Aparecida 224: High Expectations

With the Aparecida bishops, we conclude this discussion on religious life and the role those in it play in the Church’s mission in Latin America and the Caribbean–if not the world:

224. Latin American and Caribbean peoples expect a great deal of consecrated life, especially from the testimony and contribution of contemplative religious women and those in apostolic life, who together with other brother religious, members of secular institutes, and societies of apostolic life, display the Church’s motherly face. Their yearning to listen, welcome, and serve, and their witness to the alternative values of the Kingdom show that a new Latin American and Caribbean society, founded on Christ, is possible.(Cf. Pope Benedict, Introductory Address 5)

It’s good to keep in mind the unique contributions of particular orders, be they in monastic or apostolic style of expressing their charisms.

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

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Seeking Something Other Than Peace

A PrayTell essay on the Sign of Peace. There’s the liturgical discussion, initiated by Msgr Francis Mannion, and important one to engage:

(I)t should be kept in mind that when we gather for the Eucharist we come together as sons and daughters of God who are all equally related by baptism. For the moment, the stranger and the marginal person are as close to us as spouse and children.

(T)he Sign of Peace is not meaningless when shared between strangers and only meaningful when exchanged between intimates. Indeed, the peace sign is never more meaningful than when shared between strangers, or those separated by human barriers of various kinds. The Sign of Peace declares: “We may be strangers at the human level, but not in God’s scheme of things.”

Always, of course, there is the discussion around this taking place during the Mass. Is liturgy the best place for this? Can we achieve a recognition of the baptismal relationship with other believers at another time and in another way? There might be an affirmative answer to that. Some liturgists have promoted the idea of moving the Peace to another part of the Mass. Many critics would cheer an omission. Do they miss a connection between the Eucharist and that Communion of (living) saints?

A point of interest from Fritz Bauerschmidt, frequent PrayTell writer and commentator:

(V)isitors to our parish often comment on how much they love the lengthy sign of peace and the genuine warmth with which it is carried out. And they don’t seem to feel excluded by the fact that they don’t know anyone. So obviously lots of people do not share my particular liturgical sensibility.

Somehow, I am not surprised by the statement of these visitors. Individual persons may be hypocritical in their offering of peace. But only their friends and acquaintances would know for sure. Communities might seem false or fake in their collective expression of “community,” but again, only those familiar would make that assessment.

Newcomers likely would not, unless they had a mission for being present. What they might seek is the expression of baptismal communion, that breaking down the barriers between persons. I might suggest that in many places in western society, this is a deeply felt need. We live in a time that values corporate culture over collaborative, the individual over the community, the cog over the person.

God made us to be communal beings. When we find an expression of community that seems the least bit genuine, we are attracted to it as a thirsty person desire a guzzle of water.

In this post-modern era, perhaps the Sign of Peace is exactly what most people need. If it draws people to Christ and to Communion, maybe it’s a worthy thing to engage. Or to suffer for the greater good.

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VNO 10: For The Laity

When might a Mass “For The Laity” be celebrated? Remember that Mass for Various Needs And Occasions don’t just get dropped in on any old Sunday.

Maybe the collect gives us a clue:

O God,
who have sent the power of the Gospel
like leaven into the world,
grant that your faithful,
whom you have called to live amid the world and its affairs,
may be fervent with the Christian spirit
and, through the tasks they carry out in this present age,
may constantly build up your Kingdom.

If a parish mission ended on a weekday or night, and this “leaven” connected to a theme, it would be very appropriate. In fact, I can’t imagine a better topic for a parish’s renewal effort today than reviving a discipleship attitude in the laity.

The other prayers speak of God who does “not cease to call ” lay people to “the apostolate” and of the intention that lay people will “be tireless witnesses to the truth of the Gospel.”

Let’s have a look at the music:

Entrance Antiphon Mt 13:33

The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour, until the whole batch was leavened.

More yeast. On one hand, I like the expansive thinking behind looking to the New Testament for an antiphon choice. On the other, there’s the temptation to be too literal in matching a text for verses. The letter to the Ephesians might be one of the most discipleship-driven documents in the Bible. Some might like the lyrical quality of the canticle that begins with 1:3 there. The Liturgy of the Hours cuts it off at verse ten, but I think verses 11-14 and 17-23 might be a good text from which to draw inspiration.

The Missal gives two possible antiphons for Communion, a text with a very commonly-used Psalm and a verse from the Lord’s Last Supper discourse:

Communion Antiphon Ps 100: 2

Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing for joy, alleluia.

or: Jn 15: 8

By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples, says the Lord.

The first links with the psalm from which it derives. Or any psalm of praise. Perhaps a music director might look to a text in which the psalmist invites others to the encounter with God–the 34th for example. For either antiphon, an Old Testament text that alludes to the hoped-for universal salvation at the end of time: Isaiah 2 or 25 or 61.

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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Aparecida 222-223: New Groups and Confederations

New communities pop up in every age of the Church. Who discerns them, with them? The Aparecida Conference suggests the local bishop has a role:

222. The Holy Spirit is still raising up new forms of consecrated life in the Church, which must be welcomed and accompanied in their growth and development within the local churches. The bishop must make a serious and judicious discernment on their meaning, necessity, and authenticity. The shepherds appreciate as a gift the consecrated virginity of those who commit themselves to Christ and to his Church with generosity and undivided heart, and they intend to watch over their initial and ongoing formation.

The bishops also cite associations of religious. Such groups facilitate the collaboration and dialogue called for in canon law, at Vatican II, and by previous popes:

223. The Confederation of Secular Institutes (CISAL) the Confederation of Religious Men and Women (CLAR), and National Conferences are structures of service and leadership which in authentic communion with the shepherds and under their guidance in fruitful and friendly dialogue (Perfectae Caritatis 23; canon law 708) are called to stimulate their members to engage in mission as disciples and missionaries at the service of the Kingdom of God.(Vita Consecrata 50-53)

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

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Pope Francis Address to CELAM 3: A Community of Disciples

Continuing with the address of the Holy Father to his brother bishops of Latin America. When we speak of the modern movement to discipleship, we are expanding on older, less complete understandings of the Church.

The Church is the community of Jesus’ disciples.  The Church is a Mystery (cf. Lumen Gentium, 5) and a People (cf. ibid., 9).  Better yet, in the Church the Mystery becomes present through God’s People.

Missionary discipleship is as old as Christianity, but the Holy Father recognizes the new opportunity to fill an emerging need. We read a typically Jesuit sensibility, our close accompaniment of the Master:

Hence my insistence that missionary discipleship is a call from God for today’s busy and complicated world, a constant setting out with Jesus, in order to know how and where the Master lives.  When we set out with him, we come to know the will of the Father who is always waiting for us.  Only a Church which is Bride, Mother and Servant, one that has renounced the claim to control what is not her own work but God’s, can remain with Jesus, even when the only place he can lay his head is the cross.

Human beings are communal creatures: it is how we are made. It makes sense that God will use this appeal to draw closer to us:

Closeness and encounter are the means used by God, who in Christ has drawn near to us to continually meet us.  The mystery of the Church is to be the sacrament of this divine intimacy and the perennial place of this encounter.  Hence, the need for the bishop to be close to God, for in God he finds the source of his freedom, his steadfastness as a pastor and the closeness of the holy people entrusted to his care.  In this closeness, the soul of the apostle learns how to make tangible God’s passion for his children.

When I read of “sacrament” in descriptions like this, I’m drawn to the subtitle of my theology course in sacramental theology, “as Christ-encounters.” Pope Francis describes “encounter” here as well. Bishops and pastors, as imitators of Christ, embody this closeness, this encounter. Indeed, any minister optimally seeks this closeness to those in her or his charge.

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Aparecida 220-221: From the Cloister or in the World

How does religious life fit into the renewed sense of mission in evangelization? Some reflections by the Aparecida bishops:

220. Today in Latin America and the Caribbean, consecrated life is called to be a discipleship life, fervent about Jesus-Way to the merciful Father, and hence deeply mystical and communitarian in nature.

Two aspects are discussed–a life of mission, and a life of service to the world:

It is called to be a missionary life, fervent about proclaiming Jesus-Word of the Father; and hence radically prophetic, capable of illuminating in the light of Christ the shadows of the contemporary world and the paths of new life, and hence what is required is a prophetic witness that yearns even to surrender one’s life in continuity with the tradition of holiness and martyrdom of so many religious men and women over the history of the continent. It must likewise be at the service of the world, fervent for Jesus–Life of the Father, who becomes present in the littlest ones and those who are least whom it wishes to serve from its own charism and spirituality.

Each of these considerations fit within communities that are monastic or in the world, or who find themselves somewhere along that axis of charism and service.

Some considerations from Pope John Paul II:

221. Latin America and the Caribbean especially need the contemplative life, as witness that only God is sufficient to fill the sense of meaning and joy. In a world that is losing the sense of the divine to overvaluation of the materials, you dear sisters, committed from your cloisters in being witnesses of the values for which they live, are to be witnesses of the Lord to today’s world, and pour out with your prayer a new breath of life in the church and in people today. (John Paul II, Address to Cloistered Religious in Cathedral of Guadalajara, Mexico, January 30, 1979) 

Cloisters offer much to our mission, as do religious who express their charisms in the world. I’d like to add that Pope Paul VI was also quite aware of the opportunities that await if those in consecrated life assisted in applying themselves to the effort in evangelization.

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

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Girls For Eagle

I’ve seen a few things on social media today about the decision to have females in what was known as “Boy Scouts.”

I was once active in the Scouting movement and I have mixed feelings on this development. I recognize the principle that separate is not often equal, and perhaps it is felt that markers in Girl Scout achievement are not as demanding as that for boys. My sister and I were active Scouts at the same time, and I remember feeling glad the standards for my ranks and badges seemed harder.

One of my women friends in social media commented this is not so in comparing the Gold Award to the Eagle rank.

That said, I’ve come to reconsider separate formation opportunities for males and females in adolescence. Separate may not always be equal, but separate is optimal in some ways. Maybe most ways.

Speaking of opportunities, I believe young people can be pushed and challenged in healthy ways to excel and achieve. Often, the results are surprising to adults. Character-building for the achievers.

Consider me a neutral but interested observer on this initiative.

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