There were days when the appointment of a bishop in a faraway diocese was no news at all, and barely news within the diocese. A bishop might–might–matter to the clergy. The people? Pshaw.
These days, too many episcopal appointments are big news. The Catechetical One descends on Washington. The Jovial One gets the Apple. The commonalities you can count on is that ordained bishops move from smaller cities to larger ones. Almost never are they appointed from the clergy of a diocese. And sadly, many bishops lack experience as shepherds. They’ve taught in seminaries. They’ve “edited” the diocesan organ. They’ve been in Rome. They’ve taken up desk space in the chancery. Few have pastored large parishes with school, staff, and fifty funerals and thirty weddings a year. And after appointment, many of them rack of frequent flyer miles over continent and ocean. I don’t think this is a good state of affairs for the vitality and leadership of the diocesan Church.
dotCommonweal takes a look at the latest career move, a shift from a small Connecticut city to the mother see of the United States. The comments were even more informative than David Gibson’s short essay. Carolyn Disco provides a tart assessment in two movements treating Bishop Lori’s approach to financial and sex scandals. The overall commentary there is rather bitter. What would have produced shrugs just a generation ago today gets nationwide attention. And sometimes beyond. Is it good for the Church to have episcopal appointments undergoing such scrutiny before the installation incense is ordered? Count me a skeptic. But the truthsaying on these guys, on Bishop Lori, seems clear enough. On finances:
In my opinion, Lori revealed the kind of person he is, never mind the kind of bishop he is, by personally humiliating a whistleblower priest to save his own reputation.
And on stonewalling abuse victims:
Lori fought for the entire first decade of his Bridgeport assignment to keep 12,500 pages of documents secret from the public. The legal meat grinder went all the way to the US Supreme Court where Lori lost.
Still, the bishop unilaterally held back 12% of the total documents to fight on under another creative legal strategy.
Lori is so removed from pastoral concern for victim/survivors that he does not even inform them when their perpetrators die. He knew a priest had died but never let the survivor’s family or anyone else know. A justice department official told me that is a pattern for bishops. Tell no one.
We probably need all sorts in the college of bishops. Canon lawyers. Theologians. Liturgists. People good in front of a camera. Pastors. Especially the latter, for that’s more or less what Jesus was, and what he appointed the Twelve to do. Heal the sick, expel a demon or two, build up a local Church here and there. Biblical things.
Now, I certainly understand that as administrators, bishops feel loyal to the material amassings of the institution. As priests, they were formed in a Catholic sub-culture reinforced by communal living at a very formative time in young adulthood. So I appreciate the culture, even if I might see a problem or two in how that culture–and the administration of it–has run off a bit from the original mission.
I don’t offer this essay with much more than the observations. Bishop Lori may or may not have a fine ministry in the years ahead of him in Baltimore. And he may have made a mistake or two in Connecticut. Mistakes are not always sinful. And even if they were, a person may be forgiven, right? On the other hand, in an age where authentic leadership is lacking, it is more than understandable people have questions about their leaders. Nothing’s been quite the same for the past two generations, and people of all ideologies have developed a pervasive lack of trust. I wonder when the bishops will realize the situation.
Toward the end of Saint Paul’s “Gospel of Hope” (Romans chapters 5 through 8) another very appropriate passage for the funeral liturgy:
Those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
The Jesuit Scripture scholar Brendan Byrne sees this section of Romans 8 as a transition from the “ethical sequence” (Rom 6:1-8:13) into a new argument addressing the experience of the suffering believer. It is natural, it is human for us to utter the protest, “Why me?!” Bad things still happen to good people. At the time of a funeral, we might apply this wonder to the deceased, if the death is judged unjust. Or we might struggle with the loss ourselves as mourners.
At any rate, one strong foundation is Paul’s stress on the familial relationship between God and believers. As brothers and sisters of Christ, we are grafted into God’s divine family. This was certainly how the Israelites saw themselves, as children of God. Paul underscores our reason for hope: the grace of Christ, and the very witness of the Holy Spirit in our midst. The intimate “Abba” is a cry from within the believer–it is seen as a sign of the Spirit at work, and affirming the new nature of our relationship with God.
As Paul moves to address the nature of the suffering believer, he acknowledges the experience of evil. But he brings in a more graphic image of the family, that of childbirth. Our adoption into the Trinity is not just a legal thing: sign a document, conduct a ritual, and we’re in for life. The experience of Christian faith is much more. We are not passive spectators. We can expect painful tribulation. Just like Jesus experienced it. But Christ’s triumph over death gives us all the more reason to hope that as his sisters and brothers, we too shall be saved. God cannot, would not go back on his promise to his daughters and sons.
It seems to me that a funeral may find the preacher addressing one of the three virtues, faith, hope, or love. Faith is difficult, and a funeral homily on it is beset with difficulties, usually. Love is easy enough, I suppose. But the quality many of us need the most at the time of death–our own or someone else’s–is hope. Why not leap into that misunderstood virtue, and address the conrete needs of family and mourners?
GDC 193-201 are congruent to Part Four, Chapter IV, Catechesis in the socio-religious context. Simply put, how do we do catechesis in context of other people? People of other faiths, people of no faith, and others in human society we must somehow interact with? As one might expect, evangelization is a prime consideration, both for outreach and for the maintenance and strengthening of Christian belief. The first two sections address “Catechesis in complex and pluralistic situations.” Pluralism is not a new concern; the note attached to this subtitle references Paul VI’s 1975 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (sections 51-56) as well as the 1977 Synod of Bishops document, Message to the People of God (section 15)
193. Many communities and individuals are called to live in a pluralistic and secularized world,(Cf. General Introduction) in which forms of unbelief and religious indifference may be encountered together with vibrant expressions of religious and cultural pluralism. In many individuals the search for certainty and for values appears strong. Spurious forms of religion, however, are also evident as well as dubious adherence to the faith. In the face of such diversity, some Christians are confused or lost. They become incapable of knowing how to confront situations or to judge the messages which they receive. They may abandon regular practice of the faith and end by living as though there were no God—often resorting to surrogate or pseudo-religions. Their faith is exposed to trials. When threatened it risks being extinguished altogether, unless it is constantly nourished and sustained.
194. In these circumstances, a catechesis of evangelization becomes indispensable: a catechesis “which must be impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel and imparted in language adapted to the times and to the hearers”.(Cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi 54) Such catechesis seeks to educate Christians in a sense of their identity as baptized, as believers, as members of the Church, who are open to dialogue with the world. It reminds them of the fundamental elements of the faith. It stimulates a real process of conversion. For them, it deepens the truth and the value of the Christian message in the face of theoretical and practical objections. It helps them to discern the Gospel and to live it out in every-day life. It enables them to give the reasons for the hope that is theirs.(Cf. 1 Pet 3:15) It encourages them to exercise their missionary vocation by witness, dialogue and proclamation.
Perhaps one of the more insightful and useful sections we have read. I think the diagnosis is as accurate today as it was forty or even a hundred years ago or more. I’m a skeptic that the modern age is particularly more beset by the challenges of pluralism, at least in the sense of the personal obstacles we believers face. The effectiveness of various media–no doubt this is fine-tuned for the propaganda of commerce and ideology. All the more important for believers to “discern the Gospel” and “live it out.”
The Catholic program, then, is one of building confidence in believers through conversion and a “reminder” of the basics of the faith. Then it sends them out to give example, to speak with others, and to proclaim the Gospel. Circling the wagons and protecting the innocent does not seem to be part of the program.
375. Votive Masses of the mysteries of the Lord or in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary or of the Angels or of any given Saint or of all the Saints may be said in response to the devotion of the faithful on weekdays in Ordinary Time, even if an Optional Memorial occurs. However, it is not permitted to celebrate as Votive Masses those that refer to mysteries related to events in the life of the Lord or of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with the exception of the Mass of the Immaculate Conception, since their celebration is an integral part of the course of the liturgical year.
This makes sense–it wouldn’t be good to have parishes inventing their own liturgical calendar of “various occasions.”
376. On days when there occurs an Obligatory Memorial or on a weekday of Advent up to and including December 16, of Christmas Time from January 2, and of Easter Time after the Octave of Easter, Masses for Various Needs and Occasions and Votive Masses are in principle forbidden. If, however, some real necessity or pastoral advantage calls for it, in the estimation of the rector of the church or the Priest Celebrant himself, a Mass appropriate to the same may be used in a celebration with the people.
An interesting way of dodging what is “forbidden.” But it would make sense that a real necessity might abrogate the principle. I don’t think there’s a widespread problem, however, of clergy popping in with such a Mass.
377. On weekdays in Ordinary Time when an Optional Memorial occurs or when the Office is of the weekday, it is permissible to celebrate any Mass for Various Needs and Occasions, or use any prayer for the same, but to the exclusion of Ritual Masses.
378. Particularly recommended is the Saturday commemoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, because it is to the Mother of the Redeemer that in the Liturgy of the Church firstly and before all the Saints veneration is given.[Lumen Gentium 54; Marialis Cultus 9]
Some of the poll pairings will seem randomly related. Today’s, probably not so much.
Monastics may beg to differ from the mainstream Catholic choice for the number one Advent song or hymn, but there’s no question people expect “O Come O Come Emmanuel” every December. Music planners across the English-speaking world and elsewhere give it to them. Seeded as a number-12, the musical setting of the O Antiphons is appropriately a late Advent (17-24 December) choice, but most worshipers don’t seem too concerned with the distinction.
The wikipedia entry on the song/hymn gives some basic information, including the misty beginnings of the text and tune. But someone should clean up the messy details there. The tune is delightfully utilized by Ottorino Respighi, but as a meditation on the Botticelli painting Adoration of the Magi. As for the texts, this entry gives more informed facts. mainly that they are based on the Magnificat antiphons for Vespers for the final week of Advent.
One of the NPM poll’s top-20 choices was Donna Marie McGargill’s “Servant Song.” (Note: no “The” in the title.) I wasn’t familiar with this song until I served a parish that used OCP materials. And it was a favorite–a big favorite there. The composer herself on the effort (toward the end of a discussion thread about another “servant song.”):
I wrote it in the early 80′s and was part of an original record album I created in 1982 for my Servant Of Mary community which was then celebrating 750 year anniversary. The song ‘Servant Song’ from the album was then published in ’84 on the OCP Album JESUS LORD. I still prefer my version of it that can still be found on my cd LET IT BE DONE which can be purchased from our Motherhouse book store (www.osms.org).
I’m very moved that God took the weaknesses and problems that brought me to pray Servant Song into being, to enable others over the years to pray and ask the same universal question in the depths of their heart prayer. It speaks volumes to me that God continues to remind us that it is ‘in our weakness that we find our strengths.’ May each of you find the same in your own lives so that you may give witness to God with your seemingly low points and failures in life that enable us to survive and be the best we can be even with and because our lowliness before an every gracious and loving God. God’s goodness and great love be there for each of you.
I find it fascinating that so many contemporary favorites center on the theme of service, of the deep desire in believers, seekers, and even non-religious people, to give their lives, or some portion of them to God and in service to others. Many believers are also keenly aware of their own inadequacies. I’m not surprised that songs like Sr McGargill’s resonate so well with so many.
Here’s the poll:
about Todd Flowerday
A Roman Catholic lay person, married (since 1996), with one adopted child (since 2001). I serve in worship and spiritual life in a midwestern university parish.
Neil has been a blogging collaborator for the past several years on Catholic Sensibility. He brings his unique experiences from theology, spirituality, and the ecumenical sphere. Pay special attention to each one of his posts.