Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas at St. Stanislaus

I had a wonderful Christmas at my parish of St. Stanislaus. A number of volunteers turned out to decorate the church, and as always, they did an outstanding job (click on the photos for enlarged versions):

The Sanctuary Decorated for Christmas

We had some wonderful music for the Christmas Masses as well. At the Vigil Mass, which is traditionally the "Children's Mass", we had an ensemble of the 3rd through 8th grade students sing the old Catholic Christmas hymn "Sleep, Holy Babe", in 3 parts (It had to be three parts, since none of our boys are basses yet!). But the organ filled in for the bass part, and they sounded very nice, as you can hear:

Post-Communion: Sleep, Holy Babe

At Midnight Mass, we pulled out all the stops, and had beautiful music for that Mass as well, provided by a 12 voice men's ensemble we put together for the occasion. But more about that later...

In the meantime, here is a photo of me vested for Mass, in the parish's festive gold and white vestments:

I hope your Christmas was a blessed and joyful one!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Livin' la Dolce Vita

I don't have time for a lengthy post, because the internet cafe I'm at closes in a short time.

But I had a grea day following my Mass at St. Peter's. Frs. Shenosky, Carr, and I enjoyed a couple of leisurely cups of excellent cappucino and delicious sweet rolls. Then, as they went back to their studies, I went off and explored. First stop was the Gesù, home church of the Jesuits:

Unfortunately, the Gesù was a bit of a disappointment. It's an impressive church, of course:

The Sanctuary of the Gesù

But the reason I went there was to see the Altar of St. Ignatius. This altar has more lapis lazuli in it than exists in any other single place on earth. When I was here studying 10 years ago it was closed for restoration and could not be seen. And guess what happened this time? Yeah, closed again. Will I ever see it in this life?

After the Gesu, I went to the Basilica of San Marco, which has a wonderful 6th century mosaic in the apse. I had the lights turned on in the sanctuary, but I still couldn't get enough light for a good photo. I'll try again.

From there I went to the Roman Forum:

I studied Classics in college and graduate school, so I can never get tired of seeing the forum and imagining it in its glory.

After a full day of sightseeing, I returned to the Casa and joined Fr. Shenosky for dinner. We went to a great place near the Pantheon, which had outstanding carbonara. Talk about inspiration:

A perfect end to a perfect day.

More later!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I'm In Rome...I'm Really Here!

That's the thought I've had several times since my arrival Tuesday afternoon. After the long flight everything seemed sort of surreal, until dinner, when I looked around and it hit me - I'm really here. I'm staying at the Casa Santa Maria, which is the residence for American priests pursuing graduate studies in Rome. This is where I lived when I was here in 1997 to study Latin with Fr. Reginald Foster, the (in)famous "Pope's Latinist".

The Casa is in an incredible location: It's right around the corner from the Trevi Fountain, and next door to the famous Gregorian University:

The "Greg"

The Casa's also about a block and a half from the Piazza Venezia, which is the heart of the histori downtown center of Rome. As you walk down into the Piazza from the Casa on the via del Corso, you see this:

The Vittorio Emmanuele Monument

The Vittoria Emmanuele monument is dedicated to King Vittorio Emmanuele II, the first king of a unified Italy. It's certainly imposing, but many Italians think it's a bit over the top.

In the same piazza is the Palazzo Venezia, which is (in)famous because Mussolini used to harangue the crowds in the Piazza from it's window:

So, yesterday morning my adventure began in earnest. I arose early in the morning and left with two friends, Fr. Joe Shenosky (who was a classmate of mine at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia) and Fr. Elias Carr (who is a friend of mine from back in grad school at Catholic University), who are both pursuing graduate studies in Rome and live at the Casa. Our destination: St. Peter's:

St. Peter's in the Early Morning Glow

Fr. Shenosky, Myself, and Fr. Carr in Front of St. Peter's

We went to St. Peter's to offer Mass. Specifically, we had made arrangements to offer Mass at the Clementine Altar, which is the altar in the crypt of the Basilica immediately behind the tomb of St. Peter. There's no altar at St. Peter's closer to the tomb itself than this.

The Clementine Chapel and Altar

Behind the grille above the altar is the stone of the back wall of St. Peter's tomb.

So, Frs. Shenosky, Carr, and myself offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, and I fulfilled a dream I've had for 10 years:

Fr. Rob and Fr. Shenosky after Mass

So that was the beginning of my first full day in the Eternal City. I'll have more later, about my visits to the Roman Forum and the Basilica of San Marco. But I'm off to Ravenna later today!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Fr. Rob Is Off To Italy!

That's right, I leave for Italy next Monday!

I will be in Italy for 10 days, with 6 days in the Eternal City, and trips to Ravenna, Anagni, and more!

This is my first trip to Italy since 1997, when I studied Latin in Rome with the legendary Fr. Reginald Foster, in a special program for advanced Latin students. While there I made a promise to God that if I was ordained, I would go back to Rome and offer Mass at the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul, and at St. Mary Major. So I am finally fulfilling that promise.

I received confirmation earlier this week that I will indeed be offering Masses at the Clementine altar of St. Peter's, and at the Praesepio (the crib) altar at St. Mary Major.

In addition to visiting all these great churches and praying a lot, I will be enjoying la dolce vita as well. I'll be visiting wineries near Ravenna (home of the famous "Barbarossa") and in Frascati, and hopefully in Montefiascone, home of the famous Est! Est! Est!.

After my Italian sojourn, I'll stop over for 6 days in England where I will tour Old Catholic Lancashire and see friends in Oxford.

I hope to do some tour-blogging while I'm over there. I'll be bringing the laptop and digital camera, so come back and check what I'm doing over there!

I Will Survive Bad Music

Way Funny!

How Can I Witness My Faith in the Workplace?

That's the question raised by one reader:

Father Rob,
I am an employer and suspect that some of my employees are "living together" and am concerned about their eternal future. Do you have any brochures on cohabitation that you could recommend? I was thinking of leaving them in our lobby and lunch room. Most of these folks are not Catholic and am thinking of a CD or small brochure. Thank you.

A Concerned Boss

I answer:

I would recommend, firstly, that you be very low-key about this. As an employer, you are in a position of authority, but that authority is circumscribed by the workplace. An employee could very easily react by saying "You're my boss at work, but my private life is none of your business" - and he would have a valid point.

That being said, I'd recommend two articles:

"Cohabitation Fails as a Test for Marriage", Homiletic & Pastoral Review, May 2000

"How Splitting Up Brought Them Together", National Catholic Register, March 17, 2001

I'd also recommend the pamphlet "Living Together and Christian Comittment", by James Healy, published by Rooted in Love ( However, this pamphlet is more specifically intended for couples who are engaged and seeking to marry in the Church.

I hope this helps.

Fr. Rob

Monday, October 01, 2007

If Jesus Was Just a Moral Teacher, He Was Wasting His Time

Homily for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Amos 6:1a, 4-7
1 Timothy 6:11-16
Luke 16:19-31

I would imagine that many of you have heard, at one time or another, someone (usually someone who says this sort of thing is trying to sound very worldly and sophisticated) say or write something like “Jesus came to show us how to love…”. Or, perhaps, something like “Jesus was a great moral teacher.” Now, this sort of thing may, at first, sound very well and good. But, in fact, they are very silly things to say. Very silly things indeed. Because we didn’t need Jesus to “show us” how to love. We know very well what it means to act in a loving way. We know the difference between being loving and being selfish. And we didn’t need Jesus to tell us right from wrong. Indeed, prophets and philosophers and wise men have been telling us for millennia what right and wrong are. Some 700 years before Christ, the prophet Amos lamented the wickedness of the people of Israel, and how the rich and powerful were more interested in enjoying their wealth and power than in living Godly lives. In our first reading, we hear the prophet say “Woe to the complacent in Zion! Lying upon beds of ivory…they eat lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall! …They drink wine from bowls, and anoint themselves with the best oils; yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph!"

And if we look at our gospel today, it would appear from the Lord’s parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus that little had changed: the rich still enjoy their riches, and the poor suffer, waiting ‘til the next life to receive their consolation. We might even take Our Lord’s conclusion to be kind of depressing: Those who are unconvinced of the need for righteousness by the prophets and the moral law won’t even be convinced by someone rising from the dead, referring to Himself.

If Jesus came as merely someone to give us an example of love, or as another moral teacher, then I’m afraid He was wasting His time.

No, the problem isn’t in knowing what it means to love, or knowing right from wrong. The problem isn’t in the knowing, it’s in the doing. We can’t seem to get out act together to actually do what we know we should. We can’t seem to live as we know we ought.

And that, my brothers and sisters, brings us to the real point of Jesus’ coming. Jesus came in order to transform us. He came to take our hearts of stone and give us hearts after His own Heart. He came to empower us to live lives no longer for ourselves, but for Him. All the moral teaching in the world is no good if it falls on the same rocky, weed-grown lives we have apart from Him. He came so that, by taking on our human nature, our nature could be restored and redeemed in Him. As we heard in the Alleluia verse before the Gospel, “Though Christ Jesus was rich, He became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” The riches that God wants us to have are the riches of Christ’s grace and power, giving us the ability to live a new kind of life – His own life.

And we access that power, we avail ourselves of that grace, by the means He gave us through the Church. We do so here, in the Sacred Liturgy, where we are lifted up into the life of heaven itself, where Christ comes to meet us and we receive Him in the most real way. Here we meet Christ in a “heavenly exchange” by which the new life He won for us is renewed and extended. We go forth from this liturgy empowered by Christ to live as apostles in the world.

We access, we avail ourselves of the grace and power of Christ through frequenting the sacramental life of the Church, especially in the sacrament of Penance. We do so also through a life of charity. Performing works of charity is both a fruit of lived faith, and a means by which that faith is strengthened and by which we receive additional grace. We also receive the grace and power of Christ through devoting ourselves to prayer. It is by prayer that we grow in intimacy with the Lord, and learn more clearly how He is calling us to serve Him in the here and now.

The liturgy, the sacraments, a life of charity, and prayer. These are the means by which Christ has made it possible for us to “tap into” His power, His grace, His life. If we “lay hold” of His life in these ways, we will “lay hold”, as St. Paul says, of the eternal life to which we are called. In this way we can fulfill St. Paul’s charge to “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness.” And we will come one day into the unapproachable light, wherein dwells the King of Kings and Lord of lords.

I'm Not Only a Nerd, I'm "King Nerd" says I'm a Nerd King.  What are you?  Click here!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Anna Quindlen Is Clever

At least, that's what she seems to think.

In last week's Newsweek she wrote a column asking "How Much Jail Time" pro-lifers want to give women who have abortions. In it Quindlen refers to a video in which pro-lifers are allegedly "gobsmacked" by someone confronting them with this question.

Now, I can't speak for the pro-lifers in this video, but I too might appear "gobsmacked" if Ms. Quindlen put such a question to me. Not because I would be at a loss to respond to the question, but due to the moral shallowness and vapidity of the question. Quindlen demonstrates, as she is wont, that she is incapable of making distinctions, or indeed, engaging in serious thought.

Over at National Review Online, a number of actual serious thinkers offer an excellent series of responses to her question. I can imagine Quindlen, after writing her column, having thought "HA! I've got those pro-lifers now!" Except she hasn't. Her question is neither very original nor very clever. I can recall dismantling this silly question in dorm-room bull sessions in college 20 years ago.

What Quindlen is unable to recognize, as others in the NRO Symposium point out, is that the law didn't target women seeking abortions because the law recognized that women who felt so desperate that they sought an abortion were in need of compassion and help, not punishment.

But in the feminist pro-abortion ideology embraced by Quindlen and the establishment Left, the woman seeking an abortion is always exercising her "power", and making a self-asserting "choice". No room for woman as desperate, frequently abandoned, victim. Like every ideology, pro-abortion feminism ignores reality - in this case the desperate reality of the vast majority of women who get abortions - and shoe-horns these women into their ideologically prescribed template.

But the fact is that a pregnant woman is vulnerable. Feminists cannot stand to acknowledge such a reality. But a decent, moral society recognizes reality and sees to it that a pregnant woman is supported and protected, ideally, by encouraging and building up marriage and stable family life, and by providing life-affirming options when that ideal breaks down. A decent, moral society does not leave pregnant women so bereft that they see killing their unborn children as their only option.

Pro-lifers are "gobsmacked" by Quindlen's silly question because they understand the pregnant woman's vulnerability, and want to protect the woman and the child in a society like that described above. Too bad that she's too clever to see that.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Motu Proprio Pamphlet Available For Download

I have prepared a pamphlet explaining some of the main points of the holy father's Motu Proprio liberalizing the use of the Classical Roman Rite, now known as the "Extraordinary Form".

It's titled "The Holy Father’s Motu Proprio On the “Old” Mass: What Does It Mean for Us?"

In it I attempt to summarize what the Motu Proprio does, and some of the reasons why Pope Benedict promulgated it. For example, I wrote:
In this document, Pope Benedict grants any priest who can properly celebrate Mass according to the “old” usage the right to do so, without the need to seek permission from his bishop. Furthermore, it allows the faithful who desire the Mass according to the Classical Rite to request it from their pastors, who are now expected to “willingly grant” such requests.

I also include some concrete advice for people as to "what you can do about this":
Well, firstly, if you’re not familiar with the Extraordinary form of the Mass, or with our Latin tradition, take a little time to start getting familiar with them.

This pamphlet is written for the parish, like mine (and most out there), that does not have any Masses offered, as yet, in the Extraordinary Form or even much use of Latin in the Novus Ordo, where people may be a bit leery about the Motu Proprio because of things they have read and heard implying that this is all about Pope Benedict "turning back the clock" or "going back on Vatican II." I discovered that many people were under the impression that the Church was going completely back to the "Old Mass", so I clear up that misunderstanding.

The Pamphlet can be downloaded free of charge here. It's a PDF document designed to be printed on both sides of a single 8 1/2 by 11 page. The pamphlet is designed to be inserted into a parish bulletin of put in a literature rack. I've written it so that it should be readily usable by most parishes.

You may copy and distribute the pamphlet freely. I only ask that you do not obscure the attribution of it, and that you do not excerpt it, abridge it or edit it without my consent.

So, go ahead and download it! This is the first of what I intend to be several pamphlets on the Motu Proprio and other liturgical matters.

I hope you find it helpful!

An Answer To My Question

...posed below about Zimbabwe and Archbishop Ncube's call to have the British invade.

My old friend from grad school Scott Richert has posted his answer to my question over at the "Taki's Top Drawer" blog.

In his judgment, the question hangs upon the first point of Catholic Just War teaching:

The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain.

He makes a good argument - definitely worth a read.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Even Priests Have Fantasies

So, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to pay $660 million to settle priest sex-abuse claims.

Oddly enough, this agreement was concluded just before the trial was set to begin. This trial would, almost certainly, have resulted in Cardinal Mahony being forced to testify. Just a coincidence, I'm sure.

This denouement to the Los Angeles situation led me to entertain the following fantasy:

Scene: Cardinal Mahony's office
Time: 9:30 AM

Cardinal's Secretary: "Your Eminence, the Holy Father is on line 1."

Cdl. Mahony: "He is? Well, I'll take it right away." (Picks up phone.) Your Holiness, to what do I owe this pleasure?"

Holy Father: "Pleasure? The pleasure's all yours, I'm sure. Surely you must have some idea why I'm calling?"

Mahony: "Well (sounding sheepish), I suppose I do. About the legal business, right?"

Holy Father: "You're very perspicacious, Roger. 600 million, is that right?"

Mahony: "Yes, Holiness. That's a lot of money, I know, but with this, the whole business is over. The archdiocese is spared a painful, ugly trial, the people are spared the lurid details of these allegations coming out in the press every day, and the Church is preserved from the spectacle of priests and bishops being hauled into court to testify."

Holy Father: "Of course, of course. With you being one of those unfortunate clergy spared from the indignity of testifying..."

Mahony: "Holiness, I assure you..."

Holy Father: "Yes, yes. I'm sure that thought didn't enter your mind. But on to the reason for my call. Now that you've assured your legacy, and, after all, $600 million is a small price to pay for the legacy of such an important man as yourself, I'd like you to do something for me."

Mahony: "Whatever you'd like, Your Holiness."

Holy Father: "I'm glad you're in such a pliable frame of mind, Roger. That's what I've come to expect from you. I want you to know that I am ready to receive, under Canon 401, section 2, your letter of resignation. Please be assured that, upon receiving it, it will be readily granted."

Mahony: "But, Holiness, I've still got three years until I retire. There's still so much I could do."

Holy Father: "You've done quite enough, Roger. Far more than many others could have done. It's time for someone else to lead the archdiocese into a new phase, to 'sing a new church into being', as it were. And I'm going to issue a special instruction to your successor in recognition of your legacy."

Mahony: "What's that, Holiness?"

Holy Father: "Since you have chosen your legacy in this way, I'm instructing, when you pass on to your eternal reward, that your tombstone, under your name and the dates of your episcopate, be inscribed with 660,000,000.00. In this way your legacy will be remembered for all the ages.

Mahony: "But you can't do that!"

Holy Father: "Ah, but I can, and I will. I have it mind to send young Dolan from Milwaukee to take over. He'll do a fine job, I'm sure. I'll make sure he gets all the zeros in.

Mahony: "I'll need time..."

Holy Father: "Of course, Roger. I'll be expecting your letter tomorrow morning. You have my fax number, I take it?"

Mahony: "Yes, Holiness."

Holy Father: "Excellent! 'Til tomorrow, then. Good-bye, Roger."

As I said, that's a fantasy. To understand why that's only a fantasy, and why it won't happen, read my article from This Rock magazine, "Why Doesn't the Pope Do Something About Bad Bishops?".

A Hypothetical Question

A lot of you are aware of the Horrific Mess that Zimbabwe has become. Zimbabwe, a country that used to be one of Africa's few economic success stories, is approaching collapse thanks to the policies and overall megalomania of President Robert Mugabe. Zimbabwe was, just a few years ago, a net exporter of food - now the populace faces widespread famine. Again, thanks to the insane marxist ideology of Mugabe.

Archbishop Pius Ncube of Buluwayo has taken a major role in condemning and opposing Mugabe, vowing to force him from power, in spite of the danger to his own life.

A couple of weeks ago, Archbishop Ncube went so far as to call for Great Britain to invade and depose Mugabe. He said:
"I think it is justified for Britain to raid Zimbabwe and remove Mugabe," he said.

"We should do it ourselves but there's too much fear. I'm ready to lead the people, guns blazing, but the people are not ready."

So, here's the question:

If Britain were to invade Zimbabwe with the intent of ousting Mugabe and "rescuing" the country fromm his disastrous misrule, would that be justified under Just War teaching?

Also, if Britain were to do so, would Archbishop Ncube's "invitation" be sufficient justification?

Finally, would such a scenario differ from what the U.S. and Britain did in Iraq? If so, how?

I have some of my own thoughts about those questions, but I'd like to see what other people think before I chime in. I'd be particularly interested in what those of you who have been vehemently arguing about the Iraq war (on either side) think. Discuss...

Friday, July 13, 2007

University of Florida: Yes! to Death

The University of Florida my be the first institution, following his release from prison, to provide Jack ("Dr. Death") Kevorkian with a forum to disseminate his belief that more of the sick and elderly just need to die.

Kevorkian accepted an offer to speak at the university on October 1. He will be paid $50,000.

When Larry King interviewed him, he said that he felt "it was important to speak to young people in high school and college about these issues."

And given a forum by the State of Florida, too...

If you are old, sick, disabled, or imagine you ever could be any of those things, I think you should seriously start considering leaving Florida, soon.

The Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation is sponsoring an online petition asking the University to rescind the invitation.

From the Petition:
This invitation is an affront to everyone who stands for the value and the dignity of every human life. Dr. Kevorkian is determined to instill the future leaders of our nation with his twisted ethics of euthanasia. We need everyone to join us in telling the President of the University of Florida that it is unacceptable to invite Jack Kevorkian to spread his message of death and violence on the campus.

In another, saner age, a man like Kevorkian would have been treated as the monster and pariah he is.

In our age, he's given television interviews and University speaking appointments.

The Future for Orthodox Catholics in the Republican Party

The other day I was listening to the Neal Boortz show (I don't listen regularly - Boortz exemplifies I've-got-mine-the-rest-of-you-can-go-to-Hell libertarianism, and he's pretty hostile to any form of serious Christian belief). But Boortz was talking about the Republicans chances in '08, which he thought weren't good.

He referenced a column by Robert Novak, in which he wrote:
It is difficult to exaggerate the pessimism about the immediate political future voiced by Republicans in Congress when not on the record. With an unpopular president waging an unpopular war, they see electoral catastrophe in 2008, with Democratic gains in both House and Senate and Hillary Clinton in the White House.

This led me to wonder about whether orthodox Catholics and other traditon-minded conservative Christians would have a place in the Republican Party for much longer.

I don't think so.

The widespread attractiveness of the Giuliani candidacy, the willingness of even so-called "social conservatives" to look the other way regarding Rudy's embrace of the Culture of Death, and the Republicans' enthusiasm for The Leviathan State all bode ill for the future.

Say what you will about the Republicans "lip-service" to social conservatives, their keeping pro-lifers at arm's length and their paltry delivery in about 25 years in power in the White House and Capital Hill. The fact is, conservative Catholics had a voice in the party's agenda.

But the Mammon-first conservatives have always wrinkled their noses in disgust at us, and that disdain is starting to break out into open hostility.

If, as seems to be the common opinion, the Republicans lose again in '08, I think that will be the beginning of the end for any substantive socially conservative Christian voice in the Republican Party. Social conservatives will receive the brunt of the blame. It's happening already.

The trend in our culture is more and more towards "leave me alone, don't try to tell me I can't [insert vice or sin crying out to heaven here]." The Republicans will eventually cave in to the pressure to submit to that trend. The Republican Party is not the Church; it does not have the graces and charisms that allow the the Church to resist the prevailing winds of the Zeitgeist.

So what will we do then?

This is not a brief for the Republican Party, urging you to stick with them because "its our only hope". The Republicans don't deserve our vote. They have all but flipped us the bird over the last couple of years. I'm not sure there's much hope left - there.

So what will we do? And where will that leave our country, pulled on one side by the Jacobins (Hillary) and Panderers (Obama) of the Left, and on the other by Friede durch Kraft cynics (Giuliani) and hollow men (McCain) of the Right?

Common Ground Catholic - Evangelical Dialogue To Air

Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN), home to Televangelists Benny Hinn and Joyce Meyer, will be broadcasting a 90 minute "dialogue" between Fr. John Riccardo, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, and Pastor Steve Andrews of Kensington Community Church, a suburban Detroit "MegaChurch".

The show will air tomorrow, Saturday July 14, at 5:00 PM Eastern.

I'm not familiar with Pastor Andrews or his church, but I do know Fr. Riccardo: He is an outstanding priest, well known in the Detroit area for his orthodoxy and zeal for the faith. I'm confident that Fr. Riccardo will hold up the Catholic "end" very well.

This promises to be something rather different from the usual fare on TBN.

It also seems to me to be a tremendous opening, that an Evangelical broadcaster would air such a bold and zealous proponent of the Catholic faith.

For more information on the show (which is also available on DVD) go to the producer's website, Nineveh's Crossing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The "Live Earth" Idiocy

This past weekend, while Catholics were considering, celebrating, and (in some quarters) lamenting the Motu Proprio "Summorum Pontificum", ignorant rock stars and celebrities were engaging in the act of mutual mental masturbation known as "Live Earth".

I was going to write a sendup of the foolishness, but someone beat me to it. From Dan Proft's column at Human Events:
It was not the noise pollution from climatologists like Kanye West and the Pussycat Dolls. No, that didn’t bother me...

The delicious irony of watching the Dave Matthews Band, the same eco-friendly Dave Matthews Band that dumped 800 pounds of human waste from their tour bus into the Chicago River during their stop through three years ago (well, maybe the irony wasn’t exactly delicious), that also didn’t bother me...

Watching Gore keep it real with his Hollywood friends is kind of like watching your dad shake his groove thing at a wedding...

Read the rest.

Monday, July 09, 2007

My Motu Proprio Celebration

Because of parish committments, I had to delay my celebration of the Motu Proprio to yesterday afternoon.

But celebrate I did! It seems that most of the Traddy celebrations of Summorum Pontificum involved Veuve Cliquot. I'm more a Moet man myself, and I have a bottle of Moet Nectar Imperial on hand, but I decided to celebrate with different libations:

I broke out my bottle of Lagavulin 16 year-old Scotch and I opened a bottle of my prized 1989 Barros Colheita Port. It is, absolutely, the best port I have ever had. Don't bother trying to find any more in the U.S. I've tried extensively, and it's all gone.

I also thought that such a momentous occasion deserved a burnt offering, so I lit up one of my Cuban cigars, a Montecristo No. 4.

So, glass in hand, I savored God's goodness in granting us our holy father Pope Benedict, as I savored his goodness in giving us things like single-malt scotch, vintage port, and the beautiful varieties of nicoteana.

Here's to You, Papa Benedicte!

I hope and pray that all of you will receive our holy father's generous act as the great gift it is!

Fr. Rob, enveloped in the Odor Sanctitatis

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Announcement On The Motu Proprio

Here is the announcement I made about the Motu Proprio at all the Masses at my parish this weekend:
Many of you, no doubt, may have seen or heard already about the document just released by our holy father Pope Benedict XVI. I'd like to say a few words about it. This document is a Motu Proprio, which is a Latin phrase meaning "on his own initiative", meaning that the holy father released this document on his own initiative for the good of the whole Church. This Motu Proprio provides for a much wider and more extensive use of the "old" Mass, that is the Mass as it was celebrated before Vatican II.

Many people over the years have been led to believe that Vatican II "got rid of all that." In previous homilies I have already explained that this was not the case, and our holy father makes this clear as well in this new document. Pope Benedict is convinced, as are many other theologians and scholars, and as I am myself, that the intentions of the Council fathers of Vatican II were not fully realized in the "new" Mass that we celebrate today, and that it is necessary to recover the fullness of our Catholic Tradition in order to live the fullness of our Catholic Faith.

I'm not going to go into the document in any detail here and now, as I've only read through the English translation a couple of times, and I'm still digesting the Latin original. I want to be sure I understand the document before I try to explain what it means. But it is already clear to me that the holy father's intent is to enrich and deepen the faith and life of the Church. In our first reading today we heard the prophet Isaiah tell the Israelites about the "prosperity" he would lavish upon Jerusalem. Well, the Church is the New Jerusalem and she lavishes her riches upon us in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church. Pope Benedict is giving us an opportunity to draw even more deeply and widely from these riches, so that our souls may be more truly fed.

I will have more to say about this document and what it means in the coming weeks. I'll give you some points from it in next week's bulletin. As to what it will mean for us here at St. Stanislaus, I'm not sure as of yet. Fortunately, as you know we have been working for the last year or so to implement a wider use of Latin in our liturgies here, so in a sense you could say we're already ahead of the the curve.

I would caution you to take with a grain or two of salt (or even a whole shaker) what you may read or hear about this in the media. A friend of mine once said that when the mainstream media talks about religion you have to deduct 50 points from their IQ. I've seen a lot of misinformation out there already. I'll have more information for you in the coming weeks, and I'll give you some points from the Motu Proprio in next week's bulletin.

As I said, it's clear to me that the holy father is offering us an opportunity to enrich and deepen how we live our faith in the the liturgy. This is a great gift to the Church, and I think we'll have a great deal to be thankful for.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Te Deum Laudamus...

Te Dominum confitemur. So begins the great hymn "Te Deum", "We praise You O God, we confess that You are the Lord."

We have a great deal to give thanks for today, as our holy father Pope Benedict has released the long awaited Motu Proprio "Summorum Pontificum", which "frees" the pre-Vatican II Mass for wider and more regular use.

I won't try to exhaustively analyze the text here or comment on liturgical fine points: That has been and is being done very well over at The New Liturgical Movement and by Fr. Zuhlsdorf. But I will comment on a few things I notice right away in the document, and my thoughts on the "bigger picture" of what our holy father's act may accomplish:

The holy father clarifies two very important points. First, that the 1962 Missal of Blessed John XXIII was in fact never (contrary to what many Catholics were led to believe) abrogated or "gotten rid of". This, in a sense, vindicates the position held by many conservatives and traditionalists for the last three decades. Secondly, the Missal of Blessed John XXIII and that of Paul VI are in fact two legitimate expressions of the same Roman Rite. It is no longer possible to treat the Traditional Mass and its adherents as red-headed stepchildren and claim to be following the mind of the Church.

The Motu Proprio also inverts the position of the priest and people vis-a-vis their bishop regarding the celebration of the old rite, as compared to how it stood before. Until now, a priest or group of the faithful who wanted to celebrate the Traditional Mass had to go to their bishop hat-in-hand and convince him that there was sufficient reason for him to do so. All too often those requests were denied by bishops who, in so doing, abused their authority, in spite of the clearly-expressed mind of the Church as expressed in Ecclesia Dei, which urged bishops to grant permission "generously". Now, the presumption is that the "Extraordinary" form of the Roman Rite will be offered when circumstances warrant it, and a pastor or bishop who refuse to do so will have to explain himself.

The document also illustrates the holy father's awareness of the "lay of the land". Articles 7 and 8 make it clear that, in virtually any circumstance in which the faithful or a priest desire the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite and it is not provided, the situation is to be referred to the commission Ecclesia Dei. I call these articles the "No Excuse" clauses, paraphrasing St. Paul in Romans 1:20 where he explains that those who violate the law of God written in the human heart have "no excuse".

In doing these things, the holy father, as he declares in his accompanying letter, doesn't threaten the authority of the bishop as moderator of the liturgy in his diocese. But he does make clear that the bishop, in exercising his authority, is bound to do so in accord with the mind of the Church. And the Motu Proprio makes clear, in this area, where the mind of the Church lies. The bishop is not a law unto himself.

Finally, regarding the "bigger picture" to which I referred earlier, it seems to me that the Motu Proprio and the ensuing liberalization of the Classical Roman Rite can have a profoundly effect on the reinvigoration or reconstruction of an authentic Catholic culture. Catholic culture has become vitiated and impoverished in recent decades, and I am convinced that this is in large part a result of the impoverishment of the liturgy during that same time. Indeed, in some places one would be hard pressed to see many signs of an authentic Catholic culture surviving at all. Lex orandi, lex credendi, "the rule of prayer is the rule of faith", as the saying goes. If the "rule of prayer" is impoverished and cut off from its roots, then the faith it informs will be similarly impoverished and deracinated. And an impoverished and deracinated faith cannot be expected to build up and maintain a vigorous culture. As I wrote a while back, a people who loses touch with its roots is a people in danger of extinction. The culture, that is, our art, music, literature, and countless small rituals and habits of thought as well, is how our faith is "incarnated" in our lives. That culture has its roots in the cultus, that is, our liturgical and sacramental life.

If, as I (and it would appear, our holy father) hope, the wider use of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite leads to a "cross-pollinization" of the rite of Paul VI, then the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church will be enriched. Such an enrichment and deepening of the expression of our faith in its "source and summit" cannot but have an enriching and deepening effect in our Catholic culture. And that, it seems to me, will lead to an overall reinvigoration of the Church, advancing her mission of leading the world to Christ.

A New Look!

I'm returning to blogging after a 6 month hiatus. Since I'm returning anew to the blog, I'm updating it with a new look!

I hope the new template makes the blog look snappier as well as easier to read.

Hope you all like it!

Monday, April 30, 2007

Rumors of My Impending Death...
...have been greatly exaggerated.

I'm not sure where this came from, but the story over on Mark Shea's blog is untrue. Not that I'm in any way upset with Mark. I just spoke with him on the phone a few minutes ago, and I know he was acting in good faith.

I'm not near death, I didn't have a heart attack. In fact, I'm fine. Rumors of my death might reflect wishful thinking on the part of some, but, oh well, it seems I'm going to be around for a while yet.

One good thing, I suppose about this is that I'm finding out who my friends are. I've had many phone calls of concern in the last half-hour or so, and it's nice to see all the promises of prayer. Thanks to all of you!

I suppose my failure to post for so long has probably contributed to this. In the post on Mark's blog the source of this rumor refers to my blog as "long abandoned." Perhaps that's an indication of the ephemerality of the internet, but I don't think of this January as that "long" ago.

I stopped blogging because I got too busy, then we were into Lent and it seemed not be a good time to start blogging again, and then came the busyness of Easter, etc. I have been planning on blogging again for the last couple of weeks, but I was waiting until I finished a computer upgrade (now complete) and could update the template of my blog.

I will start blogging again soon. Thanks for your readership and concern!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Latin and the Wedding Feast of Christ the Bridegroom

Homily for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Second in a series of three homilies on the Liturgy

Isaiah 62: 1-5
Psalm 96: 1-2, 2-3, 7-8, 9-10
1 Cor. 12: 4-11
John 2: 1-11

In our Psalm response a few minutes ago, we sang "Proclaim his marvelous deeds to all the nations", and we heard the cantor sing in the first verse:
Sing to the Lord a new song;
Sing to the Lord, all you lands.
Sing to the Lord, bless His name.

That, my brothers and sisters, is precisely what happens in the liturgy: Every time we gather here to celebrate Mass, the marvelous deeds of the Lord are proclaimed to all the world, to every creature. Every time I offer the sacrifice of the Mass, we sing the new song of the Lord, for we are singing, we are praying, the prayer of Christ himself, offered by and through His church.

And the marvelous deeds of God, the saving work of Christ, is not only proclaimed in word, but it is actually made present to us here and now. We are made present at the eternal sacrifice of Christ which was offered at Calvary and the Last Supper. Heaven comes to us on earth, so that we may be lifted up into the very life of heaven.

And all of us are invited, are called, to share in this proclamation, this making present, of the saving work of God. For we all, as members of the Body of Christ, participate in Christ's offering of Himself to the Father. That is what St. Paul is getting at in our second reading from his letter to the Corinthians. He tells us that there are different kinds of gifts, given to each of us, but they are all given by the same Spirit. We serve in different ways, but we all serve the same Lord. Indeed, we all have our part to play in the offering of the Holy Liturgy, whether we have any formal role or not. Indeed, there is no such thing as "just" attending Mass. There is no such thing as "just" attending Mass because each of us is united, in and through the church, to this offering. We are all presented to the Father by Christ in the Mass.

So the church, wanting to draw us more deeply into this offering of the sacrifice of Christ, has always had two major concerns. One of these concerns is that the liturgy be in some sense accessible, understandable, to us, so that we can consciously participate in this offering. Another concern is that we are always faithful to the Tradition that has been handed down to us by Christ through the apostles. The church has been entrusted with the sacraments, with the liturgy, by Christ: she must be a faithful guardian and steward of the great treasure she have been given. The church wants to be sure that the faith we hold is the same faith we have received from the apostles. She wants to be sure that the Eucharist we celebrate is the same Eucharist that Christ gave the apostles at the Last Supper.

These two concerns are not opposed to each other, but they must be balanced. And that is where the history lesson comes in:

Now, we all know that at Vatican II, the council fathers decreed that the Mass be made available in the languages of the people, the vernacular. The council fathers decided that the liturgy would be more accessible if it was available to us in our own languages. So the Holy See entrusted the bishops of each land the task of translating the prayers of the Mass into their own language: French, Spanish, German, English, and the rest.

So far so good. The American bishops set up a commission of experts to translate the Mass into English. And when it was ready, we started having Mass in English. But something else happened as well: In most places in our country, not only was English introduced, but, almost overnight, the Latin was thrown out entirely. Those of you who are old enough to remember may recall this. I was only a child at the time, but I have heard from some of those who were old enough to remember that in some places people literally went to Mass one Sunday and it was in Latin, and the next Sunday they went and it was in English. And the Latin, all of the prayers and the Tradition that went along with it, disappeared almost overnight.

But the problem is that that was never the intent of the council fathers; that was never the intent of the church. Indeed, the documents of Vatican II say as much. The ushers have handed out a pamphlet to you that I made up, on Latin and the Liturgy. On the first page, right in front, you'll see I have quoted from Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Liturgy of Vatican II. It says:
The use of the Latin language... is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

(By the way, we belong to the Latin or Roman rite of the Church, as opposed to the Eastern or Greek rites.) The council fathers go on to say:
Nevertheless care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.

So you see, the church never intended for us to get rid of Latin. The church meant for us for us to have both English and Latin, not either one or the other. And since then, our popes have urged us to hold on to our Latin tradition. Each pope since the council has encouraged the use of Latin in the liturgy. In the pamphlet you have been given I have included some statements of the popes and recent bishops about the use of Latin in the liturgy. They have reminded our bishops and ourselves that Latin is part of our heritage as Catholics, that it is a sign of unity for the church, not just for the church of today, but the church as she has been down through the ages.

And so it is. When we pray the Mass in Latin, we are praying in the very same words used by countless saints and martyrs down through the ages. We are singing the very same chants and hymns that were sung by millions upon millions who have gone before us, and are now praising God in heaven. The use of Latin unites us to them in a particularly literal way. Let's remember as well that thousands upon thousands of martyrs through the centuries died for those words, and for the faith that those words represent and communicate.

We must cling to, hold fast to, our Latin tradition because it is our heritage; it is where we have come from as a people. As my friend Mark Shea described it, if we forget who we are, if we forget where we have come from, it is a kind of suicide. A people who forgets is a people in danger of extinction.

Over the last decade or so, the urgings and warnings of our popes have started to take hold among our bishops, priests and many laypeople, and a movement has emerged to recover and restore our tradition of Latin in the liturgy. It has been growing for some time, and more and more parishes have been taking part in this movement. You have all seen in recent months that we have been using Latin more in the liturgy here. Some people have asked me, "Why are we doing this? They aren't doing this in other parishes." Well, it all depends on what other parishes you're going to. I know that they've been using Latin in some liturgies at the cathedral for a long time now. At St. Charles in Coldwater, Fr. Brian Stanley has been leading his parish in this direction. Last month I had lunch with another pastor, and we talked about his plans for re-introducing Latin at his parish. Parishes are going in this direction because this is what the church is asking of us. And it's not new, because in fact this is what the church has always asked of us.

It's important to stay in contact with our Latin heritage for another reason. You'll recall, as I said a few minutes ago, that the bishops of this country were entrusted with the task of translating the Mass into English. And they felt they needed to do it very quickly, because they wanted to make the Mass available to people in our own language. Now, who can tell me what can happen when you do something in a hurry? [a pause, then someone says] "You make mistakes". That's right, you make mistakes. And that's what happened when they translated the Mass into English.

[Going over to a lectern and picking up a large book...] You've probably noticed this large book up here at the front of the Church. This is the Missale Romanum editio typica. Now, I know that's a mouthful, but this book is the official Latin missal for the whole church. This is the church's official Latin edition of all the prayers of the Mass. And every version in the languages of the people is supposed to be a faithful, accurate translation of this book. The problem is that the book we've been using isn't always accurate. The pamphlet you've been given provides some examples of the inaccuracies in our current translation of the Mass.

Now the translation we've been using was intended to be temporary, and the church moves slowly. It should give you an idea of how slowly when you realize that "temporary", in this case, means thirty years! But the bishops began to realize a while back that there was a problem, and the Holy See started insisting that they do something about it. So, after many years of debate, last summer the bishops approved the first in a round of corrections and changes to the prayers of the Mass. For example, when we say the Confiteor, instead of saying "I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault...", we'll say "...I have sinned greatly...through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault". I notice some of you older folks nodding your heads. You're remembering what we used to say in the old Mass before Vatican II. Well, the fact is that the church never changed those words in the new Mass, but somehow they got left out of the English. So now the bishops are fixing that, and some other things. We'll probably start seeing these changes take effect in the next year or two. After Mass, the ushers will give you a handout with excerpts from a Catholic News Service article which talks about some of these changes in more detail.

Ultimately ,what these changes, and the movement to recover the Latin tradition of the Church, is all about is faithfulness: Faithfulness to the great treasure we have received. Faithfulness to the liturgy by which we are made present at and participate in the great eternal sacrifice of Christ.

Our gospel today tells of the wedding feast at Cana. The Church Fathers saw the wedding feast at Cana as a prefiguring, an anticipation, of the wedding feast of Christ the bridegroom and his bride, the Church. And we celebrate this eternal banquet of the Lamb every time we gather with the priest to celebrate the Mass. Christ eternally offers the sacrifice of Himself for his bride the church, and in the Eucharist this sacrifice is made present to us here and now. We have been invited to enter into, to take part in, this sacrifice. By being faithful to what we have received from the apostles, by being faithful to what the church offers us, we will indeed be drawn into this sacrifice, we will indeed find our place at this, the eternal banquet of Christ the Lamb, the Bridegroom, the High Priest.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I Couldn't Resist...

After seeing this on some other blogs, I couldn't help wondering what my "Peculiar Aristocratic Title" would be.

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
The Very Reverend Lord Robert the Antediluvian of Chignall Smeally
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

You may make your obeisance now.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Liturgy: Our Eternal Epiphany

Homily for The Epiphany of the Lord

Isaiah 60: 1-6
Ephesians 3: 2-3a, 5-6
Matthew 2: 1-12

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. The word Epiphany comes from a Greek word meaning "to shine forth" or "to make known". And that is what we celebrate today: that Christ shone forth, was made known, as newborn King, Savior, and Messiah. And He was made known not only to the people of Israel, not only to the Jewish shepherds, but to the three Wise Men as well.

We have to remember, the three Wise Men were not Jews. They were not part of the people of the covenant. They were Gentiles; they belonged to the "nations" we heard about in our first reading from Isaiah, the nations whom Isaiah said would "walk by their light", who would come from afar to proclaim the praises of the Lord. God revealed His coming among us, as one of us, not only to the people of the covenant, but to these three kings as well.

And so these wise men are a sign for us. They are a sign that, from the beginning of His coming among us, God's plan was that the newborn Savior was to be Savior not of just one particular people, not only of one nation, but the Savior of all peoples and nations. They are a sign of what St. Paul referred to in the Letter to the Ephesians which we heard a few moments ago, that: has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.

We are told in the gospel that the three wise men, when they saw the infant Jesus, "prostrated themselves and did him homage." These men were great men in their own lands, mighty and powerful, and yet they bowed down and humbled themselves before this baby. This was no mere gesture of respect - they wouldn't have done this unless they recognized in the Christ child a King far greater than themselves. They bowed down and gave Him their worship, because they saw, somehow they understood, that this child was not merely a king, but The King. They recognized that this infant was the King and Ruler of all, the Lord of all creation.

And so these three kings, these wise men, are the first of all the peoples of the earth, all the people who did not belong to God's covenant with Israel, who come to be members of the New Covenant, not by birth into a tribe or nation, but by faith in Christ Jesus. The three kings are a symbol of all the people down through the ages who worship the King, and offer him their adoration. The wise men, we can say, represent all of us - they represent you, and you [pointing at individual parishioners] and me, as they kneel before the Christ child in our stead.

God's revelation of Himself in Christ did not just happen for one people, generation, or time. God makes Himself known to us even now. For you see, every time we gather around this altar for the Eucharist, every time a priest celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, God makes Himself known to us again, renews His presence among us. For in the liturgy of the Mass Jesus Christ - Savior, Lord, and King - makes Himself present to us in His body, blood, soul and divinity. In the liturgy, Christ comes among us just as really and truly as He was present before those wise men in Bethlehem. Every Mass is a new "Epiphany", or rather, a continuation of the one great Epiphany, as Christ's eternal saving work is made present to us here and now.

In the Gospel today, we are told that the wise men "opened their treasures and offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." And in this the wise men are also a sign for us. For just as the wise men offered their gifts to the Christ Child, so do we make an offering at Mass. Of course, we offer our financial contributions in the collection, as a gift to God and His church. But in fact, we offer far more than money at Mass. You see, every Sunday, someone brings up the bread and wine in the offertory procession. And that bread and wine signify our participation in the great sacrifice that Christ offers to the Father. The Church has always insisted that the people take part in this offering, because we are united with the Sacrifice Christ offers for us in and through the Mass. We are invited and called to unite oursleves with this offering. And so that bread and wine represent us: our lives, all that we are and all that we have. All of creation, in fact, is presented to the Father by Christ in His sacrifice, and so, in the Mass, we participate in this one sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise. When I hold up the paten with the bread become the Body of Christ, and the cup holding the Blood of Christ, you too are being offered: your lives, your dreams, your sorrows, your sufferings, your disappointments, and your victories and joys, are presented through Christ to the Father. In the liturgy, Christ comes among us, Heaven comes down to earth, so that we may be lifted up into the very life of the Blessed Trinity.

And to us, having made this offering, having taken part in this Sacrifice, then Christ gives the greatest gift, the greatest treasure of all: His very self. He gives us Himself as food and drink; communicates to us His divine life. And in receiving Christ's life in ourselves, the word of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled in us: "Upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears His glory...You shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow!"

This is what happens at every Mass. In the liturgy we are given an opportunity - an opportunity to enter ever more deeply into the saving mystery of Christ's life, death, and resurrection. Through His church, Our Lord offers us in every liturgy the opportunity to know Christ, as Christ makes Himself known to us. Over the next two Sundays, I will be talking more about this opportunity we are given, the great treasure Jesus gives us in the Mass. I'll talk about what we have received from the apostles and their successors, how the Church invites us to participate in it, and how, through it, we are united to Christ and His whole Church.

Isaiah said, "Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you." The light of Christ does shine upon us: We are the new Jerusalem, and Christ invites us to rise up in the splendor He has won for us. The splendor of Christ is given to us in and through the liturgy. Come, and enter into the mystery of this great Epiphany!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Really Terrible Hymn

This has to be one of the worst hymns ever conceived by man:

"O God That Great Tsunami"

Any hymn with the words "economies" and "sewage" in it has to be awful.

(H/T to Gavin)