Monday, December 12, 2011

Reclaiming Silence

A very good read on the need to reclaim silence in our liturgies:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Confession, Good for the Soul and the Body

Today's gospel passage (Lk 5:17-26) got me to thinking about the physical consequences of sin, but let me back up a ways first and make some other connections.  Over the past several months I have been undertaking some studies in the area of counselling and psychology.  One important thing I learned, which most people do not know, is that untreated mental illness can have the effect of shortening one's life expectancy.  As I said, most people would probably not expect that to be the case, we could all make the connection between physical illness and a shorter life span, but mental illness?  I don't have all the details on what the effects are, but I would suspect that untreated mental illness at the very least contributes to a heightened level of stress on the rest of the body, and thus leads to a shorter life.  I would like to suggest that something similar might be true of sin.  I'm sure for those with a strong interior life, a strong prayer life, it becomes noticeable when sins begin to accumulate, and when confession is becoming over due.  I certainly have had that experience in prayer, but I've noticed physical signs in myself as well.  I suffer from a neck injury I sustained in a car accident back in high school.  Most of the time it's fine, but I know that when stress is building around something the stiffness sets in.  There are times when I have nothing to be stressed about, but realize that it's been a while since I've been to confession, because my neck gives me the same signal.  Many times too, I have heard the confession of someone with a "big" sin to confess, or someone who has been away from confession for a long time.  At the end of the confession, you can see a physical difference, as though a weight has been lifted from their shoulders.  Theologically we know that death entered the world as a consequence of sin, but perhaps (and I have no theological or scientific evidence for this other than my own observations) leaving our sins untended and unconfessed can have an effect on our physical well-being as well.  This Advent, as we prepare for Christmas, it's a good time to make a confession if we haven't been in a while.  As so many people are focusing on their health I suggest the following simple rules:  have a good diet, get a good night's sleep, get good exercise, and make a good confession.  You just might feel better, in more ways than one.

A Tribute to Liturgical Music

With my latest post on the liturgy, I couldn't help but offer this little tribute to the music of the past few decades.  A little humour for Monday.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Musings on the Mass - The New Translation (Part II)

Over the past week I have had the opportunity to not only celebrate the Mass using the texts of the new translation, but also to observe several other priests celebrate as well, and I could not help but note something, which is perhaps so obvious as to be overlooked.  In my last posting on the new translation, I observed that the new words carried a certain passion about them, something which I was very glad to see and experience.  The implication of course being, that seeing the passion in the new words, it became that much more painfully obvious that the old translation was very much bereft of passion.  That being said, there is (and I'm sure just about everyone would agree on this point) also a high level of solemnity to the new translation, a gravitas to the new words, a level of formality to the prayers not experienced since the introduction of the Missal of Paul VI into the vernacular.  Having observed several of my brother priests celebrating with this new translation something becomes apparent.  The old translation begot (in some priests) a rather casual manner of celebrating the Mass, congruent with the more casual language of the text.  Having that same causal manner of celebrating imported into the new text now causes a rather significant incongruity, I think.  Similarly, the hymns which have accompanied the celebration of Mass for the last several decades, especially those by the triumvirate of Marty Haugen, David Hass, and Lucien Deiss, now seem rather out of place, as we seem to be constantly switching back and forth between sing-songy hymns and the elevated language praising the transcendent God of the Missal.  Perhaps the new translation will begin now to have an ever broader effect, both to the ars celebrandi of priests, and to the musical selections by choirs, as we look towards the future of the Roman Rite, and the way we celebrate the praise and worship of our Almighty God.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent "Non-Doing"

A couple of days ago, the first real snowfall of the year made its way through southern Ontario.  At my present location there is a vast open field behind the building, with grass, trees and some flower gardens.  As I walked past a rather wide window and looked out on the entire scene covered in a blanket of snow, I just said to myself, "Now it's Advent!"  What did I mean by that?  Well certainly there is very much an association with snow in my mind with this time of year, coming from Montreal originally, we know what real snow is.  As I reflected further on my own exclamation, there is a good connection between snow and what the season of Advent is really all about.  When snow is covering the ground, all of creation is asleep, waiting.  Plants and trees are not growing, they are dormant, storing up energy for the spring time when they will bud forth into new life.  Advent is about waiting, and it is about not doing.  Out in the consumer world, the time leading up to Christmas is about anything but not doing, it's about endless shopping, and "holiday" parties, to the point where Christmas just becomes an anti-climax, as we collapse exhausted after the pre-Christmas hustle and bustle.  Perhaps we can take a clue from God's creation around us, as it waits calmly, serenely, patiently, and quietly for the coming spring, so we in this holy season of preparation are invited to wait in the quiet of our hearts and homes for the coming of our Saviour.  This Advent let's pull back from the doing, and enter a bit more into the being, the patient and quiet waiting for the springtime of our Saviour's arrival.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Where Freedom is to be Found

My circumstances this week have given me pause to reflect on the nature of freedom.  What those circumstances are, are not really necessary to the reflection, so I won't tell you.  So often we think of freedom in terms of being able to do what we want, to go where we want.  We don't want restrictions put on ourselves, especially from outside, from some authority.  I'm not going to claim that I'm immune to those feelings, I think there is something within us, something God has placed within us that just yearns for freedom.  The problem that we so often encounter, is that just like happiness, we search for it in the wrong way, and in the wrong places (I'm sure there's a country/western song in there somewhere).  I'm sure it would be a surprise to many that freedom could be found locked in a room, in a prison cell, or just about anywhere.  True freedom comes from within.  St. Thérèse of Lisieux is the patroness of the missions, and she never left her cloister.  That seems rather incongruous, but speaks of a similar reality.  We find true freedom within and with God, we can't forget that second part.  In the search for inner peace and freedom many turn to eastern religions who suggest an inner freedom, but at the expense of that connection to the Other, that higher reality which is God.  Freedom is found in relationship to God, in accepting his will whatever it might be.  It really doesn't matter where you are to do that, in a church, in your room, in your office, freedom is there.  Some weeks back I was reading the book He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Ciszek, an excellent reflection on this idea, that I would highly recommend reading.  Fr. Ciszek found freedom while he was in a prison cell, and a Soviet labour camp in Siberia.  The last place most people would look for freedom.  For Fr. Ciszek though, he came to realize that freedom was not to be found in his ability to come and go as he pleased, or in his ability to do whatever he wanted, but it was in accepting and doing God's will in whatever circumstances he found himself.  The next time anyone of us goes looking for freedom somewhere out there, we should remember Fr. Ciszek's lesson, freedom begins within, with our total and complete surrender to God, and acceptance of His will, wherever we are, and in whatever we do.