Neglect the Weightier Matters

I have been reading, but not too deeply, the news stories and commentaries coming out of Ferguson, Missouri. I recognize that the corporate media has its own agenda there. It’s not likely that very deep journalism is taking place. I’ll likely have to wait for some blockbuster feature to come from one of the smaller press organs.

This morning I saw a link on RNS to yesterday’s opinion piece from Anthea Butler. In considering the public prayer of those policing the town, her citation of Frederick Douglass rather stings, doesn’t it?

The whole situation has me thinking a lot about Frederick Douglass’ Slaveholding Religion and the Christianity of Christ. His words still ring true with regard to the empty prayers of the police in Ferguson “They attend with pharisaical strictness to the outward forms of religion, and at the same time neglect the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith.”

Ms Butler cites the cursing of police toward protesters. If that is true, it suggests to me that they have lost the moral high road. Cursing, whether the use of God’s name, or the expression of sexual acts or elimination, would indicate one or more of several possible attitudes:

  • A grave disrespect for God, suggesting that prayer is mere show and hypocrisy. If not a mockery of God.
  • Forced sexual acts are a matter of force and domination. The verbal suggestion of those indicate the idea is not to keep the peace, but to suppress and intimidate.
  • Citing words associated with elimination almost always shows anger. And if peacekeepers cannot control the anger within, they certainly have no hope of keeping a peace they have already lost.
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My archdiocese is asking for assistance for refugee children from Central America. I often find Pewsitter headlines amusing, like their take on this:

Dubuque Archdiocese, Catholic Charities call for donations for illegal border flood support.

We’ve seen a lot of urging for support through archdiocesan communications to our staff. It’s also true that the numbers of refugees heading to Iowa have decreased. Foster homes are no longer being sought.

Is this a different kind of persecution than Iraqi Christians, who seem to be getting more sympathy from American conservatives? Seems like American misadventures overseas come back to bite somebody. Corruption in Central America. The Bush Wars in southwest Asia.

What’s the American response? Save a few kids out of guilt? Obligation? People who threw flowers at American troops or those who sold us our coffee and sweatshop clothing?

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DPPL 27: Saint Gregory the Great

STA altar at night smallOn the border between antiquity and the Middle Ages was the great pope to whom we attribute much in the Roman Rite:

27. Mention must be made of the pontificate of the great pastor and liturgist Pope St. Gregory VII (590-604), since it is regarded as an exemplary reference point for any fruitful relationship between the Liturgy and popular piety. Through the organization of processions, stations and rogations, Gregory the Great undertook a major liturgical reform which sought to offer the Roman people structures which resonated with popular sensibilities while, at the same time, remaining securely based on the celebration of the divine mysteries. He gave wise directives to ensure that the conversion of new nations did not happen without regard for their own cultural traditions. Indeed, the Liturgy itself could be enriched by new legitimate cultic expressions and the noble expressions of artistic genius harmonized with more humble popular sensibilities. He established a sense of unity in Christian worship by anchoring it firmly in the celebration of Easter, even if other elements of the one mystery of Salvation (Christmas, Epiphany, and Ascension) were also celebrated and the memorials of the Saints expanded.

It’s interesting to contrast the openness of the early Church to new expressions in comparison to the stranglehold the Tridentine stasis had on much of Roman Catholicism during a time when it may have been sorely needed.

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

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EG 288: With Mary, Mother of the Living Gospel

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdaleneWith section 288, Pope Francis wraps up Evangelii Gaudium. The infancy narratives of Luke’s Gospel lead into a final prayer. Rather than comment on this, let’s just read and reflect today:

288. There is a Marian “style” to the Church’s work of evangelization. Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness. In her we see that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but of the strong who need not treat others poorly in order to feel important themselves. Contemplating Mary, we realize that she who praised God for “bringing down the mighty from their thrones” and “sending the rich away empty” (Lk 1:52-53) is also the one who brings a homely warmth to our pursuit of justice. She is also the one who carefully keeps “all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). Mary is able to recognize the traces of God’s Spirit in events great and small. She constantly contemplates the mystery of God in our world, in human history and in our daily lives. She is the woman of prayer and work in Nazareth, and she is also Our Lady of Help, who sets out from her town “with haste” (Lk 1:39) to be of service to others. This interplay of justice and tenderness, of contemplation and concern for others, is what makes the ecclesial community look to Mary as a model of evangelization. We implore her maternal intercession that the Church may become a home for many peoples, a mother for all peoples, and that the way may be opened to the birth of a new world. It is the Risen Christ who tells us, with a power that fills us with confidence and unshakeable hope: “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev 21:5). With Mary we advance confidently towards the fulfilment of this promise, and to her we pray:

Mary, Virgin and Mother,
you who, moved by the Holy Spirit,
welcomed the word of life
in the depths of your humble faith:
as you gave yourself completely to the Eternal One,
help us to say our own “yes”
to the urgent call, as pressing as ever,
to proclaim the good news of Jesus.

Filled with Christ’s presence,
you brought joy to John the Baptist,
making him exult in the womb of his mother.
Brimming over with joy,
you sang of the great things done by God.
Standing at the foot of the cross
with unyielding faith,
you received the joyful comfort of the resurrection,
and joined the disciples in awaiting the Spirit
so that the evangelizing Church might be born.

Obtain for us now a new ardour born of the resurrection,
that we may bring to all the Gospel of life
which triumphs over death.
Give us a holy courage to seek new paths,
that the gift of unfading beauty
may reach every man and woman.

Virgin of listening and contemplation,
Mother of love, Bride of the eternal wedding feast,
pray for the Church, whose pure icon you are,
that she may never be closed in on herself
or lose her passion for establishing God’s kingdom.

Star of the new evangelisation,
help us to bear radiant witness to communion,
service, ardent and generous faith,
justice and love of the poor,
that the joy of the Gospel
may reach to the ends of the earth,
illuminating even the fringes of our world.

Mother of the living Gospel,
wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones,
pray for us.

Amen. Alleluia!

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 24 November, the solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, and the conclusion of the Year of Faith, in the year 2013, the first of my Pontificate.

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DPPL 26: Liturgical Families

STA altar at night smallThe CDWDS speaks of the “formation” of liturgical families. Certainly, the particular practices of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Rome all developed strongly prior to Constantine. Freer travel and greater accessibility to the liturgical and devotional life of the ancient Church just brought it all out into the open.:

26. During this period, the formation of various liturgical families with their consequent differences, matured. The more important metropolitan Churches now celebrate the one worship of the Lord with their own cultural and popular forms which developed from differences of language, theological traditions, spiritual sensibilities, and social contexts. This process gave rise to the progressive development of liturgical systems with their own proper styles of celebration and agglomeration of texts and rites. It is not insignificant to note that even during this golden age for the formation of the liturgical rites, popular elements are also to be found in those rites.

Such “popular” elements were naturally part of what people of faith brought to the liturgy before things became standardized somewhat in the larger cities. Bishops met throughout the 4th and 5th centuries to address not only liturgy, but as we know, essential matters of faith, such as the nature of Christ and the governance of the Church.

On the other hand, bishops and regional synods began to establish norms for the organization of worship. They became vigilant with regard to the doctrinal correctness of the liturgical texts and to their formal beauty, as well as with regard to the ritual sequences.* Such interventions established a liturgical order with fixed forms which inevitably extinguished the original liturgical creativity, which had not been completely arbitrary. Some scholars regard these developments as one of the source of the future proliferation of texts destined for private and popular piety.

* “[Placuit] ut nemo in precibus vel Patrem, vel pro Filio, vel Filium pro Patre nominet. Et cum altari assistitur, semper as patrem dirigatur oratio. Et quicumque sibi preces aliunde describit, non eis utatur, nisi prius cum instructioribus fratribus contulerit”: THIRD COUNCIL OF CARTHAGE , can. 23, N. 1, in I. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, III, Florentiae 1759, col. 884; “Placuit etiam hoc, ut preces quae probatae fuerint in concilio celebrentur, sive praefationes sive commendationes, seu manus impositiones, ab omnibus celebrentur, nec aliae omnino contra fidem praeferantur: sed quaecumque a prudentioribus fuerint collectae, dicantur”: Codex canonum Ecclesiae Africae, can. 103 (ibid., col 807).

Make of that note, as you will.

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

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EG 287: Mary, Star of the New Evangelization


When Pope Francis speaks of the “star of the new evangelization,” I would imagine we are not talking celebrity, but guiding light. We are not talking just a religious figure of history, but one who makes intercession for us with her Son. This reminds me of the Ignatian practice of the triple colloquy, in which we come to Mary, and then together we move to Christ.

287. We ask the Mother of the living Gospel to intercede that this invitation to a new phase of evangelization will be accepted by the entire ecclesial community. Mary is the woman of faith, who lives and advances in faith,[Lumen Gentium 52-69] and “her exceptional pilgrimage of faith represents a constant point of reference for the Church”. [Redemptoris Mater 6]  Mary let herself be guided by the Holy Spirit on a journey of faith towards a destiny of service and fruitfulness. Today we look to her and ask her to help us proclaim the message of salvation to all and to enable new disciples to become evangelizers in turn.[Cf. Propositio 58]

Mary as evangelizer: do we accept this? Certainly our imitation of her example would include her own embrace of her Son and his mission.

Like Mary, we are human. Human weakness and imperfection will dog us, but we have an encouraging reminder from St John Paul:

Along this journey of evangelization we will have our moments of aridity, darkness and even fatigue. Mary herself experienced these things during the years of Jesus’ childhood in Nazareth: “This is the beginning of the Gospel, the joyful good news. However, it is not difficult to see in that beginning a particular heaviness of heart, linked with a sort of night of faith – to use the words of Saint John of the Cross – a kind of ‘veil’ through which one has to draw near to the Invisible One and to live in intimacy with the mystery. And this is the way that Mary, for many years, lived in intimacy with the mystery of her Son, and went forward in her pilgrimage of faith”.[Redemptoris Mater 17]

The apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, is available online.

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Outclassed Clarets

Burnley_FC_badge_2010If game one of their season was any indication, Burnley FC looks to be in for a very long season. Chelsea turned on the juice for about twenty minutes, and the home side was lucky to escape to halftime down only 1-3 and not a player besides. For long stretches of the second half the visitors appeared to be toying with the Clarets who, except for one or two sleepwalking moments by the victors, didn’t seem to belong on the field at all.

Was the addition of two top players just too much for a Chelsea opponent? What about the rest of the league?

It looks like Chelsea and Man U City will be at the top all season long. I’m hoping for Swans to finish 7th, but a top half finish seems doable. What if Man U were to finish its first season about 11th place? What do you suppose would be the reaction from the faithful then? Does it seem like Alex Ferguson retired at the right moment?

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