VNO 14: For Vocations To Religious Life

The ninth VNO Mass is for Vocations to Holy Orders. The fourteenth is for the same intention for religious life. In the 1998/2002 Lectionary, the two are listed together. Not so in the Roman Missal.

The readings are as one might expect: the call of various Old Testament persons: Abram, Moses, the prophets. Gospel readings are on a similar theme: the call of the disciples. One that stands out for me is John 15:9-17, in which the Lord counsels imitation: laying down one’s life.

The priest texts for the collect and post-Communion prayers have options when they are offered by a religious priest. The antiphons aren’t deeply inspired:

Entrance Antiphon Mt 19:21

If you would be perfect, go, sell what you have, give to the poor, and follow me, says the Lord.

Communion Antiphon Cf. Mt 19: 27-29

Amen, I say to you: That you who have left all and followed me will receive a hundredfold and possess eternal life, says the Lord.

Responsorial Psalms for this Mass are 16, 27, 40, and 84. Whichever one isn’t chosen for the Liturgy of the Word would be as good a choice as any for an Old Testament passage. A few New Testament choices might be the Beatitudes or 1 Corinthians 13, especially verses 4 through 7.

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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A Theologian Resigns

I see some concern on the part of a high-ranking USCCB theologian/employee being asked to submit his resignation. Story here. I’ve blogged on Fr Weinandy a few times in the past, but not in several years, not since the 2011 USCCB/Elizabeth Johnson dust-up over her then-four-year-old book.

To begin with, I’d like to say that opinions like these do not (in my opinion) constitute a problem for employment:

You have often spoken about the need for transparency within the Church.  You have frequently encouraged, particularly during the two past synods, all persons, especially bishops, to speak their mind and not be fearful of what the pope may think.  But have you noticed that the majority of bishops throughout the world are remarkably silent?  Why is this?  Bishops are quick learners, and what many have learned from your pontificate is not that you are open to criticism, but that you resent it.

I’ve seen this meme repeated quite often in the past few years. I’ve also seen the reality lived out over the past thirty or forty years with the two previous pontiffs. I suppose when a pope is right, silence is golden. Otherwise, not so much.

I don’t think priests in good standing ever descend into poverty in these circumstances. I imagine there will always be a place for a good, earnest, holy priest like Thomas Weinandy. In a university. In a parish. With his Franciscan order. Possibly all three. This situation isn’t quite as bad as when a lay person gets turned out of employment on short notice. Sometimes without the resources of a religious order, a diocese, or something on which to fall back. Sometimes with the spouse able to cover the breadwinning. This organ, for example, was quick to jump on the story as well, but they certainly don’t come off as pure on the matter of pink-slipping some of their employees when their writing got a little controversial. They did print my comment that referred to their behavior, so perhaps transparency is catching in some corners.

I recall a moment in grad school when a classmate returned early from a weekend of serving back in his parish. The new pastor summarily dismissed him without ever hearing him play the organ, directing his choir, or in action in liturgy at all.  That was likely more ignorance and liturgical neglect than ideologically-driven. But it was ugly and sinful nonetheless.

I do find it amusing that so many “faithful” Catholics see great wrong in Fr Weinandy’s situation, but were themselves silent and approving when it happened at the hands of henchmen and sycophants of the previous pope or two. Chasing after people’s jobs is ugly, reprehensible behavior that knows no single ideology. I’m a skeptic if it knows virtue at all.

I fully expect the moaning to rise up from conservative, “faithful” elements of Catholics in social media–you can see it in sampling the comboxes of the linked stories given here. Most of my old St Blog’s friends and foils seem to take no notice that certain others were treated similarly in the 1978-2013 era. When I mention figures like Bishop Bill Morris, lies and half-truths are trotted out–like fake news is some sort of justification for clumsy behavior. The ends justifies the means: where is that in the Catechism?

Fr Weinandy’s story of his troubles with Pope Francis and his request for a sign (one was “given” to write, but not publish, I note) falls under the heading of tmi. If I were in an employer’s shoes, the publication (not the writing) of such a letter might inspire an opportunity for a discussion. If an employee confessed such feelings of anxieties as described by this man, it would certainly be worth some discernment with the person. This situation might be a concern in some circumstances. I suppose the subtlety might merit exploration with a spiritual director–something I would urge before divulging publicly.

It is hard for me to detect the hidden hand of a cruel pope in this. Sometimes in the past, it just happened on the level of the person making a bad personnel decision. The one time a priest said to me, “It’s just not working,” I tend to think it was a follow-up to “I don’t know what a liturgist does” and not the hidden hand of a higher-up.

On the discernment front, I’ve probably been tempted a few times by a cloaked devil. For an intelligent, thoughtful theologian, I can’t imagine a frontal attack would work quite as well.

Comments on any of this?

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Aparecida 251: A Privileged Place

251. The Eucharist is the privileged place of the disciple’s encounter with Jesus Christ. With this sacrament, Jesus attracts us to himself and makes us enter into his dynamism toward God and toward neighbor. There is a close connection between the three dimensions of the Christian vocation: believing, celebrating, and living the mystery of Jesus Christ, so that Christian existence truly acquires a eucharistic form.

This aligns with my understanding of discipleship as described by evangelists both with and outside of the Roman Catholic tradition. Through evangelization, a seeker comes to initial faith–belief in God. (Something a bit beyond the acknowledgement of God.) Liturgy involves the gathering with other believers, and from there comes the inspiration to live as Jesus lived. When believers live as Jesus lived, they shoulder his mission and thus become true disciples.

In each Eucharist, Christians celebrate and take on the paschal mystery by participating in it. Therefore the faithful must live their faith in the centrality of the paschal mystery of Christ through the Eucharist, so that their whole life is increasingly eucharistic life. The Eucharist, inexhaustible source of the Christian vocation, is at the same time inextinguishable source of missionary drive. In it the Holy Spirit strengthens the identity of disciples, and awakens in them the firm intention of boldly proclaiming to others what they have heard and lived.

 

Certainly the Holy Spirit can impart grace to disciples and inspire them to live the mission of the Gospel, even outside of liturgy. As the liturgy makes the Paschal Mystery clear and present, there is ample opportunity for grace.

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

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Pope Francis Address to CELAM 11: Hope Has A Young Face

In his address to his brother bishops of Latin America, Pope Francis reminds them–and us–that there are many competitors for the minds and hearts of young people..

In Latin America, hope has a young face

We often speak of young people and we often hear statistics about ours being the continent of the future.  Some point to supposed shortcomings and a lack of motivation on the part of the young, while others eye their value as potential consumers.  Others would enlist them in drug trafficking and violence.  Pay no attention to these caricatures of young people.

Aware of those who insist on pessimism, the Holy Father continues:

Look them in the eye and seek in them the courage of hope.  It is not true that they want to return to the past.  Make real room for them in your local Churches, invest time and resources in training them.  Offer them incisive and practical educational programs, and demand of them, as fathers demand of their children, that they use their gifts well.  Teach them the joy born of living life to the full, and not superficially.  Do not be content with the palaver and the proposals found in pastoral plans that never get put into practice.

I see some possible indictments who would choose to interpret the presence of absence of youth to accommodate their own desires and wishes. If we were serious about forming young people–and not just indoctrinating them–we would see the Spirit’s movements in their new initiatives. And that was happening in many good ways in the years immediately following Vatican II.

More on the choice for 2019’s World Youth Day:

I purposely chose Panama, the isthmus of this continent, as the site of the 2019 World Youth Day, which will propose the example of the Virgin Mary, who speaks of herself as a servant and is completely open to all that is asked of her (cf. Lk 1:38).  I am certain that in all young people there is hidden an “isthmus”, that in the heart of every young person there is a small strip of land which can serve as a path leading them to a future that God alone knows and holds for them.  It is our task us to present the young with lofty ideals and to encourage them to stake their lives on God, in imitation of the openness shown by Our Lady.

Comments?

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Aparecida 250: The Centrality of Liturgy

250. We encounter Jesus Christ in an admirable way in the Sacred Liturgy. In living it, celebrating the paschal mystery, Christ’s disciples delve deeper into the mysteries of the Kingdom and sacramentally express their vocation as disciples and missionaries. Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy shows us the place and function of the liturgy in the following of Christ, in the missionary action of Christians, in new life in Christ, and in the life of our peoples in Him.(Cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 7)

 

The liturgy isn’t the only way to encounter the Lord, but for most Christians in the long term, it may be the most reliable. If we attend carefully, we have a remembrance of the Paschal Mystery at every celebration of Mass. We might find ourselves drawn more deeply into the event of Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection.

It is important to remember that the potential for encounter is not totally dependent on the quality of the various aspects of worship. Still, when liturgy is celebrated with an eye to inspiring and urging discipleship, we might find our obstacles a bit more smoothed out, and our spirits a bit more uplifted for the mission of the Gospel.

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

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Ecumenism For Dummies

Self-styled “faithful” Catholics ejected from church by police. What to say about it? I’m aware of the use of public prayer as a means of protest. I’m skeptical on it. I’m not sure I would label it a “profanation.” Boorish behavior, perhaps.

Observing the Reformation is a difficult thing for a lot of people. Still. Maybe that’s a good thing. People who are bothered might have good reason to feel that way. Christian unity, or lack thereof, should be a grave concern to all of us. Does disunity damage one’s status as saved? Does the hard line for or against Luther merit imitation?

This is pretty much lose-lose for the protesters. If there’s a hope that heretics will return to the Church, I’m not sure that rude behavior will inspire them to face=palm and ask, “How could we have been so blind these five centuries?” If it chases people away, Jesus’ words in Luke 17:1-2 might apply:

Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.

And that’s not good.

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Aparecida 249: Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina has held a privileged place for those seeking that encounter with God in the Scriptures. There is something of a revival in its practice these days. If a reader or two here have missed it, here is a word from the experts, the Benedictines.

249. Among the many ways of approaching sacred scripture, there is one privileged way to which we are all invited: Lectio divina or the practice of prayerful reading of sacred scripture. This prayerful reading, when well practiced, leads to the encounter with Jesus-Master, to the knowledge of the mystery of Jesus-Messiah, to communion with Jesus-Son of God, and to the testimony of Jesus-Lord of the Universe. With its four moments (reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation), prayerful reading fosters the personal encounter with Jesus Christ in the manner of so many figures in the Gospel: Nicodemus and his longing for eternal life (cf. Jn 3:1-21), the Samaritan woman and her yearning for true worship (cf. Jn 4:1-42), the man born blind and his desire for inner light (cf. Jn 9), Zacchaeus and his wish to be different (cf. Lk 19:1-10), and so forth. Thanks to this encounter, all of them were enlightened and recreated because they opened themselves to the experience of the mercy of the Father who offers himself through his Word of truth and life. They did not open their heart to something of the Messiah, but to the Messiah himself, route of growth in “maturity according to his fullness” (Eph 4:13), process of discipleship, of communion with brothers and sisters and commitment to society.

 

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

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