Funeral Lectionary: Psalm 148

In the Order of Christian Funerals, there is a chapter, the 13th, dedicated to all the readings for funerals for adults. Following this is a brief chapter, the 14th, giving readings for “Funerals for Baptized Children.” The Scripture passages are mostly the same from the previous chapter. Shortened, though–which is an interesting choice. I suppose if many children attended a funeral for one of their peers, it would make sense for readings more comprehensible to younger persons. But the same might be said for the funeral of a teacher or mentor.

Anyway, one of two unique passages is this hymn of praise from the Psalter, the 148th. It has two possible antiphons:

Let all praise the name of the Lord.

And some verses arranged in four stanzas.

Praise the Lord from the heavens,
praise him in the heights.
Praise him, all his angels,
praise him, all his host.

All earth’s kings and peoples,
earth’s princes and rulers;
young men and maidens,
old men together with children.

Let them praise the name of the Lord
for he alone is exalted.
The splendor of his name
reaches beyond heaven and earth.

He exalts the strength of his people.
He is the praise of his saints,
of the (children) of Israel,
of the people to whom he comes close.

Psalm 148 is one option for the Christian wedding. I’m thinking this text is more suitable for the sacrament than for the funeral. Why would this psalm have been suggested for a child’s funeral? Is it just the reference in stanza 2?

The death of a child is nearly always a tragedy. To praise God at such a time would take steel not in my makeup. And likely, not in the substance of many others. Does the reference to heaven make up for this? Perhaps, a little. The entire psalm is inclusive of both human persons and inanimate objects that make up God’s creation. Does that help a psalm like this get swallowed more easily? Perhaps.

That last stanza referring to God exalting the strength of his people: at the time of a girl’s or boy’s death, no question: we need that strength.

Posted in Order of Christian Funerals, Scripture | 1 Comment

A Better Dismissal?

great commission

There is another PrayTell discussion that interested me. Topic: sending people forth for justice. I think perhaps the discussion could be widened to sending people out for discipleship.

Until I read that piece and its comments, I was generally satisfied with Pope Benedict’s innovations for the dismissal formulas. Maybe, I thought, he was tossing us progressives a bone. I’m not aware of any serious discussion among liturgists concerning the ending dialogue of Mass. Except perhaps the LifeTeen insistence that the Mass never ends. Which I get to some degree. But I’m not going to put it on my car’s bumper.

But now, I feel dissatisfied with this conversation between the priest and people. Maybe it’s too human-centered, and doesn’t take God into account … enough.

Perhaps instead of a dismissal, the Church needs a commitment to discipleship. And in order to get that, we need to stay focused on God. And maybe not have this conversation about the priest telling us to go, and people essentially saying “Thank God!”

So there’s Matthew 28, which I like the best:

P: All power, Lord Jesus, has been given to you. In turn, you direct us to be disciples and to make disciples in the world.

R. You are with us always, until the end of the age.

And maybe Luke 10:

P. O Master of the harvest, we ask you to send these laborers on their way.

R. We give thanks, for the reign of God is at hand.

Or Ephesians 3:20-21, which seems like it could go either way:

P. O God, you who are able to accomplish far more than we can ask or imagine, work your power in us.

R. To you, Father, be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Or even something brief, from 1 Corinthians 1:8-9:

P. O God, you call us to Communion with Christ your Son.

R. Keep us firm to the end.

Maybe that last one works a bit better for the moment prior to the Communion procession. Anyway, use none of these. But I the whole point is to be a more missionary and evangelical Body, maybe alternate words would inspire others a bit more.

Posted in evangelization, Liturgy | 1 Comment

DPPL 11: The Primacy of the Liturgy

STA altar at night smallPeople uncover and bring the things of life to prayer. These things may have little or no connection to Scripture or liturgy. But the fruits are often undeniable. How does liturgy fit with popular piety? The CDWDS will spend a lot of time on this topic, so they begin the first consideration of it in DPPL 11.

First, an acknowledgement that some people at some places and times, have perceived God’s nearness more profoundly outside of liturgy:

11. History shows that, in certain epochs, the life of faith is sustained by the forms and practices of piety, which the faithful have often felt more deeply and actively than the liturgical celebrations. Indeed, “every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the Priest and of his Body, which is the Church, it is a sacred action surpassing all others. No other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title or to the same degree”(SC 7). Hence, the ambivalence that the Liturgy is not “popular” must be overcame. The liturgical renewal of the Council set out to promote the participation of the people in the celebration of the Liturgy, at certain times and places (through hymns, active participation, and lay ministries), which had previously given rise to forms of prayer alternative to, or substitutive of, the liturgical action itself.

Yet another affirmation of active, not actual, participation. Without that emphasis, people hae placed their own forms of prayer front and center. And why not? The Christian’s relationship with God is deeply incarnational, and sensual–of the human senses. Being able to use those senses to perceive God and to respond in a natural way is what people will do. If official ways are closed off, they will find other ways.

The faithful should be made conscious of the preeminence of the Liturgy over any other possible form of legitimate Christian prayer. While sacramental actions are necessary to life in Christ, the various forms of popular piety are properly optional. Such is clearly proven by the Church’s precept which obliges attendance at Sunday Mass. No such obligation, however, has obtained with regard to pious exercises, notwithstanding their worthiness or their widespread diffusion. Such, however, may be assumed as obligations by a community or by individual members of the faithful.

The emphasis here develops from a First World perspective within the clergy. Mass and the sacraments are not always available to believers in the wide world. Quite often celebrating faith publicly transcends the basic requirement of “obligation.” And to be sure, the bite behind obligation has softened significantly. In places where it hasn’t been ignored.

The foregoing requires that the formation of priests and of the faithful give preeminence to liturgical prayer and to the liturgical year over any other form of devotion. However, this necessary preeminence is not to be interpreted in exclusive terms, nor in terms of opposition or marginalization.

This is no different from other mainstream post-conciliar emphases. The challenge is that liturgical formation has been perceived and carried out as if it were a monumental task. And in some places, it is an ongoing and uphill struggle. Not surprising that many clergy and church leadership run low on energy when the formation in liturgy is involved.

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

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Pope Francis on Creativity IV: Dialogue

In his Saturday meeting last weekend with priests from the diocese of Caserta, Pope Francis spoke of creativity. He rambled a bit, but his final destination brought us to a reflection on dialogue, and rested again on creativity.

In the contemporary culture, just talking with someone is enough to make you suspect in the eyes of some. A good movement to resist.

But, closeness also means dialogue; you must read in Ecclesiam Suam, the doctrine on dialogue, then repeated by other Popes. Dialogue is so important, but to dialogue two things are necessary: one’s identity as a starting point and empathy toward others. If I am not sure of my identity and I go to dialogue, I end up swapping my faith. You cannot dialogue without starting from your own identity, and empathy, that is not condemning a priori. Every man, every woman has something of their own to give us; every man, every woman has their own story, their own situation and we have to listen to it. Then the prudence of the Holy Spirit will tell us how to respond.

A caution about apologetics:

Starting from one’s own identity for dialogue, but dialogue is not to do apologetics, although sometimes you have to do it, when we are asked questions that require explanation.

That simple conversation: this is our starting point. And not forgetting empathy.

Dialogue is a human thing. It is hearts and souls that dialogue, and this is so important! Do not be afraid to dialogue with anyone. It was said of a saint, joking somewhat – I do not remember, I think it was St. Philip Neri, but I’m not sure – that he was also able to dialogue even with the devil. Why? Because he had the freedom to listen all people, but starting from his own identity. He was so sure, but to be sure of one’s identity does not mean proselytizing. Proselytism is a trap, which even Jesus condemns a bit, en passant, when he speaks to the Pharisees and the Sadducees: “You who go around the world to find a proselyte and then you remember that …” But, it’s a trap.

This criticism of proselytizing won’t go down well in some quarters, the ones in which there is always a point in the conversation: to persuade or even force a concession in one’s partner, to come to a new point of view. The whole winner/loser dynamic.

And Pope Benedict has a beautiful expression. He said it in Aparecida but I believe he repeated elsewhere: “The Church grows not by proselytism, but by attraction.” And what’s the attraction? It is this human empathy, which is then guided by the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis returns to creativity with some advice for the aspiring priest of these times:

Therefore, what will be the profile of the priest of this century, which is so secularized? A man of creativity, who follows the commandment of God – “create things”; a man of transcendence, both with God in prayer and with the others always; a man who is approachable and who is close to people. To distance people is not priestly and people are fed up of this attitude, and yet it happens all the same. But he who welcomes people and is close to them and dialogues with them does so because he feels certain of his identity, which leads him to have an heart open to empathy. This is what comes to me to say to you in response to your question.

I think this diagnosis is spot on, at least for North America. An interesting counterpoint to the CDWDS circular letter suggesting it’s time to tamp down perceived excesses with the Sign of Peace. It takes creativity, flexibility, and openness to move freely from transcendence and prayer to rubbing shoulders in everyday life. Or even in church.

Are the people who resist unsure of their identity? I’m not out to diagnose individuals. I can only look at my own points of avoidance. And be more creative, especially when I feel blocked.

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Four Abuses of Peace, Plus Perhaps Another

kissPrayTell reports on the new circular letter from the CDWDS on the Rite/Sign/Kiss/Mêlée of Peace. Honestly, Pope Francis has got to do something with this dicastery. They are getting rebuffed by German-speaking bishops in the translation department, so I guess they have to throw around their weight somehow.

I’ll wait to see the document itself before making further comment, but based on what I’ve seen at PrayTell and the CNA, a few observations on the four abuses are mentioned: a peace song, people leaving their places, clergy leaving their places, and special occasions.

1. Are people still doing this? Most musicians I know are mixing it up in the crowd like everybody else. We don’t always receive the Eucharist, so the least we can do is reconcile without even thinking of approaching the altar.

1a. I will affirm the practice of one of my parish’s music directors. After the pre-Mass warm-up, the group prays and exchanges peace. This, about ten to twenty minutes before Mass. At the sign of peace, the group does not offer peace to one another, but moves to the nearby pews. Sometimes it’s family, and often it is to exchange with acquaintances or strangers.

2. Some people feel reticent about sharing peace, even with loved ones. Others are putting what I see is a fuller expression of incarnation into the gesture. There is some meaning to the movement behind this. My sense would be to let it continue within a modest time frame.

3. Maybe if some priests devoted more attention to giving and receiving peace, they wouldn’t notice what’s going on in the pews.

4. In most American parishes, there is a sense of familiarity, community, and belonging at special occasions. A priest who did not comfort mourners, congratulate wedded couples, or otherwise go slightly out of his way to leave the altar area would be viewed with confusion, suspicion, and as “too good” for the laity. I think priests are free to misbehave socially to adhere to the letter of liturgy legislation, but such a stance does not come with certain consequences. It’s just foolish to think otherwise.

I think the CDWDS was wise not to tamper much more with the Sign of Peace at this time. The climate is not right in much of the First World. Lay people are not confused. They want their bishops to be good and virtuous administrators. They want the serious ecclesiological issues tackled. They want the prelates to say to Pope Benedict, “Thank you for your input on the Sign of Peace, Holiness, but the people want us to move on other matters at this time. They are not confused about simple expressions of affection. They want to know why we are so distant from their concerns.”


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EG 267: For the Greater Glory

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdaleneIt shouldn’t be a surprise that a Jesuit writes of the “greater glory.” The canticle of evening prayer (Ephesians 1:3-10) reminds us of God’s motivation to save us through Christ, and our response of praise to God is part of our very human condition.

By believing in Christ, and committing to a Christian life, this human aspect is awakened in us. We have only to cultivate it.

267. In union with Jesus, we seek what he seeks and we love what he loves. In the end, what we are seeking is the glory of the Father; we live and act “for the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph 1:6). If we wish to commit ourselves fully and perseveringly, we need to leave behind every other motivation. This is our definitive, deepest and greatest motivation, the ultimate reason and meaning behind all we do: the glory of the Father which Jesus sought at every moment of his life. As the Son, he rejoices eternally to be “close to the Father’s heart” (Jn 1:18). If we are missionaries, it is primarily because Jesus told us that “by this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit” (Jn 15:8). Beyond all our own preferences and interests, our knowledge and motivations, we evangelize for the greater glory of the Father who loves us.

Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium is available online.

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Football Foam

This is good news. The refs used that foam-out-of-a-can to mark defense of a free kick as well as ball placement in the World Cup. One of the early games I noticed the players were a bit stubborn, not moving back a few inches as directed. The ref sprayed the foam over the players’ shoes. Loved that.

Richard Scudamore, Premier League head cheese:

At the Premier League we are open to developments that enhance the competition and it was clear from watching the World Cup in Brazil that vanishing spray benefitted referees, players, and all of those who watched the matches.

Having witnessed that, and following consultation with our clubs and the PGMOL [Professional Game Match Officials Limited], we have decided to introduce it in the Premier League and look forward to having it in place for the 2014-15 season.

Lower leagues in the English system will not get cans of foam. MLS not using it either. Huh. BBC feature on it here.

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