The Synod Fathers Speak 2: Christ Enters

window from inside

The “short” document is online is here, in English. We’re taking a few paragraphs a day from it. The fourth sets the stage for a series of challenges that follow:

We offer you the words of Christ: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20). On his journeys along the roads of the Holy Land, Jesus would enter village houses. He continues to pass even today along the streets of our cities. In your homes there are light and shadow. Challenges often present themselves and at times even great trials. The darkness can grow deep to the point of becoming a dense shadow when evil and sin work into the heart of the family.

We recognize the great challenge to remain faithful in conjugal love. Enfeebled faith and indifference to true values, individualism, impoverishment of relationships, and stress that excludes reflection leave their mark on family life. There are often crises in marriage, often confronted in haste and without the courage to have patience and reflect, to make sacrifices and to forgive one another. Failures give rise to new relationships, new couples, new civil unions, and new marriages, creating family situations which are complex and problematic, where the Christian choice is not obvious.

And so the situation is acknowledged: people are imperfect. I like the diagnosis that the marital crisis in which we find ourselves so often is blundered by taking things too quickly and not embracing courage. In marriage, there are two. Teamwork, companionship, mutual support: all these better than being mindless breeding stock chained to expectations of fertility.

The Christian choice is not at all obvious in many situations. The role models we are offered are not celibate saints, but celebrities with flashy lives, plus the secular advertisements urging us to youth and frivolity. And make no mistake: even self-styled “faithful” Catholics are steered wrong as often as not.

My hope is that institutionally, we can look at more positive role models of married couples who have sex, and live ordinary lives in extraordinary ways. Religious wannabes, not so much.

The irony in paragraph 5 is that so much of this–probably all of it–applies to clergy and even bishops: enfeebled faith, indifference to values, individualism, impoverishment of relationships, and a lack of reflection and contemplation. Clergy and bishops confront crises in the Church, often with haste and cowardice, lacking patience and discernment, void of sacrifices and especially forgiveness.

But this synod didn’t say anything about the priesthood, did it? Or did it?

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DPPL 99: Advent Processions

STA altar at night smallThe procession that comes to mind is Las Posadas, which I believe originated in Mexico.

99. In many regions, various kinds of processions are held in Advent, publicly to announce the imminent birth of the Saviour (the “day star” in some Italian processions), or to represent the journey to Bethlehem of Joseph and Mary and their search for a place in which Jesus would be born (the posadas in the Hispanic and Latin American tradition).

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

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Aparecida 85-86 — The Amazon

The Amazon basin is one of the most ecologically rich regions of the earth and has been called the “lungs of the earth.” However, as the bishops note in paragraph 85, citing Pope Benedict XVI, the devastation wreaked on the region:

In his address to youth in Pacaembu Stadium in Sao Paulo, Pope Benedict XVI drew attention to the “environmental devastation to the Amazon and the threats to the human dignity of its peoples,” and asked the young people for “greater commitment and the broadest areas of action”.

In paragraph 86, the bishops express their opposition to the internationalization of the Amazon, a policy that would negatively affect the lives of the native peoples living there as well as the environment.

The growing assault on the environment may serve as a pretext for proposals to internationalize the Amazon, which only serve the economic interests of transnational corporations. Pan-Amazon society is multiethnic, multicultural, and multi-religious.

They also note what of the most critical and volatile issue: land use and ownership.

The dispute over the occupation of the land is intensifying more and more. The traditional communities of the region want their lands to be recognized and legalized.

The Church in Brazil has been engaged in efforts to assist the landless as well as the native populations to organize against the efforts of large landowners and international corporations to take over lands, some of which have been used traditionally by native peoples. In these efforts leaders in the church and the popular organizations have experienced persecution, threats, and even death. Among the martyrs of the struggle for land in Brazil are Chico Mendes, a leader of the rubber workers, Fr. Josimo Morais Tavares, and Sister Dorothy Stang.

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

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A Match In Three Acts

I viewed the Man City match versus Spurs today before heading to the office. Blogging will be light, as I have duty at four Masses plus the student retreat.

The announcers were talking about missing the Premier League after a two-week break. I got the idea it was more than just shilling for their corporate masters at Barclays and NBC.

The first thirty minutes were thrilling, and Spurs seemed to be punching back at the home team, keeping nearly level in chances and in the score.

The middle thirty minutes, I got the notion that it was more about missing chances rather than connecting. Hugo Lloris was big in net for Spurs and Joe Hart also had to work to keep his team ahead.

After the 67th minute penalty, it seemed like the life went out of Tottenham. They had their chances to draw level in the second act. But then things spiraled out of control. Grim inevitability set in for the visitors. I had to tune out by the 85th minute to get ready for work.

Ice hockey divides its contests into three acts, like a play. This early match seemed also to have three acts. It wasn’t a nailbiter to the end (unless I missed a Spurs miracle after the 85th minute) but it was a great experience to watch.

swan-in-attack-mode-2Swansea have a rare Sunday match–I will be back at the parish, playing at Mass. hopefully I can catch the replay online when I get home tomorrow night. I hope they can get the full six points from their next two opponents, as the schedule gets notably tougher in their November matches.

One of the students was wearing a Man U shirt at Mass the other night. We struck up a conversation, mainly talking about how David DeGea saved their butts at the end of the Everton match two weeks ago.

He was amazed to find someone rooting for Swans here in the States. The Manchester United brand is worldwide, of course. Small cities on the South Wales coast, not so much.

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The Synod Fathers Speak 1

window from inside

The final “small” document from the extraordinary synod is out, in English.  Another, longer form, is due out later. That presumably will contain “proper” language on this and that.

I found the small version heartening and appropriate. Leading off with “We, Synod Fathers” is accurate.  But there is more to a family than the Father. And more to Church than bishops.

As I wasn’t in attendance, and I’m not sure just what the impact of lay testimony was, I will offer a cautious criticism that more voices need to speak and be heard. Families consist mainly of husbands and wives. Our sacrament is at the center of the family.

Voices of adult children (the priests and bishops) are important and must be heard. But their experience is limited to being observers, and in a way, outsiders to the graced inner life of spouses.

Let’s read:

We, Synod Fathers, gathered in Rome together with Pope Francis in the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, greet all families of the different continents and in particular all who follow Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We admire and are grateful for the daily witness which you offer us and the world with your fidelity, faith, hope, and love.

Each of us, pastors of the Church, grew up in a family, and we come from a great variety of backgrounds and experiences. As priests and bishops we have lived alongside families who have spoken to us and shown us the saga of their joys and their difficulties.

The preparation for this synod assembly, beginning with the questionnaire sent to the Churches around the world, has given us the opportunity to listen to the experience of many families. Our dialogue during the Synod has been mutually enriching, helping us to look at the complex situations which face families today.

These things strike me in these first three paragraphs:

  • I appreciate gratitude. God knows I try to cultivate it in myself. I also feel grateful that the world’s bishops are spending time and effort, and if one believes the blogosphere, their reputations to invest time in assisting in this most blessed sacrament and the families that spring from it.
  • It is true that every cleric was once a child in a family, and later entered into an adult relationship with parents. It is not quite the same as the sacrifice we husbands and wives embrace. I would not presume to say what it is like to preside over the Eucharistic assembly during the anaphora–on a daily basis. Most priests and all Catholic bishops today are spectators to a degree, participants with a perspective common to close friends, adult children, and counsellors. Often experienced? Yes. Insights to offer with perspective? Certainly. I would trust a man who has been a parish pastor much more than academics, chancery officials, seminary staff, or others who have insulated themselves from preparing women and men for marriage, witnessing the commitment, and being there when things begin to go wrong.
  • The bishops acknowledge the importance of the pre-synod efforts as well as the lay speakers. We have helped them in this effort. I feel grateful for that.


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DPPL 98: The Advent Wreath

STA altar at night smallThe most recognizable piece of home piety that has translated to the Advent church is a certain circle of greens with accompanying candles:

98. Placing four candles on green fronds has become a symbol of Advent in many Christian home, especially in the Germanic countries and in North America.
The Advent wreath, with the progressive lighting of its four candles, Sunday after Sunday, until the Solemnity of Christmas, is a recollection of the various stages of salvation history prior to Christ’s coming and a symbol of the prophetic light gradually illuminating the long night prior to the rising of the Sun of justice (cf. Ml 3,20; Lk 1,78).

I have seen many variations on this theme in churches over the years. Perhaps the most impressive was an eight-foot plywood circle wrapped in chicken wire, hung on a wall, and stuffed with evergreens. Candles were in stands in front of it. In other parishes, I’ve seen a huge wagon wheel used, also just a tracing of greens on the floor in a large narthex. And of course, dining room-sized pieces nudged into large churches.

The way the liturgy stands today, the wreath is optional for Advent, not required. Ever been in a church that opted out?

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

Posted in 2007 Aparecida document, Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, post-conciliar liturgy documents | 1 Comment

Mercy and What? Envy?

Father Dwight Longenecker is a staple at Patheos and here and there on the right-leaning internet. I noticed today that Crux reprinted his essay from Crisis earlier this week. When I visit his site occasionally, Fr Longenecker strikes me as truly attempting to absorb the new tone in the Catholic Church. During the previous era, I thought him a bit stuffy and SCGS* in approach.

It’s not my style to fisk a person’s essay and construct an imaginary conversation like I was editing tape for personal amusement. I’d like to peel out one statement and reflect a bit:

I know the Synod on the Family is an attempt to make the Church more compassionate and caring, but with respect, this is not best done at the Vatican or diocesan level but on the parish level.

I tend to agree with this. But I suspect Fr Longenecker has been a Catholic and a priest long enough to know it hasn’t quite worked out that way.

One ministry incident from a number of years ago: a lesbian couple requested baptism for their infant. My pastor at the time contacted the canon law expert in the diocese as well as the bishop and received the go-ahead. Still, there were people fussing on the fringes of this ministry. I was not privy to the conversations with the complainers, but I know there were more than one, and that my boss devoted some time attempting to defuse the issue.

In the years 1978-2013, mercy on the parish level was occasionally costly. The Temple Police had decibels and clout, as often as not, it seemed.

I think the effort is to accomplish a more evangelical and welcoming ministry, ironically enough, with respect. The Gospel passage from a few weeks ago comes to mind as insightful of this situation when the landowner confronted the grumblers:

My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last. (Matthew 20:13b-16)

Those who are looking for some heartening word from Pope Francis are forgetting the “deal” they made. It’s not the same deal sinners made or have yet to make. It’s not the same deal the elder brother holds. It’s a part of God’s topsy-turvy way of gathering as many as possible into the Reign.

I suggest we get used to it and enjoy the ride.

I sure hope we keep the door closed on the Temple Police. They drain away energy. They have their covenant. And that seekers and non-believers and sinners have a different way to God isn’t bothersome to me, nor should it be bothersome to any other believer.

After all, God is free to dispense mercy as wished, right? Or is envy at work here?

* Small church getting smaller

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