EG 143: Connection and Conversation

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdalenePope Francis urges a connection in preaching, not the simple presentation of ideas or even values unrelated to the people or the moment.

143. The challenge of an inculturated preaching consists in proclaiming a synthesis, not ideas or detached values. Where your synthesis is, there lies your heart. The difference between enlightening people with a synthesis and doing so with detached ideas is like the difference between boredom and heartfelt fervor.

If preachers feel they connect with their people by means of those detached ideas and values, the question might well be if the people are attracted to the preachers by personality or charisma.

Preaching is not easy:

The preacher has the wonderful but difficult task of joining loving hearts, the hearts of the Lord and his people. The dialogue between God and his people further strengthens the covenant between them and consolidates the bond of charity. In the course of the homily, the hearts of believers keep silence and allow God to speak. The Lord and his people speak to one another in a thousand ways directly, without intermediaries. But in the homily they want someone to serve as an instrument and to express their feelings in such a way that afterwards, each one may chose how he or she will continue the conversation. The word is essentially a mediator and requires not just the two who dialogue but also an intermediary who presents it for what it is, out of the conviction that “what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor 4:5).

A good question here: do homilies begin a conversation, or do they end it?

Evangelii Gaudium is available online.

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Reconciliation Lectionary: Psalm 31:10, 15-17, 20

mary-the-penitent.jpgWe treated the 31st Psalm earlier in this series, looking at verses 2 and 4-6. This psalm also appears as a suggestion for the sample penitential services in appendix II of the Rite of Penance under the title of “sin and conversion.”

Verse 15 gives us the antiphon for this selection:

My trust is in you, O God.

The three choices of Gospel readings for this theme are all chosen from the Passion. So perhaps there is no surprise that Psalm 31 is also utilized on Good Friday in the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion. Verses 15 through 17 are shared with that Lectionary. But verse 10 is prescribed for Penance:

Have pity on me, O Lord,
for I am in distress;
with sorrow my eye is consumed;
my soul also, and my body.

Psalms 22 and 31 each have verses which are connected to Jesus’ utterances during his Passion. Verse 10 seems more suitable for a penitent’s utterance than for Jesus to speak of in conversation with the Father, perhaps. But if sin has harmed us to the point of moving us toward conversion, this is a great text on which to reflect.

Stanza two shares verses 15-17 with the Triduum:

But my trust is in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
In your hands is my destiny; rescue me
from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your mercy.

If we have a sense of the evil one assailing us, perhaps these verses make good sense. I can certainly relate to a prayer to deliver me from my addictions and compulsions–the most demonic of my life’s experiences.

Stanza three is a final utterance of thanksgiving for God’s grace:

How great is your goodness, O Lord,
which you have in store for those who fear you,
And which, toward those who take refuge in you,
you show in the sight of (people).

These excerpts from a longer psalm are diverse and complex. They describe the experience of awareness of sin in terms of contrition and sorrow to the point of physical ailment. They suggest forces outside of ourselves that drive us or lure us into wrongdoing. And they complete the lament with a plea to God: praising him in confident hope.

If a parish were celebrating a communal penance liturgy during Holy Week, this Psalm, coupled with one of the Passion excerpts, seems appropriate. But if there is a thought of healing in the preaching of Penance, then Psalm 31 with these verses also seem appropriate. Though the 32nd Psalm is a bit more explicit in that regard.

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Dies Domini 23: Growing Distinction From The Sabbath

It is a fact of history and a distinctive Christian theology that followers of Christ moved away from the Jewish Sabbath. The New Testament reports in many places that the early believers, led by the apostles, continued synagogue observances. But the move to Sunday was early. And universal.

23. It was this newness which the catechesis of the first centuries stressed as it sought to show the prominence of Sunday relative to the Jewish Sabbath. It was on the Sabbath that the Jewish people had to gather in the synagogue and to rest in the way prescribed by the Law. The Apostles, and in particular Saint Paul, continued initially to attend the synagogue so that there they might proclaim Jesus Christ, commenting upon “the words of the prophets which are read every Sabbath” (Acts 13:27). Some communities observed the Sabbath while also celebrating Sunday. Soon, however, the two days began to be distinguished ever more clearly, in reaction chiefly to the insistence of those Christians whose origins in Judaism made them inclined to maintain the obligation of the old Law.

A very early saint testifies:

Saint Ignatius of Antioch writes: “If those who were living in the former state of things have come to a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath but keeping the Lord’s Day, the day on which our life has appeared through him and his death …, that mystery from which we have received our faith and in which we persevere in order to be judged disciples of Christ, our only Master, how could we then live without him, given that the prophets too, as his disciples in the Spirit, awaited him as master?”.(To the Magnesians 9, 1-2: SC 10, 88-89)

In the fourth century after Christ, Augustine cites the observance of Sunday as the will of God:

Saint Augustine notes in turn: “Therefore the Lord too has placed his seal on his day, which is the third after the Passion. In the weekly cycle, however, it is the eighth day after the seventh, that is after the Sabbath, and the first day of the week”.(Sermon 8 in the Octave of Easter 4: PL 46, 841. This sense of Sunday as “the first day” is clear in the Latin liturgical calendar, where Monday is called feria secunda, Tuesday feria tertiaand so on. In Portuguese, the days are named in the same way.) The distinction of Sunday from the Jewish Sabbath grew ever stronger in the mind of the Church, even though there have been times in history when, because the obligation of Sunday rest was so emphasized, the Lord’s Day tended to become more like the Sabbath.

Some Christians honored both days:

Moreover, there have always been groups within Christianity which observe both the Sabbath and Sunday as “two brother days”.(Saint Gregory of Nyssa, De CastigationePG 46, 309. The Maronite Liturgy also stresses the link between the Sabbath and Sunday, beginning with the “mystery of Holy Saturday” (cf. M. Hayek, Maronite [Eglise], Dictionnaire de spiritualité, X [1980], 632-644).])

The Vatican site has Dies Domini in its entirety.

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Sainted Popes At Liturgy This Easter

The April issue of the FDLC newsletter contained guidance for the domestic observance of the canonizations of John XXIII and John Paul II.
As part of the world, you readers certainly know the canonization will take place on 27 April, the Second Sunday of Easter. Liturgy geeks among you most definitely know that the observance of an Easter Sunday (2nd, 3rd, etc.) takes precedence over anything else. In other words, one can recognize the canonizations at Mass in terms of preaching mention, thanksgiving in the prayers of the faithful, announcements for a special party, and such. We don’t change prayers, readings, or such things.

What can be done, along the lines of a “special liturgy”?

For celebrations that might take place on the weekdays of Easter time, one could appropriately use the Mass “For Giving Thanks to God” (Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions, No. 49). Alternately, at the direction of or with the permission of the Diocesan Bishop, a votive Mass of a particular saint could be celebrated on a weekday of Easter (cf. GIRM nos. 374-375). In this case, one could use the Common of Pastors: For a Pope, using both Saints as appropriate.

Remember that weekdays of Easter Time do not include the days within the octave of Easter. These are all solemnities and cannot be replaced. No fair jumping the liturgical gun to be the first parish in the world to celebrate two canonized popes.

A note on those kinds of Masses listed above in the FDLC quote: it is inappropriate to celebrate the memorial of a saint on a day other than their assigned day in the Roman Martyrology. In other words, to celebrate John Paul II, it must be on 22 October. John XXIII’s day is 11 October. Hence the preference for the Mass of “Thanksgiving,” and the possibility of a votive Mass with a bishop’s guidance.

I know it’s a busy time of year with Easter, First Communion, Confirmation, Graduation, Mother’s Day, and such. Anybody’s parish planning an extra celebration? Any word from your diocese?

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EG 142: Words Which Set Hearts On Fire

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdalenePope Francis refers to Luke 24:13-35, the experience of the disiples walking to Emmaus, and how the Lord spoke so movingly and gracefully so as to set their hearts on fire. Let’s explore in Evangelium Gaudium this notion over the next three sections.

Some Catholics are focused on the truth. And this is proper. There’s a lot of avoidance of truth-telling, and it’s epidemic both in the Church and outside of it. Pope Francis suggests something deeper is needed.

Right off the bat, we’re talking about the homily as a dialogue, by definition:

142. Dialogue is much more than the communication of a truth. It arises from the enjoyment of speaking and it enriches those who express their love for one another through the medium of words. This is an enrichment which does not consist in objects but in persons who share themselves in dialogue. A preaching which would be purely moralistic or doctrinaire, or one which turns into a lecture on biblical exegesis, detracts from this heart-to-heart communication which takes place in the homily and possesses a quasi-sacramental character: “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Rom 10:17).

Small-s sacrament. But an encounter with Christ all the same. This would be a personal encounter, not mediated through reason, morals, or theology. Those things–important things–are the tools used, but not the core of the communication.

In the homily, truth goes hand in hand with beauty and goodness. Far from dealing with abstract truths or cold syllogisms, it communicates the beauty of the images used by the Lord to encourage the practise of good.

Of course. The homily is located in the liturgy. The encounter with Christ on the road to Emmaus was essentially a liturgical event. Beauty and goodness are inherent in good liturgy, but not necessarily part of a lecture on theology, faith, or morals.

The memory of the faithful, like that of Mary, should overflow with the wondrous things done by God. Their hearts, growing in hope from the joyful and practical exercise of the love which they have received, will sense that each word of Scripture is a gift before it is a demand.

Remembering: this was part of the experience of the Emmaus disciples, part of the recollection of the apostles, and at the very core of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Why shouldn’t the homily be more akin to these elements of tradition from the New Testament and from the Mass? And less like a lecture.

Does a dialogue with a beloved motivate more than a talking-to from a parent? Even kids would say yes to that.

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Dies Domini 22: Maintaining A Lord’s Day in Early Christianity

How did early Christians forge a Sunday, a Lord’s Day in a pagan culture? Somehow they maintained the rhythm of the week–and that may be no small feat, considering the week was a Jewish invention and not something followed in the greater Roman Empire. I would assume every day was a work day, and the aristocracy grabbed what leisure they could on the foundation of slaves, children, women, and others that could be exploited.

22. In those early Christian times, the weekly rhythm of days was generally not part of life in the regions where the Gospel spread, and the festive days of the Greek and Roman calendars did not coincide with the Christian Sunday. For Christians, therefore, it was very difficult to observe the Lord’s Day on a set day each week. This explains why the faithful had to gather before sunrise.(Cf. ibid. In reference to Pliny’s letter, Tertullian also recalls the coetus antelucani inApologeticum 2, 6: CCL 1, 88; De Corona 3, 3: CCL 2, 1043) Yet fidelity to the weekly rhythm became the norm, since it was based upon the New Testament and was tied to Old Testament revelation. This is eagerly underscored by the Apologists and the Fathers of the Church in their writings and preaching where, in speaking of the Paschal Mystery, they use the same Scriptural texts which, according to the witness of Saint Luke (cf. 24:27, 44-47), the Risen Christ himself would have explained to the disciples. In the light of these texts, the celebration of the day of the Resurrection acquired a doctrinal and symbolic value capable of expressing the entire Christian mystery in all its newness.

And that celebration would have included an element of liberation as well. The Vatican site has Dies Domini in its entirety.

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Church Hospitality: A Two-Way Street?

Blogger Jerry Galipeau has been a man without a parish for some months. Two weeks ago, he wrote about his experience worshiping at different parishes in the Chicago area. And not being welcomed anywhere.

Last week he wrote a bit more about it. This bit intrigued me:

One person has suggested that hospitality and welcome needs to be a kind of two-way street in Catholic parishes. He likened the experience to someone who goes shopping for a particular computer in an electronics store. If not waited on by a salesperson, the shopper needs to reach out, find a salesperson, and begin to seek help to find the particular computer. This got me thinking. Perhaps when I arrive at a parish, I should go to any person and simply say, “Hello, I am visiting here, can you tell me about your parish?” I think I will try it over the next few months and see what happens.

I don’t think this lets anybody inside the church doors off the hook. But it does shine a little illumination on the importance of a person taking responsibility for engaging a community and making one’s home with them. Even if such a person is an introvert. Usually, that just means energy expended rather than gained.

Maybe our task in the parish isn’t to “service” people by welcoming them. But to create an environment in which they feel/sense/experience welcome on a level appropriate to their personal situation.

I don’t get on the road much. I’m thinking about my four weeks in Omaha this summer, though. I could worship with the community at Creighton. Maybe the first Sunday there I will introduce myself and ask someone to tell me about the community.

It would be fascinating to go to some of the parishes around Omaha and do the same. On the other hand, I already get two, sometimes three Masses on a weekend as it is. I’m supposed to be away to study. Not to perform liturgy experiments.

Anybody have any experiences of visiting a parish, or coming in new to the community, and asking, “Can you tell me about your church?”

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