Category Archives: Liturgy

Mass without Communion, single-life, obedience, etc.

communion

We are easily confused and forgetful.  Simple creatures, simple used here in its most derogatory sense.  Knuckle-draggers.  How quickly did Adam & Eve given THE Garden of Eden, think it was theirs to do with as they wish?  To abuse?  Unthinkingly?  Unknowingly?  Ingrates!!!!  Morons!!!!  Idiots!!!!  Imbeciles!!!!

How easily no longer a gift with very livable stipulations?   How quickly?  We still do.  We feel we are God made, an oxymoron, all the theists in the audience just shuddered at those words, in the image and likeness of ourselves.  Self-referential is always bad logic, etc.

I AM ALWAYS, HAVE ALWAYS BEEN terrified of a vow of obedience.  I still am.  Given twenty-five years of corporate human authority relationships, THAT HAS DEFINITELY NOT LESSENED, ITS GOTTEN WORSE!!!  SO MUCH EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY, ST DILBERT CORPORATE, ORA PRO NOBIS!!! MUCH, MUCH WORSE!!!  I am most willful.  My own way is one of, if not THE greatest pleasure I derive in life, free will, my own.  In the Order of Preachers, there is ONLY ONE VOW:  OBEDIENCE.  There is no need for any other with that ONE.

The funny thing is…pssst, it’s secret…marriage IS a vow of obedience!!!!  DAMN!!!!  Low-blow!!!  Sneak-attack!!!  Don’t tell anyone!!  No one will ever get married, again!  An implicit, ableit profoundly strong vow to the good of the family, NOT one’s own agenda, preferences, will, willfulness, etc.; the obedience of love.  The obedience of Christ to the Father, of the creature to the Creator simply for the gift of being.  SUM, ERGO AGAPE!!! It makes no conditions!!!  It does not negotiate!!!  Love is NOT reasonable!!!  It wants what it wants, and will never settle for less!!!  It is very demanding/immature that way!!!  Shhhhh…..misery loves company.  We need more marrieds!!!!  (Maniacal laugh, Ha, ha, ha, ha…..!!  Join us!!!  Resistance is futile!!!)

From divorced and remarried, to excommunicated, to conscious of mortal sin, what is Mass without Communion?  Really?

matthew_schneider_lc

-by Rev. Matthew P. Schneider, LC

“Mass is not just so you get Communion! For hundreds of years, the majority of Catholics did not receive Communion most Sundays of the year but were expected at Mass. The Eucharistic celebration is a re-presentation of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Communion perfects this by uniting us to Jesus, but the Mass has value even if you don’t receive Communion. Being present at the death and resurrection is one of the most wonderful things we can do.

Before we even consider Communion for the divorced and remarried, we have to reflect on the value of Mass without Communion – both as a whole Church and with each individual couple.

Many people, at least in Canada and the USA, think that they cannot participate in Mass without receiving Communion. This is false. Communion perfects one’s participation in the Mass, but one can participate without receiving Communion.

I remember the difficulty of explaining to a non-Catholic child at a Catholic high school what value there was for him to show up at Mass with his class. I understood the reasons, but I still had  difficulty in communicating it clearly. A reflection by the Church on this point would help us all be able to explain this aspect of our faith better.

A deeper reflection on single life, especially those called to non-consecrated chastity

We have told single people clearly that they need to live the chaste life. However, there is more than chastity. How can their friendships have meaning? How can they serve? What are they called to as single people? What gifts can they offer the Church?

We need to reflect on those who don’t choose singleness, at least directly or initially. We have had a lot of reflection in the Church on those who consecrate their singleness to God — priests, religious and the like — but not much on other single people.

A single layperson can do a lot to build up Christ’s kingdom in ways married people can’t. There is a pragmatic level I think most can agree on: since single people don’t have kids to raise, they generally have more free time. However, I have a sense of a deeper spiritual significance. Unfortunately, I can’t concisely and clearly indicate what this is. I hope that some reflection on this, either inside the synod or outside of it, can help us all express the significance better.

The ones who’ve gotten the most press regarding this reflection are those with same-sex-attraction, but I think it also applies to many others. For example, someone might dedicate themselves so fully to a cause – anything from the pro-life movement to extending our knowledge in some scientific field – that they don’t have much time to date. Another might simply have bad luck in trying to find the right person. Spiritual Friendship has started to pursue this reflection, at least for those with same-sex-attraction, although I’m not sure of every reflection they make. Reflecting more on non-consecrated singleness will help these people be stronger members of the Church.

Supporting Francis’s initiative to improve the marriage annulment process

Last month, Pope Francis published some norms to simplify the annulment process. I hope these changes help people in this difficult situation and that the synod fathers concur. The rules put forward by Pope Francis might have seemed technical but some of them will have positive impact quite quickly. For example, a friend was telling me about someone who has been waiting 11 years for an annulment because their ex-spouse lives in Russia and the Russian tribunal won’t act. With the new norms, the tribunal here can act without the Russian tribunal because one of the parties currently lives here (before these norms, a tribunal would need to certify other tribunals that could have jurisdiction didn’t want the case before proceeding).

I think we can point to some positive points of the annulment process. For example, John W. Miller wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “The annulment … involves facing what happened, not denying it, and the process includes helping you avoid failing relationship patterns in the future… In my entire experience of getting divorced, the church dissolution was the only time someone asked me that raw and caring question: What really happened?” For him, the annulment process helped resolve issues from his marriage and divorce.

Support faith-filled families

Cardinal Dolan blogged about the need for us to support “those who, relying on God’s grace and mercy, strive for virtue and fidelity.” He also referred to those who give up careers to take care of their kids. These families may not be perfect but represent the ideal we hope that other families strive for. If we want to strengthen families, we need to support these families. At times we can fall into the danger of reaching out to each marginalized group that we forget those in the center. Once we support these families we can often use them as an example for other families that the ideal is possible.

Centering on such families helps us also show that divorce can be avoided and having more than two kids doesn’t make you certifiably crazy. Without witnesses to the Church’s teaching on marriage, few people today will accept that teaching.

Explain the value of commitment to young people

Today, the percentage of young people getting married is dropping more and more. Our culture has stopped valuing commitment at all. This can also be seen from a drop in religious life and commitment to the priesthood. I think it would be great to reflect on the value of committing your life to another: whether that other is another person or God himself. Hopefully the synod can help us get away from a temporary culture.

Lack of commitment destroys the family. A family is made by a stable couple that is  fully committing to each other in marriage. Even long-term cohabitation is not stable because at any moment, either one can leave.

The questions dealt with here will be almost prerequisite questions: Why commit? What value does commitment add? Can commitment last a lifetime? Why commit to another person or to God in a vocation? In the past, these questions were presupposed, but they are often not today. The younger generation has certain values it can teach us but it struggles in this area.

Conclusion

This list is obviously not exhaustive. To a certain extent I’ve presented areas I know we can reflect on and improve without certainty on the best route for improvement. I felt that the proposals getting most media airtime either change doctrine or dangerously bordered on doing so. Instead these are five areas that the Church has a general teaching on, but where there is still a large area open for further reflection. All of these improvements begin in reflection and theory but have a concrete and practical application to help the family or those around the family (such as single people). Whether the synod talks about these or not, each of us can reflect on them more deeply and hopefully improve the Church’s pastoral practice.”

Love,
Matthew

Pange lingua, gloriosi!!!

sing-praises

SING, my tongue, the Savior’s glory;
tell His triumph far and wide;
tell aloud the famous story
of His body crucified;
how upon the cross a victim,
vanquishing in death, He died.

Eating of the tree forbidden,
man had sunk in Satan’s snare,
when our pitying Creator did
this second tree prepare;
destined, many ages later,
that first evil to repair.

Such the order God appointed
when for sin He would atone;
to the serpent thus opposing
schemes yet deeper than his own;
thence the remedy procuring,
whence the fatal wound had come.

So when now at length the fullness
of the sacred time drew nigh,
then the Son, the world’s Creator,
left his Father’s throne on high;
from a virgin’s womb appearing,
clothed in our mortality.

All within a lowly manger,
lo, a tender babe He lies!
see his gentle Virgin Mother
lull to sleep his infant cries!
while the limbs of God incarnate
round with swathing bands she ties.

THUS did Christ to perfect manhood
in our mortal flesh attain:
then of His free choice He goeth
to a death of bitter pain;
and as a lamb, upon the altar of the cross,
for us is slain.

Lo, with gall His thirst He quenches!
see the thorns upon His brow!
nails His tender flesh are rending!
see His side is opened now!
whence, to cleanse the whole creation,
streams of blood and water flow.

FAITHFUL Cross!
above all other,
one and only noble Tree!
None in foliage, none in blossom,
none in fruit thy peers may be;
sweetest wood and sweetest iron!
Sweetest Weight is hung on thee!

Lofty tree, bend down thy branches,
to embrace thy sacred load;
oh, relax the native tension
of that all too rigid wood;
gently, gently bear the members
of thy dying King and God.

Tree, which solely wast found worthy
the world’s Victim to sustain.
harbor from the raging tempest!
ark, that saved the world again!
Tree, with sacred blood anointed
of the Lamb for sinners slain.

Blessing, honor, everlasting,
to the immortal Deity;
to the Father, Son, and Spirit,
equal praises ever be;
glory through the earth and heaven
to Trinity in Unity. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Vexilla Regis = “Let Royal Banners fly!”

Jesus-Crucifixion

Vexilla Regis was written by Venantius Fortunatus (530-609 AD) and is considered one of the greatest hymns of the liturgy. Fortunatus wrote it in honor of the arrival of a large relic of the True Cross which had been sent to Queen Radegunda by the Emperor Justin II and his Empress Sophia. Queen Radegunda had retired to a convent she had built near Poitiers and was seeking out relics for the church there. To help celebrate the arrival of the relic, the Queen asked Fortunatus to write a hymn for the procession of the relic to the church.

The hymn has, thus, a strong connection with the Cross and is fittingly sung at Vespers from Passion Sunday to Holy Thursday and on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. The hymn was also formerly sung on Good Friday when the Blessed Sacrament is taken from the repository to the altar.

Abroad the royal banners fly,
The mystic Cross refulgent glows:
Where He, in Flesh, flesh who made,
Upon the Tree of pain is laid.

Behold! The nails with anguish fierce,
His outstretched arms and vitals pierce:
Here our redemption to obtain,
The Mighty Sacrifice is slain.

Here the fell spear his wounded side
With ruthless onset opened wide:
To wash us in that cleansing flood,
Thence mingled Water flowed, and Blood.

Fulfilled is all that David told
In true prophetic song, of old:
Unto the nations, lo! saith he,
Our God hath reignèd from the Tree.

O Tree! In radiant beauty bright!
With regal purple meetly dight!
Thou chosen stem! divinely graced,
Which hath those Holy Limbs embraced!

How blest thine arms, beyond compare,
Which Earth’s Eternal Ransom bare!
That Balance where His Body laid,
The spoil of vanquished Hell outweighed.

Fragrant aromatics are thrown,
sweetest nectar is sown,
Dearest fruit of tree!
Be my noble victory!

Hail wondrous Altar! Victim hail!
Thy Glorious Passion shall avail!
Where death Life’s very Self endured,
Yet life by that same Death secured.

O Cross! all hail! sole hope, abide
With us now in this Passion-tide:
New grace in pious hearts implant,
And pardon to the guilty grant!

Thee, mighty Trinity! One God!
Let every living creature laud;
Whom by the Cross Thou dost deliver,
O guide and govern now and ever! Amen.

Translation from “The Psalter of Sarum”: London 1852.

Love,
Matthew

Good Friday – “Popule meus, quid feci tibi?”, “My people, what have I done to you?”

jeffrey-tucker

-by Jeffrey Tucker, a convert from Southern Baptist to Roman Catholicism.

“It is puzzling what happened to the Reproaches on Good Friday, an essential part of the Roman Rite for ages, but all-but-vanished today. At least since the 9th century, they had been sung during the veneration of the cross: “My people, what have I done to you?” Or in Latin: “Popule meus, quid feci tibi?”

My copy of the missallete, which is the template that most choirs use to sing on Good Friday, contains no mention of the Reproaches at all. We instead are instructed to sing a song written in 1976 (with a chorus that sounds a bit like the theme to Gilligan’s Island) or to sing “other appropriate songs.”

The GIRM contains no instructions on the matter, but I’ve yet to discover evidence that the Reproaches have been abolished or are even optional.

The Reproaches are still in the Graduale Romanum. Many things appear in this book that are rarely used so perhaps that is understandable. However, the Reproaches are also printed larger than life in the Sacramentary itself, taking up three full pages with music. So let no one say that it was the 1970 Missal that caused them to disappear.

I gather that most celebrants skip over these pages since the music is for the choir to sing, not the priest. In some ways, it is a puzzle as to why they appear in the Sacramentary at all since this book doesn’t print other chants that are exclusive to the choir, such as the Offertory proper at every Mass.

But, as I say, there is no mention of their existence in my missalette at all. And let’s face it: if it is not in this fly-away book, it will not happen. That’s how much influence these publications wield. These private companies can wipe out whole swaths of the Roman Rite just by declining to print things. After 10 or 20 years, no one remembers that it was ever sung.

It seems Orwellian in some way, but I actually think it is a reflection of the chaotic system of: 1) endless numbers of choices over what to do at liturgy, 2) the lack of rubrical specificity in the ordinary form, 3) the way the parts of the Mass are sprawled out over so many books, 4) the remarkable and pervasive ignorance concerning the role of the choir at Mass, and 5) the way that the Missalettes are targeted for use by the people and tend to be inattentive to the parts that belong exclusively to either the celebrant or the choir.

In this thicket, some things gets lost.

The Reproaches are an important part of Good Friday because they highlight the essential injustice of the Crucifixion, the culpability of humanity in this action, and the role of sin in those times and our times in bringing this about. We are given remarkable gifts by God, and the signs are all around us, and yet we do not show gratitude. Rather, we turn our backs on God and deny God due reverence in our lives and in our worship.

The narrative of the Reproaches is presented as a historical epic but it is impossible to hear them and not think of the universal ethical and theological implications. When we leave them out, we are refusing to let the Christ of all history speak to us, saying perhaps what we do not want to hear but we must hear.”

Love,
Matthew

Sep 15 – Improperia (The Reproaches), Our Lady of Sorrows

“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His mother: “This Child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.”
-Luke 2:34-35

And with “Woman behold your son.”  And, “Son, behold your Mother.”  cf Jn 19:26-27, Mary became our mother, and the mother of the Church.

Good Friday is a day of mourning, remembering Christ’s death, and so is not typically a day of songs and hymns. During the Veneration of the Cross, the following Antiphon and verses known as “The Reproaches” (Improperia) are sung. Individual parts are indicated by no. 1 (first choir) and no. 2 (second choir); parts sung by both choirs together are indicated by nos. 1 and 2.

The Reproaches (Improperia)

Antiphon 1 and 2:
We worship You, Lord,
we venerate Your cross,
we praise Your resurrection.
1: Through the cross
You brought joy to the world.
1: (Psalm 66:2)
May God be gracious and bless us;
and let His face shed its light upon us.

Repeat Antiphon by 1 and 2:

The Reproaches:

I.

1 and 2: My people, what have I done to you
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I led you out of Egypt,
from slavery to freedom,
but you led your Savior to the cross.

2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!
1: Holy is God!
2: Holy and strong!
1: Holy immortal One, have mercy on us!

1 and 2: For forty years I led you
safely through the desert.
I fed you with manna from heaven,
and brought you to a land of plenty; but you led your Savior to the cross.

1: Holy is God!
2: Holy and strong!
1: Holy immortal One, have mercy on us!

1 and 2: What more could I have done for you.
I planted you as my fairest vine,
but you yielded only bitterness:
when I was thirsty you gave Me vinegar to drink,
and you pierced your Savior with a lance.

1: Holy is God!
2: Holy and strong!
1: Holy immortal One, have mercy on us!

II.

1: For your sake I scourged your captors
and their firstborn sons,
but you brought your scourges down on me.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I led you from slavery to freedom
and drowned your captors in the sea,
but you handed me over to your high priests.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I opened the sea before you,
but you opened my side with a spear.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I led you on your way in a pillar of cloud,
but you led me to Pilate’s court.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I bore you up with manna in the desert,
but you struck me down and scourged me.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I gave you saving water from the rock,
but you gave me gall and vinegar to drink.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: For you I struck down the kings of Canaan.
but you struck my head with a reed.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I gave you a royal scepter,
but you gave me a crown of thorns.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I raised you to the height of majesty,
but you have raised me high on a cross.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

Love,
Matthew

Worship, not entertainment – Ite, MISSA (MASS) est! GO!!!!! And do My will!!!!

catholic_worship

“And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.”
Justin Martyr, I Apol. 67 (A.D. 150-155)

(By the way, there’s a little joke in there. The Hebrew tattoo deliberately incorrectly spells God’s name. Instead of God’s name (יהוה ), it says, ויהי , translated, “And it came to pass” or “And it was so.” Of course the joke here is that people who get Hebrew tattoos really do not know how to read Hebrew at all.)

Worship, by definition, I believe, is not about us, whether we like it, or whether it entertains us. Now, what could it be about? Think. Think. Think. Nope! Nothing. De gustibus non est disputandum. Why do we go to Mass? To get to Heaven. Not to be entertained. Not that simply attending Mass will merit us anything, but as an aid and a command the Lord has given us to perform in worship of Him. It is NOT something anyone owes us, but something, very rather, we owe HIM, in justice, in gratitude, for our very lives, and all the joys therein. We owe Him.

It is NOT optional, in fact, missing Mass for less than a really good reason, ie. illness, is a sin, a mortal sin, which kills the life of grace within; if, you want to get to Heaven. Like it or not. Plain & simple truth, whether you like it or not.

Don’t want to go to Heaven? Don’t go to Mass. We ARE in radical agreement. But, don’t expect any help in the form of grace in life, though. And, just one day, just one day, actually there are many, you just might need that grace to make it through the day, another day, ONLY through grace.

From my reading, Jesus will not say to us in our particular judgment, yeah, that’s in the deal, too, “No Mass? No problem!” That’s just how I, imho, read the scriptures. Others may agree.

That, imho, again, is NOT to say we always shouldn’t offer our best:  our best preaching, our best music, our best reading, our best singing, our best worship of Him.  There is nothing wrong with joyful worship.  There is nothing wrong with reverential worship.  We can always improve.  It is the very definition of fallen human beings.

And, finally, if we are to “Love one another” as He has loved us, where better to begin in charity than in the Mass, attending despite less than inspiring preaching, rote ritual, or less than angelic music, or despite, yet another collection, or perpetual fund-raising activity, festival, parish-wide garage sale, or other trivial, distracting announcement, that seem to be an ever present obstacle to profound surrender in worship to the Divine. To, in all of this, mis-worship, cry out in our heart of hearts, just like the worshiping tax collector, Lk 18:13, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

jim_blackburn

-by Jim Blackburn

“In an all-too-common tragedy these days, a poorly catechized Catholic attends a worship service at a megachurch, mistakenly believing the worship service simply to be a modern, non-Catholic version of the Mass. The Catholic feels emotionally drawn to the megachurch worship service and decides Mass, in comparison, is boring. A typical view might be, “Wow, I’m being fed here like I’m not being fed at Mass.”

The American Heritage Dictionary defines megachurch as “a large, independent, usually nondenominational worship group, especially one formed as an offshoot of a Protestant church. Also called seeker church.”

“Large” is right. Among the better known megachurches are Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston (attendance 43,500), Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago (attendance 23,000), and Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church (attendance 20,000) in my backyard in Orange County, California.

Many megachurches are known for their concert-style worship services, consisting of passionate preaching accompanied by emotionally driven music.

I often hear stories about local Catholics in my diocese who venture into one of Saddleback’s worship services—only to be “sold” on this new style of worship, and never again to return to the Catholic Mass.

“Something for Everyone”

From a superficial perspective it’s easy to see why ill-informed Catholics can be drawn in so easily. A quick visit to Saddleback’s Web site (saddleback.com) reveals a veritable menu of Sunday worship services to satisfy the taste of just about any self-indulgent seeker. For example, consider these six offerings, as described on the site:

  • Worship Center Times: You’ll engage in an array of contemporary worship music and enjoy live teaching that is video cast to our other venues.
  • Fuel Times: FUEL is our newest venue for young adults ages 20s to 30s (but everyone is welcome). Join us in Refinery main auditorium for live teaching, worship, food, and relationship building. All of this and more, packed into a shorter service.
  • Overdrive Times: This service is filled with guitar-driven, rock-infused worship sure to amplify your experience. You’ll feel like you’re worshiping in a musical concert setting! The message will follow, video cast live from the Worship Center.
  • Praise Times: This venue is filled with inspiring gospel music that will move your heart and encourage your spirit. The gospel choir will get you up off your feet in whole-hearted praise to God. Worship is followed by the video cast message.
  • Terrace Cafe Times: Grab a cup of coffee and relax in this outdoor worship environment. Located on the top of the Plaza Building, the Terrace Cafe is a perfect place to bring your friends for fellowship and a casual worship experience.
  • Traditions Times: Enjoy a warm, small church community and a traditional approach to worship through hymns and choruses.

Now, each of these forms of worship can be perfectly fine. The problem arises with the gross misconception that such worship is in any significant way comparable to the Catholic Mass. The truth is there really is no comparison at all.

The First Lord’s Supper

The evening before he was crucified, Jesus and the apostles shared a meal. At the Last Supper Jesus very plainly explained to the apostles how he wanted them to worship:  He took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying,

“This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Lk 22:19-20)

These words must have been quite enlightening to the apostles, as they finally understood what Jesus meant when he said, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn 6:54).

The apostles also understood in Jesus’ words both the authority and the commandment to “do” perpetually in worship what Jesus had just instituted: the Eucharist.

The Day of Obligation

The apostles went on to teach others this sacred, God-instituted form of worship. This is evident is Paul’s words to the Church at Corinth:

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”” (1 Cor 11:23-26)

Paul was not at the Last Supper, so he undoubtedly received this from the Lord through the other apostles. And in this passage we read that he has already delivered it himself to the Church at Corinth.

Scripture reveals that the Eucharist was celebrated on Sundays: “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread . . .” (Acts 20:7). That the celebration took place on Sunday makes sense because Jesus was resurrected on that day (Mk 16:9).

Down through history, the Church Fathers attest that the Eucharist has been the constant and most sacred form of authentic Christian worship. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Catholic Church continues this form of worship and obliges Catholics to participate.

The authority to oblige Catholics in such a way was endowed to the Church by Jesus Himself. He said first to Peter and later to all of the apostles, “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:19, 18:18).

The Church has always recognized in these words the authority to enact disciplinary laws which the faithful must follow. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

The power to “bind and loose” connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter . . . (CCC 553)

Today the obligation to attend the Mass is found in the Code of Canon Law: “Sunday, on which by apostolic tradition the paschal mystery is celebrated, must be observed in the universal Church as the primordial holy day of obligation . . . On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass” (CIC 1246 §1–1247).

Symbol or Reality?

Not long ago, Rick Warren announced, “We’re adding the Lord’s Supper . . . to 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm Sunday evening services every week!”

Some people have wondered whether “the Lord’s Supper” at Saddleback Church is the authentic Eucharist. The answer is no. The power and authority to consecrate the Eucharist has never been available to just anyone; it has always been necessary to be appointed by one of the apostles or their successors. Luke provides evidence of this: “[T]hey [Paul and Barnabas, in this case] had appointed elders for them in every church . . .” (Acts 14:23). As does Paul: “This is why I left you [Titus] in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you . . .” (Ti 1:5).

The term “elders” in these passages is translated from the Greek word presbyterous, from which we derive the English word priest. It is clear in the passages just cited that priests were necessarily appointed in every Church. In part, this was for the valid consecration of the Eucharist.

Since megachurches like Saddleback Church do not have priests ordained by successors of the apostles (i.e., Catholic bishops), they do not have the power or the authority necessary to consecrate the Eucharist changing its substance into the body and blood of Jesus.

Also, I’m not aware of any megachurches that recognize the life-giving presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, for Catholics the “source and summit” of the faith. In describing its Lord’s Supper, Saddleback Church’s Web site states: “The elements of bread and wine or juice are symbols of Christ’s broken body and shed blood. Communion is not a means of salvation.”

Mass Is Not Optional

There is no comparison between a modern megachurch worship service— however entertaining it might be—and the Eucharist instituted by Jesus. A person should never mistake such megachurch worship as any sort of alternative to the Mass. And, if he’s a Catholic, he must never neglect his obligation to participate in the Mass.

If a Catholic wishes to indulge in megachurch worship, and he can do so without endangering his own faith or scandalizing others, he is not explicitly forbidden from doing so. Even so, he cannot licitly participate in a megachurch communion service. This is forbidden by the Code of Canon Law: “Catholic ministers administer the sacraments licitly to Catholic members of the Christian faithful alone, who likewise receive them licitly from Catholic ministers alone . . . ” (844 §1).  (Aka, “inter-communion”.)

The bottom line is this: Jesus didn’t instruct the apostles to perpetuate megachurch-style worship services, nor did He indicate that such worship would be life-giving. But He did institute the Eucharist, commanded the apostles to perpetuate it, and promised life to those who participate in it. Don’t we owe it to Him to worship as He commanded?”

Love,
Matthew

Adoration?

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-by Kasia I.

“The chapel was still and dark as we filed in, hushed, almost on tiptoe. The first sight we registered in our dim surroundings was the glow of the golden monstrance that framed Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. It was my first silent retreat, held at a convent, with several other young ladies attending. We had just finished our silent meal (unfortunately made up of such indiscreet foods as raw carrots and celery) and were about to start a lengthy period of Eucharistic Adoration.

I knelt reverently in front of the Host before sliding into my pew. After everyone finished her initial settling-in, the silence around us grew thick and almost palpable, only occasionally disturbed with the sound of a covered cough or creak of a kneeler. Closing my eyes and bowing my head, I tried to project an image of someone thoroughly engrossed in prayer, an image in keeping with the circumstances.

But during the beginning of that period of prayer, I kept feeling annoyed and uncomfortable—the kneelers were hard, the stuffy chapel lacked air conditioning, my shoulder kept aching irritatingly. Most awkward to me was the utter and unfamiliar silence. This lack of outward distraction, so unlike what I was used to every day, only seemed to amplify my inward distraction. A few times I squirmed uneasily and almost felt like screaming with exasperation. Since it was so noiseless, why couldn’t I concentrate on the fact that my Lord and my God was here before me? Desperately gathering and dismissing, and re-gathering and re-dismissing, my scattered thoughts (everything from “she’s wearing an interesting top” to “I knew I would forget to mail that birthday card”), I struggled in frustration. I loved God—why couldn’t I “feel” it?

I was thinking this way and trying to concentrate on Our Lord for at least an hour. Silence continued to reign. I could almost hear the minutes, the seconds, heavily dropping away one by one.

However, the longer I knelt in that sacred place, the less distracted I became. The thoughts and noises left in my mind from the everyday world eventually slipped away and dissolved into the silence. My soul slowly became stilled in the tranquility, and as it quieted I became more aware of Christ before me. I raised my eyes and looked on Him, in the appearance of a white Host, bordered by the shining gold and jewels of the kingly monstrance. Right here before us was the center of the chapel, the convent, the world—this Light, piercing the darkness that seemed to spread across everything else we could see. My eyes could not leave His Face, His Beauty. Suddenly I realized that, previously, I had been thinking selfishly. It didn’t matter how I “felt” within or without the silence, because He was the only one who really mattered. This silence which I’d found so oppressive at first became a vehicle of God’s love. The prayers which I had been struggling to express unknotted themselves and wound together seamlessly to make a wordless canticle of praise. I melted in love before the Lord my God.

My first prolonged and completely silent adoration became a defining period in my life. I had never realized how, in such a way, God’s love could be found in the calmness. God is easier to hear in the silence, as we can focus on His direction rather than on the events of the world. Of course struggles and distractions remain, and it takes quite a while every time to become interiorly still and attentive. However, I have glimpsed the power of silence as an aid to prayer and understanding. While I know the great importance of beautiful music and spiritual reading, I am no longer afraid or scornful of simply kneeling in inarticulate praise and love.

In fact, as I knelt that quiet night in adoration, I found no need for words or activities of any kind. Jesus Christ was before me and His Love was around me. And in the silence, my soul was singing.”

By Jove, I think she’s got it! Yes, it does “work”, for lack of a better, more immediate word, that way.

Love,
Matthew

Jul 9 – St John of Cologne, OP, (d.1572), Priest, Martyr of Gorkum, “Great Athlete of Christ”

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In his Decree of Canonization, St. John of Cologne was praised as a “great athlete of Christ.” As his title suggests, this Dominican priest is best known for the victory of his martyrdom, but it was his lifelong training in fidelity, lived through the Dominican charism, which prepared him for this final conquest.

St. John attended the University of Cologne in the middle of the sixteenth century. Although we don’t know much about his early life, we can learn something about it from John’s cultural setting. At this time, western Germany, Belgium, and Holland were dominated by Calvinist teaching, which viewed human nature as completely corrupt and denied the healing action of grace. As a result, even many Catholics had lost a sense of the reality of the sacramental life. Not unlike today, many in John’s age found moral absolutes hard to identify, and faith had become relegated to the private sphere.

Amid these uncertain cultural currents, John discovered the solid foundation of truth when he began his studies at the University of Cologne, then recognized as one of the best educational institutions in Europe. Not only did John acknowledge intellectual truth, but he also came to know the Person of Truth, Jesus Christ, and followed His call to the Dominican Order. He entered the Order at Cologne and received his formation there.

After completing his education, John was assigned to a parish in the Netherlands village of Horner, where he served for twenty years. Although we do not have records of the sermons of John of Cologne, his final actions give the most eloquent testimony about what he considered the purpose of his priestly vocation. In the spring of 1571, a group of militant Calvinists along with a band of pirates began raiding Dutch villages, particularly focusing on the arrest and capture of the Catholic clergy. In June of that year, the neighboring town of Gorkum was attacked, and the clergy were captured. Fifteen priests, the majority of them Franciscans, had been imprisoned.

Upon hearing of their arrest, John immediately disguised himself and sought to bring these priests the consolation of the sacraments. For several days he was successful, but was eventually captured along with three other priests. These nineteen were imprisoned in Gorkum from June 26 until July 6, undergoing much abuse as they were asked to deny the tenets of the Catholic faith.

On July 6, the nineteen martyrs were transferred to the prison at Dortrecht. Along the way, villagers were charged admission for viewing the torture of the priests. Once in Dortecht, each of them was asked to deny belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and in the primacy of the Pope. Each one remained steadfast in his profession of faith. Despite an order from the Dutch ruler William of Orange that the priests not be harmed, they were cruelly mutilated and hanged on the night of July 9, 1572. The Dominican John of Cologne, great athlete of Christ, had won his final victory of martyrdom. Along with his companions, he was beatified on November 14, 1675 and canonized on June 29, 1865.

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-by Br Richard Steenvoorde, OP, English Province

“The story of saint John of Cologne O.P. (+1572) proves that you can become a saint by doing the right thing at the right time.

John of Cologne was a 17th century Dominican in what is now the Netherlands, near the city of Gorinchem. He was a parish priest. In 1572 John is caught up in the Dutch Wars of Independence from Spain, which, confusingly, at the same time were also civil wars over religion. A band of Calvinist rebels had captured one city near Rotterdam, and introduced the strictest form of Calvinism possible. From there they undertook their raids in aid of the rebellion led by the protestant prince William of Orange (not to be confused by the later English King).

The rebels captured the town of Gorkum (present day: Gorinchem) and imprisoned all of the Franciscans, and some secular priests. They would be released if they would swear allegiance to the new Calvinist faith. Now John heard of this, and -in disguise- went out to visit the prisoners in order to give them Holy Communion. However, he was betrayed, and was added to the prisoners.

Soon after that, the group was shipped off to the centre of a Calvinist stronghold: Den Briel (Brielle). Upon arriving, they were forced to process around the gallows near the harbor.

“Sing”; the people shouted mockingly: “Sing something about Mary”. And one young friar finds the courage to sing. And the others join in. And suddenly the people are moved by the dignity of these men. Tears well up, and a deep silence comes over the crowd when the men stop. Quickly the pirates move the men to another pair of gallows in the town’s centre and force them to sing again, and they sing the Te Deum.

A mock trial follows, a late intervention by the Prince of Orange to save the men goes horribly wrong. The men are hanged in an old stable, part of a ruined monastic complex.

How must our brother John have felt in all this? We don’t know. No words of his were preserved. But I think his life is a sermon for us. He went out to bring Christ to others in need. He joined them in their suffering. Staying dignified, impressing their executioners, praying to God, finding courage through their deepest fears.

By this testimony, I think, the Martyrs of Gorkum, including friar John, have given us a testimony of what it means to be blessed in times of great adversity. Between how people treat us, and how we respond, there is a choice. John chose to respond as he had probably preached many times before. To witness that evil has not the last word. That through Christ’s redemptive work, we are truly blessed.”

Love,
Matthew

Come, My Way

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
such a way as gives us breath,
such a Truth as ends all strife,
such a life as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
such a light as shows a feast,
such a feast as mends in length,
such a strength as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
such a joy as none can move,
such a love as none can part,
such a heart as joys in love.

Love,
Matthew

Extemporaneous Prayer & The Joy of Ritual

Ritual, contrary to naive impressions, is not oppressive.  It is freeing.  Praying the rosary, responding at Mass, I used to know the words, and I liked them more.  The current language, more literal to the Latin, as if that were good translation technique, or, why not just put it back in Latin instead of bastardize it? Beautiful North American English, or beautiful Ecclesial Latin, pick one! The pomp and bluster we have now IS oppressive.  I can barely stand to listen.  The simplicity of the original English translations were moving and beautiful.  I knew it by heart, and as a technologist whose world was constantly changing and in motion, it was the one weekly constant I deeply counted on.  It steadied me.

Ritual, for those versed in its blessings, is not oppressive.  It frees one, one’s mind, one’s tongue, one’s body, one’s prayerful soul from having to fret, “OK!!!  Now what do we do next?  How do we top that one!  How do we continue to escalate this never ending spiritual arms race!”, as if breathtaking or moving were the ultimate or only good measures of devotion.

I find extemporaneous prayer exceedingly well intentioned and heartfelt, but perhaps not as brilliant or as articulate as could be hoped for.  Sigh.  I know.  Sigh.  But, fear not!!!  Ritual comes to the rescue when we know not what to say!!!  Are too mad to say it, or can only say it poorly, either when emotion is too painful or nonexistent, or the person leading is not the best.  Either way, on any end, ritual saves the day!!!  Let’s hear it for ritual!!!!  Ancient quality control & ego saver!!!  🙂  My parents, when visiting Paris & Rome, could still participate in Mass said in Latin.  They always appreciated that, and mentioned it to their children.

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-by Michael, blogger @WhiskeyCatholic, a Pittsburgh attorney with a lovely wife and newborn daughter.

“Perhaps more than any other religion, Catholicism is a belief system based on informed ritual. This is particularly prevalent with younger Catholics, many of whom have a desire to rediscover the rituals that have been lost in the past 100 years. While others deride these rituals as “antiquated” or “relics of a more ignorant age,” the Catholic Gentleman seeks to understand the importance of ritual and helps recapture its former beauty and grace.

Ritual is an action or actions, performed in a prescribed order, which give greater reverence to worship. Some rituals, such as kneeling at communion rails, reverencing a bishop’s ring, or wearing mantillas, have generally fallen into disuse in the United States while others, such as genuflecting, making the sign of the cross, and lighting candles to remember the dead are still strong in today’s Catholic culture.

Not all rituals are created equal. Some rituals, like Lebron James’ chalk throw before every game are designed to excite a crowd, and others, like the rally-cap in baseball, are just plain silly. The Catholic Church’s rituals, evolving over a period of two thousand years, are designed to augment and improve worship. Some simply add to the atmosphere of reverence, while others are a form of worship in and of themselves. The Catholic Gentleman should gravitate to those rituals which aid in creating a certain sense of gravity, reverence, and wonderment befitting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The Sacrifice of the Mass, it might be said, is the ultimate ritual. In the Mass, the words of Christ are recited as He gave them to the apostles in order to replicate the perfect prayer of the Last Supper. A loving God instructs His people how to worship and please Him, and Christ instructed His Church not on the basis of abstract principles but on the concrete example of the first Mass. We have been saved, in a manner of speaking, through a divine ritual.

Ritual often gives the laity an opportunity to participate in an authentic way in worship. Ritual gives the Catholic Gentleman an opportunity to self-express reverence for the divine while uniting him with the larger Sacrifice. For example, a simple genuflection is an authentic participation because it expresses reverence for the real presence of Christ in the tabernacle while uniting the Catholic to the sacrifice on the altar.

The laity can also seek out ritual as a common cultural thread through time and space. There is something inherently unifying in the fact that a Mass said in South Carolina is conducted through the identical rituals of a Mass said in Tokyo. Similarly, there is something unquestionably comforting in knowing that the rosary we pray today is nearly identical to the rosary prayed by our ancestors in faith nearly one thousand years ago. Ritual forms a common culture which connects Catholics from all parts of the world and gives identity to successive generations of Catholics throughout the history of the Church. In a single instant the ritual allows us to draw a cultural connection to fellow believers separated by time or space.

Ritual is also part of what makes Catholicism unique. Whereas others might decry ritual as nothing more than an attempt to muddle a clear understanding of the divine, the Catholic Gentleman knows that ritual informs Catholics of the divine; it is an acknowledgement that something spectacular and extraordinary is taking place.

Of course, ritual is dead and meaningless if it is not an expression of love for Christ. Love is the essence of what drives and perfects rituals. Love is the very thing that gives them reason for existing in the first place. The root of all Catholic ritual should be the authentic love of Christ. The Catholic Gentleman embraces the opportunity ritual provides to show Christ reverence and in doing so provides an example to others.”

Love,
Matthew