Plakat Jaegerstaetter.JPGIt’s a great word. It’s from this little bit of wiki, “refusal,” for the martyr Franz Jägerstätter. One cool thing about this icon written by William Hart McNichols that I prefer not to reproduce here is the demon with the Nazi banner shielding his eyes or head. 

If only we were more courageous in our refusals. St Franz, pray for us.

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Desiderio Desideravi 30: Saint Paul VI on the Priority of Liturgy

Pope Francis offers a significant quote from the end of the Vatican II session that produced Sacrosanctum Concilium:

30. Closing the second session of the Council (December 4, 1963) Saint Paul VI expressed himself in this way:

“The difficult, complex debates have had rich results. They have brought one topic to a conclusion, the sacred liturgy. Treated before all others, in a sense it has priority over all others for its intrinsic dignity and importance to the life of the Church and today we will solemnly promulgate the document on the liturgy. Our spirit, therefore, exults with true joy, for in the way things have gone we note respect for a right scale of values and duties. God must hold first place; prayer to him is our first duty. The liturgy is the first source of divine communion in which God shares his own life with us. It is also the first school of the spiritual life. The liturgy is the first gift we must make to the Christian people united to us by faith and the fervor of their prayers. It is also a primary invitation to the human race, so that all may now lift their mute voices in blessed and genuine prayer and thus may experience that indescribable, regenerative power to be found when they join us in proclaiming the praises of God and the hopes of the human heart through Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit”. [AAS 56 (1964) 34]

There’s a lot to unpack here. Some thoughts …

  • Liturgy was certainly at the forefront of the council bishops. Some Catholics lament SC wasn’t finished in 1965 when there might have been somewhat more open-mindedness about how far to push reform. I don’t agree with that. I think the first raft of post-conciliar liturgy documents (1964-67) pushed things forward, as did the movement from all the world’s bishops to the vernacular and other reforms. Caution entered in with 1970 and the beginning of the interim Missal and the beginning of the end of the wild experimentation of the 60s. All in all, 1963 was right for being the first major effort.
  • First source and first school: I like the way this is placed in the context of joy. Gaudium is how the second constitution on the Church is labelled and how Pope Francis described a hoped-for approach to evangelization in his 2013 apostolic exhortation.
  • Liturgy is also an invitation to all people, and non-believers appear to be included. Many people have their first experience of Christianity in communion at liturgy. These folks range from children to guests to friends to people coming in off the street.
  • At root, liturgy is an expression of hope. 

The full document, copyright © Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana is here on the Vatican site.

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Desiderio Desideravi 29: The Great Constitutions

One question that often gives me pause regarding the advocates for the traditional Latin Mass: do they otherwise advocate for the companion documents on the Word and the Church? Or is the whole set somewhat out-of-bounds in some ways? 

29. It is with this reality of the modern world that the Church, united in Council, wanted to enter into contact, reaffirming her awareness of being the sacrament of Christ, the Light of the nations (Lumen Gentium), putting herself in a devout listening to the Word of God (Dei Verbum), and recognizing as her own the joys and the hopes (Gaudium et Spes) of the people of our times. The great Constitutions of the Council cannot be separated one from the other, and it is not an accident that this single huge effort at reflection by the Ecumenical Council — which is the highest expression of synodality in the Church and whose richness I, together with all of you, am called to be the custodian — began with reflection on the Liturgy. (Sacrosanctum Concilium)

If a Council were revisiting these in this century, I suspect that a document on evangelization and the mission of the Church would accompany the Big Four. How that would impact liturgy, we still have to figure it out.

The full document, copyright © Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana is here on the Vatican site.

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Matrimony Regulations

Our parish was just in receipt of our archdiocese’s liturgical calendar for 2022-23, including regulations on celebrating the Rite of Matrimony. Some commentary after each of their notes …

Matrimony within Mass on Saturday should be celebrated prior to the evening Masses in anticipation of Sunday. 

Looks like a Saturday bias on the surface, but I’ve experienced a wedding liturgy on every day of the week in my forty-plus years of playing liturgical music. I do wonder if a parish doesn’t have a Saturday evening Mass, what the regulation might be. Is it governed by some reasonable hour for Vespers I? Most couples and their families I’m sure, would want to keep Saturday evening free for social festivity.

In Masses that are not parish Masses, matrimony within Mass may be used on Sundays of the Christmas season and Ordinary Time.

Did you know that you can get married on these Sundays? You can get married on any Sunday, of course. But if the Mass isn’t a community liturgy, even Holy Family Sunday is a possibility for bumping the regular readings and prayers.

If matrimony must occur during Mass Sunday or a Solemnity, the prayers and readings for the day’s Mass are used, inserting the consent, exchange of vows, nuptial blessing, and final solemn blessing in the appropriate places.

This is how my wife and I did it.

When a matrimony Mass is not allowed, it is permissible to replace one of the readings prescribed for that day’s Mass with one indicated by an asterisk (*).

That reading is usually, but not always the second.

In the Order of Celebrating Matrimony, no. 144 ff., except on Holy Thursday, Easter, Christmas, Epiphany, Ascension, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, Assumption, Immaculate Conception, and other holy days of obligation, when all the readings of the day must be used.

Prayers of the Mass, too. But consent, vows, nuptial blessing, and final solemn blessing are all inserted.

November 2nd is a curious case. One young associate I worked with was scandalized it had been scheduled. The pastor knew it was an extraordinary circumstance, and permitted it. Does the prescription for “penitential character” apply? Get married, yes, but keep it cool?

However, the rite of matrimony without Mass may be celebrated on the above days, except during the Easter triduum. The celebration of matrimony on Good Friday and Holy Saturday is to be avoided altogether (Order of Celebrating
Matrimony, no. 32).

Avoided, naturally. But there is no outright forbidding. No Mass can be celebrated on either day, obviously.

If a matrimony (within or without Mass) is celebrated on a day having a penitential character, especially during Lent, the pastor must counsel the spouses to respect the nature of that day.

The new Roman Missal elevates the votive Mass for Matrimony to the level of a solemnity (singing the Gloria, for example). Does that mean the observance looks like one of the solemnities of Lent, the feasts for Saint Joseph and the Annunciation, for example? Or are we just talking about the loudness of the music? Or decor?

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Desiderio Desideravi 28: Post-Modern Challenges

The Church and its ministers face challenges never before encountered in our twenty-century journey from the public ministry of Jesus. Pope Francis returns to a pastoral theme common in his other writings. Modern life all over the world has created divisions: rifts in families, divorce from culture, doubts about leaders and guides:

28. With post-modernity people feel themselves even more lost, without references of any sort, lacking in values because they have become indifferent, completely orphaned, living a fragmentation in which an horizon of meaning seems impossible. And so it is even more weighed down by the burdensome inheritance that the previous epoch left us, consisting in individualism and subjectivism (which evokes once again the Pelagian and gnostic problems). It consists also in an abstract spiritualism which contradicts human nature itself, for a human person is an incarnate spirit and therefore as such capable of symbolic action and of symbolic understanding.

Some people are left to reinvent human culture, be it West, East, Third World, New World. Perhaps they fail more when they start from scratch rather than trust the wisdom of our various ancestors.

How does anchoring ourselves in liturgy help? I’d suggest seeing liturgy as an aspect of human culture, or tending to the learnings of previous generations, and seeking the difficult paths others before us have trod.

The full document, copyright © Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana is here on the Vatican site.

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I was alerted to Richard Clark’s piece on Corpus Christi Watershed on “Continuity and Vulnerability …” It might not be the most popular bit published there. The author does make the suggestion that liturgical rites have a continuity from 1570 to the present.

I found the notion that liturgy has a vulnerability to be an interesting premise. The reformed liturgy is vulnerable “largely due to decades of comfortable custom.” It’s a fascinating reason and not the one I would have chosen. It might suggest the 1570/1962 Missal is even more vulnerable due to centuries of custom. 

Richard chooses a tussle or two unwisely, I think:

For example, the fourth option of the GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal) has become the first and standard option: to replace antiphon propers with hymns and songs.

Alas, the long practice of excluding the assembly from the propers is itself a fourth choice, which the GIRM places behind dialogues with cantor or choir, or the assembly singing the antiphon and all the verses.

One of the deepest vulnerabilities in the Roman Rite is a lack of curious scholarship. Many of us don’t read and reread the praenotanda of the rites. And while we might have favorite passages in the GIRM, we don’t bother so much with the Ordo Missae and its instructions. Scholars among us often fail to read widely outside of our own circle of comfort. We have honored our own mentors, of course. They gave us the big lift into ministry and service. But many of us don’t bother with the opponents of our formators in liturgy. 

I confess I read CCW on occasion and lurk here and there on traditional-leaning sites. I have a book or two of theirs and I’ve poked into their journals. But the vulnerability there is notable. Some TLM advocates just don’t have the depth and breadth of scholarship to tackle the flaws in their own worldview. Even Richard misreads the intent of the Council and its follow-up documents a bit. The long practice on many sites is to ban uncomfortable viewpoints. On social media this weekend, I’ll note that in response to a few criticisms of the linked piece, one Big Name in TLM circles just posted a few memes in reply.

The greatest vulnerability are our own blind spots. I know it’s been true of me in liturgy, music, relationships, faith, and life. 

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Desiderio Desideravi 27: Serious and Vital Formation

With this paragraph, we begin an involved and detailed look at “The need for a serious and vital liturgical formation.” Pope Francis devotes twenty-one numbered paragraphs to liturgical formation starting with this:

27. Therefore, the fundamental question is this: how do we recover the capacity to live completely the liturgical action? This was the objective of the Council’s reform. The challenge is extremely demanding because modern people — not in all cultures to the same degree — have lost the capacity to engage with symbolic action, which is an essential trait of the liturgical act.

The full document, copyright © Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana is here on the Vatican site.

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Funeral Lectionary: John 17:1-3, 6-9a

Well over a decade ago, we began a series on readings for Christian funerals. Almost as long ago, we completed the passages assigned by the Roman Rite for Catholic funerals. But there are always new opportunities to encounter Jesus in the Scriptures for a message of hope and consolation.

As I meet new priests and ministers of consolation, I encounter Bible readings I hadn’t previously used for liturgy, prayer, or the places in between. One such passage is the beginning of the Lord’s prayer to the Father in John 17. The funeral lectionary offers the final three verses of that utterance as an official option. But not these:

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said,
“Father, the hour has come.
Give glory to your son,
so that your son may glorify you,
just as you gave him authority over all people,
so that he may give eternal life
to all you gave him.
Now this is eternal life,
that they should know you,
the only true God,
and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.

“I revealed your name
to those whom you gave me
out of the world.
They belonged to you,
and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word.
Now they know that everything you gave me
is from you,

because the words you gave to me
I have given to them,
and they accepted them
and truly understood that I came from you,
and they have believed that you sent me.
I pray for them.


At his final gathering before the Passion, Jesus expresses himself as a priest–a person who intercedes to the Father on behalf of his disciples. The author of the letter to the Hebrews emphasizes this (Cf. 4:15-16) and reminds us the Lord is not only a willing priest for us, but an effective and fruitful one. At the time of death, mourners can rely on that.

We also know that stressful times leave us bewildered. This is the setting of Jesus’ prayer. Thomas and Philip express it explicitly in John 14:5ff. Modern people dislike confusion. We seek surety, and often we will embrace lies if the truth isn’t forthcoming. The time of mourning is a time of disruption so this prayer speaks to today’s disciples in the same way Jesus intended for his own, and the evangelist intends for his late first century community.

Do we need details on the afterlife? No. Not for the matters that concern Christians. Jesus says we need know the Father, and the Son sent from above. Although Jesus’ departure is immanent, he reminds us we will not be left alone (Cf. John 14:18). We can gloss over those words or forget them. But we will not be abandoned. At the time of a funeral, we can be assured our beloved is cared for and we will be also.

We are God’s created handiwork. The New Testament says we are children of God now (Cf. 1 John 3:2, and this reading would make a good pairing with this Gospel) and God’s work of art (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) and there is a greater purpose beyond our dying and mourning.

The last line from verse 9a is succinct and trustworthy: I pray for them. Coming from Jesus’ lips, I think we can believe that.

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Desiderio Desideravi 26: Essential Wonder

26. Wonder is an essential part of the liturgical act because it is the way that those who know they are engaged in the particularity of symbolic gestures look at things. It is the marveling of those who experience the power of symbol, which does not consist in referring to some abstract concept but rather in containing and expressing in its very concreteness what it signifies.

In other words, it’s not some vague sense that we should be perceiving something, but the experience overwhelms. Liturgy should lead us somewhere. It’s not an end to itself.

The full document, copyright © Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana is here on the Vatican site.

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Lectionary Differences

I wonder about the choices for the psalm last weekend in many Catholic churches. I chose to use the antiphon that ordinarily matches Psalm 90, rather than “If today …”

I found this page on Felix Just’s website that details all the changes, shifts, and errors in the 1998 Lectionary as compared to the earlier edition. The author also comments on each discontinuity, citing this for the 18th Ordinary Sunday of cycle C:

OLM81 chooses different Psalm
Psalm 90 fits better thematically

I’d agree, but I wonder about the real intent of the committee on this one. Psalm 95 isn’t bad.

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Desiderio Desideravi 25: Astonishment

The Holy Father suggests we cast our gaze more widely than just the sensate experience of liturgy. It goes more deeply into our brains when we can muster awe not in worship itself, but in God’s action of grace on our behalf. What is more amazing, gilded decor, heavenly music, noble architecture, moments of silence? Or the very fact that God has saved us in Christ?

25. When I speak of astonishment at the paschal mystery, I do not at all intend to refer to what at times seems to me to be meant by the vague expression “sense of mystery.” Sometimes this is among the presumed chief accusations against the liturgical reform. It is said that the sense of mystery has been removed from the celebration. The astonishment or wonder of which I speak is not some sort of being overcome in the face of an obscure reality or a mysterious rite. It is, on the contrary, marveling at the fact that the salvific plan of God has been revealed in the paschal deed of Jesus (cf. Ephesians 1:3-14), and the power of this paschal deed continues to reach us in the celebration of the “mysteries,” of the sacraments.

The sacraments were founded, as we are taught, to impart grace. Grace is in operation at God’s initiative. Ours, not really.

It is still true that the fullness of revelation has, in respect to our human finitude, an abundance that transcends us and will find its fulfilment at the end of time when the Lord will return. But if the astonishment is of the right kind, then there is no risk that the otherness of God’s presence will not be perceived, even within the closeness that the Incarnation intends.

Pope Francis turns one talking point on its head:

If the reform has eliminated that vague “sense of mystery,” then more than a cause for accusations, it is to its credit. Beauty, just like truth, always engenders wonder, and when these are referred to the mystery of God, they lead to adoration.

Would you disagree or assent to this?

The full document, copyright © Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana is here on the Vatican site.

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Scripture for the Sick or Dying: Sirach 38:1-9

I’ve known of this Scripture passage from Wisdom Literature of the Bible for many years. Not sure why I never made a connection to the Pastoral Care rites and the Lectionary that accompanies them. A social media friend is facing a cancer diagnosis, and I offered the Scripture citation for him as a response and a prayer.

Many Catholics wait to request anointing until after a medical treatment. When friends are facing something serious like surgery, I always ask if they’ve been anointed yet. A fruitful celebration of the sacrament might involve before some major turning point in treatment. That’s not to say the dawn of recovery isn’t good. Maybe then too.

The second century BC might have had very, very few women doctors. In an opportunity for prayer, I might ask the sick person the name of their doctor, and if a woman, adapt accordingly:

Make friends with the doctor,
for she is essential to you;

God has also established her in the profession.
From God the doctor has wisdom,
and from the king she receives sustenance.
Knowledge makes the doctor distinguished,
and gives access to those in authority.
God makes the earth yield healing herbs
which the prudent should not neglect;
Was not the water sweetened by a twig,
so that all might learn his power?
God endows people with knowledge,
to glory in mighty works,
Through which the doctor eases pain,
and the druggist prepares medicines.
Thus God’s work continues without cease
in its efficacy on the surface of the earth.
My child, when you are ill, do not delay,
but pray to God, for it is God who heals.

I know there are people who are skeptical of modern medicine. Anti-vaxxers are sincere, but usually misguided. Sometimes doctors and the systems of which they are a part fail a patient. Thus we have malpractice.

For many modern people, it can be difficult to put ourselves in another’s hands and surrender our power, control, and self-determination. Maybe some believers think they can turn it over to God. Maybe letting a doctor care for us is proper practice in our faith.

If you readers are interested in more on the Pastoral Care of the Sick, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago. Would you include this reading for a sick person’s prayer?

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Desiderio Desideravi 24: Amazement

Time get back to regular, hopefully daily posts on Pope Francis’ liturgy document Desiderio Desideravi. Today, we begin a three-paragraph examination of Amazement before the Paschal Mystery: an essential part of the liturgical act. In order for amazement to take root, we have to find that encounter with the One who will amaze us. Some call it burning (Cf. Luke 24:32). One problem is that cradle Christians think of the Passion and Resurrection as routine. They are catechetical abstractions. There is no human connection behind the part of the human brain that stores information.

Pope Francis reminds us that improved quality, however much it might be an objective good, is not enough:

24. If there were lacking our astonishment at the fact that the paschal mystery is rendered present in the concreteness of sacramental signs, we would truly risk being impermeable to the ocean of grace that floods every celebration. Efforts to favor a greater quality to the celebration, even if praiseworthy, are not enough; nor is the call for a greater interiority.

The prayerfulness isn’t sufficient either:

Interiority can run the risk of reducing itself to an empty subjectivity if it has not taken on board the revelation of the Christian mystery.

We need something more:

The encounter with God is not the fruit of an individual interior searching for Him, but it is an event given. We can encounter God through the new fact of the Incarnation that reaches in the Last Supper the extreme point of his desiring to be eaten by us. How can the misfortune of distancing ourselves from the allure of the beauty of this gift happen to us?

How can we liturgists, clergy, and parishioners facilitate an encounter that many of us have not ourselves experienced? Do we go for good music and preaching, then cross our fingers and hope for the best? What is the answer?

The full document, copyright © Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana is here on the Vatican site.

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A friend recommended this blogpost from an Illinois priest, Msgr Eric Barr. For a cleric of my generation, he does read a lot like the new brand of JP2/B16 priest. He appears sincerely troubled about religious disaffiliation. Patheos, the parent site, promoted this essay as blog-of-the-day, but there are some hit and misses in it. Hitting his spots, plus some of my commentary:

Lack of Religious Practice in Childhood. Yes. This would be an exit strategy from the beginning. Schools, even Catholic institutions, promote their own culture. Not family culture. Parents and others are absorbed into the mix, far more than I remember growing up.

One Parent Family. Thing is, one-parent families have always been with us. Mothers died a lot in childbirth. Fathers had at-work dangers and such. Both were vulnerable to disease, even if they weren’t poor.

Also, despite a public perception that the young lose their faith in college when confronted with the rational approach of the university, the young are disaffiliated at a much earlier age, happening at age eighteen or before.

For Catholics, I’d say the age is at most seven or eight.

Acceptance of Pluralism. Msgr Barr fears atheism.

(The young) come into contact with atheists, find them good, and decide that religious belief is non-essential.

I think the rejection of religion that wants to label others as bad, not good, is chasing away many more people. Let’s not portray same-sex persons, liberals, immigrants, people of color, etc. as good.

Identification of Political Conservatism with Religion. This one’s a yes. I’ve seen a whole generation of internet Catholics longing for the liberals to die out, and gleefully touting the smaller, purer, more conservative Church.

Lack of an Adult Experience of God. Yep. This one’s spot-on. Catholics treat sacraments as graduation events. That is why many believers have a second-grade practice of contrition, confession, sacrifice, the breaking of the bread, and so on.

Inability of Religion to Answer Major Questions. I think we can, but I suspect the question-answerers are more geared to apologetics. Not the deep questions of life that might mean we could listen to other religions and see what they might have to say about life, death, suffering, justice, and meaning.


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Ignatius in July, 30 & 31

St. Ignatius in bedToday concludes the the Ignatian Year, and above, a painting of the saint in his recovery I had not seen before. A cannonball seems to me to be a more effective weapon against a building. For Ignatius, it altered the course of his life. The long-term consequence is that it altered the course of many lives in each of the centuries since his injury.

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