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An Open Letter to the Liturgy Police

June 29th, 2011 · No Comments

First, let me say that I am inspired. I am inspired by your passionate commitment to your faith and to the liturgy. So many take their faith for granted, or treat the church as simply a social club that meets for the purpose of occasionally doing something nice for the community they live in. However, I would like to take just a moment of your time before you call in the Vatican SWAT team for the latest transgression of your favorite liturgical rule, and ask you to take a moment to meditate on the action of the liturgy and not just the act.

So many of the most important Truths of our Faith are often made of ideas held in tension with each other. Consider that we believe in one God who is also three persons. Jesus, our savior, is fully human and fully divine. A little closer to the topic at hand, the Church is both a divine mystery and a human institution. These truths remain true only when both parts of the idea remain in the proper tension with one another. ‘Liturgy’ comes from Greek roots and contains that idea that it is the public work of the people which expresses their relationship with God. That is true but it is also true what Pope Benedict XVI says “The real “action” in the liturgy in which we are all supposed to participate is the action of God himself. This is what is new and distinctive about Christian liturgy: God himself acts and does what is essential.” And both of these ideas must be held in the proper tension for them to express the fullness of truth with respect to the liturgy. Liturgy is the public work of the people but it is God who acts in the liturgy. Furthermore our relationship to God is both expressed and formed the action of God as He comes to us and as we reach out to Him. It is a divine mystery that calls for respect and humility and awe as we enter more deeply into it. That awe and that respect should properly call us to respect the rituals of the liturgy in which the God of Creation moves and acts. But it is also a human institution that calls us to image the love that God has for us as He enters into our very lives with us. Jesus, our fully divine savior, took on human flesh and entered into our very messy, chaotic human lives. God does shrink from our humanity and establish rules to protect Himself from our flawed finiteness. Instead, He took on human flesh and declared that He would be with us always. The liturgy is a graced meeting of this God who loves us, and lived with us, and comes to us, calls us into a relationship with Him, and forms us into a community. We must be careful then, to never allow the liturgy to be only a strict adherence to the rules of the ritual and risk missing an encounter with the God who loves us and calls us to Himself.

To put it into different words. There is a Latin phrase that expresses the relationship between worship and prayer. “Lex orandi, lex credendi.” It means, literally, “the law of praying is the law of believing.” What it expresses is that there is an integral relationship between how we worship or pray and what we believe. Each informs and forms that other. Sometimes, the phrase is expanded to include “Lex vivendi” which means, literally, the “law of living” which further expands the idea that how we worship, and what we believe will then form how we live. And rightly so. What good is a faith that doesn’t change anything? How we worship is vitally important because it will change us and form us, our lives, and our communities. We must be careful then to make sure that our participation in the liturgy which is supposed to call us into a relationship with the Living God does not end up becoming a relationship with a rule book. We must never make a pretense of religion and deny its power. Of course, we must honor the rules and instructions concerning the liturgy but this respect must be held in the proper tension with the action of God in the liturgy. The liturgy is a graced encounter in which the Living God that calls us to into a deeper relationship with Him and the holy people of God…not a rule book.

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December 2009: Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions

December 1st, 2009 · 1 Comment

General: That children may be respected and loved and never be the victims of exploitation in its various forms.

Mission: That at Christmas the peoples of the earth may recognize in the Word Incarnate the light which illuminates every man and that the Nations may open their doors to Christ, the Saviour of the world.

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November 2009: Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions

November 1st, 2009 · No Comments

General: That all the men and women in the world, especially those who have responsibilities in the field of politics and economics, may never fail in their commitment to safeguard creation.

Mission: That believers in the different religions, through the testimony of their lives and fraternal dialogue, may clearly demonstrate that the name of God is a bearer of peace.

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October 2009: Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions

October 1st, 2009 · 3 Comments

General: That Sunday may be lived as the day on which Christians gather to celebrate the risen Lord, participating in the Eucharist.

Mission: That the entire People of God, to whom Christ entrusted the mandate to go and preach the Gospel to every creature, may eagerly assume their own missionary responsibility and consider it the highest service they can offer humanity.

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September 2009: Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions

September 1st, 2009 · No Comments

General: That the word of God may be better known, welcomed and lived as the source of freedom and joy.

Mission: That Christians in Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar, who often meet with great difficulties, may not be discourage from announcing the Gospel to their brothers, trusting in the strength of the Holy Spirit.

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August 2009: Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions

August 1st, 2009 · No Comments

General: That public opinion may be more aware of the problem of millions of displaced persons and refugees and that concrete solutions may be found for their often tragic situation.

Mission: That those Christians who are discriminated against and persecuted in many Countries because of the name of Christ may have their human rights, equality and religious freedom recognized, in order to be able to live and profess their own faith freely.

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July 2009: Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions

July 1st, 2009 · No Comments

General: That the Christians of the Middle East may live their faith in full freedom and be an instrument of peace and reconciliation.

Mission: That the Church may be the seed and nucleus of a humanity reconciled and reunited in God’s one and only family, thanks to the testimony of all the faithful in every country in the world.

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June 2009: Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions

June 1st, 2009 · No Comments

General: That international attention towards the poorer countries may give rise to more concrete help, in particular to relieve them of the crushing burden of foreign debt.

Mission: That the particular Churches operating in regions marked by violence may be sustained by the love and concrete closeness of all the Catholics in the world.

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It’s Hurricane Season Again

June 1st, 2009 · No Comments

O God, Master of this passing world, hear the humble voices of your children. The Sea of Galilee obeyed your order and returned to its former quietude. You are still the Master of land and sea. We live in the shadow of a danger over which we have no control: the Gulf, like a provoked and angry giant, can awake from its seeming lethargy, overstep its conventional boundaries, invade our land and spread chaos and disaster.

During this hurricane season we turn to you, O Loving Father. Spare us from past tragedies whose memories are still so vivid and whose wounds seem to refuse to heal with the passing of time. O Virgin, Star of the Sea, Our Beloved Mother, we ask you to plead with your Son in our behalf, so that spared from the calamities common to this area and animated with a spirit of gratitude, we will walk in the footsteps of your Divine Son to reach heavenly Jerusalem where a stormless eternity awaits us. Amen.

From the Diocese of Lafayette

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May 2009: Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions

May 1st, 2009 · No Comments

General: That the laity and the Christian communities may be responsible promoters of priestly and religious vocations.

Mission: That the recently founded Catholic Churches, grateful to the Lord for the gift of faith, may be ready to share in the universal mission of the Church, offering their availability to preach the Gospel throughout the world.

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April 2009: Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions

April 1st, 2009 · No Comments

General: That the Lord may bless the farmers with an abundant harvest and sensitise the richer populations to the drama of hunger in the world

Mission: That the Christians who work in areas where the conditions of the poor, the weak and the women and children are most tragic, may be signs of hope, thanks to their courageous testimony to the Gospel of solidarity and love.

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St Patrick’s Breastplate…Or It’s Not Just About Corned Beef and Green Beer

March 16th, 2009 · No Comments

This prayer is thought to have been composed by St. Patrick in his fight against paganism. The Irish monks were extremely influential in the devleopment of the Sacrament of Confession as we enjoy it today.  In the ancient church, regular sacramental confession was not allowed. So along with whatever other moderate merriment is in your schedule today, plan a trip to confession soon. It truly is a gift. Why not read this old post of mine on confession because there certainly hasn’t been enough original content around here lately.

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.

I bind to myself today
God’s Power to guide me,
God’s Might to uphold me,
God’s Wisdom to teach me,
God’s Eye to watch over me,
God’s Ear to hear me,
God’s Word to give me speech,
God’s Hand to guide me,
God’s Way to lie before me,
God’s Shield to shelter me,
God’s Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.

I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ in the poop [deck],
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

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March 2009: Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions

March 1st, 2009 · No Comments

General: That the role of women may be more appreciated and used to good advantage in every country in the world.

Mission: That in the light of the letter addressed to them by Pope Benedict XVI, the Bishops, priests, consecrated persons, and lay faithful of the Catholic Church in the Popular Republic of China may commit themselves to being the sign and instrument of unity, communion and peace.

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Were They at the Same Meeting?

February 18th, 2009 · 1 Comment

“Ardent Catholic” and holder of a 100% Pro-Choice Voting Record by NARAL, Nancy Pelosi met with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. Maybe I’m confused Speaker Pelosi, but I think Pope Benedict XVI is probably in a better position than any of us to define what makes an “ardent Catholic.” You see, in my humble outside-the-beltway opinion, that’s one of the things that sets the Catholic Church apart from the church down the block. There IS an authority and WE are not it.

Here is what the Vatican said the Holy Father told Speaker Pelosi:

“His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in co-operation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.”

Here is what Speaker Pelosi said of the meeting:

“It is with great joy that my husband, Paul, and I met with His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, today. In our conversation, I had the opportunity to praise the Church’s leadership in fighting poverty, hunger, and global warming, as well as the Holy Father’s dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel. I was proud to show His Holiness a photograph of my family’s papal visit in the 1950s, as well as a recent picture of our children and grandchildren.”

So I am left scratching my head and wondering if she was in the same room as the Holy Father? Did the Holy Father need treatment after beating his head against the brick wall? Of course, I am wondering why she would want to meet with the Holy Father at all? She has been openly contemputous of the Vatican’s policies regarding the reception of Holy Communion. Speaker Pelosi, you can call yourself whatever you like but if you are in open defiance of the magisterium, you are just playing at being Catholic. You are pretending.

That reminds me. If you haven’t heard of Red Envelope Day, click on this link and find out how you can participate. I think I am going to send some red envelopes to Nancy Pelosi too!! Why should the Holy Father being the only one beating his head against that brick wall. It sounds like fun and I think I’ll join him.

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The Value of Mardi Gras

February 12th, 2009 · 9 Comments

I participated in a conversation today regarding the value of Mardi Gras and whether a Christian (any Christian) could participate in any Mardi Gras observance. Debauchery was a theme that came up in the discussion and more than one judgment that nothing about Mardi Gras could possibly have a purpose acceptable to a practicing Christian. One person observed that it might be possible for a Catholic to celebrate Mardi Gras with a pure heart but that this person would be “hard-pressed to find even one.” Sigh.

First. Mardi Gras literally means “Fat Tuesday” and it is the day before Ash Wednesday which kicks off the observance of Lent. In times past, Lent was observed by all practicing Catholics by rigorous fasting. It is still observed by those in the Eastern Orthodox traditions with rigorous fasting. Mardi Gras was a last chance to clean out the pantry of those things which would be forbidden during the coming fast. Pancakes and sausage, which used up the remaining dairy, eggs, syrup, sugar, oil and meat were and are traditional foods for Mardi Gras. It had a practical origin. It still has a practical origin. Today in the Roman Catholic Tradition, the observance of Lent can involve rigorous fasting but that is optional. The Catholic Church suggests both the removal of worldly distractions (fasting but perhaps from the internet, or from TV as well as from food) and the addition of positive spiritual disciplines such as extra prayer time or Bible study. Some families choose to make a sacrifice as a family as well as more individual disciplines. If your family has chosen to give up sweets, getting that last bag of M&M’s out of the house so they don’t call to you during the night for the next six weeks is just a practical thing. It’s a human thing too. How many of us, and here I am looking right in the mirror, having decided firmly to begin a diet on Monday don’t look at the burger and fries on Sunday and say, “Yep. I’m having those and do they come with an ice cream sundae?”?

Are there places where Mardi Gras is marked by licentiousness, gluttony, and debauchery? No question about it, there are. But the fact that some people celebrate the New Year with drunken revelry, doesn’t mean that New Years celebrations are inherently wrong. Christmas is grossly commercialized and so is Easter, but should the Christian Church stop celebrating the birth and resurrection of Jesus? The same holds true for Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras has a practical and human purpose and for every single devout Catholic I know, its celebration is marked by family good times and a sure focus on the Lenten sacrifice ahead. Yes, my children will probably eat more sweets than they would normally. I hardly think that qualifies for “debauchery” or “gluttony” anymore than eating those nasty marshmallow creations that some people consume on Easter. Yes, I mean Peeps.

And in fact, some of the symbols associated with the traditional observance of Mardi Gras do have religious significance. The Mardi Gras season begins with Epiphany, where we celebrate the kings/wisemen finding Jesus. Thus “King Cake.” A baby, representing the Christ Child, is hidden in the cake. This represents Christ being hidden from King Herod who wanted to kill him and the wisemen not telling King Herod where he was. The Mardi Gras colors have meaning and are all originally intended to represent Christ bringing justice (purple), faith (green=growth of faith), and power (gold=Jesus is the King of Kings and ultimately holds all power).

The Mardi Gras season is a time when Catholics take some time for reflection and plan how best to observe Lent. I can’t tell you the number of conversations I have had with fellow Catholics in the last week or so about plans for Lent and all of them have centered around spiritual disciplines and reading material. Are some of them going to a Mardi Gras parade and catch some beads with all of their clothes on? Probably but that’s not what we talked about because that isn’t the important part. The focus of this time of year for most Catholics I know is not the fun aspects of King Cake, beads, and parades, but rather the serious spiritual aspects of refocusing, of re-evaluating, removing the distractions, and preparing ones heart to truly receive the Risen Lord.

It’s too easy to just look at the excesses of Mardi Gras shown in the media and that are used to market tourist packages and assume that’s all there is to it. If your religious practice does not include a rigorous observance of Lent, I would just like to ask that in charity, you also not jump to too many conclusions about the celebration of Mardi Gras in its proper place.

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