Praedicate Evangelium on Liturgy

Earlier this year, Pope Francis promulgated an apostolic constitution that outlined reform and reorganization for the Roman Curia. As of this writing, I have yet to see this document in anything but Italian on the Vatican site.

You can readily scan your favorite Catholic sites and search engines to find almost anything of almost any opinion on how this document is either good, bad, or both. I confess little interest in the bulk of curial reform, but I do want to peel out sections 88 through 97 to see what it says about the “Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.” We’ll devote four posts to this in the coming week.

Note that the term dicastery has replaced the older congregation in Vatican terminology in all instances. Not sure how much this is an upgrade in the original Latin or in the translation to English. For acronym lovers, it’s just a matter of substituting the letter C with a D. Where I’ve probably blogged hundreds of times about the CDWDS, now it’s the DDWDS. (Hint: I’m not going to edit this site to comply; just saying.)

Much has been made of Pope Francis’ desire that the curia serve the bishops and the ministries of the universal Church. Less so the other way around. It seems the text of Praedicate Evangelium largely reflects that. I suppose the pudding’s proof won’t arrive for a number of years yet. How Vatican officials and employees in the liturgy dicastery respond to bishops–a few thousand of them–that has yet to be seen.

Before we delve into specifics, any commentary? Heard anything or found an authoritative English translation yet?

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GCSPD 1-3: General Principles, Part 1

Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities proper begins with eight paragraphs laying out “General Principles.” Anyone reading them would click off, “no-brainer,” and move on. They include the equal dignity of all persons and that Baptism sets each person on the course to a shared divine calling. (GCSPD 1) Canon law is cited, 835.4 and 843.1 of the right all Catholics possess to “participate in the sacraments as fully as other members of the local ecclesial community.” and that those who provide the sacraments cannot refuse anyone who “seek(s) them at appropriate times, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.” (Those canons cited plus GCSPD 2)

We shouldn’t be surprised that one of the hallmarks of Vatican II is cited in paragraph 3, “full, active, and conscious participation.” Does this mean every person participates in liturgy in the same way? Or course not. But the advice given to clergy and other ministers aligns with another Catholic hallmark, Pope Francis’ theme of accompaniment. What does that mean? Get to know people with disabilities. (Cf. Ibid. 3) Pope Benedict XVI is cited:

Full accessibility should be the goal for every parish, and these adaptations are to be an ordinary part of the liturgical life of the parish. (Cf. Sacramentum Caritatis 58)

Like I said above: easy. Thoughts or comments?

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The Armchair Liturgist: Sixth or Seventh Sunday?

When the directive surfaced to observe Ascension on the nearest Sunday rather than the traditional Thursday, an option was offered in its wake. I don’t see it mentioned on the USCCB site today. I do remember that instead of losing the seventh Sunday readings and prayers, they could be substituted on the sixth Sunday. The cycle C Scriptures are here. For worshippers in Ascension Thursday dioceses, they won’t miss the stoning of Stephen, a royal Psalm, the 97th, the last words in the Bible, or the end of Jesus’ Last Supper prayer.

Given that Ascension will be observed on Sunday (the utility of that decision can be debated elsewhere) which set of readings would you use in your parish? If your community was associated with Saint Stephen, does that affect your decision?

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The USCCB document, Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities, what’s it for? Do US Catholics really need another document like this? Pastors and their staffs are pretty much the sole people determining how the sacraments get celebrated. There is a very wide array of practices, and even within a diocese, neighboring parishes can have very different approaches. Unless something really wacky is promoted, or some lay person makes an almighty fuss, will the GCSPD make a difference?

In the preface to this document, the bishops recognize that “inconsistencies in pastoral practice often arise from distinct yet overlapping causes. Some result from a misunderstanding about the nature of disabilities. Others arise from an uncertainty about the appropriate application of church law toward persons with disabilities. Others are born out of fear, misunderstanding, or unfamiliarity. Still others seem to be the result of the real or perceived limitations of a parish’s or diocese’s available resources.”

What to do? This document heavily quotes canon law. Over the past few decades, that’s where the competence of many bishops lies. Still, there is a good amount of sound advice here. Someone might wave from the back of the room and ask, “But is it church teaching?” Let’s answer a question with a question: Does a pastor with good advice need to be backed up in print?

Some examples that might need attention:

  • sign language interpreters and captioning for persons who are deaf
  • accessibility of church facilities for persons with mobility needs
  • availability of catechetical programs for persons with intellectual, developmental, and other disabilities

That is just a start. What is the bishops’ object? Greater consistency. Perfectly fair is likely beyond us in this life. The preface concludes with this thought:

While they do not address every conceivable situation that may arise in pastoral practice, the guidelines present a set of general principles to provide access to the sacraments for persons with disabilities. (A)ll those who minister to or with Catholics with disabilities are invited and encouraged to reflect upon and utilize these guidelines in their continuing effort to bring Christ’s healing message and call to justice to the world.

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On Vocations

I saw this piece skeptical of “vocational discernment” for the laity. I think Amy Welborn is picking at the peripherals on the topic. I think it needs more of a Vatican II attitude, if not spirit. But you readers would expect I’d say that.

I have never been a fan of emphasizing “vocation” for the laity. My dissent is rooted in two places, I think.

First, quite honestly, my personality type, which is all about preparing, but averse to planning. Some might call this “reactive,” I prefer to think of it as responding to the Spirit.

Better, yes?

No. Not really.

I think that every Christian has a foundational vocation. What is that? Responding to the Lord’s Gospel mandata. What are those? John 13, certainly, washing one another’s feet in service. Matthew 28 and Mark 16, preaching to the world, if not all creation. Matthew 25:31ff, doing to the least of one’s brothers and sisters.

I would expect a catechist to have a bias toward learning, reading, preparing, or planning. Those things are important, but I see the best vehicle for vocation is apprenticeship and being a companion to others.

I hesitate to comment on a book I’ve not read, but Ms Welborn cites Christopher Lane:

The reformers’ new vision of the choice of a state of life was marked by four characteristics:

  • urgency (the realization that one’s soul was at stake),
  • inclusiveness (the belief that everyone, including lay people, was called by God),
  • method (the use of proven discernment practices),
  • and liberty (the belief that this choice must be free from coercion, especially by parents). 

There’s nothing one can do about the first point. One’s soul is in the hands of God. The speed of responding, the obedience or adherence–nothing a human being can do nudges the agency of God in salvation.

Inclusiveness is a quality of discernment in the sense that baptism imparts a character that includes vocation as a feature of the system.

As I wrote above, method for vocation and its discernment is primarily one of a mentor. Godparents are the mentors designated by church office, and parents certainly, as heads of the domestic church.

It should go without saying that persons are not to be coerced into baptism, or any subsequent discernment about life’s direction.

The essay is saved by wisdom from Francis de Sales, who counsels (as one might expect) going easy on oneself. Shifts in direction may well produce good fruit. And even bad choices or selfish ones might bring an onset of holiness.

Moving forward, I think it’s wholly appropriate to recognize vocation as foundational to Baptism. Even before we talk about marriage, religious life, or priesthood. The danger is that getting ordained or taking vows becomes a human expression of vocation in the sense a person with good mechanical skills might claim a vocation to be a carpenter, or a healer might claim a vocation as a nurse or doctor. Being a spouse, priest, doctor, engineer, etc., are fine things. But they don’t guarantee the person has a vocation in the sense of a calling from God.

I’ve known clergy who simply lived out a “personal” calling, a vocation that seemed to have little to do with other people, or even God, but more to do about themselves. I’ve also known lay people who had a clear and vibrant ministry which was evident as a “calling” for others. Even if not explicitly Christian, such work can indeed be a vocation from God.

We do prospective seminarians, postulants, and engaged persons a disservice by not checking in with their faith journey as a baptized person. How do they see themselves aligned with the mandata of Jesus? How do they live for others? How will new horizons of matrimony, orders, vowed life, and even medicine, law, science, labor, and parenting align with a vocation, a true calling that focuses not so much on a personal holiness, but helping to guide others into it?

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Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities

The third iteration of this document, Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities, was approved by the USCCB five years ago. It updated a publication from the mid-1970s that was later revised in the late 1980s.

In my experience, catechists are somewhat more familiar with this than clergy and other liturgical ministers. But there are exceptions.

Speaking for myself, I would interpret a document like this broadly. We’re not just talking about people’s celebration of the so-called “magic moments,” but also routine and everyday expressions of worship. That’s not just when a person is “qualified” to receive a sacrament, but also the ongoing participation in the life of the community. The bishops themselves hint at this in the introduction to the document:

All members of the Body of Christ are uniquely called by God by virtue of their Baptism. In light of this call, the Church seeks to support all in their growth in holiness, and to encourage all in their vocations.

The desired end result is not participation and reception, but holiness.

Over the next several days, we’ll look at the document broadly, a preface, then general principles, then see what the bishops say about each of the seven sacraments before looking at their conclusion. First thoughts? Experiences?

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New Document on Liturgical Formation?

A Spanish language interview with CDWDS head Arthur Roche intrigued me for a few details. First, that a liturgy document on formation is in the works.

(T)wo years ago, the Holy Father asked this Congregation to hold a plenary meeting of all its members to discuss liturgical formation throughout the Church: from bishops to priests and laity. And indeed, a document on this matter is currently being prepared. It may be concretized in a letter to the Church on the importance of formation. What do we do when we gather every Sunday for this celebration. Not just an obligation to do something every week, but what do we do? What do we celebrate at that time?

This has potential. We’ve paid too little attention lately to formation as we’ve concentrated on rubrics. Archbishop Roche agrees with me on that. It’s not really a zero-sum game in liturgical theology. Many of my colleagues, even some clergy, aren’t aware of why we do what we do. Doing the red is easy, especially when it’s not printed in Latin. Cultivating holiness is the work of a mystic and mystagogue. That is a charism.

Second, and possibly more impressive, was how much he references Lumen Gentium and the importance of the holiness of the baptized. 

If we get a good amount of number two, I would retire in 2030 a very happy liturgist.

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The Armchair Liturgist: Paschal Candle and Easter Adoration

On his blog, Father Paul Turner responds to a question about adoration of the Blessed Sacrament during the Easter season: should the Paschal Candle be lit? Sit in the purple chair and render judgment. Is this Candle only for Mass? If you light it outside of Mass, when might that occur?

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Spe Salvi 50: A Final Petition to the Blessed Virgin

A Scripture-laden request for intercession concludes this document, which you can find in full online here:

50. So we cry to her:

Holy Mary, you belonged to the humble and great souls of Israel who, like Simeon, were “looking for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25) and hoping, like Anna, “for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).

The presentation in the Temple.

Your life was thoroughly imbued with the sacred scriptures of Israel which spoke of hope, of the promise made to Abraham and his descendants (cf. Luke 1:55).

The Magnificat.

In this way we can appreciate the holy fear that overcame you when the angel of the Lord appeared to you and told you that you would give birth to the One who was the hope of Israel, the One awaited by the world. Through you, through your “yes”, the hope of the ages became reality, entering this world and its history. You bowed low before the greatness of this task and gave your consent: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

The Annunciation.

Pope Benedict XVI attributes a knowledge of the prophetic tradition to Mary. I think that is in keeping with how the Bible presents her, especially in Luke 1:46-55.

When you hastened with holy joy across the mountains of Judea to see your cousin Elizabeth, you became the image of the Church to come, which carries the hope of the world in her womb across the mountains of history. But alongside the joy which, with your Magnificat, you proclaimed in word and song for all the centuries to hear, you also knew the dark sayings of the prophets about the suffering of the servant of God in this world. Shining over his birth in the stable at Bethlehem, there were angels in splendor who brought the good news to the shepherds, but at the same time the lowliness of God in this world was all too palpable. The old man Simeon spoke to you of the sword which would pierce your soul (cf. Luke 2:35), of the sign of contradiction that your Son would be in this world.

From a human nuclear family, Mary turns Jesus over to the world, anticipating a new community, a family of believers that would further the Father’s will and the mission and ministry of the Son:

Then, when Jesus began his public ministry, you had to step aside, so that a new family could grow, the family which it was his mission to establish and which would be made up of those who heard his word and kept it (cf. Luke 11:27ff). Notwithstanding the great joy that marked the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, in the synagogue of Nazareth you must already have experienced the truth of the saying about the “sign of contradiction” (cf. Luke 4:28ff). In this way you saw the growing power of hostility and rejection which built up around Jesus until the hour of the Cross, when you had to look upon the Savior of the world, the heir of David, the Son of God dying like a failure, exposed to mockery, between criminals. Then you received the word of Jesus: “Woman, behold, your Son!” (John 19:26).

Mary’s experience: the death of Jesus, but a new family is provided for her.

From the Cross you received a new mission. From the Cross you became a mother in a new way: the mother of all those who believe in your Son Jesus and wish to follow him. The sword of sorrow pierced your heart. Did hope die? Did the world remain definitively without light, and life without purpose? At that moment, deep down, you probably listened again to the word spoken by the angel in answer to your fear at the time of the Annunciation: “Do not be afraid, Mary!” (Luke 1:30). How many times had the Lord, your Son, said the same thing to his disciples: do not be afraid! In your heart, you heard this word again during the night of Golgotha. Before the hour of his betrayal he had said to his disciples: “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). “Do not be afraid, Mary!” In that hour at Nazareth the angel had also said to you: “Of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33). Could it have ended before it began? No, at the foot of the Cross, on the strength of Jesus’s own word, you became the mother of believers. In this faith, which even in the darkness of Holy Saturday bore the certitude of hope, you made your way towards Easter morning.

The crown of the Paschal Mystery involves the Easter experience of the Lord in the eyes and ears of the disciples. From there, an ever-widening Reign that will lead humanity to have a new hope. Anticipating such, we appeal rightly to Mary for intercession and look to her example as a guiding light for the present and future:

The joy of the Resurrection touched your heart and united you in a new way to the disciples, destined to become the family of Jesus through faith. In this way you were in the midst of the community of believers, who in the days following the Ascension prayed with one voice for the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14) and then received that gift on the day of Pentecost. The “Kingdom” of Jesus was not as might have been imagined. It began in that hour, and of this “Kingdom” there will be no end. Thus you remain in the midst of the disciples as their Mother, as the Mother of hope. Holy Mary, Mother of God, our Mother, teach us to believe, to hope, to love with you. Show us the way to his Kingdom! Star of the Sea, shine upon us and guide us on our way!

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 30 November, the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, in the year 2007, the third of my Pontificate.


This document is Copyright © 2007 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

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Spe Salvi 49: Mary, Star of Hope

Modern people think of stars in many ways. The cult of celebrity is strong these days, and sometimes the prefix “super” is needed to distinguish those above our ordinary stars.

The older meaning involves guidance, and accompaniment in a time of darkness. People on pilgrimage might have declined travel in the heat of day and turned to nighttime to make progress. In the spiritual life too, we find ourselves making way when difficulties abound and guidance might seen unsure.

Let’s conclude our journey with Spe Salvi with a meditation on Mary, Star of Hope.

49. With a hymn composed in the eighth or ninth century, thus for over a thousand years, the Church has greeted Mary, the Mother of God, as “Star of the Sea”: Ave maris stella. Human life is a journey. Towards what destination? How do we find the way? Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by—people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way. Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us? With her “yes” she opened the door of our world to God himself; she became the living Ark of the Covenant, in whom God took flesh, became one of us, and pitched his tent among us (cf. John 1:14).

This document is Copyright © 2007 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana. You can find the full document online here.

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The New Four-Letter Words


In the olden days, the euphemism was “four-letter-word,” something you didn’t want your mom catch you using. Now we have something new.

I didn’t catch this switch yesterday on Wordle, but apparently, the original answer in the game was FETUS. This was a bother to some who look to compartmentalize their lives and keep politics in a separate box. I get that.

The NYT statement claimed the answer was set up long ago and wasn’t intentional. From it:

We take our role seriously as a place to entertain and escape. We want Wordle to remain distinct from the news.


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Spe Salvi 48: Judgment and Hope, Final Thoughts

Let’s finish the topic of Judgement as a setting for learning and practicing hope. In this section, Pope Benedict XVI writes of praying for the dead. Do we have proof of the effectiveness of this practice? No more than most any other aspect that lies in the realm of faith. But people still engage the practice–they have for centuries. And it does impart hope.

48. A further point must be mentioned here, because it is important for the practice of Christian hope. Early Jewish thought includes the idea that one can help the deceased in their intermediate state through prayer (see for example 2 Maccabees 12:38-45; first century BC).

The notion of intercessory prayer is much older. The patriarch Abraham engaged in it for the righteous of Sodom in Genesis 18, trying to ensure that those with a hope of righteousness would be spared the general fate to be applied to the unjust.

Some differences between East and West:

The equivalent practice was readily adopted by Christians and is common to the Eastern and Western Church. The East does not recognize the purifying and expiatory suffering of souls in the afterlife, but it does acknowledge various levels of beatitude and of suffering in the intermediate state. The souls of the departed can, however, receive “solace and refreshment” through the Eucharist, prayer and almsgiving.

How strong is the virtue of love? The modern age devotes quite a bit of testimony to it through fiction, religion, and even in the news many people choose to consume.

The belief that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible, in which our affection for one another continues beyond the limits of death—this has been a fundamental conviction of Christianity throughout the ages and it remains a source of comfort today. Who would not feel the need to convey to their departed loved ones a sign of kindness, a gesture of gratitude or even a request for pardon? Now a further question arises: if “Purgatory” is simply purification through fire in the encounter with the Lord, Judge and Savior, how can a third person intervene, even if he or she is particularly close to the other?

Well, we acknowledge powerlessness over the matters of God. But it doesn’t mean that a believer doesn’t engage an audacious sense of questioning, petitioning, and even pestering God. Jesus admits it, and identifies it as a virtue. That no person is an equal of God isn’t debated. What is a reality is that any person can converse with God. On occasion, that exchange might not be as meek or deferential as some might propose.

The human community remains connected, even after life is ended:

When we ask such a question, we should recall that no (person) is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse. So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death. In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other—my prayer for (them)—can play a small part in (their) purification.

We are also abandoning the mortal universe’s experience of time. It’s not about a person who is dead now has been judged one way or the other. That’s not likely how it works.

And for that there is no need to convert earthly time into God’s time: in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain. In this way we further clarify an important element of the Christian concept of hope. Our hope is always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me too [Cf.Catechism, 1032].

A final thought, to be concerned for the salvation of others.

As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well.

In essence, this is part of the believer’s imitation of Christ. Jesus was intimately concerned for the sanctity of people as he conducted his earthly ministry. It seems to be no different today. The deeper our personal relationship with him, the more of his personal qualities and agenda become our own. He would not be satisfied with the salvation of one person–ourself, and for devoted believers, the same emphasis on all creation (Cf. Mark 16:15).

This document is Copyright © 2007 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana. You can find the full document online here.

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Spe Salvi 47: Jesus, The Fire

Continuing the discussion on Judgement as a setting for learning and practicing hope. Pope Benedict XVI cites the encounter with Jesus as a purgation and judgment. Honestly. it sounds like something Pope Francis would teach. Here, you read and decide:

47. Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Savior. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God.

So, pain. There are many kinds of pain, and for many people, it’s usually self-inflicted. But the notion of pain in this discussion on the Last Judgment strikes me as a curious thing. Is it an anthropomorphism, attributing the human indulgence for punishment and vengeance to God? I wonder. We are so sure hell has the pain of fire because when we’ve been wronged, do not many of us wish an equally painful suffering on an offender? On the other hand, there may well be severe psychological pain to see tax collectors and prostitutes enter into the gates of heaven before our Christian crew.

Here we have some godly thinking, that the impulse to union with God gives the believer a certain momentum toward grace:

In this way the inter-relation between justice and grace also becomes clear: the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us for ever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love. Indeed, it has already been burned away through Christ’s Passion.

Yes; more burning. The Passion did not include any heated implements of torture, at least in the Gospel record.

At the moment of judgement we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy. It is clear that we cannot calculate the “duration” of this transforming burning in terms of the chronological measurements of this world. The transforming “moment” of this encounter eludes earthly time-reckoning—it is the heart’s time, it is the time of “passage” to communion with God in the Body of Christ [Cf. Catechism, 1030-1032].

This was a key passage for me, explaining the connection between grace and justice. It makes sense to me. What about you?

The judgement of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace. If it were merely grace, making all earthly things cease to matter, God would still owe us an answer to the question about justice—the crucial question that we ask of history and of God. If it were merely justice, in the end it could bring only fear to us all. The incarnation of God in Christ has so closely linked the two together—judgement and grace—that justice is firmly established: we all work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Nevertheless grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our “advocate”, or parakletos (cf. 1 John 2:1).

It is good to know that the one on our case is the Son of God, and not the so-called deveil’s advocate, ready to trip us up with some surprise accusation.

This document is Copyright © 2007 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana. You can find the full document online here.

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Mother’s Day, Inclusion and Exclusion

Inevitably, a day like Mother’s Day invites the occasional complaint. I remember one person in a parish long ago who seemed desperate to be a mother. She was middle-aged and not married. She also objected to the Mother’s Day blessing that the pastor prayed annually.

I listened to her complaint, but I couldn’t see suspending the practice because some women were excluded. More poignant was the woman who had lost a child. Clearly, she wasn’t going to be a recipient of a card, present, and meal in honor of a role she once held. Does the pain get bad enough that one would skip church on Mother’s Day? I’m sure some people do it.

The tendency in churches I’ve served is a fairly wide inclusivity. Today’s blessing I heard mentioned “mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, foster mothers, and adoptive mothers.” When I’ve written it, I’ve sometimes keystroked “those who have been mother figures to us.” Or some such wording.

Who are mother figures? Teachers, mentors, neighbors, music or dance directors and such? A man can do all this too. Is Mother’s Day also open to female persons of leadership? I can’t speak for mothers, but as a father, I don’t mind sharing my third Sunday in June with guys who have been father figures. The more, the better. The world can’t have too many moms and dads.

On the other hand, Jennifer Roback Morse and others would like to clamp down on a wider view of who might be a mother. The headline at NCReg is “Happy Birthing Person’s Day?! Seriously?” I’m aware the term has poked up in a government document, but I don’t think it’s hit the rounds in the folded cardboard aisle. And besides, if a person has given birth but later, for genetic, psychological, or even a misguided reason envisions themselves as non-binary or even male, what’s the problem with giving them a Mother’s Day, should they so desire it? Or change the name of the holiday however they want to define it?

Who determines who gets a Mother’s Day? I think it’s easy: the person who views another person as a mother or mother figure. If a person can tell another, “You’ve been a great mom to me, biological or otherwise,” that’s certainly enough for the day. Have a happy one.

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Spe Salvi 46: Between Virtue and Evil, Compromise

46. Yet we know from experience that neither case is normal in human life.

Remember, we are talking about folks out-and-out condemned to hell or ushered into santo subito status. Pope Benedict XVI offers a hopeful vibe:

For the great majority of people—we may suppose—there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God. In the concrete choices of life, however, it is covered over by ever new compromises with evil—much filth covers purity, but the thirst for purity remains and it still constantly re-emerges from all that is base and remains present in the soul.

This is likely very true for most believers. Compromise is in play in ordinary life, and sometimes virtue is bent in order to lower a branch for a seemingly good fruit. Perhaps there is a wide range of bending amongst Christians. It seems likely that we compromise much more that we would have originally thought wise or even possible. How does that affect our eternity?

What happens to such individuals when they appear before the Judge? Will all the impurity they have amassed through life suddenly cease to matter? What else might occur? Saint Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, gives us an idea of the differing impact of God’s judgement according to each person’s particular circumstances. He does this using images which in some way try to express the invisible, without it being possible for us to conceptualize these images—simply because we can neither see into the world beyond death nor do we have any experience of it. Paul begins by saying that Christian life is built upon a common foundation: Jesus Christ. This foundation endures. If we have stood firm on this foundation and built our life upon it, we know that it cannot be taken away from us even in death. Then Paul continues: “Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each (person’s) work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any (person) has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any (person’s) work is burned up, (they) will suffer loss, though (They themselves) will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). In this text, it is in any case evident that our salvation can take different forms, that some of what is built may be burned down, that in order to be saved we personally have to pass through “fire” so as to become fully open to receiving God and able to take our place at the table of the eternal marriage-feast.

And this purification with its image of fire: this is how the purgation of purgatory is described. Will it burn? Will it be painful? How much will we resist some sort of movement away from our compromises, and how much will that make things more difficult?

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