Reconciliation Lectionary: Mark 10:32-45

mary-the-penitent.jpgJesus and his disciples are on their way to Jerusalem–the final hour approaches. He predicts his Passion, and offers great detail. Peter is not the one with foot in mouth in this episode. James and John jockey for top billing after the Lord.

I find this to be a strange choice for a Lectionary reading for the Sacrament of Penance. Perhaps the prediction of the coming suffering is apt, but this passage highlights the sin of ambition, if not inappropriate behavior as death draws near.

They were on the way, going up to Jerusalem,
and Jesus went ahead of them.
They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.
Taking the Twelve aside again,
he began to tell them what was going to happen to him.
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem,
and the Son of Man will be handed over
to the chief priests and the scribes,
and they will condemn him to death
and hand him over to the Gentiles
who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him,
and put him to death,
but after three days he will rise.”

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him
and said to him,
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?”
They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right
and the other at your left.”

Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the cup that I drink
or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

They said to him, “We can.”
Jesus said to them,
“The cup that I drink, you will drink,
and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;
but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.

“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Verses 32-34 and 42-45, which excise John and James by name, are an option.

I would counsel caution when looking at Bible passages that zero in on a specific sin. Ambition is considered a virtue in many Western corners. It wouldn’t surprise if people in our culture were to ask, “What did those two apostles say and do that was so wrong?!”

Perhaps the passage is rescued for general use by Jesus’ advice to be great through he service of all. That means serving everybody all, not just all the people I like.

This is another long passage that I wouldn’t think would suit well in most instances of form I, individual confession. And in a communal setting, I think a liturgy preparer has other, better choices that will strike a broader chord.

But I’m interested in what you readers think? Any wider applications I’ve missed? Ever hear this in liturgy?

Posted in Rite of Penance, Scripture | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Reform2 Dialogues OCP

A friend has posted communications to and fro with the West Coast’s big liturgical music publisher. The effort started here. The Chant Café ban is back in place for me, so I thought I’d engage Charles out of sight/site from his reform2 buds.

I’m a skeptic. To begin with, I think Charles overstates the case:

Well, the readership of the Café, MSForum, NLMovement, CCWatershed and other like minded sites, though maybe no more than 10-15% of the demographic size of NPM, comparing Colloquium to convention, is still a very powerful and influential voice in the RCC sacred music community.

It’s a loud voice, to be certain. If decibels equate with power, no argument here. Influential is a stretch. My sense of the Café and the CMAA is that they talk a good bit in circles. Politically, it’s what is referred to as “playing to the base.” Would I expect to hear any good news about the current President on Fox? The prior President on Mother Jones? Is the CDF influential because they dislike theologies of liberation and feminism? What would happen if the MLB World Series winner played the LLWS winner? The power and influence would be limited to a single very small ballpark, regardless of how many runs were scored.

When the stump speech is predictable, and the audience doesn’t change, that’s not influence. It’s narcissism.

I wonder if more chant these days isn’t due less to reform2 influence and just the natural course of a more popular and regarded Early Music. Heck, even Ray Repp was doing plainchant in the late 70’s, before most of the CMAA young lions were out of diapers, let alone conceived in a Psalm 139:13 way. My sense is that Columba Kelly and Chrysogonus Waddell were far more influential. The latter’s long collaboration with Steve Warner strikes me as the real way to go: honor the plainsong tradition, yet stretch things a bit and mix up some good influences.

I wonder how many of the reform2 influential people actually use Big Three materials. I think you would have to actually browse the product you’ve used, rather than rely on what Catholic Answers message boards or back issues of Antiphon have to say about particular songs they love to hate.

I can’t help but think that for people other than Charles, this is more about hate than love. I don’t think I’m offering a blanket condemnation here–I used to read these websites regularly. Once a person gets into a lather about All Things Wrong, it’s very hard to keep the froth under control.

From Charles’ letter:

I would suggest that a significant portion of the subscription volumes have not only stagnant and unused repertoire that escapes attention year to year, but also some material whose textual content is clearly at odds with the needs of authentic worship with the rites. There are likely a substantial number of songs, hymns and ordinaries whose musical content has seen its sunset realistically and take up valuable page space that other much more vital and necessary content could resuscitate OCP’s waning perception as a viable, all inclusive and orthodox service provider.

If I were an OCP subscriber, I might share most of my friend’s opinions and assessments on his list. There might be pieces that go unused by me.

But the funny thing is, I suspect a number of people take the annual survey OCP sends out very seriously. I might have qualms musically and maybe theologically about some pieces, but clearly, others do not. There’s a reason why OCP’s annual music issue has ballooned from a few hundred to nearly 1,000 numbered items over the years. It is very difficult to ax popular pieces. It’s hard when you’re a parish music director and you are open to input. I’m sure it’s hard for a publisher who wants to maximize either usability or the profit line.

And speaking of pastoral ministry, I have to take seriously the attachment many people have to music and lyrics I personally consider substandard. Why does weak music persist? I admit I do my very best with music I dislike. I make a point of it, on behalf of my own integrity and a sense of service. But I think it’s more than helping good musicians put lipstick on the you-know-what. There’s more to it.

From OCP:

I note that the 2014 edition of Breaking Bread includes more than 45 chant pieces and Latin hymns. We continue to consider chant pieces for inclusion in our missals and have added several in recent years. That said, I will also forward to our committee your suggestion that we increase the number of Latin chant pieces.

How much increase would be enough? And also, I mean how much subtraction of disliked songs would satisfy? Will a reform2 effort to Chinese water torture the Landry/Conry/Lynch/early Damean repertoire off the pages ever be satisfied. None of those folks ever had a website devoted to a moratorium on their music, to be sure.

If OCP and others do indeed “need” a shift in editing priorities, I don’t see the reform2 folks as being the ones to do it.

Posted in Hermeneutic of Subtraction, Liturgical Music, The Blogosphere | 3 Comments

Is Survival The Plan?

trench warfareMore blogging lament, this time across the Atlantic from me. The title was intriguing enough: “If the Catholic blogosphere is to survive then our bloggers must become more Catholic.” I wasn’t quite sure how to take that at first. A misspelling of small-c catholic? Or more virtuous in a Catholic sort of way: more faith, hope, and love … especially prudence?

The comments are illustrative too. Much praise for Michael Voris and his boot-to-the-butt version of Catholicism. Much praise as long as a body is watching someone else’s rear get a boot print, and not on the receiving end of a kicking.

I’m not sure that blogging survival is the real mission here. The Gospel and its proclamation seems primary to me. Blogging is a tool. Like writing letters. Like television. Means to good ends. But only means. Ink on calfskin has gone by the wayside, but that doesn’t mean the whole Bible is sunk. The medium of transmission has changed.

Blogging among Catholics seemed to spring from two events, and in part, a transformation from the old message boards of the late 90’s.

Father Z adapted quite well from his early days as a moderator and turned blogging into a personal cottage industry. I think chat rooms and the old 90’s-style stuff is still in the internet wilderness somewhere. But blogging provides a wider platform the old didn’t provide: images, video, sound, and a deeper personalization.

It might have been Amy Welborn who commented that 9/11 and the Boston sex abuse cover-ups jump-started Catholic bloggers into action in 2001-02. It was at least a conflation of blog platforms and a reason to keep the discussion going. But bloggers good and otherwise have been dropping from view ever since. Some of us have died. Some of us found that the demands of real life took time away from the internet–Deo gratias, many have said. Especially families.

Mary O’Regan writes:

Nearly five years ago, I started a Catholic blog that has been modestly successful. The high-point was when I was invited to the Vatican Blogmeet in May 2011. During those exhilarating days of Benedict’s pontificate, bloggers raised their voices in support of the German Pope.

Will the apex of the blogosphere be remembered for “exhilarating days,” or was it just a coincidence of a particular pope and a particular technology? I’m not sure I found those days to be terribly exhilarating, from the viewpoint of Church, its theology and politics. But I kept writing–only God knows why.

Ms O’Regan, unlike other lamenters, does offer some positive advice:

As regards bloggers who are “low on inspiration”, perhaps they could devote their energy to myth busting? This takes patience and fortitude, but surely there is little excuse to be idle when by and large our society has such bewildered ideas about our faith. We have a missionary faith, and the Church exists for the aim of saving souls.

It’s a curious thing. Nothing I write these days has any real impact on the visits this site generates. About 80 to 85% of the traffic here is due to people looking for readings for their weddings or funerals. Those posts were written two to six years ago.

I don’t think my mission is about saving souls as much as it is presenting the Gospel in whatever terms I can muster, and then get the heck out of the way.

And if getting out of the way means some bloggers are dropping their time spent on the internet, maybe it’s being spent in prayer or with family instead. And that’s a good thing, too.

Posted in The Blogosphere | Leave a comment

DPPL 36: Evangelization Distant From Rome

STA altar at night smallMissionaries of the 1500’s brought new considerations. For the first time in centuries, Christianity encountered new cultures that did not know Christ. Particular practices of the Franciscans, the Jesuits, and others in the evangelization apostolate brought popular pious practices to the effort:

36. From the end of the fifteenth to the beginning of the sixteenth century, the discovery of Africa, America and the Far East caused the question of the relationship between Liturgy and popular piety to be posed in new terms.

Inculturation was very minimal:

While the work of evangelizing and catechizing countries distant from the cultural and cultic centre of the Roman Rite was certainly accomplished through preaching the Word and celebrating the sacraments (cf. Mt 28, 19), it also came about through the pious exercises popularized by the missionaries.
Pious exercises became a means of transmitting the Gospel message and, following conversion, of preserving the Christian faith. By virtue of the norms designed to preserve the Roman Rite, there were few reciprocal influences between the Liturgy and the autochthonous cultures. In Paraguay, the Reductiones are a rare example of this. The encounter with these cultures, however, was easily facilitated in the field of popular piety.

I’m thinking also of Japan, where Christian inroads were made, but then many generations of believers persisted despite not having the celebration of the sacraments.

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

Posted in Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, post-conciliar liturgy documents | Leave a comment

Pulling Saints Down To The Level Of Scandal

I have an icon of the Apostle to the Apostles in my office. She holds a container of myrrh, a traditional Eastern image. As far as I’m concerned, the apocryphal tradition that she was a prostitute is an unneeded hagiography. Male demoniacs in the Bible weren’t accused, as far as I know, of being pimps or male companions. The Bible witness is enough, rich enough. Maybe she went to France or to the desert. Consult Dan Brown on the former, I guess.

Maybe Dan Brown would take exception to the attempted rehabilitation of disgraced LC founder Marcial Maciel, as cited in the NCRep:

The priest speaks his heart: “Marcial Maciel’s initials are also MM, just like Mary Magdalene. She had a problematic past before her deliverance, so there’s a parallel. Our world has double standards when it comes to morals. Some people have a formal, public display and then the real life they live behind the scenes.

“But when we accuse someone else and we are quick to stone him, we must remember that we all have problems and defects. With modern communications so out of control, it is easy to kill someone’s reputation without even investigating about the truth. We should be quieter and less condemning.”

At dotCommonweal, our friend Jimmy Mac had the most insightful rejoinder: MM are also the initials of Marilyn Manson. I think the shock rocker comes off badly in comparison to the man, but we get the drift.

Maybe it’s time to just fold the whole Legionaries experiment. It seems like attempting to graft live branches on a dead tree with a poisoned root. But on the other hand, raising $40M is not chickenfeed. Even if one gets wrong the Bible, moral theology, and perhaps even the truth.


Posted in Church News, Commentary | 2 Comments

Defining A Martyr

Considering a photojournalist, an archbishop, and countless others, who determines martyrdom? Is it the martyrs themselves? Their survivors and colleagues and loved ones? Their murderers? Some post-death committee of truth? The number of disciples who follow in their footsteps?

Do politics negate martyrdom in some way, especially if some want to politicize one side or another? Regarding Mr Foley and Archbishop Romero, does their heroic witness get dampened if either leftists or anti-Islam crusaders want to fly a banner for their own purposes?

To that last question, I’m inclined to say no. Saint Patrick isn’t damaged because centuries later, his feast day is a mid-Lent exercise in eating beef and drinking too much beer.

I think a martyr’s survivors and disciples get to choose, with or without the Church’s blessing. I think a martyr is defined in part by her or his life’s witness and in part by how others who follow live their Christian witness in the world because of that act of sacrifice.

Will James Foley inspire other lay people to live lives of faith and quality and commitment in the face of danger? I suspect he might. Has Archbishop Romero inspired others to live like him? I would suggest his witness runs deeper than pilgrimages to his cathedral and the to-and-fro of the tussle between theologies.

As long as a martyr remains only an entry in a page on a liturgical calendar, only the source of miracles and wonder, I wonder if that’s enough.

Posted in Commentary, Saints | 1 Comment

Inspector Lewis

LewisHome sick with the flu these days. You’ll have noticed blogging was very slow yesterday. I’ve been watching a few episodes of my wife’s dvd collection of Lewis, the fine British tv series. I confess upfront I’m not familiar with the original series based on Colin Dexter’s novels, nor the books themselves.

It’s interesting to view an entire small screen series beginning to end. One gets a sense of character development as they solve some pretty brutal cases. The veneer of civilized Oxford has a very seamy underbelly. Makes me wonder a bit about my university town.

I enjoy the twist on the standard old cop/new cop thing: Lewis is something of a hothead and his young assistant, Hathaway, is the solid, thoughtful one. I like the development of Hathaway, too: former seminarian who plays world music when he’s not prying small details out of cases.

A number of episodes have religious faith as a context for the mystery. That catches my notice, of course. Lewis is skeptical of faith, but overall the treatment of religion is largely fair.

Cinematography and musical scoring is marvelous. I can’t think of better work I’ve seen on tv. Most feature films don’t measure up to it either.

As for the overall feel of the series, I don’t recall any episode that stands out or that fails the grade. I know that I enjoy the deception and shift in the episodes–none have left me disappointed. If only science fiction television were this good.

Posted in television | Tagged | 1 Comment