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.
Are you familiar with the compositions of Tobias Picker? Have a listen to his tone poem, ”Old and Lost Rivers” and tell me what you think. Opera seems to be his real gift–have any readers experienced his works in that genre?
Getting back to the musical link above, this piece has struck me as akin to the slow movements in Aaron Copland’s ballet suites, but perhaps with a bit more staying power. Copland never seemed to dwell on the open prairie too long or spend too much time at the Corral Nocturne. It’s likely just my taste, but I don’t mind spending considerable time taking things slowly.
I was talking with my wife last night about the cardinal virtues. We were sharing our struggles with the quality of hope. Faith and love, it seems to me, are much easier to practice. Or as they say in AA, to fake it until we make it.
Hope is something I find in “Old and Lost Rivers.” There’s that open harmony suggestive of the longing within the human spirit, the awareness that there’s something beyond us, something better, something we can wait for. Instead of grasping for the immediate moment and the crass pleasures, I think, why not put it off? Why not linger on the sometimes delicious self-denial? Psalm 31:22-24:
I had said in my alarm,
“I am driven far from your sight.”
But you heard my supplications
when I cried out to you for help.
Love the Lord, all you his saints.
The Lord preserves the faithful,
but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord.
All you who wait …
The US Bishops continue their Fortnight for Freedom. We continue here with worthy women.
Anne-Thérèse Guérin was only thirteen years younger than yesterday’s featured worthy woman, but also French. After caring for her widowed mother and younger siblings, she entered religious life in her mid-twenties. Sister St Théodore was an award-winning teacher who also visited the poor and the ill. A new call presented itself to her when the first bishop of Vincennes (in Indiana) sent a recruiter to his homeland.
Impressed with the abilities of Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton and her Sisters of Charity in his early years of ministry in Maryland, Bishop Bruté was enthusiastic for the possibilities of committed women religious in pioneer America. The Sisters of Providence were approached, and their superior general suggested Sister St Théodore lead a small band of women religious to Indiana. After some initial reluctance, she reflected later that a line from her congregation’s rule inspired her to respond to the call: “The Congregation being obliged to work with zeal for the sanctification of souls, the sisters will be disposed to go to whatsoever part of the world obedience calls them.” And that part was in the forests of the American Midwest.
Bishop Bruté died before the women arrived in the States. The replacement bishop seemed to have a different approach from the collaborative nature of his predecessor. Bishop de la Hailandière got along well with Mother Guérin at first. She praised his “compassionate” heart. When she returned from a fundraising voyage to France, however, she found that her new bishop had, in her absence, admitted novices to the community, opened and closed schools, and called for a community election to replace her. Further, he accused her of stolen money.
The sisters of St Mary of the Woods, however, unanimously reelected their leader.
Mother Guérin was conciliatory, and offered to resign outright. From a letter to the bishop:
My conscience is my witness that I have done all that I could to avoid this misfortune, for I love Indiana with my whole soul. To do good there, to see our Congregation solidly established there before I die, was my whole ambition; the good god her permitted that you did not wish it; may his will be done.
It was not enough for the bishop. In a subsequent meeting, he locked her in his house, until she consented to his rewriting the rules of the sisters. When her sisters came in search of her, he declared Mother Guérin released from her vows, and exiled her from Vincennes. When the community made plans to follow their superior to another diocese, Bishop de la Hailandière threatened to excommunicate all of them.
Before the conflict escalated further, a rather curious thing happened. A pro forma letter of resignation to the new pope, Pius IX, was accepted, and Bishop de la Hailandière (though the same age as Mother Guérin) found himself heading back to France for retirement. Upheaval between the Sisters of Providence of St Mary of the Woods and their diocese vanished, and Mother Guérin’s community thrived in the state of Indiana. This worthy woman was declared a saint in 2006.
More histories are written about saints than their persecutors. Even so, Bishop de la Hailandière comes across as somewhat unbalanced. The insistence of a bishop to rewrite the rules of a Catholic women’s community remains with us, if the reasons and motivations behind it are somewhat cloaked and not quite so clumsy.
Mother Guérin’s legacy is more than being the target of a bishop’s power struggle. Though we can appreciate her tart assessment of the hierarchy: “I have the greatest aversion to this kind of administration. It seems to me it would keep our sisters in a species of slavery.” We can also appreciate the 5200 daughters who have called St Mary of the Woods their motherhouse. And the works by which they have served the Church and their Indiana neighbors. Worthy women, all.
Mass is not limited to the setting of the Church, but for the regular celebration of the Eucharist, a permanent altar is traditional:
4. The Church’s children have the power to celebrate the memorial of Christ and take their place at the Lord’s table anywhere that circumstances might require. But it is in keeping with the eucharistic mystery that the Christian people erect a permanent altar for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper and they have done so from the earliest times.
The Christian altar is by its very nature properly the table of sacrifice and of the paschal banquet. It is:
- a unique altar on which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated in mystery throughout the ages until Christ comes;
- a table at which the Church’s children gather to give thanks to God and receive the body and blood of Christ.
In every church, then, the altar ‘is the center of the thanksgiving that the eucharist accomplishes’ (GIRM 259) and around which the Church’s other rites are, in a certain manner, arrayed. (Mediator Dei)
At the altar the memorial of the Lord is celebrated and his body and blood given to the people. Therefore the Church’s writers have seen in the altar a sign of Christ himself. This is the basis for the saying: ‘The altar is Christ.’
Both meal and sacrifice: this is also the Church’s long, traditional teaching. The rite is careful to emphasize the association of Christ himself with the altar, but note it is not the same as it is for the Eucharistic elements. Nevertheless, being a “sign” of Christ is very important, apart from our observation of and reverence for the Real Presence. Comments?