VNO 25: At the Beginning of the Civil Year

The 25th VNO Mass, for a celebration “at the beginning of the Civil Year” is an interesting piece. The Roman Missal gives this rubric:

This Mass may not be used on the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, on 1 January.

Perhaps other cultures can find a New Year’s Day that doesn’t fall on a prime liturgical observance. After a busy Christmas season, it may not be likely that parishes, pastors, and liturgy people are ready for a big celebration of the commencement of a “civil year.” We largely leave it to the secular world and its liturgies–see the dropping Times Square ball, and New Year’s Day football.

For readings, the Lectionary gives a few choices. From the Torah, the sun and moon created on the fourth day (Genesis 1:14-18) or the blessing of Aaron (Numbers 6:22-27). From New Testament letters, Paul’s warning about time growing short (1 Corinthians 7:29-31) or James’ warning about making plans (4:13-15). The Gospel choices are also two, Jesus urging us to seek first God’s Reign (Matthew 6:31-34) or Jesus reminding us to be alert (Luke 12:35-40). Good choices all.

And for Lectionary Psalms we have the 8th, a hymn of praise from creation. We could choose the 49th, with selected verses that caution against wealth and arrogance. A third option includes some choice verses from the 90th. We blogged here last year on the psalm’s entirety.

From the Antiphonary, two possibilities for Entrance:

Entrance Antiphon Cf. Psalm 65:12

You crown the year with your bounty, and abundance flows in your pathways.

Or: Matthew 28:20

Behold, I am with you always, says the Lord, even to the end of the age.

I’ve long loved the 65th Psalm, and I think it’s a good choice for the beginning of a Mass celebrating a new year. I would use it even if the antiphon choice was the Lord’s promise after the Great Commission.

Communion Antiphon Hebrews 13:8

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.

A New Testament Canticle, for sure. This web page contains a number of texts from Christian Scriptures that go beyond the choices found in the Liturgy of the Hours. I like this set of verses (22-24a, 28, 29) from the preceding chapter of Hebrews:

1 We have come before God’s holy mountain,
to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.

2 We have come before countless angels making festival,
before the assembly of the firstborn citizens of heaven.

3 We have come before God, who is judge of all,
before the spirits of the just made perfect.

4 We have come before Jesus,
the mediator of the new covenant.

5 We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken:
so let us give thanks and offer to God acceptable worship,

6 Full of reverence and awe;
for our God is a consuming fire.

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 298: Some Cautions on Catechesis

The Pope Emeritus was well aware of the problems posed to the Church by our current situation, including the problem of viewing catechesis as an occasional educational journey that culminates in some sacramental event:

 

298. Catechesis must not be only occasional, reduced to moments before the sacraments or to Christian initiation, but rather “a permanent catechetical journey.”(Benedict XVI, Address in the Meeting with the Bishops of Brazil, May 11, 2007) Hence each particular church, with the aid of Bishops Conferences, is charged with setting up a comprehensive and progressive process covering the entire span of life from childhood to old age, bearing in mind that the General Directory of Catechesis regards catechesis of adults as the fundamental form of education in faith. In order for the people to truly know Christ in depth and follow him faithfully, they must be led especially in reading and meditating on the Word of God, which is the primary foundation of ongoing catechesis.(Ibid.)

 

I’m not aware of many efforts in my country. That encounter through the Word is essential, but overlooked. Too much of the Church’s catechetical effort is focused on doctrinal faithfulness rather than true knowledge of Christ through a relationship. In  my mind, it’s like picking a spouse from a mail order catalog. You can get physical characteristics and personal achievements. But until you meet a person, you don’t really know the man or woman. And until one does know one’s beloved, there isn’t much there besides head knowledge. Or infatuation. And neither will sustain a relationship long-term.

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

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A Cardinal Passes

The word’s in the news of the passing of Cardinal Law, unfortunate and deserved lightning rod for sex abuse cover-up. The nearness of death was whispered here. I get this metaphor:

(T)he moment is bound to bring a “media circus” to the American city Law bestrode as a colossus for close to two decades …

Metaphor understood, and I might not disagree, but it remains an unfortunate turn of phrase, as the Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of a pagan god, Helios.

I’m not so sure this is such a media thing as much as it is a reminder of a prelate caught on the cusp of an early #metoo movement. Clergy credibly accused of abuse were drummed out of service, mostly thanks to the outing of Cardinal Law’s mismanagement. He wasn’t the only bishop blundering with abusers. But he was the epicenter of a perfect storm involving the transferring of offending clergy, the intimidation of victims, and ignoring the professional advice of people like Fr Tom Doyle. It always rang a bit hollow that bishops were ready to blame the psychologists they supposedly listened to, but sidelined brother clergy from their own ranks.

At any rate, I’ve come down with skepticism about people losing jobs for doing one stupid thing. Or, being pounded on the occasion of their death. De mortuis nihil nisi bonum, and all that. Mourn a man as a child of God. Remember the flaws and re-commit to reform and renewal. What else is there? A quote from an unnamed protégé:

What can I say? I have a great affection for a very flawed human being.

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Aparecida 297: Catholic Identity

The Aparecida bishops speak of Catholic identity. A lot of groups north of the Mexican border do this also: parishes, universities, associations, etc..

Here, the bishops speak  of an identification with Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, Catholic identity is often linked with peripherals like sports or architecture. Or important things that can overshadow Christ: doctrine or a perception of faithfulness by some human standard or another.

 

297. The challenges posed by the situation of society in Latin America and the Caribbean require a more personal and better grounded Catholic identity. Strengthening this identity entails adequate catechesis to promote personal and community attachment to Christ, especially in those who are weaker in the faith. (Cf. Benedict XVI, Address in the Meeting with the Bishops of Brazil, May 11, 2007) It is a task that falls to the entire community of disciples, but particularly to those of us who as bishops have been called to serve the Church, shepherding it, leading it to the encounter with Jesus, and teaching it to live everything that he has commanded us (cf. Mt 28:19-20).

 

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

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Aparecida 295-296: Permanent Catechesis

Numbered sections 295 through 300 cover the topic of “permanent catechesis.” Catechesis and its proponents get a lot of bad-mouthing in many Catholic circles these days. Closer to the truth is that catechetical material has never been better. Many catechists are better formed and trained than their predecessors of two generations or more in the past. The effectiveness of catechesis is predicated on initial conversion. Where there is no conversion or commitment to Christ, teaching will always fall on rocky ground.

An assessment of the state of catechesis in Latain America and the Caribbean:

295. In considering the current situation of catechesis, there has obviously been great progress. The time devoted to preparing for the sacraments has increased. Both families and pastors are more aware of its need. It is understood to be absolutely necessary in all Christian formation. It has become routine for diocesan and parish catechetical commissions to be set up. The large number of people who feel called to become highly dedicated catechists is admirable. This assembly extends a sincere recognition to them.

More of a problem with this paragraph. Do you spot it?

296. However, despite good will, the theological and pedagogical formation of catechists generally leaves much to be desired. Teaching materials and aids are often quite varied and are not part of a comprehensive pastoral plan; they do not always reflect contemporary pedagogical methods. Catechetical programs in parishes often fail to get full collaboration from families. Pastors and other people in charge do not put major effort into performing their proper role as primary catechists.

Where children are concerned, primary catechists are parents, not professionals. What about when adults are the target of catechesis? Are we necessarily dependent on “pastors and other people”?

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

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VNO 21-24: For Civil Needs of Government

Beginning with the 21st VNO Mass, we look to various “Civil Needs.”  Some of them have no proper antiphons assigned, Masses for the nation or state (#21), for those in public office (#22), for a governing assembly (#23), or for the head of state or ruler (#24). For clergy prayers, each of these contains a lonely collect. Perhaps the intention here is to use the prayer itself on some civic occasion, such as the swearing in of politicians.

These government issues are covered very well in the Lectionary for Mass, however. Numbers 882-886 actually give a large number of readings, on par with the number of choices for a wedding or funeral. Felix Just’s Lectionary site has the full summary of VNO Masses here. Just be aware that “themes” don’t exactly match what’s in the 2010 edition of the roman Missal in English.

If you were to ask me my perfect choices for a special Mass for the government in today’s American climate, I’d use Isaiah 58:6-11 (authentic fasting), then Advent’s Psalm 85 (more on justice and peace in the governance of God), followed by the Gospel of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).

If I were looking to a Psalm for another musical text, I’d say the 112th fits well.

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 293-294: Parishes And RCIA

There is no substitute for parishes. Clergy and religious don’t initiate on their own. Neither do specialized groups, associations, or extra-parish communities. Their members might inspire seekers. But parishes celebrate the full range of sacraments and possess the community to get the task done. This is even true of small communities without resident pastors.

The Aparecida bishops speak well of RCIA here:

293. The parish must be the place where Christian initiation is assured. Its unavoidable tasks include:

  • initiating insufficiently evangelized baptized adults into Christian life;
  • educating baptized children in the faith in a process that leads them to complete their Christian initiation;
  • and initiating the non-baptized who upon hearing the kerygma, desire to embrace the faith.

In this task, studying and assimilating the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is a necessary focal point and secure support.

It may be that individuals and parishes have a flawed view of what RCIA is and what it can accomplish. You may notice that lassoing baptized Christians into Catholicism isn’t part of the above list. This is not an omission. Remember, this document is about evangelization, not chasing after low-hanging fruit. Or outdoing the Lutherans, Episcopalians, or others. Baptized Christians already have relationships with Jesus Christ.

In an ideal outlook, RCIA changes everything:

294. Taking on Christian initiation demands not only a renewal of the parish’s mode of catechesis. We propose that the formative catechetical process adopted by the Church for Christian initiation be assumed throughout the continent as the ordinary and absolutely necessary way of introduction into Christian life, and as basic and fundamental catechesis. It will be followed by ongoing catechesis which continues the process of maturing in the faith, which should encompass vocational discernment and offering enlightenment for the direction of one’s personal life.

294 is a deceptively important section that summarizes our discussion on Christian initiation. This proposal counteracts the tradition of catechesis that prevails in much of the Catholic world: that catechesis succeeds infant initiation and that a graduation event–either sacramental (First Communion, Confirmation) or age-level (Catholic grade school high school or college) concludes the process. We largely leave vocational discernment to an accident of what charismatic mentor one might meet. We rarely make the connection to daily life, where the primary drivers are the various models of business, sport, famous persons, self-help programs, or other secular concerns.

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

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