Too Strict?

The news collector Pewsitter linked a translation of Massimo Franco’s piece “Pope Seen As Too Strict.”

Bishops, particularly Italian bishops, have lost their compass bearings. 20-70-10: the percentages of bishops who support, are waiting for the next guy, and who are enemies of Pope Francis.

The episcopate struggles to pinpoint Pope Francis’s cultural coordinates and believes that the final, troubled years of Benedict XVI, with their Roman scandals and power struggles, have left behind a prejudice against all things Italian that is very hard to shift.

Not sure about this, speaking from the lay commentator’s perspective. In the big picture of Catholicism, Italy’s bishops are only a handful of the world’s billion Catholics. Italian bishops  and other Italian persons were at the center of scandals in the waning years of Pope Benedict. As long as people still appreciate Italian dining, museums, and scenery, I can’t believe we’re talking about more than that feeling of “depression.”

Bishops are big boys. Can I suggest that if Mr Franco is correct, it’s just time to “Get over yourselves.”?

Speaking as a lay person, I’ve lived through changes in pastors and bishops. And even a pope or two. One changes and adapts. One gets to know the new guy in charge. And frankly, my lay colleagues and I get with the program or we move on. End of story.

I recall much dismay among some of my friends when Joseph Ratzinger was elected Bishop of Rome. My advice to them was, “Chill.” (Though it was communicated in ecclesiastical terms.)

The bishops feel overshadowed and outclassed by Francis, pointing out a possible tendency to run the Church with a sort of shadow-government. Perhaps they ought to ask themselves whether the shadow-casting is not a consequence of failings by at least some of them.

I think that’s true.

My advice when life seems deeply troubled is to go on retreat. Even if only a single day can be managed somewhere. And if there’s a glimmer of interest in what Pope Francis is doing, or why, I suggest the Spiritual Exercises are a good place to start. The Holy Father is a living textbook on the spiritual tradition of St Ignatius of Loyola. Everything I see and read aligns with the Exercises.

I think Mr Franco is right: people who find themselves at odds with the pope, even if they long-considered themselves faithful, orthodox Catholics, might consider that two years of concern and dejection might be pointing a finger at their own personal failings.

And too strict? What!? This is the Catholic Church, for heaven’s sake. Our basic unit of exchange for the past twenty centuries has been strict. Get with the program, eh?

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PS 30: Alternatives to the Big Procession

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

There are two alternatives to the big procession. Though PS 29 provides for only one procession per parish, the document does seem inclined to urge pastors to avoid minimalism on this day:

30. The Missal, in order to commemorate the entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem, in addition to the solemn procession described above, gives two other forms, not simply for convenience, but to provide for those situations when it will not be possible to have the procession.

The second form seems to be preferred to the third:

The second form is that of a solemn entrance, when the procession cannot take place outside of the church. The third form is a simple entrance such as is used at all Sunday Masses which do not have the solemn entrance. (Cf. Roman Missal, Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday), 16)

The more northern climates might experience rain, cold, or even snow. Are these reasons enough to go to a default plan B or C?

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Not Disciples, But …

For those who have given up on Patheos because it’s too smarmingly self-orthodox, here’s a crude but hilarious wake-up call that takes a big poke at the so-called New Emangelization. One commenter there wrote:

Gee Larry, looks like you’ve struck a nerve.

Too straight.

Check out the comments, which are about as funny:

Doing your best to divide the church and ignore facts, history, prior infallible teaching AND current realities.

Done with Patheos. Spam box forever.

Can someone explain to me how “Larry D” is any different than a secularist?

The homosexuals that CAME IN in the 40’s and 50’s were quite eager to crush the Mass in the 60’s and turn it into a Protestant Lord’s Supper.

It’s hard to take a Novus Ordo Mass seriously when the altar looks like a Bed, Bath and Beyond display

Larry D seems like more a guy’s guy who isn’t going to chase men away from Catholicism. Unlike the self-righteous in his commentariat. (Now you know why they never invited me to write for Patheos–can you imagine them putting up with this every day? Their commentariat would want me off the planet–forget about excommunication.)

The blogger self describes as a “disciple of Jesus Christ, trying to be in the world but not of it, and doing his best to inject a little humor and fun into the New Evangelization.”

People without a sense of humor: by their own standards they may be faithful and they may be orthodox. But something essential is missing. Joy? Truth, likely, too.

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Petitioning God

How do we ask things of God? On his comment a bit earlier tonight Max asked:

I’m not angry. I’m not the one with power. I’m not (G)od. I can’t do anything to intercede on an attack on innocent children. If God exists he just watched the executions.

How do I ask (G)od to intercede to protect the children, if he is already watching the executions by himself?

When I work with writers of the General Intercessions, I’m cautious about how petitions at Mass are worded. Few statements raise the fur on my back more than something like this:

For the poor people of the world, that God will help them.

It turns the Mass into a feel-good exercise in apathy. Let’s remember people worse off than ourselves, and then turn them all over to God who should be, through other people, taking care of them. And we can move on with our disengaged lives.

To be sure, no single person or community can solve the problems of all the needy. A tenacious campaigner can make life miserable for politicians, to be sure. A quantity of people in an election, at a shareholder meeting, or active in their community can crank one issue now and then to the good.

Not to demean Sandy Hook or belittle Max’s life disruption over it, but more than twenty innocent children die all over the world each day. Thousands of lives are lost because politicians can’t remove the blockades to distribute food and medicine effectively and fairly. Overpopulation is not yet the human problem on this planet. It is politics. It is all in our hands, meaning the fourteen billion limbs with seventy billion fingers at the end of them.

What makes twenty Massachusetts kids the last straw more than a few thousand Africans?

Saint Ignatius would counsel people beset by discouragement and darkness to pray a bit more, to stay active, and to serve others.

I am sure that Max and likely many other atheists do get involved. They serve in soup kitchens, as tutors and big siblings, even as they care for the relationships within their own families. Good. I think this is a start.

Turning back to tragedies like mentally ill people getting their hands on guns, there are indeed ways to lobby, fuss, protest, and make an unholy nuisance of oneself. If I felt with Max’s depth, I wouldn’t be blaming God. I might sit in front of the gun store where Adam Lanza’s firearm was purchased with a simple sign “Remember Sandy Hook.” Maybe I would sit there sawing plastic water pistols into small pieces. Maybe I would volunteer at a psychiatric hospital.

After our own hearts have been moved from desolation into doing something, perhaps we can keep a closer watch over our prayers. God isn’t going to suspend the laws of nature, just to wave a magic wand to clean up a mess we’ve had a hand in making. God’s agency is through people. Teresa of Avila’s credo is almost a cliché, but perhaps it bears reminding just who God’s agents are on this planet.

For the poor people of the world, that they will know love, fulfillment, and friendship, from the people God sends to help them. And God help us, if we are unwilling.

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Trading Control Panel for Shepherd’s Staff

A confluence of two stories today struck me. First, Pope Francis on the relationship between bishops and lay people in a talk Rocco labelled “Pastors, Not Pilots.” Read, please:

In reality, the laity who have an authentic Christian formation shouldn’t need a pilot-bishop, nor a monsignor-pilot, nor clerical input to assume their own tasks at every level, from the political and social spheres to the economy and the legislature! Instead, they need a Pastor-Bishop!

Compare to the news out of San Francisco cited by NCRep today on a second draft of a faculty handbook:

Written by a group of five high school theology teachers recruited by the archdiocese, the new document says in its preamble that the contents follow “the general structure of the Catechism” and “offer a short compendium of some important teachings.”

I hope the pro-labor contingent will find the effort satisfactory. It’s a good start to have workers, be they ministers, clergy, bishops, or whomever, to write their own guidelines and hold to them carefully.

That said, it is also beneficial to virtue to hold to orthopraxis when it comes to things like accusations. Secrecy, sleuthing, and stalking are not Christian virtues. They are employed by some Catholics, notably many who self-style as “faithful” and “orthodox.” But don’t be fooled. Whenever a stealth campaign against a believer is conducted and sprung as a surprise, it is neither faithful, Catholic, or at all godly. It is of the darkness.

I applaud Archbishop Cordileone’s approach to relinquish the pilot’s seat and trade control panel for shepherd staff. We’ve had too many bad models of bishop behavior in the past decade or two. It’s time for people to stick to their own jobs and not get over-involved in affairs better left to the experts.

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Not So Alien

comet ISONNice narrative on BBC about the origins of Earth’s oceans. For me, I’d rather see a little more evidence on the premise. Science has waffled back and forth on this point for awhile. But I think “alien” origins of water are likely.

It’s interesting, that use of the term “alien.” By the standard of the article author, Earth was formed by the conglomeration of bodies alien to one another. If we’re all sharing one happy solar system, maybe we’re not so alien to one another–meaning Venus, Earth, Mars, and other planets. We can say “extra-terrestrial,” or “beyond Earth” with more accuracy.

When I think of “alien” I think of other star systems. Something totally out there. And I don’t think of other continents or even other countries. Immigrants are just that, regardless of their legal status: not alien, but just travelers, pilgrims, and movers. Not at all alien. Western culture would be better off comet-impacting that thought out of its head. We become collectives as we human beings gather and conglomerate. Sisters and brothers once sundered, now together, and largely for the better.

Image: Comet ISON from Hubble Space Telescope.

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PS 29: The Passion Sunday Procession

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

If Passion Sunday is notable for what people “get,” namely a green branch, the liturgical highlight is the procession after the proclamation of the Gospel.

29. The commemoration of the entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem has, according to ancient custom, been celebrated with a solemn procession, in which the faithful in song and gesture imitate the Hebrew children who went to meet the Lord singing “Hosanna”. (Cf. Roman Missal, Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday) n. 9)

Some believers–and I might count myself among them–are uneasy about playacting an event. That it reflects Christ’s triumph over death and/or at the end of time does make it go down easier. But we should realize that many times during Holy Week, we get a “wink,” as it were: a reminder that betrayal, persecution, suffering, and death are not the end. If only we were able to take our approach to sin in this way: acknowledge the reality, but rely more heavily on God’s grace.

By the book, a parish gets to do one big procession, in which people gather in a place other than the main worship space:

The procession may take place only once, before the Mass which has the largest attendance, even if this should be in the evening either of Saturday or Sunday. The congregation should assemble in a secondary church or chapel or in some other suitable place distinct from the church to which the procession will move.

How the procession aligns:

In this procession the faithful carry palm or other branches. The priest and the ministers, also carrying branches, precede the people. (Cf. Ceremonial of Bishops, 270)

A brief reminder about the palm “or other” branches.

The palms or branches are blessed so that they can be carried in the procession. The palms should be taken home, where they will serve as a reminder of the victory of Christ which they celebrated in the procession.

How often do First Worlders use “other” branches?

Pastors should make every effort to ensure that this procession in honor of Christ the King be so prepared and celebrated that it is of great spiritual significance in the life of the faithful.

What sort of preparations have you experienced that have helped this aspect? Or is the procession something of a must-do imposed on one of the worshiping communities of a parish? How might we move beyond that? Is it more than getting children excited?

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