A Catholic Blog for Lovers
Saturday, March 08, 2003
Love of the (real) Church
"Thus it is with the weaknesses of the Church, just as it is with the felix culpa, the happy guilt without which we would not possess the superabundance of grace of such a Savior, just as with the disgraceful death of the crucified, without which we would have no life.
Without weakness, the sinful wretchedness of the Church, there would not exist here below that love which in joy and sorrow, anger and zeal, patience and silence, fulfills the words of the Apostle: We must cherish the Church as Christ does. We must fill her with warm love. We must console her and embrace her. We must intercede for her with the jealousy of God. In a word, we must love her in her totality and without conditions.
And behold, precisely in this love, the transformation of the Church from weakness to power, from crippled ugliness to immortal beauty, is taking place, silently and irresistibly until the end of time. Where this love is alive the Church grows up to the healthy maturity of the Lord. Already here below she will become the victorious, the eternal, the living Church. This is the mystery of the weak Church."
- Hugo Rahner SJ
The Word of the Lord for Today
Book of Isaiah 58, 9-14
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am! If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday; Then the LORD will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails. The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake, and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up; "Repairer of the breach," they shall call you, "Restorer of ruined homesteads." If you hold back your foot on the sabbath from following your own pursuits on my holy day; If you call the sabbath a delight, and the LORD'S holy day honorable; If you honor it by not following your ways, seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice-- Then you shall delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
Psalms 86, 1-6
A prayer of David. Hear me, LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and oppressed.
Preserve my life, for I am loyal; save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; pity me, Lord; to you I call all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant; to you, Lord, I lift up my soul.
Lord, you are kind and forgiving, most loving to all who call on you.
LORD, hear my prayer; listen to my cry for help.
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 5, 27-32
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, "Follow me." And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus said to them in reply, "Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners."
Today in Church history
March 8, 1698: British missionary Thomas Bray and four laymen found the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (S.P.C.K.) "to advance the honor of God and the good of mankind by promoting Christian knowledge both at home and in the other parts of the world by the best methods that should offer."
March 8, 1782: Ninety-six Native Americans, who had converted to Christianity and were living peacefully in the Moravian Brethren town of Gnadenhutten (near New Philadelphia), Ohio, are killed by militiamen in "retaliation" for Indian raids made elsewhere in the Ohio territory.
March 8, 1887: Congregational minister Henry Ward Beecher, an impassioned abolitionist and the most famous American preacher of his day, dies at age 73.
March 8, 1915: The U.S. Supreme Court finds religious education in the public schools in violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Friday, March 07, 2003
Vatican II on Lent
"109. The season of Lent has a twofold character: primarily by recalling or preparing for baptism and by penance, it disposes the faithful, who more diligently hear the word of God and devote themselves to prayer, to celebrate the paschal mystery. This twofold character is to be brought into greater prominence both in the liturgy and by liturgical catechesis. Hence:
a) More use is to be made of the baptismal features proper to the Lenten liturgy; some of them, which used to flourish in bygone days, are to be restored as may seem good.
b) The same is to apply to the penitential elements. As regards instruction it is important to impress on the minds of the faithful not only a social consequences of sin but also that essence of the virtue of penance which leads to the detestation of sin as an offence against God; the role of the Church in penitential practices is not to be passed over, and the people must be exhorted to pray for sinners.
110. During Lent penance should not be only internal and individual, but also external and social. The practice of penance should be fostered in ways that are possible in our own times and in different regions, and according to the circumstances of the faithful; it should be encouraged by the authorities mentioned in Art. 22.
Nevertheless, let the paschal fast be kept sacred. Let it be celebrated everywhere on Good Friday and, where possible, prolonged throughout Holy Saturday, so that the joys of the Sunday of the resurrection may be attained with uplifted and clear mind." (Sacrosanctum Concilium)
I wonder about the implementation of these directives. I see the increase in the baptismal features but have seen, for the most part, a significant decrease in the penitential aspects. Instead of penance being both interior and personal and "external and social" it seems to have been interiorized almost to the vanishing point and more individualized than ever, rather than expressing for the Church what is communal and social.
And after the "long Lent of 2002" this element seems more important and fitting than ever. But will it ever come?
PS I recall that as a child we did NOT go to the movies during Lent and the whole neighborhood took on the tones of Lent - you knew it was a different season now. It was indeed "external and social" (and for many interior and personal as well). Here's another case, perhaps, where the pre-conciliar approach might have been more faithful to the authentic intentions of Vatican II than the recent implementations. The older approach needed renewal, yes; but did we throw out the baby with the bath water?
At any rate, a blessed interior and exterior, personal and social, Lent to all.
Friday after Ash Wednesday
For your own devotional use (and especially appropriate for the Fridays of Lent):
AN UPSIDE DOWN STATIONS OF THE CROSS
The Word of the Lord for Today
Book of Isaiah 58,1-9
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly, lift up your voice like a trumpet blast; Tell my people their wickedness, and the house of Jacob their sins. They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways, Like a nation that has done what is just and not abandoned the law of their God; They ask me to declare what is due them, pleased to gain access to God. "Why do we fast, and you do not see it? afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?" Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers. Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw. Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high! Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed, and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am! If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;
Psalms 51, 3-6.18-19
Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.
Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.
For I know my offense; my sin is always before me.
Against you alone have I sinned; I have done such evil in your sight That you are just in your sentence, blameless when you condemn.
For you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept.
My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart.
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 9,14-15
Then the disciples of John approached him and said, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast (much), but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus answered them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.
"Best of American Catholicism on display at LA conference"
While I have been impressed with the "mellowing" of John Allen of The National Catholic Reporter, whose respect for the Pope and "the Vatican" seems to have grown immensly since he began covering this area for the NCR, he can still disappoint me.
For example, in his latest "Word from Rome" column he speaks about the Religious Ed Conference he attended and spoke at in Los Angeles. He gives some examples of what he considers "the best of American Catholicism" from this conferences' speakers.
I am not impressed! In fact, if what he describes is "the best" I would be quite depressed myself. While some of it seems harmless enough, it just doesn't have the "dynamis" of the best I have come to know. I wonder, for example, how much at home Dorothy Day would have been in that ambience. She is an example of "the best of American Catholicism" from the not too distant past.
Just a thought or two as I read over John Allen's musings this week.
Today in Church history
March 7, 203: Perpetua, a Christian about 22 years old, her slave, Felicitas, and several others are martyred at the arena in Carthage. They were flogged, attacked by hungry leopards, and finally beheaded. Perpetua remains one of early Christianity's most famous martyrs.
March 7, 1274: Thomas Aquinas, one of the most significant theologians of all time, dies at age 48. Known for his adaptation of Aristotle's writings to Christianity, he became famous for his massive Summa Theologiae (or "A summation of theological knowledge"). In its early pages, he stated, "In sacred theology, all things are treated from the standpoint of God." Thomas proceeded to distinguish between philosophy and theology and between reason and revelation, though he emphasized that these did not contradict each other. Both are fountains of knowledge; both come from God.
March 7, 1530: Pope Clement VII rejects Henry VIII's request to divorce Catherine of Aragon. Henry eventually responded by declaring himself supreme head of England's church.
March 7, 1964: At a Roman parish church, Pope Paul VI celebrates Mass in Italian instead of Latin, implementing one of the most significant changes of the Second Vatican Council—worship in the vernacular.
Thursday, March 06, 2003
Welcome to St Blog's
Wa on my mind - Steven Wright
The Secularist Critique - Theist
Consider This - John Wagner
Where Charity and Love Prevail - SQ
A European Reactionary from Queens - John Zmirak
Karen Marie Knapp
Karen Marie of From the Anchor Hold Blog is in the hospital and is counting on our prayers. I am not sure what her condition is but apparantly she has just received her 8th pint of plasma (Mark Shea kindly wrote me to fill me in at Karen's request). Let's keep Karen Marie in our thoughts and prayers and our Lenten disciplines as well. May she be back soon writing her words of wisdom, balance, and radiance.
Jean-Pierre de Caussade, SJ: 1675 - 1751
One of the many outstanding Jesuits who has contributed so much to the life of the Church. De Caussade is best known for his remarkable book, Abandonment to Divine Providence, which has had a deep impact on so many even up to today. This has to be one of the great classics of spirituality ever written, and I myself would include it in any listing of the top ten books relating to the inner life. One phrase that de Caussade wrote that has become "famous" and oft-quoted: "the sacrament of the present moment."
Abandonment to Divine Providence is one of those gifts that seem to be able to simplify and make accessible the riches of the gospel. It is, too, quite "radical" - going to the very root of things. Thank God for Jean-Pierre de Caussade who died on March 6, 1751.
"The Holy Spirit writes no more gospels except in our own hearts. All we do from moment to moment is live this new gospel of the Holy Spirit. We, if we are holy, are the paper; our sufferings and our actions are the ink. The workings of the Holy Spirit are his pen, and with it the Holy Spirit writes a living gospel."
- Jean-Pierre de Caussade SJ
You can order it easily from Amazon: Abandonment to Divine Providence
The Word of the Lord for Today
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 9, 21-25.
He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone. He said, "The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised." Then he said to all, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose his own soul?
REMEMBER AND REPENT!
REMEMBER that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.
REPENT and believe the gospel.
Bishop Lennon of Boston calls Lent a 'time for healing'
"Neither was the event a major draw for protesters, a fixture for a year outside services at the cathedral. About two dozen demonstrators - a low turnout given that the protest was sponsored by five organizations - gathered in the rain at the cathedral, saying the Lenten program is ill-conceived. And two people inside the cathedral rose and stood with their backs to Lennon as he delivered his homily."
Today in Church history
March 6, 1475: Italian artist Michelangelo Buonarroti, famous for his paintings (the Sistine Chapel), sculpture ("David" and "the Pieta"), and architecture (the rebuilding of St. Peter's in Rome), is born in Caprese.
March 6, 1984: Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller, a founder of Germany's Confessing Church and a prisoner for his opposition to the Nazis, dies. Because of his advocacy for complete neutrality between East and West Germany (which was perceived as compromise with communism), he spent his later years in obscurity.
Wednesday, March 05, 2003
The simple way
Thanks to Chris K. for calling my attention to this lovely piece about Cistercian nuns in Arizona. Some thoughts about Lent.
Karl Rahner, SJ, born March 5, 1904
99 years ago, today, Karl Rahner was born. Rahner, along with his older brother Hugo, joined the Jesuits and both became well known scholars and theologians. Karl Rahner became known for the powers of his speculative mind and attracted a wide following. Hugo was more rooted in history and remained more "devotional" throughout his entire life span, while Karl seemed to me to shift from a more devotional approach in his earlier years to a more critical and intellectual approach in his later period, post Vatican II.
I believe Hans Urs von Balthasar said this of Karl Rahner in his later period: that his critical intellect was perhaps endangering his Catholic heart. But von Balthasar humbly admitted that Rahner had more specuative power than he himself had. And while they disagreed on some significant issues, they had an immense respect for each other. I mention this because, while I am no fan of the later Rahner and have strong disagreements with some of his theories, I have no truck with those who dismiss him as a heretic and a modernist and an underminer of the Catholic Tradition. (But then some of these consider von Balthasar to be all of the above!).
One favorite quote of Karl Rahner's:
When asked by someone why devotion to Our Lady had declined so in the post-conciliar years, Rahner replied: "Because so many make Christianity an abstraction, and abstractions do not need a Mother."
Now you got to like someone who can say that - and he said it even in his "later period!"
Happy 99th Birthday, Karl Rahner!
Today's Readings from the Word of God
Book of Joel 2,12-18
Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing, offerings and libations for the LORD, your God. Blow the trumpet in Zion! proclaim a fast, call an assembly; Gather the people, notify the congregation; Assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast; Let the bridegroom quit his room, and the bride her chamber. Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep, And say, "Spare, O LORD, your people, and make not your heritage a reproach, with the nations ruling over them! Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'" Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.
Ps 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 12-13, 14 and 17
R Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
"Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight."
R Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
R Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Second Letter to the Corinthians 5,20-21.6,1-2
So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: "In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you." Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 6,1-6.16-18
(But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.
On Father Jeffrey Keyes' blog, from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday, there will be daily readings of St. Gaspar's letters to coincide with the Scripture readings of the day along with reflections and journaling questions.
Today in Church history
March 5, 1179: Alexander III convokes the Third Lateran Council. Attended by 300 bishops, it gave the college of cardinals the exclusive right to elect the pope (by a two-thirds majority) and enacted measures against the Waldensians and Albigensians.
March 5, 1409: The college of cardinals convokes the Council of Pisa to end the Great Schism, which had divided Western Christendom in 1378 by the election of rival popes. Unfortunately, all the Council of Pisa did was to produce another candidate for the papacy.
March 5, 1743: The Christian History, America's first religious magazine, is published in Boston in the midst of the Great Awakening.
March 5, 1797: The three-masted ship Duff arrives in Tahiti's Matavai Bay, completing a 207-day voyage from London. The ship, commanded by Captain John Wilson, had aboard 37 artisans and pastors of the London Missionary Society (L.M.S.) and their families, who were to be resettled in the South Pacific on the islands of Tahiti, Tonga and the Marquesas.
March 5, 1899: Alcoholic-turned-evangelist Sam Jones begins a crusade in Toledo, Ohio, where the mayor was also named Sam Jones. Mayor Jones at first welcomed the publicity, but he worried when evangelist Jones decried the city's immorality (if the Devil were mayor of Toledo, the preacher said, he wouldn't change a thing). Nonetheless, the mayor was reelected the next month by a huge margin.
Tuesday, March 04, 2003
Be prepared, Your Grace!
Words of Cardinal Walter Kasper to Archbishop Rowan Williams, Anglican Primate, at a banquet in honor of his enthronement
"Your Grace, when your nomination was announced, you observed that during the months and weeks leading up to it, you had undergone the curious experience of having everything about you discussed publicly, and "opinions you didn't know you held expounded on your behalf." Your Grace, beware! I cite from my own experience: it is not going to get better! So now, on behalf of all of us, I wish you this: Amidst whatever turmoil surrounds you, may you, your wife and family always know the Lord's consolation, the Spirit's joy. May the deep roots of the Gospels and the ancient common traditions ever strengthen, inspire and guide you. May the glory of the Lord be daily revealed to you, making of your ministry a bridge so that others may know that glory too."
Maybe Cardinal Kasper reads the Catholic blogs?
Regarding Lenten reading, I suggest we stick to the Bible, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass readings, a classic or two (at the most) of Catholic spirituality, and possibly Magnificat as a daily guide as well. I don't recommend reading lots and reading books that are all over the map, good and interesting as they may be - but the Book of Books, and a few classics read prayerfully and reflectively. Non multis, sed multa. "Not many, but much."
There is a "silence" even of reading which I learned from Father John J Hugo, who had such a powerful influence on Dorothy Day. He did not allow any books on his Retreats other than the Bible! He considered other reading a distraction for the most part and breaking the silence of the Retreat. Well, that was for one week and I am sure he wouldn't object to some other readings throughout Lent. But I learned from him to focus more and to make more of any reading I do. I read now, more and more, "on my knees."
Especially during Lent.
Veni, Sancte Spiritus!
One of the best offerings for Lenten reading may well be the spiritual classic by Deitrich von Hildebrand, Transformation in Christ. It is a magnificent, hard-hitting, and ultimately very beautiful call to a real inner renewal and transforrmation. Von Hildebrand doesn't let us off the hook!
Transformation in Christ is perfect for Lenten reading since it is rooted so deeply in the Scriptures, the Liturgy, and the great Tradition of the Church. This is the stuff of which saints are made!
Lenten Prayer of St Ephrem
(used extensively, with full prostrations, in Byzantine Rite during Lent)
O Lord and Master of my life, do not give to me the spirit of laziness, faintheartedness, lust for power and idle talk.
But give to me your servant the spirit of purity, humility, patience and love.
O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brothers and sisters, for blessed are you unto ages and ages. Amen.
I am thinking of posting this prayer daily during this Lenten season. In fact, I would like to issue a challenge and invitation to all Catholic bloggers: to attempt, at least during Lent, to limit criticism to oneself and our own faults and failures and sins and not to judge any other. To fast from criticism of others (regardless of how "worthy" we may deem them of criticism!), and to focus on oneself instead - so that Lent can really be a time of purification and deepening of our own faith, hope, and love.
More good will come to the Church from our own efforts at becoming holy, of becoming lovers, than in a thousand and a million words criticizing others.
At least for Lent..... OK?
(Sure our blogs may not be as interesting or as exciting - but Lent is for all of us and is meant to be a season of repentance, seriousness, and attending to "the one thing needful" - which in the long run is more exciting and more interesting and more fascinating: the greatest adventure of all!).
A Last Alleluia before Lent
Maybe it should be an "AMEN!"
Yet more wise words from R J Neuhaus on "the Situation"
This is perhaps the fifth installment in "The Public Square" by Father Neuhaus on the Scandals. His voice strikes me as the most Catholic, most evangelical and the most balanced of all. And so much of what he says resonates deep within my own soul.
Today in Church history
February 4, 856: Rabanus Maurus, a theologian and educator mentored by Alcuin, dies at age 80. His "retirement" from school administration at age 66 was followed by a career as archbishop of Mainz, Germany.
February 4, 1555: English reformer and theologian John Rogers becomes the first Protestant martyr under Queen Mary when he is burned at the stake for heresy.
Feburary 4, 1906: Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is born in Breslau, Germany. Author of The Cost of Discipleship (1937) and Letters from Prison (1944), he opposed the Nazis as one of Germany's Confessing Church leaders. Believing that Hitler was like a madman "driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders," he joined a plot to kill him, but the plot was discovered and Bonhoeffer was arrested and eventually hanged—just days before Allied troops liberated the concentration camp where he was held.
Monday, March 03, 2003
A House Divided Cannot Stand
Dear God, I just took a tour of some of the blogs that claim to be Catholic, and see now that there is another villain in our ranks: this time, Father Benedict Groeschel! (I won't link to this blog but you can find it if you want to confirm this).
This priest, who has founded one of the most dynamic and inspiring religious communities of modern times, with a real spirit of prayer, poverty and joy and evangelism - and activism in the pro-life arena - one of the few growing religious communities of men today - is now ranked by some among the (ever growing number) of bad guys who have contributed to the scandals of sexual abuse of minors. Fr Groeschel apparantly may have counseled some priests, recommended them perhaps for active ministry, and yet were accused of sexual abuse after this recommendation.
Whether this is true or not I do not know. But whether true or false, it is NOT a condemnation of Father Groeshel! He is not omniscient! He is not infallible! He is not able to transcend all the current "wisdom" of the Church, the counseling profession, the scientific community - and make perfect judgments about everyone.
Dear God, where will it stop?
Dear God, who is next? (Who's left? The Pope and Cardinal Ratzinger are already on the list of bad guys).
Our Lord warned a long time ago that a house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe that our Church is falling apart on some levels precisely because of this divisive spirit, this puritanical vision, this witch hunt. Those who should be our friends and brethren are becoming the "enemy".
And, as I read away this evening, I realize there's yet another Cardinal to add to the bad guy list; now it's Cardinal George of Chicago.
Dear God, have mercy on us all!
Thus says the LORD:
I will lead her into the desert
and speak to her heart.
She shall respond there as in the days of her youth,
when she came up from the land of Egypt.
I will espouse you to me forever:
I will espouse you in right and in justice,
in love and in mercy;
I will espouse you in fidelity,
and you shall know the LORD.
- Hos 2:16b, 17b, 21-22
Today in Church history
February 3, 865: (traditional date): Anskar, the first archbishop of Hamburg and called the "Apostle of the North," dies. Missionary to Denmark and Sweden, he converted many, including the King of Jutland.
February 3, 1468: Johann Gutenberg, who developed a printing press with movable type that helped the Protestant Reformation (by allowing the easy dissemination of reformers' writings), dies at age 67..
February 3, 1809: German composer Felix Mendelssohn, a very devout Lutheran, is born in Hamburg. His "Elijah" oratorio is considered second only to Handel's "Messiah," and he is responsible for rediscovering Bach, whose music had been forgotten for 80 years.
February 3, 1864: The Christian Union, composed of Protestant congregations opposed to "political preaching" during the Civil War, is formed in Columbus, Ohio.
Sunday, March 02, 2003
Ash Wednesday Blessing of Ashes: Old and New
Did we lose something along the way?
One of the guiding principles of the reform of the Roman Rite was a simplification of what had sometimes become cumbersome and overlaid and was no longer clear or effective. There was room for such prunings. But did we go too far too often with too much?
I have been struck, these past years, at how quick the rite of blessing of ashes passes by and how "bland" it sometimes feels to me. How lacking in punch and power!
I think the older classical Roman Rite prayers much superior. Here's a comparison of the two rites for the blessing of ashes on Ash Wednesday:
New Rite of Blessing of the Ashes:
Dear friends in Christ, let us ask our Father to bless these ashes which we will use as the mark of our repentance.
Lord, bless the sinner who asks for your forgiveness and bless+ all those who receive these ashes. May they keep this lenten season in preparation for the joy of Easter. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
OR (not a second prayer but another one for use, *not* with the prayer above):
Lord, bless these ashes+ by which we show that we are dust. Pardon our sins and keep us faithful to the discipline of Lent, for you do not want sinners to die but to live with the risen Christ, who reigns with you forever and ever. Amen.
Old Rite of Blessing of the Ashes:
Hear us, O Lord, for Thy mercy is kind: look upon us, O Lord, according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies. Save me, O God, for the waters are come in even unto my soul. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Hear us, O Lord, for Thy mercy is kind: look upon us, O Lord, according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies.
The Lord be with you. And with your spirit.
Almighty and everlasting God, spare the penitent, be merciful to the suppliant, and deign to send Your holy Angel from heaven to bless+ and sanctify+ these ashes, that they may be a saving remedy to all who humbly call upon Your name and with consciousness of their sins accuse themselves and bewail their misdeeds before Your divine clemency, with earnest supplication imploring Your divine mercy; and grant that through the invocation of Your most holy name, those upon whom these ashes are placed for the remission of their sins, may receive bodily health and spiritual protection. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen
Lord, You desire not the death but the repentance of sinners; look down in pity on the frailty of human nature, and in Your goodness deign to bless+ these ashes wich we purpose to place upon our heads to express our humility and to win our pardon; knwoing that we are dust and unto dust we must return as the price of our perversity, may we deserve to obtain from Your mercy pardon of all our sins and the reward You have promised to the penitent. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord, You are moved by humiliation and appeased by satisfaction; give ear in Your goodness to our prayers and mercifully pour forth the grace of Your blessing on Your servants whose heads are sprinkled by these ashes, so that You may fill them with the spirit of compunction, and effectually grant what they have duly prayed for and ordain that what You have granted may remain always established in them whole and entire. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Almighty and everlasting God, You granted the remedy of Your pardon to the Ninivites when they did penance in sackcloth and ashes; grant in Your goodness that we may imitate them in our behaviour that we, like them, may obtain forgiveness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Considering the "long Lent of 2002" and its root and causes, I believe the older rites prayers far more pertinent today and as relevant as when these ancient prayers were composed.
While I doubt we will see any substantial change in the new rite and its prayers, it would be nice to see the new prayers expanded to incorporate some of the older wording and allusions and biblical images.
But, at least for me, I am glad that these prayers continue to be prayed in the Catholic Church wherever the older rite is still celebrated according to the provisions of Ecclesia Dei (thanks to this Pope of ours!).
The Long Lent of 2002 and the New Lent of 2003
Millions of words have been written, spoken, about the current tragic season the Catholic Church in the United States has been undergoing for over a year now, what some have referred to as "the long Lent of 2002". Here it is now - the Lent of 2003. I wonder, though, if we are any closer to understanding the real roots of the crisis and the failures of so many.
Perhaps the key is in Lent itself. Just look at how minimal and even token our Lenten disciplines have become! (And, yes, it has been mitigated by the hierarchy of the Church and the Bishops who are now under severe attack in some circles). I really believe the Church has made SERIOUS pastoral and spiritual missteps in the mitigation of already rather mild disciplines. For example, the lifting of the obligation of the Friday abstinece throughout the year seems to me to have fixed something that wasn't broken and which "worked" in many ways to help Catholics keep a sense of God's Presence in everyday/week life and affecting even the kitchen table! (And now with this abstinence limited to the Fridays of Lent only is it any wonder that it seems many forget it anyway or ignore it as unimportant enough to observe - of course, many do observe it and some even keep the older discpline in this matter).
The discplines of the Church had among their purposes the training of the discple in saying "no" to oneself. This is the basis of the ascetical struggle we are all called to engage in - to become free and "catholic" in spirit and heart, universal in our love based on God's Love and our mission, not on our preferences and needs and similiarities (and, of course, there is room in this for friendship, and for conjugal love).
I don't like to say this but I am a bit embarrassed when I see what is asked our generation of Catholics when it comes to the traditional discipline of fasting. Even when I was younger Lent involved much much more than it does now. There was abstinence from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays, and each weekday was a fast day - one full meal, two light meals and NO EATING BETWEEN MEALS at all. No big deal. But more than what we have now in place.
I am embarrassed when I see Muslims fasting from sunrise to sunset from ALL FOOD AND DRINK for the entire month of Ramadan. I am embarrassed when I see the Lenten discplines recommended in Eastern Christian Churches: full fast, for forty days, from all meat AND DAIRY products and even FISH (yes, shellfish is oddly OK!!!).
There was a time when Carnival meant carnis-vale - goodbye to meat.
Now it the feasting without the fasting!
Perhaps what I am saying inadequately is better said by a recent article in "First Things" written by monk Maximos of Holy Resurrection Monastery in California, "Celibacy in Context".
"There is therefore something deeply tragic in the way the contemporary Church has gradually stripped itself of much of its traditional asceticism, leaving only a few craggy remnants of this vanished culture silhouetted against the sky. Of these lonely remains, surely the most incongruous is clerical celibacy. Until the Church restores the supporting superstructure of her ascetical tradition, clerical celibacy will remain a fundamentally meaningless and even dangerous relic of a past long gone.
It is only because of the loss of this general ecclesial culture that the loss of the more specific clerical culture is so serious. Clergy are less and less distinguishable by their dress, their way of life, how they speak, and how they relate to one another and the hierarchy. Almost certainly the same was true of the early Church, and even to some extent the Church of the patristic era. The difference was that in those days what set the Church apart from the world was its own distinctive ascetical and mystical ethos. Can we not do more to recover this ethos today?
In short, the laity cannot justly complain that their priests do not keep the law of celibacy while at the same time demanding that they themselves be subject to no ascetic discipline. Until the laity begins to accept the need to fast, to be mindful of what we wear, how we speak, how we relate to each other—in short, until the laity accepts its baptismal vocation in all its radical other–worldliness - there is no hope that the clergy will find the strength to do so. Only a Church of mystics can realistically expect their clergy to be saints."
For those concerned about the purification of the Church and for authentic reform and renewal, I would suggest a Lent that is a serious time of real prayer, real fasting, and real almsgiving. Not a minimalism that even the Bishops seem to foster at times (Christ and the saints chart a different path). It would be wonderful if the Lent of 2003 were to help heal some of the wounds of the long Lent of 2002. Time perhaps to go beyond words and suggestions for the others and time to deepen and enter the desert with Our Lord for the Forty Days of Lent.
Here's another voice along the same lines (and it is the voice of ALL the saints and witneses of the ages):
"They alone are able truly to enjoy the world, who begin with the world unseen. They alone can truly feast, who have first fasted; they alone are able to use the world, who have learned not to abuse it; they alone inherit it, who take it as a shadow of the world to come, and who for that world to come, relinquish it."
- John Henry Newman
I am hoping, God willing, to focus on some of these themes during Lent here on my blog. Veni, Sancte Spiritus!
Today in Church history
March 2, 1415: At the Council of Constance, convened to end the Great Schism—during which three men claimed to be pope—John XXIII (one of the men) abdicated. Ironically, John himself had convened the council the previous year convinced that he would emerge victorious. Now he feared for his life and fled the city in disguise. It didn't work: he was brought back, condemned, and deposed. The council eventually healed the schism.
March 2, 1791: Founder of Methodism John Wesley dies in London. Thanks to his organizational genius, we know exactly how many followers he had when he died: 71,668 British members, 294 preachers, 43,265 American members with 198 preachers and 19 missionaries. Today Methodists number about 30 million worldwide.
March 2, 1930: The Catholic Hour, one of the oldest religious radio programs, is inaugurated.
March 2, 1938: Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller, one of the founders of Germany's "Confessing Church," is sentenced to seven months in prison for opposing Hitler. "First they came for the socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist," he said. "Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. They they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me".