DPPL 103: The Christmas Novena

STA altar at night smallAnother Christmas novena is here, if you want to get an idea of how they are viewed in the popular imagination. The several I viewed online to prepare these comments were less Advent observances than Christmas ones. What the Church suggests here is more anticipatory of the Nativity, rather than celebrating it. Folding it into the Liturgy of the Hours is suggested:

103. The Christmas novena began as a means of communicating the riches of the Liturgy to the faithful who were unable easily to grasp it. It has played a very effective role and can continue to play such a role. At the same time, in current conditions where the faithful have easier access to the Liturgy, it would seem desirable that vespers from the 17-23 of December should be more solemn by adopting the use of the “major antiphons”, and by inviting the faithful to participate at the celebration. Such a celebration, held either before of after which the popular devotions to which the faithful are particularly attached, would be an ideal “Christmas novena”, in full conformity with the Liturgy and mindful of the needs of the faithful. Some elements, such as the homily, the use of incense, and the intercessions, could also be expanded within the celebration of Vespers.

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.

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The Synod Fathers Speak 5: Path and Miracle

window from inside

For reference, the so-called “short” document is online is here, in English. As of early this morning, the full document is still unavailable in English.

Some more lovely language; whoever is responsible should be writing more official stuff for the Vatican:

This authentic encounter begins with courtship, a time of waiting and preparation. It is realized in the sacrament where God sets his seal, his presence, and grace. This path also includes sexual relationship, tenderness, intimacy, and beauty capable of lasting longer than the vigor and freshness of youth. Such love, of its nature, strives to be forever to the point of laying down one’s life for the beloved (cf Jn 15:13). In this light conjugal love, which is unique and indissoluble, endures despite many difficulties. It is one of the most beautiful of all miracles and the most common.

This citation of John reminds me of the appropriateness of the mandatum for the Rite of Marriage. Service that leads to sacrifice and which ultimately involves the offering of one’s life for the beloved: this is the sort of inspiration that will inspire people who already hunger for it. I believe many people would embrace a ritual that speaks more deeply to the connection of Christ to marriage.

If only this common miracle shone more brightly for those who first encounter the rough waters of relationships.


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DPPL 102: Immaculate Conception

STA altar at night smallThe Immaculate Conception inspires the first major feast of the liturgical year. Some of DPPL 102 covers ground already touched on, the novena, and Latin American customs.

102. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is profoundly influential among the faithful, is an occasion for many displays of popular piety and especially for the novena of the Immaculate Conception. There can be no doubt that the feast of the pure and sinless Conception of the Virgin Mary, which is a fundamental preparation for the Lord’s coming into the world, harmonizes perfectly with many of the salient themes of Advent. This feast also makes reference to the long messianic waiting for the Savior’s birth and recalls events and prophecies from the Old Testament, which are also used in the Liturgy of Advent.

We also get something of a revisit on the fourth Sunday of Advent, squarely in the middle of the Christmas novena.

The novena of the Immaculate Conception, wherever it is celebrated, should highlight the prophetical texts which begin with Genesis 3,15, and end in Gabriel’s salutation of the one who is “full of grace” (Lk 1, 31-33).

Some testimony from today’s saint:

The approach of Christmas is celebrated throughout the American continent with many displays of popular piety, centred on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (12 December), which dispose the faithful to receive the Savior at his birth. Mary, who was “intimately united with the birth of the Church in America, became the radiant Star illuminating the proclamation of Christ the Savior to the (daughters and) sons of these nations”(John Paul II, Discourse at the Angelus of 24 January 1999, Mexico City.).

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.

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Archbishop ChaputArchbishop Chaput doubles down on rigorism. From David Gibson’s RNS report:

“I was very disturbed by what happened” at the synod, Chaput said. “I think confusion is of the devil, and I think the public image that came across was one of confusion.”

Is he concerned about the openness? That wasn’t the chant he was singing when he high-tailed it to Philly a few years ago:

I think people who know me, my priests and others, would say that I’m a rather kind and gentle person, but I also am not going to run away from issues. I’m not going to hide. We have to deal with difficult things right away, rather than letting them fester.

Responding to the question, “Your view is that dealing with things up front is ultimately less divisive?” he replied:

It’s less divisive, both for our own personal hearts and our relationships with people.

Still, the archbishop may be on to something with that citation of evil. Where I see the most confusion is on the conservative blogs. Even the tame language of welcome to sinners, without a hint of a change in doctrine, was vilified.

Archbishop Chaput has been critical of conservatives before:

Some of the worst emails I get are from Catholic conservatives …  I mean, just awful kind of stuff that they write. Sometimes, I must admit, that when I write back, I’m not as friendly as I should be. But I try not to be mean.

The left mail I get will use terrible words but be less vitriolic. They use the F-word and things like that, call me names like that. But the right is meaner, but they’re not as foul.

I think that the archbishop is well-placed to minister to the conservatives. He has stated that Pope Francis is their pastor, too. Well, the top prelate of Pennsylvania may well be a lot closer, especially to the meanies with whom he corresponds.

Let’s chant a bit about people who cite the devil too readily. I’m a skeptic there. Regarding the current state of confusion in Catholicism, I interpret that as self-inflicted. And if it is, the devil may well be amongst those who are most proud for having resisted evil advances. I remember in the Exercises that St Ignatius described the way long-time believers are tempted. The route is through good things. In this instance, good morals, virtue, and reverence for marriage are used to harden hearts and create little monsters who cannot abide any sinner might approach Christ and experience a mercy they are unwilling to offer. Is it meanness? Or is it envy?

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The Synod Fathers Speak 4: “Light of a Wedding Story”

window from inside

For reference, the so-called “short” document is online is here, in English.


There is also the evening light behind the windowpanes in the houses of the cities, in modest residences of suburbs and villages, and even in mere shacks, which shines out brightly, warming bodies and souls. This light—the light of a wedding story—shines from the encounter between spouses: it is a gift, a grace expressed, as the Book of Genesis says (2:18), when the two are “face to face” as equal and mutual helpers. The love of man and woman teaches us that each needs the other in order to be truly self. Each remains different from the other that opens self and is revealed in the reciprocal gift. It is this that the bride of the Song of Songs sings in her canticle: “My beloved is mine and I am his… I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 2:16; 6:3).

The truth? This is one of the most lyrical paragraphs to emerge from an official church source. More like this, please, and we lay people will have something to work with when we welcome people home.

It’s one of the reasons I chose that window as an image to accompany this series. God’s light is bright and warm, and welcomes people to find their desire and their calling in the sacrament of marriage. This wedding story is much more tender and profound than what is presented on reality tv.

“Equal and mutual helpers.” Nice, eh? Comments?

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Taking a break from English football to follow the World Series. I was on retreat, silently, earlier this summer. The Royals didn’t lose during the days I was incommunicado with the world, and were in first place for something like a day. Then I started reading the sports pages online and they fell from the top.

I told my baseball friends I wasn’t going to tune in until the last game of the Series. Given the way tonight’s game is running, I might have held to that promise.

I was amused at David Schoenfeld’s commentary here. Worst Series ever? Right.

As baseball and other pro sports expand playoffs, it no longer is about the best team winning. Playoffs are a tournament, and in an elimination tournament, a lot of unexpected things can happen. Witness the success of the NCAA basketball events each Spring. People like madness. Sometimes the best team wins. Sometimes it’s the best players. And sometimes it’s the group that puts together the right number of wins at the right moment.

If MLB were serious about three-hour games, they can enforce the rules already in the books. But they like the income from 180-minute games more than from the 150-minute games. So they won’t change.

MLB added playoffs in 1969, and baseball fans have enjoyed a lot of exciting, competitive sport. The price to pay is that often the 3rd, 4th, or even now, the 10th best regular season team might win the whole thing.

Baseball seasons are long. If people were really interested in the best team winning, they would organize a league so that all the teams would play one another the same number of games. Then, at the end, the first place team would be clearly the best. End of story. But that’s not the way American sport works.

I rather like the English model. In the Premier League, every team plays every other once at home and once in the enemy park. Winner is the champion. Then there are tournaments and champion’s leagues on the side. And that can be fun.

Worst World Series ever? It might still work out that way. Four 9-1 games. Lots of errors. That would be “worst.” What about this contest? Did the better team win?

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Free Speech Is The Earthquake

David Gibson on the synod:

Amid all the lobbying and armchair analysis, it’s important to step back and realize that in the three decades before Francis was elected pope, bishops, priests and theologians could have been investigated, censured, silenced or fired for many of the ideas that were being openly discussed at the synod.

That is perhaps the real earthquake, and it’s one that Francis himself wanted.

I think this is right.

In one sense, the hard-liners have already lost. They cannot control the speech. They cannot silence those who interrupt their aristocratic serenity. And best of all, people outside the Church know we are not a monolith of rigor. They might have to look a bit past the surface, but many Christians are here to welcome them.

I think Pope Francis has allowed this to play out crazy clever. The onus is on the bishops now to provide something for those of the household–all the clattering for more support for those who struggle in faithfulness to Christ.

One big step might be to put on hiatus the causes for bishops, priests, and religious founders. Married couples, and not just a few, need to be set out there as role models. As it is, the rigorists, knowingly or not, have ceded most of the exemplars in the Church to those of society, namely celebrities.

And on the local level, I think a lot of Catholics feel unburdened. Hopefully, we are prepared to offer the hand of welcome that a minority of bishops felt they could not extend. As for the bishops, fine. It’s not like they prepare couples for marriage, or write up documents for the declaration of nullity, or really get into the trenches much. In some cases, I’d prefer they take time for reflection and devote energy to their own formation and catechesis.

No, I think the synod turned out just fine. I know a number of people who will feel more free to talk. And truthfully: you can’t stop the talk.

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