GeE 12-13: Women Saints

See the source imageToday, a comment on the witness of women:

12. Within these various forms, I would stress too that the “genius of woman” is seen in feminine styles of holiness, which are an essential means of reflecting God’s holiness in this world. Indeed, in times when women tended to be most ignored or overlooked, the Holy Spirit raised up saints whose attractiveness produced new spiritual vigor and important reforms in the Church. We can mention Saint Hildegard of Bingen, Saint Bridget, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. But I think too of all those unknown or forgotten women who, each in her own way, sustained and transformed families and communities by the power of their witness.

Many men have significant devotions, even friendships with female saints. It is a lamentable thing that women populate less than twenty percent of the Roman Martyrology–a bias in favor of priests, and perhaps priests who promote official sainthood. We need not confine a search for paragons of holiness to recognized saints, thank goodness.

A brief conclusion to this section, “The Lord Calls.”

13. This should excite and encourage us to give our all and to embrace that unique plan that God willed for each of us from eternity: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jer 1:5).

Reading histories of saints is often overlooked. Many parish libraries provide such works, and even the brief commentaries on many liturgical sites can spark interest in following a holy person. Again, not for imitation, but inspiration.

You can check the full document Gaudete et Exsultate on the Vatican website.


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VNO 46: For The Dying

This Mass seems to be separated out from the intention “for the grace of a happy death.” The 1998/2002 Lectionary has no particular readings assigned for this intention. The Roman Missal, Third Edition, does provide four choices for the proper antiphons.

Entrance Antiphon Romans 14:7-8

No one lives for himself, and no one dies for himself.
For if we live, we live for the Lord,
and if we die, we die for the Lord;
so then, whether we live or die,
we are the Lord’s.

These verses are part of a choice for a funeral liturgy. Scripture scholars have pondered if this is Saint Paul quoting a fragment of an ancient Christian hymn. No way to tell for sure, but the couplets do possess a lyrical quality even in translation into a modern language. As for verses to accompany this antiphon, perhaps Romans 8:14-19 or Hebrews 12:22-24, 28-29.

Or: Cf. Isaiah 53:4

Truly the Lord has borne our infirmities, and he has carried our sorrows.

This choice you recognize from Good Friday. The passage has a deep connection with the Passion of Christ, so I’d avoid the lyrical text from verse 52:13-53:12, and opt instead for one of the above New Testament passages. Another option from the other Testament might be select verses from Isaiah 26, a song of trust. That theme leads us to a few of the songs of trust in the Psalter: the 4th, the 91st, the 131st, or the 134th.

Communion Antiphon Colossians 1:24

In my flesh I am completing what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church.

A few verses prior (15-20), we have that early christological hymn cited by the author. These would be a good choice, as well as any text not used for the Entrance ritual.

Or: John 6:54

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, says the Lord, and I will raise him on the last day.

Many possibilities in the Lord’s Bread of Life discourse. Enough said, perhaps.

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.


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Too Many Readings?

Image result for lectorEvery so often, I encounter a person who finds themselves overwhelmed with the number of choices for a Bible reading. Especially for a wedding or a funeral.

With a wedding, a couple has some weeks or months to decide. They can pray about it, procrastinate a bit, or even leaf through the pages and put a finger on a spot. When a death in the family occurs, there is far less time. Clergy and ministers I’ve known may steer mourners to the most common choices. Often swamped in grief, some people just grab to something like it’s a life preserver.

Earlier this week, I noticed a comment on the Funeral Reading page here:

I would like a reading for a funeral. Several of them. I am a good Catholic but I just don’t know how to choose. I like a lot of them. Are psalms good to use ?

When I work with people, I ask some basic questions that might narrow the field of possibilities.

Do you want the reading to tell something about God? By this I mean a story about his action–the Creation of the world, the Passion, or some citation of a prophetic message.

Do you want the reading to describe some desired quality? Is it important to proclaim a certain virtue such as love, forgiveness, hope, mercy, etc.?

Do you want a reading that is somewhat reflective of a person or of a couple? Does the passage describe the ideal wife or husband or believer?

At a funeral or a wedding, perhaps a balance is suggested. One reading might point to the holy qualities of the deceased, say Proverbs 31. Another might allude to the quality of hope, something for the benefit of mourners. The Gospel might relate something of the preaching of Jesus.

An additional consideration for funerals would be some Scripture passage that addresses the state of the family and friends. Particularly if a death was shocking or sudden, some way to address a community’s pain would be well-considered.

These thoughts are necessarily vague–each instance of a funeral or wedding has unique dynamics. The person responsible for planning a funeral, be that persona  priest or pastoral minister, really needs a fairly broad grasp of the possibilities contained in the Lectionary and Bible, and a sensitivity to make connections with the particular circumstances.

Remember, the Bible is less a single book and more a small library of 1.5 million words. There are always possibilities to explore.

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Aparecida 401: Institutional Mission

401. Bishops Conferences and local churches have the mission of promoting renewed efforts to strengthen a structured, organic, and comprehensive social ministry which with both direct aid and development efforts (Ecclesia in America 58) becomes present in the new realities of exclusion and marginalization in which the more vulnerable groups live, where life is most in jeopardy. At the center of this action is each person, who is welcomed and served with Christian warmth. In this activity on behalf of the life of our peoples, the Catholic church supports mutual collaboration with other Christian communities.

On the intra-bishop level, as well as in dicoeses and parishes, some organization can be brought to bear on social ministry. Individual disciples who serve in such ministries: these are the points of human contact.

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

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GeE 11: Examples Are For Inspiration, Not To Copy

See the source image

11. “Each in his or her own way” the Council says. We should not grow discouraged before examples of holiness that appear unattainable. There are some testimonies that may prove helpful and inspiring, but that we are not meant to copy, for that could even lead us astray from the one specific path that the Lord has in mind for us. The important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts (cf. 1 Cor 12:7), rather than hopelessly trying to imitate something not meant for them.

Good pastoral advice. Most all of us have heroes. It is natural to emulate them. Perhaps it is easier to mimic actions and pay less attention to the holy qualities that can be applied in many walks of life. A person might latch onto Saint Francis de Sales, for example, but one need not be ordained or become a bishop to adopt his fruitful approach to discipleship, leadership, and the devout life.

Likewise people we know in life: sons can emulate a holy mother without being female, workers a person of great talent in materials crafting or music or teaching without being a carpenter, a singer, or a professor.

One size does not fit all:

We are all called to be witnesses, but there are many actual ways of bearing witness. [Cf. Hans Urs von Balthasar, “Theology and Holiness”, in Communio 14/4 (1987), 345] Indeed, when the great mystic, Saint John of the Cross, wrote his Spiritual Canticle, he preferred to avoid hard and fast rules for all. He explained that his verses were composed so that everyone could benefit from them “in his or her own way”. [Spiritual Canticle, Red. B, Prologue, 2] For God’s life is communicated “to some in one way and to others in another” [Cf. ibid., 14-15, 2.]

An interesting assessment from the Spanish mystic. Thoughts?

You can check the full document Gaudete et Exsultate on the Vatican website.


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Aparecida 400: “Nothing … Will Have Been In Vain”

Twenty years after Pope PAul VI issued his encyclical on the progress of peoples, his second successor issued another document in the same vein. Cited in paragraph #400:

400. Hence, from our condition as disciples and missionaries, we want to energize the Gospel of life and solidarity in our pastoral plans in the light of the Church’s social doctrine. We also intend to promote more effective ecclesial ways of taking action in social matters with the preparation and commitment of laypeople. John Paul II offers reason for hope:

However imperfect and temporary are all the things that can and ought to be done through the combined efforts of everyone and through divine grace, at a given moment of history, in order to make people’s lives more human, nothing will be lost or will have been in vain. (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis 48)

So, don’t quote something about the poor always being with us. That’s a reflection on human sinfulness. Not a commandment.

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

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GeE 10: The Lord Calls

See the source imageParagraphs 10 through 13 address, “The Lord Calls.” The premise is simple, but not quite as easy as it sounds: every soul is called to be holy. It is a tradition for both Jews and Christians:

10. All this is important. Yet with this Exhortation I would like to insist primarily on the call to holiness that the Lord addresses to each of us, the call that he also addresses, personally, to you: “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44; cf. 1 Pet 1:16). The Second Vatican Council stated this clearly: “Strengthened by so many and such great means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord – each in his or her own way – to that perfect holiness by which the Father himself is perfect”.[Lumen Gentium 11]

The call to holiness was not abrogated in recent centuries. Perhaps it was de-emphasized. The notion of a cultic priesthood is that a class of religious leaders cultivate holiness on behalf of others who have less need to do so. Some have suggested that the so-called vocations crisis is simply a readjustment: there is no net loss of intentional holiness or religious life; it has only transferred to the laity. Obviously there’s no way to measure that in terms of something calculable. We can only have faith.

You can check the full document Gaudete et Exsultate on the Vatican website.


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