Medjugorje Fade

Mary at PodbrdoThe Catholic Herald thinks pilgrimages to the Herzegovinian town have fallen off by half in recent months.

A Vatican investigation has been completed, and the word will soon be out, so we hear. Has Pope Francis tipped his hand in the soon-to-be-announced thumbs up or down  on the apparitions?

Pope Francis joked about “visionaries who can tell us exactly what message Our Lady will be sending at 4 o’clock this afternoon.”

That sounds like Pope Francis. Other critics of the visionaries point out how few (maybe none) have entered religious life, unlike Fatima and Lourdes. Guadalupe stories seem to conflict about a wife for Juan Diego, and whether or not there may have been sex involved.

The disdain for a sacrament may be attributable to the Tridentine era of the Church, but what of the new era and any new depths to be found in the Blessed Mother accompanying earthbound believers?

Sante Frigo, married to a Medjugorje pilgrim guide told the New York Times:

Whatever the verdict turns out to be, this wait is creating a state of uncertainty for the pilgrims, and that affects the season. From the point of view of the pilgrimage supply chain it’s been a catastrophe.

Mmm, yes.

I suppose some might say the world is in worse shape today than during a world war or monarchy upheavals or the conquest and subjugation of a continent or two, so thirty-plus ears of messages are a wake-up call for us. American Catholic Republicans have had to endure not one bad election, but two, and now a pope who doesn’t align with their views. The cafeteria has been turned upside-down and shaken.

On a more real note, I’m not necessarily disinclined to disbelieve the Medjugorje Six. Saint Ignatius speaks of the value of colloquy, in which we have a dialogue with Jesus, Mary, or possibly a saint.

One spiritual director I read said that at first it seems an artificial conversation. And it is–in practicing we’re just talking to ourselves. After a while, though, the conversation turns up material we wouldn’t have thought up on our own. Is it a deeper aspect of our minds? Could be that. Could also be that God uses our nature, including our minds, to gently communicate with us.

In that sense, I wonder if the so-called visionaries are just well-practiced in a form of colloquy. So, perhaps the messages for the individuals involved–which is my best guess.

Speaking for myself, I have enough challenges in cooperating with God’s grace in my life. If the Blessed Mother were going to speak to me, chances are it would be about casting my vision to my own life. I wouldn’t presume to send messages out to anyone else.

As for my own Marian spirituality on apparitions, Guadalupe and Lourdes are quite enough. Fatima and its secrets? Keep them, please.

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Cinquant’anni Dopo 15: Priests At Liturgy

Fr Ev farewell MassCardinal Robert Sarah offers a few words for priests in his June 2015 essay for L’Osservatore Romano.

If the liturgy is Christ’s work, is it necessary for the celebrant to interject his own comments? We should remember that, when the missal authorizes an intervention, this must not become a profane, human speech, a more or less subtle commentary on current events, or a worldly greeting to the persons present, but rather a very brief exhortation to enter into the mystery (cf. General Introduction of the Roman Missal, no. 50). As for the homily, in itself it is always a liturgical act that has its own rules. “Participatio actuosa” in Christ’s work presupposes that we leave the profane world so as to enter into the “sacred action surpassing all others” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7). In fact, “we claim somewhat arrogantly to remain in the human sphere so as to enter into the divine” (Robert Sarah, God or Nothing [San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2015], chapter IV).

A few comments from me …

First, just because offering a comment is possible at Mass does not mean that it is desirable.

Two, I don’t see the separation of the “sacred” and “profane” in SC 7. In fact, it might be a consideration in some contexts that the acts of prayer and liturgy and the sacraments bring a deeper level of holiness to things (if not people) who originate in the natural world. A greeting becomes ritual dialogue. Teachers become mystagogues. Human stories become parables. Food from field and vineyard …

That last citation is curious; I’d want to see the context. I think people view themselves as arriving at worship from the human sphere. God created us as physical and social beings, so I’d see the matter as one of perspective. Are we still offering a knee or a kiss as a remnant of aristocratic privilege? Do thrones and fancy clothes set apart a religious upper class, and is this more human than godly?

I would think some of this discussion hints at things distinguishable by context. And a sensitive and discerning pastor is surely the person best placed to deal with these questions.

Notes: I’ve used an “early” translation, attributed here to Michael J. Miller at Catholic World Report. I wasn’t able to find the original essay on the L’Osservatore Romano site.

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Laudato Si 74: Trials and Persecution

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. Pope Francis links the experience of the Babylonian Exile and the Roman persecution. Each was a time for believers to reflect more deeply when the world offered antagonism.

74. The experience of the Babylonian captivity provoked a spiritual crisis which led to deeper faith in God. Now his creative omnipotence was given pride of place in order to exhort the people to regain their hope in the midst of their wretched predicament. Centuries later, in another age of trial and persecution, when the Roman Empire was seeking to impose absolute dominion, the faithful would once again find consolation and hope in a growing trust in the all-powerful God: “Great and wonderful are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways!” (Rev 15:3). The God who created the universe out of nothing can also intervene in this world and overcome every form of evil. Injustice is not invincible.

What has this to do with the environment? God possesses the ultimate power. Believer-activists can take heart that no matter how discouraging the situation seems, there is reason for hope. And perhaps for those who manipulate and dominate, if there is a seed of faith within, there’s a warning that human power will ultimately fade before divine invincibility.

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Cinquant’anni Dopo 14: Listening to the Council

Fr Ev farewell MassIn Cardinal Robert Sarah’s June 2015 essay for L’Osservatore Romano. we read of a plea for silence less because of the objective spiritual value of listening for God, but because of respect.

It is time to start listening to the Council. The liturgy is “above all things the worship of the divine majesty” (no. 33). It has instructional value to the extent to which it is completely ordered to the glorification of God and to divine worship. Liturgy really places us in the presence of divine transcendence. True participation means renewing in ourselves that “amazement” that Saint John Paul II held in high regard (cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 6). This sacred wonder, this joyful fear, requires our silence before the divine majesty. We often forget that sacred silence is one of the means noted by the Council for promoting participation.

The citation in SC 30 is, “And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence.” This seems to suggest a corporate silence of the entire body assembled for worship. Is it a respectful silence accorded the royalty or aristocracy in a position of submission? Is it a listening stance, seated and receptive?

Without minimizing that impulse, I might suggest that different people respond to God in different ways. The liturgy itself encourages different kinds of silence. For example, consider the gratitude of the time after receiving a sacrament (which itself is rather different for the Eucharist and some forms of Penance). Consider the difference between silence after a reading or psalm and the silence of processions on Good Friday.

As for Cardinal Sarah’s interpretation of silence as a way to promote participation, my sense of the only mention of silence in Sacrosanctum Concilium 30 is that it more endorses a liturgy less full of “stuff” and more of a spiritual and mystical opportunity, if not experience. The constitution seems to presume a liturgy with ample silence. Perhaps that was and is overly optimistic.

Notes: I’ve used an “early” translation, attributed here to Michael J. Miller at Catholic World Report. I wasn’t able to find the original essay on the L’Osservatore Romano site.

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Survey Says

I found the CMAA forum’s questionnaire equal parts amusing and interesting:

Would you regularly like to attend:

1. The TLM (with Gregorian Chant & polyphony, and an occasional hymn)
2. The NO (with Gregorian Chant & polyphony, and an occasional hymn)
3. The NO (Gregorian Chant & hymns)
4. The NO (hymns only)
5. A Contemporary (guitar based group) Feast of Praise & Worship

No devotees for the so-called quiet Mass (of any Ordo), which is a blessing of sorts. Given the snark of choice 5, an equally adequate reflection of the choices might substitute “Roman Rite” for “NO” and “unreformed, possibly schismatic” for “TL.”

All of the choices are pretty dated. It’s been a long time since I was exposed to a music group that was authentically “guitar based.” Nearly everybody is piano based. One parish where I served had a “folk group” accompanied by the organist–all the guitarists had moved away over the previous twenty years.

If I were counting down the choices, I’d offer:

7. Lifeteen/P&W
6. Piano-based fusion
5. Organ-based fusion
4. Organ-based traditional hymnody
3. Plainsong and traditional hymnody
2. Plainsong and a lot of rarified choral music
1. Unreformed rite

And even then, my own preference would be 6 with a dollop of 3. Or in a monastery, 3 with an eclectic blend of 5 or 6, depending on their instrument. When an organization is mostly stuck in 1 and 2, I doubt people are looking to discern the larger distinctions of 5, 6, or 7. From the fringes, everything else is a muddled middle.

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Laudato Si 73: Prophets

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. We’ve been looking at the Old Testament the past few days, and today we turn our attention with Pope Francis to the prophets.

73. The writings of the prophets invite us to find renewed strength in times of trial by contemplating the all-powerful God who created the universe. Yet God’s infinite power does not lead us to flee his fatherly tenderness, because in him affection and strength are joined. Indeed, all sound spirituality entails both welcoming divine love and adoration, confident in the Lord because of his infinite power.

The prophets of Israel and Judah are regarded as scary figures pronouncing scary consequences for moral misdeeds of the nation. Many of them also offered poetic passages of great tenderness and compassion. These two from Jeremiah and Isaiah are representative of a larger body of work:

In the Bible, the God who liberates and saves is the same God who created the universe, and these two divine ways of acting are intimately and inseparably connected: “Ah Lord God! It is you who made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you… You brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders” (Jer 32:17, 21). “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless” (Is 40:28b-29).


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Human Spaceflight, 1950

V2 launch by BritsFascinating story on how Britain might have launched a space explorer ten years before Alan Shepard arced over the western Atlantic.

Postwar UK had a lot of other things to deal with. If my recollection of history is right, I think they were rationing food well into the 50’s.

Still, British astronauts flying high enough to peer into the USSR–that would be the stuff of alternate history science fiction, wouldn’t it?

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