DPPL 113: The Feast of the Holy Innocents

STA altar at night smallOn the fourth day of Christmas …

113. Since the sixth century, on 28 December, the Church has celebrated the memory of those children killed because of Herod’s rage against Christ (cf. Mt 2, 16-17). Liturgical tradition refers to them as the “Holy Innocents” and regards them as martyrs.

I know there is occasional fussing about modern martyrs here and there. Were they killed for political reasons, not those of the faith? Herod was doing what rulers before and since have done: eliminate rivals to the throne. Still, I’m good with these children being honored as martyrs, and I hope you readers are too.

Throughout the centuries Christian art, poetry and popular piety have enfolded the memory of the “tender flock of lambs” (Prudentius, Cathemerinon XII, 130: CCL 126, Turnholti 1966, p. 69; Liturgy of the Hours: die 28 Decembris, Ss. Innocentium, martyrum, Ad Laudes, Hymnus “Audit tyrannus anxius”) with sentiments of tenderness and sympathy. These sentiments are also accompanied by a note of indignation against the violence with which they were taken from their mothers’ arms and killed.

Two of the three days after Christmas give us a sober reality: people die for Christ.

In our own times, children suffer innumerable forms of violence which threaten their lives, dignity and right to education. On this day, it is appropriate to recall the vast host of children not yet born who have been killed under the cover of laws permitting abortion, which is an abominable crime. Mindful of these specific problems, popular piety in many places has inspired acts of worship as well as displays of charity which provide assistance to pregnant mothers, encourage adoption and the promotion of the education of children.

Adoption, +.

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.

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Votive Masses

boy at eucharistI have a vague recollection of the associate pastor meeting with us in middle school forty-plus years ago to plan school Masses. One-word themes seemed to be common: love, peace, hope, and such. Maybe we and he got into a pattern on this.

I was reading of a misconception on another web site about such liturgies. The Roman Missal, in fact, provides for dozens of such themes to be celebrated on weekdays, and even the occasional Sunday. And the Lectionary for Masses with Children also provides for “themes.”

In my younger, more rigorist days, I would have snickered at “theme” Masses. But these days, I recognize the importance of an occasional need. We do them for funerals and weddings and ordinations. Why not with kids? In a K-8 school, are younger adolescents a problem?

One of the reasons I feel this particular type of Mass must be reformed is the evident boredom of the 6th grade and older students at almost every school Mass I’ve attended. I can’t say I blame them.

Reformation, eh? I’ve found that giving older students greater responsibility and ownership tends to cut down on boredom. Doesn’t eliminate it, but it can allow for a subset of older parish students the freedom to express themselves at Mass.

Meanwhile, I’m not a fussbudget on “themes,” or whatever they might be called. In context, the Mass is the Mass, and Christ is the focus, not the thread between the readings, or even the genre of music.

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DPPL 112: The Feast of the Holy Family

STA altar at night smallOnce we overcome the popular notion that Christmas Day ends the Christmas season, there are opportunities for the believer. The first of which may be the Sunday after Christmas:

112. The feast of the holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Sunday in the Christmas octave) is a festive occasion particularly suitable for the celebration of rites or moments of prayer proper to the Christian family. The recollection of Joseph, Mary and Jesus’ going up to Jerusalem, together with other observant Jewish families, for the celebration of the Passover (cf. Lk 2, 41-42), should normally encourage a positive acceptance of the pastoral suggestion that all members of the family attend Mass on this day.

It would be the wish of every serious liturgist and pastor that the Sunday after Christmas be attended by the same throngs of families who cam on Christmas Eve and Day. Sadly, we know this is rarely the case.

This feast day also affords an opportunity for the renewal of our entrustment to the patronage of the Holy Family of Nazareth (Cf. Actus consecrationis familiarum, in EI, Aliae concessiones, 1, p. 50); the blessing of children as provided in the ritual (Cf Book of Blessings 174-194); and where opportune, for the renewal of marriage vows taken by the spouses on their wedding day, and also for the exchange of promises between those engaged to be married in which they formalize their desire to found a new Christian family (Cf. ibid., Ordo benedictionis desponsatorum, 195-204).

My parish observes a monthly blessings for couples celebrating an anniversary. Our December blessing is always done on Holy Family Sunday. How many engaged couples seek this blessing mentioned above? Many young people make a promise on Christmas. Where is the Catholic culture strong enough to suggest such a blessing long before a wedding day?

Outside of the feast, the faithful have frequent recourse to the Holy Family of Nazareth in many of life’s circumstances: joining the Association of the Holy Family so as to model their own families on the Holy Family of Nazareth (Erected by Leo XIII through the Apostolic Letter Neminem fugit (14 June 1892) in Leonis XIII Pontificis Maximi Acta, XII, Typographia Vaticana, Romae 1893, pp. 149-158: confirmed by John Paul II with the decree of the Pontifical Council for the Laity (25 November 1987)); frequent prayers to entrust themselves to the patronage of the Holy Family and to obtain assistance at the hour of death(Cf. EI, Piae invocationes, p. 83).

Are people aware of this association?

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.

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swan-in-attack-mode-2I had been following–but not jinxing the Royals by watching–the World Series. I had missed the Liverpool-Swansea match yesterday. The Swans won the League Cup before I knew there was a League Cup and before my corporate masters at NBC informed me there was such a club playing in the Premier League.

How did I miss that match? I knew it was in my mind–I could have had those little panel boxes scrolling or the Twitter feed running while I set up templates for the clergy and sacristan schedules in 2015–yesterday’s mid-afternoon task. My wife even texted me that Liverpool was playing Real Madrid on tv yesterday. I told her it had to be a replay of last week’s debacle. We only get premier league and champions league here in the States.

Fine time for Mario Balotelli to come out of his pout. Couldn’t that have lasted one more match?

Garry Monk’s side might be getting the bad side of a number of calls, but at some point does the manager stop complaining about what he can’t control, and push the buttons that work? If he were an American coach, he would have been fined, suspended, and certainly not scheduled for a one-on-one meeting with the head of officiating.

Swans have a rematch against the young miss’s number 2 team this Saturday. With Britain off daylight time, I think that’s now an 8am start for Iowans. I get to watch the first forty minutes before going to keep watch over our parish’s non-obligatory holy day Mass.

Just as my wife left for her small group last night (taking the family’s only car), I got a text inviting me to view the World Series in a local sports bar. One of my staff colleagues was gathering a small cadre at a table by the door. I kept my promise. I didn’t even watch the game at home. (I viewed a PBS Nature program “What Plants Talk About.”)

No game six drama meant that by the end of the 2nd inning, everybody on the planet knew there was going to be a game seven tonight. My sense tells me tonight will be an exception to this unusual series lacking close games. Instead of ending with a dramatic hit, I expect  great defensive play in the top of the ninth will close the curtain on 2014 baseball.

With the Swans exit of the League Cup, which underdog remains to cheer onward? Following NCAA basketball, it’s hard to imagine a tournament that has no brackets until the obvious penultimate round.

I see the FA Cup starts numbered rounds now. I will follow that, as I will be recognizing some names. To get myself in shape for this, I’ve been learning all the teams in British football. Last night I was up to 82 before time was called. One round a day. Goal: improvement on the last go.

One of our students is studying abroad next semester–in Cardiff. I will instruct her to wear blue if she gets to a match, and not to utter the word “tan” in mixed company.

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DPPL 110-111: Midnight Mass

STA altar at night smallTechnically, we’ll start with before Mass, the recommendation to pray the Office of Readings:

110. Where possible, the Church desires that the faithful should prepare for the celebration of Midnight Mass on the 24 December with the Office of Readings(Cf. GILH 215). Where such is not possible, it may be opportune to arrange a vigil of hymns, readings, and elements drawn from popular piety.

This was a surprise when I read the document, I admit. Sunday, week one (where major feasts default) assigns Psalms 1, 2, and 3 in Christian Prayer. Psalm 2 fits, certainly. I would think one of the kingly Psalms also (93-99) over even the 145th.

Hymns and readings drawn from the Scriptures are more common. I like the Christmas homily of St Isaac the Syrian as a source from the writing of the saints.

111. At Midnight Mass, an event of major liturgical significance and of strong resonance in popular piety, the following could be given prominence:
• at the beginning of Mass, the proclamation of the Savior’s birth according the formula contained in the Roman Martyrology could be made in song;
• the prayer of the faithful should really be universal, and where appropriate, use several languages; and the poor should always be remembered in the presentation of the gifts;
• at the end of Mass, the faithful could be invited to kiss the image of the Child Jesus, which is then placed in a crib erected in the church or somewhere nearby.

These suggestions are striking. Many parishes sing the Christmas Proclamation–it has been promoted at least since the 80’s by many progressive liturgy outlets.

The suggestion to use several languages in the prayer of the faithful made me sit up and take notice. Why do you think this is especially good for Midnight Mass?

A collection for the poor, yes.

Veneration of the figure of the infant Jesus. I have never seen that happen before. What would the modern version be, selfies with the Baby?

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.

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Why Am I A Catholic?

I noticed Ross Douthat published an entry in his NYT blog in response to the many comments on his “precipice” piece from Sunday. He’s an intelligent, occasionally refreshing young guy. But sometimes I think faith can be over-thought.

Why am I a Catholic? It’s simple.

I was called.

This touches on the difference between people, many conservatives and some liberals, who are wringing hands these days, and some liberals and a few conservatives who are not.

I know many Catholics, many believers and disciples get to Jesus through their mind. I get that. I have what passes in some circles as something of a theological education. I’ve had to test and write about things of religion and faith. My mind is not a stranger to religiosity. But it’s just a part of a much bigger picture.

The key is the seeking of the lost, and the invitation to come home. That is where Pope Francis is leaving many people behind. They do not think of the Church in terms of their participation in the net-casting of Christ. They think of it in terms of how they measure up to a standard–sometimes an internal one. How much what they think aligns with what they think God thinks. Or failing God, what a religious institution–say the bureaucracy of Rome–thinks.

I believe God calls. I also believe we are called to imitate that … if we consider ourselves believers/disciples/Christians/devout Catholics/orthodox. If the people aren’t coming to us, it is our mission to go to them.

I don’t think it means as much that we’re asking the question. I think it means more if we are part of someone else’s answer. In other words, why is so-and-so a Catholic? Because Ross or Todd or someone (insert your name) called them. That’s the kind of answer I’d rather hear.

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I have a moderately high opinion of John Allen’s endeavor at Crux. My caution is that I think he’s finding it difficult to fill the space that earlier this month was filled by the synod. I think he makes good points in today’s column contrasting the treatment of Cardinal Kasper and Archbishop Chaput for remarks taken out of context. But “honeymoon is over”? Maybe not. The laity pretty much get to decide this one, not the bishops or pundits.

Looking at recent history, I don’t think the honeymoon was ever over for JP2 and B16. Neither of them had a Humanae Vitae moment like Paul VI. I think followers and detractors were pretty much always in place. In other words, people have their opinions on some things (and some other people) and no quantity of facts will change that.

Likewise, I thought the “Oscar” commentary was lame. If I were on Team Allen at the Globe, I would have applauded the stuff of the commentary, but not the way it was framed. Mr Allen nearly always has interesting news bits–that’s why most of us read him.

If Pope Francis were off the honeymoon, the critics wouldn’t be going after his lieutenants and perceived opponents with such fervor. I think the pope’s critics are in a more tenuous situation. Their worldview is largely pessimistic. And when you’re a pessimist, you’re always waiting for the next worst thing to happen.

On the liturgy front, it’s the way Rome has been working for years now. We got Redemptionis Sacramentum, a document designed not to inspire people to good behavior, but to set out parameters for the bad. It’s the flaw in the hermeneutic of subtraction. RS isn’t going to inspire the creation of great new music or art. It will punish the pretenders. And the occasional poor soul caught in the crossfire.

We need a new approach. Something that exposes tittles and jots in the law for what they are: small-minded markings that don’t amount to very much in the big picture.

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