Who Brings Communion to a Priest?

new low gluten hostA priest friend of mine, retired, underwent knee replacement surgery today. Our associate pastor went to visit. I’m not sure if he brought the Eucharist. But it struck me that a priest might be alone in a town, perhaps isolated from his brother clergy if he were to fall ill or be hospitalized. Maybe FrMichael and a few others can weigh in.

How often does a sick priest receive Communion from a lay person, if there is no other ordained person available? Just curious.

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Damage Control

I assume it was a plan to release a mid-meeting document from the synod. Why was it a surprise? Josephine McKenna at RNS reports on admitted “damage control,” or at least that’s what it looks like to Cardinal Wilfrid Napier:

The message has gone out, it is not what we are saying at all. Once it is out there there’s no way of retrieving it. It is not a true position. Whatever goes out after looks like damage control.

Cardinal Dolan:

It’s not the final word and we’re going to have a lot to say about it. And there were some that said we probably in our final statement need to be much more assertive about the timeless teaching of the church.

Wait. Don’t we already know “the timeless teaching of the church”? A lot of people are aware the Church also teaches about love and mercy. Are participants looking at catechesis as a whole, or just favorite teachings they like to repeat and feel comfortable repeating?

Maybe some of the rest of the Church will have something to say about it all, too.

My understanding is also that this month’s meeting is a preliminary event to the full synod which gathers next Fall. October 2015 will have a significant word. Whether or not it will be “final,” is likely not under the control of any prelate or group of prelates.

Personally, I think it would be good to take several years to explore marriage and family by the people who practice it. I think that lay theologians would also have some significant things to say. I’m sure the bishops would get somewhat nervous if lay people suddenly took over seminaries and diocesan vocation offices. Maybe I would too. I’ve worked closely with priests for over three decades. I might have something constructive to say here and there. But I’m largely content to let clergy take responsibility for recruiting their own.

FrMichael’s insistence on keeping lay Catholics as breeding stock points to the poverty of “traditional” understandings of marriage and family. That would be true whether he has somewhat misrepresented Catholic teaching–which I think he has–or if his writings here constitute the state of theology. There has to be something more, otherwise Church legislation is a tangle of misconceptions (so to speak) and tortured justifications and just plain incomprehensibility.

Some synod commentators have mentioned there’s not enough being said on the couples who have been fruitfully married for decades. I thought those were the token two dozen invited to present to the bishops. But otherwise, yes: I think it would be worthwhile to gather significant input, and not just surveys online.

My own suspicion is that many married couples, both troubled and fruitful, do not recognize competence or credibility in many clerics, especially bishops. As for the October 2015 ordinary synod, my suggestion is that no prelate be permitted to speak or vote unless he has prepared a non-relation for marriage and witnessed at least one marriage. And if the synod is really about families, I think it’s time for more lay people to speak. We might also have something to learn from spouses who were abused, abandoned, or otherwise harmed by a partner.

Meanwhile, I’m fine with an open discussion. I have no problem, even, with letting bishops and cardinals speak up, even if they struggle with a perception of the topic. Even their ignorance tells us something, and might point in a good direction.

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Aparecida 82 – Regional Cooperation

The bishops close the section on the socio-political dimension they note the efforts for regional cooperation in paragraph 82:

In Latin America and the Caribbean there is a growing desire for regional integration through multilateral agreements, involving a growing number of countries that establish their own regulations in the fields of trade, services, and patents. Common origin combines with culture, language and religion, and so integration involves not only of markets, but civil institutions and, above all, persons. Similarly positive is the globalization of justice in the field of human rights and of crimes against humanity, which will enable all gradually to live under equal norms, intended to protect their dignity, integrity, and life.

These efforts are, in some ways, efforts that rise from within Latin America and Caribbean. Many of the past and present efforts of regional integration have been fostered by the United States and have, in my opinion, been part of the effort of the US to control the region.

The globalization of justice is indeed an important element of any regional integration, aiding countries to deal with human rights questions beyond national justice systems that sometime aid and abet injustice within their national borders.

Here is an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Pronoun Problems

I see an interesting discussion unfolded last week at the Chant Café over that dreaded pronoun, “we.”

Nathan Knutson seems an earnest fellow. He seems to suspect various post-conciliar efforts at renewal. But God’s agency is undeniable:

Certainly God makes all things new.  Although God is often purposefully mislabeled, with references to Jesus as “I” and “you”.  Instead “We” became important, as so many disposable subscription pew books and hymnals continue to propose …

And from there a ctrl-V’ed list of some unattributed hymnal followed–all the titles and first lines that began with the word “We.” Some of those “we’s” aren’t really “we” at all, but “them.” Voice of the Three Kings or something.

Commentator John Quinn did something often I’d love to drop: many Scripture passages and citations of proper chants that use the word “we.”

The author might have been feeling defensive:

When we mention ourselves, we fall short of the purpose of Sacred music.

The purpose of music, as part of liturgy, is the purpose of liturgy: the glorification of God and the sanctification of people. I’m not sure what the problem is here. Surely the reform2 folks are not insinuating that their hearts are in the right and just place and that they never take the first person plural in vain, like all those non-chanting folks who are all just celebrating themselves when they vocalize on “we.”

The scramble was afoot. “We” isn’t so bad as long as there’s an explicit reference to Christ or God.

I suspect the effort in the essay and the apologist section of the commentariat was along the lines of this expression of the hermeneutic of subtraction:

And anyway, the classic example of anthropo-centric hymnody doesn’t have the word “WE” – it’s Gather Us In!

Oh golly. Missing the point that “us” is accusative case. Direct object. Object of God’s grace, something with which we hopefully cooperate no matter what pronoun we use.

Regardless of the words used, my sense is that many reform2 folks are themselves all about first-person plural despite their claim to be closer to God. When one group compares itself to another and stakes a claim to some kind of superiority, I’d say the godliness argument is totally out the window, oui?

Posted in Hermeneutic of Subtraction, Liturgical Music, The Blogosphere | 1 Comment

DPPL 93: Guidelines for the Harmonization of Popular Piety with the Liturgy

STA altar at night smallIf anybody is dozing (I can see your glassy stares!) for our series on the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (check the hyperlinked highlight for the document online) we’re getting close to wake-up time.

93. The following guidelines on the relationship between popular piety and the Sacred Liturgy are offered to facilitate the translation into concrete pastoral action of those principles outlined above, so as ensure consistency and fruitfulness in pastoral activity. While mentioning the most common pious exercises and devotional practices, the following exposition does not contain an exhaustive account of every possible local form of popular piety or devotional practice. Given the affinity of the material, and the fact that it sometimes falls into categories that are not clearly defined, some mention will be made of the pastoral care of the Liturgy.

“Concrete pastoral action” means telling us or giving examples of what we should do, what we could do. This Part Two, commencing today with section 93, will take us all the way to the conclusion of the document, section 288. Here’s the roadmap for the weeks ahead:

The following exposition contains five chapters:

  • chapter four, on the question of the Liturgical Year, seen from the prospect of the desirability of harmonizing its celebrations with popular piety;
  • chapter five, on the veneration of the Holy Mother of God, which occupies a singular position both in the Liturgy and popular devotion;
  • chapter six, on the cult of the Saints and Beati, which also occupies a significant place in the Liturgy and in the devotion of the faithful;
  • chapter seven, on suffrage for the dead, which occurs in various forms in the Church’s worship;
  • chapter eight, on shrines and pilgrimages; places and expressions characteristic of popular piety, and their liturgical implications.

While referring to very diverse situations, and to the multiplicity of types and forms found in pious exercises, the following text has been developed in constant reference to a number of fundamental presuppositions:

  • the superiority of the Liturgy in respect to other forms of cult(Cf. SC 7, 13);
  • the dignity and legitimacy of popular piety(Cf. DPPL 61-64));
  • the pastoral need to avoid any opposition between the Liturgy and popular piety, insurance that their various forms are not confused, so as to eschew the development of hybrid celebrations(Cf. DPPL 74).

These suppositions will be folded into our coming examination of the liturgical year, of devotion to Mary and the saints, of our connection with the dead, and special places and journeys that inspire our faith. I think more of our readers will find this part of the Directory more interesting, as we get specific and concrete about liturgy and devotional practices.

Any big thoughts, or small ones, as we move forward?

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Leaving aside any change in doctrine, what a difference a change of tone makes. Included in James Martin’s piece, a citation from the synod document:

Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.

“Astonishing” is how Fr Martin described that “praise.”


Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?

Some communities are capable. Others, perhaps not.

What do you make of John Allen’s term lifestyle ecumenism?

Fr Martin’s tweet today was incisive as well:

If I had said that “mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the [gay] partners” five years ago I would have probably been silenced. Now it’s the Synod of Bishops who is saying that. The Holy Spirit is afoot.

I think he’s right. Is Roman Catholicism better off for having people able to say such things? And what of this change in the quality in enthusiasm? Select conservatives seem to be in a tailspin, but most other Catholics seem full of a headiness we haven’t seen in decades. When the verve fades, will we be ready for the hard work of actually welcoming people and helping to inspire them?

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DPPL 92: Further Thoughts on Inculturation

STA altar at night smallThe CDWDS’s concerns here reflect the era 1978-2013, and perhaps some of this language might be tempered if it were being written today. That said, DPPL 92 opens with a genuinely optimistic view:

92. The adaptation or inculturation of a particular pious exercise should not present special difficulties at the level of language, musical and artistic forms, or even of adopting certain gestures. While at one level pious exercises do not concentrate on the essential elements of the sacramental life, at another, it has to be remembered, they are in many cases popular in origin and come directly from the people, and have been formulated in the language of the people, within the framework of the Catholic faith.

Do we presume faith? Good faith on the part of people who utilize forms outside of the liturgy? I would think yes.

The fact that pious exercises and devotions express popular sentiment, does not, however, authorize personalistic or subjective approaches to this material. With due respect for the competence proper to local Ordinaries or the Major Superiors of religious orders in cases involving devotions connected with their Orders, the Conference of Bishops should decide in matters relating to pious exercises widely diffused in a particular country or in a vast region.

The CDWDS is careful to involve people involved in religious life. Many practices might spread beyond the boundaries of any one diocese, if the devotional life is expressed within a broad religious community.

For bishops, the challenge may be less the acts of piety themselves, and the runaway charism of particular leaders.

Great vigilance and a deep sense of discernment are required to ensure that ideas contrary to the Christian faith, or forms of worship vitiated by syncretism, are not insinuated into pious exercises though various forms of language.

Theological issues such as syncretism are possibly better addressed as a large-scale effort. It’s not just pious practices, and it’s not just non-“orthodox” who fall prey to it. Language is perhaps over-criticized as a problem.

It is especially necessary to ensure that those pious exercises undergoing adaptation or inculturation retain their identity and their essential characteristics. In this regard, particular attention must always be given to their historical origin and to the doctrinal and cultic elements by which they are constituted.

Respect for the integrity of what lay people bring to public prayer: this is laudable.

With regard to the question of assuming certain elements from popular piety in the process of inculturating the Liturgy, reference should be made to the relative Instruction already published on the subject by this Dicastery(Cf. Varietates legitimate 45)

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

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