Just Let The Guilty Resign

Check this opinion piece from northern Wisconsin.

Most importantly, Catholics want a housecleaning, because they know nothing less will do. They want fresh leaders for the good of the church. They say the current process of selecting and promoting bishops is deeply flawed, and we need a process that will bring us the best and the brightest as our leaders.

It seems reasonable that any bishop or chancery official who failed on his watch now or in the past to protect children, or who failed to handle allegations of misconduct in the church in accord with either church law or civil law, should voluntarily resign.

I have no insight into the mind of Pope Francis putting the kibosh on the USCCB crafting some new policy at last month’s meeting. I wonder if he was looking for some heartfelt movement that is in no way prohibited in canon law.

Just let the guilty resign.

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Setting The Seasons Straight

I found a comment linking to an old blog post that sort of plants a flag on one of the hills in the #waronchristmas:

In general terms, I recommend that “happy holidays” be used in general before Thankgiving, after which we should turn on a dime on “Black Friday” to wish people a “Merry Christmas.”  Then immediately after Christmas, we should return to “happy holidays” instead of “Happy New Year.”

See the source imageI suppose I can appreciate the Protestant or casual Catholic focusing on December 25th and longing for a more mute capitalism. My own preference is to reinforce that the song’s twelve days of Christmas start on December 25th. They don’t end there.

To repeat: the partridge is Christmas Day, not the drummers. Save the percussion for Epiphany Eve.

Overall, I think the #waronchristmas has faded in recent years. The network that need not be named got to pounce on President Obama for eight years, and now they get to defend #45. So , distraction elsewhere. Plus the difficulty in hitching Christmas to conservative politics as it plays out in the US these days.

Speaking of politics, I’m not sure I’m down with the hate getting passed out on the FLOTUS’s red berry trees.

Red is a Christmas color.

Well, yes. In some places, an Advent color, too. Pope Benedict introduced the Adventkranz, a German-styule wreath. I don’t remember the papal naysayers cuckling over that one last decade. They probably figured there was some theological reason for red in Advent.

I figured the red was some Slovenian thing, but no: it’s just red berries, which are a part of Christmas.

Image result for santa in greenGreen is also a nice Christmas color. White too. Silver and gold, I guess. If some mall Santa dressed up in green with white trim, or gold or silver plus bling, there would be enough upset among the parents to trigger another color, pink–as in pink slip.

fyi, there is a tradition of a green-robed Father Christmas in Europe–but you have to go back to when the first family’s pre-immigrant days for that.

Meanwhile, a blessed Advent to all.

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The Armchair Liturgist: Blessing The Advent Wreath

Like it or not, nearly every parish seems to have an Advent wreath. Homes, not so much. The US bishops give this home ritual, in case you and your household are sticklers about it. If you’d like something special for each week, this is a good resource.

Most parishes are sticklers for blessing the wreath at the end of the Liturgy of the Word, after the intercessions. Years ago, I recall most clergy leading this ritual during the introductory rites.

What would you do, were you sitting in the liturgist’s purple armchair? When would you bless? Or would you bother with this optional extra for Advent? Is it something to do at *every* Mass on Advent’s first Sunday? Or just the first Mass?



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On Christ The King


See the source imageA facebook friend mused about clergy referencing the instituting of yesterday’s feast. It must have been in the air, since two of the four homilists I heard this past weekend, did mention bits about 1925. I’m sure I’ve heard such history lessons at Mass in the past, but I can’t put my finger on a specific instance.

I think I’m less impressed about history lessons from the pulpit than I am about clergy monologues on “What funny thing I did last week.”

That Christ is King of the created universe is a fact neither unimpeded nor encouraged by Pope Pius XI’s declaration last century. I would suppose the human expression dates to Saint Paul:

… at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth …

(Phil 2:10)

And since this is part of a lyric that describes the self-emptying (kenosis) of the Lord, it would seem that the celebration of Christ the King is closely linked with the Ascension. As such, it is integral to the Paschal Mystery. Check the “two men” commentary in Acts 1:10-11:

While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

Stirred from gazing at where they were not, the disciples’ better impulse was to gather to pray (1:14) as they awaited the Holy Spirit (2:1ff). Given that, my sense is that today’s age suggests we focus not so much on the King of Glory (a song which I did not program) but on the mission which has been entrusted to us.

Not yet filled with the Holy Spirit? We’d better pray for it. Consider ourselves disciples? How do we activate our God-given mission from Matthew’s account of the Ascension?

Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

(Matt 28:18-20)

The “power” given to Jesus is part of his Ascension is what defines him as our King. Christians are not, however, courtiers, hangers-on in some heavenly assemblage. At least not yet. Lacking a place in court, it would seem we have work to do. Making disciples would seem to be at the top of the list.

If only we had more homilies about that on the last Sunday in Ordinary Time. How about 2019?

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Liturgy Q&A: Thanksgiving

Have a parish Mass?

Well, certainly. More to the point, which Mass to celebrate? “Giving thanks to God” is considered a “various need and occasion,” and probably the option most frequently encountered “VNO” in the US. You can check the post here to get a feel for the Lectionary and Antiphonary texts.

What about the Mass of the day?

The other choice is one of the last two Thursdays in Ordinary Time. Um, no. Strikes me as un-American.

Which texts? 

A lot of people have disposable missals which give the texts, ready-to-go. People also check the USCCB site, which also assigns readings. I don’t see a need to stick with that. Unless the preacher doesn’t seem to care, in which case, why not?

What music?

I think there’s a lot of good Americana in liturgical music. The bare minimum would be to make it sound like a holy day: songs, hymns, Mass ordinary. Chanted propers if you must.

Glory To God?

Sure. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t program it on the fourth Thursday in November. I think a holiday like this needs to look and sound like a real holy day. In other words, a Sunday morning Mass, minimally.

Last thoughts?

A lot of believers come to church on Thanksgiving. They don’t have to, but they have a sense of the rightness of expressing gratitude to God in a liturgical way. This is something that should be institutionally encouraged from anybody in leadership.

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On Gratitude

Every so often–once in five, six, or eleven years–the American observance of Thanksgiving aligns with the feast of Saint Cecilia. Often she is portrayed (as she is here by Orazio Gentileschi) with an organetto. Do church musicians get inspired by angel-held sheet music? Who knows?

I’d like to think we get inspired more to a feeling of gratitude, since these two days, when they don’t align, fall so closely together each Fall. For those of you not on facebook, here are some people for whom I’m grateful:


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On Bishops

Image result for bishop chessI’ve been trying to avoid church news lately. But being a Catholic on social media, it’s hard to escape the commentary. The USCCB plight brings to mind this children’s book from a previous generation. One might say a more innocent time, but given the persistent revelations of administrative misconduct, perhaps I can’t say that.

What a litany: terrible, horrible, no good, very bad.

I have very mixed feelings over the current situation. Unlike some (or this one), I have no intention of leaving the Church. Honestly, I feel the situation calls more for bishops returning to the fold than lay people. I’ve been around for almost fifty years, mostly mixing it up in non-chancery places far afield from cathedrals and such. Over the years, people have certainly suggested I leave–online foils, uberCatholics mostly. Disinclined to give satisfaction on that point.

I have positive feelings about most of my own bishops. The first one I knew in any depth was Matthew Clark, who arrived to the consternation of many. Ordained in St Peter’s Basilica by Pope John Paul II himself, he was seen as a Vatican boy on his way up. That was in contrast to his predecessor, elevated from pastoring a large suburban parish, and the guy before that, known for his extensive media presence before his assignment to Rochester. The initial scuttlebutt was that he was an incarnation of Archbishop Burke for the late 70s.

But I observed the man preside at Confirmation in 1983 (my first as a parish music director) and I was struck by the care he took with the celebration. Families joined sponsors with each candidate, and there was no rush to completing the rite. When I was brought in for diocesan liturgies, I had a few brief conversations with Bishop Clark, who often inquired about the progress of my schooling and my plans for ministry. It got me thinking about potential dossiers on troublemakers bishops referenced in their cars on the way to events. Was my folder marked in red? A few friends and I laughed over that one.

Elsewhere, one bishop sat in on my job interview with a pastor. Another sang next to me in the tenor section at an RCIA workshop. Another was friendly with my wife at a luncheon, and surprised she wanted to talk more about his interests (gardening and handball) than church politics.

I’ve also seen great ugliness: the public dressing down of a diocesan employee over an error the bishop himself made, an impolite stare or two at a parish altar server, the reassignment of a predator priest to a high school on the far side of the diocese.

I haven’t mentioned this publicly before, but in one parish where I was curiously ousted, the complaint came back that I was too critical of bishops. Given the tenor of many “faithful” Catholic commentary these days, I find it laughable that a comparable action might be for the militants and the first peters be excommunicated. I was never a danger to anyone in the hierarchy. But the so-called christianists: I’m not so sure about these folks.

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