The Parish Mardi Gras Party, originally scheduled for 6:30 pm on Saturday, February 9, has been cancelled. We apologize for the inconvenience, but with the recent bout of winter weather we thought this was in the best interest of all.
In the second reading (1 Cor 12:31-13:13) for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, St. Paul explains to the fractious Corinthians that the more excellent way is the way of love. Charismatic gifts such as speaking in tongues or the ability to prophesy do not necessarily contribute to a person’s holiness. Indeed, without love “I am nothing” and “I gain nothing.”
As Christians, our mission is to bring the loving presence of Jesus Christ Continue Reading »
At times, non-Catholics and even Catholics will criticize the Church for spending too much time thinking about and clarifying her dogmas, doctrines, and teachings. That somehow the study of sacred truths detracts from the time and effort that should be spent performing works of charity, such as assisting the poor. Such a perspective, however, misses the fundamental connection between faith and faith-in-action, between who we are as baptized Catholics and what we do.
In fact, the Church’s teachings provide us with deeper insights into the mysteries of God, of who Christ is, what it means to be a disciple of Christ. After all, we cannot imitate what we do not know. In this regard, Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, had an op-ed piece in The Washington Post last Friday, January 25. I recommend checking out Cardinal Wuerl’s reflection on the topic.
In honor of the Year of Faith, the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer announces its winter Adult Faith Formation Series: ”Conviction about Things Unseen.” On seven consecutive Tuesday evenings from February 5 – March 19, Fr. Walter Wagner will offer a series of reflections on the meaning and nature of faith. The sessions will begin at 6:30 pm and end at roughly 8 pm. To register, please call the parish office at (212) 744-2080. All of the presentations will be held at St. Vincent Ferrer High School (entrance on 65th Street). The flyer can be found here.
After Father Walter’s series concludes, the spring Adult Faith Formation Series will take up the topic of living out our faith through the sacramental life of the Church.
In his Catholic New York column, our archbishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, wrote a wonderful piece directly addressing teens and young adults, whom he refers to as the “Ultrasound Generation.” In light of the may pro-life activities that occurred in the archdiocese and around the country this past week, I would recommend taking a look at the Cardinal’s hope-filled message.
Sometimes we might not pay that much attention to the word conversion. Perhaps we think: “I have been Catholic my whole life, I have no need of conversion.” Perhaps we think: “Okay, I converted to Catholicism, or I converted back to Catholicism after doing my own thing for a number of years, but that was a one-time event.” Yet, in all honesty, the entire Christian life is one ongoing process of conversion as we, with the help of God’s grace, convert more and more to the ways of Christ.
On January 25, Catholics throughout the world celebrated the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles. It is a day that honors the conversion of that zealous persecutor of the early Christians, the one who was not only present but was even consenting to the martyrdom of St. Stephen. We honor St. Paul’s conversion from persecutor of Christ, to preacher of Christ. We honor a man who converted Continue Reading »
Imagine being at Cana. The wedding reception runs out of wine, and then Blessed Mary springs into action. She tells the servers to do whatever Jesus says. What follows is Jesus’ first miracle in the Gospel of John, the miracle of turning water into wine. In fact, this miracle will result in quite a bit of wine – 6 stone jars, each holding about 30 gallons.
If you and I were at Cana where the water was turned into wine, I think it is safe to say that you and I don’t really participate in the miracle – other than maybe imbibing at bit. However, at the Last Supper and at Mass the change that takes place in the chalice, the Continue Reading »
Beginning in February, the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer will dedicate our Tuesday evenings to celebrating the Year of Faith. A schedule of topics will be posted soon. Pope Benedict XVI announced this Year of Faith in October 2012 as a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the most recent ecumenical council, Vatican II.
Here at St. Vincent Ferrer, we will offer a two part program. First, Fr. Walter Wagner will offer a number of reflections centered around the question “What is Faith?” Second, Fr. John Chrysostom Kozlowski will build on Fr. Walter’s insights and discuss how we live our faith through the sacramental life of the Church. This program will afford us the opportunity to reflect on and discuss the great gift of faith and how that gift is expressed through the seven sacraments.
Speaking of the sacraments, the Catholic News Service has a great little article entitled: ”When the pope administers the sacraments.” So, in case you were wondering when the pope celebrates the seven sacraments, follow this link.
After the Magi presented their gifts to the baby Jesus, after the Magi fell prostate in a posture of adoration, what did they do? To put it succinctly, they went off in an entirely new direction. They did not go back the same way they came. It is precisely because of their encounter with the infant Jesus that the lives of the Magi gained a new purpose, a new direction.
The recently released film Les Miserables, an adaptation of the long running stage production, offers insights into the best and worst that humanity has to offer. This is not a movie review, but rather a reflection on one particular aspect of the film in connection with the idea of encountering Christ and going off in a new direction. <<Spoiler alert!>> If you are unfamiliar with the storyline of Les Miserables and do not want this posting to “ruin the movie” for you, I would recommend that you stop reading now.
A blessed and happy Christmas to all!
Back on the Third Sunday of Advent, we were told, “Be joyful!” (Gaudete!) in anticipation of the coming celebration of the Birth of Christ.
That day has arrived! Christ is born for us and so we sing joy to the world. This notion of joy is embedded within the Christian life – it comes with the territory of following Christ. Joy is a fruit, a natural outgrowth, of the divine life of charity within our souls.
To help us to meditate on what Christian joy is, enjoy the following audio clip from Fr. Paul Murray, OP, of the Irish Dominican Province. You may recall, Fr. Murray delivered the St. Albert the Great Lecture here at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer back in September. His spiritual insights are worth the listen. Click here to listen.
•6 am – Misa del Gallo
•9 am – Mass (the 8 am and 12:10 pm Masses are canceled on December 24)
•10 am-12 noon – Sacrament of Reconciliation
Celebrating the Nativity of the Lord
5:30 pm – Sung Vigil Mass
9:30 pm – Prelude music begins
10:30 pm – Solemn Mass during the Night (“midnight Mass”)
8:00 am – Mass at Dawn
10:00 am – Sung Mass during the Day
12:00 noon – Solemn Mass during the Day
Celebrating the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (Holy Day of Obligation)
5:30 pm – Sung Vigil Mass
8:00 am – Mass
12:10 pm – Sung Mass
5:30 pm – Mass
As we have hit the home stretch before Christmas, the readings and prayers all turn our attention to the coming celebration of the birth of Christ. One of the most striking prayers during this time is the antiphon that is associated with Mary’s prayer, the Magnificat, that is prayed at Vespers (Evening Prayer). Every evening, from December 17-23, the antiphons highlight a different title for the Messiah. Since these antiphons all begin with the word O, they are called the O antiphons.
What I find fascinating about these antiphons is twofold. First, each one reveals something about who this Messiah is, how unique He is, how He fulfills the ancient prophecies and how strongly we desire and need Him to come into our lives. And, second, as a unit, these antiphons are meant to build up a little excitement within us. Consider each antiphon (this only works in Latin, so bear with me): Continue Reading »
Recently, politicians in Australia took to discussing the seal of confession. One went so far to assert that the seal of confession is a “medieval law that needs to change in the 21st century.” In this posting, I am not proposing a response to the civic officials from down under, but rather I am using their remarks as a catalyst for offering a brief catechesis on the seal of confession (in question and answer format):
1) Who is bound by the seal of confession?
The priest who hears the confession. (Although different, there is such a thing as the confessional secret which applies to interpreters and others who gain knowledge of what someone said in the confessional, such as could occur if someone (accidentally) overhears a confession.)
2) When is the seal of confession in effect?
When the Sacrament of Reconciliation begins, the priest is bound by the seal of confession with regard to information learned during the course of the sacrament’s celebration. Information learned after the sacrament concludes is not bound by the seal of confession.
Pope Benedict XVI recently released the third volume of his series, “Jesus of Nazareth.” In this final offering, Pope Benedict XVI considers the infancy narratives as they are conveyed to us by the evangelists Matthew and Luke. While the book’s timely release during the Season of Advent makes for suitable reading in the days leading up to the celebration of Christmas, I would like to draw your attention to, of all things, the foreword of this text. In a few short paragraphs the Holy Father gets to the heart of biblical interpretation (exegesis), and thus, the approach we should take when reading or listening to the divinely-inspired sacred texts. In the pope’s own words:
Please be advised:
The Holy Hour regularly scheduled for Thursdays at 11 am will be canceled until further notice. The beginning of the East Window Renovation Project necessitates this schedule change. Thank you for understanding.
As we continue our journey through Advent, won’t you consider joining us?
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
(Holy Day of Obligation)
Friday, December 7: 5:30 pm (sung vigil Mass)
Saturday, December 8: 8:00 am (no music) & 12:10 pm (sung Mass)
Advent Lessons & Carols
Sunday, December 16 at 3:00 pm
Confessions heard from 3:00 pm-9:00 pm
Misa del Gallo
Monday, December 17 – Monday, December 24 at 6:00 am
Literally, the “Rooster’s Mass,” is celebrated in the early hours of the morning on the final days of Advent. Join us at 6:00 am at the Holy Name Altar.
Advent is the hope-filled season of expectation as we await two comings: the second coming of our Divine Messiah and the celebration of His first coming at Christmas. In order to prepare our hearts and souls to welcome our God-with-us, the Emmanuel, the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer will offer additional opportunities for prayer. Please check back here for additional information.
For now, we would like to invite you to participate in our parish festival of prayer to mark the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the Church’s liturgical year.
First Sunday of Advent – Parish Festival of Prayer
Saturday, December 1
5:30 pm – Solemn Mass followed by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament through the night
8:00 pm – First Vespers
9:45 pm – Rosary & Compline (Night Prayer)
Sunday, December 2
3:00 am – Advent Conference with Fr. Walter, OP
5:00 am – Matins (Office of Readings)
7:00 am – Morning Prayer & Benediction
8:00 am – Mass (no music)
10:00 am – Mass (sung)
12:00 pm – Mass (sung)
5:30 pm – Mass (no music)
Our Archbishop, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, recently addressed all of the bishops of the United States in his capacity as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Of all the things he could have spoken about, he chose the themes of conversion, repentance, and reconciliation. He told the bishops how important it is that they themselves go to confession regularly. What a great message from our local shepherd!
To get a taste of what he said, consider this, keeping in mind that we are all called to engage in the act of evangelization: “the Sacrament of Reconciliation evangelizes the evangelizers, as it brings us sacramentally into contact with Jesus, who calls us to conversion of heart, and allows us to answer his invitation to repentance — a repentance from within that can then transform the world without.”
Cardinal Dolan’s presidential address, although addressed to bishops, is a fantastic read and has some wonderful food for thought for all of us. Click here to read the entire address at the bishops’ conference website.
Our apologies for ignoring the blog for so long. Between the departure of Fr. Bruno Shah, OP, and the arrival of yours truly, Fr. John Chrysostom Kozlowski, OP, we are just getting around to website related issues.
We hope the blog will serve two purposes going forward:
1) provide a forum for making announcements about parish events and changes to the parish’s schedule;
2) provide a forum for directing parishioners and other visitors to noteworthy news items, particularly as they relate to faith and morals.
Even radically skeptical scripture scholars — i.e., those wont to say much of the Gospels do not bear Jesus’ actual sayings — recognize the veracity of his teachings on marriage. Of the few legal necessities that the Apostles maintained in granting concessions to the Gentiles, unlawful marriage remained forbidden. And for the early centuries of the Church (much as now), Christians were known for their very particular commitment to marriage and sexual virtue.
The Christian cannot understate the significance of marriage-either in understanding society’s proper ordering, or in appreciating God’s salvific design. In our day, we are witnessing a full-scale attack on marriage: No doubt about it. Many things have been said about the nature of marriage; many more things need be said.
One question we might ask is, “Does marriage really cease in Heaven?” It’s perhaps a bit odd, given the central significance of marriage in the history of Christian doctrine and practice; and it’s odd given the romantic intuition that love “lasts forever.”
Truly, the Church teaches, following our Lord’s own statement in today’s Gospel (Mark 12:18-27), that there is neither giving nor taking in marriage in heaven. Indeed, one common formula of matrimonial consent establishes the bond “until death do us part.” Hence, whatever the other issues, it is certainly allowable for a widow(er) to marry again.
Here are some things to think about:
Whatever people are thinking when they enter into marriage, they desire to give themselves to their spouses absolutely and uniquely. Traditionally, the giving of one to another, if it to be absolute, can only be to “another” who is truly, body and spirit, an other. Until the last several decades in civilized history, marriage has been recognized as contractable between members of opposite (i.e., complementary) sex only.
Two things follow from this complementary and absolute exchange (whether established through family arrangement or thrown individual romance). (1) In order for a person to give himself absolutely, he must give himself wholly, body and spirit. And the absolute gift of one’s body to another means the gift of one’s body until it is no more: until its death. (2) The kind of love that both manifests and supports the kind of absolute gift of oneself to another is naturally capacitated to engender life. (Hence, quite naturally, forms of love that are given to partners that are less than wholly other–not only in spirit but also in body–these forms of love are, in principle, incapable of furthering life: after all, they take away something less than 100% of one’s life since it has been given to someone who is less than 100% an-other, therefore nature need not prepare for its replacement.)
Given these two natural consequences of marital establishment–marriage’s natural and necessary indissolubility and procreativity–all forms of government (traditional-familial, civil, religious) have always maintained the right to regulate the institution–what constitutes it, how it may be established and whether it may be broken, and so on. Because the personal commitment of individuals is generally not sufficient to secure the bond that has been established, because of that bond’s ripple-effects upon the ordering of society, government imposes upon the bond a legal expectation that the agreement will continue.
Not only does the married couple receive certain benefits from the government; the government expects the couple to remain married for the good of society. Not only does the couple expect to remain together; furthermore, government seeks to help ensure they remain together. The principal reason for this legal strengthening is for the sake of the children. But because the individuals of the couple have created a dependency upon each other, the severing of the bond and the potential that one of the pair would consequently lack the means of livelihood is a proper concern of society’s authoritative ordering.
Thus, government imposes a legal constraint upon the free commitment of the couple that, all things being equal, expects them to remain married (even if such governments allow for divorce. Then again, note that the proper government regulates divorce as well).
The Church also expects such things of its couples. Due to moral weakness, the Church levels a legal expectation upon the couple that seeks to strengthen what is otherwise simply their moral commitment. More importantly, the Church teaches that the married couple is strengthened by the grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony to preserve their bond. But these two aspects–the Church’s concerns for both law and grace–are ineluctably coordinated.
At any rate, here is one item we can recognize as not necessary in heaven. Just as the beatified soul, face to face with God, is incapable of leaving God; similarly, in heaven, our bonds of love are incapable of being broken. As a consequence, there is no need for the legal contract to ensure the preservation of the bond! There is no marriage in heaven.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE ANGELS?
Then why are widow(er)s allowed to remarry? Jesus teaches that in heaven, we shall be like the angels. And yet, we know that we are not angels, but as body-soul composites we await the resurrection of our bodies. Moreover, our Lord gives recourse to mentioning the patriarchs, not only for the sake of mentioning life after death, but also for affirming the good of human bonds of affinity, ordinarily established through the family.
So, in heaven, like the angels, we will not suffer from the constraints of bodily distinction; our love will no longer be exclusive. And yet, because our God is God of the living, we shall maintain our bonds of love established here on earth insofar as they have been established in Christ–the order of charity will not cease.
The exclusivity of marriage will no longer exist, but the degrees of Christian love will, whether or not it was (legitimately) established with one or more persons during one’s earthly pilgrimage.
DIVORCEES AND THE SACRAMENTS
One thing to think about is how there is no need for sacraments in heaven. In heaven, we shall simply be in perfect communion with God. There will be no need for visible signs to communicate invisible grace; we shall simply be beholding God’s glory through His glory!
But sacraments are necessary here; just as (though for different reasons) the legal expectations of marriage are necessary here.
Individuals who are divorced and remarried may not receive Holy Communion: The basic bond that the Church expects of them has not only been broken (through divorce) but furthermore transgressed (through re-marriage); hence, the principal sign of one’s own bond with the Church (Holy Communion) is not fittingly received.
Of course, more could be said here about the state of grace and sin. But we are focusing upon the significance of marriage as a structural institution. And Christ has wedded himself to the Church, His Bridegroom, in such a way that is indissoluble, fruitful, and exclusive of those who reject the partnership. Since his coming, people are able to live in absolute self-gift for him (through consecrated life and priesthood) in a way that fulfills their human desires while living with an express view toward our heavenly state. And yet, the married state is not superceded or rendered obsolete. In fact, it is the one pre-lapsarian blessing that is not lost after the Fall, and which remains the seedbed of the Church!
So what are divorced Catholics (who have not remarried) to think about themselves? One thing to think about is their call to love. They need not feel like second-class citizens. They established a matrimonial contract that, for whatever number of reasons, was subsequently broken by civil government. But, lacking the declaration of nullity or the death of one’s partner, the Church does not recognize that marriage as having been dissolved: it basically still exists. Nevertheless, the divorced Catholic is not expected to return to one’s spouse in order to receive Holy Communion. Rather, he is to think of his life of grace and love, and seek everything that will foster it. In his present situation, that the divorced Catholic finds himself no longer “with” his spouse, it is because of the Catholic’s overarching and preeminent desire to love as Christ loves and to remain in his grace.
So what are divorced and remarried Catholics to do? Indeed, as an ordinary rule, they may not receive Holy Communion. But just as love is stronger than its legal bond, so too does God offer grace beyond the sacrament. The couple must be in a state of grace (i.e., minimally living as “brother and sister”), they must recognize they are not in a position to receive the principle visible sign of Communion with the Church, and they must remain obedient to the Church’s other precepts–among which, fulfillment of the Sunday obligation. And just as those couples deep down feel as if they are finally with a good person and ultimately trust in that love regardless of the marriage they previously contracted, similarly, they can trust that, if otherwise living according to God’s plan, they can be receiving grace even if unable to do so sacramentally, i.e., through the participation in the Church’s signs of grace, such as receiving Holy Communion.
THE RIGHT MIND
Let us then not be like the Sadducees, who assaulted Jesus with questions whose truth they were not truly seeking. Rather, let us trust in the marriage between Christ and His Church; let us recognize the super-significance of marriage, such that the Bible begins and ends with it.
Let us know the Scriptures and the power of God (Mark 12:24), and we shall know the truth and mercy of Our Savior.
From the day’s first lesson, from The 2nd Letter of St. Peter:
Beloved: Wait for and hasten the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire. But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace. And consider the patience of our Lord as salvation.
Therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, be on your guard not to be led into the error of the unprincipled and to fall from your own stability. But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
From one of St. Boniface’s Letters
In her voyage across the ocean of this world, the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life’s indifferent stresses. Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course.
The ancient fathers showed us how we should carry out this duty… They lived under emperors who were pagans; they all steered Christ’s ship–or rather, his most dear soupse, the Church. This they did by teaching and defending her, by their labors and sufferings, even to the shedding of blood….
Let us continue to fight on the day of the Lord. The days of anguish and of tribulation have overtaken us; if God so wills, let us die for the holy laws of our fathers, so that we may deserve to obtain an eternal inheritance with them.
Let us be neither dogs that do not bark nor silent onlookers nor paid servants who run away before the wolf…
A number of months ago, former president of the Catholic University of America and present bishop of Trenton, NJ David O’Connell commissioned a survey and study of the diocese to find why people have left the Church. The idea was to have professionals conduct “exit interviews” to gain perspective.
A summary of the report, published in America magazine, is definitely worth reading. The entire report may be found here.
What follows are my reflections. (The comment option can certainly receive your own.)
1. There is a basic desire for people to be recognized, heard, and treated warmly. If the Gospel is Good News, it cannot but be humane. Its reception suffers when its ministers are cold and self-absorbed. The Gospel is nothing if it is not an encounter with the person of Christ through his humanity… which is met through that of his incorporated members.
2. The experience of many does not accord with my own. Before becoming a priest (and not hearing too many homilies other than my own now) I don’t think I ever heard a homily about divorce or homosexuality, to cite two issues people surveyed felt excluded by. I wonder how much of this is a holdover from previous generations.
2.1 Consider this anecdote: One time a bunch of us friars were talking over dinner about our experience of confession. All the guys with white hair had multiple stories of having been yelled at in the confessional. Those of us who were younger had not had any such experiences. (Quite the contrary, many younger folk complain to me that they are told too often that their confessional matter is “not sinful.”) Perhaps the healing synthesis of these two trends was well summed up by the advice a popular Dominican Confessor of happy memory would give to young priests in the house, “Be nice in the confessional… Or I’ll punch you!”
3. The moralism and legalism with which the Gospel has traditionally been preached in our country (for historical and cultural reasons that cannot be discussed here, nor are addressed by the survey) has proven itself worse than ineffective. Certainly, the contrary attitude (it’s all good, don’t judge, it’s all up to one’s own “conscience”, etc.) is equally bad. Nevertheless, people want to hear the reasons why the Gospel matters, and why the only way to effectively live the Gospel is through the Church’s sacramental, doctrinal, and hierarchical ministry. We all need to be treated as if our experiences and feelings matter, and that Christianity doesn’t reduce to the following of rules, even while rules are necessary.
4. Generally, people who left their parish left the Church, the study found. There’s an integral connection between local organization of faith life and the universal Church.
4.1 One problem here is that, since the survey essentially follows the model of sociological analysis, there is no consideration of “the faith” as a category to evaluate, or of the parish as something more than a social organization of members with complementary and potentially conflictual expectations.
4.2 For many, the relative lack of opportunity to be involved with parish life led them away. Here, there obviously needs to be creative development. But there also needs to be a greater recognition of what the life of faith is all about: it’s essentially the clinging to Christ in all of one’s activities, for which one is sacramentally and inspirationally energized by parish ministry, to be sure, but which is still about living one’s everyday duties virtuously. Moreover, in a society where neighborhoods are breaking down, where people are more transient and one is less likely to remain in one’s parish for very long, the prospect of seeing the parish as a kind of community center of organized activities will continue, I believe, to grow dimmer. Personally, I think the category here should be in terms of a search for “fellowship and support” rather than “being involved.”
4.3 There was no way of assessing precisely “what” the people surveyed think the Church is.
5. Further, while the survey’s responses suggest the answer, there was no instrument for assessing how respondents measure personal significance and meaning. That is, if I find my priest’s homilies empty, I should be able to articulate what I find otherwise meaningful in the other organizations I have not left.
6. Clearly, sexuality draws the most significant attention, whether its the abuse scandals or Church teaching.
6.1 Also involved is the experience and perception of inequality of rights.
6.2. Related, there clearly needs to be teaching about the nature of priestly ministry, what is changeable and not. Here, I think the experience of priests themselves could be factored in to the conversation.
7. There is the desire to see in people’s ministers evidence of integrity and commitment. I think that the sign of this commitment must be proportionate with the felt aberration of the Church’s expectations. In other words, priests must live lives that manifest a degree of personal commitment and sacrifice that is proportionate with the radicality of what the laity experience in terms of the Church’s challenges. Personally, but also in a way that flows from my own mendicant tradition, I think priests need to live simpler lives, less focused on upper-middle class styles of dress and recreation, which are not appropriate to men who do not draw income and need to support others in the same way as the laity. People need to “see” that the Gospel is truly worth giving up everything, even when it doesn’t seem to make sense. And the vision of this sacrifice ought not to be reduced simply to how hard priests work (although idle priests are dangerous). The best priests, in my estimation, are those who pray and love greatly.
8. The celebration of the liturgy didn’t seem to register too much significance. Here, it not only means that relatively few were distressed by lame music and hymnody; conversely, there wasn’t any mention of liturgical rigidity or the use of Latin as being sufficiently offensive to drive people away from Church.
9. The heart of parish life must be Eucharistic. There needs to be evangelical catechesis on transubstantiation and the nature of liturgical worship to be sure. But moreover, the parish must be invited to see how it is the Eucharist builds the Church even as the Church makes the Eucharist.
Well, that’s just some of a young priest’s response. One doesn’t have to agree with it at all. I imagine my own thoughts will continue to change and mature. At the end of the day, I think the target is the personal experience one has with people in Church (and this is not only with priests!). I think of my own standard when working especially with couples: They’ll get what the Church teaches, however hard it may be to hear (and for me to say!); but they’ll get it with a smile, and from someone who believes that their own thoughts and feelings are worth listening to. The Gospel must always affirm the good that is present, if there is any hope to root out what is bad. And here, our Lord’s own question to the disciples is the rule, “What do you seek?”
The article can serve as an intelligent and relevant springboard for conversation. (Here is some other relevant statistical information.) Perhaps you might forward it to some friends and get together to talk about it!
The always thoughtful and accessible Fr. Barron on the Vatican’s assessment of the state of the US’s Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
In our continuing catechesis on Christian prayer, we now turn from the prayer of Mary and the Apostles awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to the “little Pentecost” described in the fourth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. After the arrest and release of Peter and John, the community joined in prayer and “the place where they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (v. 31).
This prayer shows the unity of the early community, which asks only to proclaim the word of God fearlessly in the face of persecution. It seeks to discern present events in the light of God’s saving plan and the fulfilment of prophecy in the mystery of Christ.
It also begs God to accompany by his power the preaching of the Gospel. May this prayer of the early Church inspire our own prayer. May we seek to discern God’s loving plan in the light of Christ and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, who bestows the hope which does not disappoint (cf. Rom 5:5).
It may be something many of us do not want to admit, but the ostensibly enlightened advance of secularism is so twisting our society’s self-understanding, that the most significant “organized religion” left — the faith of the Catholic Church — is being attacked. If She is eviscerated of her strength, the dogma of “anything goes” can then be peddled by anyone with enough power to promote his own vision of just what precisely should go.
To be sure, the Church’s own have done enough to disembowel Her of moral authority and authenticity. (But thanks be to God that our Church, necessarily hierarchical, is more fundamentally Christological–with Jesus Christ as head, who remains with us who remain in Him until the end of the ages.)
And now, the Church–in a country with puritannical roots–is furthermore (… or appositely…?) being directly attacked where her faithful’s commitment is manifestly the weakest: sexual and family morality.
While audacious, the world and its powers are yet shrewd enough to reduce the Church’s religious and mystical claims to challenges of moral evidence: “How many Catholics actually use birth control?” (One can hear the dark one in the background questioning, “Did God actually say…?”) And of course, if Church teaching is but another ideology or political party and platform supported by an alternative power structure, the worldly power will win–for its very terms are those of seductive rhetoric and coercive power.
Much could be conjectured (as well as reasonably argued to conclusion) about how all this has been allowed to happen, particularly in our country. But for now, the important thing is to see reality as it is confronting us; and for believers, this means two things, rooted in the first testimony of the first Christian community: “They devoted themselves to  the teaching of the apostles and the communal life,  to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2.42). We too must be properly informed by the Church’s (2) priestly and (1) prophetic ministries, which She extends through time by virtue of Her Lord’s personal commission–i.e., by virtue of Him whose kingly sovereignty is as Priest and Prophet. Toward the former, the sacramental life must be paramount. The Catholic is nothing if he is not one who finds everything in his concrete sacramental discipline. Toward the latter, the doctrinal life must be paramount. The Catholic is nothing if he is not one who finds the true source of wisdom in the concrete apostolic preaching. To that end, with particular reference to our country’s situation, please consider this statement on religious liberty by our bishops, Our First and Most cherished Liberty.
Below is the text from Pope Benedict’s Easter Vigil homily. I’ve marked a few insights in bold that I found particularly arresting (7 April 2012).
Easter is the feast of the new creation. Jesus is risen and dies no more. He has opened the door to a new life, one that no longer knows illness and death. He has taken mankind up into God himself. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”, as Saint Paul says in the First Letter to the Corinthians (15:50). On the subject of Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection, the Church writer Tertullian in the third century was bold enough to write: “Rest assured, flesh and blood, through Christ you have gained your place in heaven and in the Kingdom of God” (CCL II, 994). A new dimension has opened up for mankind. Creation has become greater and broader. Easter Day ushers in a new creation, but that is precisely why the Church starts the liturgy on this day with the old creation, so that we can learn to understand the new one aright. At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word on Easter night, then, comes the account of the creation of the world. Two things are particularly important here in connection with this liturgy. On the one hand, creation is presented as a whole that includes the phenomenon of time. The seven days are an image of completeness, unfolding in time. They are ordered towards the seventh day, the day of the freedom of all creatures for God and for one another. Creation is therefore directed towards the coming together of God and his creatures; it exists so as to open up a space for the response to God’s great glory, an encounter between love and freedom. On the other hand, what the Church hears on Easter night is above all the first element of the creation account: “God said, ‘let there be light!’” (Gen 1:3). The creation account begins symbolically with the creation of light. The sun and the moon are created only on the fourth day. The creation account calls them lights, set by God in the firmament of heaven. In this way he deliberately takes away the divine character that the great religions had assigned to them. No, they are not gods. They are shining bodies created by the one God. But they are preceded by the light through which God’s glory is reflected in the essence of the created being.
What is the creation account saying here? Light makes life possible. It makes encounter possible. It makes communication possible. It makes knowledge, access to reality and to truth, possible. And insofar as it makes knowledge possible, it makes freedom and progress possible. Evil hides. Light, then, is also an expression of the good that both is and creates brightness. It is daylight, which makes it possible for us to act. To say that God created light means that God created the world as a space for knowledge and truth, as a space for encounter and freedom, as a space for good and for love. Matter is fundamentally good, being itself is good. And evil does not come from God-made being, rather, it comes into existence only through denial. It is a “no”.
At Easter, on the morning of the first day of the week, God said once again: “Let there be light”. The night on the Mount of Olives, the solar eclipse of Jesus’ passion and death, the night of the grave had all passed. Now it is the first day once again – creation is beginning anew. “Let there be light”, says God, “and there was light”: Jesus rises from the grave. Life is stronger than death. Good is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Truth is stronger than lies. The darkness of the previous days is driven away the moment Jesus rises from the grave and himself becomes God’s pure light. But this applies not only to him, not only to the darkness of those days. With the resurrection of Jesus, light itself is created anew. He draws all of us after him into the new light of the resurrection and he conquers all darkness. He is God’s new day, new for all of us.
But how is this to come about? How does all this affect us so that instead of remaining word it becomes a reality that draws us in? Through the sacrament of baptism and the profession of faith, the Lord has built a bridge across to us, through which the new day reaches us. The Lord says to the newly-baptized: Fiat lux – let there be light. God’s new day – the day of indestructible life, comes also to us. Christ takes you by the hand. From now on you are held by him and walk with him into the light, into real life. For this reason the early Church called baptism photismos – illumination.
Why was this? The darkness that poses a real threat to mankind, after all, is the fact that he can see and investigate tangible material things, but cannot see where the world is going or whence it comes, where our own life is going, what is good and what is evil. The darkness enshrouding God and obscuring values is the real threat to our existence and to the world in general. If God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness, then all other “lights”, that put such incredible technical feats within our reach, are not only progress but also dangers that put us and the world at risk. Today we can illuminate our cities so brightly that the stars of the sky are no longer visible. Is this not an image of the problems caused by our version of enlightenment? With regard to material things, our knowledge and our technical accomplishments are legion, but what reaches beyond, the things of God and the question of good, we can no longer identify. Faith, then, which reveals God’s light to us, is the true enlightenment, enabling God’s light to break into our world, opening our eyes to the true light.
Dear friends, as I conclude, I would like to add one more thought about light and illumination. On Easter night, the night of the new creation, the Church presents the mystery of light using a unique and very humble symbol: the Paschal candle. This is a light that lives from sacrifice. The candle shines inasmuch as it is burnt up. It gives light, inasmuch as it gives itself. Thus the Church presents most beautifully the paschal mystery of Christ, who gives himself and so bestows the great light. Secondly, we should remember that the light of the candle is a fire. Fire is the power that shapes the world, the force of transformation. And fire gives warmth. Here too the mystery of Christ is made newly visible. Christ, the light, is fire, flame, burning up evil and so reshaping both the world and ourselves. “Whoever is close to me is close to the fire,” as Jesus is reported by Origen to have said. And this fire is both heat and light: not a cold light, but one through which God’s warmth and goodness reach down to us.
The great hymn of the Exsultet, which the deacon sings at the beginning of the Easter liturgy, points us quite gently towards a further aspect. It reminds us that this object, the candle, has its origin in the work of bees. So the whole of creation plays its part. In the candle, creation becomes a bearer of light. But in the mind of the Fathers, the candle also in some sense contains a silent reference to the Church,. The cooperation of the living community of believers in the Church in some way resembles the activity of bees. It builds up the community of light. So the candle serves as a summons to us to become involved in the community of the Church, whose raison d’être is to let the light of Christ shine upon the world.
Let us pray to the Lord at this time that he may grant us to experience the joy of his light; let us pray that we ourselves may become bearers of his light, and that through the Church, Christ’s radiant face may enter our world (cf. LG 1). Amen.