DPPL 87-88: Word of God and Popular Piety

STA altar at night smallThe Word of God is important. “Indispensable” is how the Church puts it.:

87. The Word of God, as transmitted by Sacred Scripture, as conserved and proposed by the Magisterium of the Church, and as celebrated in the Sacred Liturgy, is the privileged and indispensable instrument of the Holy Spirit in the faithful’s worship.

Indispensable to “worship,” not just liturgy.

Since the Church is built on, and grows through, listening to the Word of God, the Christian faithful should acquire a familiarity with Sacred Scripture and be imbued with its spirit(Cf. Dei Verbum 25), so as to be able to translate the meaning of popular piety into terms worthy of, and consonant with, the data of the faith, and render a sense of that devotion that comes from God, who saves, regenerates and sanctifies.

How much does popular piety draw upon Scripture for content and, at least, inspiration> How much should it?

The Bible offers an inexhaustible source of inspiration to popular piety, as well as unrivalled forms of prayer and thematic subjects. Constant reference to Sacred Scripture is also a means and a criterion for curbing exuberant forms of piety frequently influenced by popular religion which give rise to ambiguous or even erroneous expressions of piety.

We read there’s some skepticism on exuberance. I tend to be a mild-mannered guy, but I’m thinking this bias against exuberance is more a cultural aversion, not a theological one. Should be not be fully connected with our affect, and with its expression, at least some of the time? And for those believers for whom an outward enthusiasm is just an expression of their personality, I’m good with leaving things as they are–as long as content is sound. The Bible is one way of ensuring sound content and a sense of faithfulness to Christ.

One short section:

88. Prayer should “accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that a dialogue takes place between God and (people)”(Cf. Dei Verbum 25). Thus, it is highly recommended that the various forms of popular piety normally include biblical texts, opportunely chosen and duly provided with a commentary.

Familiarity with Scripture might even begin with its insertion into pious and devotional practices. Not at all a bad thing.

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

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Synod And The Elephant: Tackle or Tickle?

For the first time, the synod addressed the issue that has been driving Catholic rigorists crazy, sacramental life for those who have remarried after a divorce.

In the first part, therefore, the Assembly continued its reflection on the matter of access to the sacrament of the Eucharist for divorced and remarried persons. Firstly, it re-emphasised the indissoluble nature of marriage, without compromise, based on the fact that the sacramental bond is an objective reality, the work of Christ in the Church. Such a value must be defended and cared for through adequate pre-matrimonial catechesis, so that engaged couples are fully aware of the sacramental character of the bond and its vocational nature.

Sure. I suppose it had to be stated. I think it must also be stated that the tussle among churchfolk is not between those who favor total laxity, but rather the middle way versus the rigorists. We’ve done it the rigorist way for a long time now. Some would say for two millennia, but I think that diagnosis is more wishful thinking than rooted in actual practice.

I suppose we also had to bring up the canard of catechesis.

Pastoral accompaniment for couples following marriage would also be useful.

You think?

Way too much of what the Church has to say focuses on the beginning and the end of marriage. Far too small a slice for what happens in between.

Second to the plate was the camp of the middle way, and those of mercy:

At the same time, it was said that it is necessary to look at individual cases and real-life situations, even those involving great suffering, distinguishing for example between those who abandon their spouse and those who are abandoned. The problem exists – this was repeated several times in the Assembly – and the Church does not neglect it. Pastoral care must not be exclusive, of an “all or nothing” type but must instead be merciful, as the mystery of the Church is a mystery of consolation.

In my life, I’ve heard complaints, great and deep, for those who have been abandoned by their spouse. I’ve also heard the broken record lamenting no-fault divorce in society. But not so much on the blanket no-mercy approach of canon law. Civil law and practice may have much that needs criticizing. But let’s not be hypocrites about it.

I have yet to be convinced the institutional Church does not neglect Marriage. I think our clergy and bishops are very selective in their approach.

It was in any case recalled that for divorced and remarried persons, the fact of not having access to the Eucharist does not mean that they are not members of the ecclesial community; on the contrary, it is to be taken into consideration that there exist various responsibilities that may be exercised. Furthermore, the need to simplify and speed up the procedures for the declaration of marriage nullity was underlined.

And it is interesting that the synod bishops speak of the responsibilities of those who do not have access to the sacraments. And the first solution they adopt here is a canonical one. Not one of ministry, mercy, or even the self-improvement of knowledge and discernment.

It’s a good day to keep praying for the bishops. The more I read this week, the more convinced I am that the bishops need us married laity more than we need them.

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DPPL 85-86: Common Priesthood and Popular Piety

STA altar at night smallA good reminder that by our baptism, we are marked as priests. And as priests, we offer aspects of our lives to God. It is just that simple:

85. Through the sacraments of Christian initiation, the faithful become part of the Church, a prophetic, priestly and royal people called to worship God in spirit and in truth (cf. John 4, 23). The Church exercises this task through Christ in the Holy Spirit, not only in the Sacred Liturgy, especially in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, but also in other forms of the Christian life, among which are numbered the various forms of popular piety. The Holy Spirit confers the ability to offer sacrifices of praise to God, to offer prayer and entreaty to Him, so as to make of one’s life “a living and holy sacrifice, pleasing to God” (Rm 12, 1; Heb 12, 28).

The notion of the priesthood of believers has gotten a bit battered lately. Some clergy and laity are concerned things have changed too much, or that lay people are horning in on what clergy do. But there is a deeper and more profound aspect of this role than just the considerations of ecclesiastical politics, of jealousy, or of usurpation:

86. On this priestly basis, popular piety assists the faithful in persevering in prayer and in praising God the Father, in witnessing to Christ (cf. Acts 2, 42-47), and in sustaining their vigilance until He comes again in glory. It also justifies our hope, in the Holy Spirit, of life eternal (cf. 1 Pet 3, 15) and conserves important aspects of a specific cultic context, and, in different ways and in varying degrees, expresses those ecclesial values which arise and develop within the mystical Body of Christ.

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

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Some Thoughts

When I read Archbishop Cupich’s thought on war:

His role as pastor doesn’t fit with the “so-called culture wars” over various issues either, he said. “That’s a term we as pastors don’t want to be associated with. I don’t think we should be associated with any kind of war. War divides, destroys. It has winners and losers. The main role of pastors is to keep people together.”

… I recalled my former ordinary’s approach to the culture**:

I also want to tell you soberly, dear friends, “We are at war!”

The context isn’t quite the same. Bishop Finn places his statement in a larger sense of a struggle against evil. I know, I know: traditional Christian language suggests a war of good versus evil. My own sense is the struggle is far more subtle. It’s a real struggle, no doubt. But unlike traditional war, it seems more like spycraft, and that every one of us, unwilling or not, are at times, double agents. Good vs evil is not a media event. Where people are concerned, the battle lines are not so clearly drawn. More like one foot on one side of the fence and on foot on the other.

In the blogosphere, I noticed Max Lindenman, sort of the token liberal at Patheos Catholic, closed up shop a few months ago. I enjoyed his writing. It was a refreshing tweak to the B16 faithful drumbeat there. And the interminable time it takes for pages to load because of the right bar content. Max hadn’t been writing so often the past year, and as you might guess, I would catch up every few months.

Patheos hasn’t quite gone into the pathetic pathos of antifrancis I’ve seen on a lot of other blogs. A blogging friend on the sidebar is now members-only. Maybe that’s a sort-of withdrawal from the world, like the desert mothers and fathers.

On a personal note, we’re back from a whirlwind 24 hours to Kansas City and back. Everything looked good for the young miss and her heart on the twice-a-year check-up. Her clinic is not too far from the amusement centers on the northeast side, so finding non-crummy hotels has been an adventure for us on the past few trips. We finally found a good one, but it was about fifteen miles out of town. Well worth it.

Unfortunately, when given a choice between an 8:30 appointment and an afternoon one, my wife chose the former. Tough on the women in the family, who are not morning persons. Me, that’s not so bad. Except when the hotel bed is unfamiliar and I ate too much Chinese food for dinner. Is heartburn an appropriate participation in a cardiology trip?

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DPPL 84: Piety and Church Discipline

STA altar at night smallSome words confirming that while popular piety does not have the red, the black, the praenotanda, etc., there is a hierarchical authority which oversees it:

84. Popular piety, as an expression of ecclesial piety, is subject to the general discipline of Christian worship and to the Church’s pastoral authority which exercises a role of discernment and authentification in relation to it. The Church renews popular piety by placing it in fertile contact with the revealed Word, tradition and the Sacred Liturgy itself.

Not only authority, but a dialogue, if you will, with a certain trinity.

Some important reminders on relationship:

On the other hand, expressions of popular piety must always be open to the “ecclesiological principle” of Christian worship. In this way:
• popular piety can have a correct understanding of the relationship between the particular Church and the universal Church. When popular piety concentrates on local or immediate issues, it risks closing itself to universal values and to ecclesiological perspectives;
• the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of the Angels and Saints, and suffrage for the dead, should be set in the vast context of the relationship between the heavenly Church and the pilgrim Church on earth;
• the relationship between ministry and charism should be properly understood, while the former is necessary for divine worship, the latter is frequently found in manifestations of popular piety.

These “spectra” are also important in liturgy, are they not? How a local church expresses itself in the context of universal liturgy in terms of particular charisms of preaching, music, presidency, hospitality, etc..

Perhaps Catholics today have less than a full understanding of the full accounting of the Church. Do we see the heavenly contingent as significant? How do we perceive the role of the saints: something more than just intercession?

And the brief mention of ministry and charism above. It seems like the latter is the basis for all of the former. Otherwise, who are we ordaining, and what are they serving?

Thoughts on this?

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

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Reconciliation Lectionary: Isaiah 1:10-18

mary-the-penitent.jpgThe prophet Isaiah is known for his gentle passages, perhaps due to the lovely settings found in so much classical music as well as contemporary liturgical compositions. But remember, this is the same guy who had his lips cauterized in the Temple. Recall also that cloak rolled in blood at Midnight Mass.

Isaiah opens up his “book” (some would say scroll) with a bitter condemnation of “Sodom and Gomorrah,” along with their religious practices:

Hear the word of the LORD,
princes of Sodom!
Listen to the instruction of our God,
people of Gomorrah!
What do I care for the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the LORD.
I have had enough of whole-burnt rams
and fat of fatlings;
In the blood of calves, lambs, and goats
I find no pleasure.
When you come to appear before me,
who asks these things of you?
Trample my courts no more!
To bring offerings is useless;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath, calling assemblies—
festive convocations with wickedness—
these I cannot bear.
Your new moons and festivals I detest;
they weigh me down, I tire of the load.
When you spread out your hands,
I will close my eyes to you;
Though you pray the more,
I will not listen.

Can you imagine? The more we pray, the more God might not listen. This is why, a lack of justice, and the misdeeds that go with it:

Your hands are full of blood!
Wash yourselves clean!
Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes;
cease doing evil;
learn to do good.

And what might this catechesis entail? What Jesus talked about:

Make justice your aim: redress the wronged,
hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.
Come now, let us set things right,
says the Lord:
Though your sins be like scarlet,
they may become white as snow;
Though they be red like crimson,
they may become white as wool.

This passage strikes me as a good one for Lent, though Advent is not bad either. Many communities take pride in liturgy–either conservatives who do and say the right things, or progressives with impressive and participatory liturgy. Does this activity evangelize? Does it relieve suffering? Does it take action to attempt to right a few of the world’s wrongs? That is what the prophet is asking. That is what the Lord Jesus asks, too.

Psalm 51 seems a no-brainer for a pairing in the Liturgy of the Word. Beatitudes, perhaps, for the Gospel. Can you think of a better passage from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John to use?

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Praying With the Synod: Psalm 128:1-4

I had it in mind to post daily some suggestion on the synod in Rome convening this week and next. I missed yesterday. I suppose we can read the pope’s homilies and statements for the opening of the meeting. Y’all know where to find that, right?

Maybe I’ll remember to post daily on this. It’s important enough to pray daily for the bishops and others meeting. I suppose I could grumble about the need for more family people to be part of the conversation. I notice others bothered that there’s so much “secrecy” about who is talking and when.

Maybe it’s good to remember …

How good to revere the Lord,
to walk in God’s path.

This opening of Psalm 128 sets the stage. We identify in families, perhaps. Or as a family of clerical brothers. But in all walks of life, we revere God and hope we walk on God’s path. This is one of the Songs of Ascents, a set of pilgrimage texts for people on their way to Jerusalem. Jesus walked that way, of course, in religious devotion with Joseph and Mary.

God has a promise:

Your table rich from labor–
how good for you!
Your beloved, a fruitful vine
in the warmth of your home.

Live olive shoots,
children surround your table.
This is your blessing
when you revere the Lord.

olive treeAs we ponder the state of the family, do we see it as something of a reward for making a good choice of a wife or husband? And the children to which some of us feel entitled? Are we all aware that maintaining a family is hard work. It is hard work that leads to richness, fruitfulness, and warmth. Not a sense of entitlement.

When a friend married twenty-five years ago, she and her fiancé titled their wedding program “Love is a choice.” Wise words. And they are meaningful in the sense that the choice of love involves a choice to work. And sometimes work hard. And sometimes work in difficulty when it seems one is working alone.

Verse 4 of the psalm brings it back to God. Know a blessing when we revere the Lord. Reverence is not just bowing and scraping in the right temple. It is also practicing reverence with people who themselves are the temple of God. Blessings are a natural consequence of hard work, faithfulness, and keeping our commitments.

My prayer today is that the bishops will work hard at the synod, and that they will revere God in his temple and in his many other temples.

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