DPPL 237: Practices With Relics

STA altar at night smallMany people know relics were once placed in altars. This practice is still acceptable:

237. The Missale Romanum reaffirms the validity “of placing the relics of the Saints under an altar that is to be dedicated, even when not those of the martyrs” (GIRM 302). This usage signifies that the sacrifice of the members has its origin in the Sacrifice of the altar (Cf. Roman Pontifical, Order of the Dedication of an Altar, Editio Typica, Typis Polyglotis Vaticanis 1977, cap. IV, Praenotanda, 5), as well as symbolizing the communion with the Sacrifice of Christ of the entire Church, which is called to witness, event to the point of death, fidelity to her Lord and Spouse.

Again, the relic must be significantly recognizable. A particle unidentified is not a relic. So we’re not talking about a token bit placed in a small receptacle.

The Church offers four points for consideration: authenticity, small pieces, collecting, and fraud/trafficking/superstition.

Many popular usages have been associated with this eminently liturgical cultic expression. The faithful deeply revere the relics of the Saints. An adequate pastoral instruction of the faithful about the use of relics will not overlook:
• ensuring the authenticity of the relics exposed for the veneration of the faithful; where doubtful relics have been exposed for the veneration of the faithful, they should be discreetly withdrawn with due pastoral prudence (Cf. Roman Pontifical, Order of the Dedication of an Altar, Editio Typica, Typis Polyglotis Vaticanis 1977, cap. II, Praenotanda, 5);
• preventing undue dispersal of relics into small pieces, since such practice is not consonant with due respect for the human body; the liturgical norms stipulate that relics must be “of a sufficient size as make clear that they are parts of the human body” (Cf. Roman Pontifical, Order of the Dedication of an Altar, Editio Typica, Typis Polyglotis Vaticanis 1977, cap. II, Praenotanda, 5);
• admonishing the faithful to resist the temptation to form collections of relics; in the past this practice has had some deplorable consequences;
• preventing any possibility of fraud, trafficking (Cf. canon law 1190), or superstition.

What are some laudable practices? These are listed, plus some cautions, like placing them on altars:

The various forms of popular veneration of the relics of the Saints, such as kissing, decorations with lights and flowers, bearing them in processions, in no way exclude the possibility of taking the relics of the Saints to the sick and dying, to comfort them or use the intercession of the Saint to ask for healing. Such should be conducted with great dignity and be motivated by faith. The relics of the Saints should not be exposed on the mensa of the altar, since this is reserved for the Body and Blood of the King of Martyrs (Cf. St. Ambrose, Epistula LXXVII (Maur. 22), 13: CSEL 82/3, Vindobonae 1982, pp. 134-135; Roman Pontifical, Order of the Dedication of an Altar, cit., cap. IV, Praenotanda, 10).

Have any readers experience with the veneration of authentic or inauthentic relics in your churches and communities? Remember, the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.

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Lenten Reflections: The Bookends of Sleep

Often I reference John Veltri’s work Orientations. My very first spiritual director shared the book with me over thirty years ago. I long ago misplaced my copy, and so was glad to find it online.

One piece I have struggled with this Lent is the attempt to end and begin my day with a more mindful recollection. Check Fr Veltri’s notes on “recollection” here.

At bedtime briefly recall the subject, grace desired, and perspective of the prayer exercise for the following day. Ask God’s help and blessings.

As soon as one wakes, do not let your thoughts roam at random, but once again recall the direction of the whole day’s prayer and ask for God’s continual help. Keep yourself in this recollected mood while dressing.

We are cautioned later in this text that this is difficult in ordinary life. But I thought Lent would provide a good focus, either my seasonal resolution or my personal word for these days, mercy. Sometimes I find I’ve forgotten until I get into the shower. One of our pets has gotten rather insistent that his feeding schedule comply with his personal wishes.

Back to it, tonight And tomorrow, I hope before I run the water. Meanwhile, anybody care to share any Lent practices with one’s prayer and/or one’s sleep?

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Mutuae Relationes 46: Bishop as Supervisor and Mediator

SenanquecloisterIf MR 45 touted mutual respect as an important virtue, this section suggests bishops have a responsibility to “safeguard” how a religious lives in his diocese. This assumes every bishop is well-acquainted with the charisms and apostolate of each community with which he is in contact.

46. As to religious who engage in apostolic activities beyond the works of their own institute, their participation in the life of the community and their fidelity to their rule and constitutions must be safeguarded — “bishops should not fail for their part to insist on this obligation” (Christus Dominus 35, 2). No apostolic commitment should be an occasion to deviate from one’s vocation.

Unfortunately, ministry is a very lonely existence for many people committed to the Church. Many diocesan priests feel it. Vowed religious, too. How does one maintain one’s community’s qualities when the community house is hundreds of miles away, and especially when one serves without companions, but in a parish?

Sometimes a bishop can get embroiled in a conflict within a community involving someone in his jurisdiction. What then?

Regarding the situation of certain religious who would like to withdraw from the authority of their superior and have recourse to that of the bishop, each case should be studied objectively. It is necessary, however, that after suitable exchange of views and a sincere search for solutions, the bishop support the provision made by the competent superior, unless it is evident to him that some injustice is involved.

Thoughts or comments? You can check the full document online here.

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DPPL 236: Defining A Relic

STA altar at night smallFirst, let’s define relic:

236. The Second Vatican Council recalls that “the Saints have been traditionally honored in the Church, and their authentic relics and images held in veneration”( SC 111; Cf The Council Of Trent, Decretum de invocatione, veneratione et reliquiis Sanctorum, et sacris imaginibus (3 December 1563), in DS 1822). The term “relics of the Saints” principally signifies the bodies – or notable parts of the bodies – of the Saints who, as distinguished members of Christ’s mystical Body and as Temples of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 3, 16; 6, 19; 2 Cor 6, 16)(Cf. SC 111) in virtue of their heroic sanctity, now dwell in Heaven, but who once lived on earth. Objects which belonged to the Saints, such as personal objects, clothes and manuscripts are also considered relics, as are objects which have touched their bodies or tombs such as oils, cloths, and images.

A relic is a body, or a “notable” body part. Not something that might be a piece of skin, fingernail, or mysterious little polygon. Likewise clothing and such: whole objects or significant and recognizable parts.

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.

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Mutuae Relationes 45: Cordial Respect

SenanquecloisterYou can check the full document online here anytime, but today’s brief post will underscore the need for respect.

45. In order that the relations between bishops and superiors produce increasingly more fruitful results, they must be developed in cordial respect for persons and institutes, in the conviction that religious must give witness of docility towards the Magisterium and of obedience to their superiors, and with the mutual understanding to act in such a way that neither transgresses the limits of competency of the other.

Thoughts or comments?

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DPPL 235: The Litany of the Saints

STA altar at night smallThe Church reminds us that the Litany of the Saints is utilized more than just at the Easter Vigil:

235. The Litany of the Saints has been used in the Roman Church since the seventh century (Cf. Ordo Romanus in A. Andrieu (ed.), Les “Ordines Romani” du Haut Moyen-Age, III, Spicilegium Sacrum Lovaniense, Lovain 1951, p. 249. For indulgences cf. EI, Aliae concessiones, 22, p. 68). Its liturgical structure is subtle, simple and popular. Through the litany, the Church invokes the Saints on certain great sacramental occasions and on other occasions when her imploration is intensified: at the Easter vigil, before blessing the Baptismal font; in the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism; in conferring Sacred Orders of the episcopate, priesthood and deaconate; in the rite for the consecration of virgins and of religious profession; in the rite of dedication of a church and consecration of an altar; at rogation; at the station Masses and penitential processions; when casting out the Devil during the rite of exorcism; and in entrusting the dying to the mercy of God.

The limitation in many of these circumstances, including at a parish’s Easter Vigil, is the addition of important patron saints of importance to the local community: parish patron, founder(s), etc.. Names of blesseds and saints may be included, if they have received formal Church recognition:

The Litanies of the Saints contain elements deriving from both the liturgical tradition and from popular piety. They are expressions of the Church’s confidence in the intercession of the Saints and an experience of the communion between the Church of the heavenly Jerusalem and the Church on her earthly pilgrim journey. The names of the Beati that have been inscribed in the calendars of particular Churches or religious institutes may be invoked in the litanies of the Saints (Cf. CDWDS, Notificatio de cultu Beatorum,13, in Notitiae 35 (1999) 446). Clearly, the names of those whose cult has not received ecclesial recognition should not be used in the litanies.

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.

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No Suffocation

broken bandsI was a little surprised Aleteia published this 5 February interview. It was just posted yesterday. Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle on suffocation:

(N)obody should stop anybody from saying what he or she thinks about the current state of marriage, family, etc. Nobody should suffocate anybody. We should listen to one another and we should reflect on it and try to see what the Holy Spirit will tell us about how to accompany towards Christ people who find themselves in any form of marriage.

And an exchange with the interviewer:

Holy Communion is medicine for the sick. It is not a reward for the perfect.

But according to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, whatever your sin may be, one must be in a state of grace in order to receive the Holy Eucharist (CCC 1415).

I would have to admit that, over the centuries, we have made a very tough line in that context.

The archbishop then spoke of the application of the power of the keys in Matthew 16. Can the pope unbind? The interviewer continued …

How would that be reconciled with the Lord’s words: “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”

That is true. What God has joined together. In fact, it is not “let no man put asunder,” but “what God has joined, no man can put asunder. No man can put asunder what God has joined together, and it is true. But then the same Jesus says: “Whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth is loosed in heaven.” So what did he mean by that? Are they two statements that contradict one another?

Well, Your Excellency, they can’t contradict one another if the Lord said them, because He is Truth.

They cannot contradict one another, so we are going to have to find out through prayer what to do.

I haven’t seen much heat on this issue in the conservative blogosphere as of today. The Ghanaian archbishop is his nation’s selection for the synod this Fall. That may relieve the African bloc of the perception of being Burke-protégés. I do worry that some Catholics are conflating the practice of possible forgiveness with weakness on the moral front. In the name of Christ, the Church, after all, will forgive abortions, and quite serious misdeeds that cannot be undone.

Also some Catholics are unnerved by discussion that was largely stifled in the years 1978-2013. We don’t need the suffocation of those years, and we have nothing to fear from prayer and discernment.

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