Mutuae Relationes 49: Women Religious

SenanquecloisterForty-nine sections in, we get a specific message about and to women religious. Remember, you can check the full document online here.

49. In the vast pastoral field of the Church, a new and very important place has been accorded to women. Once zealous helpers of the Apostles (cf. Acts 18:26; Rom 16:1 ff.), women should contribute their apostolic activity today in the ecclesial community realizing faithfully the mystery of their created and revealed identity (cf. Gen 2; Eph 5; 1 Tim 3 etc.) and taking notice of their growing influence in civil society.

This is an important Scriptural witness. Despite mewlings about “emangelization,” women were part of the early Church, and it didn’t seem to impede the spread of the Gospel. That women have an influence in modern society impacts the Church–like it or not.

Innovation is encouraged as a logical consequence of this:

Religious women therefore, faithful to their vocation and in harmony with their distinctive character as women, should seek out and propose new apostolic forms of service in response to the concrete needs of the Church and of the world.

The Blessed Mother is held up as a role model:

After the example of Mary who in the Church holds the highest place of charity among believers, and animated by that incomparably human trait of sensitivity and concern which is so characteristic of them (cf. Paul VI,Discourse to the National Congress of the Centro Italiano femminile, Oss. Rom., December 6-7, 1976), in the light of a long history offering outstanding witness to their undertakings in the development of apostolic activity, women religious will be able more and more to be and to be seen as a radiant sign of the Church, faithful, zealous and fruitful in her preaching of the kingdom (cf. Declaration Inter Insigniores, S. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, October 15, 1976).

Thoughts or comments?

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DPPL 239: Venerating Images And Guidance

STA altar at night smallMy sense is that veneration of images is largely a phenomenon for outside of liturgy. Images are often in homes and personal places, not just churches.

239. The veneration of sacred images, whether paintings, statues, bas reliefs or other representations, apart from being a liturgical phenomenon, is an important aspect of popular piety: the faithful pray before sacred images, both in churches and in their homes. They decorate them with flowers, lights, and jewels; they pay respect to them in various ways, carrying them in procession, hanging ex votos near them in thanksgiving; they place them in shrines in the fields and along the roads.

The Church wishes to avoid abuses, therefore prescribes catechesis. In the Catechism section that treats the question on how we celebrate liturgy we’ll find a basic justification that likens the veneration of images with the engagement of other senses at liturgy.

Veneration of sacred images requires theological guidance if it is to avoid certain abuses. It is therefore necessary that the faithful be constantly reminded of the doctrine of the Church on the veneration of sacred images, as exemplified in the ecumenical Councils (Cf. Council Of Nicea II, Definitio de sacris imaginibus (23 October 787) in DS 600-603; Council Of Trent Decretum de invocatione, veneratione, et reliquiis Sanctorum et sacris imaginibus (3 December 1562), in DS 1821-1825; SC 111), and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Cf. Catechism 1159-1162).

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

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Lenten Reflections: Praying One Word At A Time

A retired priest in my city has been in failing health for several months. I knew Father Patrick Geary almost twenty years ago when he was one of the archdiocese’s senior pastors in another city where we served in adjacent parishes. Before that, he served at the student center both as an associate in the 70’s and later as pastor. When I settled in Ames several years ago, it was a happy thing to get reacquainted.

Fr Pat will be moving to a care facility in our see city within a few days, and I will miss his presence. I remember one of his favorite spiritual recommendations and I offer it as part of the series on Lent reflections.

After one session of spiritual direction, he once suggested to me I pray the Lord’s Prayer one word at a time. I did that a few times when I was walking to work. Taking twenty or thirty minutes to pray a text I know by rote was a fruitful experience.

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Reconciliation Lectionary: Genesis 45:1-8

mary-the-penitent.jpgOur associate pastor suggested an Old Testament reading outside of the Reconciliation Lectionary for the parish’s Lenten Communal Penance this year. I thought I’d include it in our series and invite your comments.

I confess thinking of Donny Osmond at 3:05 of this video. Sans narrator, this is the passage:

Joseph could no longer restrain himself
in the presence of all his attendants,
so he cried out, “Have everyone withdraw from me!”
So no one attended him when he made himself known to his brothers.
But his sobs were so loud that the Egyptians heard him,
and so the news reached Pharaoh’s house.
“I am Joseph,” he said to his brothers.
“Is my father still alive?”
But his brothers could give him no answer,
so dumbfounded were they at him.
“Come closer to me,” Joseph told his brothers.
When they had done so, he said:
“I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.
But now do not be distressed,
and do not be angry with yourselves for having sold me here.
It was really for the sake of saving lives
that God sent me here ahead of you.
The famine has been in the land for two years now,
and for five more years cultivation will yield no harvest.
God, therefore, sent me on ahead of you
to ensure for you a remnant on earth
and to save your lives in an extraordinary deliverance.
So it was not really you but God who had me come here;
and he has made me a father to Pharaoh,
lord of all his household,
and ruler over the whole land of Egypt.

My colleague has yoked this reading with Psalm 32 and the account of Jesus meeting Zacchaeus. Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers is intriguing. I wonder how the homilist will handle this.

These things strike me about the passage, besides that musical:

  • If Joseph reveals something of God, it is God’s deep desire for reconciliation with us. When we finally realize God is before us, does the Almighty weep in anticipation for what is to come?
  • The echo of Joseph’s “Come closer” in Jesus’ “Come down quickly.” Is the sinner always beckoned so? Are we prepared to listen?
  • It is the wronged one who counsels those who have sinned against him not to be distressed or angry with themselves. Is that Joseph’s arrogance again? Or is that the attitude we can cultivate with others? Would that be part of our reconciliation experience, letting go of grudges, even to the point of this tender awareness of how sin has harmed others deeply.
  • Lastly, is Joseph’s justification: God wanted him in Egypt all along to save the world (so we are told). Being sold into slavery was the means to an end.

This last point makes me a little nervous. God could have easily worked through a theoretical situation in which Joseph arrives in Egypt as a traveling sales rep for the family wool business. (Though maybe the brothers back home needed to feel those pangs of hunger after what they did.)

Perhaps that justification is something to keep in mind when we are forced to do things or go places because of another’s offense.

I confess I like this reading, and not just because it features my Old Testament name saint so prominently. What do you readers think? A keeper for the sacrament? Stick with the usual new heart/new spirit theme?


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Mutuae Relationes 48: Exchanging Information

SenanquecloisterExchanging information: could this be related to the transparency Pope Francis has urged in our hierarchy? What are the fruits of shared information and understanding between Catholics? Likely not scandal, the fruit of secrecy and witch-hunts and stonewalling questioners.

48. A deeply felt need, rich in promises also for the activities and apostolic dynamism of the local Church, is that of fostering, with concerned commitment, exchanges of information and better understanding among the various religious institutes working in a given diocese. To this end, superiors should do their part to bring about this dialog in suitable ways and at regular times. This will certainly serve to increase trust, esteem, mutual exchange of aids, in-depth study of problems and the mutual communication of experiences, so that as a consequence, the common profession of the evangelical counsels may be more clearly expressed.

Poverty, chastity, and obedience are means to an end: a better witness and more intense discipleship. That’s something to which we all can aspire: religious, clergy, prelates, and laity. That’s the whole point of being a Christian.

Thoughts or comments? You can check the full document online here.

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DPPL 238: The Council of Nicea Addressed Sacred Images

STA altar at night smallNicea Council II addressed iconoclasm, the movement against images of Jesus and the saints. In the late eighth century, it was a crisis. Islam, of course, rejected all images of sacred persons from the previous century onward. Christians dealt with the crisis in present-day Turkey under the patronage of the Byzantine Empress.

238. The Second Council of Nicea, “following the divinely inspired teaching of our Holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church”, vigorously defended the veneration of the images of the Saints: “we order with ever rigor and exactitude that, similar to the depictions of the precious and vivifying Cross of our redemption, the sacred images to be used for veneration, are to be depicted in mosaic or any other suitable material, and exposed in the holy churches of God, on their furnishings, vestments, on their walls, as well as in the homes of the faithful and in the streets, be they images of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, or of Our Immaculate Lady, the holy Mother of God, or of the Angels, the Saints and the just” (Second Council Of Nicea, Definitio de sacris imaginibus (23 October 787), in DS 600).

Why are images accepted? Is it more than just people longing for images of those they love and regard? The Church has a theological justification, that the Second Person came to Earth.

The Fathers of Nicea see the basis for the use of sacred images in the mystery of the Incarnation of Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1, 15): “the Incarnation of the Son of God initiated a new ‘economy’ of images”(Catechism 1161).

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

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Mutuae Relationes 47: Information

SenanquecloisterWould we call it information ecclesiology, this insistence on bishops and their chanceries knowing the “exact” things about religious communities in their dioceses? What else does the Church say about this? You can check the full document online here. And there is today’s brief post, so let’s read:

47. Bishops and their immediate collaborators should see to it not only that they have an exact idea of the distinctive nature of each institute but that they keep abreast of their actual situation and of their criteria for renewal. Religious superiors, in turn, in addition to acquiring a more updated doctrinal vision of the particular Church, should also strive to keep themselves factually informed with respect to the current situation of pastoral activity and the apostolic program adopted in the diocese in which they are to offer their services.

Leaders in religious life should also keep updated in theology. Alas, it would seem this is what has gotten some religious into trouble here and there. And not just women.

In case an institute finds itself in the situation of being unable to carry on a given undertaking, its superiors should in good time and with confidence make known the factors hindering its continuance, at least in its actual form, especially if this is due to a lack of personnel. For his part, the local Ordinary should consider sympathetically the request to withdraw from the undertaking (cf. Eccl. Sanctae I, 34, 3) and in common accord with the superiors seek a suitable solution.

Knowing when to say no. Knowing when to bring an undertaking to a dignified sunset. These are very difficult things to do in a church that prides itself on a can-do attitude with things, especially when helping others is part of the equation. But sometimes it is necessary. What do you think?

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