The Armchair Liturgist: Colors For Choirs

At choir practice last night, a few members asked me about what to wear at Mass this coming weekend. I don’t like advising people on fashion, but as you might suspect, the question of color came up. Again.

I hope I didn’t come off as too dismissive, but I offered, red, orange, yellow–all colors of flames. (I didn’t think of the green flames of boron or copper sulfate.)

My predecessors often urged alignment with the festivities, not just red for Pentecost. Last Saturday the observance for Our Lady of Guam was blended into Ascension, so floral and Pacific wear was suggested from the singers.

One of my honored predecessors was a concert singer in her secular career, and so advocated black skirts and trousers plus white tops for Big Events like Triduum and Christmas. These days I tell people to wear the best of their best for Easter Vigil and Midnight Mass.

What do you think? Why have we become mostly fixated on red for the seventh Sunday after Easter, and not other days? Red is the least-used of the liturgical Final Four, so is that a factor? Sit in the purple chair and decide for your real or imagined parish: if your choir isn’t robed, would you want them color-coordinated?

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I have been following the Church situation in Chile, but not closely enough to know if this news of a mass resignation of bishops is a gesture, a confession, or a natural consequence of some Vatican process with Pope Francis.

Rocco whispers the obvious, that this act is unprecedented. But so is the worldwide outing of administrative missteps with persons who once were thought to be infected with a particular moral corruption. Patterns of abuse are much more.

Pope-haters will speak of this in terms of a bully in the chair of Saint Peter, no doubt. From the bishops’ statement:

We, all the bishops present in Rome, have tendered our resignation to the Holy Father so that he may decide freely for each of us.

That rather puts Pope Francis in the role of judge on this matter. He’s been drawn deeply into the scandal, a result of his comments regarding a bishop he appointed who was resisted by some clergy, as well as abuse survivors and allies.

Rocco also commented on a Gang-of-9 member:

On another critical front, the move doesn’t include the capital’s already-retired Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, now 84. Long accused of playing a major role in the cover-up for Chile’s most notorious predator, Fernando Karadima, Errazuriz’s ongoing membership in Francis “Gang of Nine” lead advisers has drawn the most potent scorn from survivors and their advocates.

… and he offered this nugget from the Holy Father’s statement about the bishops in which he criticized “their style of governing had seen the church commit the ‘sin of becoming the center of attention’ as opposed to ‘signaling and announcing’ Jesus to the world around it – a shift, he said, born from a ‘loss of prophetic strength.’

Directly quoted:

The problems you live today within the ecclesial community, will not be solved solely by taking the concrete cases and reducing them to the removal of persons; this – and let me say it clearly – will have to be done, but it is not sufficient, there is more of a ways to go.

It would be irresponsible on our part to not deepen our search for the roots and structures which enabled these concrete events to happen and perpetuate themselves.

One big thing so often missed is how predators and addicts groom allies. It is one reason why they succeed in their darkness for so long. Within families, adults are lined up to ally against abused children. In workplaces, those with jobs to protect and careers to nurture. Within the Church, we have patrons, supervisors, pastors, bishops–it should be no surprise that is fathers in families can succumb to the wiles of an abuser or addict that ecclesial fathers are no less vulnerable to be turned against those who have been gravely harmed.

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Aparecida 437: Pastoral Proposals For The Family

The Aparecida bishops give their people fourteen proposals for ministries to the family. I think many of these are worthy of significant comment. Let’s look to spend several days on this. I’ll offer one or two proposals at a time, each on separate posts. With my experience north of the US-Mexico border, my commentary will be more aligned with the pastoral situation in my country. I think many of the proposals will address needs outside of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Summing up after the following brief paragraph …

437. In order to protect and support the family, actions such as the following may be undertaken by family ministry:

  • commitment from other groups
  • evangelization
  • Marriage preparation
  • political advocacy
  • formation for difficult situations
  • care for those in difficulties
  • responsible parenthood
  • studying family crises
  • formation for pastoral ministers
  • unmarried couples
  • annulments
  • children without parents
  • pregnant teens and single mothers
  • widows

It’s a substantial list. We’ll begin looking at it tomorrow.

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

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GeE 45: Feeling Superior

See the source imageThe problem of the pope calling out some Catholics for feeling morally superior didn’t start with this pope. Check John Paul II for this concern:

45. A dangerous confusion can arise. We can think that because we know something, or are able to explain it in certain terms, we are already saints, perfect and better than the “ignorant masses”. Saint John Paul II warned of the temptation on the part of those in the Church who are more highly educated “to feel somehow superior to other members of the faithful”. [Vita Consecrata 38]

What we know, or what we think we know, should urge us to movement, not stasis:

In point of fact, what we think we know should always motivate us to respond more fully to God’s love. Indeed, “you learn so as to live: theology and holiness are inseparable”. [Letter to the Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina for the Centenary of the Founding of the Faculty of Theology (3 March 2015)]

I can think of my positive experience with professors (among others), and their assistance to me, and what I heard of their involvement for others. A Scripture scholar who offered discernment for marriage and having children to a couple. A professor who offered to assist me through a particularly difficult yet rich time of discernment. If anyone could claim more knowledge than the rest of us, it might be theology professors. But with near uniformity, I recall the best teachers as having the most generous spirits of those I’ve encountered in the Church.

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


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Aparecida 436: Crimes Against The Unborn And The Aged

The Aparecida bishops advocate not only for support of legislation, but also in the practice of health care so as to protect potential victims of abortion and euthanasia:

436. We hope that legislators, heads of government, and health professionals, conscious of the dignity of human life and of the rootedness of the family in our peoples, will defend and protect it from the abominable crimes of abortion and euthanasia; that is their responsibility. Hence, in response to government laws and provisions that are unjust in the light of faith and reason, conscientious objection should be encouraged. We must adhere to “eucharistic coherence,” that is, be conscious that they cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act with deeds or words against the commandments, particularly when abortion, euthanasia, and other grave crimes against life and family are encouraged. This responsibility weighs particularly over legislators, heads of governments, and health professionals.(Cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 83; Evangelium Vitae 73, 74, 89)

Even those who ardently support life issues have a role to play, preparing society at large for the service of those who sincerely believe they have no other choice. If we do not, how can we hope to make headway against elements of our society who see these acts as intrinsically good?

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

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Scripture for the Sick or Dying: Acts 3:11-16

At Easter Thursday Mass, the first reading continues the post-Pentecost narrative of the first healing miracle of Peter and his subsequent preaching on the Risen Christ. The people responsible for assembling Scripture readings for the sick chose to focus on the restoration of movement for the beggar (cf. Acts 3:6-7) at the Beautiful Gate. In the subsequent verses (8-10), the man was found leaping, standing, walking, and jumping as he had never done in his life.

The follow-up to this reading finds the man “clinging” to the apostles. Is this a model for the early believers who were first exposed to the apostolic ministry? Perhaps so. The cured man isn’t the only person on the move in Jerusalem:

As the crippled man who had been cured
clung to Peter and John,

all the people hurried in amazement toward them
in the portico called “Solomon’s Portico.”

Peter takes this opportunity to offer another public speech (through verse 26). For the purposes of pastoral care, the beginning only is given in the rite. With Peter, we connect the power of healing to the Paschal Mystery. That is: the saving act of Christ through his death and resurrection. This is the basis of faith for the ill or injured person:

When Peter saw this, he addressed the people,
“You children of Israel, why are you amazed at this,
and why do you look so intently at us
as if we had made him walk by our own power or piety?
The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,
the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus
whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence,
when he had decided to release him.
You denied the Holy and Righteous One
and asked that a murderer be released to you.
The author of life you put to death,
but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.
And by faith in his name,
this man, whom you see and know, his name has made strong,
and the faith that comes through it
has given him this perfect health,
in the presence of all of you.

The Church does not promise “perfect” healing, either through its rites or the ministry of believers. It can happen, but it isn’t always so. The chosen emphasis is on faith. Faith in Christ enables the transformation of the person, and a healing that is independent on the particular abilities of either those who pray or those who are involved with physical or mental health care.

Still, many people suffer debilitating conditions. When I think of that, it seems the reassurances of faith in Jesus come up empty. Easy enough for me to rely on the Lord. But a person without faith? It would seem they need more than an episode from twenty centuries ago. That said, many believers have drawn faith from this reassurance, despite not experiencing a healing in this life.

For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.

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GeE 44: Doctrine And Questions

See the source imageThe questions people bring to faith are not open doubts about tenets of faith, but queries about the situations of their lives. Pope Francis suggests that Christian disciples will place themselves in the shoes of those who wonder about things:

44. In effect, doctrine, or better, our understanding and expression of it, “is not a closed system, devoid of the dynamic capacity to pose questions, doubts, inquiries… The questions of our people, their suffering, their struggles, their dreams, their trials and their worries, all possess an interpretational value that we cannot ignore if we want to take the principle of the incarnation seriously. Their wondering helps us to wonder, their questions question us”. [Video Message to Participants in an International Theological Congress held at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina (1-3 September 2015)]

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


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