VNO 21-24: For Civil Needs of Government

Beginning with the 21st VNO Mass, we look to various “Civil Needs.”  Some of them have no proper antiphons assigned, Masses for the nation or state (#21), for those in public office (#22), for a governing assembly (#23), or for the head of state or ruler (#24). For clergy prayers, each of these contains a lonely collect. Perhaps the intention here is to use the prayer itself on some civic occasion, such as the swearing in of politicians.

These government issues are covered very well in the Lectionary for Mass, however. Numbers 882-886 actually give a large number of readings, on par with the number of choices for a wedding or funeral. Felix Just’s Lectionary site has the full summary of VNO Masses here. Just be aware that “themes” don’t exactly match what’s in the 2010 edition of the roman Missal in English.

If you were to ask me my perfect choices for a special Mass for the government in today’s American climate, I’d use Isaiah 58:6-11 (authentic fasting), then Advent’s Psalm 85 (more on justice and peace in the governance of God), followed by the Gospel of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).

If I were looking to a Psalm for another musical text, I’d say the 112th fits well.

Some years ago, we blogged on Masses And Prayers For Various Needs And Occasions. In the GIRM, sections 368-378 cover the universal regulations on their use. You can check our brief comments here and here and here. The USCCB’s unannotated text on the matter is here.

 

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Aparecida 293-294: Parishes And RCIA

There is no substitute for parishes. Clergy and religious don’t initiate on their own. Neither do specialized groups, associations, or extra-parish communities. Their members might inspire seekers. But parishes celebrate the full range of sacraments and possess the community to get the task done. This is even true of small communities without resident pastors.

The Aparecida bishops speak well of RCIA here:

293. The parish must be the place where Christian initiation is assured. Its unavoidable tasks include:

  • initiating insufficiently evangelized baptized adults into Christian life;
  • educating baptized children in the faith in a process that leads them to complete their Christian initiation;
  • and initiating the non-baptized who upon hearing the kerygma, desire to embrace the faith.

In this task, studying and assimilating the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is a necessary focal point and secure support.

It may be that individuals and parishes have a flawed view of what RCIA is and what it can accomplish. You may notice that lassoing baptized Christians into Catholicism isn’t part of the above list. This is not an omission. Remember, this document is about evangelization, not chasing after low-hanging fruit. Or outdoing the Lutherans, Episcopalians, or others. Baptized Christians already have relationships with Jesus Christ.

In an ideal outlook, RCIA changes everything:

294. Taking on Christian initiation demands not only a renewal of the parish’s mode of catechesis. We propose that the formative catechetical process adopted by the Church for Christian initiation be assumed throughout the continent as the ordinary and absolutely necessary way of introduction into Christian life, and as basic and fundamental catechesis. It will be followed by ongoing catechesis which continues the process of maturing in the faith, which should encompass vocational discernment and offering enlightenment for the direction of one’s personal life.

294 is a deceptively important section that summarizes our discussion on Christian initiation. This proposal counteracts the tradition of catechesis that prevails in much of the Catholic world: that catechesis succeeds infant initiation and that a graduation event–either sacramental (First Communion, Confirmation) or age-level (Catholic grade school high school or college) concludes the process. We largely leave vocational discernment to an accident of what charismatic mentor one might meet. We rarely make the connection to daily life, where the primary drivers are the various models of business, sport, famous persons, self-help programs, or other secular concerns.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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VNO 20: For a Spiritual or Pastoral Gathering

What qualifies as a “Spiritual or Pastoral Gathering”? Maybe the liturgical texts can give us a notion.

In the 1998 edition of the Lectionary for Mass, this “need” is fused with the occasion of a council or a synod. We can conclude that excluding these big events, a meeting would be fair game. Such a meeting would likely include clergy, so Sunday is unlikely. I’m thinking a convention or workshop.

The readings offered are surprisingly few: Deuteronomy 30:10-14 (the word is near), Psalm 19:8-11 (words of everlasting life, and an Ordinary Time common psalm), Philippians 2:1-4 (the preliminary to the Kenosis Canticle). The Church gives a choice of three Gospels: Matthew 18:15-20 (binding and loosing), Mark 6:30-34 (Jesus’ plans for a deserted place are overcome by the crowds), or John 14:23-29 (the Lord speaks of peace at the Last Supper).

As for music, we have:

Entrance Antiphon Cf. Matthew 18:19, 20

Thus says the Lord: Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Or: Colossians 3:14-15

And over all things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body.

Communion Antiphon

Where true charity is dwelling, God is present there. By the love of Christ we have been brought together.

The entrance choices match up with the Gospel readings. I think a New Testament Canticle would be a better match for these than something from the Jewish Scriptures. But if you pressed me, I would suggest Psalm 100 or 121 or 122 or 133 or even 128.

The Communion antiphon is clearly Ubi Caritas. Settings of that are beyond counting.

The Roman Missal recommends the use of the second Holy Spirit preface. Perhaps that might add Psalm 104 into consideration for some sung text at the Mass. What would you think of that?

Some years ago, we blogged on Masses And Prayers For Various Needs And Occasions. In the GIRM, sections 368-378 cover the universal regulations on their use. You can check our brief comments here and here and here. The USCCB’s unannotated text on the matter is here.

 

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Aparecida 292: Traits of a Disciple

Are you a disciple? Or does your Christian identity reside solely in belief? Or that and knowledge?

The bullet points below outline some qualities on which one can check oneself. Note there are three overarching categories, but I’d like to draw out three important words of description.

We speak often of that personal relationship with Jesus, and the checkpoint is this: Is Jesus central?

Prayer is important to the Christian life, but the question offered by the Aparecida bishops is this: do we have the spirit in our lives?

And third, does involvement in the communities of the church and society involve cheer? Or is it a burden we must bear? I think this matter is separate from the frequent introvert complaint. Introverts aren’t misanthropes. Crowds drain energy from an introvert, but one can still show love to others, experience fervor, and find a source of cheer before one goes off alone to rest.

Let’s read:

292. As traits of the disciple, toward which Christian initiation points, we single out:

  • having as center the person of Jesus Christ, our Savior and fullness of our humanity, source of all human and Christian maturity;
  • having a spirit of prayer,
    • being a lover of the Word,
    • practicing frequent confession
    • and participating in the Eucharist;
  • cheerfully being a part of the ecclesial and social community,
    • showing solidarity in love,
    • and being a fervent missionary.

 

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Aparecida 291: Growth In Discipleship

291. Being a disciple is a gift that is intended to grow. Christian initiation provides the possibility of a gradual apprenticeship in knowledge, love, and following of Jesus Christ. It thus forges Christian identity with fundamental convictions and accompanies the search for the meaning of life. The catechetical dynamics of Christian initiation must be undertaken. A community that takes on Christian initiation renews community life and awakens its missionary character. This requires new pastoral attitudes on the part of bishops, priests, deacons, people with vows, and pastoral agents.

 

What does it mean, this intention to grow? A Christian disciple is never in a place of stasis, unchanging in one’s orientation. There is always an impulse to get closer to God. Sometimes we do not achieve this, either in appearance or reality. But it is a matter of cooperation with grace, plus the intention of moving forward, seeking new frontiers and opportunities.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Aparecida 290: Mystagogical Catechesis

Pope Benedict reminds us that Christian formation includes more than just book-learning:

 

290. We recall that in the oldest tradition of the Church, the formative itinerary of the Christian “always had an experiential character. While not neglecting a systematic understanding of the content of the faith, it centered on a vital and convincing encounter with Christ, as proclaimed by authentic witnesses.” (Sacramentum Caritatis 64) This is an experience that leads into a deep and joyful celebration of the sacraments, with all the wealth of their signs. Life is thereby gradually transformed by the holy mysteries celebrated, enabling the believer to transform the world. The term for it is “mystagogical catechesis.”

 

As long as “promote” liturgy as “obligation,” we’ll continue to reap the results: a perfunctory observance rather than an encounter with Christ, the living Son of God.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Aparecida 289: Proposals for Christian Initiation

Sections 289 through 294 outline “Proposals for Christian initiation.” This section outlines a progression that is not always followed. Many places in Christendom suffer from more of a “club membership” notion of being a believer. For Catholics, that sacramental moment, after which we have rights. But the responsibilities of Christian life are not emphasized quite as much.

Let’s read of the Aparecida bishops’ “urgency.”

289. We feel the urgency of developing in our communities a process of initiation into Christian life starting with the kerygma, guided by the Word of God, leading to an ever greater personal encounter with Jesus Christ, perfect God and perfect man, (Cf. Symbol Quicumque: DS 76) experienced as fullness of humanity, which leads to conversion, to following in an ecclesial community, and to a maturing of faith in the practice of the sacraments, service, and mission.

 

So this boils down to the following:

  1. The essence of Christ is preached: Mission, Passion, Resurrection as the saving act of God for people.
  2. The Word of God nourishes the seeker.
  3. Developing that personal encounter with Jesus.
  4. Personal conversion.
  5. Belonging to a faith community that practices the faith.
  6. Maturity in the sacramental life.
  7. Service and mission.

Step one parallels with the pre-catechumenate. Two and three follow the Rite of Acceptance–this is the phase of the catechumenate proper. The beginning of the experience of #3 leading into #4 will lead to a discernment for Election. The period of Lent involves that personal encounter, as once experienced by the woman at the well, the man born blind, and Lazarus and his sisters. Initiation into the ecclesial community of the Church at the Easter Vigil, followed by an integration into Christ’s mission.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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