A Council, Full Greatness To Come

Interesting discussion at PrayTell about that conference at Georgetown on Vatican II. Naturally, the h-word makes an appearance.

I think the importance of Vatican II has yet to be noted. If it proves to be the spark that brings a measure of unity to Christendom, then it will easily overshadow Trent, which did little more for the universal Church than draw certain boundaries. But it did what it could with the tools it had available at the time.

My sense is that a so-called pastoral council is superior to a dogmatic one. The Church as a whole does not live on the level of pronouncements and theology, important as these may be. We live for mercy, love, and hope. On that note, perhaps Christianity’s greatest councils are still in the future.

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Dives in Misericordiae 1a: Mercy Revealed

Divine_Mercy_Sanctuary_in_Vilnius4With this post we leap into the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II. Following Redemptor Hominis (1979) the topic of mercy may have been something of a surprise. I don’t find Dives in Misericordiae (“Rich in mercy”) to be cited as often as a handful of other documents by our recent, sainted pope.

There are eight headings within this document. These themes are distributed through fifteen numbered sections, each quite long compared to most all other church documents.

You will find John Paul’s keen intellect really explores his topic. We will be devoting several days to each numbered section–this will not be a two-week enterprise.

After the opening blessing of this document, Pope John Paul II introduced his first section with a citation fro. John 14:9, “(The one) who sees me sees the Father.” As we explore section 1, “The Revelation of Mercy,” we look first to the Word of God, and to every Christian’s great teacher, Jesus:

1. The Revelation of Mercy
It is “God, who is rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4) whom Jesus Christ has revealed to us as Father: it is His very Son who, in Himself, has manifested Him and made Him known to us. (Cf. Jn. 1:18; Heb. 1:1f) Memorable in this regard is the moment when Philip, one of the twelve Apostles, turned to Christ and said: “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied”; and Jesus replied: “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me…? He who has seen me has seen the Father.” (Jn. 14:8-9) These words were spoken during the farewell discourse at the end of the paschal supper, which was followed by the events of those holy days during which confirmation was to be given once and for all of the fact that “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” (Eph. 2:4-5)

The Israelites certainly knew God. Many people experienced the God of the Old Testament as very much like a person, and with moods and feelings: certainly loving and tender, but also vindictive and angry. Jesus clarified this for those who followed God. Without getting into “How could we have been so wrong?” I prefer to think of the revelation of the Father in Christ to be another stage in getting to know God.

For the Christian believer, if we wish to know God, we go to Jesus first. Not the Old Testament. Perhaps not the rues and regulations of the Church. But Jesus. And we attend carefully to his words.

The quality of mercy is introduced through Jesus, and his Paschal Mystery, well-cited in Ephesians 2, “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”

That’s a good p lace to leave off for today. Any comments?

Dives in Misericordia is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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PS 38: Easter Triduum

Jesus arms outstretchedRemember, you can check the full document on this site, among many on the internet.

We now leave behind Lent, its penitential services, baptismal vector, and Chrism Mass, and arrive at the summit of the liturgical year. Over thirty posts lie ahead. They will take us to the end of the Easter Vigil by section #96. Why are Easter and Triduum so important? Redemption is the greatest mystery. Not the incarnation alone so much.

The CDWDS reminds us that Triduum is approximately seventy-two hours, inclusive of Easter Sunday through to Evening Prayer that so few parishes celebrate.

38. The greatest mysteries of the Redemption are celebrated yearly by the Church beginning with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday until Vespers of Easter Sunday. This time is called “the triduum of the crucified, buried and risen”; (Cf. SRC, Decr. Maxima redemptionis nostrae mysteria (6 Nov. 1955) AAS 47 (1955) 858. St Augustine, Ep. 55, 24, PL, 35, 215) it is also called the “Easter Triduum” because during it is celebrated the Paschal mystery, that is, the passing of the Lord from this world to his Father. The Church by the celebration of this mystery, through liturgical signs and sacramentals, is united to Christ, her Spouse, in intimate communion.

I think Easter Vespers are important, but I also understand how exhausting it can be to take in the essence of the Triduum in less than three days. What do you think?

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Reality Check

“Reality check.” A buzz phrase that seems to be getting a lot of notice and traction in the Church this weekend. A bit more than a million people voted to expand rights, and possibly responsibilities, for LGBT people in their small country. The top Catholic prelate there says the Church needs a reality check. What could he mean by that?

According to the NYT, a Church is pondering its future. But does that capture the moment? I’m not sure. A three-to-two referendum win does not appear out of thin air. For lesbians and gays, it might mean a sea change in a relationship on a legal level. But it doesn’t encourage people who are embittered with the Church to let up. It doesn’t steer them into or out of relationships based on love, or even some cloudy, undiscerned experience of connection.

In other words, Irish Catholics didn’t suddenly wake up one morning and decide to buck their bishops.

Archbishop Martin:

I think really that the church needs to do a reality check, a reality check right across the board, to look at the things it’s doing well, to look at the areas where we really have to start and say, “Look, have we drifted away completely from young people?”

Some Catholics wouldn’t be asking these questions. It’s a matter of entitlement. They are entitled to congruence from their sisters and brothers. Leadership and God are entitled to obedience. I think we see how that works these days. When one thinks in terms of slapping, maybe four-year-olds are intimidated.

More from Archbishop Martin, who in the eyes of some, probably isn’t excommunicating enough people:

That doesn’t mean that we renounce our teaching on fundamental values on marriage and the family. Nor does it mean that we dig into the trenches. We need to find…a new language which is fundamentally ours, that speaks to, is understood and becomes appreciated by others.

My sense about the life of faith, religion, and spirituality is that the hermeneutic of subtraction is a fruitless endeavor. What do I mean by that? You can’t build a Church or a culture by subtracting out the bad. First, the parable reminds us the Lord reserves to himself and to his own time when things get sorted out. It’s not as if we don’t have enough to do in the meantime.

Telling same-sex-attracted people they can’t lobby, seek, and experience a civil privilege? Seems like a lot of energy for straight people to be bothered about when our own marriages and families have so much work ahead of them. Perhaps that new language is not one of intimidation or force, but of loving example.

But all of us live in the grey area. All of us fail. All of us are intolerant. All of us make mistakes. All of us sin and all of us pick ourselves up again with the help of that institution which should be there to do that. The church’s teaching, if it isn’t expressed in terms of love – then it’s got it wrong.

Are we wrong?

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Humanae Vitae 31: A Great Work

sperm and eggHumanae Vitae is online at the Vatican site, and the text highlighted below is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

With this post, we wrap up this momentous document. Whether in adherence or dissent, few would deny it was a significant moment for the Catholic Church. It continues to have a significant impact to this day.

Read the final paragraph, and then add your last say after this sainted pope’s last words and blessing:

31. Venerable brothers, beloved sons, all (people) of good will, great indeed is the work of education, of progress and of charity to which We now summon all of you. And this We do relying on the unshakable teaching of the Church, which teaching Peter’s successor together with his brothers in the Catholic episcopate faithfully guards and interprets. And We are convinced that this truly great work will bring blessings both on the world and on the Church. For (people) cannot attain that true happiness for which (they) yearn with all the strength of (their) spirit, unless (they) keep the laws which the Most High God has engraved in his very nature. These laws must be wisely and lovingly observed. On this great work, on all of you and especially on married couples, We implore from the God of all holiness and pity an abundance of heavenly grace as a pledge of which We gladly bestow Our apostolic blessing.

Given at St. Peter’s, Rome, on the 25th day of July, the feast of St. James the Apostle, in the year 1968, the sixth of Our pontificate. PAUL VI

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Football, Plumbing, and Blogging

swansea city afcSwansea, and 17 other Premier League teams finished up their seasons yesterday. The ten-match simulcast on American networks took place in the morning. And being a Sunday churchgoer, I missed the live action.

After I got home from a wedding consultation after the morning Masses, I brought the laptop to the basement and watched Hull City get relegated while I finished dismantling bolts and things on the downstairs toilet. And I had time to see Liverpool get thrashed while I installed new innards.

After dinner, I took some time to watch the final contest for Swansea City. But after a long weekend of an out-of-town wedding, Sunday liturgies, and adventures in plumbing … I have to admit I dozed off while the game trundled along on my computer.

The Swans have a few preseason matches in Dallas this summer. I have a few job applications up in Texas, so who knows? Maybe I’ll get to see them live once or twice. It seems more likely I will be in a familiar slot for my 2015-16 season, an eighth at the student center. I’ve been selective in the parishes I’ve talked to about serving. But after three months of looking, it might be time to consider the higher value of family and parish stability.

As for today, I have a leak to fix with the toilet re-installation. Practice for the new appliance sitting in the living room to be dropped into the upstairs bathroom today. My wife and the young miss were adamant on one point: finish one job before starting the other.

On that theme, I have Pope John Paul’s encyclical on mercy, Dives in Misericordia, prepared for posting. Later today, Humanae Vitae will be wrapped. I’ve been thinking that three documents a day has been a bit much, not the least for you readers. I’ll be preparing some posts on DiM for the coming week. We’ll start tomorrow with scheduled drops about Iowa noon on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, time for a bucket a wrench.

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PS 37: The Penitential Celebrations in Lent

Jesus arms outstretchedRemember, you can check the full document Paschale Solemnitatis on this site, among many on the internet. A last work on Lent:

37. It is fitting that the Lenten season should be concluded, both for the individual Christian as well as for the whole Christian community, with a penitential celebration, so that they may be helped to prepare to celebrate more fully the paschal mystery. (Cf. Rite of Penance, Appendix II, 1. 7. Cf. supra n. 18)

These celebrations, however, should take place before the Easter Triduum, and should not immediately precede the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

Most often, these celebrations take place before Holy Week. But not always. There is a spirit in this section suggesting that a penance service, sacramental or just Word, could be the last liturgy of Lent, proper. During a busy Holy Week that includes a Chrism Mass for the clergy and some people, that might be asking quite a lot. I wonder how often this is followed in monastic communities.

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