Fratelli Tutti 148: A Healthy Openness

148. In fact, a healthy openness never threatens one’s own identity.

I have known people who thought that mere association with dissenters, outcasts, and such involved some dangerous influence. 

Pope Francis favors the possibility of a new blending. I would too:

A living culture, enriched by elements from other places, does not import a mere carbon copy of those new elements, but integrates them in its own unique way. The result is a new synthesis that is ultimately beneficial to all, since the original culture itself ends up being nourished. That is why I have urged indigenous peoples to cherish their roots and their ancestral cultures.

From his Amazon document:

At the same time, though, I have wanted to stress that I have no intention of proposing “a completely enclosed, a-historic, static ‘indigenism’ that would reject any kind of blending (mestizaje)”. For “our own cultural identity is strengthened and enriched as a result of dialogue with those unlike ourselves. Nor is our authentic identity preserved by an impoverished isolation”.[Querida Amazonia 37] The world grows and is filled with new beauty, thanks to the successive syntheses produced between cultures that are open and free of any form of cultural imposition.

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On Justice And Peace At Liturgy: Sirach 35

My archbishop called for Masses for Peace and Justice at local parishes today. We looked at readings and propers here a few years ago. I noticed the entrance suggestion:

Entrance Antiphon Cf. Sirach 36:18, 19

Give peace, O Lord, to those who wait for you;
hear the prayers of your servants and guide us in the way of justice.

I’ll have to do a bit more research on this, or check my own notes for a typo, but Sirach 36:18-19 doesn’t really match in the NABRE:

Take pity on your holy city:
Jerusalem, your dwelling place.
Fill Zion with your majesty,
your temple with your glory.

Maybe the previous chapter gives some good material, a sermon against injustice, bribery, and justice in favor of victims. Is verse 5 enough, the mere avoidance of doing wrong?

To refrain from evil pleases the Lord,
and to avoid injustice is atonement.

I wasn’t sure. Future verses get serious about the innocent who are wronged:

For he is a God of justice,
who shows no partiality.
He shows no partiality to the weak
but hears the grievance of the oppressed.

He does not forsake the cry of the orphan,
nor the widow when she pours out her complaint.
Do not the tears that stream down her cheek
cry out against the one that causes them to fall?

Those who serve God to please him are accepted;
their petition reaches the clouds.
The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds;
it does not rest till it reaches its goal;
Nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds,
judges justly and affirms the right. (35:15b-22a)

And maybe verse 26 gives us a suitable antiphon for singing:

Welcome is God’s mercy in time of distress
as rain clouds in time of drought.

Tensions are high across communities in the Twin Cities. We certainly seem to be living in a drought of justice.

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Fratelli Tutti 147: Narrow Views

The danger too often cited are aspects of the age of reason, enlightenment, science, and such. In reality, narrow views that dismiss those different from us are far more disruptive and far more astray of Christian values:

147. Let us realize that as our minds and hearts narrow, the less capable we become of understanding the world around us. Without encountering and relating to differences, it is hard to achieve a clear and complete understanding even of ourselves and of our native land. Other cultures are not “enemies” from which we need to protect ourselves, but differing reflections of the inexhaustible richness of human life. Seeing ourselves from the perspective of another, of one who is different, we can better recognize our own unique features and those of our culture: its richness, its possibilities and its limitations. Our local experience needs to develop “in contrast to” and “in harmony with” the experiences of others living in diverse cultural contexts.[Cf. St John Paul II, Address to the Roman Curia (21 December 1984), 4: AAS 76 (1984), 506]

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Two Views?

It’s not an Emmaus year, at least not on Sundays. A social media friend cited Dale Ahlquist’s piece on Catholic-Protestant views on the story of Luke 24:13-35. I’d like to think I have a non-trivial background in Christian art and Protestant understandings of the Bible, but I confess this piece comparing two paintings with the religion of the creators a bit curious.

Here’s landscape painter Robert Zünd’s vision of Jesus with two disciples on the road:

See the source image

Subjectively, I like this painting. It sure seems like the oak trees are the star of the show. But even so, the artist conveys with one arm gesture and three head positions something of the passage.

1602-3 Caravaggio,Supper at Emmaus National Gallery, London.jpg

Caravaggio’s thing is human gesture. In an even more famous post-Resurrection work, he portrays Thomas sticking a finger into Jesus’ side, although the Bible does not report that the apostle ever followed through on his assertion of wanting to see the Lord’s wounds.

According to Mr Ahlquist, these contrasts are a Protestant/Catholic thing. The former are focused on the burning explanation of the Scriptures. The latter on the recognition of Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

Robert Zund’s painting depicts the experience of a Protestant worship service: a sermon, a teaching from Scripture. It has a certain careful comfort to it. Caravaggio depicts the experience of the Mass. He captures the sacrament, the miracle of the Eucharist.

Here’s the thing. I can appreciate one individual’s personal insights on these works. It’s clear enough that one painter likes nature; the other likes people. I’m less down with the quick brush strokes on Christian divisions. Traditionally, some iconographers present Luke 24:13-35 as a triptych: on the road, at the table, back in Jerusalem. Like here. Even if I were Orthodox, I don’t think I’d trot out my tradition and suggest it was more complete than Romans and Reformed combined.

Let’s celebrate Easter. Let’s look at good art and notice how God uses human imagination to get us to notice things that are important for us. Maybe even notice his presence in some unexpected way.

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Fratelli Tutti 146: A Universal Horizon

How do we determine if loyalty to one’s culture is healthy or misguided?

A universal horizon

146. There is a kind of “local” narcissism unrelated to a healthy love of one’s own people and culture. It is born of a certain insecurity and fear of the other that leads to rejection and the desire to erect walls for self-defense.

Here’s one clue: how much does fear play into the advocacy and defense of one’s orientation?

Yet it is impossible to be “local” in a healthy way without being sincerely open to the universal, without feeling challenged by what is happening in other places, without openness to enrichment by other cultures, and without solidarity and concern for the tragedies affecting other peoples. A “local narcissism” instead frets over a limited number of ideas, customs and forms of security; incapable of admiring the vast potential and beauty offered by the larger world, it lacks an authentic and generous spirit of solidarity.

A lack of hospitality is often quite noticeable:

Life on the local level thus becomes less and less welcoming, people less open to complementarity. Its possibilities for development narrow; it grows weary and infirm.

A recent pope identifies an important quality when he visited Pope Francis’ homeland:

A healthy culture, on the other hand, is open and welcoming by its very nature; indeed, “a culture without universal values is not truly a culture”.[St John Paul II, Address to Representatives of Argentinian Culture, Buenos Aires, Argentina (12 April 1987), 4: L’Osservatore Romano, 14 April 1987, p. 7]

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Spit It Out

So, it’s been an interesting week of interface with the virus and associated acts. A friend of mine alerted me to a vaccine opportunity about an hour away in breezy downtown St Cloud. Monday my wife joined me for a little day trip. I was thinking maybe a stop at one of my favorite monastic sites. A walk around the lake.

When I arrived at my pharmacological destination, I learned I was getting the one-shot deal. After I got it, and after I mentioned my wife was accompanying, the pharmacist said I would most likely be fine and “I can’t make you wait.” So I took off.

I asked my wife if increased appetite was a side effect. We landed in a mice Mexican place where I cleaned my plate and the rice and beans off hers. Then I was getting fairly sleepy. Was it the big meal? The vaccine? I napped while she shopped in the neighborhood. Then she drove us home, of which I remembered very little.

Tuesday, still fatigued. Plus the varying degrees of civil unrest and curfewing in our region, practice called off. Wednesday we got word one of our staff colleagues tested positive for the virus. Church procedure states I must gain two negative test results before returning to in-person action. Good thing I’m well caught up after Easter week.

My tests have been the saliva samples. It’s been a test. I struggled with my #2 not nearly as much as some poor kid at the site today. He must have been four, and his mom said they’d been there fifteen minutes trying to muster enough fluid for a sample.

Hopefully, if my sample tests negative I’ll be back at church Saturday to get the weekend worship aids done and the instruments tuned.

I was reading somewhere today that medical experts expect we will be needing booster shots in the years to come. A new reality is on the horizon. I suspect some so-called adults among us will have more difficulty than a little kid attempting to generate a teaspoon of spit.

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Fratelli Tutti 145: Balance

145. There can be a false openness to the universal, born of the shallowness of those lacking insight into the genius of their native land or harboring unresolved resentment towards their own people.

In any serious situation, discernment and perspective are needed. We need to be rooted, yet open. Is it a balancing act? Pope Francis’ geometry is raised:

Whatever the case, “we constantly have to broaden our horizons and see the greater good which will benefit us all. But this has to be done without evasion or uprooting. We need to sink our roots deeper into the fertile soil and history of our native place, which is a gift of God. We can work on a small scale, in our own neighborhood, but with a larger perspective… The global need not stifle, nor the particular prove barren”;[Evangelii Gaudium 235] our model must be that of a polyhedron, in which the value of each individual is respected, where “the whole is greater than the part, but it is also greater than the sum of its parts”.[Ibid.]

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Fratelli Tutti 144: Intercultural Exchange

More on that notion of intercultural exchange:

144. It also gives rise to healthy and enriching exchanges. The experience of being raised in a particular place and sharing in a particular culture gives us insight into aspects of reality that others cannot so easily perceive.

Of course, this is the empty fear:

Universal does not necessarily mean bland, uniform and standardized, based on a single prevailing cultural model, for this will ultimately lead to the loss of a rich palette of shades and colors, and result in utter monotony. Such was the temptation referred to in the ancient account of the Tower of Babel. The attempt to build a tower that would reach to heaven was not an expression of unity between various peoples speaking to one another from their diversity. Instead, it was a misguided attempt, born of pride and ambition, to create a unity other than that willed by God in his providential plan for the nations (cf. Gen 11:1-9).

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Pope Francis and Liturgy

At PrayTell, Rita Ferrone suggests Pope Francis actually has an interest in liturgy. Her most convincing moment:

(H)e approaches liturgical questions from a different direction than we may expect. He strives to make it easier for people to engage in the liturgy in a positive way that enriches participation. He is oriented toward helping the Church to flourish as a liturgical people. The vibrancy he tries to foster is found in the inner dynamic of faith that informs liturgical practice.

I would think (and hope) that every priest and liturgist would have these goals in mind, regardless of their stance on traditional or contemporary practice or some blend of the two. Everybody wants vibrancy of faith. The difference is that for some people, they disbelieve that this can occur outside of their choice of style.

My own observation is that the power of the liturgical police has been lessened. Under the previous two popes, it was actually an encouraged practice to tattle on one’s priest or bishop. Today, I would suppose fewer bishops care about busybodies. I’d say there’s a decent amount of freedom from bullies these days. They’ve gone off into their little groups and engaged in ideological cannibalism. Or they’ve engaged Trumpism, and the fantasies generated and encouraged by it.

I think it’s more of an Ignatian thing to let things happen. Silly interference isn’t really a discernment way.

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Fratelli Tutti 143: Firm Foundations

143. The solution is not an openness that spurns its own richness. Just as there can be no dialogue with “others” without a sense of our own identity, so there can be no openness between peoples except on the basis of love for one’s own land, one’s own people, one’s own cultural roots. I cannot truly encounter another unless I stand on firm foundations, for it is on the basis of these that I can accept the gift the other brings and in turn offer an authentic gift of my own.

This rather demolishes the notion that one world culture means no other cultures. If only we lived in a world where cultures could be shared and not steamrolled. 

I can welcome others who are different, and value the unique contribution they have to make, only if I am firmly rooted in my own people and culture. Everyone loves and cares for his or her native land and village, just as they love and care for their home and are personally responsible for its upkeep. The common good likewise requires that we protect and love our native land. Otherwise, the consequences of a disaster in one country will end up affecting the entire planet.

This last piece is significant:

All this brings out the positive meaning of the right to property: I care for and cultivate something that I possess, in such a way that it can contribute to the good of all.

This is important in two ways. First for physical possessions, it ensures that what we own has a meaning beyond hoarding. 

It also brings to mind what I once heard preached at a wedding. The sacramentality of a marriage is also expressed in how the couple responds to needs around them: not only children and family, but the poor. Does shared committed love inspire people to a deeper generosity with their own love? Or does it mean two people turn inward on themselves and withdraw from the world and its concerns? Likewise any sacrament–baptism, for example. What good is baptism if it is only a sacrament of one, and not a reaching out to others, obeying Jesus’ mandatum for evangelization?

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Snowball Earth

It may be something of a misnomer. Ice is more likely. But the Earth once looked like this, so we are taught.

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Fratelli Tutti 142: Global and Local

Today we look at “Local and Universal.” More accurately, Pope Francis suggests a walk between the two:

142. It should be kept in mind that “an innate tension exists between globalization and localization. We need to pay attention to the global so as to avoid narrowness and banality. Yet we also need to look to the local, which keeps our feet on the ground. Together, the two prevent us from falling into one of two extremes.

The cost? 

In the first, people get caught up in an abstract, globalized universe… In the other, they turn into a museum of local folklore, a world apart, doomed to doing the same things over and over, incapable of being challenged by novelty or appreciating the beauty which God bestows beyond their borders”.[Evangelii Gaudium 234] We need to have a global outlook to save ourselves from petty provincialism. When our house stops being a home and starts to become an enclosure, a cell, then the global comes to our rescue, like a “final cause” that draws us towards our fulfilment. At the same time, though, the local has to be eagerly embraced, for it possesses something that the global does not: it is capable of being a leaven, of bringing enrichment, of sparking mechanisms of subsidiarity. Universal fraternity and social friendship are thus two inseparable and equally vital poles in every society. To separate them would be to disfigure each and to create a dangerous polarization.

I suppose it could be said the home is a place of rest, refuge when there was a need. The world is a place of adventure and opportunity. A person needs the roots the local community provides–the Holy Father has mentioned this. There is also the mission of life, something that beckons people outside of where they were children.

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The Fourth Confession

Caravaggio - The Incredulity of Saint Thomas.jpg

The title reference is vague; I know. When I heard this weekend’s Gospel preached, Thomas’ utterance reminded me of Peter’s from Matthew 16:

You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

As well as Martha’s from the fourth Gospel:

Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.

Here is my number three, uttered by a Gentile at the foot of the cross after the death of Jesus:

Truly this man was the Son of God.

And so we come to Thomas, who in fact was not alone in his post-Resurrection doubt and still he was able to express faith:

My Lord and my God!

A raft of preachers have come to the defense of the “doubter.” After all, the whole company of apostles were labelled as such in Matthew 28:17. Perhaps to doubt is not a condemnation as we might like to label it. It does not preclude worship, as the Eleven are reported doing at the conclusion of the first Gospel. It transcends grief, as Martha experienced in John 11. The centurion of Mark 15:39 comes to his statement from his personal experience, not formal religion. Presumably he was one of those engaged in mockery of a man of a religion in which he was not initiated.

We are only human beings, after all, dependent on the experiences of our senses to absorb the realities of existence. God must know this; it is how we were created.

As for those inclined to call names on “Doubting Thomas,” if we were honest, we’d have to say, “I’m a doubter too, sometimes.” What is most meaningful is admitting our unsteadiness and still being open to experiences we’re given. Iconographers and other visual artists depict the probing hand of the apostle and the Lord’s wound in his torso. But the curious thing is that John 20 doesn’t say Thomas actually did as the Lord challenged him. He heard the gentle chiding of his Lord and God, and he was content to make his confession.

When it comes to writing, there is much favorable to be said of the short, sweet, and to-the-point. Perhaps that is why I find the Fourth Confession the most appealing of all those found in the Gospels.

Image above, the Caravaggio

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Scripture for the Sick or Dying: Psalm 34

The 34th Psalm is one of the most frequently used in the Roman Rite. It is one of nine common psalms for Ordinary Time. It’s something of a go-to text in the Roman Antiphonary because of verse 9a: Taste and see that the Lord is good. If you aren’t aware or haven’t guessed, a proper for the Communion procession.

When else might this psalm be utilized? A wedding is an occasional choice. Also in the rite for receiving catechumens into the Church’s formal process for baptism. Maybe these are interesting touchstones, but what does that mean for the ill believer?

In the official rites for care for people who are sick and dying, assigned verses are assembled into six stanzas, excluding the “taste and see” reference, which is listed as one of two possibilities for an antiphon to be sung in between the stanzas.

What have the producers of the Roman Rite assembled? My observation is that this text strongly resembles a piece of wisdom literature. The Psalmist is a teaching figure who begins by offering a personal look into a relationship with God. From verse 4 onward, sage advice is dispensed.

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be always in my mouth.
My soul will glory in the LORD;
let the poor hear and be glad.

Magnify the LORD with me;
and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me,
delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him and be radiant,
and your faces may not blush for shame.
This poor one cried out and the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.

Fear the LORD, you his holy ones;
nothing is lacking to those who fear him.
The rich grow poor and go hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Come, children, listen to me;
I will teach you fear of the LORD.
Who is the man who delights in life,
who loves to see the good days?

A fragment of an idea one might see in a lament, that persecutors will eventually get their just desserts. The final verse is likely why this psalm attracted the attention of those who looked for appropriate Scriptures for the sick and dying. The second option for responsorial singing.

17, 19
The LORD’s face is against evildoers
to wipe out their memory from the earth.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted,
saves those whose spirit is crushed.

My own sense is that the responsorial format with a sung antiphon works best for a communal liturgy. Six stanzas seem a lot. I would probably use the verse 19 antiphon, “The Lord is close to the broken hearted” with verses 2-3, 4-5, and 6-7. IT’s a good pairing with the Wisdom 9 passage we reviewed a few years ago here.

One overlooked aspect of pastoral ministry is recommending Bible passages for personal prayer. The 34th Psalm is fairly accessible for this. Who knows? When the grandkids visit, it’s good advice to pass to the next generation or two.

For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.

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Fratelli Tutti 141: Countries In The Larger Human Family

141. The true worth of the different countries of our world is measured by their ability to think not simply as a country but also as part of the larger human family. This is seen especially in times of crisis.

A crisis in which, of course, a virus has placed us.

Nationalism emerges at just the wrong moment in the US and other countries:

Narrow forms of nationalism are an extreme expression of an inability to grasp the meaning of this gratuitousness. They err in thinking that they can develop on their own, heedless of the ruin of others, that by closing their doors to others they will be better protected. Immigrants are seen as usurpers who have nothing to offer. This leads to the simplistic belief that the poor are dangerous and useless, while the powerful are generous benefactors. Only a social and political culture that readily and “gratuitously” welcomes others will have a future.

These silly ideas about people are completely false. At one time, such opinions would have been anathema to Christians. Today, Christian have been compromised by such demonic thoughts.

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