Aparecida 99abc: Highlighting Bible, Liturgy, Clergy

The Aparecida bishops list seven positive efforts in Latin American ministry. We’ll take these in two posts–spreading out the discussion a bit.

99. Pastoral efforts aimed at the encounter with the living Jesus Christ have produced and are still producing fruits.

The standard of fruitfulness is not popularity as such, but notice: the encounter with Christ. First up, the Word of God:

a) Due to the biblical inspiration of pastoral work, knowledge of God’s Word and love for it is growing. Thanks to assimilation of the Church’s magisterium and better training of generous catechists, the renewal of catechesis has produced fruitful results throughout the continent, and has even reached countries in North America, Europe, and Asia, where many Latin Americans and Caribbean have emigrated.

This is also true in the First World. But the training of catechists to go where no priests are assigned is part of the needful ministry vector in many parts of the Americas. I suspect the effort is less-directed in the US and Canada than it is in some Latin American countries, but not without examples.

Number two, liturgy:

b) The liturgical renewal emphasized the celebratory and festive dimension of the Christian faith centered on the paschal mystery of Christ the Savior, and the Eucharist in particular. Manifestations of popular religiosity are growing, especially eucharistic piety and Marian devotion. Some efforts have been made to inculturate the liturgy within indigenous and Afro-American peoples. The risks of reducing the Church to a political actor have been gradually overcome, with better discernment of the seductive influence of ideologies. Responsibility and vigilance over the truths of the faith have been enhanced, gaining in depth and serenity of communion.

This is a good summation of conciliar thinking: Paschal Mystery and the Eucharist. If popular piety is waxing in Latin America, it might have been on the wane in the North. My sense is that people in their heads rather than their hearts are the ones who dismiss or minimize religious devotions. You readers, what do you make of the comments on politics and ideology?

Clergy get a thumbs up from the people:

c) Our people have held priests in high esteem. They recognize the holiness of many of them, as well as the testimony of their life, their missionary work and pastoral creativity, particularly of those who are in remote places or more difficult settings.

This is true in the US, too. Even after the outing of abuse cover-up. People will trust and revere a priest from the get-go. It is generally when a community has been badly offended by a cleric or when the priest’s behavior is particularly troublesome do we see an erosion of regard.

Many of our Churches have priestly ministry and concrete experiences of shared life and a just remuneration of the clergy. The permanent deaconate has been developed in some churches, along with ministries entrusted to lay people and other pastoral services, such as delegates of the word, lay parish leaders and of small communities, including church base communities, ecclesial movements, and a large number of specific pastoral ministries.

These developments may be troublesome to those more focused on hierarchy. That’s a problem across the hemisphere.

A major effort is being made toward improving the formation in our seminaries, in houses of formation for religious life, and in schools for the permanent deaconate. The witness of religious life, its contribution to pastoral activities, and its presence in situations of poverty, risk, and on the border is significant. The increase of vocations to the male and female contemplative life is encouraging.

I hope the relationship with religious has been less contentious for the Aparecida bishops. That has been a major and needless distraction north of the Rio Grande. Cultivating a mutual regard and better teamwork will do nothing but support the effort of vocation and ministry.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Circular Letter on Bread and Wine

An English translation of the “Circular letter to Bishops on the bread and wine for the Eucharist” is now circulating publicly. (Full English translation here.) This is a document published by the Congregation for Diovine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) at the request of Pope Francis.

Rather than pick apart the text word by word, here are a few highlights of interest.

It is for the Bishop as principal dispenser of the mysteries of God, moderator, promoter and guardian of the liturgical life in the Church entrusted to his care (Cf. CIC can. 835 § 1), to watch over the quality of the bread and wine to be used at the Eucharist and also those who prepare these materials. In order to be of assistance we recall the existing regulations and offer some practical suggestions.

There is nothing really new here in terms of legislation, but the tone is illustrative regarding the “practical suggestions.” The CDWDS notes that once religious communities prepared Eucharistic bread and wine, but that today many parishes look to secular sources. Reminding bishops of GIRM 319-323, they pass on the following responsibility to those who pastor parishes:

… remind priests, especially parish priests and rectors of churches, of their responsibility to verify those who provide the bread and wine for the celebration and the worthiness of the material.

And producers:

… to provide information to the producers of the bread and wine for the Eucharist and to remind them of the absolute respect that is due to the norms.

Redemptionis Sacramentum 48 and 50 are also cited. We blogged about those here. This letter skips over RS 49, one of the weaker parts of that document.

One interesting development that caught my eye was some print devoted to those who have allergies or other serious problems with the substance of wheat and wine. Low gluten bread and mustum were addressed in a CDF (not CDWDS) circular letter of 2003 addressed to presidents of bishops’ conferences. So these reminders resurfaced:

“Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist. Low-gluten hosts (partially gluten-free) are valid matter, provided they contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread without the addition of foreign materials and without the use of procedures that would alter the nature of bread” (A. 1-2).

Gluten-free bread doesn’t have the “feel” of real bread. Some varieties of low-gluten hosts have more the appearance of chips–not just sight, but sound and touch.

Permission for mustum for clergy dates back to the 1980s, but the CDF gave some specifics:

“Mustum, which is grape juice that is either fresh or preserved by methods that suspend its fermentation without altering its nature (for example, freezing), is valid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist” (A. 3).

Back in the 80s, mustum could not be given to lay people, but this was updated in 2003:

“The Ordinary is competent to give permission for an individual priest or layperson to use low-gluten hosts or mustum for the celebration of the Eucharist. Permission can be granted habitually, for as long as the situation continues which occasioned the granting of permission” (C. 1).

GMO OK:

The same Congregation also decided that Eucharistic matter made with genetically modified organisms can be considered valid matter (cf. Letter to the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 9 December 2013, Prot. N. 89/78 – 44897).

This may be directed at parish bakers and vintners:

Those who make bread and produce wine for use in the Mass must be aware that their work is directed towards the Eucharistic Sacrifice and that this demands their honesty, responsibility and competence.

A useful suggestion that nods at the competence of bishops on the conference level:

In order to facilitate the observance of the general norms Ordinaries can usefully reach agreement at the level of the Episcopal Conference by establishing concrete regulations. Given the complexity of situations and circumstances, such as a decrease in respect for the sacred, it may be useful to mandate a competent authority to have oversight in actually guaranteeing the genuineness of the Eucharistic matter by producers as well as those responsible for its distribution and sale.

It is suggested, for example, that an Episcopal Conference could mandate one or more Religious Congregations or another body capable of carrying out the necessary checks on production, conservation and sale of the Eucharistic bread and wine in a given country and for other countries to which they are exported. It is recommended that the bread and wine to be used in the Eucharist be treated accordingly in the places where they are sold.

Any thoughts?

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VNO 1: For The Church

Some years ago, we blogged on Masses And Prayers For Various Needs And Occasions. In the GIRM, sections 368-378 cover the universal regulations on their use. You can check our brief comments here and here and here. The USCCB’s unannotated text on the matter is here.

We’re revisiting these Masses in a series here. I can’t promise daily commentary, but by the end of the summer, perhaps, we’ll get to the end of things. On each post we may look at antiphons for singing, and the clergy prayers (with an emphasis on the collects/opening prayers). For readings, we’ll look at Lectionary options.

The Roman Missal offers five sets of options for the theme of “the Church.” It’s not a surprise that the Entrance and Communion antiphons all derive from the New Testament. Canticles (like Ephesians 1:9-10 and Revelation 22:17, 20), Gospel passages (like John 19:34 and Matthew 18:20), and letters to churches (like Romans 12:5 and Revelation 3:20).

The Collects of each of these five options are interesting. They give the mind of the Church on these Masses: a focus on Christ as in option A:

grant … that your Church may be the universal sacrament of salvation and that Christ may be revealed to all as the hope of the nations and their Savior.

in B, a focus on the Church as agent in the world:

grant … that your Church … may continually go forward with the human family and always be the leaven and the soul of human society, to renew it in Christ and transform it into the family of God.

option C’s themes of Trinity and Church unity:

Grant … that your Church may always remain that holy people, formed as one by the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which manifests to the world the Sacrament of your holiness and unity and leads it to the perfection of your charity.

D offers this prayer:

watch over the works of your mercy, that Holy Church … may persevere … in confessing your name.

and E’s emphasis on “the particular Church” offers:

grant that your faithful may be so united to their shepherd and gathered together … as to worthily embody the universality of your people and become a sign and instrument in the world of the presence of Christ.

What strikes me: the acknowledgement that the Church is not “ours,” but God’s, plus the quiet confidence that we can accomplish the mission to which we’ve been entrusted.

Except for option C (which assigns the Preface for Unity of Christians (see VNO #17)) the Eucharistic Prayer for these Masses is to begin with the 8th Preface for Sundays in Ordinary Time. Its key petition is:

… that a people, formed as one by the unity of the Trinity, made the body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit, might, to the praise of your manifold wisdom, be manifest as the Church.

Perhaps there is a risk of being too self-focused by utilizing this Mass for a special occasion. It wouldn’t seem appropriate for a local conference (there are other options) or for healing from scandal (likewise, better options exist). I would think a significant anniversary, like the founding of a diocese (with option E) as distinct from a building’s anniversary.

Clergy and liturgy people: what do you think? Ever celebrate it? Experience it?

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Aparecida 98: Summing the Situation

Part One, “The Life Of Our People Today” (19-100) comes to a conclusion with this numbered section and the two that follow. Describing the “Situation Of Our Church At This Historic Time Of Challenges.”

A short post today:

98. The Catholic Church in Latin America and the Caribbean, despite the flaws and ambiguities of some of its members, has witnessed to Christ, proclaimed his Gospel, and provided its service of charity, particularly to the poorest, striving to promote their dignity, and promote human development in the fields of health, solidarity economy, education, labor, access to land, culture, housing, assistance, among others. By speaking out together with other national and world institutions, it has helped give prudent guidelines and to promote justice human rights and reconciliation of peoples. The church has accordingly often been socially recognized as an entity of trust and credibility. Its effort on behalf of the poorest and its struggle for the dignity of each human being has often led to persecution and even the death of some of its members, whom we regard as witnesses of the faith. We wish to recall the courageous testimony of our men and women saints, and of those who, even though not canonized, have lived out the gospel radically, and have offered their life for Christ, for the Church, and for their people.

 

A fair and honest assessment. In speaking of saints and martyrs, many of these have lived heroic lives outside the clergy or even religious orders. Any thoughts on these or other aspects of Latin American Christianity before we move on to highlights (99) and shadows(100) of this century’s situation?

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Guess Who’s …

Enjoying this classic film with the fam this morning. The young miss hadn’t seen it. Seems like a good choice for the holiday. The “Get Permanently Lost” scene and Spencer Tracy’s final monologue get a lot of attention. These are thoughtful and entertaining, to be sure.

I was reminded of the favorable portrayal of the Church, as represented by Msgr Mike Ryan, performed by Cecil Kellaway. At 42:14 in the link above, the priest confronts Matt Drayton, and suggests about 45 seconds in that the bride’s father may be a “phony liberal.” Best of all is his character’s delight at love as he takes leave of Joanna and John at a bit past 44 minutes.

I heartily approve of so many aspects of this scene–positive portrayals of God, of religion, of Catholicism, of clergy. And in 1967-68. If such a groundbreaking movie were made today on an important social issue, would a filmmaker or scriptwriter hit all four marks?

Meanwhile any less-than-obvious choices for viewing on the Fourth?

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Aparecida 88-97: Indigenous and Afro-American Peoples

Numbered sections 88 through 97 address the Presence of indigenous and Afro-American peoples in the Church.

In resurrecting this series, rather than reproduce things word for word, I’d rather take a wider view on some topics, and go into depth only on the matters of evangelization and mission.

The Latin American bishops recognize the “racial mix that is the social and cultural foundation of our Latin American and Caribbean peoples.” Note the presence of three “roots,” as we have in North America: indigenous peoples, those uprooted from Africa, and people from Europe, who mostly arrived poor and needy. (88)

As in North America, the indigenous and African descendants “demand respect and recognition. Society tends to look down on them, ignoring their uniqueness. Their social situation is marked by exclusion and poverty. The Church accompanies the indigenous and Afro-Americans as they struggle for their legitimate rights.” (89)

Inequality exists within Latin American cultures as it does in the North. Lives of people of color matter there, as they do here. Threats exist on many fronts: “physical, cultural, and spiritual existence; in their ways of life, their identities, and their diversity; in their lands and projects.” (90)

A partial laundry list:

  • Some indigenous communities are away from their lands because those lands have been invaded and degraded,
  • (T)hey do not have enough land to develop their cultures.
  • They suffer very serious assaults on their identity and survival, because economic and cultural globalization jeopardizes their very existence as different peoples.
  • Their gradual cultural transformation leads to rapid disappearance of some languages and cultures.
  • Migration compelled by poverty is deeply influencing change of customs, of relationships, and even of religion. (Ibid.)

In the section that follows, the bishops recognize that social movements on behalf of those of non-European descent are an opportunity for the Church. This is not a new message, as conferences prior to Aparecida endorsed this view.

Section 93 offers a list of values congruent to Christianity:

 

  • Openness to God’s action
  • the sense of gratitude for the fruits of the earth,
  • the sacred character of human life and esteem for the family,
  • the sense of solidarity and stewardship for work performed in common,
  • the importance of worship,
  • belief in a life beyond this earth.

Church values encouraged include integration into church life.

  • Biblical and liturgical translations into non-Romance languages (94)
  • Promoting vocations to religious life and to the clergy (Ibid.)
  • Proclamation of Christ and the Good News of the Reign of God (95)
  • Denouncing social sin and injustice (Ibid.)
  • Fostering dialogue between cultures, across Christian divides, and with other faiths (Ibid.)

Section 95 endorses less explicit preaching about Jesus and more of an “encounter.”

 

Hence, the greatest treasure that we can offer them is that they come to the encounter with Jesus Christ Risen, our Savior. The indigenous people who have already received the Gospel are called, as disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ, to live their Christianity with great joy, to give the reason for their faith within their communities, and to collaborate actively so that no indigenous people of Latin America will abandon its Christian faith, but on the contrary will feel that in Christ they find the full meaning of their existence.

The bishops are not blind that people of African or native American descent have suffered in particular ways south of the Rio Grande as they have north of it. Sections 96 and 97 bring a bit more focus to the plight of black persons in Latin America. This section concludes with a look on the bright side:

Latin America has very vibrant Afro-American communities which contribute and participate actively and creatively in building this continent. Movements for the recovery of identities, for citizen rights and against racism, alternative solidarity income-generating groups are enabling black women and men to be architects of their own history, a new history that is taking shape in Latin America and the Caribbean today. This new reality is based on intercultural relations where diversity does not mean threat, and does not justify hierarchies of power of some over others, but dialogue between different cultural visions, of celebration, of interrelationship, and of revival of hope. (97)

Thoughts or comments?

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Cardinal Müller, Just Out Of Date?

My online friends inclined to anti-Amoris seemed to have latched onto Cardinal Müller’s public musings on divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Communion as a supposed reason for non-renewal of his position. Another reason surfaced in this weekend’s discussions. A former member of the Vatican’s abuse commission, survivor Marie Collins had this direct revelation:

Cardinal Müller’s dicastery was the one that was resisting change. So that may be a sign that (Pope Francis is) not going to take resistance anymore and will push harder. It’s just that things seem to move so slowly in the church. And every day, children are at risk. So there really can’t be any acceptance of slowness or defensiveness or old views that are long out of date.

Most telling would probably be how the cardinal worked with colleagues in other departments. Or not. One thing we’ll probably never see: other dicastery heads saying this guy needed to go.

As for varied viewpoints within a working situation, the problem isn’t that they exist. In parishes I’ve served over the years, the bigger obstacle is interpersonal dynamics, not ideologies. One liturgical example was a situation where I served in a parish under a pastor perceived to be somewhat liberal. An associate pastor who was more of a by-the-book guy was chafing over a small ritual bit: omitting the Gloria during Ordinary Time. He was a little surprised when I told him I favored singing it year-round as he did. I lamented he never approached me as I was considered somewhat aligned with that pastor as my hiring was largely his idea–we had worked together previously in the diocese on committees. The younger priest and I actually had more than a few commonalities, especially in the liturgical sphere. It’s just that we came to the same conclusion from different viewpoints, as it were. The irony is that I always thought I would have worked as well or even better with the newly-minted cleric.

Just my opinion: it’s an out-of-date idea that conflict has to be conflicting.

 

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