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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What About Sacramental Grace?

Peter Nixon’s blog post from last month got expanded into the latest issue of Commonweal. Good. He was certainly among the best of the Catholic bloggers of the last decade.

I was pondering his musings about the relative frequency of divorce among Christians:

The good folks at Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate report that 28% of Catholics who have ever married have experienced divorce. While a daunting figure in many ways, it is significantly below the rate for Protestants (39%) and those with no religious affiliation (42%). There are many factors that explain these differences, but one of them is almost certainly a strong presumption against divorce that has historically been deeply woven into the Church’s culture.

It occurs to me there may well be a significant factor among many that explains this. A very significant aspect: the grace of the sacrament.

Divorce is hard, as Peter concedes, in just about every case. It’s likely that the future prospect combining remarriage and excommunication isn’t figuring in most Catholics when there’s a hole the size of a house in one’s heart.

It’s long been my contention that marriage as a sacrament has a primary purpose, above all others, even above maintaining breeding stock. It’s holiness. I know we treat marriage far too casually where this is concerned. And likely the Eucharist, too, from time to time.

If I were a bishop heading to synod this Fall, I’m not totally sure where I would move. Clearly, I’m not going as a bishop, and even less likely as an observer/participant/witness for the sacrament. Peter has a suggestion which seems obvious to me:

(C)ouple the reform proposals with a more aggressive pastoral effort to support marriage, such as a renewed commitment to movements like Marriage Encounter and Retrouvaille and outreach to civilly married couples interested in bringing their marriage into the Church. I find the idea intriguing and should the Synod ultimately recommend any changes I hope that efforts like this are part of the package.

I sure hope they are. I think bishops talking about marriage makes about as much sense as lay people talking about bishops. And yes, I think the sense-making is significant. The Church is richer for having people aspiring to holiness coming together to listen to what other holy people have to say about their vocation. Most clergy are born into families with married couples. And most lay people have regular contact with clergy in their parishes Sunday after Sunday. I think there’s a whole lot to be said in mixed company. There’s bound to be some more sacramental grace in that, right?

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Humanae Vitae 30: To Bishops

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

As our examination of Humanae Vitae draws to a close, we review Pope Paul’s request of bishops:

30. And now as We come to the end of this encyclical letter, We turn Our mind to you, reverently and lovingly, beloved and venerable brothers in the episcopate, with whom We share more closely the care of the spiritual good of the People of God. For We invite all of you, We implore you, to give a lead to your priests who assist you in the sacred ministry, and to the faithful of your dioceses, and to devote yourselves with all zeal and without delay to safeguarding the holiness of marriage, in order to guide married life to its full human and Christian perfection. Consider this mission as one of your most urgent responsibilities at the present time. As you well know, it calls for concerted pastoral action in every field of human diligence, economic, cultural and social. If simultaneous progress is made in these various fields, then the intimate life of parents and children in the family will be rendered not only more tolerable, but easier and more joyful. And life together in human society will be enriched with fraternal charity and made more stable with true peace when God’s design which He conceived for the world is faithfully followed.

It is deeply lamentable that the ministry of bishop unraveled somewhat in the past fourteen years by the pastoral failings of bishops with regard to the protection of children. That said, HV 30 remains a hopeful message to the people who bore great responsibility for leadership on these issues.

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PS 35-36: Chrism Mass

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

Today we take a brief look at the Chrism Mass. Sometimes this is celebrated prior to Passion Sunday, sometimes during Holy Week. Not often on Holy Thursday itself, but there are exceptions to that.

A note for clergy of the diocese:

35. The Chrism Mass, which the bishop concelebrates with his presbyterium, and at which the Holy Chrism is consecrated and the oils blessed, manifests the communion of the priests with their bishop in the same priesthood and ministry of Christ. (Presbyterorum Ordinis. 7) To this Mass, the priests who concelebrate with the bishop should come from different parts of the diocese, thus showing in the consecration of the Chrism to be his witnesses and cooperators, just as in their daily ministry they are his helpers and counsellors.

… and for the laity:

The faithful are also to be encouraged to participate in this Mass, and to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Traditionally the Chrism Mass is celebrated on the Thursday of Holy Week. If, however, it should prove to be difficult for the clergy and people to gather with the bishop, this rite can be transferred to another day, but one always close to Easter. (Ceremonial of Bishops, 275) The Chrism and the Oil of Catechumens is to be used in the celebration of the sacraments of initiation on Easter night.

There are challenges all over for this Mass. In my parish, there was no Mass on Tuesday of Holy Week because all the clergy had left for the cathedral. But a Mass during the day makes it difficult for working men and women to attend. An evening Mass, in turn, means late night travel for anyone coming from a distance.

A bishop or diocese is not permitted more than one celebration:

36. There should be only one celebration of the Chrism Mass given its significance in the life of the diocese, and it should take place in the cathedral or, for pastoral reasons, in another church (Cf. Ceremonial of Bishops, 270) which has a special significance.

This piece is a significant connection for people and their bishop:

The Holy Oils can be brought to the individual parishes before the celebration of the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, or at some other suitable time. This can be a means of catechizing the faithful about the use and effects of the Holy Oils and Chrism in Christian life.

I’d say catechesis is largely complete on which oils are used for which sacrament. Although I did know a priest who insisted on using chrism for the pre-baptismal anointing. That was strange.

The presentation of oils provided by the USCCB gives a basic explanation of the oils in context of a procession. I’ve found this ritual works well.

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Humanae Vitae 29: Christian Compassion

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

The message to priests continues here, with a big emphasis on mercy:

29. Now it is an outstanding manifestation of charity toward souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ; but this must always be joined with tolerance and charity, as Christ Himself showed in His conversations and dealings with men. For when He came, not to judge, but to save the world, (See Jn 3. 17) was He not bitterly severe toward sin, but patient and abounding in mercy toward sinners? Husbands and wives, therefore, when deeply distressed by reason of the difficulties of their life, must find stamped in the heart and voice of their priest the likeness of the voice and the love of our Redeemer. So speak with full confidence, beloved sons, convinced that while the Holy Spirit of God is present to the magisterium proclaiming sound doctrine, He also illumines from within the hearts of the faithful and invites their assent. Teach married couples the necessary way of prayer and prepare them to approach more often with great faith the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance. Let them never lose heart because of their weakness.

It is good that married couples are encouraged in the Eucharist to aspire to deeper commitment. This certainly isn’t only a matter for confession. And to be sure, weakness is never a cause for losing heart.

 

 

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Just A Thought on Guilt, Shame, and Public Relations

And maybe the subtitle here is “A Whole Lot of Questions.”

My wife is an occasional viewer of the Duggar clan on tv. I know that over the years, the number of kids has upticked from 17 to 18 to 19, and now they’re counting grandkids. A side note: I never figured out why, if the clan heads wanted more kids, they didn’t adopt. Maybe now I know.

A few quick thoughts on Josh Duggar. Not that I’m an apologist for underage sexual activity or a Mike Huckabee clone, but what purpose does it serve for a young man with a wife and four kids to lose a job on account of horrifically bad judgment (or sex addiction) as a teenager?

  • Did his employer pressure him to resign because he’s suddenly a public relations liability? If so, they should just fire him. And be moral and honest about it. And let him collect on unemployment insurance.
  • Did young Mr Duggar resign out of some sense of personal guilt and shame? And if so, is the public outing of this scandal a danger to his own recovery? So what if public appearances with other celebrities is out? There’s nothing wrong with a desk job if its honest work.
  • I read in news outlets about his dad calling the cops on him and getting him into therapy or something. Was the same mercy was shown to those he victimized? I wonder what they think about all this coming down.

When I was talking to my wife about this, she wondered what he was going to do about a job. Who would hire him? Good question. She thinks a book is in the air. Maybe that’s the only possibility left. But is that just another nod to the celebrity-driven culture we live in?

I suppose the Duggars are nice enough people. They have parlayed their Christian values into a celebrity life. And really, what are the alternatives? The Kardashians? No thanks.

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PS 33-34: Passion and Homily

Jesus arms outstretchedRemember, you can check Paschale Solemnitatis on this site, among many on the internet.

Other than the procession, the Passion narrative is the most notable aspect of the last Sunday of Lent. It certainly takes up the most time:

33. The Passion narrative occupies a special place. It should be sung or read in the traditional way, that is, by three persons who take the part of Christ, the narrator and the people. The Passion is proclaimed by deacons or priests, or by lay readers; in the latter. case, the part of Christ should be reserved to the priest.

Note the “traditional” drama often presented in missalettes and hymnals is not so traditional if it includes the assembly shouting out.

The proclamation of the Passion should be without candles and incense, the greeting and the sign of the cross on the book are omitted; only the deacons ask for the blessing of the priest, as on other occasions before the Gospel. (Cf. Roman. Missal, Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday), 22. For a Mass at which a bishop presides, cf. Ceremonial of Bishops, 74)

Don’t scrimp, we are advised, on the length of the Passion, on the readings which precede it, or on the homily:

For the spiritual good of the faithful the Passion should be proclaimed in its entirety, and the readings which precede it should not be omitted.

34. After the Passion has been proclaimed, a homily is to be given.
  

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