Huge-IT Third Slide.

Listen up!

Dear friends,

A recent Baptism for a couple’s new born daughter got me thinking.

The form of the Rite they wanted was the old or “extraordinary form” or the former ( Latin)  Rite of Baptism   ( now allowable again). At one point after the baby was baptized, the Ritual directed me to touch the mouth and ears of the infant and say Ephetha!”…that is…Be opened! This was part of the Gospel a few Sundays ago when the Lord healed a deaf-mute and commanded his muteness and deafness Be opened!

The more ordinary form of Baptism we mostly use has a version (not as forceful in my opinion): May the Lord touch your ears to receive his Word, and your mouth to proclaim his Faith”.

In any event every one of us entered the Church with the injunction to open our eyes and our ears, to see and to listen. Not to shut our eyes and our ears like those old “See no evil…hear no evil…” monkey dolls!

It has been well remarked that one of the distinguishing characteristics of Christian iconography is that the Lord, His Mother, and the Saints are almost always depicted with eyes open, and indeed, often gesturing outwardly, not all drawn in and lotus-like.

Maybe we ought to be seeing and hearing better?

I have to say I have not been happy seeing and hearing some of what’s been occurring in our country and the world lately.

I saw and heard the convention of the majority political party in these United States becoming what some called an “abortion fest”. No longer is abortion spoken of in regretful sounding tones as only to be “ and rare.” Now it was proclaimed to be part of our “rights” along with you and me paying for young professional women’s birth control.  A prominent person describing herself deliberately as a “Catholic woman” went out of her way to say how “proud” she was that her party was opposed to all forms of restriction of abortion, including live-birth/ late-term abortions.

The Administration proclaimed itself very solicitous that the “religious feelings” of Muslims not be offended even as our fellow citizens were murdered by rampaging mobs and decried a video that hardly anyone saw defaming Islam( it was claimed) as offensive. Somehow I failed to hear similar outrage over many more numerous attacks on Christianity and Catholicism. They even intend to force us to provide forms of “health care” directly contrary to our religious feelings. But I guess we don’t count.


Open your your ears…Ephetha!


Huge-IT Third Slide.

1789.. and all that.

Soon after the new Constitution of the United States was ratified in 1789, transforming a loose collection of independent and mutually suspicious newly independent States into a stronger Federal Union of mutually suspicious States , it was pointed out there was ( and is) no reference to God in this basic charter of American existence and no statement or “Bill” of Rights ( the 18th century had a fondness for capitalization that I enjoy.)

Alexander Hamilton of New York, by way of St.Croix, one of the “Federalists” whose papers are considered a classic statement of the underlying philosophy of the Framers, was said to breezily remark that there was no reference to God in the Constitution because they simply “forgot”. For all of the seeming irreverence of the that quip it is worth recounting that when he lay dying of a pistol ball fired into him by the  then sitting Vice-President of the United States (!) Hamilton was desperate to receive the last rites of the Episcopal Church to which he belonged and was in fear he would die without a last Holy Communion as that Church understood it.

As for a “Bill of Rights” it was James Madison especially who saw the need to embody the civil and political rights of American citizens in the document. The first 10 Amendments passed soon after contain those enumerated rights. It was a defiant statement of  inherent and individual Rights that government could not “abridge” or restrict. In the First Amendment was the statement that the new Federal Congress could do nothing to restrict, abridge, religion or to establish one. ( It is also worth noting that this applied to the Federal goverment only and that the State of Connecticut maintained an “established” Congregational Church into the 1820’s. Also, the government HAS restricted the practices of some denominations as contrary to the law and common good; i.e. polygamy and narcotic use as a ritual.)

For us Catholics it is important that even when we were a rather frowned-upon bunch of laregly Irish, German, and later Italian and Slavic immigrants no one proposed any restrictions upon the Catholic Church that either were enacted, or survived. This fact was not only due to the good sense or favor of the non-Catholic majority but also to some occasional, if at times, blunt self-defense. During the height of anti-Irish, anti-Catholic “Nativism” and “Know Nothing-ism” in the 1860’s  it was rumored that mobs would attack and burn down Catholic churches, convents, schools, orphanages and even the old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. The then Archbishop of New York, John Hughes (whose signature ” + John” gave rise to the sardonic nickname “Dagger John”) is said to have declared that “if one Catholic church burns in this city, New York will become another Moscow!”. He was referring to the destruction of their own Second Capital by the Russians to defy Napoleon in 1812; a not all that remote event. The point was taken.

I do not pretend to understand all the in’s and out’s of the current controversy. But I do know that the US government has NO business defining for us what a “religious institution” is and telling us what we have to provide to our employees by way of so-called “health care”.  Many Dioceses and Catholic health agencies are currently suing the Administration over this. You would hardly know it from the main-stream media with their usual “water carrying” for the Left and the Administration in particular.

We ought not to be fooled by any spurious claims of “women’s health issues” distracting us from the fundamental right to religious liberty and practice enshrined in the Constitution.

This also may well take a bit of a dose of old “Dagger John’s” vinegar as well as PR sugar to win this battle.

But then again, that’s just me…

Pentecost Eve, May 26th.

Huge-IT Third Slide.

Thoughts on the “Old Mass”

As you may know one of our “boasts” here at St. Matthew’s is that every Sunday we offer ” eight Masses in three different languages and two different Forms.”

7 of the Masses are in the “Ordinary Form”: six in English and one in Spanish ( 7 PM Saturday in the church). Another is the Extraordinary Form  ( “traditional Latin”) Mass at 9 AM on Sunday in the Chapel.

I offer you some reflections on that Mass as celebrated here at St. Matthew’s.



What do we mean by the “Traditional Latin Mass?”


     As with any ancient institution, which has stood the test of time and historical upheavals, the Catholic Church has a treasury of traditions, many of which have their origins in the earliest days of the Church. Since we are speaking of the Catholic Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago, we are speaking of a long history indeed!

     One of the oldest and most constant of the traditions of the Church is found in Her form of worship. We believe that the highest form of worship which we can offer to God is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which makes present through the validly ordained priest, the same Sacrifice offered by Our Lord once upon the Cross. By the command of Our Lord to His Apostles, the first priests and bishops, “Do This In Remembrance of Me,” we believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ conferred the power to make present over and over again upon our Altars, not a new sacrifice, but that same sacrifice which He offered once on the Cross. In this way, the graces and fruits of Calvary are made present for the faithful in their own time and place.

     At the Church’s beginning, the Liturgy, or ceremony, of the Mass consisted of readings from Scripture, the offering to God of the elements of bread and wine to be changed in to the Body and Blood of Christ, the Eucharistic Prayer, during which this change takes place through the power and words of the priest, the reception of Christ’s Body under the form of bread and the blessing of the priest upon the assembled Christians. This would sometimes be accompanied by song, generally the Psalms of David, after the usage of the Synagogue.

     Until the year 313, the practice of the Christian religion was forbidden by the State. Therefore, Christian worship took place secretly, often in the underground catacombs, where the Sacrifice of the Mass was offered over the tombs of the martyrs, who had given their lives for their faith in Christ and His Church. In the year 313, the Roman Emperor Constantine permitted the Christian religion to be practiced publicly and there began the construction of beautiful Church buildings for the worship of God. Along with this freedom, came a more elaborate celebration of the Church’s Liturgy, always with the same basic elements.

     The influence of the Roman Empire also was seen in the language in which the Mass was offered. Latin was the language of the Empire and a great unifying force among the various peoples within that Empire. Since, by God’s mysterious design, Saint Peter, the first Pope, preached the Gospel and was martyred in Rome, the influence of the language of the Empire naturally was seen in the Liturgy of the Church. Latin also became a unifying factor among the various people to whom the Faith was brought, by the Apostles and their successors. These are the Bishops and missionaries who followed the command of Our Lord to “Go and preach the gospel to all nations.” When it ceased to be a spoken language, Latin retained the advantage of having a meaning to its words, which would not change, since the language was no longer a living and spoken one. This was very helpful to the transmission of pure doctrine and clear teaching of the Faith.

     While certain customs grew up around the celebration of the Mass, the basic elements remained the same. Some of these elements acquired a fixed and unchanging form in the very earliest centuries of the Church. Small variations existed in various parts of the world and, since they posed no threat to the Faith, they were retained without any central rules being issued by Rome. With the advent of Protestantism in the sixteenth century, which denied some of the basic teachings concerning the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Holy See, for the first time, legislated the exact form of the Mass. In 1570, Pope Saint Pius V codified one form for the celebration of the Mass throughout the Catholic world. In doing this, he did not “create” a Mass, but codified a basic Liturgical form as celebrated throughout the world. Many of the prayers and ceremonies had already been in existence for centuries prior to 1570; e.g., the Roman Canon which had reached its final development in the 6th century under Pope St. Gregory the Great.


Exceptions were made for those Rites and usages, which were in existence for more than two hundred years.

Speaking of this Liturgical Form of the Holy Mass, a great liturgist and scholar wrote:
 “So our Mass goes back, without essential changes, to the age when it first developed out of the oldest Liturgy of all. It is still redolent of that Liturgy of the days when Caesar ruled the world and thought he could stamp out the Faith of Christ, when our fathers met together before dawn and sang a hymn to Christ as to a God. The final result of our enquiry is that, in spite of unresolved problems, in spite of later changes,there is not in Christendom another Rite so venerable as ours” (“The Mass,” by Adrian Fortescue). 

     After the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the use of the vernacular in place of Latin was introduced into some parts of the Mass. Then, in late 1969, an entirely new Liturgy of the Mass was introduced, which was envisioned as being mainly celebrated in the vernacular language. Although the Traditional Latin Mass continued to exist in certain places, it was mostly replaced by the New Mass. With the passage of time, many realized that that there was the danger of losing a great treasure of the Church’s patrimony in allowing the Traditional Mass to fall into disuse. It was the product of many centuries of natural development, had inspired the treasury of Gregorian Chant and was celebrated and attended by saints and millions of the faithful down through the ages.
     In 2007, with the Motu Proprio (meaning “on the Pope’s own initiative”) “Summorum Pontificum,” Pope Benedict XVI called for a wider celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass and placed it side by side with the Ordinary Form of the Mass, calling it the Extraordinary Form of celebration of the Holy Mass. To quote the document: “The last version of the Missale Romanum prior to the Council (Vatican II), which was published with the authority of Pope John XXIII in 1962 and used during the Council, will now be able to be used as a forma extraordinaria of the liturgical celebration.” The Pope also made clear that this liturgical form was never suppressed. He wrote further: 


“There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.”

     St. Matthew’s Parish is one of three sites for the weekly celebration of Mass in this Form every Sunday and is unique in that is under the auspices of the Parish itself. Started at first as a Latin celebration of the “Ordinary Form” Mass, it was altered to the Extraordinary Form in 2007. We welcome all those who wish to attend. Here are two website links that will give you a great deal of further information on the Traditional Latin Mass and enable you to access resources for its study and celebration:

Huge-IT Third Slide.

The beat goes on….

A recent article ( linked above) makes a good and plain case for what is the real issue concerning the recent HHS mandates proposed by the Obama Administration.

What should have been seen as a question of religious entities being able to set their own guidelines and policies has now been turned ( with admittedly some egregious “unforced errors” by erstwhile allies) into a “war against women.”

If one wants to find an example of a genuine “war against women” one need only look to the mandatory and socially encouraged abortion programs in China and India that are resulting in a dramatic decline in live female-births.

The production of a 30 year old professional law student to complain in public of the cost of her tri-annual contraceptive needs not being met by a formally Catholic law school health insurance plan is almost breath-taking in its cynicism. A person capable of being admitted to Georgetown Law School would be amply qualified to attend a secular law school that would perhaps “cover” her contraceptive “needs”. Why then attend a Catholic institution?  Is pregnancy a disease whose prevention  must be met by a health insurance plan? Or is it not the natural ( if not always universal) result of sexual intercourse? Nothing was suggested that the sexual activity engaged in by the unmarried woman ( materially sinful in Catholic and orthodox Christian theology) is anything other than consensual; so even the poor excuse of rape is not invoked.

It seems likely that the tactic of singling out contraception as the “wedge” to splinter the Catholic ( and other religious bodies’) rights to set their own parameters of coverable and acceptable behavior for their own voluntary employees was deliberately chosen as the issue seems a forgone conclusion. Next will be abortifacients, then abortion. That is, if it is not stopped here.

March 12, 2012

Huge-IT Third Slide.

The next step….just saying…

The above article is a follow up to a story in the London Daily Telegraph newspaper concerning an “academic proposal” made in The Journal of Medical Ethics (!) just recently.
You will notice the backtracking of one of the original authors of the “proposal”. You will also notice it was not even defended as a “satire”.
Dr. Mengele, call your office!
March 5, 2012
Huge-IT Third Slide.

A mockery…

This morning I was reading a part of the daily Liturgy of the Hours, or Breviary. It is an obligation of all priests, transitional deacons, and most vowed religious and permanent deacons to pray this daily liturgical prayer divided into “hours” according to the time of day. In the “Little Hour” of Terce ( “third hour” or Midmorning Prayer) there was appointed as the short Scripture reading this from the prophet Joel: Between the porch and the altar, let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say ” Spare O Lord your people, and do not give your heritage over as a mockery, with the nations ruling over them!”

Those words hit home. Just last week at the Grammy Awards a singer named “Minaj” thought it would be funny to appear in some sort of pseudo-religious get-up and accompanied by an impersonator of a major and famous religious figure. Was she dressed in a burqa? Was the impersonator dressed as an Ayatollah, an imam, or even Mohammad? Was she dressed as a female resident of an Hasidic community, with a bearded rabbi as her companion? Of course not! You know what religion she could mock with impunity.  She dressed in pseudo-nun garb with a Pope John Paul II impersonator at her side in full “pontifical” rig.

I suppose she and the other sheep thought it was all so “courageous”. Yes, as courageous as shooting fish in a barrel.

Now while I see no good reason for Islam, Judaism, or Christianity to be so mocked; and our constitutional liberties even apply  to tasteless drivel we all know that Roman Catholicism is the one major monotheistic religion that can be safely mocked and derided, its sacred symbols and figures used as props for secular entertainment and defilement today.

Not so very long ago, Catholic themes  were treated with great respect by the major movie and entertainment moguls, many of whom were not Catholic. Priests, nuns, the Saints, even our rituals were depicted as positive and uplifting even in secular films and songs. A broadly  tolerant and respectful consensus held sway about religion in general.

I remember an Alfred Hitchock film in which a wrongly accused man on trial for his life played by Henry Fonda was depicted quietly praying the Rosary under the defense table, an image of the Sacred Heart in his mind while at the very moment the true murderer was arrested and the man freed. Today, if you see a religious Christian portrayed you can bet that well over 70% of the time he or she is a nut, or worse, a villainous hypocrite. And it is only almost only Christians so depicted . Of Christians, it’s mostly Evangelicals and Catholics.  Then again, what other religions pose a threat to the hedonism, vapidity, and irresponsible behavior that so permeates our popular culture?

There is one, but it is “off limits”. A “Minaj” knows very well NOT to appear in Islamic guise; that would take real, if misguided, courage. Today the country has been attacked and is under threat from practitioners of an overtly religious terrorism unknown for centuries. A world-wide religion serves as the cover for significant violence and bloodshed from vicious fanatics and yet you’d almost never know it from our cultural and entertainment trend-setters. Even the “action movies” depicting modern day warfare and “CIA”/spy type themes  ( with rare exceptions) seem to have every category of villain other than the actual people who are our self-declared enemies. We see vaguely “WASP”-like “government” white men as the “baddies”, and so on. It would be like a remake of  The Sands of Iwo Jima  in which US Marines battle fanatical Eskimos and Dutchmen instead of Japanese.

(Oddly enough almost the only major entertainment figure willing to satirize the anti-Western islamic jihadis is the over-the-top,  vulgar, comedian Sasha Baron Cohen whom the “Academy” can’t quite figure out how to handle. After all, he IS vulgar, which they can tolerate or even encourage;  but “Admiral General Aleen- Death to the West” is a bit too close to reality for them.)

We are a made a mockery to the nations. Some of this is a result of our own follies and weakness, if not cowardice. The Jewish people , so long imperilled in the midst of unfriendly nations, know the sadness and the danger of the “Self-hating Jew.” We too I think have more than our share of self-hating Catholics who are afraid, indifferent, or even enjoy the mockery of their own Faith.

Then again, that’s just me…. 

February 28, 2012.

Huge-IT Third Slide.

“The Issue”

One of the strangest developments of this year’s presidential primary campaign in the Republican Party has been the repeated and public use of the word “contraception”. Major political candidates for the highest public office are being asked in the secular media their “stand on contraception”.  This does not betoken a renewed interest in what has been ( to be frank) a rather silent moral issue in our society but by the recent and ongoing controversy between the Obama Administration’s HHS “mandates” that contraception be included in the package of “health care benefits” that must be offered by Catholic institutions and employers and the response of the United States Conference headed by Cardinal Dolan. A few weeks ago all the priests in our Diocese were mandated by our Bishop ( unlike the aforementioned “mandate” this is a legitimate one) to read his statement on the issue. The Administration offered a “compromise” still problematic from the standpoint of Catholic moral theology.

The proponents of the Administration’s mandate immediately made it an issue of “contraception” not religious freedom of conscience. Here they feel they are on safe ground. For in todays’ world, what could be more acceptable than contraception? To say that contraception, extra-marital sex, and homosexual sexual practices are immoral is prima facie evidence that one is “extreme.” In fact these were mainstream views only a few decades ago.The “contraceptionists” make the point that nearly all Catholic women are said to use contraception, so what’s the big deal?

The proponents of the Bishops’ reaction point to the religious freedom issue that is at the heart iof American constitutional liberties not the narrower issue of contraception.

I think no realistic person can doubt that the traditional Catholic teaching on the inherent wrongness of artificial contraception most famously reiterated by Pope Paul VI in his 1968 Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae is de facto a dead issue for  most Catholics, clergy and lay. An attitude exists that “it’s on the books..but…”

However, strangely enough, a defense of the Church’s teaching on contraception came from a secular journal, The Business Insider, in its Feb. 8th edition by the columnists 

“By making the birth of the child the physical choice of the mother, the sexual revolution has made marriage and child support a social choice of the father.

Instead of two parents being responsible for the children they conceive, an expectation that was held up by social norms and by the law, we now take it for granted that neither parent is necessarily responsible for their children. Men are now considered to be fulfilling their duties merely by paying court-ordered child-support. That’s a pretty dramatic lowering of standards for “fatherhood.” “

Huge-IT Third Slide.

40 Days, and all that.

You ask any reasonably catechized Catholic and they will tell you that Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Also, we speak of the “40 Days” of Lent. Yet, if you actually count up the days between Wednesday, Feb 22nd ( Ash Wednesday this year) and April 7th ( Holy Saturday) you will see 46 days. So, as they say, today, “what’s up with that?”

What is “up with that” is the organic development of the Lenten Season in our Latin Rite, Roman Catholic Church. In the Latin of the Roman Missal and Calendar, the first Sunday of Lent is described as “Quadragesima” or “fortieth” for the forty days that elapse from that Sunday till Holy Thursday, the first of the special three-day Sacred Triduum, a liturgical period all its own. The name “Quadragesima” is the basis of the term for the penitential season in the so-called “Romance languages”i.e., those languages derived from the “Roman tongue”: Latin. Our own Anglo-Saxon “Lent” is derived from a word for “Spring” in that tongue.

Originally, the season of Lent began on the First Sunday, “Quadragesima”. An echo of that very ancient practice survived in the Roman Breviary where right down to 1970 the proper Lenten Office only began on the First Sunday. ( Those who follow the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite will be aware of this, as well as the “Pre-Lenten” Sundays of  “Septuagesima” time.)

The addition of what we call Ash Wednesday, and the following days known as “post cineres” (“after the ashes”) until Quadragesima Sunday was an attempt to address a subsequent development in the canon law and disciplinary customs of the Western Church by the eighth century: i.e.; that no Sunday could be a penitential day of fast as each Sunday is regarded as a “little Easter”. Hence taking out the six Sundays that fall in Lent including Palm Sunday, and regarding Holy Thursday and Good Friday as Lenten Days, the total number of fast days remained at the ancient and biblical forty. In the older, more strict, Lenten regulations all the Sundays of Lent were not days of fast and partial-abstinence from meat.

Even today, our brethren of the Catholic Eastern Rites and the Orthodox Churches begin “Great Lent” on the first Sunday, with no custom of the imposition of blessed ashes.

The custom of “getting ashes” on Ash Wednesday became popular all over the West, and even today many who regrettably do not normally practice their Faith; or who are not even Catholics, still make it a point to visit a church and receive the mark of the ashes as a visible sign of even a nominal connection to the Faith.

February 20, 2012.

Huge-IT Third Slide.

Oh, is that good?

Oh? Is that good?

Just the other day I saw an article that came over the “internets” (as George W. Bush used to say) concerning a priest in another diocese. He is 72 years old, the pastor of a small parish, whose letter of resignation was just accepted by his Bishop.

The reason for his resignation is his inability/unwillingness to offer the Mass according to the new English translation of the Roman Missalrecently implemented. It wasn’t just a case of not being able  to “teach an old dog to do new tricks” however; but it seems that Father X has never celebrated the Mass according to any official liturgical texts, even the now superseded Sacramentary of 1975. Father X has grown used to consistently substituting his own creations or paraphrases in place of the approved prayers of the Liturgy all though the Mass and refuses to change his practice. He’s been doing this for decades, it was reported.

Now what struck me was not so much the fact that Father X “wings it”. I’ve been through enough Masses (I hope they were at least valid) celebrated by priests who just couldn’t seem to do without their own embellishments and “commentaries” to last a lifetime. In fact, this phenomenon is not unknown to either end of the ideological/theological spectrum in our often divided Church. I’ve seen priests alter every single masculine personal pronoun in the Mass to a “politically correct” feminist neuter gender. On the other hand I’ve seen “pious” and “conservative” priests  interrupting the Eucharistic Prayer ( the most sacred part of the Mass) to recite the Angelus because the bell for it was ringing outside.

What struck me was that Father X was well known for doing “his own thing” for decades, and got away with it. The report mentioned that his prior Bishop warned him about “pushing the envelope”. Well, if the reports are true however, Father X wasn’t just pushing the envelope; he just tore the “envelope” up and threw it away! It seems Father X didn’t understand what the word “Liturgy” means: the public worship of the Church, not the public worship of Father X.

Or is it? Who is being worshipped after all?

You see, the inevitable end result of this ( let us assume well-intentioned) disobedience to Church authority was also in the report: Father X’s parishioners are now up in arms that the new Bishop would dare to call Father X to a practice of obedience he abandoned years  ago. A parish is now divided, fragmented, bitter, and all because good old Father X thought he could do better “for his people” than the Church. If the usual trajectory continues some will undoubtedly leave the actual Catholic Church altogether and or follow Father X off into to some sort of “X-ish “ parish. Pity the next pastor in that place!

The question that heads this article is a line from the first pastor of a priest friend of mine. Both of us were ordained in 1978; a year often full of all kinds of experiments and attempts to make the Church’s Liturgy, practice, teachings “meaningful and relevant.” Like my first pastor, my friend’s would be bombarded with all kinds of requests, or complaints, that he was too “old fashioned” or that famous label: “pre Vatican 2”.  We all know how it would go: “Oh, Monsignor, over at Saint Zeitgeist’s they….(fill in the blank)…let red balloons go at Palm Sunday… shine shoes on Holy Thursday and not wash feet…let the children write their own First Communion Mass….the young priest doesn’t wear shoes and does magic tricks at Mass…” etc..etc.  And the old priest would pause; and gently, but clearly, say “Oh? Is that good?”

Is it good that Father X for 30 years hasn’t used an official liturgical book at “his” Masses (even when the official texts often tended to be banal and plain enough)? Is it good that some other pastor, or indeed, his Bishop didn’t call Father X in on the first occasion when he winged it at the 10 o’clock Mass and say something like “Look, Bill…I know you mean well…but you can’t keep doing that. It will only confuse the altar boys and make the people wonder what the heck you’re gonna’ say next…”? Maybe they did, or maybe they didn’t; but the result is now division, anger, and scandal.

What happened with Father X; and all the other Father X’s with their own ideas and practices at variance with the Church’s practice is never good.

Popular for a while maybe… entertaining maybe… but GOOD? A ministry that becomes “my” ministry as a cult of personality good?

As the Lord once said A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

If all the well-meaning efforts of all the Father X’s in the world were good, where is the fruit? Are the parishes full?  Are our schools, seminaries, novitiates full?  Are all those young people for whom so much of what Father X did was probably done today vibrant and faithful Catholics handing on the Faith to their children?

You see, it’s the fruit that endures that counts.

I know what it’s like to feel like a Father X. In the past in my own way, I did a little “Father X’ing” too. A prayer “improved” there, a blatant mistranslation “corrected” here; and so on. However, it was me that was doing it, not the Church. There is no doubt that an interesting phenomenon of the 1970’s Liturgy was how it seemed to take hold almost nowhere.  Both “left” and “right” found it dreary, rarely inspiring, too lacking in color and ritual. However, it did leave some room for “improv” but not as much as the  Father X’s would have liked. For the most part, I grit my teeth and plowed on with it.

Now the Church clearly intends her priests to be what Catholic priests have always been: celebrants, servants of the Liturgy, not its master or impresario.

Whether or not better fruit will come of it, we’ll see. The Church is more than “just ritual”: but we are firmly and fundamentally a Sacramental Church. And if the Church cannot regulate her own Sacraments then we are all adrift.

February 7, 2012.

Huge-IT Third Slide.

Happy New Year….

Today we celebrate the beginning of the New Year 2012 with a liturgical day that has had several names over the years: Octave Day of Christmas; Circumcision of the Lord; World Day of Peace; and its more usual designation: The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

This latter name can be a bit misleading to the average person. The “solemnity” referred too has nothing to do with a somber or dignified bearing or mood. It is a technical term in “liturgics” that refers to a particularly important ( “solemn”) feast day. The Mass texts for the Octave Day of Christmas always centered on the figure of the Virgin Mary regardless of the title of the day, so in the latest reforms of the liturgical calendar, it was given this new designation. January 1st is the feast day of Our Blessed Lady as “God-bearer:, she who brings forth God-in-the-flesh: Jesus Christ.

It is worth noting that only later in history did this feast become associated with the beginning of the new “civil” year. For many centuries in the Western Christian world, the year began on March 25: the feast of the Annunciation which is the feast of the Incarnation. It only became the practice to date the new year on January 1st in the 18th century in the English-speaking world!  It was the introduction of the “Gregorian Calendar” in the 16th century under the auspices of Pope Gregory XIII that started the process and used the traditional ancient Roman month dedicated to Janus the god of beginnings and endings as the first month of the year. This accounts for the odd fact that in our calendar ( a bit of a mish-mash of Greco-Roman deities, emperors, and Nordic weekday names) the month of December ( meaning “the 10th month” is, in fact, the 12th!)

With all that, we start every New Year by entrusting it to Our Blessed Lady, the “Gate of Heaven”, that she might open that gate for us as we journey into the future.