Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Holy, Holy, Holy

Br. Athanasius Murphy, O.P., of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph, reflects on the Sanctus (English: Holy, Holy, Holy) of the mass.
When I was in college I was invited to attend an Armenian divine liturgy. While the whole celebration of the rite in the classical Armenian language was beautiful, there are only three words that I distinctly remember from that liturgy – or rather the same word said three times: “Sorph, Sorph, Sorph!”

Whether it is the Armenian Sorph, the Greek hagios, or the Latin Sanctus, Christian liturgies around the world have derived their prayer of “Holy, Holy, Holy” from the sixth chapter of the Book of Isaiah. In one of his visions, the prophet Isaiah is confronted by the Lord, whom Isaiah sees in a temple, high and lifted up upon a throne (Is 6:3). Above the Lord are six-winged seraphim, or angels, calling to one another and saying:

“Holy, Holy, Holy LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

This angelic prayer can be found as early as the 4th century in the liturgies of Alexandria and Jerusalem, mentioned by Athanasius and Cyril, bishops respectively of those cities.
The translation of the Sanctus will change slightly with the new English translation of the Roman Missal that will come into use on the First Sunday of Advent (November 27th, 2011). Read the whole post.

Monday, October 17, 2011

On the Propers of the Mass

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby of the Vultus Christi blog has a very engaging post about the origin and development of the propers of the mass: those prayers and elements of the mass that change depending on the liturgical feast or season. For example, concerning the Introit:
The purpose of the Introit in the tradition of the Roman Rite is not didactic; it is contemplative. The Introit ushers the soul into the mystery of the day not by explaining it, but by opening the Mass with a word uttered from above. The text of the Introit signifies that, in every celebration, the initiative is divine, not human; it is a word received that quickens the Church-at-Prayer, and awakens a response within her.
Read the whole post.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

On Silence and Solitude

Over the last several months, I have been thinking more and more about the simple concept of silence. What's interesting is that Pope Benedict XVI has chosen Silence to be the theme for the 2012 World Communication Day.  Why silence?
In the thought of Pope Benedict XVI, silence is not presented simply as an antidote to the constant and unstoppable flow of information that characterises society today but rather as a factor that is necessary for its integration. Silence, precisely because it favours habits of discernment and reflection, can in fact be seen primarily as a means of welcoming the word. We ought not to think in terms of a dualism, but of the complementary nature of two elements which when they are held in balance serve to enrich the value of communication and which make it a key factor that can serve the new evangelisation.
Recently, Pope Benedict XVI was visiting a Carthusian monastery and had this to say about silence:
Technical progress, markedly in the area of transport and communications, has made human life more comfortable but also more keyed up, at times even frantic. Cities are almost always noisy, silence is rarely to be found in them because there is always a lingering background noise, in some areas even at night. In the recent decades, moreover, the development of the media has spread and extended a phenomenon that had already been outlined in the 1960s: virtuality that risks getting the upper hand over reality. Unbeknown to them, people are increasingly becoming immersed in a virtual dimension because of the audiovisual messages that accompany their life from morning to night.

The youngest, who were already born into this condition, seem to want to fill every empty moment with music and images, as for fear of feeling this very emptiness. This is a trend that has always existed, especially among the young and in the more developed urban contexts but today it has reached a level such as to give rise to talk about anthropological mutation. Some people are no longer capable of remaining for long periods in silence and solitude.
Anthropological mutation? Sounds very serious. I think that last paragraph is key and bears great reflection. Naturally, this isn't to say that leisure is bad, or that listening to music is harmful. On the contrary, what it says is that these things are elevated above and beyond everything else. We are a society that is generally very uncomfortable with silence, and the average attention span is often very short. Further, there appears to be a tendency in our society to equate long periods of silence with a lack of amusement, i.e. boredom, and so we are constantly seeking distractions. If we aren't doing something, watching something, or listening to something, there is a sense that we aren't making good use of our free time. I find this to be true in my own life, for sure. I attempt to devote time to reflection and prayer, but it is quite difficult. My mind is so tempted by so many other things.

What I love about the film, Into Great Silence, is that it gives you a true insight into the daily routine of those for whom silence is a major part of life. Indeed, the film itself is very difficult to watch unless you are truly prepared to enter into it. If you allow yourself to be subdued by the film without falling asleep or becoming distracted by something else, you find that you are given an extraordinary encounter with something almost otherworldly. You are able to take time to really notice the most simple of things, and you are much better able to live in harmony with the changing seasons of the world rather than seek to be distracted from them.

Also related to this, as the pope points out, is the concept of solitude. This is something that transcends personality traits (whether one is an introvert or an extrovert). Consider that even the most introverted of persons struggles to find comfort with solitude in a public place without some distraction, whether it be music, or a book, etc.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Nature and Design

One of many great observations given by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn from his excellent book, "Chance or Purpose: Creation, Evolution and a Rational Faith (p.98)"
The never ending debate, as to whether there is something like a "design" in creation, thus goes round in circles, perhaps because nowadays, whenever people talk about "design" and a "designer", they automatically think of a "divine engineer", a kind of omniscient technician, who -- because he must be perfect -- can, equally, only produce perfect machines. Here, in my view, lies the most profound cause of many misunderstandings -- even on the part of the "intelligent design" school in the U.S.A. God is not clockmaker; he is not a constructor of machines, but a Creator of natures. The world is not a mechanical clock, not some vast machine, nor even a mega-computer, but rather, as Jacques Maritain said, "une republique des natures", "a republic of natures."

In order to talk meaningfully about the Creator having a "design", we have to retrieve the concept of "nature", an understanding of which we have largely lost today, and which has been replaced by a technical and mechanistic understanding of living things.

The Renaissance Priest

Great story from the Catholic News Agency on the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio.
The Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio has been undergoing a renaissance of its own in the past few years, with enrollment increasing significantly and seven dioceses sending seminarians there for the first time. They are learning how to be what the Josephinum’s rector, Father James Wehner, STD, describes as a priestly, 21st-century version of a Renaissance man.

As Fr. Wehner defines it, “The Renaissance priest is both a man of culture and a man of faith, propagating the mission of the Church in a language, method, and ministry accessible to the people of God.”

That vision has attracted an increasing number of young men to the Josephinum since Fr. Wehner was appointed rector in 2009 after being pastor of a large church in suburban Pittsburgh and spending six years as rector of the Pittsburgh diocesan seminary.

Enrollment at the Josephinum has increased 53 percent since his arrival, growing from 118 to this year’s total of 185, the seminary’s highest total since the 1970s. Students range in age from 17 to their early 50s. Since the Josephinum is a national seminary, they come from nearly 30 dioceses in the U.S.
Who are these men?
Several, such as first-year student Nathaniel Glenn of Phoenix, had their pick of schools from throughout the nation. They chose the Josephinum because they felt a possible calling to be a priest and believed it was the best place to discern God’s will.

“A lot of my friends said to me, ‘You’re too smart and too talented to be going to a seminary,’” said Glenn, a National Merit Scholarship finalist who turned down nearly $450,000 in scholarship offers from schools such as Texas Tech, Alabama, Arizona, and Arizona State “I told them they had the wrong idea of what a seminary is. It’s somewhere we should be sending our best men. We need smart priests.”
Yes! But what about formation and the true vocation of a priest?
Fr. Wehner said the Josephinum’s mission is defined by three main concepts: Renaissance priesthood as described above, spiritual fatherhood, and the new evangelization as proclaimed by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

He explained spiritual fatherhood by saying “priests don’t surrender the natural vocation all men have to provide nuptial, generative, spousal love. Priestly celibacy consecrates the natural order of man to the supernatural love of God. It does not deny the masculinity that is part of a man’s nature, but places it in a special context. This is important in today’s culture, where sexuality is defined in a perverse way.”

Fr. Wehner said that a Renaissance priest, “as the initial new evangelizer, exercises pastoral ministry in culture, with an understanding of what the Church is asking from him and of what the faithful expect from their priest. He can’t be afraid of meeting people wherever they can be found, but has to go beyond the world of the parish and into areas like the marketplace, prisons, or the places where addicts are. The 21st-century priest needs to be man enough to bring the Gospel everywhere people need to hear it.”

Students at all levels of the Josephinum go into the secular world every Thursday afternoon during the school year, teaching at Columbus-area Catholic schools, taking part in activities such as the Special Olympics, and paying visits to the sick in hospitals and nursing homes and to prisoners at the Marion Correctional Institution.
And what about the daily prayer life and spiritual formation?
Besides classroom time, the weekly apostolic works program, and daily meals, the weekday schedule includes practice sessions for those involved in the Josephinum choir and schola or other musical organizations, one-hour weekly formation conferences one night a week with Father Wehner or faculty members speaking in depth on a particular topic, Evening Prayer at 5:45 p.m., and Night Prayer (optional on most evenings but required on some) at 9.

A Holy Hour is offered seven days a week and also is optional most days and required occasionally, In addition, there are ample opportunities to receive the Sacrament of Penance or to meditate in any of the institution’s four chapels, dedicated to St. Turibius, St. Rose of Lima, St. Joseph, and St. Pius X.

The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (the “Latin Mass”) is celebrated twice a month, and there is a weekly Mass in Spanish that’s part of a larger Hispanic formation program. An English-immersion program is offered for international students.

Seminarians also are exposed to a wide range of devotions including Eucharistic processions and weekly recitation of the Rosary, and they can join fraternities such as the Knights of Columbus, which recently began a campus chapter.
Please pray for these men and for vocations.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Faith and the Scientific Imagination

Interesting article by science fiction writer John C. Wright.
Science fiction is not science. Science fiction is the imaginative attempt to investigate (and, yes, to play with) the ideas suggested by the modern, scientific, Darwinian world-view. Science fiction is a game of the imagination: it asks us to extrapolate the wonders of a naturalistic universe. There are no gods and no magic in a science fiction story properly so-called. Adding these elements makes it a fantasy, or, at least, a space opera or some other “soft” form of science fiction. Hard science fiction, the core of the genre, is naturalistic, and based on the Darwinian view of an evolving universe, ruled by chance, but explicable through reason.

... Now, it is no condemnation of science fiction to say it is naturalistic. For that matter, detective stories and Westerns are naturalistic, or, at least, I can think of no whodunit solved through prayer and miracle, and I never read a Western where ghosts were banished by an exorcist armed with bell, book, and candle. What makes science fiction an oddity in naturalistic fiction is this frequent tendency to seek out supernatural themes.
Read the whole article.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Save the Liturgy, Save the World

How we celebrate the liturgy in our parish communities is of utmost importance. With the disintegration of the liturgy comes a disintegration of Catholic identity, and with that, a community that tears itself apart. Fortunately, proper celebration of the liturgy was and is something very close to the pope's heart. From Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), from "Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977":
I am convinced that the crisis in the [Roman] Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy, which at times has even come to be conceived of "etsi Deus non daretur": in that it is a matter of indifference whether or not God exists and whether or not He speaks to us and hears us. But when the community of faith, the world-wide unity of the Church and her history, and the mystery of the living Christ are no longer visible in the liturgy, where else, then, is the Church to become visible in her spiritual essence? Then the community is celebrating only itself, an activity that is utterly fruitless. And, because the ecclesial community cannot have its origin from itself but emerges as a unity only from the Lord, through faith, such circumstances will inexorably result in a disintegration into sectarian parties of all kinds - partisan opposition within a Church tearing herself apart. This is why we need a new Liturgical Movement, which will call to life the real heritage of the Second Vatican Council.
Have I been a witness to this? Absolutely, yes. I am utterly humbled that I am now a witness to this liturgical renewal and new Liturgical Movement about which the pope speaks - to see the real heritage of the Second Vatican Council blossom.

What is the Church?

Paragraph 760 from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Christians of the first centuries said, "The world was created for the sake of the Church." God created the world for the sake of communion with his divine life, a communion brought about by the "convocation" of men in Christ, and this "convocation" is the Church.
And the Church is the primary means through which Christ gives us, by grace, the supreme gift of Himself, making us partakers of His own Divine Life. The Catechism here references the The Shepherd of Hermas (Vision 2, Ch. 4), a document of the early church written sometime in the 1st or 2nd century:
Now a revelation was given to me, my brethren, while I slept, by a young man of comely appearance, who said to me, "Who do you think that old woman is from whom you received the book?" And I said, "The Sibyl." "You are in a mistake," says he; "it is not the Sibyl." "Who is it then?" say I. And he said, "It is the Church." And I said to him, "Why then is she an old woman?" "Because," said he, "she was created first of all. On this account is she old. And for her sake was the world made."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Blessed Jacinta Marto

I believe that the Fatima message is reflected in microcosm by the life of little Jacinta Marto. Jacinta, who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in the year 2000, was Lúcia's cousin and the sister of Francisco Marto. She was only seven years old when the Fatima events took place in Fatima, Portugal in 1917. I say that the Fatima message is reflected by her in microcosm, because, even as a playful and affectionate young girl, her life was deeply transformed by God's call to repentance and reparation as delivered by Mary, the great Mother of God who shows us her Son. Little Jacinta died at the age of nine, just a few days before her 10th birthday, a victim of the Spanish Flu Pandemic.

According to those who knew her throughout these events, including Lúcia, both Jacinta and her brother Francisco had developed a keen sense of propriety with regard to prayer. She loved to play and dance, yet Jacinta also knew when it was time to be serious. She understood, as all of the children did, the importance of serious prayer and the call to holiness, and she impressed this upon everyone around her. She willingly embraced sacrifices and mortifications for the sake of others. There is a story that is told about the time when the little Jacinta was imprisoned by the local officials along with her brother, Francisco, and their cousin, Lúcia. The three children were placed in a common cell along with other criminals. Lúcia tells the story of what happened:
[The prisoners] asked if we knew how to dance. We said we knew the "fandango" and the "vira". Jacinta's partner was a poor thief who, finding her so tiny, picked her up and went on dancing with her in his arms! We only hope that our Lady has had pity on his soul and converted him.
And what happened later:
Jacinta took off a medal that she was wearing around her neck, and asked a prisoner to hang it up for her on a nail in the wall. Kneeling before this medal, we began to pray. The prisoners prayed with us, that is, if they knew how to pray, but at least they were down on their knees... While we were saying the Rosary in prison, [Francisco] noticed that one of the prisoners was on his knees with his cap still on his head. Francisco went up to him and said, "If you wish to pray, you should take your cap off." Right away, the poor man handed it to him and he went over and put it on the bench on top of his own.
Jacinta was often moved to tears when the Passion was retold and also loved to contemplate the Crucifixion. She was keenly aware that something had changed inside of her. She is recorded to have said:
I love Our Lord so much! At times, I seem to have a fire in my heart, but it does not burn me.
And before her death, she explained:
I wish I could put into everybody the fire that I have here in my heart which makes me love the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary so much!
Jacinta knew that she would eventually die alone in the hospital. Dr. Enrico Lisboa, a Lisbon physician, submitted the following deposition following her death:
On the evening of that 20th of February, at about 6 o'clock, Jacinta said that she felt worse and wished to receive the sacraments. The parish priest (Dr. Pereira dos Reis) was called and he heard her confession about 8 o'clock that night. I was told that Jacinta had insisted that the Blessed Sacrament be brought to her as Viaticum but that Dr. Reis had not concurred because she seemed fairly well. He promised to bring her Holy Communion in the morning. Jacinta again asked for Viaticum saying that she would shortly die and, indeed, she died that night, peacefully, but without having received Holy Communion.
I think we would do well to meditate on the brief life of little Jacinta Marto and fervently seek her prayerful intercession. She is a particularly special model for young children to look to. She understood more about the deep mysteries of the Faith before age ten than most people do before age 50. Echoing the Lord in Matthew's Gospel, all I can say is, "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes."

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dappled Things: counter, original, spare, strange

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.
-- "Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Irenaeus: The Eucharist Establishes Our Opinion

The witness of St. Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century) in his epic work "Against Heresies" is one of my favorite texts of the Early Church. I have blogged many times on the subject of Irenaeus, and every time I study his work, I am always surprised with what I find. His writing provides a very unique perspective into the life of the Church in the 2nd century.

Man is created body and soul, a complete union of flesh and spirit. "Against Heresies" was composed largely to treat the question of the Gnostics who posed a duality and denied the inherent goodness of the flesh: the flesh, which is evil, could never be brought to partake in eternal life. However, Irenaeus points out their inconsistency by pointing them toward the Eucharist. Just as God can transform created things (bread and wine) into his own Body and Blood for our nourishment, so too can God transform our bodies when we receive that nourishment, giving it a divine character and a share in divine life. The Eucharist is proof of this, and the Resurrection is its culmination.

Central to this is the understanding that when the Church offers the Eucharist, it offers a true Sacrifice, something it received from the apostles who received it from Christ. Like Melchizedek, we offer bread and wine, the first-fruits of created things, and God transforms them into the Body and Blood of Christ who was offered once for sin and who was resurrected, the first-fruits of the New Creation, in which we are made partakers. In that way, we participate in and proclaim the One Sacrifice of Christ and also His Resurrection from the dead. From Ch. 17 of Book IV of "Against Heresies":
Again, giving directions to His disciples to offer to God the first-fruits of His own, created things (not as if He stood in need of them, but that they might be themselves neither unfruitful nor ungrateful), He took that created thing, bread, and gave thanks, and said, This is My body. And the cup likewise, which is part of that creation to which we belong, He confessed to be His blood, and taught the new oblation of the new covenant; which the Church receiving from the apostles, offers to God throughout all the world...
Picking this up into the next chapter, Irenaeus turns toward the Gnostics (Ch. 18):
.... But how can [these Gnostics] be consistent with themselves, [when they say] that the bread over which thanks have been given is the body of their Lord, and the cup His blood, if they do not call Himself the Son of the Creator of the world, that is, His Word, through whom the wood fructifies, and the fountains gush forth, and the earth gives first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.

Then, again, how can [the Gnostics] say that the flesh, which is nourished with the body of the Lord and with His blood, goes to corruption, and does not partake of life? Let them, therefore, either alter their opinion, or cease from offering the things just mentioned. But our opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion. For we offer to Him His own, announcing consistently the fellowship and union of the flesh and Spirit. For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity.
Bingo. Why are the Gnostics wrong? Because the Eucharist confirms their inconsistency and their incoherency. Let them therefore either alter their opinion, or cease from offering the Eucharist. St. Irenaeus of Lyons, pray for us!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Second Grade Chant Schola

Here is a really short video featuring the Second Grade Chant Schola at St. Theresa Catholic School in Sugar Land, TX (my parish school). Latin isn't so hard... for kids these days :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Catholic Studies at Aquinas College

I would like to call your attention to the very excellent Catholic Studies program at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The program was developed by Dr. John Pinheiro, professor of history, who also just so happens to have been one of my high school religion teachers (15 years ago now). The Catholic Studies program looks quote solid and truly fun, from the looks of it, with classes and colloquia exploring a variety of topics (including "Mathematics and Theology" and also the thought of J.R.R. Tolkien). The program also has a Facebook page. Dr. Pinheiro blogs at History for Smarties. Check it out!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The New Roman Missal and Restoration of Metaphor

On April 25th at the Midwest Theological Forum in Valparaiso, Indiana, Bishop James Conley (Denver) delivered a speech concerning on the forthcoming New Translation of the Roman Missal, which will be launched officially on the First Sunday of Advent of this year. Bishop Conley has much to say concerning the importance of the new translation in restoring themes and metaphors that were obscured or eliminated in the translation currently in place. He makes several good points:
There is a banal, pedestrian quality to much of the language in our current liturgy. The weakness in the language gets in the way and prevents us from experiencing the sublime spiritual and doctrinal ideas woven into the fabric of the liturgy.
The translators had well-meaning pastoral intentions. They wanted to make the liturgy intelligible and relevant to modern Catholics. To that end, they employed a translation principle they called “dynamic equivalence.”

In practice, this led them to produce an English translation that in many places is essentially a didactic paraphrase of the Latin. In the process, the language of our Eucharistic worship — so rich in scriptural allusion, poetic metaphor and rhythmic repetition — came to be flattened out and dumbed down.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Canberra, Australia has observed that our current translation “consistently bleaches out metaphor, which does scant justice to the highly metaphoric discourse” of the liturgy.

This describes the problem well.

Archbishop Coleridge, by the way, is a translator by training. He headed the committee of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) that produced the new translation we will begin using in Advent. He has pointed out serious theological difficulties with our current translations, including problems related to ecclesiology and the theology of grace.

The key point here is that the words we pray matter. What we pray makes a difference in what we believe. Our prayer has implications for how we grasp the saving truths that are communicated to us through the liturgy.

For instance, our current translation almost always favors abstract nouns to translate physical metaphors for God. If the Latin prayer refers to the “face” of God, “face” will be translated in abstract conceptual terms, such as “presence.” References to God’s “right hand” will be translated as God’s “power.” This word choice has deep theological implications. The point of the Son of God becoming flesh is that God now has a human face — the face of Jesus. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Whoever sees him sees the Father. Yet if in our worship we speak of God only in abstract terms, then effectively we are undermining our faith in the Incarnation.
Indeed. I fully expect that the new translation will produce very interesting results. My hope is that parish priests and administrators will use the opportunity to teach about the beautiful theology unlocked by the new translation rather than let people fall into confusion and alienation.

So what is the real problem with the current translation? Essentially it is less mystical and far too didactic. Bishop Conley continues:
I think the root problem with the translations we have now is that the translators seriously misunderstood the nature of the divine liturgy. Our current translations treat the liturgy basically as a tool for doing catechesis. That’s why our prayers so often sound utilitarian and didactic; often they have a kind of lowest-common-denominator type of feel. That’s because the translators were trying to make the “message” of the Mass accessible to the widest possible audience. But Christ did not give us the liturgy to be a message-delivery system. Of course, we pray what we believe, and what we pray shapes what we believe. Lex orandi, lex credendi. But the liturgy is not meant to “teach” in the same way that a catechism teaches, or even in the same way that a homily teaches.
Precisely. What then is the purpose of liturgy?
On this point, the words of the great liturgical pioneer, Father Romano Guardini, are worth hearing again: The liturgy wishes to teach, but not by means of an artificial system of aim-conscious educational influences. It simply creates an entire spiritual world in which the soul can live according to the requirements of its nature. …. The liturgy creates a universe brimming with fruitful spiritual life, and allows the soul to wander about in it at will and to develop itself there. …. The liturgy has no purpose, or at least, it cannot be considered from the standpoint of purpose. It is not a means which is adapted to attain a certain end — it is an end in itself. This is the authentic spirit of the liturgy.

As Guardini says, the liturgy aims to create a new world for believers to dwell in. A sanctified world where the dividing lines between the human and the divine are erased. Guardini’s vision is beautiful: “The liturgy creates a universe brimming with fruitful spiritual life.”
This is why the words we use are important, and why the new translation is an essential step in authentic liturgical reform.
The new translation of the Mass restores this sense of the liturgy as transcendent and transformative. It restores the sacramentality to our liturgical language. The new translation reflects the reality that our worship here joins in the worship of heaven. The new edition of the Missal seeks to restore the ancient sense of our participation in the cosmic liturgy.
Conley mentions several examples of this, but I particular favor the one concerning the epiclesis in Eucharistic Prayer II
Currently we pray:
Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
The new translation restores the repetitive language and the biblical metaphor found in the Latin text:
Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Restoring the Latin here gives us a much richer prayer. It also stresses that the liturgy is not our work, but the work of God, who sends down his Spirit from heaven. The key word is “dewfall,” rore in the Latin. It is a poetic metaphor that is filled with Scriptural significance. Of course, the allusion here is to how God fed his chosen people with manna that he sent down from heaven with the morning dew. We are also meant to associate this with Christ calling the Eucharist the true manna, the true “bread which comes down from heaven".
Read the whole speech. It definitely seems there is a resistance to the mystical and incomprehensible in today's world, particularly in the West. If you've ever participated at an Eastern Orthodox or Eastern Catholic liturgy, you see right away just how different the approach is to the mystical and ineffable. Eastern liturgy captures this very well. In the West, folks expect to be able to see and comprehend everything they experience and have great difficulty embracing mystery... those things that aren't easily grasped or are impossible to comprehend.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us

From the very ancient Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom:
Holy God, You dwell among Your saints. You are praised by the Seraphim with the thrice holy hymn and glorified by the Cherubim and worshiped by all the heavenly powers. You have brought all things out of nothing into being. You have created man and woman in Your image and likeness and adorned them with all the gifts of Your grace.

You give wisdom and understanding to the supplicant and do not overlook the sinner but have established repentance as the way of salvation. You have enabled us, Your lowly and unworthy servants, to stand at this hour before the glory of Your holy altar and to offer to You due worship and praise.

Master, accept the thrice holy hymn also from the lips of us sinners and visit us in Your goodness. Forgive our voluntary and involuntary transgressions, sanctify our souls and bodies, and grant that we may worship and serve You in holiness all the days of our lives, by the intercessions of the holy Theotokos and of all the saints who have pleased You throughout the ages.

For You are holy, our God, and to You we give glory, to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.
Blessed are You on the throne of glory of Your kingdom, seated upon the Cherubim, now and forever and to the ages of ages!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

More True than the Truth?

There are too many who put their faith in their own understanding of things, or who seek with intellectual pride to propose that they have found something more true than the simplest of truths. Some ancient Christian wisdom from early writer St. Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century):
Some people abandon the teachings of the Church and fail to understand how a simple and devout person can have more worth than a philosopher who blasphemes without restraint. Heretics are like that.

Heretics are always wanting to find something more true than the truth. They are always choosing new and unreliable ways. Yet like the blind led by the blind, they will fall into the abyss of ignorance by their own fault.

The Church is like paradise on earth. ‘You may eat freely of the fruit of every tree in the garden,’ says the Spirit of God. In our case he means: Feed on the whole of Scripture, but do not do it with intellectual pride, and do not swallow the opinions of the heretics. They pretend to possess the knowledge of good and evil, but they are impiously elevating their own intelligence above their Creator.

Beware! By devouring the ideas of the heretics we banish ourselves from the paradise of life.
Excerpted from Against Heresies, Book V, Ch. 20

Who do you say that I am?

From an essay written by philosopher Peter Kreeft, courtesy of Ignatius Insight. I can't tell you how many folks I have encountered over the years who, while withdrawing from Christianity and from any profession of Jesus as divine, nevertheless insist that Jesus was still a good man. Yet, these folks don't consider that either Jesus was who He said He was, namely, God, or He was, quite simply, a liar and a fraud - anything but a good man. It's as simple as that. Peter Kreeft gives an analysis:
The doctrine of Christ's divinity is the central Christian doctrine, for it is like a skeleton key that opens all the others. Christians have not independently reasoned out and tested each of the teachings of Christ, received via Bible and Church, but believe them all on his authority. For if Christ is divine, he can be trusted to be infallible In everything he said, even hard things like exalting suffering and poverty, forbidding divorce, giving his Church the authority to teach and forgive sins in his name, warning about hell (very often and very seriously), instituting the scandalous sacrament of eating his flesh-we often forget how many "hard sayings" he taught!

When the first Christian apologists began to give a reason for the faith that was in them to unbelievers, this doctrine of Christ's divinity naturally came under attack, for it was almost as incredible to Gentiles as it was scandalous to Jews. That a man who was born out of a woman's womb and died on a cross, a man who got tired and hungry and angry and agitated and wept at his friend's tomb, that this man who got dirt under his fingernails should be God was, quite simply, the most astonishing, incredible, crazy-sounding idea that had ever entered the mind of man in all human history.

The argument the early apologists used to defend this apparently indefensible doctrine has become a classic one. C. S. Lewis used it often, e.g., in Mere Christianity, the book that convinced Chuck Colson (and thousands of others). I once spent half a book (Between Heaven and Hell) on this one argument alone. It is the most important argument in Christian apologetics, for once .in unbeliever accepts the conclusion of this argument (that Christ is divine), everything else in the Faith follows, not only intellectually (Christ's teachings must all then be true) but also personally (if Christ is God, he is also your total Lord and Savior).

The argument, like all effective arguments, is extremely simple: Christ was either God or a bad man.

Unbelievers almost always say he was a good man, not a bad man; that he was a great moral teacher, a sage, a philosopher, a moralist, and a prophet, not a criminal, not a man who deserved to be crucified. But a good man is the one thing he could not possibly have been according to simple common sense and logic. For he claimed to be God. He said, "Before Abraham was, I Am", thus speaking the word no Jew dares to speak because it is God's own private name, spoken by God himself to Moses at the burning bush. Jesus wanted everyone to believe that he was God. He wanted people to worship him. He claimed to forgive everyone's sins against everyone. (Who can do that but God, the One offended in every sin?)
Read the whole thing.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Where have I been

Wow, I am sorry for allowing my blog to languish here for so long! I just realized that my last post was posted before Easter! I have been very busy over the last few weeks, but I do intend to post more soon. Thank you for your patience, those of you who still follow this blog :)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dominicans: At the Foot of the Cross

The Dominican History blog has a very good post on the famous painting by Flemish painter Abraham van Diepenbeeck (1596-1675), "Christ on the Cross Adored by Eight Saints of the Dominican Order". It is truly a masterpiece of art. The painting is presently housed at the Louvre in Paris. From the museum website:
"This grisaille work was a model for an engraving by Adriaen Lommelin (c. 1616-after 1673). It is dated 1652 and dedicated to the newly appointed bishop of Ypres, the Dominican Ambrosius Capello. The saints represent the qualities a bishop should aspire to: doctrinal wisdom, Marian devotion, courage, rectitude, zeal in pastoral work and in preaching, charity, and intelligence - all under the sign of the cross, Verbum Crucis...

Dominican iconography

The identity of each saint is indicated by his or her attributes. Each illustrates a particular quality that should inspire Capello in his ministry. Saint Thomas Aquinas, representing doctrinal wisdom, is about to begin writing, directly inspired by the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. Saint Hyacinth of Krakow, representing Marian devotion, is pointing at a statue of the Virgin. Saint Peter of Verona, tortured with daggers and cutlasses, represents courage. Saint Catherine of Siena, wearing a crown of thorns and bearing the stigmata, is the image of pure devotion. Saint Dominic, carrying a Marian lily, represents zeal in pastoral work. His name, domini canis, the Lord's dog, explains the presence of the black-and-white dog at his feet. Saint Vincent Ferrer's zeal in preaching is evident as he points towards Heaven to remind us of the Last Judgment, while the little child is an allusion to one of the miraculous cures he effected. The elderly Saint Raymond of Peñafort, the theologian of the sacrament of penitence, is the symbol of vigilance and rectitude. Finally, Saint Antoninus, archbishop of Florence, symbolizes just intelligence and charity. His scales are tipped towards the paper bearing the words Deo Gratias (legible only on the engraving), which are thus heavier than the fruit offered to the saint by a peasant in the hoping of winning his good favor."
Read more at Dominican History and the Louvre website.

His blood be upon us and upon our children

Eric Sammons has an excellent post regarding the Holy Father's reflections on these infamous words "His blood be upon us and upon our children":
One of the most profound insights from Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week is his meditation on the words of the crowd when they condemned Jesus to crucifixion: “His blood be upon us and upon our children” (Matthew 27:25). This passage has famously been used throughout history to condemn the Jewish race for the crime of deicide, but Benedict sees something far deeper at work here. Unlike the blood of other innocent men, it does not condemn, it redeems. The truth is that we all have his blood on upon us, for every time we sin, we crucify our Lord. But this is the blood of mercy, which cleanses us of our sins. This is the blood which Christ tells us we must drink or we do not have eternal life. This is the life-giving blood which pours out from the pierced side of Christ and forms the Church. This is the blood which is our salvation.

May it be upon us and upon our children.

Holy (Maundy) Thursday in Rome

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sulpicia, Ancient Roman Poetess

We don't hear a lot about the female Roman poets. However, for our literary education, the Latin Blog introduces us to the ancient poetess Sulpicia and to one of her poems, shown here:
inuisus natalis adest, qui rure molesto
(Birthday is here, I hate it.)

et sine Cerintho tristis agendus erit
(It will be melancholy without Cerinthus)

dulcius urbe quid est?
(What is sweeter than a city?)

an uilla sit apta puellae atque Arretino frigidus amnis agro?
(Is a farmhouse on a cold stream on the Arretine what a girl needs?)

iam, nimium Messalla mei studiose, quiescas;
(Now Messala, you’re too anxious about me, rest a bit)

non tempestiuae saepe, propinque, uiae
(Your excursions are often ill timed)

hic animum, sensusque meos, abducta relinquo,
(This is where I relinquish my heart, feelings; snatched away)

arbitrio quam uis non sinit esse meo.
(It won’t let me act as I wish)
It seems... well... no comment. The translation seems a little sharp to me. I understand that only six of her poems can be found today. You can read them here. Interestingly, the omnipotent Wikipedia speaks of two women poets named Sulpicia.

Fire by suspected arsonist at Sagrada Familia

According to the Telegraph (UK)
Four people were treated for smoke inhalation, according to Catalan regional police, who added that around 1,500 people had been evacuated from architect Antoni Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece.

The towering basilica is one of the top draws in Spain's second-largest city and in all of Spain, receiving more than two million visitors a year.

The official said some tourists saw smoke coming from inside the sacristy and alerted authorities, and the suspected arsonist was arrested.
Thomas Peters adds further:
The damage tally at this point is:

- smoke damage/smell throughout the entire building but particularly in the crypt
- all of the vestments and furniture in the sacristy destroyed (none by Gaudi)
- walls of the sacristy have been blackened
- speculation that all or part of the basilica’s electrical system will have to be replaced due to smoke damage.
Fortunately, it looks like nobody was hurt badly. There seems to be an uptick of anti-religious fervor in Spain as there have been many other reports of church vandalism. The pope is going to Madrid this summer for World Youth Day. It will be interesting to see what happens then. Having had the opportunity to visit beautiful Spain last year, it was awesome to experience its rich tapestry of religious history.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Benedict on Holiness

Holiness is important. In fact, it's why we're here. Holiness, theosis, divine sonship. And more to the point: it's available to everyone! Did you know that you are called to be a saint? Shouldn't that change your perspective on everything in your life? Zenit reports from Pope Benedict's latest papal audience in Rome:
What does it mean to be saints? Who is called to be a saint? Often it is thought that holiness is a goal reserved for a few chosen ones. St. Paul, however, speaks of God's great plan and affirms: "[God] chose us in him [Christ], before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us" (Ephesians 1:4). And he speaks of all of us. At the center of the divine design is Christ, in whom God shows his Face: the Mystery hidden in the centuries has been revealed in the fullness of the Word made flesh. And Paul says afterward: "For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell" (Colossians 1:19). In Christ the living God has made himself close, visible, audible, tangible so that all can obtain his fullness of grace and truth (cf. John 1:14-16).

Because of this, the whole of Christian existence knows only one supreme law, the one St. Paul expresses in a formula that appears in all his writings: in Christ Jesus. Holiness, the fullness of Christian life does not consist of realizing extraordinary enterprises, but in union with Christ, in living his mysteries, in making our own his attitudes, his thoughts, his conduct. The measure of holiness is given by the height of holiness that Christ attains in us, of how much, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, we mold all our life to his. It is our conforming ourselves to Jesus, as St. Paul affirms: "For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Romans 8:29). And St. Augustine exclaimed: "My life will be alive full of You" (Confessions, 10, 28). In the Constitution on the Church, the Second Vatican Council spoke with clarity of the universal call to holiness, affirming that no one is excluded: "The classes and duties of life are many, but holiness is one -- that sanctity which is cultivated by all who are moved by the Spirit of God, and who ... follow the poor Christ, the humble and cross-bearing Christ in order to be worthy of being sharers in His glory" (No. 41).
Did you see that? No one is excluded from the universal call to holiness. But how to we achieve holiness? The pope continues:
However, the question remains: How can we journey on the path of holiness, how can we respond to this call? Can I do so with my own strength? The answer is clear: A holy life is not primarily the fruit of our own effort, of our actions, because it is God, the thrice Holy (cf. Isaiah 6:3), who makes us saints, and the action of the Holy Spirit who encourages us from within; it is the life itself of the Risen Christ, which has been communicated to us and which transforms us. To say it again according to Vatican Council II: "The followers of Christ are called by God, not because of their works, but according to His own purpose and grace. They are justified in the Lord Jesus, because in the baptism of faith they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way they are really made holy. Then too, by God's gift, they must hold on to and complete in their lives this holiness they have received" (ibid., 40).
Awesome! In baptism of faith we become sons of God and sharers in God's own divine nature. Incredible. Magnificent. The pope then expounds on this even more:
Hence, holiness has its main root in baptismal grace, in being introduced into the paschal mystery of Christ, with which his Spirit is communicated to us, his life as the Risen One. St. Paul points out the transformation wrought in man by baptismal grace and even coins a new terminology, forged with the preposition "with": "We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life" (Romans 6:4). However, God always respects our liberty and asks that we accept this gift and that we live the demands it entails. He asks that we allow ourselves to be transformed by the action of the Holy Spirit, conforming our will to the will of God.

How can we make our way of thinking and our actions become thinking and acting with Christ and of Christ? What is the soul of holiness? Again Vatican II specifies: It tells us that holiness is none other than charity fully lived. "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him" (1 John 4:16). Now God has amply diffused his love in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (cf. Romans 5:5); because of this, the first and most necessary gift is charity, with which we love God above all things and our neighbor out of love for him. For charity to grow as a good seed in the soul and fructify us, every faithful one must listen willingly to the Word of God, and with the help of his grace, realize the works of his will, participate frequently in the sacraments, above all in the Eucharist and in the holy liturgy, constantly approach prayer, abnegation of oneself, in the active service to brothers and the exercise of all virtue. Charity, in fact, is the bond of perfection and fulfillment of the law (cf. Colossians 3:14; Romans 13:10); it directs all the means of sanctification, gives them their form and leads them to their end.
In essence, holiness is none other than "charity fully lived", that which is brought about in us by God's grace, incorporating us into God's own divine life. Laudetur Iesus Christus! Therefore, let us hasten to the sacraments, particularly during this Holy Week. Embrace the Sacrament of Confession! Receive Holy Communion worthily. Pray daily. And serve one another, not for your glory, but for God's glory. Read the whole speech and pray for the pope daily.

Benedict's Birthday

Today is the pope's birthday :) Take a minute and pray for him and for strength in mind, heart, body, and soul.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bring the Shuttle Home, Houston!

I can't think of any other place, except perhaps Kennedy Space Center in Florida, that deserves to have one of the retired space shuttles more than Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX.   In fact, I'm quite surprised that we have to even have such a discussion.  After all, Mission Control is in Houston.  Most of the astronauts live in Houston.  The astronauts who died in shuttle disasters - they lived here along with their families.   The astronauts train in Houston.  Most of the design, development, and overall planning for each project has been done in Houston.  It only makes sense!  Join the BringTheShuttleHome.com movement!

Members of the task force weigh in at the Houston Chronicle:
As part of its commitment to housing a flown orbiter, Space Center Houston will develop a new state-of-the-art, 53,000-square-foot orbiter exhibit featuring interactive, educational experiences that will encourage student interest and commitment to STEM education. The theme for the exhibit will be the human side of shuttle operations, including astronaut activities and what they accomplished on the shuttle. 

Houston will also establish a new Space Shuttle Education Foundation to fund the attendance cost of all validated education groups. There are tremendous educational benefits to all the children who visit NASA Johnson Space Center daily. Space science is abstract and a challenge for many students to comprehend. The presence of a space shuttle would serve as the catalyst to promote understanding and inspiration. National science standards prescribe aviation and solar science in many states as a basis of state curricula.

None of us should forget the amazing NASA families who have made Houston their home and who have dedicated, and in some instances, given their lives to human space flight. They know what we all know and what our president and NASA administrator must also know - that the iconic shuttle belongs in Houston, where it can be a catalyst for generations to come to explore the human frontier of space and science.

Last and certainly not least as reasons that Houston should be at the top of any list to house a retired orbiter is the city's commitment to pay for it. Unlike other contenders, Houston does not need a handout to cover all the costs associated with housing an orbiter.
Bring it home!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Matt Maher "Alive Again" for STS-132

This is a few months old now, but I still think it's cool.  The astronauts of Shuttle Mission STS-132 Atlantis, docked to the International Space Station last May, waking up to "Alive Again", a song by Catholic singer/songwriter Matt Maher...  and a greeting from Houston to Mission Specialist Michael Good.

Blogger template

Over the last few weeks, I have been revamping the template a bit...

Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood

My wife and I support breast cancer research, but we do not give money to Susan G. Komen in light of the fact that Komen has given money to Planned Parenthood in the past, ostensibly for breast cancer screening and mammograms.  It now appears that, in spite of statements to the contrary, Planned Parenthood does not offer mammograms at any of its facilities.  Lifenews reports:
Now that an expose’ has revealed Planned Parenthood abortion centers do not do mammograms on site but merely refer women to legitimate medical centers that do, a key organization that funds it is facing questions.

After concerns earlier this year that Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards made false claims in defending its taxpayer funding that it provides mammograms for women, the organization Live Action released videotaped footage of calls to 30 Planned Parenthood centers nationwide in 27 different states where abortion facility staff were asked whether or not mammograms could be performed on site. Every one of the Planned Parenthood centers admitted they could not do mammograms. Every Planned Parenthood, without exception, tells the women calling that they will have to go elsewhere for a mammogram, and many clinics admit that no Planned Parenthood clinics provide this breast cancer screening procedure... That information is now raising questions about the millions of dollars the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation has given in grants to the abortion business, which it says is partly for mammograms.

Komen’s own figures show 20 of Komen’s 122 affiliates have made donations to Planned Parenthood and, last year, those contributions totaled $731,303. Komen spokesman John Hammarley also confirmed Komen affiliates contributed about $3.3 million to the abortion business from 2004-2009.

In a March 2011 statement about Planned Parenthood, Komen claims the grants to the Planned Parenthood abortion business are meant to help women with breast health.

“Early screening through mammograms and education is critical to end the suffering from this disease: 98 percent of women treated for early stage breast cancer, before it spreads, are alive five years later. The widespread use of mammography and heightened public awareness of breast cancer both contribute to these favorable statistics,” Komen says. “And while Komen Affiliates provide funds to pay for screening, education and treatment programs in dozens of communities, in some areas, the only place that poor, uninsured or under-insured women can receive these services are through programs run by Planned Parenthood.”

With Planned Parenthood not offering mammograms for women, SusanAnne Hiller of the conservative website Big Journalism wonders why Komen is making the grants...

Hiller also notes that Planned Parenthood only provides breast exams of the self-exam type women can do on their own or with a trusted friend or family member at home.

“However, the Komen memo links mammography, screenings, education, and treatment of breast cancer as their list of reasons it contributes to PP. It’s perpetuated all across the media without validation,” she says. “The Komen Foundation needs to come clean on specifically what those PP contributions are designated for and why they really continue to support Planned Parenthood.”
Former Planned Parenthood director, Abby Johnson, recently stated that if any type of cancer is diagnosed at Planned Parenthood, the patients are always referred out - Planned Parenthood doesn't actually provide cancer treatment.  Rather than give money to Susan G. Komen, consider donating instead to the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute or the Polycarp Research Institute.

The Inadequacy of Intelligent Design

Professor Francis Beckwith (Baylor) weighs in on an ongoing discussion between Edward Feser and Jay Wesley Richards on Intelligent Design theory and classical Thomism.
My friends Edward Feser and Jay Wesley Richards, both fellow Catholics, are engaged in an online dispute about whether contemporary Intelligent Design theory (ID) runs counter to classical Thomistic understandings of nature and final causality. On this matter, I am with Ed. For I believe that ID, as defended by Michael Behe and William A. Dembski, is a view that in the long run serves to undermine rather than advance the cause of Christian theism. Of course, I see why some of my fellow Christians, both Protestants and Catholics, are so attracted to ID. For it promises to beat the apologists of atheism at their own game with the only tools they believe are epistemically appropriate, the methods of the empirical sciences. But this posture, it seems to me, uncritically accepts this first premise, which is inherently hostile to the sort of metaphysical thinking on which large swaths of the Christian worldview depend.
Naturally, I agree with Frank and Ed on this. Though without getting into some of the more explicit, philosophical details here, I would just echo what I have said before: In general, ID theory (and the movement behind it), and, in particular, notions such as "irreducible complexity" (Behe), tend easily toward a "God of the Gaps" view; such a view is not consistent with the Catholic intellectual tradition or understanding of God. We do not believe a God whose existence is somehow demonstrated by our ignorance of what isn't presently known or understood. On the contrary, we believe and profess a God who created and upholds the universe and who has purposely and intentionally imbued it with intelligibility. The universe is rational, and our growing comprehension of it only further demonstrates God's hand, not the other way around.  I echoed Christoph Schönborn on this before (emphasis mine):
A great deal that was previously incomprehensible in natural processes, because we did not know how to explain it, can be explained today through scientific research and has thereby become comprehensible... The more that is explained, the less there remains that is inexplicable. Is the "room" for God becoming steadily "smaller"? It is no wonder that Der Spiegel closes the article ["God versus Darwin: a religious war over evolution"] with the words, "It's becoming cramped for the creator."

Yet belief in the Creator does not begin at the point where we do not yet know something, but precisely where we do know very well. The proper approach is to look at what we already know today. That, thank God, is a great deal. We are not looking where there is still something unexplained to see if there is still room for God, but looking at what we know and asking, "What is this based on?"
Read the Beckwith's whole treatment and follow the discussion.

The Dead Yeast Society

Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, O.P., Ph.D., molecular biologist at Providence College (Rhode Island), speaks about teaching biology and the Dead Yeast Society research lab. :)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Why we need the new English translation of the Missal

There are many reasons why the upcoming new English translation of the Roman Missal is so sorely needed. The new translation will take effect in Advent of this year. I think the most compelling reason is that it will unlock for us many profound theological treasures that are present in the original Latin and are simply obscured or ignored by the present translation. Many of these prayers go back to the 4th and 5th centuries. Fr. Zuhlsdorf, of the wdtprs blog, points out a very good example. The Post Communion prayer for the 3rd Sunday of Lent in the Ordinary Form, according to the translation presently in use, is this:
in sharing this sacrament
may we receive your forgiveness
and be brought together in unity and peace.
The original Latin for the prayer is this:
Sumentes pignus caelestis arcani,
et in terra positi iam superno pane satiati,
te, Domine, supplices deprecamur,
ut, quod in nobis mysterio geritur, opere impleatur.
The new English translation, which will be in effect starting in Advent of this year, renders the Latin this way:
As we receive the pledge
of things yet hidden in heaven
and are nourished while still on earth
with the Bread that comes from on high,
we humbly entreat you, O Lord,
that what is being brought about in us in mystery
may come to true completion.
There is simply NO COMPARISON here. The translation currently in use bears little-to-no resemblance to the beauty and truth preserved in the Latin. While it is true that some of the prayers may sound clumsy in English at first (no translation can ever be perfect; we are human beings, after all), I am convinced that what we will hear in terms of content and theological truth will benefit us immensely.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ash Wednesday

Today, Pope Benedict was at Santa Sabina in Rome, as is the annual tradition, to mark Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent:

And for another memory of Ash Wednesday, the Dominican History blog has an excellent excerpt from the Libellus of Bl. Jordan of Saxony on his reception of the Dominican habit with two of his companions on Ash Wednesday, February 12, 1220.
From the Libellus of Jordan of Saxony:
The Entrance of Brothers Jordan, Henry and Leo into the Order of Preachers

75. On Ash Wednesday, when the imposition of ashes reminds the faithful of their origin from and return to dust, we decided that a suitable way to begin the season of penance would be to fulfill the vow we had made to the Lord. Now none of our companions where we lived knew of our plan. So when Brother Henry left his lodgings and one of his companions asked him where he was going, he answered, "To Bethany." He did not understand what Henry meant, but later on he did, when he saw Henry enter Bethany, which means "the house of obedience." The three of us met at Saint-Jacques and, while the brethren were chanting "Immutemus habitu," we presented ourselves before them, much to their surprise, and, putting off the old man, we put on the new, thus suiting our actions to what they were singing.
Immutemur habitu, in cinere et cilicio: ieiunemus et ploremus ante Dominum: quia multum misericors est dimittere peccata nostra Deus noster.

Let us change our garments for ashes and sackcloth: let us fast and lament before the Lord: for plenteous in mercy is our God to forgive our sins.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Reparte com alegria, como a Jacinta

"Share with joy, like Jacinta"

This was the theme chosen (in Portuguese) by the Rector of the Shrine of Fatima, Portugal, for the year 2010: a reflection that was intended to commemorate the centennial of the birth of Fatima visionary Blessed Jacinta Marto while also offering a simple reflection on the 10th commandment against coveting our neighbor's goods and having a spirit of charity and generosity.  This particular focus received a "thumbs-up" from me, as I shall explain.  The Shrine's Rector explained:
In fact, Jacinta Marto possesses this quality.  She is that child who is always available for God and for others, namely, in the practice of sacrifices, in prayer and in almsgiving.  We think that, with that key phrase in mind, we can make a reflection, a catechesis, which would, at different levels, appeal to sharing, to love of neighbor, to generosity, solidarity, amongst other things.
During our pilgrimage to Europe last November/December, we made a visit, albeit brief, to Fatima.  Naturally, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  There is so much drama and controversy surrounding Fatima, to actually visit the site seemed to me almost like visiting Dealey Plaza or the site of some major historical event.

As a Catholic, I have never been one to succumb to "apparition fever" as many others have.  The Church has naturally cautioned against this.  One need only read the text and theological explanation of the Fatima message to ascertain this.  When it comes to "revelation", everything necessary for salvation was communicated in the God-man Jesus Christ.  It is helpful to refer to the mystical theology of St. John of the Cross, as the Church has done, in order to keep our head straight:
In giving us his Son, his only Word (for he possesses no other), he spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word—and he has no more to say... because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son. Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behavior but also of offending him, by not fixing his eyes entirely upon Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty.
The Church is also quick to add, however, that even with this in mind, there is still a place, albeit assuming one proceeds with extreme prudence, for such a thing as "private revelation" in the life of the Church and the life of the believer.  What could this possibly be?  The Catechism explains (paragraph 67):
It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. 
The Church's theological explanation of the Fatima message elaborates on this further: 
How can [private revelations] be classified correctly in relation to Scripture? To which theological category do they belong? The oldest letter of Saint Paul which has been preserved, perhaps the oldest of the New Testament texts, the First Letter to the Thessalonians, seems to me to point the way. The Apostle says: “Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything, holding fast to what is good” (5:19-21). In every age the Church has received the charism of prophecy, which must be scrutinized but not scorned. 
It is with this eye that we have to proceed.  Private revelation, while not obligatory for salvation, can in some cases be helpful to the nurturing and cultivation of faith and devotion, particularly in difficult times.  It necessarily involves popular piety, but it must not depart from the Magisterial authority of the church -- which, in my opinion, must come first, lest folks become like those who elevate private revelation (even revelation that which does not seek to supplement public revelation) above and against the reflective guidance of Christ's church, the instrument and sacrament through which Christ leads us by grace to salvation. 

So what, then, is the "Fatima message"?  Essentially it is a call to conversion, repentance, penance, redemptive suffering, and grace for the salvation of souls.  This is what Rome's explanation has to say:

“To save souls” has emerged as the key word of the first and second parts of the “secret”, and the key word of this third part is the threefold cry: “Penance, Penance, Penance!” The beginning of the Gospel comes to mind: “Repent and believe the Good News” (Mk 1:15). To understand the signs of the times means to accept the urgency of penance – of conversion – of faith. This is the correct response to this moment of history, characterized by the grave perils... Sister Lucia said that it appeared ever more clearly to her that the purpose of all the apparitions was to help people to grow more and more in faith, hope and love—everything else was intended to lead to this.  
Now, back to my story.  It's true: Fatima, like Lourdes, has a lot of kitschy shops that are not run by the Church nor officially associated with the shrine.  Once you leave the streets of the town and enter the grounds of the sanctuary, you no longer observe these things.  To be honest, I was not put off too much by such things.  We will continue to find such things in a fallen world driven by the desire to make money.  The Fatima message isn't about those things.  While we were there, we participated in Holy Mass at the Capelinha, spent time in humble adoration, walked the Stations of the Cross in the vast pasture and woods across town where the children often took their sheep, and my wife and I were even asked to lead a decade of the rosary in English during the nightly International Rosary and procession.

So now I come full circle to what I stated in the beginning of this post. What pleasantly surprised me about being at Fatima was that while much of the rest of the world is caught up in the controversies and dramas of the Fatima encounter, Vatican politics, and the "Third Secret", the Shrine itself has in mind only the Fatima message: the call to conversion, repentance, and redemptive suffering. How does it do this? By challenging us to meditate on Christ at work in the Fatima visionaries as evidenced by their profound virtues, particularly those of the youngest children, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, now beatified by the Church. And this is exactly how it should be -- this is where the core of the Fatima message is to be found. Naturally, whatever it was the children experienced comes to us only through their own subjective, child-like perception. Yet, we should also naturally expect to see the fruit of the Fatima message in their lives. From a study of their lives, we can glean volumes of such depth and richness, it could put any adult to shame. As adults, we can only praise God, echoing our Lord who prayed, as recorded in Matthew's Gospel, "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes". I plan to write more about this in the coming weeks.

Reparte com alegria, como a Jacinta

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The point of Christmas...

From Pope Benedict XVI's most recent papal audience:
It is necessary to liberate this Christmas period from an overly moralistic and sentimental wrapping. The celebration of Christmas does not only present us with examples to imitate, such as the humility and poverty of the Lord, His benevolence and love for mankind; rather it is an invitation to let oneself be transformed totally by the One Who entered our flesh... The aim of God becoming manifest was that we might participate in divine life, and that the mystery of His incarnation might be realized in us. This mystery is the fulfillment of man's vocation.
I love this pope! :)


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