Monday, October 29, 2012

Importance of Church Architecture

Anita at V-For-Victory makes some good points here, based on a homily found at Audio Sancto website. (There are hundreds of good homilies on various topics at this website.)
Anita notes a comment made by Winston Churchill: we shape our buildings, and then our buildings shape us. She adds:

Catholic churches are no different.  From floor to ceiling, a Catholic church is catechesis in stone, wood and glass.  It is not only the stained-glass windows and the statuary that contain lessons about the faith, but the very architecture.  Have you ever thought about the significance of the three distinct spaces within a Catholic church: the vestibule, the nave, and the sanctuary?  The vestibule symbolizes the underworld; the nave symbolizes the earth; the sanctuary symbolizes heaven.  Different standards of behavior apply in each.

Finish reading the post here; it’s not long, and you may be interested in reading some of Anita’s other posts as well. And don’t forget to check out the good homilies at Audio Sancto.


...not so good...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Abortion and Forbidden Grief: Fr. Andersen

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, Oregon, for Sunday, October 28th, 2012 (my emphases)

Dominica XXX Per Annum, Anno B

In 1972, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas ruled the following in the famous Sierra Club vs. Morton case: “Inanimate objects are sometimes parties in litigation. A ship has a legal personality…The ordinary corporation is a "person" for purposes of the adjudicatory processes…So it should be as respects valleys, alpine meadows, rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches, ridges, groves of trees, swampland, or even air…The voice of the inanimate object, therefore, should not be stilled” (Sierra Club vs. Morton). Douglas “asserted that natural resources ought to have standing to sue for their own protection” ( Oct 25, 2012). He said “the problem is to make certain that the inanimate objects…have spokesmen before they are destroyed.” Eight months later, the very same justice ruled with the majority in Roe vs. Wade that “the word person does not include the unborn.” So an inanimate object is a person, according to the government, but a child in the womb is not a person, according to the government. That is precisely what it means to be blind.

Details here.
So if that baby in the womb is destroyed by abortion, what happens to the woman or man who grieves this loss? They experience something called “forbidden grief.” If you are suffering from forbidden grief, then you will find that nobody wants to talk to you about it. Nobody will give you any sympathy. Nobody will even acknowledge that there could possibly be a reason to grieve such a thing. Therefore, it should not be discussed. Period. End of conversation. 

And so, the one who is suffering deeply from forbidden grief finds herself alone, despairing, thinking that maybe she is crazy, possibly even considering suicide. She cries out in her soul, “Who will save me?” But at the same time, this person believes the lie that she has no right to grieve such a thing because she has been told that there is nothing to grieve. How can one grieve over something that was not even a person? Their experience of grief is sometimes dismissed by doctors, women’s rights groups, and unfortunately even by some clergy. How can one heal if she is told that there is nothing to heal from? We need to validate that grief. Those who suffer this grief go from parish to parish, from priest to priest, just looking to find someone who will say the word and acknowledge that this “forbidden grief” even exists. Because if it really does exist, then the women who suffer from this forbidden grief are not crazy like others tell them they are. If this “forbidden grief” exists and can be talked about then maybe a loving God really does exist. “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you” (Mk 10:49).

If you are hurting because of abortion, you are not alone. If you have hurt another person through abortion, you are not alone. I do not condemn you. I give you permission to grieve. If you are grieving, you are not crazy. You have a reason to grieve. I give you permission to talk about it. We do need to talk about this. Women regret their abortions. Men suffer from abortion too.

Details here.
When a woman or a man is able to identify and talk about this forbidden grief then the work of healing can begin. The “process of repair begins by recognizing that the hurt you are feeling, sometimes for years, is real. You are not overreacting. You are not exaggerating. You are not silly or crazy or weak or hysterical if you feel deep in your soul that something terribly wrong happened” to you when your abortion occurred (Jennifer O’Neill, You’re Not Alone).

Abortion is devastating to both women and men who are involved in it. Women who have had abortions, even multiple ones, need their grief validated. They need someone to listen and to acknowledge that their grief is real and that the children in their wombs were really children and not just pieces of tissue or clumps of cells.

When we experience loss, we grieve. Our Lord said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Can we not say, “Blessed are those who grieve, for they shall be comforted?” What happens when we do not allow ourselves to grieve? We may push God away. When that happens, we often fall into habits of sin that compound the grief and heap shame on top of it. Shame hides in the darkness. It is secret; it is hidden and makes us want to hide. As long as shame is kept hidden and secret, it continues to grow. The devil will lie to us and tell us that we will be sorry if we tell. But not telling keeps us in bondage. Getting out of bondage and deception means breaking the secret (cf. Anfuso, Shame, 11-12).

We break the secret by talking about it and allowing ourselves to feel the grief. We might feel forbidden to talk about it, or even to feel any emotions over our grief, because it is attached to sin. But as soon as we begin to talk and feel, our healing begins (cf. Anfuso, 20-21). We break the secret by confessing our sins to God. “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” Then we have to praise God. Praise God and give Him thanks for all that He has given you. The more we give thanks to God for what He has done, the less prone we are to worry about what He has not yet done. There is something healing about praise and thanksgiving that lifts us out of the muck and mire of shame (cf. Anfuso, 32). God gives us that healing as a free gift of love. We do not need to be worthy. God gives it to us because He loves us. Nobody is worthy. But God need only say the word, and our souls shall be healed. He says to us in the sacrament of Penance, “I absolve you.” He says to us in the sacrament of the Eucharist, “This is my Body.” By these words, we are healed.

But we also need the help of others. There is nothing so painful as to suffer alone. A few years ago, a group of women decided to come together and tell their stories about how they had been hurt by their abortions. They formed the Silent-No-More awareness campaign. They gathered to tell their stories and to publicly say that they regretted their abortions. Many of these women have experienced healing through Project Rachel and the Rachel’s Vineyard retreats that are sponsored by Catholic Charities. On Thursday evening, I spoke at a Silent No More event at St. Mary’s in Eugene. Two courageous women and two courageous men got up to tell the stories of how abortion had devastated them. The room was filled with love from all who were there to support them, and the love of God who had tenderly reached down and changed their lives, turning them around and giving them His healing and grace.
Several years ago, as a seminarian, I attended my first Rachel’s Vineyard retreat and later became a team member. What amazed me so much was that the women who entered the retreat on Friday afternoon, the ones who were living under a cloud of darkness and gloom, were transformed by Saturday night. They were different people. They could smile and laugh and they felt loved and forgiven. They reconciled with God, and even reconciled with their children whom they had lost; naming those children and even writing them letters. By Sunday, as we all departed to go back to our everyday lives, these women and men had a new outlook and they had tools to help them to start over again. They knew that they were beloved sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. They knew that Jesus Christ had died for them and that He offered them the grace of the Sacraments to begin to heal from their grief that was no longer forbidden.

What about us? As Catholics, we are pro-life. There is no choice about that issue. And being pro-life means embracing those who grieve over abortion with friendship and forgiveness and God’s love. We must stand up to speak out and protect those who are most innocent: children in the womb. We must stand with those who have been wounded by forbidden grief and speak out with our votes. Let us stand together for a culture of life. Let us stand with those who grieve over abortion. God can and does heal the wound of abortion, but it is not easy and it does not happen overnight. It takes time but there is hope and abundant mercy from God through Jesus Christ. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

St. Raphael the Archangel

In the old calendar, today is the feast day of St. Raphael the Archangel. Here’s a novena prayer to this Archangel. Go here for a nice site with more prayers.

Glorious Archangel Saint Raphael,
great prince of the heavenly court,
illustrious for your gifts of wisdom and grace,
guide of those who journey 
by land or sea or air,
consoler of the afflicted, 
and refuge of sinners,
I beg you,
assist me in all my needs
and in all the sufferings of this life,
as once you helped the young Tobias on his travels.
Because you are the medicine of God,
I humbly pray you
to heal the many infirmities of my soul
and the ills that afflict my body.
I especially ask of you the favor
(make your request here...)
and the great grace of purity
to prepare me to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.


St. Raphael,
of the glorious seven
who stand before the throne of Him
who lives and reigns,
Angel of health,
the Lord has filled your hand
with balm from heaven
to soothe or cure our pains.
Heal or cure the victim of disease.
And guide our steps when doubtful of our ways.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fr. Andersen: Claiming Our Inheritance

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, Oregon, for October 21st, 2012

Dominica XXIX Per Annum, Anno B

Thus says the Lord through the prophet Isaiah:

“If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the Lord shall be accomplished through him.”

This prophecy from Isaiah has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ, who laid down his life as a ransom for many, as an offering for sin. The will of the Lord was accomplished through him. Isaiah speaks of the descendants He shall see if He gives His life as an offering for sin. We are the descendants. Therefore, as descendants, we have an inheritance from Him. But we must claim that inheritance. It is there waiting for us in all its richness, but many do not receive it; either because they do not claim it, or because they reject it. Such was the case of a Parisian man named Felix Leseur, an avowed atheist. But his wife gave her life as an offering to God on his behalf. The will of the Lord was accomplished by her self-offering and Jesus took Felix to Himself in a way that is truly miraculous. Here is the story:

Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur
Mr. Felix Leseur was born and raised in France in what he called “a thoroughly Catholic family” (“In Memoriam”. The Secret Diary of ElisabethLeseur. p. xxi). But when he attended medical school he “quickly lost [his] Christian belief” (xxi). He then fell into a life of paganism and atheism. He sought to collect a library of written works by every one of the Church’s adversaries he could find so that he could use them as weapons against Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. Meanwhile, he married a good and holy woman. Her name was Elisabeth. She had been raised and educated in an affluent Catholic family who practiced their faith in an ordinary way.

At the time of their marriage in 1889, Felix agreed to “respect [his] wife’s faith and to let her practice it freely” (xxii), but he became more and more irritated by her faith and sought to destroy it with all his energy. In his own words, Felix speaks:

I set myself to attack her Faith, and to deprive her of it, and –– may God pardon me! –– I nearly succeeded. During 1897 I managed, by a course of reading and much pressure brought to bear on her, to dissuade her from the practice of her religious duties, seriously to upset her faith, and to lead her in the direction of liberal Protestantism –– which to my mind was only a stage on the way to radical agnosticism. (xxii-xxiii).

Throughout these years, Felix and Elisabeth Leseur led a glittering life in Parisian high society. They travelled and they entertained. Elisabeth gradually abandoned the practice of Catholicism by 1898. Her husband then gave her a heretical book on the Life of Jesus to read which he knew would surely be the nail in the coffin of her faith. But his plan backfired because the book was so poorly written. From the point of view of an atheist, it seemed brilliant, but to Elisabeth, a woman of “sane and steady judgment and uncommon good sense” (xxiii), it proved only to be a cheap deception with a “poverty of substance” (xxiii). Reading the heretical book triggered in her a profound conversion (cf. 288).

So now Elisabeth set out to counterbalance her husband’s Anti-Christian library by collecting and reading the fathers, doctors, and mystics of the Church: St. Jerome, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis de Sales, St. Teresa of Avila, and many more (cf. xxiii). Each day, she also read and meditated upon the New Testament and began to write a spiritual journal.

Then Elisabeth fell ill. She had complications from childhood that affected her liver. Facing her illness, she wrote a spiritual testament and made a pact with God that she would trade her life for the salvation of the soul of her husband. She then came down with breast cancer and after surgery and radiation treatment she went on pilgrimage to Lourdes to give thanks to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her husband went along so that she would not be unaccompanied. He was impressed with the piety of the crowds, but he did not convert. He was also impressed with how his wife remained so at peace through her many years of illness and suffering. He had long ago ceased to torment her about her faith. He came to respect his wife deeply for her religious devotion, but he himself had no faith.
“One day, she declared with absolute assurance, ‘I shall die before you. And when I am dead, you will be converted; and when you are converted, you will become a religious. You will be Father Leseur.’” A few weeks before her death, she said to him: “You will come and find me again –– I know it” (xli). Elisabeth died in his arms on May 3, 1914, at the age of 47. Felix gazed at the face of his wife who had died and he saw a great peace on her face that seemed extend beyond her death.

One day he discovered her Spiritual Testament that she had left for him to read. This is an excerpt from what she wrote:

This, my beloved husband, is the testament of my soul.

I wish you to be my chief and dearest heir. …Try during your life to discharge, as far as a poor human creature can, my immense debt of gratitude to the adored Father, whom you shall know and love through my prayers in Heaven. When you also shall have become His child, the disciple of Jesus Christ and a living member of His Church, consecrate your existence, transformed by grace, to prayer and the giving of yourself in charity. Be a Christian and an apostle.

And now, my beloved Felix, I tell you once more of my great love. …Close to God, where other dear ones already await us, we shall one day be eternally reunited. I hope for this through my afflictions offered for you and through divine mercy.

Your wife forever, Elisabeth. (143…145)

Felix Leseur then began to read through her journal and little by little, his “former hostility quickly gave way to the wish to know Catholicism” (xli). One year later in the spring of 1915, Felix reconciled with the Church. In 1919, he entered the Dominican Order and in 1923, he was ordained a priest. Fr. Leseur published the spiritual diary of his deceased wife and travelled all over Europe for nearly twenty years speaking about Elisabeth’s apostolate of prayer and accepted suffering. He died in 1950. The cause for her beatification was interrupted by World War II and reopened in Rome in 1990.

Elisabeth Leseur chose to drink from the cup of our Lord’s suffering. She lived out her participation in the common priesthood of the faithful by offering herself to God on behalf of the soul entrusted to her care: her husband, the atheist. By her self-offering, her husband was saved. Jesus Christ saved Felix, but it was through Elisabeth that He did so. We can never give up hope over the conversion of any soul.

Monday, October 15, 2012

St. Teresa of Avila: God's Will Be Done

From the writings of St. Teresa of Jesus (The Way of Perfection 2, 136-138), as presented in A Word in Season: Readings for the Liturgy of the Hours, vol. II, Augustinian Press, 2001.

We can promise easily enough to give up our will to someone else, but when it comes to the test we find it the most difficult thing in the world to do perfectly. But God knows what each of us is able to bear, and when he finds a valiant soul, he does not hesitate to accomplish his will in that person.

So I want to warn you and make you understand what God’s will is, so that you may realize with whom you are dealing (as the saying goes) and what the good Jesus is offering on your behalf to the Father. I want to make sure you know what you are giving him when you say, “Your will be done.” You are asking that God’s will may be done in you; it is this and nothing else you are praying for. You need not be afraid he will give you wealth or pleasures or great honors or any earthly good thing; his love for you is not so weak as that. He sets a far greater value on your gift and desires to reward you generously, giving you his kingdom even in this life. Would you like to see how he treats people who make this petition without reserve? Ask his glorious Son, who made it genuinely and resolutely in the garden. Was not God’s will accomplished in him through the trials, the sufferings, the insults, and the persecutions he sent him until at last his life was ended on the cross?

You see then what God gave to the one he loved best of all, and that shows you what his will is. These things are his gifts in this world, and he gives them in proportion to his love for us. To those he loves most he gives more, to those less dear he gives less; his gifts are measured by the courage he sees we have and the love we bear his majesty. Fervent love can suffer a great deal for his sake, while lukewarmness will endure very little. I myself believe that love is the gauge of the crosses, great or small, that we are able to bear.

So if you have his love, think what you are doing. Do not let the promises you make to so great a Lord be no more than empty compliments, but brace yourselves to suffer whatever God wishes. Any other way of surrendering our will to him is like offering someone a precious stone, entreating him to accept it, and then holding onto it when he puts out his hand to take it. Such mockery is not for him who endured so much mockery for us. If for no other reason, it would be wrong to mock him in this way every time we say the Lord’s Prayer. Let us give him once and for all the precious stone we have offered him so many times – for he in fact first gave us the thing we now give back to the Father.

My whole aim in writing this is to encourage us to yield ourselves entirely to our creator, to submit our will to his, and to detach ourselves from created things. Since you understand how important this is, I will say no more on the subject, but will explain to you why our good Master wishes us to make this petition. He knows very well how we shall benefit by fulfilling the promise we have made to his eternal Father, for in a very short time we shall find ourselves at our journey’s end, drinking at the fountain of living water.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Homily on Priesthood: Fr. Andersen

A Homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, Oregon, for Sunday, October  14th, 2012

Dominica XXVIII Per Annum, Anno B.

[My emphases]

St. Peter said to him: “We have given up everything and followed you.”

Here is a great paradox of the Christian faith: give up something good, and you will receive something greater. This is basically the meaning of sacrifice. Some people sacrifice enjoyment for the sake of getting good grades. Others sacrifice having a large home so that they can travel. Some people sacrifice comfort for the sake of fashion. And some sacrifice the good of married life for the sake of belonging entirely to Jesus Christ. Such was the case with St. Peter and so many saints who came after him, who said ‘Lord, we have given up everything and followed you.’

Last week we spoke about the dignity and beauty of the married life between one man and one woman. Marriage is a sacrament in which God’s love is mediated through the spouses to one another. The clerical life is different but similar in that a man takes the Church as his bride. A priest stands in the place of Jesus Christ, but his mystical bride is the Church. His soul is espoused to God immediately through the Church without the mediation of a human bride. A nun is likewise a bride of Jesus Christ immediately, without the mediation of a human spouse.

St. Peter set the standard for all priestly life when he was called upon to give up everything to follow Jesus Christ. In the earliest days of Christianity, priests were taken from among married men. “However, a precondition for married men to receive [the sacrament of holy] orders as deacons, priests, or bishops, was that after ordination they were required to live perpetual continence… They had, with the prior agreement of their spouses, to be prepared to forego conjugal life in the future” (McGovern. Priestly Celibacy Today, p. 33). In the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, there is no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive manifold more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life (Lk 18:29b-30).  

From apostolic times, priests were called upon to either leave their wife, with their wife’s permission, or to live in perfect continence with their wife as though with his sister. This priestly continence was a condition for the clerical state. As early as the year 305, a Council held in Elvira, Spain, legislated that those priests who violated this rule should be excluded from the clerical state (Can. 33).

Later it became the law for priests to be taken exclusively from among unmarried men. Why should this be so important? It is critical because a Christian man can only have one spouse. We know from last week’s gospel that if a man has more than one spouse, he is committing adultery with one of them. He can only have one wife. Likewise, a woman can have only one husband. This is why the Blessed Virgin Mary continued as a virgin in her marriage to St. Joseph. She was the bride of God, the spouse of the Holy Spirit. St. Joseph is a model for priests because he forsook the use of his marriage and maintained perfect continence for the sake of the kingdom taking the mother of God for his virginal spouse.

And so a man who is a priest is a spouse of the Church. The Church is a priest’s bride and therefore, he cannot give himself to another woman. It would be considered adultery. Now, I imagine that some of you are saying, “but isn’t this just a discipline of the Western Church that could be changed to reflect the discipline in the Eastern Church?” After all, in the East, there are married priests. Isn’t that the more ancient practice? Actually the ancient practice is that priests must be continent in order to approach that which is holy. The priests in the Old Testament could have no relations with their wives when they ministered in the Temple. Likewise, soldiers could have no relations with their wives when they were at war. There is a connection between the priest and the soldier. They both deal with blood. The handling of weapons and the handling of sacred vessels are not to be taken lightly. One should be pure of body and soul for both. This is why Pope John Paul II wrote that “To touch the sacred species and to distribute them with their own hands is a privilege of the ordained” (Dominicae Cenae 11).  
The ancient fathers gathered at the Council of Carthage wrote: “…it is indeed necessary that those who approach the altar, when they touch holy things, be continent in every respect so that they may obtain in all simplicity what they are asking from God” (qtd. Stickler 71).

There was a time when a sacristan or an acolyte would not touch the priest’s chalice without wearing gloves. A man had to be ordained a deacon before he could handle the sacred vessels with his bare hands. He had to be consecrated to God and living out a pure and continent life in order to approach the holy of holies. This discipline remained in place until very recently. Today it is common for people to handle the Eucharistic Host and to take the chalice in their bare hands and consume the Precious Blood. The Church in the United States allows this.  There is no sin involved, but consider how our sense of boundaries has gradually broken down. The reason why touching the sacred vessels and the Eucharist with his bare hands had been reserved to the priest alone is that it communicated his spousal relationship with the Church. He alone could handle God because of his continence and chaste celibacy. Standing in the place of Jesus Christ, the priest had exclusive marital rights to his mystical bride in the handling of the sacred vessels and the Holy Eucharist.

This was not questioned or challenged because men and women understood what it meant to live in marital fidelity and to enjoy exclusive marital rights to the body of one’s spouse. Today, unfortunately, those boundaries are so regularly violated that many men and woman think nothing of handling each other outside of marriage. There is something to be said for the practice of wearing gloves to handle that which is sacred until one has obtained the marital right through a sacrament.

How do we account then for married priests in the East? Are they not committing adultery against the Church by having relations with their wives? We know from the earliest history of the Church that perpetual clerical continence was the requirement in both East and West. Priests taken from among married men were required to forsake the use of their marriage. This was known to be of apostolic origin. As an ancient Eastern witness, Bishop Epiphanius of Constantia in Cyprus, writing in “the second half of the fourth century, …states that the God of the world has shown the charism of the new priesthood, either through men who have renounced the use of their sole marriage contracted before ordination or through those who have always lived as virgins. That, he says, is the norm which was established by the apostles in both wisdom and holiness” (cf. Patrologia Graeca [PG] 41, 868, 1024. qtd. Stickler 59).

So what happened to change things in the East? Why, today, are there married priests in the East? One answer is that in the year 691, the Second Byzantine Council of Trullo decreed “that priests, deacons, and subdeacons in the Eastern Church can…live with their spouses and use marriage, except during those times in which they exercise service at the altar and celebrate the sacred mysteries, during which they must remain continent” (cf. Stickler 70-71). This was a break from the ancient apostolic practice, but what happened here is that married priests were excused from exercising the fullness of the priesthood. They participate in the priesthood during holy seasons and on weekends, and they must forsake the use of their marriage during those times. What remains apostolic about the discipline in the East today is that bishops in the East cannot be married or they must renounce the use of the marriage and remain perpetually continent. A bishop has the fullness of the priesthood. In the East a bishop is held to that which all priests are held in the West. In the West, our priests are priests every day and at every hour of the day. We approach the sacred mysteries every day, and therefore, we must be perpetually continent, chaste, and celibate.
We priests are married to God with the Church as our Bride. The Blessed Virgin Mary stands in the place of our Bride the Church. We must have a great devotion to her and never speak ill of her. Every priest must revere his bride the Church, and guard and protect her with his very life. There is no point of doctrine that is not worthy of laying down his life to defend. Young men, I know that among you there are some who are discerning priesthood. Jesus asks you to leave everything, to renounce everything good which the world promises. The world promises but cannot deliver. Jesus promises you more and He delivers abundantly. Sacrifice the good of married life for the sake of belonging entirely to Jesus Christ. Follow St. Peter, and St. John the beloved, St. Anthony, St. Damian of Molokai, Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, Blessed John Paul II and countless others who forsook everything in this life and gained everlasting life. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Liturgical Music Reform: A "Sample" of What Can Be Done

Bishop Alexander Sample seems to be serious about the reform of liturgical music in his diocese (Marquette, Michigan).

Here’s an excerpt from his article, “A Liturgical Quiz and An Invitation” at the website of the Diocese of Marquette newspaper. This article is in the May 14, 2012 edition of the paper, so it’s “old news” at this point, but it still is an example of what can be done about liturgical music.

The article starts out:

I propose a brief quiz on the Sacred Liturgy. Answer true or false to the following statements: 1) Vatican II changed the language of the Mass from Latin to the vernacular (in our case, English). 2) Vatican II replaced the signing of Gregorian chant at Mass with more contemporary vernacular music.

If you answered “true” to one or both of these statements, you should hear a buzzer going off right now indicating at least one incorrect answer. I am sure that this will come as a surprise to many…

He then quotes relevant paragraphs from Sacrosanctum Concilium as evidence that Latin and Gregorian chant were never diminished in value, and that “these guiding statements from Vatican II have not been fully adhered to, and have sometimes simply been ignored.”
Bishop Sample adds:

Just on the issue of singing Gregorian chant at Mass, far from enjoying a “pride of place” in the liturgy, when was the last time you heard it sung or sang it yourself at Mass? Surely “pride of place” means more than an occasional sung Sanctus or Agnus Dei.

After assuring his readers that he is not proposing a “simple return to all Latin and Gregorian chant in the Mass”, he says:

What I am saying is that, in our ongoing efforts to renew and reform the Sacred Liturgy, we need to go back to the sources that gave us the direction for liturgical renewal, especially the actual Vatican II document on the Liturgy…[W]e need to interpret the liturgical reforms called for by Vatican II in light of the whole liturgical tradition of the Church, as an organic development, and not a break with the past.
This especially applies to the area of music in the Sacred Liturgy. Let’s face it, in most places liturgical music has become simply selecting the four hymns for Mass (entrance, offertory, communion, and recessional). Many might be surprised to learn that this is not at all our liturgical tradition and is not what was envisioned by Vatican II. But that is what we have become used to.

The Church’s tradition actually calls for us to “sing the Mass,” not sing “at” Mass. The texts of the Mass given in the Missal are meant to be sung. Instead we often just paste on the four hymns which may or may not related to the actual texts of the Mass. Not sure what this means? Read on!

And Bishop Sample had a plan: he invited all to attend a two-day workshop on Sacred Music, which was apparently held last June.

I don’t know anything about the workshop – what was covered, how many attended, or whether parishes are changing their approach to liturgical music – but I do know that Bishop Sample posted the following advertisement on his Face Book page (my emphases):

I am posting HERE my advertisement for the position of Diocesan/Cathedral Director of Sacred Music. Pass the word to those who might be interesting and who might "fit the bill":

The Catholic Diocese of Marquette in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is seeking a full-time Diocesan Director of Sacred Music/Cathedral Director of Sacred Music. Time will be split between directing St. Peter Cathedral’s sacred music program and leading the diocesan effort to renew and reform sacred music as detailed in the bishop’s directives on sacred music, which seek to implement the Church’s authentic discipline regarding sacred music as outlined in official Church documents. Qualifications include fidelity to Church teaching and discipline, proficiency in organ, and knowledge of Gregorian chant. Applicants must be able to work well with choirs, cantors and other musicians and possess the patience necessary to teach others, leading them gradually to a full understanding of sacred music in Catholic worship. Full time compensation and benefits will be commensurate with applicant’s educational and work experience. Please send cover letter, resume and references to: Office of the Bishop, Diocese of Marquette, 1004 Harbor Hills Drive, Marquette, MI 49855. Deadline for submitting applications is November 15, 2012.

It would be nice to see this sort of thing happening in more than one diocese!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Feast of the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary

These are some of the readings from the Office of Matins for this feast, which is celebrated on October 11 in the "old" calendar. It seems to me that we have lost so much by the revision of the calendar which omits so many feasts! By celebrating our saints during the week, as well as on Sundays, we keep our hearts and minds on the things of God; it’s a reminder that the things of the world are fleeting and superficial, and that our true home is Heaven.
From the Acts of Pope Pius XI

In the year 1931, amid the applause of the whole Catholic world, solemn rites were celebrated to mark the completion of the fifteen centuries which had elapsed since the Council of Ephesus, moving against the Nestorian heresy, had acclaimed the Blessed Virgin Mary, of whom Jesus was born, as Mother of God. This acclamation had been made by the Fathers of the Church under the leadership of Pope Celestine. Pius XI, as Supreme Pontiff, wished to commemorate the notable event and to give lasting proof of his devotion to Mary.

Now, there had existed for many years in Rome a grand memorial to the proclamation of Ephesus, the triumphal arch in the basilica of Saint Mary Major on the Esquiline Hill. This monument had already been adorned by a previous pontiff, Sixtus III, with mosaics of marvelous workmanship, now falling to pieces from the decay of the passing ages. Pius XI, therefore, out of his own munificence, caused these to be restored most exquisitely and with them the transept of the basilica. In an Encyclical Letter Pius set forth also the true history of the Council of Ephesus, and expounded fervently and at great length the doctrine of the prerogatives of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of God. He did this that the doctrine of this lofty mystery might sink more deeply into the hearts of the faithful. In it he set forth Mary, the Mother of God, blessed among women, and the most holy Family of Nazareth as the exemplars to be followed above all others, as models of the dignity and holiness of chaste wedlock, as patterns of the holy education to be given youth.

Finally that no liturgical detail be lacking, he decreed that the feast of the Divine Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary be celebrated annually on the 11th day of October by the universal Church with a proper Mass and Office under the rite of a double of the second class.


A Homily of St. Bernard the Abbot
Homilia 1. de Laud. Virg. Matris
“Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us?” Mary called God, the Lord of Angels, her son.  Which of the angels would have dared to do so? It is enough for them, and they reckon it is a great thing, that, being naturally spirits, they should receive the grace of being made and called angels, as witness David: “Who maketh spirits his angels.”

But Mary, knowing herself to be his Mother, doth boldly apply the word Son to that Majesty whom the angels do serve with awe; neither doth God despise to be called what he hath made himself. For a little after, the Evangelist saith: “And he was subject unto them.” Who to whom? God to men. I say that God, unto whom the angels are subject, and who is obeyed by the Principalities and Powers, was subject to Mary.

Marvel thou at both these things, and choose whether to marvel most at the sublime condescension of the Son, or at the sublime dignity of Mary. Either is amazing, either marvelous. That God should obey this woman is a lowliness without parallel; that this woman should rule over God, an exaltation without match.

In praise of virgins, and of virgins only, is it sung that “These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth”. Of what praise, then, thinkest thou that she must be worthy who even leadeth the Lamb? O man, learn to obey. O earth, learn to submit. O dust, learn to keep down. It is of thy Maker that the Evangelist saith: “And he was subject unto them.” Blush, O proud ashes. God humbleth himself; and dost thou exalt thyself? God is subject unto men; and wilt thou, by striving to rule over men, set thyself before thy Maker?

O happy Mary, lowly and virgin; and wondrous virginity, which motherhood destroyed not, but exalted; and wondrous lowliness, which the fruitful virginity took not away, but ennobled; and wondrous motherhood, which was both virgin and lowly. Which of them is not wondrous? which of them is not unexampled? and which of them doth not stand alone? The wonder would be if thou wert not puzzled at which to wonder most: motherhood in a virgin, or virginity in a mother; a motherhood so exalted, or lowliness in such exaltation.

But indeed more marvelous than any one of these things is the combination of them all, and without all comparison, it is more excellent and more blessed to have received them all, than to have received any one of them alone. What wonder is it that God, of whom we see and read, that He is wonderful in his holy places, should have shown himself wonderful in his Mother? O ye that be married, honor this incorruption in corruptible flesh; O holy maidens, gaze in wonder at motherhood in a maid; O, all mankind, take pattern by the lowliness of the Mother of God.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Homily on Marriage: Fr. Andersen

This homily (for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time) by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, contains a very clear and beautiful description of the Sacrament of Marriage as we see it unfold in the Garden of Eden with our first parents, Adam and Eve. 

There is also an important message for those suffering from same-sex attraction.

And finally, this homily also contains an important message for those who have been divorced and remarried, or those who are experiencing the threat or the effects of divorce in any way in their lives. (mostly my emphases)

On the third day of creation, God spoke and out of nothing came to be all green herbs, seed-bearing plants, and fruit-bearing trees. But then what did God do with all of these plants? We are told in chapter 2 of Genesis that “the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure from the beginning” (Gen 2:8). But all of creation was not paradise. The word paradise comes from the Greek paradeisos, meaning a walled, or enclosed, garden or park. So paradise was one special part of creation that God enclosed from the beginning. This was where He exercised His artistry in creation. He had created herbs and seed bearing plants and fruit bearing trees. But in this walled garden, God artfully arranged them into a paradise. Meanwhile God continued with the rest of creation outside of the walled garden. On the sixth day, He created man from the clay of the earth and breathed life into the man who “became a living soul” (2:7).

This man, Adam, was not simple-minded. You may recall from a few weeks ago that Adam was created with infused knowledge from God. Therefore, he was knew the mysteries of creation and the wisdom of God. He was filled with the Holy Spirit, and his intellect was far superior to ours because he was created without sin. There was also no death, so his body was immortal and his soul was immortal. All this is outside of the garden.

Then, God placed the man within the enclosure of paradise. The man was not created in paradise. Paradise was a gift to the man. We do not know how long this time lasted before Adam was brought into paradise. We do know that Adam was alone with God in this paradise filled with plants, flowers, trees, and a river to water the garden.

Earlier, before God created the man, He had already created all the beasts of the earth, and all the birds of the air, but He had not placed them in the garden. And God said, “It is not good for man to be alone; let us make him a help like unto himself” (Gen 2:18). So God brought the beasts and birds into the garden to Adam for Adam to name them. God did not name them. Adam named them. God did name Adam. That is what a father does. A father gives a name to his children, claiming them as his own. But God did not name the beasts or the birds or the plants. He gave that fatherly responsibility to Adam to name the animals, the birds, the trees and plants that surrounded him. Adam named them, therefore he was responsible to care for them. “…but for Adam there was not found a helper like himself (Gen 2:20).

Then God created the woman. Unlike Adam who was created outside of the garden, the woman was created inside the garden. Unlike the man, the woman was not created from the clay of the earth. She was created from the side of the man. Unlike the man, God did not name the woman. She was given to the man by God and the man named her ‘woman’. He was given to name her so that he would claim her as his own, to care for her, to provide for her, and to protect her. He gave her a name to share in his name, because, although different from him, she was like him, taken from his very bones.

This is a truly happy ending if we end the story here because, at this point, all is love. Up to this point, there is no sin and no death. Let us meditate happily and blissfully on this time at the beginning of creation. All is love because all creation at this point reflects God who is love. Therefore all is fruitful and fertile and creative. Where there is love, there is creativity, fertility, and fruitfulness.

What does this passage tell us about the union of man and woman? One crucial aspect of this sacred narrative is that the union happens in paradise. It does not happen in the wild. Remember that outside of this walled garden is the wilderness. The garden is surely expansive. Adam and Eve do not feel constricted in this garden, but nevertheless, it is enclosed which means that it is set apart from the rest of creation. That is the meaning of the word ‘holy’ or ‘sacred’. Sacred means cut off or consecrated; belonging not to nature, but to God. Of course, all nature belongs to God, but to be consecrated, or set apart is a willed act. God wills that certain things be set apart and man must participate in this act by willfully consecrating things to God.

Marriage is a willful act of consecration. What validates a sacramental marriage is the free, willed consent of both parties, being one baptized man and one baptized woman, who publicly speak their consent in front of witnesses and an official representative of the Church, normally a priest or deacon. This sacrament is an act of consecration.

What do we mean by consecration? Let’s look at the consecration of the Eucharist. We begin with a piece of bread and a small amount of wine poured into a chalice. The Holy Spirit descends upon the bread at the words of the priest. The Holy Spirit changes the bread into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. The same thing happens to the wine. It is no longer bread. It is no longer wine. It can never be used for anything profane again. It has been cut off, or consecrated; set apart from all profane use. It can never be used as bread again. It is now the Holy Eucharist for as long as it exists. Therefore, we protect it by keeping it in a safe place, in the tabernacle. I repeat, it can never be used for anything profane after the consecration. It can never be used as a cracker. It should never be eaten as though it is a cracker. It should never be approached casually. Every single crumb of the Sacred Host must be protected. That is why we hold the paten under your chin or under your hands when you receive Holy Communion. That is why the priest holds his fingers together after the consecration and then purifies those fingers with wine and water and consumes it–so that not one crumb is lost. That is why we cover the tabernacle with a veil. It is so sacred that it must be protected.

And the union of one man and one woman in marriage is so sacred that it must be protected with the same diligence and the same meticulous care. The union of man and woman did not happen in the wilderness; it happened in paradise. It happened in a special place that God had set apart. God had brought the man from the wilderness into this consecrated place. God had created the woman in this sacred place and the union of one man and one woman was willed by God, and happened in the sight of God in this sacred place set apart from all that was profane. The two become one flesh in a sacred place that is fruitful and fertile because of the love of God. The man and woman are consecrated together and become as one. The man gives the woman his name. He claims her as his own and is responsible to care for her and love her as his very self just as Adam was given to care for the woman he named. The Holy Spirit descends upon the man separately from the woman but they become as one, just as the bread and wine are offered separately but become as one. The Host is the Body and the Blood of Jesus Christ. Likewise, the Precious Blood in the chalice is the Body and the Blood of Jesus Christ. So the husband and the wife are individuals, but they are joined as husband and wife and they can never be separated again.

Once the Eucharist has been consecrated and mingled together in the chalice, the Body and Blood of Christ can never be separated again. The Body is consecrated separately from the Blood, but then they are co-mingled in the chalice. Once that happens, the Body and Blood can never be separated again. In a similar manner, once a man and woman become husband and wife in the sacrament of Matrimony, they can never be separated again. They are consecrated as a married couple, meaning they are cut off from single life and belong together. They can never be separated again. Our Lord in the gospel ratifies this saying that “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder” (Mk 10:9).

Now, let’s return to the union of the Sacred Host and the Precious Blood in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. This tells us something else very important about the union of a man and a woman. In the Mass, a priest comes to the altar and he consecrates the bread and the wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. They are transformed in the sacrament by the power of the Holy Spirit. A priest cannot not take a Host and consecrate it and then separately take another host and consecrate it, avoiding the consecration of the Precious Blood and then attempting to co-mingle the two hosts into one. He can consecrate many hosts but they are already as one Body of Christ. He could not avoid to consecrate the Precious Blood. Likewise, a priest could not avoid the consecration of the Sacred Host and attempt to only consecrate two chalices of the Precious Blood and then mingle them together. That would not be the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. It would not be the Eucharist. It would in fact be sacrilegious, meaning that it would be cut off from the holy; cut off from God. That is why marriage can only be, by definition, a union of one man and one woman and nothing else. Any other combination is not marriage. If you find yourself in this situation, or if you are suffering due to same-sex attraction, do not despair. You are not defined by those feelings. You are defined as a beloved son or daughter of God and He wishes to heal you and fill you with the Holy Spirit. Come and talk to me about it. I will receive you with the love of God.

Our Lord has set these boundaries for us to help us to understand paradise, and to get back to paradise. The Sacrament of Matrimony is entered into so that each spouse can help the other get to paradise, which we call heaven. Heaven is an enclosed garden. We are now in the world, but not of the world. Our fulfillment is to get back to the garden, but we must cooperate with God to get there. The sacraments happen in paradise and when we participate in the sacraments, we experience paradise here on earth in order to lead us fully to the paradise at the end of our days. Marriage is not meant to be easy. It is a vocation, therefore it involves carrying the Cross of Jesus Christ.

That having been said, earth is not heaven. Life on earth is not perfection. We are all sinners. We suffer from sin. Some marriages are a source of great suffering. If you have suffered due to a divorce, God does not will to abandon you. Come and talk to me about it. I will receive you with the love of God. If you were married outside the Church, or remarried after a civil divorce, come and talk to me. I will receive you with the love of God. If your parents are divorced and you are suffering, come and talk to me. I will receive you with the love of God. God does not want you to live your life in a state of uncertainty and shame.  

The Church is bound to the words our Lord spoke in the gospel today about divorce and remarriage, and we cannot change that. The Church assumes that all marriages are valid. Therefore, there is no such thing as divorce for Catholics. But what happens to those who have divorced and remarried? The Christian life is all about reconciliation with God. So how do we reconcile this situation? The Church has no power to nullify something that is valid, but if there is something that invalidated the marriage from the beginning, the Church can identify that and formally declare in writing that the marriage was never a valid sacrament. Yes, the marriage happened and the children are legitimate. It does not erase the marriage. It does not heal all the wounds of those involved, but it does begin the healing process making it possible for both parties to reconcile with God. If you or someone you love is in this situation, have them come and talk to me. God wants you to be healed and I want to help. 

Feast of the Most Holy Rosary

These are some of the readings from the office of Matins for the feast of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Reading 4
When the heresy of the Albigenses was making head against God in the County of Toulouse, and striking deeper roots every day, the holy Dominick, who had but just laid the foundations of the Order of Friars Preachers, threw his whole strength into the travail of plucking these blasphemies up.  

That he might be fitter for the work, he cried for help with his whole soul to that Blessed Maiden, whose glory the falsehoods of the heretics so insolently assailed, and to whom it hath been granted to trample down every heresy throughout the whole earth. It is said that he had from her a word, bidding him preach up the saying of the Rosary among the people, as a strong help against heresy and sin, and it is wonderful with how stout an heart and how good a success he did the work laid upon him.  

This Rose-garden (or Rosary) is a certain form of prayer, wherein we say one-hundred-and-fifty times the salutation of the Angel, and the Lord's Prayer between every ten times, and, each of the fifteen times that we say the Lord's Prayer, and repeat tenfold the salutation, think of one of fifteen great events in the history of our Redemption. From that time forth this form of godly prayer was extraordinarily spread about by holy Dominick, and waxed common. That this same Dominick was the founder and prime mover thereof hath been said by Popes in divers letters of the Apostolic See.

Reading 5

From this healthy exercise have grown up numberless good fruits in the Christian Commonwealth. Among these deserveth well to be named that great victory over the Sultan of Turkey, which the most holy Pope Pius V, and the Christian Princes whom he had roused, won at Lepanto, (on the 7th day of October, the first Lord's Day in the month, in the year of our Lord 1571).

The day whereon this victory was gained was the very one whereon the Guildbrethren of the most holy Rosary, throughout the whole world, were used to offer their accustomed prayers and appointed supplications, and the event therefore was not unnaturally connected therewith. This being the avowed opinion of Gregory XIII, he ordered that in all Churches where there was, or should be, an Altar of the Rosary, a Feast, in the form of a Greater Double, should be kept forever upon the first Lord's Day of the month of October, to give unceasing thanks to the Blessed Virgin, under her style of (Queen of) the (Most Holy) Rosary, for that extraordinary mercy of God. Other Popes also have granted almost numberless Indulgences to those who say the Rosary, and to those who join its Guilds.

Reading 6

In the year 1716, Charles VI., Elect- Emperor of the Romans, won a famous victory over countless hordes of Turks, [near Temeswar] in the kingdom of Hungary, upon the day when the Feast of the Dedication of the Church of St Mary of the Snows was being kept, and almost at the very moment when the Guildbrethren of the most holy Rosary were moving through the streets of Rome in public and solemn procession, amid vast multitudes, all filled the deepest enthusiasm, calling vehemently upon God for the defeat of the Turks, and entreating the Virgin Mother of God to bring the might of her succour to the help of the Christians.

A few days later, (upon the Octave of the Feast of the Assumption,) the Turks raised the siege of Corfu. These mercies Clement XI devoutly ascribed to the helpful prayers of the Blessed Virgin, and that the memory and the sweetness of such a blessing might for all time coming endure gloriously, he extended to the whole Church the observance of the Feast of the most holy Rosary, for the same day and of the same rank, (as it had already been in the places before mentioned.)

Benedict XIII commanded the record of all these things to be given a place in the Service-book of the Church of Rome; and Leo XIII, in the most troublous times of the Church and the cruel storm of long pressing evils, by fresh Apostolic letters vehemently urged upon all the faithful throughout the earth the often saying of the Rosary of (the Blessed Virgin) Mary, raised the dignity of the yearly festival, added to the Litany of Loretto the Invocation Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, and granted to the whole Church a special Office for this solemn occasion. Let us all then be earnest in honouring the most holy Mother of God in this form which she liketh so well, that even as the entreaties of Christ's faithful people, approaching her in her Garden of Roses, have so often won her to scatter and destroy their earthly foes, so she may gain for them the victory over their hellish foes likewise.

Reading 7
Homily by St Bernard, Abbot (of Clairvaux) Homily on Holy Mary
To commend His Own love towards us, and to bring to nought the wisdom of men, God was pleased to take flesh of a woman, albeit a virgin, that He might bring like against like, heal by opposites, pluck out the poisonous thorn, and blot out mightily the handwriting of our sin that was against us. Eve was a thorn, Mary is a rose. Eve is a thorn that pierceth, Mary is a rose that charmeth all the senses. Eve was a thorn that fixed death into all, Mary is a rose that bringeth health to all. Mary was a white rose through her virginity, and a red rose through her love. She was white in her flesh, red in her mind; white in that she followed the path of grace, red in that she trod down sin; white by the purity of her affections, red by the mortification of her body; white by her love for God, red by her compassion for her neighbour.

Reading 8
Homily on the water course.
The Word was made flesh, and dwelleth even now among us. He dwelleth in our memory. He dwelleth in our thought. He hath come down even unto our imagination; and how sayest thou doth he so? By lying in the manger, by nestling in His mother's breast, by preaching upon the mountain, by remaining all night in prayer to God, by hanging upon the Cross, by turning pale in death, by going down free among the dead and triumphing in hell, by rising again the third day, by showing to the Apostles the places of the nails the marks of his victory, by ascending up into heaven while they all beheld Him, of which of these things think we not with truth, with godliness, with holiness?  

If I think of any of these, I think of God, and He is my God through them all. To think of these things I have decreed to be wisdom, and to set forth the memory of their sweetness I have judged to be prudence. The rod of Aaron the Priest brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds; but these things are the almonds of that Rod which came forth out of the stem of Jesse, the Rod whereof sprang the flower, a Rod which was raised in Mary into places higher than the earthly tabernacle, higher indeed, even into places higher than angels, since she received the Word into herself out of the very heart of the Eternal Father.