A staff colleague forwarded this excerpt from Fr Jim Martin’s latest book.
At one point during my Jesuit training, I worked for two years in Nairobi, Kenya, helping East African refugees start small businesses to support themselves. At the end of my first year, I signed up for an eight-day retreat outside Nairobi. At a gathering on the last day of the retreat, it was announced that everyone would speak about their experience over the past week: What was it like? How had they experienced God?
“Uh-oh,” I thought. Even though I had worked in Kenya for a year, I was still living in an unfamiliar culture and worried I might say the wrong thing. As I uncomfortably shifted in my seat, one of the sisters urged me, “You first!”
I realized that, oddly, the other priests, brothers and laymen on retreat had already departed. I was the only man left. So I shyly stood up and saw 50 African sisters waiting for me to say something. And I blurted out, “I can’t believe that I’m the only man here.” From across the room an African sister called out, “And blessed are you among women!” Everyone laughed at this familiar line from the Gospel of Luke, and suddenly I felt right at home and could talk about my retreat with them. Laughter had welcomed me.
The tremendous advantage of face-to-face contact is that humor can work in context of the other layers of language. Even with cultural doubts and barriers. Try that quote from Elizabeth on internet men, and the friendly humor aspect might be missed by some. No doubt, a few clergy would treat it as an insult, especially if it originated from people not of their ideological stripe.
More from Fr Martin:
Laughter is often an unwelcome guest in contemporary religious circles. It’s sometimes seen as inappropriate: Children are often scolded for giggling in church. And offensive: Guffawing over a Bible story is tantamount to an insult. Or simply irrelevant: How many theological studies on laughter have you read?
Definitely unwelcome in the blogosphere. Without eye contact, physical courtesy, a smile, communication suffers a stunted and handicapped incarnation among us. I was noticing the attempt at a new leaf on PrayTell, channeling Jeff Mirus at CatholicCulture.org:
I’d like to recommend that we all strive to discuss the issues … with greater charity.
I am referring … to the deliberate and persistent cultivation of charity in our discussions with those who are not part of the (name your web site) family.
My friend Charles is a skeptic, and likely not without cause:
Regretfully, this plea with your endorsement comes a day late and a dollar short and rings hollow for many of us who’ve pleaded for editorial intervention that is just towards all in this forum. My fellow Californian above, Dr. Ford, issued a very “august” and eloquent call for civility and equanimity on this forum and elsewhere quite a few months ago, apparently to no avail as witnessed by the commentary over recent posts by Dcn. Bauerschmidt and Chris McConnell.
And perhaps there is something self-serving in a public resolution to good (or improved) behavior. I cannot say I will be joining those who are suggesting better behavior just because the clicker changed from a 1 to a 2, or December is rolled over into the month of the two-faced god. Maybe Janus is a caution for those of us who have less than pure intentions to our intentions.
What can I say for myself, then? This blog is mainly about the liturgy and other aspects of church ministry and theology that appeal to me. I don’t anticipate poking any less at what I see to be the foibles and failings of some bishops, many conservatives and others I think are misleading believers. I’m not going to start calling people names–I’ve been pretty careful over the years about applying labels to groups. Some still take it personally. I view that as their problem–not mine. I don’t plan to comment much politically. Frankly, I see it as a waste of time and energy. But, when things get stupid, I’ll poke.
Unlike some Catholic blogs, dissent from the party line is welcome and encouraged here. Thanks to the internet, the Church is in no danger of silencing objectors, be they disagreeable in tone or just content. But Fr Jim’s comment about laughter, especially self-directed, self-deprecating, is well-taken. Some bloggers are able to manage this, and I tend to go back to their sites because they have a strong whiff of honesty about them.
A generation ago, a young friend branded me with the nic, “Uncle Serious.” I haven’t changed much. I’ve always been serious, and seemingly, it’s an essential part of my life. My family of origin was quick to pounce on mistakes, pratfalls, and such, and dig out the laughter for a good dig. Even in my sixth decade of life, I still find myself on guard against it. But maybe … I could be on the lookout for the humorous, the funny, and the slip-ups. Only the hit-count is in play, right?
Liam offers another armchair liturgist bit for us today:
Studying my new daily missal for the coming week, I see that it provides that, when the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on Monday, as it is this year in the USA, then the readings for the Monday of the First Week of Ordinary Time may be added to the readings of the Tuesday of the First Week of Ordinary Time, so that the continuity of the passages is retained. This is true for the Gospel in cycles I and II. It is also true for the first reading in cycle II (which is what we are in this year); for cycle I, the merit of this approach for the first reading is less clear.
So, who will be advising celebrants and lectors of this option? What’s your preference?
Another choice for liturgists: how would you handle an instance like this where the Lectionary doesn’t give you the merged option? Are your lectors skilled enough to start on “Monday’s page,” then flip to the next day? Same for the priest–flip back and then finish up with Tuesday?
A small editing observation: on the USCCB page linked above, a typo on the choices of Gospel readings.
Let’s read under the heading of “The christocentricity of the Gospel message.”
98. Jesus Christ not only transmits the word of God: he is the Word of God. Catechesis is therefore completely tied to him. Thus what must characterize the message transmitted by catechesis is, above all, its “christocentricity”. (Cf. Catechism 426-429; Catechesi Tradendae 5-6; General Catechetical Directory 40) This may be understood in various senses.
– It means, firstly, that “at the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth”. (Catechesi Tradendae 5) In reality, the fundamental task of catechesis is to present Christ and everything in relation to him. This explicitly promotes the following of Jesus and communion with him; every element of the message tends to this.
This is a vital distinction. Jesus is not just a wise and holy man. He is not just a distant, demanding God. Catechesis is far more than the presentation and absorption of knowledge. Believers–disciples, really–don’t assent intellectually as much as they follow the Master and strive for communion with him. Somehow, contemporary Catholic catechesis must find its way past the obstacles of both feel-good religion and Church-teaching-as-the-cure-for-stupidity.
– Secondly, christocentricity means that Christ is the “centre of salvation history”, (General Catechetical Directory 41a; cf. GCD 39, 40, 44) presented by catechesis. He is indeed the final event toward which all salvation history converges. He, who came “in the fullness of time” is “the key, the centre and end of all human history”. (Gaudium et Spes 10) The catechetical message helps the Christian to locate himself in history and to insert himself into it, by showing that Christ is the ultimate meaning of this history.
So we are also asked to observe Christ in the passage of time. Not just Bible stories of the Old Testament, but also to see Christ as the resolution of the fruitlessness of human history.
– Christocentricity, moreover, means that the Gospel message does not come from man, but is the Word of God. The Church, and in her name, every catechist can say with truth: “my teaching is not from myself: it comes from the one who sent me” (John 7,16). Thus all that is transmitted by catechesis is “the teaching of Jesus Christ, the truth that he communicates, or more precisely, the Truth that he is”. (Catechesi Tradendae 6) Christocentricity obliges catechesis to transmit what Jesus teaches about God, man, happiness, the moral life, death etc. without in any way changing his thought. (Cf. 1 Cor 15:1-4; Evangelii Nuntiandi 15e, f.)
One might think this goes without saying, but it is indeed a true test of a catechist’s authenticity to be able to root herself or himself in Christ, and avoid the semblance of self-centeredness. The cult of celebrity would seem to be at odds with good catechesis.
The Gospels, which narrate the life of Jesus, are central to the catechetical message. They are themselves endowed with a “catechetical structure”. (Catechesi Tradendae 11b) They express the teaching which was proposed to the first Christian communities, and which also transmits the life of Jesus, his message and his saving actions. In catechesis, “the four Gospels occupy a central place because Christ Jesus is their centre”. (Catechism 139)
And this is why the Gospels themselves are so important. They are more than the words of Jesus studded into four narratives. Perhaps a liturgical reading of these books does not do them total justice in the sense of their wholeness as a prime part of the revelation of God.
A passage like GDC 98 is good reflection material for faith formation leadership, a staff, or a gathering of catechists. It presents clearly how and why Christ is at the center of catechesis. What are you seeing in this piece today? How does your parish or ministry measure up to it?
Let’s finish up the GIRM’s chapter III with a look at The Distribution of Functions and the Preparation of the Celebration:
108. One and the same Priest must always exercise the presidential function in all of its parts, except for those parts which are proper to a Mass at which the Bishop is present (cf. above no. 92).
Y’all knew about this one with priests, right? There’s a fairly common practice for one priest or deacon to preach all the Masses–my parish used to do that under its former pastor. However, practical for homily prep, that would seem to be out of kilter with what the GIRM is driving at here.
109. If there are several present who are able to exercise the same ministry, nothing forbids their distributing among themselves and performing different parts of the same ministry or duty. For example, one Deacon may be assigned to execute the sung parts, another to serve at the altar; if there are several readings, it is well to distribute them among a number of readers, and the same applies for other matters. However, it is not at all appropriate that several persons divide a single element of the celebration among themselves, e.g., that the same reading be proclaimed by two readers, one after the other, with the exception of the Passion of the Lord.
I can think of only one or two possible pragmatic exceptions, perhaps when the prayers of the faithful might be rendered partly in song.
110. If at a Mass with the people only one minister is present, that minister may exercise several different functions.
But in this instance, the Mass would probably be very lightly attended.
One final pep talk:
111. There should be harmony and diligence among all those involved in the effective preparation of each liturgical celebration in accordance with the Missal and other liturgical books, both as regards the rites and as regards the pastoral and musical aspects. This should take place under the direction of the rector of the church and after consultation with the faithful in things that directly pertain to them. However, the Priest who presides at the celebration always retains the right of arranging those things that pertain to him.[Sacrosanctum Concilium 22]
This would really stick in the craw of the BCS if the Associated Press football voters ignore an Alabama win in the final college football match-up next week and vote the loser number one.
Among sports entities to dislike/root against/hate, I would rank the BCS along with the Yankees and the Cowboys. That leaves me with motivation to root for the more eastern school. Even though I really don’t care one way or the other.
The real college football Division I championship is being played Saturday in Frisco, Texas. There, the result will be decided on the field at the end of an honorable playoff system. Not by computers and how much cash can be thrown at a corrupt system.