I see the LCWR has released a brief statement on being placed into receivership. I haven’t surfed other blogs much on this. Nor do I intend to. I’m going to single out an item for comment that seems to have some connections with the “Vatileaks” revelations and suggest that this investigation is likely more indicative of institutional flaws in the Vatican:
Board members concluded that the assessment was based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency.
Given recent communcation methods in Rome, this can’t be discounted out of hand. In fact, it strikes me as plausible. Pope John Paul II was reportedly angry at some of the “Temple Police” sources feeding him misinformation in the 80′s.
Cardinal Levada has some explaining to do, I’d say.
One person who featured prominently in last week’s ouster of Ettore Gotti Tedeschi from the Institute for Works of Religion is Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. He hasn’t been solidly stuck with billing for the Cardinal Rodé affair, but it might be fair to wonder. It also goes to show that you don’t need to be ordained to behave badly in the Church. Not that Mr Anderson has been shown to behave badly. Not at all. But it hasn’t been demonstrated that women religious have been behaving badly either. Much of the Catholic laity doesn’t seem to be buying it. I know I’m still squarely in Camp Skepticism on this one.
Many passages in Isaiah hint, suggest, or proclaim a universal salvation. This isn’t confined to the later “incarnations” of the Isaiah tradition post-Exile (chapter 40ff.). One of the most popular Old Testament passages for a funeral lays out a vision in which “all peoples” shall enjoy a banquet of salvation:
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples [A feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy rich food and pure choice wines.] On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, The web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces; The reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the Lord has spoken. On that day it will be said: “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
I don’t know why the Lectionary editors omitted the portion in brackets above, 25:6b. Maybe the juicy rich food and pure choice wines won’t be served in the parish hall after the cemetery; only casseroles and lemonade.
Seriously, this passage gives a classic Christian picture of heaven. So why not proclaim and preach it at a funeral? Only four verses, but packed with solid theology and great imagery. A preacher might have to pick and choose from:
The mountain as the traditional place for the Israelite to encounter God.
God removes the obstructions of human sin; it is grace that we rely on to remove the tangles of our failures.
The end of death as a mortal inevitability.
Our tender God wipes away tears: the gesture of a loving parent.
Outsiders will have no reason to taunt the redeemed. This, the outgrowth of the ancient competitiveness between Israel (and its God) and the Gentiles (and their pagan gods).
The power of God’s Word: he has only to say something, and it will be so.
I think this passage is well-paired with Psalm 23, complementing how God actively pursues and provides for the psalmist with the Isaian expectation of God’s salvific grace for the entire believing and faithful community. That’s a lot of ground to cover. What do you think about Isaiah 25 as a passage for a funeral?
I’ve been taking some time with Sister Meg Funk’s 1998 book Thoughts Matter. In it she channels the great desert monk John Cassian and applies his fourth century principles for stabilizing the thoughts of the believer. I’m barely one-third of the way into the book, and I’m taking it very, very slowly. This is very, very good material. In Chapter Three, “About Sex” I found a few items of interest. More on that in a bit.
In researching my monthly liturgy column for a print publication, I was tuning into stories from German-speaking Europe on welcoming (or not) the divorced and remarried Catholic to Communion. When chided that the divorced-and-remarried and intermittent churchgoers should not receive Communion, the adults remained sitting at this First Communion Mass in Austria. I’m not quite sure what to make of that. Is Father Z happy because all those sinners stayed put? Is NCR happy because this was some kind of a sullen solidarity with the forty percent (of German Catholics who are divorced)? Are we lurching toward a Council of Trent proposition that Catholics don’t (and maybe shouldn’t) have to show up for Sunday Mass?
Archbishop Zollitsch and Cardinal Meisner have their dust-up about sacraments for the divorced-and-remarried. The German Bishops’ Conference Prez isn’t backing down, saying it is a “question of mercy.” I think it’s good this issue stays in the discussion basket. Maybe the saints of history can assist us. Sister Meg isn’t connecting these dots explicitly, but she does mention when John Cassian believed it was important for a monk to take a spiritual “time out,” as it were:
(He) wrote a section suggesting that it would be beneficial sometimes to require a monk to take a day’s journey from the monastery in order to reduce stress and allow him to return after such a journey to better relationships within the community. Cassian states that this is a permission to be absent—not an expelling, a punishment, or an isolation technique. This monk is not to be denied the Eucharist, or coming to the table. This leaving is for the sake of returning. It provides time for the monk to work the passions down to a less compulsory intensity. Evagrius, the teacher of Cassian, gives the following advice: Withdrawal in love purifies the heart. Withdrawal with hate agitates it. (Thoughts, p. 42)
The first thing I thought of when I read this was the non-violent method of child behavior modification, the time out. My wife and I used it very effectively when the young miss was young. There were times she was upset. And at times, the time out was as much for me or my wife to get our own upset managed. There was always a hug upon the return from the corner, even if grudgingly given. And a point was made about returning to normal as soon as time out was done.
The situation with a divorced-and-remarried person is more grave than scrawling “The Chamber of Secrets has been opened” on the bedroom wall. But I think that Cardinal Meisner, and others concerned about scandal and the sacramental life must realize that the Orthodox, whom Catholics recognize as having entirely valid sacraments, will permit a divorced person to return to Communion.
Any serious Catholic, including zealous cardinals, must concede that the matter of receiving Communion is not one of scandal, but of discipline. Where it is a matter of sinfulness, that is worked out between the believer and her or his confessor. It is not dictated from higher levels. Where there are legal marital irregularities, that is worked out by secular agencies. Once those matters are satisfied, a second marriage may be blessed, and the estranged believers returned to a full sacramental life.
Later in this chapter on thoughts “About Sex,” Sister Meg reports that in the desert tradition, the sacraments were seen also as part of the remedy needed for the believer beset by troubles, sins, and such, even “when undergoing the fires of sexual passions.” (Thoughts, p. 43, citing John Cassian Institute VI.3)
To be sure, I’m not advocating any sort of blanket amnesty for all Catholics married “irregularly.” What I do suggest is that the situation for serious believers would optimally be resolved by a pastor and/or spiritual director. I suggest that the exploration of reconciliation focus not only on the “sin” of divorce and a broken relationship, but also on a reception of love (not hate) and the exploration of the role of the sacraments in lay life. What I hope would result from this is a renewed appreciation for the Eucharist, not a free pass to do as one wishes. I think this is where we Roman Catholics can rid ourselves of this whiff of pelagianism in the suggestion that good conduct will reward a believer with sacramental participation. And I think we do need to maintain a seriousness about the matter of broken marriages. We always attempt reconciliation whenever possible. We prepare couples before they enter into marriage. Hopefully we do that in exceptional ways, probably with greater care than we do even for the sacraments of Eucharist, Penance, and Confirmation.
Let me offer a few possibilities for Roman Catholic pastoral ministry in an era that has moved beyond marriage tribunals.
A “casual” Catholic was sacramentally married for a brief time, just a few years, experiences a divorce, and then remarried several years ago. The second marriage is “irregular” but has demonstrated clear stability, children, and a reasonably evident witness of respect, love, and commitment. Said Catholic approaches the Church to return to a more active faith life. More active, say, than sending kids to Catholic school. An exploration of reconciliation, or marital commitment, of inviting Christ into the marriage, and a non-sacramental blessing of the second union: what more would be needed? And how long? Several weeks, possibly a few months, and possibly joined with guidance from an experienced married couple and a spiritual director.
A “committed” Catholic was sacramentally married for several years, active in the Church, parish-involved, parented children, but was largely at fault in a marital break-up, perhaps because of grave sin. The person has remarried recently and wishes to return to a life like it used to be. I think this situation should be viewed with more circumspection. Hopefully not from a sense of “hate,” but with the awareness that such a person is very likely aware of Church teaching on marriage, and perhaps has allowed her or his passions to disrupt the lives of many loved ones and friends. I’d hesitate about saying “never” to a return to the Eucharist. But I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest that a full reconciliation in the Church be handled much more carefully.
Obviously, most situations fall in between these extremes. It is here that a sound local judgment will usually be better than institutional policy. Even in the situation of an unrepentant sinner, we should hold out hope that a baptized believer may yet be welcomed by the Lord. More joy in heaven, right? And who are we to circumvent joy among the Communion of Saints?
I suspect God gives situations in which the sacraments are an occasion of the grace needed to tip a believer back from exile. That’s a discussion that’s needed today.
When reaching the closed and locked door of the new church …
33. At the threshold of the church the procession comes to a halt. Representatives of those who have been involved in the building of the church (the faithful or the parish or of the diocese, contributors, architects, workers) hand over the building to the bishop, offering him, according to place and circumstances, either the legal documents for possession of the building, or the keys, or the plan of the building, or the book in which progress of the work is described and the names of those in charge of it and of the workers are recorded. One of the representatives addresses the bishop and the community in a few words, pointing out, if need be, what the new church expresses in its art and in its own special design.
Then the bishop calls upon the priest to whom the pastoral care of the church has been entrusted to open the door.
The address by the representative is interesting. With some churches, that presentation might be fairly substantive. Most likely, we keep to one or two points about the overall art of the building.
34. When the door is unlocked, the Bishop invites the people to enter the church in these or similar words:
Go within his gates giving thanks, enter his courts with songs of praise.
Then, preceded by the crossbearer, the bishop and the assembly enter the church. As the procession enters, the following antiphon is sung with Psalm 24:
Lift the ancient portals. The King of glory enters.
Another appropriate song may be sung.
The 2003 draft has a slightly different antiphon, plus the whole text of Psalm 24.
35. The Bishop, without kissing the altar, goes to the chair; the concelebrants, deacons, and ministers go to the places assigned to them in the sanctuary. The relics of the saints are placed in a
suitable part of the sanctuary between lighted torches. Water is then blessed within the rite described below, nos. 48-50.
Finally, note that the undedicated altar is not reverenced.
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.