30 June 2012
I like the UCANews site for its coverage of Catholic matters across the continent of Asia. Their commentary is often thoughtful and occasionally tart, like this essay by Fr William Grimm, who suggests that schismatic Catholics aren’t the only ones in need of “pastoral solicitude.”
Obsessively pressing one’s attentions on a person who does not want them is called stalking. In many places and cases, it is a criminal offense.
Archbishop Di Nioa’s appointment even after the latest rejection of the pope’s repeatedly rejected and repeatedly renewed approaches to the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) certainly looks like stalking of the SSPX by the Vatican.
By now it should be clear that despite concessions on the liturgy, offers to play down aspects of Vatican II and repeated attempts at wooing in spite of being spurned, the SSPX and the ultra-traditionalists they represent are just not interested in a relationship with the Vatican and will not be until Rome comes to them in abject and total surrender.
I think that’s about the measure of it. Bishop Fellay and company believe they are the one true church, and the whole world of Christendom has fallen away. We are the leaves, they are the trunk, and winter is here. It’s worth discussing what Fr Grimm is suggesting, because it’s not really so different from what the SSPX is demanding. And while most of the rest of us “leafy” Catholics aren’t going to go into schism over it, we’re still on the Barque of Peter, aren’t we?
Four final points from Fr Grimm:
- (A) referendum on the translations that have recently been imposed throughout the world, often to the consternation of clergy and laity alike.
- The Vatican should really listen to the voices of those whose concerns and ways of living their faith arise out of their encounters with the modern world, especially those outside of a European ambit.
- Rome must admit that the old ways so beloved by many traditionalists failed in the face of a changing world and our leaders must be humble enough to learn from places where the Church is growing in Africa, Asia and the Americas.
- (S)imply express some gratitude and admiration to all those Christians who in spite of scandals, confusion and a sense of being ignored and abused continue to engage in the journey of faith as part of the Catholic Church?
Holding that referendum would be a huge loss of face for ICEL and Vox Clara. It’s easier to blame the stupidity and limited vocabulary of the laity. I don’t see it happening. It would require a change in pope and the liturgical heads in the curia.
Points two and three should be obvious. Fr Grimm is generous about “European ambit.” The Vatican is still stuck in a pre-1790 monarchical European ambit. It’s likely a miracle that two centuries-plus of disconnect from the ordinary laity haven’t caused more of a hemorrhage from the faith. They could take a clue from the democratic substrate in the states: a lack of governing aristocracy, minimal corruption–a seemingly ripe climate for religion, and particularly Catholicism.
As for point four, the bishops are too busy calling people stupid to get a clue on that one. But they should know that many of us have taken the high road instead of the traditionalist one. We’re staying Catholics no matter how dense the leadership is.
30 June 2012
As the USCCB’s Fortnight for Freedom continues, we take an alternative track here. I’ve been promising more voices, and today, guest blogger Fran Rossi Szpylczyn contributes a stirring testimony for a stirring woman of our times. You can find more of Fran’s work at her personal blog, There Will Be Bread and also at The Parish Blog of St. Edward the Confessor.
No review of worthy women of our Church can exclude the woman who would not be excluded at any cost – Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA. As a woman religious who stated that she wanted to “go home like a shooting star,” she also lived that way; her life was like a blazing tale of God’s glory, against the sky of her life.
Born to a teacher and a doctor in Yazoo City, Mississippi on December 29, 1937 and named Bertha Bowman, she was reared as a Methodist in Canton, Mississippi. Her beginnings were humble but noble, given that her grandparents were slaves. An only child who was extremely bright. At the age of 9 asked about becoming Catholic, which her parents agreed to. Bertha’s, (soon to be Thea’s) vocation began like the birth of a star, with various elements coming together to create a unique light.
At the age of 15, she moved to LaCrosse, Wisconsin, home of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, to begin her novitiate. These sisters were here teachers in Mississippi, and she was profoundly influenced by them. As the only African-American in her community, Thea encountered challenges in retaining her own cultural identity, which for her, was at the heart of who she was as a child of God.
Gifted in many ways, Thea excelled in her studies and earned a PhD in Linguistics and English Literature from the Catholic University of America. In 1989, she also received a Doctor of Religion from Boston College. Her work as a woman religious found her in the classroom where she generously shared her knowledge, along with God’s love, with great joy. Having taught elementary, secondary and ultimately university level students, Sister Thea illuminated many minds through her work as a teacher and professor.
At the core of her vocation was a fiery passion for unity and justice. Breaking down barriers and inviting all to live in one in Christ was her focus, above all else. Sister Thea had an enormous drive to communicate Christ across barriers, no matter what the cost. If she could facilitate bringing people together through and in God, that is what she would do.
Eventually Sister Thea was asked to become the consultant for Intercultural Awareness in the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi. This was a role in which she flourished by breaking down barriers at home and afar, by bringing people together. Sister Thea often made over 100 speaking appearances a yer. Her gift to shine light in dark places, and to reveal Christ as unifier and redeemer was realized in many ways. She was undaunted by challenge, and always pushed forth by her beloved Jesus.
Thea was also passionate about the revelation of African roots and the impact of those roots in the Church. For Thea, inclusion was not negotiable and recognition of how we are all created in God’s image was essential.
In 1984 Thea’s parents died and then she was diagnosed with cancer. When confronted with this disease her response was typical of her resolve, as she said she would “live until I die.” And live she did, for several more years. Thea kept going, making her final years, burn with the brightest fire.
In 1987, Mike Wallace interviewed her for 60 Minutes. Reminding us that we all have something to give, she told Wallace, “I think the difference between me and some other people is that I am content to do my little bit. Sometimes people think they have to do big things in order to make change. If each one of us would light the candle, we’ve got a tremendous light.”
In June of 1989, the US Bishops were meeting and they asked Sister Thea to address them on the meaning of being black and Catholic. It was here that she began a 30 minute address by asking what it meant to be black and Catholic out loud and replying to herself, and the bishops, by belting out, “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child.” It is worth noting that as she was introduced, the bishop introducing her joked that she was on 60 Minutes and not because she was the subject of a “criminal investigation.” Hearing those words from a bishop at this time made me wince with discomfort!
Sister Thea then launched into a wide ranging talk, filled with her signature passion, and all delivered from her position in a wheelchair. If you watch the video of the talk, well worth your 32 minutes, you will see a wide range of reactions and emotions on the bishops’ faces, including eyes that are welled-up with tears. At the end of the talk Sister Thea asked the bishops to cross arms and clasp hands and to join her in singing, “We Shall Overcome.”
Most of the bishops appeared to follow her instructions, but some did not. Some of the bishops appeared, to my eye anyway, visibly uncomfortable, others appeared moved. The video of her talk to them is a testament to a worthy woman living a remarkable moment.
Brother Mickey O’Neill McGrath wrote about Sister Thea in “This Little Light of Mine.” (The image at the top left of this post, as well as the one to the right, are from his website and are gratefully used with his permission.)
Brother Mickey often shares an anecdote about Sister Thea’s meeting with the bishops. In what sounds like an astounding moment, according to what he heard from someone who was present at the meeting. Apparently as her wheelchair was being wheeled out of the hall, the bishops formed an honor guard and knelt before her as the chair passed by.
Sister Thea remained focused on a vision of strength in unity throughout her life. She would often say, “You walk together and you won’t get weary. You might get tired, but you won’t get weary.” May her legacy be to keep us together, tired perhaps, as we continue to encounter injustice, but to never grow weary, as we walk together in Jesus’ name.
Sister Thea Bowman to the US Bishops from Rocco Palmo on Vimeo.
30 June 2012
The third portion of the altar dedication inttroduction addresses three issues (nos. 12-16) and on outline of the dedication Mass (17-23). Let’s begin with the rite’s insistence on a bishop, unless “altogether special circumstances” suggest a priest:
12. Since the bishop has been entrusted with the care of the particular Church, it is his responsibility to dedicate to God new altars built in his diocese.
If he cannot himself preside at the rite, he shall entrust the function to another bishop, especially to one who is his associate and assistant in the pastoral care of the community for which the new altar has been erected or, in altogether special circumstances, to a priest, to whom he shall give a special mandate.
The choice of the day is important. Ideally, the physical installation of an altar is timed with the bishop’s schedule so the Eucharist celebrated is the first for the altar being dedicated.
13. Since an altar becomes sacred principally by the celebration of the eucharist, in fidelity to this truth the celebration of Mass on a new altar before it has been dedicated is to be carefully avoided, so that the Mass of dedication may also be the first eucharist celebrated on the altar.
14. A day should be chosen for the dedication of a new altar when the people can be present in large numbers, especially a Sunday, unless pastoral considerations suggest otherwise. However, the rite of the dedication of an altar may not be celebrated during the Easter triduum, on Ash Wedncsday, the weekdays of Holy Week, and All Souls.
This would seem to mean the Saturday night of the weekend schedule. Any other days come to mind?
29 June 2012
As the Fortnight for Freedom, continues, let’s keep with our examination of worthy women, many of whom were hassled, persecuted, or even martyred by their own Church. The legend of the 15th century peasant girl, Jeanne, is well-known to practically every western Christian. For today’s installment, I’d like to recount the details of her betrayal, and note that just twenty-five years after she died, the pope declared her a martyr.
Here is where Catholics failed to follow the proper procedures following her capture as a prisoner of war:
- French royalty declined to pay a ransom, as was customary for the family of a prisoner.
- Instead, the English bought her from the Duke of Burgundy.
- Bishop Pierre Cauchon did not have the proper jurisdiction to conduct an ecclesiastical prosecution.
- No evidence could be found, let alone collected for a heresy trial. Nonetheless, the proceedings advanced.
- No legal adviser was provided for the defendant, and Jeanne’s request for these was ignored.
- Jeanne infuriated those attempting to entrap her, unable to penetrate her intelligence. Portions of the transcripts were altered.
- Jeanne was held in a secular prison, instead of being confined to an ecclesiastical location under the guard of cloistered nuns.
- The English made threats, subtle and some not so subtle (death threats) to compel clergy, and even the inquisitor, Jean LeMaitre to satisfy their wishes for a conviction.
- The articles of accusation do not match up with even the changed recordings of the proceedings.
- Jeanne’s proper appeals to a Church council (what we now know as Florence had begun in Basel, Switzerland) and to the pope were ignored.
- Heresy was only a capital crime if it were a repeated offense.
This is perhaps the most notable time when a prelate used ecclesiastical authority to further a political or personal vendetta against a lay person. It was certainly not the first or the last. A generation later, after the end of the Hundred Years’ War, Pope Callixtus III authorized a “re-trial” at the request of Jeanne’s family and some members of the hierarchy.
Needless to say, Jeanne was vindicated for future veneration as a saint. Bishop Cauchon himself was cited as a possible heretic for his role in using ecclesiastical procedures to further a political situation.
And what was the heresy thing, anyway? Jeanne dressed in men’s clothing. Some Catholics today retain that fixation on confusing clothing with the matter of God’s grace.
It seems little different today, except that the Church lacks the arm of physical enforcement of its wishes. Otherwise, bishops are still influenced by political agendas inside and outside of the Church, rules are ignored when inconvenient, evidence is hard to come by, and the written record is not always aligned with what actually happened or was said.
Have human beings changed much in six centuries? Perhaps you can find an optimist to suggest that we’re a kinder gentler species. But perhaps more conservative Catholics would contend that the hope to make progress, as a culture, from barbarism and sin is useless. In which case, draw what conclusions you will from present-day persecutions within the Body. Sainte Jeanne, pray for us.
29 June 2012
Let’s take a quick look at the physical material of an altar:
9. In accordance with received custom in the Church and the biblical symbolism connected with an altar, the table of a fixed altar should be of stone, indeed of natural stone. But, at the discretion of the conference of bishops, any becoming, solid, and finely wrought material may be used in erecting an altar.
The pedestal or base of the table may be of any sort of material, provided it is becoming and solid.
Natural stone would preclude anything processed or smelted. My parish has a very fine wood altar–it’s not like anything I’ve seen elsewhere.
Some words on relics and images of saints:
10. The altar is of its very nature dedicated to the one God, for the eucharistic sacrifice is offered to the one God. This is the sense in which the Church’s practice of dedicating altars to God in honour of the saints must be understood. St. Augustine expresses it well: ‘It is not to any of the martyrs, but to the God of the martyrs, though in memory of the martyrs, that we raise our altars.’(Augustine, Contra Faustum 20, 21: PL 42, 384)
This should be made clear to the people. In new churches statues and pictures of saints may not be placed above the altar.
Likewise, when relics of saints are exposed for veneration, they should not be placed on the table of the altar.
11. It is fitting to continue the tradition in the Roman liturgy of placing relics of martyrs or other saints beneath the altar. But the following should be noted.
- a) Such relics should be of a size sufficient for them to be recognizable as parts of human bodies. Hence excessively small relics of one or more saints must not be placed beneath an altar.
- b) The greatest care must be taken to determine whether the relics in question are authentic. It is better for an altar to be dedicated without relics than to have relics of doubtful authenticity placed beneath it.
- c) A reliquary must not be placed on the altar or set into the table of the altar, but placed beneath the table of the altar, as the design of the altar permits.
When the rite of depositing relics takes place, it is highly recommended to keep a vigil at the relics of the martyr or saint, in accordance with the provisions of chapter two, no. 10.
My own parish has relics of our patron, but they would not pass the muster of 11a. In some instances, 11b is a difficult standard to apply. I once saw a small chest mounted under an altar, presumably with 11c in mind. The rite seems to presume that relics are permanently placed, and not in a way that they can be removed for occasional veneration. Given today’s emphasis on seeing (is believing?) is this as good as having relics available for occasional veneration? What do you think?
28 June 2012
Posted by catholicsensibility under Miscellaneous  Comments
RNS linked the Amarillo press on Fr Frank Pavone’s ongoing tussle with his bishop. The Priests For Life celeb hit up the Congregation of Clergy, and while Priests for Life and other anti-abortion folks are generally in rejoice mode on this, Bishop Zurek said:
(This ruling) makes it clear I am free to restore him to full religious ministry, if I wish. … But he must have my permission for anything in regard to work in pro-life, and in particular Priests for Life, because that is where the issue arose to begin with.
Fr Pavone’s bishop is saying something that’s been true all along, supposedly, that he can permit the man to do as he wishes. And he makes clear the issue has been less about Fr Pavone’s freedom to say Mass or hear confessions when he’s on the road for his cause, and more about the financial accountability. Like here.
And it’s about being a diocesan priest, according to the bishop:
If I need help in the diocese, he must oblige me and provide the priestly work that is needed at any given time.
Some of the commentary from the blogosphere:
Father Pavone is back! Praise God! We’ve needed him now more than ever!! We can finally end abortion!!
Good l___, all those months! I need to double or triple my donations now!!
I believe the Holy Spirit is working through this man to end abortion!
As a pro-life Catholic, I find this difficult to stomach. We don’t need a messiah–we already have one, and we have a commission that’s been entrusted to us. No single person is indispensable to any cause. We don’t need to wait on leaders to get things done.
28 June 2012
Posted by catholicsensibility under Politics Leave a Comment
A few quick things about the SCOTUS ruling.
Some, but not all opponents of health care insurance have had a field day with innuendo, caricature, and outright lies, I’m going to suspend my opposition to ACA (for being too conservative and wussy) for just a day and enjoy watching the ideologues twist in the wind on this one.
Now that we’ve got the judiciary stage of legislation out of the way, it’s time to get back to work on the real issues of health care and how to pay for a fair system, especially when catastrophe strikes. The point is to make American society better for all, not just score a point for the complainers.
I can only accept ACA as a stepping stone to something better. If Republicans have better ideas, it’s time to pony them up. If not, it’s time for them to cede their side of the discussion entirely.
28 June 2012
As a response to the US Bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom, I’ve invited a few friends to supply appropriate essays on women who have exemplified the faith in the face of persecution, even at the hands of religious authorities. Today, my friend John Donaghy offers a contribution from the Latin American Church, where he has served in the mission apostolate for the past five years.
Religious life for women in the middle ages and the early modern period was not always what we might think of as the cloistered life. That’s why there were reformers like St. Teresa of Avila for the Carmelites.
Often families would send their daughters to a convent with a nice dowry. There they would have a chance to learn but also, in some cases, to entertain their friends, male and female, in the convent parlors.
Yet the convent was almost the only place where women would have a chance to use their talents.
One very interesting woman who joined the convent in seventeenth century Mexico is Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, because “given the total antipathy I felt for marriage, I deemed convent life the least unsuitable and most honorable I could elect.”
Born out of wedlock, and raised by her maternal grandmother, she was a precocious child. At three she followed her sister to school and persuaded the instructor to teach her to read. She soon started to devour her grandfather’s library.
At sixteen she became a lady-in-waiting for the wife of the Spanish viceroy.
She at first joined the reformed Carmelites but left, probably because it was too strict. She subsequently joined a convent of the order of St. Jerome. (Jerome was assisted in his work, including his translation of the Bible, by several learned aristocratic women.)
In the monastery, by no means austere, she, like some other nuns, had a servant. Over the years she amassed a library of more than 4,000 volumes. She wrote letters as well as plays and love poems. She met with her friends for discussions.
She had her duties in the convent but that did not stop her from her literary and musical works. These “secular” works disturbed the archbishop of Mexico, who according to Octavio Paz was “fiercely misogynistic and strongly opposed to secular drama.”
But it was her ventures into theological reflection that caused problems. She shared with the bishop of Puebla, a long-time “friend,” her critique of a famous sermon. He asked her to put it in writing and then, without her permission, published this Missive Worthy of Athena. But he included, under the pseudonym of Sor Filotea de la Cruz, a preface admonishing Sor Juana for her being too concerned with worldly affairs. Some friend!
In her 1691 Reply to Sor Filotea, Sor Juana defended the right of women to education and the need to have older women as teachers. Using scripture, philosophy, and the fathers of the church, she defended the right of women to be educated. Her pen was acerbic: “You foolish men, accusing women for lacking reason when you yourselves are the reason for the lack.”
The reaction came swiftly. As Octavio Paz wrote: A “very saintly and ingenuous Abbess, who believed that study was a thing of the Inquisition,” ordered her not to study. Her confessor denied her spiritual help for two years.
In 1693 after so much pressure she stopped writing, though not before composing songs in honor of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, the patroness of philosophers.
In 1694 she signed several documents and seems to have turned her back on her intellectual endeavors. But did she? She wrote no more and died a year later, taking care of the sick, during a pestilence that ravaged Mexico City.
Some suggest that she had a conversion experience which included distributing all the books in her library as well as her musical and scientific instruments. But it seems as if she gave in, under pressure from church authorities.
I venture that Sor Juana is not the model for many sisters today, especially in terms of her life style. She was hardly the example of poverty. Yet her use of her intellect, her brilliant critique, and her defense of the education of women are worthy of respect.
I see her as a victim of a culture and of church authorities who were threatened by women who are intelligent and are not afraid to speak boldly.
She follows in the tradition of the women followers of St. Jerome like St. Paula. She is, in some ways, the precursor of some modern Catholic women theologians.
All too long the wisdom of women has been neglected in the world and in the church. The People of God need to hear all the voices, especially those who have been marginalized.
From one of her poems:
You foolish men who lay
the guilt on women,
not seeing you’re the cause
of the very thing you blame;
if you invite their disdain
with measureless desire
why wish they well behave
if you incite to ill.
28 June 2012
Sections 6 through 11 of this chapter address how an altar is built and presented in a church.
6. It is desirable that in every church there be a fixed altar and that in other places set apart for sacred celebrations there be either a fixed or a movable altar.
A fixed altar is one so constructed that it is attached to the floor so that it cannot be moved; a movable altar can be transferred from place to place.(GIRM 300ff)
My parish, I’ll admit, has a movable altar. It takes about four people to budge it.
The church tells us that altars are intended to be functional, not decorative:
7. In new churches it is better to erect only one altar so that in the one assembly of the people of God the single altar signifies the one Savior Jesus Christ and the one eucharist of the Church.
But an altar may also be erected in a chapel (somewhat separated, if possible, from the body of the church) where the tabernacle for the reservation of the blessed sacrament is situated. On weekdays when there is a small gathering of people Mass may be celebrated at this altar.
The merely decorative erection of several altars in a church must be entirely avoided.
The altar is a focal point, identifiable even above devotional elements such as a crucifix or a tabernacle:
8. The altar should be freestanding so that the priest can easily walk around it and celebrate Mass facing the people. ‘It should be so placed as to be a focal point on which the attention of the whole congregation centres naturally.’(GIRM 299)
This begs the question: if this is true, how can the altar be obscured, even partially, by clergy or decorations such as candles or flowers? As for the first statement above, the importance is less the direction the priest faces (which I think should be irrelevant) and more on visibility of the elements and the rituals associated with them.
27 June 2012
Posted by catholicsensibility under My Family  Comments
Our dog passed away today. She was one of the best dogs: rarely barked, always protective, even of the cats. My wife and I had been monitoring her growths closely. She hasn’t been quite as enthusiastic about being outside the past six months. It could have been the 100-degree heat, but her back legs and elimination functions failed today. No more bounding into the snow or grass. It was time.
27 June 2012
I noted the discussion on PrayTell about funeral vestment colors in southern Wisconsin. That territory is well-traveled on this blog.
My own sense is that the monochromatic vestments seen in too many parishes do not do justice to the Mass.
In vestment design, I think the surroundings and the lighting of a nave must be taken into account. Shopping out of a catalogue is dicey.
I threw together a quick impression of what I would like to see in a parish’s funeral chasuble. I would use no more violet and black than this, but this communicates the maximum of those colors I would prefer to see at the Order of Christian Funerals.
Black is more swank these days than mourning. And violet is more Lent. A bad message to send would be to use the parish’s Lent and/or Advent vestments for funerals. White as a primary funeral color in the West makes sense if we’re serious about keeping the funeral centered on Christ.
In my parish, where we celebrate a half-dozen funerals a year, using the Easter vestment makes much more sense for us.
27 June 2012
Posted by catholicsensibility under Church News 1 Comment
Reform2 archbishop Gus De Noia gets a position with the Ecclesia Dei commission. Word comes the same day the SSPX middle finger is leaked from the schismatic group. According to the SSPX secretary general, the pope was prepared to accept Bishop Fellay’s rewrite, but the CDF messed things up.
The Holy Father must be pleased to be heading off to his month at Castel Gandolfo (left). Were I in his shoes, I’d be concerned about the surrounding bad news, if not betrayals: butler, cardinals, schismatics, sex abusers, complicit bishops.
27 June 2012
Paralleling the USCCB Fortnight for Freedom, today’s worthy woman alternative is the doctor-to-be, Hildegard of Bingen. Her apostolate as a musician and composer is the most interesting aspect of her life … to me anyway. Others admire her as a mystic, a feminist symbol, or a Benedictine. Given her criticism of corrupt bishops, I’m a bit surprised she wasn’t more deeply persecuted in her day. Perhaps it helped to have friends and patrons in powerful places.
She is probably the most well-known of the worthy women so far in this series. Because of that I will refrain from rehashing old information about the woman. I recommend the film (reviewed here) and any number of books about her. And recordings, especially by Sequentia.
As an elderly abbess, Hildegard did have a run-in with the hierarchy, and though we don’t have the complete details, it seems like something of a wrong note.
She permitted a nobleman knight to be buried in her community’s cemetery, but the local bishop objected. He insisted that the body be dug up; the person had been excommunicated. Hildegard assured that the man had reconciled with the Church before his death and had received the sacraments. The bishop insisted on disinterring the body. The abbess resisted. The convent was placed on interdict: no sacraments for the entire community. And more, the sisters were to refrain from singing.
Hildegard complied with the interdict, but still refused to surrender the body. She appealed to higher authority, namely the Archbishop of Mainz, and eventually, the punishment was lifted. However, the archbishop chided Hildegard for an action for which his brother bishop had, he felt, legitimate questions. The abbess in turn objected to the punishment as a means of coercion:
Before you close the mouth of a community, … (you) have to consider to be led by the eagerness of justice and not by indignation, unjust emotions or feelings of vengeance.
It is illustrative that eagerness is put in opposition to emotions. It seems that both sides in the burial dispute were stubborn and insistent. It is difficult when people in the church come to such an impasse. We do not tend to behave well in such instances. The urge to insist on our way is perhaps more eager than the discernment of justice. Would that we had more worthy women, and men, too, to lead the way.
27 June 2012
Not only is the altar a sign of Christ and a locus for the Paschal meal, but the altar is, in a very real way, a memorial for martyrs to the faith. Read this section:
5. All the dignity of the altar rests on its being the Lord’s table. Thus the martyr’s body does not bring honor to the altar; rather the altar does honor to the martyr’s tomb. For it is altogether proper to erect altars over the burial place of martyrs and other saints or to deposit their relics beneath altars as a mark of respect and as a symbol of the truth that the sacrifice of the members has its source in the sacrifice of the Head.(cf. Common of Martyrs 8, prayer over the gifts) Thus ‘the triumphant victims come to their rest in the place where Christ is victim: he, however, who suffered for all, is on the altar; they who have been redeemed by his sufferings are beneath the altar.’(Ambrose, Epistula 22, 13: PL 16, 1023. See Ps. Maximus of Turin, Sermo 78: PL 57, 689-690.) This arrangement would seem to recall in a certain manner the spiritual vision of the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation: ‘I saw underneath the altar the souls of all the people who have been killed on account of the word of God, for witnessing to it.’(Rev 6:9) His meaning is that although all the saints are rightly called Christ’s witnesses, the witness of blood has a special significance that only the relics of the martyrs beneath the altar express in its entirety.
Probably a good homiletic point for the dedicaiton Mass, if relics are to be housed in or under the altar. This is perhaps a bit more graphic than the churchy sensibilities of some might want to encounter. but it is a very real part of the faith, and need not be minimized.
26 June 2012
Posted by catholicsensibility under Liturgy
, spirituality Leave a Comment
Part b of the 98th section of the instrumentum laboris for the New Evangelization synod struck me:
Many responses gave particular attention to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which has almost disappeared from the lives of many Christians, and focused on the very positive experiences when the Sacrament is celebrated at special moments, e.g., World Youth Day and pilgrimages to shrines. However, even these moments of celebration have been unable to positively affect the overall practice of sacramental reconciliation.
This strikes me as a very accurate assessment. The real questions are: Can we change this? Should we?
The special moments might include Lent and Advent liturgies, as well as retreats (a favorite time of mine). Perhaps the faithful have something to tell in these practices. It might be that the window to a deeper (not necessarily more frequent) celebration of Reconciliation is to emphasize its celebration on these particular moments when people are sufficiently inspired to engage it.
And as for the monthly or weekly observance of Reconciliation, leaving aside its devotional nature for the moment, it would seem that small steps are more likely to be fruitful than urging people to leap from no confessions to frequent. And perhaps a word needs to be said for form III as a gateway to a more profound experience of form II or I. We tried it for what, eleven years? That doesn’t seem to be enough time.
One Chicago-area priest I spoke with years ago was a bit bitter about John Paul II’s deep-sixing form III. Just when I was getting more people to form I, he related, this edict comes along. I’m not expecting this synod to produce anything along these lines. Unless, that is, some attending bishop decides he wants early retirement.
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