Monday, March 21, 2011

Time Drawn Into Eternity Conference: Papers of Bishop Elliott and Fr. Van der Putten, FSSP

Time Drawn Into Eternity Conference: Papers of Bishop Elliott and Fr. Van der Putten, FSSP

Two very imporant liturgical papers, definitely worth a read.

Two excerpts speaking about our present Holy Father's liturgical vision:

"His [the Pope's] cosmological vision of the Eucharist explains the Pope’s appreciation for celebrating the Eucharist ad orientem, that is, towards the East. Led by the priest, the pilgrim people turn towards the Light of the risen Lord, reigning in his cosmos and coming again in his parousia. As cardinal he was well aware of the cultural difficulty of appreciating this ancient universal Christian symbolism in the secularized Western World. But he did not even consider that ignorant expression we still hear, celebrating Mass “with his back to the people”. That misses the whole point of the priest who is leading a worship procession towards the Lord."

"By word and demeanor he reminds us that liturgy is a gift to be received in humility, not something we construct for ourselves, not a fabrication. Here he strongly rejects a decadent style of liturgy that set in soon after Vatican II. That style was contrived to be a deliberate break with the past."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Prayers for the Asian Earthquake Victims

Greetings friends, I'm sure the whole world knows about the devestating events that have taken place in China and Japan, and the suffering that continues.   I'm also sure that many of us are joined in prayer for all those affected.  What you may not know is that there are Mass texts found in the Roman Missal for just such occasions.  The section is entitled "Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions", and I just offer three texts found in that section (from the 1975 Missal, not the new translation yet) to aid in our prayer for the victims of the natural disasters (the prayers are really meant for those directly affected, but I'm sure you can modify them as you see fit):

In Time of Earthquake:

God our Father,
you set the earth on its foundation.
Keep us safe from the danger of earthquakes
and let us always feel the presence of your love.
May we be secure in your protection
and serve you with grateful hearts.

For Fine Weather:

All-powerful and ever-living God,
we find security in your forgiveness.
Give us the fine weather we pray for
so that we may rejoice in your gifts of kindness
and use them always for your glory and our good.

To Avert Storms:

all the elements of nature obey your command.
Calm the storms that threaten us
and turn our fear of your power
into praise of your goodness.

Friday, March 4, 2011

New Translation Finally Approved

The new translation of the Roman Missal has finally received the Recognitio for implementation in Canada.  For those unfamiliar with the process, each Conference of Bishops must submit requests for local adaptations for the Missal, such as the inclusion of local saints not celebrated universally, or other local adaptations.  Most other English speaking jurisdictions in the world received their Recognitio some time ago, but Canada has still been waiting.  This means that we can implement the new translation on the First Sunday of Advent along with the rest of the English speaking world.  If you don't believe me, the following is an excerpt from the Bishop of Hamilton's weekly communiqué:

"THE CCCB RECEIVED THE 'RECOGNITIO' FOR THE ROMAN MISSAL recently. At meetings of the Executive and Permanent Council is was decided that the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (posture, etc.) will be implemented on September 25th and the Roman Missal itself will be implemented on the First Sunday of Advent."

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cardinals: liturgical abuse weakens the faith |

Cardinals: liturgical abuse weakens the faith |

Another good article to read. In the same day, an article on the Liturgy's effects on morality, and one on it's effects on faith, I hope everyone is listening.

Musings on the Mass - A Question of Orientation

(Despite the title, this has nothing to do with the previous post.)

To begin this post, a reminder, these musings are simply my prayerful reflections on my own experience of celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, I am not attempting to offer any strict theological arguments.  If you are looking for theology on the subject, check out Turning Towards the Lord by Fr. Uwe-Michael Lang, and The Spirit of the Liturgy by Pope Benedict as two starting points.

Although my priesthood is still somewhat in its infancy (having not yet reached my second anniversary), I have had the opportunity to celebrate Mass ad orientem (facing the same direction as the congregation) on a number of occasions.  The vast majority of the Masses I have celebrated have been versus populum (facing towards the people), but I have celebrated perhaps a dozen Masses turned "the other way around".  You might be thinking that I am referring to the Extraordinary Form, however I have only had the opportunity to celebrate that form of the Mass twice.  The other perhaps ten times have been Masses celebrated for small groups, but in the Ordinary Form, and in English.

The first of these occasions was after just a month of ordination, and just this one experience gave me a profound change of outlook on the way I celebrate Mass.  Saying Mass with the congregation behind me, demonstrated to me just how much I felt the need to "perform" for the people in front of me when saying Mass facing them.  My awareness of that came largely through the absence of that desire when facing the other way.  If I had never celebrated Mass ad orientem, most likely I would never have noticed.

Of course I have heard the classic argument that when the priest faces ad orientem it inhibits participation, but remember, these were Ordinary Form, vernacular Masses, the people were still making the same response, saying the same prayers, hearing the same words, I was just facing the other way (of course we could get into the true nature of "participation", but I'll leave that for another day).  Likewise, I was not up there "doing my own thing" as often claimed of the Extraordinary Form, I was very much aware of the congregation behind me, even if I wasn't looking directly at them.

As I began to reflect further on the experience, I also recognized a greater sense of being (wait for it...) the servant of the people when facing ad orientem.  When facing the altar, I was now facing God, I was there on behalf of all of the people gathered behind me, I was offering the sacrifice of the Mass to God, on behalf of the assembled congregation, I was not there as the "leader" or the "presider", ruling over the people from my chair three steps higher than everyone else, I was there as the intermediary between God and his people, offering the sacrifice for the sins of the people.

Once again, I will remind you that these are just my own musings, my own subjective experience, but I would challenge my brother priests, just try it, once or twice.  Make sure it's in a church (if there's a tabernacle in the centre so much the better), make sure you have at least a few people in the congregation, not just you and a server, do it in the Ordinary Form, do it in the vernacular, then reflect on the experience afterward.  You just might find it changes your perspective on things, in more ways than one.

Liturgy’s effect on gay 'marriage' debate :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

Liturgy’s effect on gay 'marriage' debate :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

Have a read of this article.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Rant, Because It's My Blog - The Proper Use of "Bishop"

...after all, what's the point of having a blog if you can't go on a rant every now and then.

Last Sunday I had the privilege of assisting our Emeritus Auxiliary Bishop with the celebration of Confirmation at a neighbouring parish and the experience got me pondering, of all things, the direction in which our English language is headed.  To be more specific, I began to ponder how we have started to use the word "bishop", and what that might mean.

I think most would agree that our English language has gone downhill over the past century.  If you read anything written by someone with even a mediocre education from the 19th century or even the early part of the 20th century, then read something written by a university graduate in the last couple of decades it's clear that there has been a marked decline in the quality of the English language, at least in how it is used.  As someone quipped recently on another blog, in a couple of generations we have gone from teaching Greek and Latin in high school, to teaching remedial English in university.

Now to the rant, let's take a look at the word "bishop", for those with some understanding of English grammar and syntax, this word functions as a common noun, but not a proper noun, but we have started to use it as a proper noun.  A small and trivial point you say, let's look at it in context, the word "bishop", is much like the word "priest".  Pass a priest you know on the street, and say to him "Hello priest", isn't that more of an insult, but yet we think nothing of saying, "Hello bishop".

In case you didn't know, the proper way to address a bishop is "Your Excellency".  Ah, but I hear the objections now, let's look at a few of the common ones.  First, "Your Excellency" is too formal, we want to make the bishop seem more approachable.  Well, if the bishop has to resort to simplifying his proper title to seem more approachable, maybe he needs to learn to smile more.  Second, calling the bishop "Your Excellency" is simply too difficult for the children in the confirmation class.  Really?  Thirteen-year-old children can't learn, remember, and say a four syllable word, has our education system failed that badly?  Third, formal titles like these just aren't a part of our culture any more, we function more casually.  Let me offer a story for this point.  Several years ago I was taking a summer course in Ottawa, during my downtime one day I went on a tour of Rideau Hall, the official residence of Canada's Governor General.  As the tour progressed we passed by the Ball Room (if you have ever seen an Order of Canada presentation, or the swearing in of a new government, you know the room of which I'm speaking), and in the Ball Room is a chair which is used only by the Governor General.  A small boy on the tour, perhaps only 7 or 8 asked the tour guide, "Is that where Adrienne sits?" (a reference to then Governor General Adrienne Clarkson).  The tour guide immediately corrected the child, "Yes, that is where Her Excellency sits."  (The title "Excellency" is also accorded by civil custom to the Governor General of Canada).  A tour guide working for a civil authority would not accept the familiarization or 'dumbing down' of the proper title of a government figure, even from an 8-year-old child, but we don't blink at the same thing when done to a bishop of the Church.

For centuries the Church has not only been the guardian of faith and moral teaching, but the de facto guardian of art and culture as well, but over the past several decades we have abdicated that responsibility and gone along with the debasement and banalization of culture that has gone on around us.  Maybe it's time we start to reclaim our role as guardians of culture, and perhaps we can begin with the language we use.  The next time you see a bishop flash him a smile, and give him a nice "Hello Your Excellency".

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Identity Revealed

Not that it was a great mystery, since most of you who have been reading this blog have been linking to it from my Facebook page, but in case you didn't know, my name is Fr. Brendan McGrath, a priest of the Diocese of Hamilton.  I wanted this blog to be more about the content than the author, but decided there really isn't any great need for anonymity any longer, especially seeing as I've provided a link to my Twitter feed as well.  Neverthless, it's still about the content, not the author.

Sunday Homily - Seek First the Kingdom of God

“Holiness”, it's one of those words that we hear so often in religious contexts, at Church, in homilies, that it begins to lose its meaningfulness.  It's also one of those words, one of those ideas, which just seems to be for someone else.  We can look at the example of so many of the saints and think, “holiness is not for me, I couldn't possibly be a saint like those others.”  This idea, that holiness is for someone else, is not a new one, it has been a part of our consciousness for a long time, in fact if you ask someone of an older generation, particularly a priest who was ordained before the Second Vatican Council, they could tell you that there used to be different levels of holiness, or so it was thought. 

It used to be understood that there were three levels of holiness, at the top of the list were the monks and nuns, the ones who lived in the monasteries and convents, cloistered away from the rest of the world, who spent their entire day praying and working, it was just assumed that they were automatically at the top of the holiness list.  Second came the secular or diocesan priests, they live and work in the world, but because they are in close contact with holy things, the Sacraments, and were schooled in prayer and theology, they were thought to be second on the holiness list.  Finally at the bottom of the list came everyone else, who couldn’t possibly ascend to the levels of holiness occupied by those at the top of the list.

This idea that “holiness is for someone else” has been challenged in the last few decades by a teaching, often called the “Universal Call to Holiness”, it teaches that holiness is for everyone, not just a select few, that we are all called to be saints, and not just after we die, but right here and right now.  This teaching is a very ancient one, if we look to many of the writings of St. Paul, we find that he refers to the Christians in the communities to which he is writing as “Saints”.  Of course someone could raise the objection, “but what about all the Canonized Saints, they’re all priests and religious, where are all the laypeople?”  Well, certainly there are many laypeople among the list of Canonized Saints, though sadly we don’t hear too much about them.

Then there’s the second argument, “of course there are more priests and religious who are saints, it’s easier for them.  Priests and religious don’t have the same cares and concerns as everyone else.  The monks in the monastery have a place to live, their meals are provided for them, they have their habits to wear, and even their days is worked out for them, they have time to work, and lots of time to pray.  The priests may be working in the world looking after the parish and the needs of the people, but they still have their rectory provided, bills are paid, and they don’t even have to worry about what to wear in the morning, they just wear the same uniform every day.  For the rest of us, we just don’t have time to pray.”  This, my friends, is what our gospel is all about today.

In our gospel today, our Lord challenges us about where our priorities should be.  He says to “first seek the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” and all of our other needs will be cared for by our Father in heaven.  It’s an invitation to examine our priorities, to see if God occupies the first place in our life, and a challenge to grow in our faith, if we don’t believe that God will provide for our needs.  As we begin our examination, it might we worthwhile first, to look at our cares and concerns and worries, and see which ones are real concerns, because so often we simply manufacture cares and concerns for ourselves.

Perhaps I could offer a practical example, though a bit of an absurd one.  Not all that long ago there was a commercial on television; I believe it was for a laundry detergent.  The commercial featured a girl, who spent the length of the commercial complaining about the fact that she had to wear her older sister’s hand-me-down jeans, instead of the nice new pair.  Is this a real concern, or a manufactured one?  I’m sure we could come up with many other examples to illustrate the point, but it is worth it to look at all of the things about which we spend time worrying, and see just how many of them are manufactured worries, ones that we create for ourselves.

Then of course, what about those genuine worries, the real needs, putting food on the table, mortgage payments, car payments; the authentic necessities.  Our Lord invites us to lay them at his feet, and don’t worry about them.  Allow me to offer another short story to illustrate this point.  There was a young man who was a couple of years behind me in the seminary.  He realized that he was not going to be able to cover his costs to continue his studies (as we progressed in the seminary the diocese would cover more and more of our costs, but at the beginning we would have to pay our entire tuition and some other fees).  He could have started worrying, fretted about finding a second or third job over the summer in order to pay for his studies, but what did he do?  He prayed, he essentially said, “God, if you want me to be a priest, I need to study in the seminary, but I can’t afford to study in the seminary, so if you want me to be a priest, you need to handle this situation.”  Low and behold, a donation came in which covered his costs and he was able to continue.

Naturally, we must be ready to accept that from time to time, we may pray for something, and not get it, God may be telling us that what we think is a need, isn’t one, it’s a want, but if we rely on him, he will always give us what we truly need.

Our Lord invites us, through our gospel today to focus on what is truly necessary, to make God, his kingdom, and his righteousness to be our first priority.  He invites us to place our needs at his feet and know that he will take care of them.  If we do so, if we make prayer and holiness our first priority and leave the rest to God, then we will begin to see saints among us, we will begin to see holiness all around us.  Holiness will no longer be for someone else, somewhere else, it will no longer be only for those who have “the time” to pray, but it will be for each and every one of us, right here, and right now.