Monday, August 19, 2013

On the Sacraments of Initiation

It is common to think that the idea of the Sacraments of Initiation was lost to the Western Church for hundreds of years. I suppose that was true in a way, but not completely. This is from the Treatise on the Admirable Heart of Jesus by St. John Eudes, whose optional memorial is today:
Finally you are one with Jesus as the body is one with the head. You must then have one breath with him, one soul, one life, one will, one mind, one heart, And he must be your breath, heart, love, life, your all. These great gifts in the follower of Christ originate from baptism. They are increased and strengthened through confirmation and making good use of other graces that are given by God. Through the holy eucharist they are brought to perfection.
Sounds a lot like the CCC:
1212 The sacraments of Christian initiation—Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist—lay the foundations of every Christian life. “The sharing in the divine nature given to men through the grace of Christ bears a certain likeness to the origin, development, and nourishing of natural life. The faithful are born anew by Baptism, strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation, and receive in the Eucharist the food of eternal life. By means of these sacraments of Christian initiation, they thus receive in increasing measure the treasures of the divine life and advance toward the perfection of charity.” [Paul VI, apostolic constitution, Divinae consortium naturae: AAS 63 (1971) 657; cf. RCIA Introduction 1-2.]

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The polemics of the liturgical wars

I know it is difficult to avoid bias in writing, but sometimes I'm amazed at the subtle rhetorical "stabs" taken by people who present themselves as "magisterial," yet are really presenting a polemic for an often quite speculative ore even dubious position.

I was browsing through From Age to Age: How Christians Have Celebrated the Eucharist, by Edward Foley (2nd ed., Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2008). Ostensibly a textbook on liturgical history, complete with lots of quotations, illustrations, floor plans, and music, it is really a 405 page salvo in the liturgical wars.

Foley clearly thinks the altar should be a wooden table in the nave so that the people can gather around it, because that was the norm until the Franks messed things up with their Germanic-Gallican "magical" thinking.

For example, when talking about 20th century liturgical reform he opposes the old way and the glorious, more authentic new "symbolic" sensitivity that came about because of Suzanne Langer, Paul Ricouer, and Edward Schillebeeckx.

Note the rhetorical stab in this passage:
Vatican II affirmed such [symbolic] thinking in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy...., which has also become part of the ecumenical consensus on worship since the council.... This symbolic movement has not been without its critics, however. In some ways the movement away from more symbolic or "dynamic" translations to a more literal approach by symptomatic of this critique.[the ellipses are citation]. 
Where does one begin? What I want to focus on, though, is the use of the word "symptomatic."  What is the connotation of the word?  Illness. So, the return to a more literal translation indicates an illness on the part of "Rome."

Also, note this hilarious passage:
The move toward more authentic symbols also effected a change in the materials for the eucharistic vessels during the late twentieth century. Although gold and silver continued to be employed, precious metals were often replaced by glass, pottery, and wood.  Even wicker baskets, reminiscent of primitive Christian worship, were used again in some places to hold the eucharistic bread.
The rest of the paragraph notes that Bad Old Rome quashed this new "symbolic" use of wicker in 2004 by decreeing "that earthenware, glass, and clay as well as any vessels that break easily were now 'reprobated.'"

Like, gold and precious metals aren't symbolic?

I'm not even going to mention the use of the phrase "eucharistic bread."

This post is magisterial.

Friday, August 09, 2013

"Silly Religion"

This is a follow-up of my 2007 post about Fr. Benedict Groeschel's Stumbling Blocks, Stepphing Stones. In it he talks about two types of what he calls "silly religion" the manifestation of which in Christians discourages others from believing.
I an ego-centered religiosity which is filled with its own self-righteousness. This may be seen in either the abrasive attitude of the so-called ultra-orthdox, who are so reminiscent of the scribes and pharisees, or the cool, detached position of those who consider themselves intellectually superior. Both groups are involved with religion more as a psychological expression of their own needs or as a social force than as a living faith. Such attitudes represent immature forms of faith. Their faith has been truncated by self-seeking, a lack of trust, and a fear of making a real commitment to God. (p. 35)
We intellectuals are often tempted by the second version. The result is an inability to engage in simple, direct devotion to God or the saints--for fear of seeming childish or fundamentalist. Think of de Montfort's "critical devotees."

We tend to believe that the intellect alone is the locus of salvation--and forget that holiness is as much a matter of the will as the intellect. It really is the actions we take and the choices we make that manifest our reception of the grace of salvation. And we really need to be able to approach the living God as a little child, totally dependent, on our knees--in trusting devotion.

Thursday, August 08, 2013


I've come to the conclusion that I waste a lot of time. I'm going to presume that I'm not the only one. There are so may little things that can eat up our time. Watching that cute video on fb is just a waste of time. Watching tv, except very intentionally. Listening to stupid talk radio shows (even NPR most of the time, but there can be some really interesting things on NPR). Football. Why have I wasted so much of my life watching football? Or listening to baseball?  Uecker is entertaining, but come on!

If I want to live the life I want to live--praying, spending time with my kids, reading, writing, gardening, playing my guitar, keeping the house up, making things. I've got to cut almost all of that other stuff out. It is all a monumental waste of time. No wonder Americans are so unproductive. We spend all our time on fb.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How much can we trust God to love us?

God always gives us everything we need naturally and supernaturally to gain eternal salvation AND to fulfill whatever natural or supernatural tasks He wants us to accomplish on earth, including our role in the salvation history of others. He distributes his gifts generously, profusely.

It is not always evident to us. Like the Israelites in the desert, we like to complain because we do not see how God is taking care of us.

Certainly it is not always empirically evident that God’s natural and supernatural providence is operative. Nor do our emotions always correspond to the reality. This is partly because the most real things tend to be invisible and because of our own intellectual limitations in interpreting our experience. It can also be because of the influence of the enemy and because of the effects of our sins.

We can trust Him completely and totally abandon ourselves to His providence. He even compensates for our weaknesses, imperfections, and sins if we but cast ourselves upon Him.

That is why the prayer is “Lord, have mercy!” Not “Lord, have justice!”

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Denying Communion and the Internal Forum

I read in a comments box on an article ("The Mind of Francis: Denying Communion") by Thomas Reese at the National Catholic Reporter, "To deny communion to someone presumes to know what only God can know...the heart of the recipient." This is not completely true. There are in Canon Law external forum conditions for being admitted to Communion. For instance, whether you are baptized or not. Whether you publicly give scandal (without public repentance) is also external forum.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Ipsissima vox

Pope Benedict XVI makes a very useful distinction in Part Two of Jesus of Nazareth (p. 320) between the ipsissima verba of Jesus and the ipsissima vox.  Both refer to direct quotes of Jesus in the Gospels.  The first means that Jesus actually said the words as quoted. The second means that the quoted words exactly reflect the mind of Jesus, even if he didn't say the words exactly as quoted. This is a very useful distinction when discussing the "historicity" of the Gospels and when discussing the dominical origin of Church teachings.  It can also be applied to events as well, such as the Baptism of our Lord. Whatever it looked like to the neutral observer, it was what is recorded in the Gospels.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Niggle's Sketchbook New Blog

My daughter has a new blog called Niggle's Sketchpad. It is dedicated to the young adults who are struggling to make sense of the strange world they find themselves in. Be sure to check out the Introduction.
Sure, there is frustration and untapped potential in the young Church. But there is also a new passion, a new interest in what is true instead of what is easy to swallow, a new enthusiasm for what came before and what is still to be accomplished. We are the foot soldiers of the New Evangelization, and we are being mobilized!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pope Francis and the interior life

I think we are going to have to be careful when we interpret the words of Pope Francis. Sometimes he may seem to be saying something he isn't. For instance, at today's Chrism Mass he said:
It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord: self-help courses can be useful in life, but to live by going from one course to another, from one method to another, leads us to become pelagians and to minimize the power of grace, which comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all (from Whispers).
This emphatically does not mean that the priest should not cultivate an interior life. A good Jesuit would never say such a thing.  One can not go out with unction without a life of prayer and the cultivation of the interior life and a relationship with the Triune God distinct from our apostolic activity--or our liturgical activity, for that matter. Our Lord spent many hours in prayer, and he was God!  

What Francis says is "...self-help courses can be useful in life, but to live by going from one course to another, from one method to another..." These things aren't really prayer, or even retreats--all of which are not only good, but (canonically) necessary for priests. 

Francis wants us to go out, to evangelize. That is the call of Vatican II and the New Evangelization.  It requires a deep interior life. 

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Creator of the Stars of Night has a neat setting for "Creator of the Stars of Night" for Morning Prayer today. It uses a Sarum melody, which seems to be related to the standard chant.  Richard Proulx adds some great harmonies with his choir. I wish I could find a youtube video of it, but alas!  Maybe spotify has it.

Creator of the Stars of Night by The Cathedral Singers, Richard Proulx (conductor) Words: Unknown author, 7th Century (Conditor alme siderum); translated from Latin to English by John M. Neale in the Hymnal Noted, 1852; Music: Conditor, Proper Sarum melody

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Spirituality and mental health

I heard a report on the BBC Wuhld Suhvice this morning about a study done in England and Wales that indicates that people who are "spiritual," but not "religious" are more prone to mental illness such as depression than either "religious" people or "secular" people. They did  a follow-up study that showed that "spiritual" people who are mentally healthy are more likely to succumb to some kind of mental illness in the following year. I wonder whether one who is spiritual without a religion is more susceptible to the influence of malevolent spiritual forces because they don't have the "protection" that a society with a tradition of spiritual discernment and combat has.