal one full meal. There are a number of other rules, such as abstinence is not required on a solemnity (The Feast of St. Joseph and the Annunciation often occur during Easter, and sometimes are on Friday,) and the local bishops often, in the United States, at least give dispensations on St. Patrick's Day (March 17) if falls on a Friday. Members of the Eastern Catholic Churches are obliged to follow the discipline of their own particular church, which are often still much more strict than now followed by the Western Church.
Paenitemini requires that Fridays outside of Lent are penitential days. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops do not require Catholics abstain on these days, but by canon law individuals are suppose to do some form of penance on these days. That few seem to is unfortunate.
Obviously the responsibility of the catechist in this case is obvious. Many Catholics believe that the penitential aspect of Fridays were abolished when the mandatory abstinences were. As can be seen this was not the case. It is important that teens understand this.
So what to do? Abstaining from meat on all Fridays is probably the easiest way to meet this penitential requirement, but perhaps not the best. Most other forms of penance require more thought and effort. Organize an alternative to abstinence might actually be more engaging to your teens. Have them commit to taking an extra half hour to pray on Fridays. Scriptural meditation or saying the rosary also apply. Substitute Fasting for Abstinence on Fridays and collect the money they save for food for alms to go to the poor box or to a food bank or other charity. These are all penitential acts which meet the requirement.
Above all remind them that the penitential nature of Fridays and their adherence to Church practices in this matter are part of living a Catholic life. Its part of their heritage, as well as part of their obligations.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Celebrations in the absence of a priest.

The ideal case throughout the world is for each group, each parish to have each Sunday at least one Mass that the faithful can attend. Unfortunately this is not always possible. In some areas of the world there are simply not enough priests available to serve all of the faithful. At other times a parish which has a faithful priest is suddenly without one due to illness or other unforeseen circumstance. Many times this can be dealt with by contacting a substitute to come in and say Mass. Sometimes this is not possible.
The preferred action in this case is for the faithful to visit surrounding parishes to attend the Masses there. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the bishop conferences realize this is not alway possible. Surrounding parishes may be too far away. Masses there may have already taken place, or it may not be possible to inform the faithful in a timely manner, so that they could arrange to attend elsewhere. In that case Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest can be authorized.
It is up to each bishop to decide when it is appropriate for this liturgical practice to be done. Most diocesan bishops issue a directive, based upon the Congregation for Divine Worship's Directory for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest. This document lays out the guidelines for this practice.
As might be supposed, in the absence of a priest, the deacon presides as a member of the clergy, befitting his office. He
acts in accord with his ministry in regard to the greetings, the prayers, the gospel reading and homily, the giving of communion, and the dismissal and blessing. He wears the vestments proper to his ministry, that is, the alb with stole, and, as circumstances suggest, the dalmatic. He uses the presidential chair.
If a deacon is not present a lay minister does not preside, but acts as a leader among equals.
The lay leader wears vesture that is suitable for his or her function or the vesture prescribed by the bishop.34 He or she does not use the presidential chair, but another chair prepared outside the sanctuary.35 Since the altar is the table of sacrifice and of the paschal banquet, its only use in this celebration is for the rite of communion, when the consecrated bread is placed on it before communion is given.
The lay leader is typically an Extraordinary Minister of Communion who has received special training to lead a Celebration in the Absence of a Priest. They must be specifically appoint by the pastor, and in some diocese officially designated by the bishop for this ministry.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How is the date for Easter Determined?

Easter is always the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after the Spring Equinox (which is March 20). This dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that Hebrew people used to identify Passover, which is why it moves around on our Roman calendar.

Computus is the term used for the calculation of the date of Easter. Easter is the first Sunday after the 14th day of the lunar month (that is the day of the Full Moon) that falls on or after 21 March.

This method was agreed upon at the council of Nicene (325 A.D.) Because not all lunar months have the same number of days, and because the calculation is tied to the vernal equinox, not to mention the variances of leap years in the solar calendar the actual computation of the Day of Easter is moderately complex. The Eastern Churches, which have a few additional rules, and use the Julian, not the Gregorian calendar celebrates Easter on a different day than the west.

A decade ago there was a move among the Protestant Churches to change the way the date of Easter was calculated. Nothing came of it and all western Christian churches continue to follow the method proscribed by the Catholic Church almost 1700 years ago.

Now for the interesting bits:

This year is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see the rest of our lives! And only the most elderly of our population have ever seen it this early (95 years old or above!). And none of us have ever, or will ever, see it a day earlier! Here's the facts:

1) The next time Easter will be this early (March 23) will be the year 2228 (220 years from now). The last time it was this early was 1913 (so if you're 95 or older, you are the only ones that were around for that!).

2) The next time it will be a day earlier, March 22, will be in the year 2285 (277 years from now). The last time it was on March 22 was 1818. So, no one alive today has or will ever see it any earlier than this year!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fr. Fessio on the moto prioprio

Fr. Fessio of Ignatius Press speaks out on Summorum Pontificum. Find it here.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Angelus

Many times one will see in the media that the Holy Father has made some statement or given a sermon on a subject during the Angelus at St. Peters. So what is the Angelus?
Saying the Angelus is a practice that originated in the middle ages, surrounding the use of the bells which were possessed by just about every medieval church. At 6 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. the bells were rung in three sets of three. The time between sets was just long enough for a Pater and Ave Maria to be said. The typical Angelus prayer does not consist of an Our Father and Hail Mary but rather a set of lines taken from the Annunciation reading in Gospel (Luke 1:26-27) and a recitation of the Hail Mary.

V/. The Angel of the Lord brought tidings unto Mary,
R/. And she conceived by the Holy Ghost.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

V/. "Behold the handmaid of the Lord."
R/. "Be it unto me according to thy Word."
Hail Mary, full of grace...

V/. And the Word was made flesh,
R/. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary, full of grace...

V/. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
R/. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Even though the reading is from the Annunciation the prayer is really a devotion in memory of the Incarnation.

The Angelus is said three times a day in many places in the old world, where the church bells still toll at the appointed times. In Rome, Ireland and even Britain, various radio and television stations interrupt programing at these times to broadcast the tolling of the bells, three sets of three, usually followed by a long peal of the bell originally associated with the ringing of curfew. In some places, like Germany, even the Protestant churches toll the Angelus, and some Lutherans and Anglo-Catholics pray the Angelus daily.

During Eastertide the Regina Coeli, (The Queen of Heaven) is said instead.

Queen of heaven, be joyful, alleluia:
The Son whom you merited to bear, alleluia,

Has risen, as He said, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.

Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.

The Regina Coeli is also said seasonally as part of the Liturgy of the Hours.

The Angelus is included in the Traditional Catholic Prayer section of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

British Airways Anti-Christian?

British Airways has won a suit brought by a woman who was punished for wearing a cross at work. She sued because members of the Muslim and Hindu faiths are allowed to wear faith related clothing, religious markings and jewelry, and lost. So it appears that both British Airways and the British court system believes that it's alright to wear religious artifacts, unless you're Christian.
Let your dollars or pounds show BA your opinion on the matter.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Fr. Fushek's folly

I'm sure many of you are familiar with Life Teen and St. Timothy's long time pastor who was its founder.
I also expect that you've heard of the allegations of sexual impropriety against Fr. Dale Fushek and how Bishop Thomas Olmsted has, in light of these allegations, removed him from active ministry.
As The Cafeteria is Closed reports Fr. Fushek is defying the diocese by holding non-Mass worship services at the Mesa Convention center. Considering the past history of the priest sex scandal why anyone would want to encourage their children to attend such a function is beyond me. That Catholics would in defiance of their bishop is even more so.
Fr. Fushek was removed from parish ministry. This implicitly should have prevented him from being in any way involved with young people. He is defying his bishop and worse he is the prima facta cause of other Catholics defying their bishop by supporting his actions.
My parish youth minister informs me that Life Teen has sent out a letter explaining that Fr. Fushek is no longer associated with Life Teen and urging youth ministers to warn their teens against attending these "Praise & Worship" events being run by Dale Fushek.
I've no doubt that individuals who have never been enamored with Life Teen's Charismatic approach to teem ministry will point to the scandal of Dale Fushek's actions and attempt to paint the whole program in the worst of all possible lights.
It is up to those who have seen the positive effects that Life Teen has had on young people, how the program has led youth to Christ, to point out that the program is more than the sins and bad decisions of any one individual. I have seen the Eucharist centered message of Life Teen reach teens who would other wise have been lost to the Church. Life Teen teaches serious messages. It's not all fun and games. Small Groups wrestle with hard issues, and the social ministry frame work of Life Teen often gives parents that backup which might be lacking in a classroom environment.
On September 19, 1846, about 3:00 in the afternoon, two children in the village of La Salette, France, beheld a vision of the Virgin Mary. Neither of the child visionaries led particularly saintly or religious lives after the apparitions. Maximin Giraud fell under the spell of unscrupulous people who used him for his notoriety. Mélanie Calvat attempted to live as a Carmelite nun a few times, but eventually returned to the secular world. She began to espouse her own prophecies and mystical dogmas and unsuccessfully tried to develop a personal following.
The point being that while even St. John Vianney, who at first excepted the apparition as real, began to doubt its autheticity after meeting Maximin Giraud, through the intercession of Our Lady of La Salette he latter recanted of his doubts. Our Lord does not need perfect tools to do his work. Luckily, for he would find his toolbox worriedly empty during most ages of the world. He is quite capable of using the most flawed of us to do His will.
Like Mélanie Calvat it appears Dale Fushek is attempting to build a personal following. As with Calvat these actions have no bearing on the sanctity of the prior work God entrusted to him.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy Birthday

Today is J.R.R. Tolkien's birthday. The father of modern fantasy was a devote Catholic, and indeed Christian themes abound in his most famous work. Professor Tolkien was a good friend of C.S. Lewis, and with him was a member of the literary group the Inklings.