Monday, March 25, 2013

Prayers for the Virtue of Humility

Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despondency, lust of power, and idle talk.
But grant rather the spirit of chastity,
humility, patience, and love to thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother,
for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen

Litany of Humility

O Jesus meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
 deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled…
From the desire of being honored…
From the desire of being praised...
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted…
From the desire of being approved…
From the fear of being humiliated…
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes…
From the fear of being calumniated…
From the fear of being forgotten…
From the fear of being ridiculed…
From the fear of being wronged…
From the fear of being suspected…

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That in the opinion of the world,
others may increase, 
and I may decrease…
That others may be chosen and I set aside…
That others may be praised and I unnoticed…
That others may be preferred to me

 in everything…
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I become as holy as I should…

Little Girl Gets some Help From Divine Providence
Abandonment Prayer

I adore you, God the Father, who created me;
I adore you, God the Son, who redeemed me;
I adore you, O Holy Spirit, 
            who have so often sanctified me,
            and are still sanctifying me.
I consecrate to you my whole day 
            for the pure love of you,
            and for your greater glory.
I do not know what is to happen to me today,
            whether troublesome things 
            or pleasant ones,
            or whether I shall be happy or sad,
            in consolation or in grief.
It will all be as you please.
I abandon myself to your providence,
            and I submit to all your wishes.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday Homily: Fr. Andersen

A homily by Fr. Eric Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, Oregon

March 22nd, 2013 Dominica in Palmis de Passione Domini

On the feast of the Epiphany, we commemorated the three Gentile kings who came to pay homage to the Infant who was King of the Jews. Today, the same King of the Jews is acknowledged by the Jews themselves. The Gospels tell us that in the end times, the Jews will acknowledge Christ as the Messiah. Today’s first Gospel, read before the blessing of palms, is a prefigurement of the end times, when the Jews hail Him as Messiah King just before He finishes His earthly mission. They do this holding palm branches. In the Old Testament, on the feast of Tabernacles, God commanded that His people take branches of palm trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows, along with ripe fruit, and rejoice. Holding palm branches in a procession is a sign of joy, so when the children of the Hebrews come out waving palm branches, it is a sign of joy. And there is a strange sense of joy on Palm Sunday. It is joy mixed with sorrow. We begin hailing the King of the Jews and we end by shouting out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him who called Himself the King of the Jews.”

Let’s return to this joy for a moment. We have been focusing on self-denial, repentance, sin, and God’s mercy through these forty days. In the Easter Season, we will recall to mind the gift of Baptism that gives new life through water and the Holy Spirit. Water is life-giving and we see that outside. Spring is in bloom. Nature is coming to life and as the flowers begin to bloom, the sun and the rain refresh them and nourish them with new life after a long winter. This Sunday has been historically called by the name of Pascha Floridum which means “Easter in bud,” about to burst forth in flower. The state of Florida got its name from Spanish explorers who discovered it on Palm Sunday in the year 1513, the day of Pascha Floridum, and named it Florida in honor of this great feast of Our Lord.  

Our souls are like those flowers which have waited out the long winter of salvation history. Our souls are like gardens filled with buds about to burst forth. The Father has determined the times and seasons and brought us to this springtime of great promise. Jesus is like the sun which lights our way and warms us. The Holy Spirit is like the rain which refreshes us and gives us life. So if today is Easter in bud, about to burst forth in bloom, then we need to take special care of these gardens which are our souls. We need to take special care that the buds do not wither before they have a chance to bloom. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Saturday of Passion Week: The Collect

In general, I find all of the (extraordinary form) collects for the days of Passiontide edifying and inspirational. I particularly like the collect for Saturday of Passion Week:

Proficiat, quaesumus Domine,
plebs tibi dicata piae devotionis affectu:
ut sacris actionibus erudita,
quanto majestati tuae fit gratior,
tanto donis potioribus augeatur.

Let us pray
We beseech thee, O Lord,
may the people who are dedicated to Thee
advance in piety and devotion:
and instructed by these sacred rites,
may they abound in ever greater gifts,
as they become more pleasing
in the sight of Thy Majesty.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fr. Rodriguez: The Devastated Vineyard

This is a great homily from Fr. Michael Rodriguez for Passion Sunday. It’s long – almost 40 minutes – but important. I’ve summarized it below, but I know I haven’t done it justice. You’ll be greatly rewarded if you find time to listen to it in its entirety!

Fr. Rodriguez opens his homily by reading from the visions of Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich and her description of the sufferings Jesus will have to endure. There are four great sufferings Our Lord has to endure:

·          His own torture and death on the Cross
·         The sufferings of His Blessed Mother
·         The future sufferings of His Mystical Body, the Church
·         His own sufferings in the Blessed Sacrament

Our Lord’s awareness of these future sufferings made His experience all the more painful and sorrowful. Fr. Rodriguez draws particular attention to the description of the abuses Our Lord has to endure in the Blessed Sacrament – the offenses and outrages committed against Him there.

Here’s a sample – I’m not sure if Fr. Rodriguez actually read this section, but it at least gives the flavor of the vision (I found it here):

…Angels came and showed Him, in a series of visions, all the sufferings that He was to endure in order to expiate sin; how great was the beauty of man, the image of God, before the fall, and how that beauty was changed and obliterated when sin entered the world...

The soul of Jesus beheld all the future sufferings of His Apostles, disciples, and friends; after which He saw the primitive Church, numbering but few souls in her fold at first, and then in proportion as her numbers increased, disturbed by heresies and schisms breaking out among her children, who repeated the sin of Adam by pride and disobedience. He saw the tepidity, malice, and corruption of an infinite number of Christians, the lies and deceptions of proud teachers, all the sacrileges of wicked priests, the fatal consequences of each sin, and the abomination of desolation in the kingdom of God, in the sanctuary of those ungrateful human beings whom He was about to redeem with His blood at the cost of unspeakable sufferings. The scandals of all ages, down to the present day and even to the end of the world — every species of error, deception, mad fanaticism, obstinacy, and malice — were displayed before His eyes...

Fr. Rodiguez devotes the second part of his homily to three topics: 1) obedience, love, and prayer for our new Holy Father; 2) the grave crisis in the Church today; and 3) the importance of each of us making reparation for sins.

On the first point, Fr. Rodriguez notes that all Catholics are required to pledge obedience to our new Pope, to try to grow in love for him, and to pray and sacrifice for him. Why? Because of our love for Our Lord Jesus Christ; the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, and so we have a unique love, obedience, and devotion to him.

However, this obedience and love takes place in a context: we are required to obey God’s Commandments and the Traditions of the Church. As the Vicar of Christ, the Pope also stands for these things – he is not separate from them.

The second point in Father’s sermon is the fact that the main issue in the Church today is the grave crisis in which we find ourselves. While we should certainly have joy in the election of a new Holy Father, we must not lose sight of the fact that there is a crisis. The vineyard of the Lord is devastated: there is a loss of faith, of a sense of  the supernatural. The new Pope is being called to correct the crisis.

Cardinals, bishops, and others are offering many commentaries on the new Pope, but, says Fr. Rodriguez, “not too many are weeping over the wounds of Holy Mother Church and everything she is suffering.” We need to pray for the Pope because he has his work cut out for him. “In practically every parish in the world, the Catholic faith has been lost and lessened.”

The evidence of the devastation is the fact that Church dogma and doctrine are not being taught any longer. Fr. Rodriguez offers a list of the truths that seem to have gone missing:

·         Extra ecclesiam nulla salus – outside the Church there is no salvation
·         Christ must reign in both private and public life
·         The authority of the Pope, not “collegiality”, is a supreme authority
·         The sanctity of marriage
·         The sanctity of life (sinfulness of abortion and artificial contraception)
·         Belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist

What sense is there in talking about the election of the new Pope if we don’t acknowledge the reality of the crisis, and recommit ourselves to fight for our Catholic identity and the truths taught by the Church? According to news reports, says Fr. Rodriguez, the vast majority of cardinals seem to use as their priority for selecting a pope, the likelihood that he would deal with the reform of a corrupt Roman Curia – all the while expressing the notion that more collegiality is needed.

Fr. Rodriguez contends that there is corruption in the Roman Curia because of the loss of faith. Why point solely to the Roman Curia? he asks. Shouldn’t these cardinals be thinking about their own diocesan curia back home? The same devastation of faith that seems to be taking hold of the Roman Curia exists in every diocese in the world.

Cardinals, suggests Fr. Rodriguez, should make every effort to bring about reform and restoration of the faith in their own backyard. They should make sure their priests are preaching the truths of the faith. It is hypocritical to talk about corruption in the Roman Curia without also talking about the corruption in dioceses everywhere.

Fr. Rodriguez uses this loose analogy: the foundation of the Church is Peter – the rock. A false foundation has been laid in the post-conciliar period; it’s supposed to be “new” and “better”, but this new foundation is cracked and falling down. The Church doesn’t need collegiality, he concludes. The Church needs “greater love, fidelity, respect, honor, and prayer for the Vicar of Christ. The Church needs a rock-solid papacy.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ gave the keys to the Kingdom to Peter and his successors; he didn’t make 12 sets and give one set to each of the Apostles; he didn’t break up the one key and divide it amongst them. When it comes to dogma, “collegiality” is only one small part; the greater part is the papacy.

In all the hoopla about the election of the new pope – which is a good thing – we must not lose sight of the devastation in the vineyard. And that brings us to the third point: reparation. 

Fr. Rodriguez returned to the point that we must look to ourselves and not just point fingers at the Roman Curia. Bishops and priests must pay attention to and make reparation for abuses going on in their own dioceses and parishes. And the laity too must make reparation.

The two areas where the abuses are most rampant and dangerous are in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in the attitude toward the Eucharist. Fr. Rodriguez reminds us of the beginning of his homily, where he read from the vision of Venerable Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich, in which she describes the horrible abuses of the Sacrament that Jesus Christ must suffer. He exhorts us to make reparation for the abuses that occur in the liturgy and against the Blessed Sacrament by being more reverent in our own actions. He suggests that we offer our Holy Communion for all those who are receiving unworthily, and for other sacrileges that are being committed against the Eucharist.

We should also pray for the restoration of the Traditional Latin Mass, Father reminds us.
Fr. Rodriguez mentions the sermon in which Pope Francis said he was dreaming of a Church that is poor, and that is for the poor. While acknowledging that that is an admirable thought and sentiment, Fr. Rodriguez notes that he himself would dream of and long for a Church that seeks the Glory of God above all things, and the salvation of poor souls; and insofar as poverty is a powerful means to achieve that, so be it.

And in the TLM, Fr. Rodriguez maintains, that is what the Church is doing: give glory to God and saving souls. Those are the goals of the Traditional Mass. The Novus Ordo, on the other hand, he says, “was not fabricated with those goals in mind. The motivation was active participation of the faithful, and an effort not to offend non-Catholics.” With these motivations, we cannot expect the Novus Ordo to achieve what the TLM can achieve, even when the NO is said with reverence and devotion.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Passion Sunday and the Pope

A homily from Mass in the Extraordinary Form for Passion Sunday:

The scene from today’s Gospel passage takes place in Jerusalem, in the Temple precincts.

Jesus is approaching the end of his three-year ministry, and the dark clouds of persecution have appeared in the sky: His enemies have already tried to kill him at least once.

He and His disciples have departed Jerusalem for Galilee, because things were getting a little too hostile. 
When the feast of Tabernacles approached, Jesus’ disbelieving cousins – James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas – encourage Him to return to Judea (where Jerusalem is located), “so that your disciples may see the works you are doing”, as they put it. “No one works in secret if he wants to be known publicly. If you do these things, manifest yourself to the world.”
Eventually He does go up to Jerusalem, secretly, arriving halfway through the week-long feast. He heads directly for the Temple, and there begins to teach. And immediately His teaching causes consternation: his hearers “were amazed and said, ‘How does he know scripture without having studied?’” So He didn’t graduate from a recognized yeshiva, a seminary! Horrors!
Then Jesus confronts His critics directly on their accusation that He couldn’t be from God because He “broke the Sabbath”: He had healed the paralytic at Jerusalem’s Pool of Bethesda . . . on the Sabbath!

Jesus said to the Jews: “Why are you trying to kill me?” [i.e., capital punishment by stoning]  The crowd answered, “You are possessed! [i.e., insane] Who is trying to kill you?” Jesus answered and said to them, “I performed one work and all of you are amazed because of it. 

“Moses gave you circumcision...and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man can receive circumcision on a Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I made a whole person well on a Sabbath? Stop judging by appearances, but judge justly.”

The problem with the Scribes and the Pharisees – the legal and religious leaders of the Jews – was that they didn’t have a “pigeonhole” in which to fit this upstart from Galilee. He wasn’t of the priestly tribe, he wasn’t known to be a student of any of the recognized rabbinical schools, and yet here He was – in the TEMPLE!!! – presuming to teach the people. Just who did He think He was?!?

No doubt they had heard the tales of his teaching and miracles in Galilee – including the claims that He had cured lepers, expelled demons, gave sight to a man who had blind from his birth, and even raised the dead (!) – and were both skeptical and jealous of His increasing popularity with the people, who regarded Him as a prophet. In the process, they had closed the ears of their hearts to the voice of God, to what the Holy Spirit was doing in their midst.

Jesus said to the Jews: “Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God.”

And so they realized that He was becoming a threat to the status quo: to their own stature among the people. They had to find some plausible way of accusing Him of sin, of publicly discrediting Him...and, if necessary, of getting rid of Him once and for all.

“Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”

This phenomenon is not something that happened just two thousand years ago. It is not something that happened solely to Our Lord. It has continued to happen over and over again.

Did not Our Lord warn The Twelve at the Last Supper:

John 15:18.   “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”

While it is not difficult to apply these words to ourselves as the victims of persecution, it is perhaps more challenging to consider whether or not we ourselves have taken on the role of the persecutors. Jesus’ enemies repeatedly tried to pigeonhole Him, and when they couldn’t find a convenient category to which to consign Him and thus to dismiss Him, they sought to discredit him...and eventually killed Him.

Are there people whose words and actions defy our own preconceived “pigeonholes”? What is our reaction or response to someone who thinks, speaks, and acts outside our own frame of reference? Are we attentive to the possibility that the Holy Spirit might be challenging us – as It challenged the Scribes and Pharisees – to consider anew that the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-merciful, all-just God of the universe is not bound by the fallible constructions of limited, human thought?

This past week the cardinal electors chose His Eminence, Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, as the 266th Successor to the Prince of the Apostles, Bishop of Rome, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, and Vicar of Christ. Within seconds of the announcement from the balcony of the loggia of St Peter’s Basilica, the five thousand accredited journalists gathered in Rome began sending their stories to their respective news outlets across the globe.

The initial reaction was surprise – the first Jesuit, the first non-curial cardinal, the first from the Americas, etc., etc. The most common adjective used to describe the pontiff-elect was “humility”.

And within hours critics on both sides of the political spectrum began digging for “dirt”: that he was anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-divorce; that as Jesuit provincial he was complicit in the kidnapping and torture of two of his priests, that he failed to fix the “dilapidated state of his clergy”; that he was lukewarm to implement Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 Apostolic Letter, Summorum Pontificum that lifted the restrictions on the offering of Mass in the older form, etc.

Ever since the white smoke was first seen rising from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel and the announcement “Habemus Papam” was made, I have been asked repeatedly, from multiple sources both inside and outside the Diocese, some variation of the same question: “Will Pope Francis suppress the Latin Mass?” And to all, I give the same answer: “I don’t know.”

The only information I have is what I read on the Internet, which I’ve learned long ago to take with a very large grain of salt. What I’ve seen is replete with speculation, innuendo, prognostications, and rumors . . . but very short on facts. In sum, I find insufficient data to make any reasonable assessment or prediction in this regard.

Nevertheless, our obligation as Catholic Faithful is first and foremost to be ever more open to the working of the Holy Spirit, conforming our minds and our hearts to Our Lord.

“Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God.

Do we “belong to God”? Do we hear the words of God speaking to our hearts at every moment? Or have we – like the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day – already decided in our hearts what God is permitted to say and not say, what His servants are permitted to do and not do?

Of course, God is never ‘yes’ one moment, and ‘no’ the next, as St. Paul tells us. Not even a pope can teach something that contradicts Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. But in the ordering of the life of believers there have always been, from time to time, some aspects of ecclesiastical governance that have been necessarily refined or corrected in order that the purity of the Gospel may shine more brightly in a world that sits in darkness, in the shadow of death.

Every vocation – every authentic calling from God – has its own charism. Every newlywed husband and wife, for example, soon realizes that, although the charism of “husband-ness” and “wife-ness” is conferred in the administration of the sacrament, it takes time and effort for the humanness of the individual to conform itself to the grace of the vocation.

So also is it with the vocation to the Petrine ministry, to the papacy. Cardinal Bergoglio will need the space of time to conform himself to the grace of his new vocation as the Successor to St. Peter, as the Vicar of Christ. Give him that space, give him the support of your prayers and sacrifices. Be not quick to judge him for not conforming to preconceptions of what he ought to do or not do. Rather, show yourselves as “belonging to God”, eager to hear the words of God.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Homily for the Feast of St. Joseph: Fr. Andersen

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, Oregon

March 19th, 2013

The Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary

St. Joseph was the virginal husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Both of them were virgins. Their marriage was virginal. They did not exercise the use of their marriage. Their marriage was not ordered towards the procreation and education of offspring in the same way that others are. And yet, there is a child that is the fruit of this marriage. The Child is God made incarnate of the Blessed Virgin Mary by her spouse the Holy Spirit. So Mary is the spouse of the God in the person of the Holy Spirit. She can only have one spouse, so St. Joseph stands in the place of God the Bridegroom in a unique way, but a way that is similar to how every man who marries a woman sacramentally, stands in the place of Jesus Christ the True Bridegroom of every true sacramental marriage. St. Joseph is truly her husband, but in a virginal marriage because she can take no other husband according to the flesh, having conceived once virginally through the Holy Spirit. She remains a virgin. St. Joseph remains a virgin. (note: some traditions say that St. Joseph was older and had children from a prior marriage from which he was a widower. Others maintain that he was a young man and a virgin).

So whose child is Jesus? Is Jesus only the son of Mary? What about St. Joseph? Is he the father of Jesus? Or merely the foster-father of Jesus? We can look at any mother and father and see that they cooperate with God to bear children. They do not create their children. Only God creates. Only God can create something out of nothing. Man can only pro-create. He creates with God by cooperating with God. But God is the primary factor in the creation of every human soul. God alone can create a soul out of nothing. Therefore God is the true Creator of all children through the cooperation of their parents.

St. Joseph did not cooperate in the conception of Jesus. He did cooperate in the fatherhood of Jesus as any man does with the children that are born into a marriage. St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary were married with the blessing and command of God.

God took on human flesh in the Incarnation. The marriage of Joseph and Mary was entirely ordered toward the Incarnation. There is no other purpose for their marriage (cf. Mueller, The Fatherhood of St. Joseph. p. 139). St. Joseph is the virginal father of Jesus. He is not the natural father of Jesus. Yet, he cooperated with God in the process––not physically––but morally and spiritually through his own virginity (cf. Mueller, 141). Mary conceived only by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit upon her. So she cooperated morally and spiritually in the conception of Jesus while retaining her virginity. St. Joseph became the father to the Son of God through obedience to God by entering into the marital contract.

“According to the well-known words of the Apostle [St. Paul] and the generally accepted juridical views, the body of the wife belongs to the husband with a view to the procuring of a new life, the lawful fruit of the womb belongs not only to the wife but also to the husband, even if he did not cooperate physically in the conception” (Mueller, 143). But St. Joseph did cooperate spiritually and morally by offering to God his own virginity and his own fidelity: to guard and protect, and to provide for his wife and his Child; and to educate the Child.

“According to St. Augustine, St. Thomas [Aquinas] and other great theologians, the virginal marriage between Joseph and Mary was ordained by God toward the incarnation of the eternal Son of God in such a manner that the child Jesus would be the proles, or the offspring, of this marriage. It is generally agreed that the fruit of a marriage can be only a child who is a result of that marriage and to whose origin or existence both husband and wife have cooperated in their respective manner. For as St. Thomas well says, a child conceived in adultery, or a child unrelated to that marriage and adopted later, is obviously, as all agree, not a proles of that marriage. But since the child Jesus is the proles, the offspring of the virginal marriage between Joseph and Mary, therefore Joseph and Mary have, both of them, cooperated dispositively to bring about the human existence of Jesus, not Mary alone, but also Joseph: for what is done unilaterally by one spouse cannot be ascribed to the marriage as such. Now St. Joseph did not cooperate as a physical cause; therefore it was a moral dispositive cooperation on his part” (144-145).

“Mary and Joseph cooperated by contracting their virginal marriage, by their mutual chaste marital love, by their holiness culminating their total obedient surrender to God, and by doing so, they supplied the condition, or better, the disposition, with which by God’s all-wise, merciful decree the incarnation of his Son in the purest womb of Mary was irrevocably bound up, just as in the natural order the production of a new human life is bound up with marital intercourse. Thus the child Jesus, as proles of that virginal marriage, was truly the child of husband and wife, of Joseph and Mary, and as Mary was the mother, so was Joseph in a true sense, even if only analogous, His father” (145).

As Jesus gave His own mother to the disciple, so St. Joseph is given to us also as father. Let us turn to St. Joseph for his fatherly love and care. He is a guardian, a provider, and an educator within the Holy Family. Let us ask him to guard, provide, and teach us. He has done so. He will do so in a way beyond what we ask for because he is so precious to God and God grants to St. Joseph what he asks on our behalf. But Joseph answers prayers as a father. A father does not give his children what they ask for if what they ask for is not good for them.  He knows better than we do what we need. St. Joseph obtains for us what we need which is always better than what we think we need. But we need to ask St. Joseph for a lot. Ask him for what you want. Ask him for an abundance of what you want and then wait and trust. He will obtain what God wills to give us in abundance if we ask him. Let us now turn to St. Joseph and ask him on this his Solemnity for his protection and prayers:

Sancte Ioseph, protector noster, ora pro nobis.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Red Shoes and the Liturgy: Fr. Z

I’m taking the liberty of re-posting this article from Fr. Z’s blog. Please pay his site a visit!

I Am Thinking About Those Red Shoes, by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

I am thinking about the infamous red shoes. I am thinking about the non-wearing of the mozzetta. I am thinking about the growing juxtaposition in some conversations of simple liturgy versus lofty liturgy.

Some people are saying, “O how wonderful it is to get rid of all the symbols of office and power and be humble like the poor.”

When I first learned to say the older form of the Mass of the Roman Rite, that is to say, when I first learned how to say Mass, because there has never been a single of day of my priesthood when I couldn’t say it, I admit that I was deeply uncomfortable with some of the gestures prescribed by the rubrics. I even resisted them. For example, the kissing of the objects to be given to the priest, and the priest and the kissing of the priest’s hands… that gave me the willies.

I resisted those solita oscula because I had fallen into the trap of thinking that they made me look too important.

The fact is that none of those gestures were about me at all. They are about the priest insofar as he is alter Christus, not insofar as he is “John”. For “John” all of that would be ridiculous. For Father, alter Christus, saying Mass, it is barely enough.

When you see the deacon and subdeacon in the older form of Holy Mass holding, for example, the edges of the priest’s cope when they are in procession, or when you see them kissing the priest’s hand, or bowing to him, or waiting on him or deferring to him or – what in non-Catholic eyes appears to be something like adoration or emperor worship – you are actually seeing them preparing the priest for his sacrificial slaughter on the altar of Golgotha.

It is the most natural thing in the human experience to treat with loving reverence the sacrifice to be offered to God. The sacrificial lambs were pampered and given the very best care, right up to the moment when the knife sliced their necks.

The Catholic priest is simultaneously the victim offered on the altar. All the older, traditional ceremonies of the Roman Rite underscore this foundational dimension of the Mass. If we don’t see that relationship of priest, altar, and victim in every Holy Mass, then the way Mass has been celebrated has failed. If we don’t look for that relationship, then we are not really Catholic. Mass is Calvary.

The use of beautiful marble in the church building, precious fabrics and metals for vestments and vessels, music that requires true art and skill to perform, ritual gestures which to worldly eyes seem to be the stuff of bygone eras of royals and the like, all underscore the fact that step by step during Holy Mass the priest is being readied for the sacrifice, which – mysteriously – he himself performs.

Back when I resisted the liturgical kissing of my hand when being handed a chain, spoon or chalice, I had made the mistake of imagining myself to be more humble by that resistance.  That was a mistake. Ironically, my resistance to those gestures turned the gestures into being about me. Submission to the gestures, on the other hand, erases the priest’s own person and helps him to be what he needs to be in that moment: priest, victim, alter Christus. The trappings, the rubrics, the gestures erase the priest’s poor person. Resisting these things runs the risk of making them all about the priest again.

In a sense, I had made the objection of Judas about the precious nard which the woman brought to the Lord. Jesus responded that the precious stuff should be kept for His Body, which was to be sacrificed. People who object that we should have only poor liturgy are falling into the argument of Judas. We must submit to the precious and sublime in recognition of the truth of what is going on. To pit the sublime and complex and precious and beautiful against the low, simple and humble is schizophrenic and not Catholic.

There is no real conflict of the humble and the sublime in liturgical worship.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Rebuilding the Church

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, Oregon

March 17th, 2013

Dominica V Quadragesimae, Anno C.

One day when (Saint) Francis went out to meditate in the fields, he walked beside the church of San Damiano which was threatening to collapse because of extreme age. Inspired by the Spirit, he went inside to pray. Prostrate before an image of the Crucified, he was filled with no little consolation as he prayed. While his tear-filled eyes were gazing at the Lord’s cross, he heard with his bodily ears a voice coming from the cross, telling him three times: “Francis, go and repair my house which, as you can see, is falling completely into ruin” (St. Bonaventure, The Life of St. Francis. ch. 2). St. Francis immediately thought of the physical church of San Damiano but he quickly discovered that God meant the Church “which Christ purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28)” (ibid).

We know that St. Francis took this mandate from the Lord very seriously. He abandoned all worldly honors and riches and lived the life of a poor man, but he was rich in all the things of God. We have a new pope who has taken the name of Francis. We can imagine God saying to this man: “Francis, go and repair my house which, as you can see, is falling completely into ruin.” What will this new Pope bring to the Church? We can only speculate at this point. Most importantly we can pray for him and for the Church.

In today’s gospel, we see an allegory for the Church. The Early Church Fathers loved to read the scriptures allegorically. On the literal level, we learn from today’s gospel about sin and justice and mercy. On the allegorical level, we see much more. The woman caught in adultery is an allegory for the Church. The Early Church Fathers saw the Church as having been in existence from the beginning of creation. God created her in the beginning, but He did not take the Church as His spotless bride until He presented it to Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom. In today’s gospel we have a betrothal of sorts. The woman caught in adultery is brought to the feet of our Lord. She represents the people of the old covenant who had been unfaithful. We know from the Old Testament books of the Kings, that many kings were unfaithful which led to the people being unfaithful. The kings of Judah, for instance, were the descendants of King David. They had married foreign women and worshipped their foreign pagan gods. They had desecrated the Temple with paganism and had fallen into idolatry. Holy Scripture equates idolatry with adultery. Idolatry is considered to be infidelity towards the One God who deserves our worship.

The Church is brought before the Lord by men who accuse her. She humbles herself and waits for the verdict. But our Lord has created her for Himself. He does not condemn her, but rather purifies her and takes her to Himself as His Bride. Jesus always takes the Church to Himself. Through Him, the Church is always perfect because He is perfect.

We, the members of the Church, are not perfect, but when we unite ourselves to the one Church, the Father sees only our perfection because He sees us in His Son. By His Son, we are made to be as perfect in the sight of God. That is something for us all to remember. The Church finds her identity only in Christ, never apart from Him. It is the same with us. We find our identity in Christ and nowhere else. Whatever sins we have committed in life, we are not identified or defined by our sins. We are defined by Christ as beloved sons and daughters of His Heavenly Father. Therefore, in Christ, we are reborn, we die and rise with him, and we become adopted children of the Father. In that way, God sees us through His perfect Son and we are presented to the Father as perfect.
Does that mean that our work is done? No. Our work is only beginning. Let us Join Pope Francis as he works to rebuild the Church. Every age must continue to rebuild because the Church is always reforming, as the saying goes, “Semper reformanda.” Let us look to the simplicity and joy of St. Francis as we seek to honor the Vicar of Christ on earth, Pope Francis. Let us pray for our new Pope and wait to see what special gifts we will bring to the Church in our day. 

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Here's a chuckle for St. Patrick's Day...a little education, as well!

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Pope Needs YOU: Vortex

Many good points covered in this one!

The script:

We’re coming to you from the Cleveland Ohio, Right to Life Symposium where a sold out conference of pro-lifers are attending conferences and mapping out strategies to fight the evil of abortion.

But most importantly – this Vortex is a shout out to all faithful Catholics. The Pope NEEDS you! That’s right. The Holy Father is in need of an army of people who want to be saints.

It can’t be said any more plainly than that.

As we know from Sacred Scripture, the army doesn’t even have to that big – just a division or two will probably do – but it must be fiercely loyal. Loyal to Peter. Loyal to the one and only Church established by Jesus Christ. Loyal to the fullness of the truth. Period.

At an event like this, where very well-intentioned people – supporters of life and devoted to God – gather to support one another, a horrible reality is having to be faced. And it’s even more horrible than abortion itself…because abortion is just a symptom of the horrible reality. The reality is that TRUTH itself has been obscured.

Truth – objective truth – once pushed aside, leads to all manner of evil… because truth is then treated subjectively, as in my truth vs. your truth.

This is the prevailing predominant reality of our day – what Pope Benedict rightly called the tyranny of relativism.

Only one institution on the earth can effectively fight against the tyranny of relativism… and that is The Church established by Jesus Christ to be the bulwark against evil; and THAT church is the One Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church built on Peter and his successors.

The world, more than laws and programs and political strategies to fight against evil, needs acceptance of THE truth. There is only ONE truth. There are not multiple truths any more than there are multiple correct answers to the equation what does 3 + 4 equal? Truth is ONE. And it is preached in its fullness by the Catholic Church, PERIOD and the truth of the Church, the faith of that Church is preserved in the office of Peter.

No lone man can do what needs to be done, so the Pope needs YOU. So here is the challenge, particularly if you are young: what are you going to do to help the new Pope fight the evil of modern day?

Sure – you will immerse yourself in the faith, learn and keep learning about it – but what price are you prepared to pay?

Love of Peter is love of the Church he presides over; and love of that Church IS love of Christ – whose mystical body the Church is – as St. Paul reminds us in his Epistles.

So, beyond learning and reading – what sacrifice are you willing to make? What legitimate pleasures of this earthly life are you willing to forgo – time, money, effort?

The world will never embrace Christ, not even when he returns as judge on the clouds of heaven; he will be cursed by those damned souls freefalling into Hell.

But SOME of the world will embrace him and it is your duty, your obligation as one who has embraced him, to reach out and save whoever you can – to bring the light of the AUTHENTIC gospel to them – the gospel as compiled and preached by the Catholic Church – not a man-made, watered-down version of it.

Truth is all-glorious, all radiant. And it is its nature to shine forth. There is no such thing as a partial sunrise, and there is no such thing as partial truth. Partial truth is a lie, and it has been the major weapon of choice of the diabolical since he first slithered into the Garden.

So…new Pope, new challenge, new times. But same old question to all of us – what will YOU do? The Pope needs help. Time to step up.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Choosing the Papal Name: ChurchMilitant.TV

A "Special Report" from ChurchMilitant.TV gives us some insight into the selection of papal names. (Go to the link to sign up for a Premium Membership!)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fr. Andersen: St. John of God

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, OR
March 10th, 2013 Dominica IV Quadragesimae, Anno C

The parable of the prodigal son calls to mind the story of a particular saint. On Friday, the Church commemorated St. John of God, the founder of the Order of Friars Hospitallers. He was a prodigal son. At the age of nine, John Ciudad left home in Portugal and walked to Spain. It was the year of our Lord 1504. He accompanied a young seminarian. He did not mean to run away from home. He was not in trouble. He came from a good home, and he was a quiet, contented boy. He was not rebellious and he was not an adventurer. It is more that he just kept walking and found himself one hundred and twenty miles away from home in Oropesa, Spain. There, he ended up living and working as a shepherd. John grieved over the loss of his home and parents and dreamed of returning home to care for them. He would not forgive himself. He deserved nothing. He called himself “Brother Zero.”
At the age of twenty six, his master came to him with a proposal that John should marry his lovely young daughter. He did not wish to disappoint his master and he did not want to break the young lady’s heart, but he had made a secret vow at the age of twelve that he would belong to God alone. Her heart was broken. He grieved. The next morning, he left the estate and joined the local count’s army.

The army marched to the kingdom of Navarre to defend it against the French invaders. John spent his spare moments praying the Rosary. One night while John was praying, a fellow soldier “unexpectedly picked up (a) leather brandy flask, stumbled to his feet, flung an arm around John in a mock embrace and dared him, mumbling, ‘Put away your beads. Praying is for women. Be a man! Here, drink up!’

“John drank. He was accepted. A new devil-may-care attitude replaced the ruefulness of the man who had brooded on the pain he had caused those who were dear to him” (Newcomb, Brother Zero, p. 30). The brandy burned away his loneliness and his pain, but only temporarily.

At one point, John came into the possession of a French horse and was sent to get food and provisions for his troop. But the horse was loyal to its French masters and would not cooperate with John. He threw John off his back and John landed on a boulder. He was out cold. His head was wounded and his leg was seriously injured. When he awoke, he could not get up.

He cried out to the blessed Virgin to help him. Soon a soft footstep hushed his pleading. His heart fluttered. Turning his head, he saw a young woman close by. She wore the (dress) and starched square headdress of a Basque shepherdess. How beautiful she was in the moonlight! Was she real? She (bathed) the blood from head and face with water which she carried in a small jug. Then, with hands as cool and soothing as balm, she lightly touched his injured leg.

‘Señorita, who told you that I needed help?’

‘You,‘ she murmured, and continued to minister to his wounds.

‘I?‘ John looked at her through astonished eyes.

She stood. ‘I am she to whom you called for help. In future, my son, be more faithful to your prayers.’ Still holding the water jar, she smiled an irresistible smile and vanished” (cf. Newcomb 31-32).

John immediately stood up and he was healed. He never went back to the liquor and resumed his former prayerful way of life. He then fought in the Imperial army of Charles V against the Turks and made a fortune in gold. Finally, he returned to his home town in Portugal decorated with medals across his chest. But his parents had died shortly after he had run away and he now had only one remaining uncle to whom he gave his fortune and returned to Spain.

In Gibraltar, he began to sell holy books, rosaries, and religious articles from a cart in the plaza. On Wednesdays and Fridays, he took a pack upon his shoulders and walked to the neighboring villages to sell his wares. One hot summer morning, he was walking and he felt very weak, hot and thirsty. He was fully dressed as a gentleman with ankle boots, woolen stockings, velvet knee breeches and doublet, fine linen shirt and beret which a Spanish gentlemen never removed from his head except in the presence of the king. The heat was unbearable. He sat down on a boulder in the shade of an acacia tree.
A small boy suddenly appeared. He was dressed all in white like a small nobleman. His hair was in golden ringlets and butterflies hovered all around him. John removed his beret as for a king. “Little brother…Have you run away from home?” The boy shook his head. “Your mother knows where you are?” The boy nodded (cf. Newcomb 71). John needed to be on his way, but he could not abandon this tiny child. He told the boy that he would take him home, but where was home? The boy pointed toward the south. But was he pointing to earth or heaven? John could not tell. Then John looked down and saw that the boys tender little bare feet were cut, scratched, bruised and bleeding. The terrain was dangerous with snakes, stinging insects, stones and thorns.

Shamed, he vowed never again to wear shoes. He looked at the boy and smiled, saying to himself, ‘In imitation of you, little one, I will go barefooted and hatless for the rest of my days.” He lifted the child tenderly to his shoulders and carried him with his pack of religious goods, hat and shoes dangling, and he felt energetic again.

The child became heavy. They walked for what seemed an infinity. John’s feet were bloody and blistered. He thought of St. Christopher carrying the Christ child. They stopped to rest at a brook where he could drink and bath his bloody feet. The child was suddenly nowhere to be found. Then the boy suddenly reappeared in heavenly splendor and handed John a “pomegranate surmounted by a golden cross. The child spoke clearly saying ‘Juan de Dios, Granada será tu cruz’ (John of God, Granada will be your cross).’ [The pomegranate was] the floral emblem of Spain. In Holy Writ, the symbol of charity; in Christian lore, the symbol of Christ’s Passion. The cross atop the pomegranate signified sacrifice and salvation” (Newcomb 82).

John moved to Granada and spent his days in the public square barefooted, bareheaded, having given his velvet doublet and fine linen shirt away to a crippled beggar. He sold his rosaries, books, medals and crucifixes and gave all the money away to the poorest of the poor. He had nothing to show for his work. What a failure!

On the feast of St. Sebastian in the year 1537, he had listened to Father John of Avila preach that “Heaven…was not to be had for the taking. One must earn it by service to God. The Christian who hoped to reserve for himself even the least place on the outermost rim of Heaven must repent and atone, repent and atone, again and again and again” (Newcomb 87). John heard this and took it to heart. He ran to the square sobbing and crying out to the townsfolk that they must repent and atone. Now the beggars spat upon him and threw pebbles at him, calling him the most foul names. John of God was beaten up by the crowd and cried out for mercy to God for his sins. He sobbed convulsively and finally was left for dead among the stones of the river bank. Two hidalgos (i.e., noblemen), rescued him and brought him to the Hermitage of St. Sebastian where St. John of Avila was staying. Father John of Avila saw in John of God a holy man who wished to embrace the Cross of Jesus Christ. He took him on as a spiritual son.

John of God asked permission of his spiritual father to be admitted to the Royal Hospital into the ward for the insane as a form of penance. He was not insane, but the townspeople believed him to be so. He was admitted for 8 months and treated cruelly with whips and branding irons which were thought to beat insanity out of a person. John was covered with lesions that were opened up by whipping before they ever had a chance to heal. He identified with the scourged Christ. When Fr. John of Avila went to visit him, he found John of God radiant and glowing with heavenly light and the most beautiful purity shining forth from his eyes. The priest used his influence to have John of God released from his treatment as one who was cured. At that point, John worked at the hospital as a nurse, caring for the most despicable and hopeless patients. One day a patient called him a saint and John was so horrified by this honor that he quit the hospital that day and retreated to the Hermitage with Fr. John of Avila.

He knew that God wanted him to serve the sick poor. He was resolute that he must open a hospital in Granada but he had no money. Fr. John of Avila told him it was impossible. Who would give him property for free? Still, John of God was absolutely confident that if it was God’s will, then it would happen. First, he received permission from his spiritual father to make a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Spain. It was winter and he wore nothing but a coarse twill tunic and a knotted rope. He was emaciated from fasting and penance, his head was shaved, and he was barefoot, but he radiated peace and holiness. Fr. John of Avila knew that it was useless to command his spiritual son to dress warmly and take money for his travels. The penitent would take nothing because he trusted in the providence of God and the kindness of rustics along the way.
The rustics were not kind along the way. He was turned away at every door and spent one night in jail because the villagers did not trust a man who appeared so very pious. The saint was extremely pleased to be treated with such disdain. Upon arriving at the miraculous Spanish shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, he spent hours upon hours gazing upon the miraculous image at the shrine. In obedience to his spiritual father, he “desperately…implored the Mother of God to show him what her Divine Son wanted him to do with his life. Then one day she answered his appeal” (Newcomb 159). A cloud of blue fumes descended upon the altar and Our Lady appeared holding the Christ child. She handed the baby to John and instructed him to dress the child. He “rightly understood this to mean that henceforth he was to care for Christ’s poor” (170).

Upon returning to Granada, he could not believe his eyes. “It can’t be!” he murmured and moved a step or two closer to examine a signboard that hung across a grilled door. The (writing) on the board said: House to let for the Lodging of the Poor. He was unable to secure the property because he had no money. He went to the church to pray his Rosary and beg our Lady for assistance. While others looked on, another blue cloud descended and our Lady of Victory appeared and said to John: “It is by thorns, labors and sufferings you must earn the crown my Son has prepared for you” (178). She then placed a crown of thorns on his head granting him the invisible gift of the stigmata.

 It was the talk of the town. After this event, the owner of the property granted its use to John without any money. The pain in John’s head from the invisible stigmata was the payment he would render for the rest of his years. From this hospital he sought out the poorest of the poor, the sick and the abandoned and he cared for them with a gentle love. He did so alone with limited resources at first. Then he was joined by two companions. They were given a religious habit by the Bishop of Tuy who vested John and officially gave him the name received by the Divine Child: John of God. The Religious Order was officially called the Order of Friars Hospitallers to care for the sick poor. At the age of 55 he attempted to save a drowning boy. He himself died from the ensuing illness. He received the burial worthy of a prince and was canonized a saint in 1690 by Pope Alexander VIII.

He was a prodigal son who spent his whole life doing penance so that he could truly be his Heavenly Father’s son, in the likeness of the Son of God in His suffering on the Cross. He sought to be a failure in life and called himself Brother Zero. By that disdain for worldly recognition, and a tender love for Christ’s poor he gained a crown in heaven and made this world a better place.