Friday, October 04, 2002

In Vatican II: 40 years later: Grateful for Vatican II, even when we ‘get it wrong’, Weigel says:
Kraków had perhaps the most extensive and effective implementation of Vatican II in the world [Under Karol Wojtyla]. It began, not with consultants and experts and a vastly expanded ecclesiastical bureaucracy, but with reading: Thousands of Poles, from all walks of life, met together for two years, to pray over and read the actual texts of the Second Vatican Council before they began to think about the question, “What are we going to do about all this?” By the time questions of action were on the table, those people had made the council’s texts their own. In the jargon, they “owned” the council.
I weep for the Church in the United States.
Weekend Report
This weekend the faculty here at Sacred Heart go on a weekend getaway at a retreat house run by the Priests of the Sacred Heart in Bailey's Harbor, which is in the beautiful Door County, Wisconsin. I hope the weather breaks so I can go on a rowboat ride across the lake (can't remember its name).
I hope I'm not biting the Hand that links me on this one, but…
Stephen Hand just published a strongly worded critique of trends in contemporary theology, much of which I am in agreement with. As, for instance, when he says,
It is the fusion of nature and grace, especially, which reduces revelation to experience, and which makes so many Catholic teachers today essentially subjectivists, in the sense that mans interiority now becomes the source of revelation.
I especially like his affirmation of the close link between altar and tabernacle, even if the tabernacle does not need to be on the altar of sacrifice.

I’m wondering, however, whether he intends a blanket condemnation of all historical-critical study of the Bible when he says,
So-called historical criticism of the Holy Scriptures, to which these subscribe, likewise compromises the traditional understanding of objective, supernatural revelation.
The Church herself approves of historical-critical research so long as it is not burdened by philosophical presuppositions that contradict the faith and doesn’t claim to be the only method or the best method to get at the meaning of the Bible. H-C research does not per se compromise the supernatural.

It is clear, and maybe this is Hand’s point, that more than historical-critical research must be done to get beyond simply “what the author intended” to “what God intended” (which would not contradict the former, but may easily go beyond it).

See Dei Verbum 12.
12. However, since God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion, (6) the interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words.
To search out the intention of the sacred writers, attention should be given, among other things, to "literary forms." For truth is set forth and expressed differently in texts which are variously historical, prophetic, poetic, or of other forms of discourse. The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express and actually expressed in particular circumstances by using contemporary literary forms in accordance with the situation of his own time and culture. (7) For the correct understanding of what the sacred author wanted to assert, due attention must be paid to the customary and characteristic styles of feeling, speaking and narrating which prevailed at the time of the sacred writer, and to the patterns men normally employed at that period in their everyday dealings with one another. (8)
But, since Holy Scripture must be read and interpreted in the sacred spirit in which it was written, (9) no less serious attention must be given to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture if the meaning of the sacred texts is to be correctly worked out. The living tradition of the whole Church must be taken into account along with the harmony which exists between elements of the faith. It is the task of exegetes to work according to these rules toward a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture, so that through preparatory study the judgment of the Church may mature. For all of what has been said about the way of interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgment of the Church, which carries out the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the word of God.
I’m not saying that Hand is contradicting this, but just that his language, in its vehemence, may have been imprecise.

I also would caution against too absolute a condemnation of neologisms. Sometime neologisms are necessary for the progress in our understanding of the deposit of faith. For instance, both homoousion and Transubstantiation were neologism proposed by theologians at one point, but were eventually absorbed into the dogmatic structure of the faith. Purgatory is another example of a neologism that was eventually accepted.

As noted, I'm in substantial agreement with much of what Hand says here.
Pope Gregory IX in On the canonization of St. Francis of Assisi
Behold how the Lord, when He destroyed the earth by water, saved the just man with a contemptible piece of wood (Wis. 10:4), did not allow the scepter of the ungodly to fall upon the lot of the just (Ps 124:3). Now, at the eleventh hour, he has called forth his servant, Blessed Francis, a man after His own heart (I Sam 13: 14). This man was a light, despised by the rich, nonetheless prepared for the appointed moment. Him the Lord sent into his vineyard to uproot the thorns and thistles. God cast down this lamp before the attacking Philistines, thus illumining his own land and with earnest exhortation warning it to be reconciled with God.
Does this sound like Zeffireli to you?

Pax et bonum!
On this wonderful solemnity I have nothing better to say that what Gerard Serafin has been saying on his blog. Also see the quote from St. Catherine on Kevin Miller's blog.

Kevin Miller suggested we get our kitten blessed to protect it from the owls, coyotes and trucks in our neighborhood. Maybe a good idea since he can get out the back door on his own (the latch brock and I haven't been able to fix it). We should get our bunny blessed, too.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

What I see in the mirror all the time
I like this from Mark Shea
The chief sin of the chattering classes is intellectual pride. They really believe they are smarter--and therefore better--than the mass of humanity. Sin darkens the intellect or, in plain language, it makes you stupid. And pride, the source of all the other sins, does it faster than anything else.
Fellowship of Catholic Scholars convention
I haven't said much about the convention last weekend, but it was great to be among faithful, intelligent Catholic scholars. And for those who think that orthodox Catholic scholars must be some sort of fringe group in academia, look at this list of speakers. Not a lightweight among them and several very heavyweight scholars. Also, it is nice that, although there is a fundamental agreement about the faith, there was a lot of legitimate disagreement about various issues, as their ought to be in the world of the academy.

I especially liked the talk by Sen. Rick Santorum, who was receiving the Cardinal O'Boyle Award. He spoke about how he came to fight the partial birth abortion battle on the senate floor and told very moving stories about he and his wife's own struggle with their severly handicapped son, Gabriel, who died two hours after birth. I'd like to read his wife Karen's book Letters to Gabriel.
Beautiful meditation on the divinity and humanity of Christ by one of the Church Fathers
This is from St. Gregory of Nazianzus' Third Theological Oration On the Son:
XIX. For He Whom you now treat with contempt was once above you. He Who is now Man was once the Uncompounded. What He was He continued to be; what He was not He took to Himself. In the beginning He was, uncaused; for what is the Cause of God? But afterwards for a cause He was born. And that came was that you might be saved, who insult Him and despise His Godhead, because of this, that He took upon Him your denser nature, having converse with Flesh by means of Mind. While His inferior Nature, the Humanity, became God, because it was united to God, and became One Person because the Higher Nature prevailed in order that I too might be made Goal so far as He is made Man. He was born-but He had been begotten: He was born of a woman-but she was a Virgin. The first is human the second Divine. In His Human nature He had no Father, but also in His Divine Nature no Mother. Both these belong to Godhead. He dwelt in the womb-but He was recognized by the Prophet, himself still in the womb, leaping before the Word, for Whose sake He came into being. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes -but He took off the swathing bands of the grave by His rising again. He was laid in a manger-but He was glorified by Angels, and proclaimed by a star, and worshipped by the Magi. Why are you offended by that which is presented to your sight, because you will not look at that which is presented to your mind? He was driven into exile into Egypt-but He drove away the Egyptian idols. He had no form nor comeliness in the eyes of the Jews -but to David He is fairer than the children of men. And on the Mountain He was bright as the lightning, and became more luminous than the sun, initiating us into the mystery of the future.

XX. He was baptized as Man-but He remitted sins as God -not because He needed purificatory rites Himself, but that He might sanctify the element of water. He was tempted as Man, but He conquered as God; yea, He bids us be of good cheer, for He has overcome the world. He hungered-but He fed thousands; yea, He is the Bread that giveth life, and That is of heaven. He thirsted-but He cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink. Yea, He promised that fountains should flow from them that believe. He was wearied, but He is the Rest of them that are weary and heavy laden. He was heavy with sleep, but He walked lightly over the sea. He rebuked the winds, He made Peter light as he began to sink. He pays tribute, but it is out of a fish; yea, He is the King of those who demanded it. He is called a Samaritan and a demoniac; -but He saves him that came down from Jerusalem and fell among thieves; the demons acknowledge Him, and He drives out demons and sinks in the sea legions of foul spirits, and sees the Prince of the demons falling like lightning. He is stoned, but is not taken. He prays, but He hears prayer. He weeps, but He causes tears to cease. He asks where Lazarus was laid, for He was Man; but He raises Lazarus, for He was God. He is sold, and very cheap, for it is only for thirty pieces of silver; but He redeems the world, and that at a great price, for the Price was His own blood. As a sheep He is led to the slaughter, but He is the Shepherd of Israel, and now of the whole world also. As a Lamb He is silent, yet He is the Word, and is proclaimed by the Voice of one crying in the wilderness. He is bruised and wounded, but He healeth every disease and every infirmity. He is lifted up and nailed to the Tree, but by the Tree of Life He restoreth us; yea, He saveth even the Robber crucified with Him; yea, He wrapped the visible world in darkness. He is given vinegar to drink mingled with gall. Who? He who turned the water into wine , who is the destroyer of the bitter taste, who is Sweetness and altogether desire. He lays down His life, but He has power to take it again; and the veil is rent, for the mysterious doors of Heaven are opened; the rocks are cleft, the dead arise. He dies, but He gives life, and by His death destroys death. He is buried, but He rises again; He goes down into Hell, but He brings up the souls; He ascends to Heaven, and shall come again to judge the quick and the dead, and to put to the test such words as yours. If the one give you a starting point for your error, let the others put an end to it.
Shea on the Family
Have I already pointed out this wonderful essay by Mark Shea on the centrality of the family in Catholic social teachings? You don't need to answer that. Just read the essay.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

"We have met the enimy and the enimy is us" -- Pogo
"If you heed his voice and carry out all I tell you,
I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes"

Great! There are a few people I'd LOVE for God to fry about now! Let's see, there's....

Oh yeah, I forgot: my first enemy is my own sinfulness and ignorance. That is what God's mercy and saving grace will deal with first and primarily.
Fathers as priests
Long ago (1961) Clayton Barbeau wrote a wonderful book called The Head of the Family: A Christian Perspective. In it he points to one of the responsibilities of the father of a family that is not often talked about in ths solutions-based culture of ours: father as priest. One of the primary responsibilities of a father is to intercede for his family--his wife and children. I'd guess (and I have no anecdotal evidence to back it up since I'm so inconsistant about it), that if the father were to pray earnestly and regularly for the specific needs of his children, for their vocations and for their protection, there'd be less struggle about "issues" in the family. Why? Because we'd be relying more on the activity of the Triune God in the family and less on our own ability to figure out clever solutions or, worse, our own exercise of raw power. Since family is rooted in marriage and since marriage is a sacrament for Christians, there is an abundant river of graces available just for the asking.

I'm sure something similar could be said of mothers, but I also have a not-too-well-thought-out-or-defensible-at-this-point hunch that the father's priestly activity is unique. Can you tell I studied German in college?

By the way, I keep wanting to talk about the father's priestly "role" or "function," but both of those words are too extrinsic, as if the priestly responsibility were kind of coat that could be taken on or off just like a role or a function. The word the Church uses in this case is munus, which implies that the "role" flows from the very nature of the thing in question, and which has no English equivalent. For a great discussion of the significance of the word munus, see Janet Smith's Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1991), pp. 136-148.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

As promised, my liturgy post. Hang onto your hats: It is long.
I had hopes of writing a well-developed, somewhat scholarly post on liturgical reform, but realize I don’t have time, so I’ll just make the following reflections.

First, I think we can go very far toward renewal of the liturgy by simply using the missal we have now properly. Sacrosanctum Concilium makes the clear point that education is as important a means of renewal of the liturgy as reform of the missal. Even though some things have been lost in the 1969 missal, there are still many riches, and there have even been some gains, such as a richer selection of readings. Prayerful meditation on the missal, guided by reliable explanatory literature, could significantly deepen our experience of worship of the Triune God.

So, I’d say the first step in a reform is to a) make sure priests and communities are celebrating the 1969 missal properly and fully and b) to make sure that the priests and the people are properly educated as to the meaning of the various texts, gestures and symbols of the liturgy. Although I am strongly in favor of a more faithful retranslation, I don’t even think that is necessary for most people to have a much greater appreciation of the Mass. The lay people ought to be encouraged to use the gestures that are presently called for and priests ought to do all of what the missal says, not what they want, especially at the Consecration. For instance, if the rubric says to speak the words of institution into the cup, that is what the priest ought to do.

Following that, I have a few suggestions, most of which don’t require one iota of change in the current missal.

First, I’d suggest is that those aspects of the liturgy that are open to diverse expressions ought to be used to make the meaning of the liturgy more clear. For instance, hymns ought to be focused on the Triune God and the Incarnate Christ, etc. Petitions ought to be petitions for the needs of the Church and the world, not little sermons meant to inspire us to conform to some PC notion of what proper Christian activity in the world is.

As for art, churches ought to be well decorated in a manner that brings out dignity of the liturgy, as well as the symbolic element of the art. This includes for instance the shape and layout of the Church, as well as the incidental decorations and, for instance, the sacred vessels and vestments. I don’t favor one form of architecture over another. I’ve seen some pretty neat-o modern Churches that seem to bring out and enhance the mystery of the Mass. My personal preference, of course, is more classical. What would you expect from a blogger who names his blog what I did?

Music ought to be dignified and convey a sense of wonder and awe. Side note: I don’t mind guitars in Church so long as the songs are prayerful and meditative, even when joyous. For instance, I deeply appreciate the liturgical music of John Michael Talbot. I even like some of the St. Louis Jesuits stuff.

Finally, I am absolutely in favor of the ad orientem celebration of the Mass. I think that one change could go far towards recapturing for the faithful (including the priest) the sense of the mystery which we celebrate.

A note on language: I love Latin and would just as soon worship in it as English. It is a very beautiful and its use in the liturgy carries the rich theological and spiritual tradition of the West in a way that the English translation does not. Yet, I agree with the Council in opening up the liturgy to the use of the vernacular. I think Latin ought to be always used and available to a greater or lesser degree depending on the circumstances of the particular celebration (in other words, depending on whether the use of Latin will in fact, given the state of the congregation’s formation, enhance their ability to enter into the Mass (participate fully and interiorly). I think the faithful ought to be catechized to use Latin. I think there should be a restoration of much of the Church’s musical patrimony that is in Latin. I will always think, though, that in most cases at least the readings ought to be in English. Finally, I do think it would help a great deal to scrap the ICEL translation in favor of a more literal one. I like sacral language!

In a later post I will discuss the things I would change in the 1969 Missal, although I don’t think any changes are necessary or pressing.
Committee work
When one is on a committee one often has to develop policy which must take into consideration two legitimate values which seem to be in conflict. In such case I suggest the following procedure: First, one must hierarchize the values. Second, inasmuch as both values have essential elements for the policy, one must come up with a compromise that does not nullify whatever the essential elements. In doing this, one should first try to develop consensus on the issues involve. Then, if that is not forthcoming, one needs to invoke or exercise a legitimate authority to break any stalemate.

What do you think?
A rose by any other name....
St. Athanasius, in his Orations Agains the Arians uses any and every argument he can think of to counter the Arian threat. In Book I, 2, he uses the argument that Arius must be a heretic because his disciples are named after him. So, they are "Arians," not Christians. Athanasius uses the Marcionites and other heretics as parallel examples.

I've heard similar arguments made re: Lutherans. An analogous argument might be made concerning "Anglicans." I'm wondering, though, what one does with the Catholic insistance on being in communion with Rome and being, in a sense, a Petrine Church, especially in light of St. Paul's discussion in I Cor. 1:12 about saying "I belong to Kephas." Of course, we didn't come up with the name "Roman Catholic." I think Protestants came up with that for us. We prefer just plain "Catholic," and have traditionally preferred "Orthodox" as well, although since 1054 we don't use that as much.

Any thoughts?

Monday, September 30, 2002

Philadelphia Cathedral
How beautiful and rich! And the choir at the 11:00 Mass was stunning (even if the sound system made them sound tinny). It was nice hearing Bishop Martino both here and at the FCS convention. I felt like I was in Europe again.

The only slightly jarring things was the juxtaposition of ancient and modern art. For instance, the monuments to St. Katherine Drexel and to the 1976 Eucharistic Congress seem flat and uninspired compared to the older murals. Also, the reposatory wall for the Holy Oils is quite nice, but the modern approach seems a little out of place in a baroque setting. I've seen churches where such stylized statuary is perfectly consistent with the overal form of the building. Not here, though, I think.

I also liked the chapel, which is right next to the main church. It even has an altar rail (which they didn't use)!
Being in Philly this weekend brought 9/11 home in a special way. I've never been there before. It was moving to be on the very spot where the Declaration of Indepence and the Constitution were written, to walk the same streets as Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Franklin, Carroll, etc., and to think, while scarcely two feet from the Liberty Bell, that what this represents is precisely what is under attack, even if American foreign policy is self-serving, etc.

It was also nice being where so much Catholic history has occurred. The tombs of Ss. Katherine Drexel and John Neumann reminded me that the Catholic Church has a long history of holiness in this country. In Oklahoma, where I was born, Catholic history seems so remote. In Philadelphia it is part of the air you breath.
Latin Friday
If you don't catch Lady of Shalott's Latin Friday every Friday, I'd highly recomment it.
Lots to say
I have lots to say after such a full weekend at the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars convention in Philadelphia this weekend.

But first, to calm all fears, Pippin survived the weekend. No owls, coyotes, trucks or planes threatened him.