Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Saint Andrew School Celebrates Seder Meal

On Tuesday, the 6th grade at Saint Andrew School held a Christian Seder Meal.  The Seder meal is the celebration of the Jewish Passover - commemorating when God freed the Jewish People from slavery to the Pharaoh and brought them out of Egypt to begin their 40-year journey through the promised land. 

The Seder is, of course, filled with symbolic foods and symbols to remind the Jewish People of the events of that first Passover - when the Angel of Death "passed over" the homes that had been marked by the blood of the Paschal lamb, but destroyed all the first-born in every home not marked with the lamb's blood.

For example:
  • a radish - symbolizes the bitterness of life as a slave in Egypt
  • parsley (we used lettuce) dipped in salt water - symbolizes the tears of the Hebrews - but also causes us to remember the sorrow and suffering of so many, even today
  • unleavened bread - because the Hebrews had no time to let their dough rise before leaving Egypt
  • haroseth (a mixture of apple, cinnamon and walnuts) - which looks like a brown paste - symbolizes the mortar that the Hebrews had to use in building cities for Pharoah
  • lamb - symbolizes the blood placed on each of the Hebrew's door to mark the homes where God's people were - thus saving them from the terrible plague of the death of the first-born

It was the Seder Meal that Jesus was celebrating with his apostles when He instituted the Holy Eucharist and the Priesthood on that first Holy Thursday "on the night before He died for us."  The Seder involves the retelling of the "Haggadah" - the story of the deliverance of the Hebrews from their suffering as slaves in Egypt.   

When Christians celebrate the Seder Meal, we "Christianize" it - and make clear all the references to Christ and His Paschal Sacrifice.

As our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate the Passover this week, we remember them in our prayers - that God may keep them faithful to the Covenant He established with them.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Chrism Mass

Monday was the Chrism Mass here in our Diocese - a significant event in the life of the Diocese which occurs only once each year.  Normally it is a day when the priests of the Diocese gather with our Bishop to renew our priestly commitments and when the Sacred Oils are blessed.  However, as we all know, we are currently without a bishop - so the Diocese has arranged for an axillary bishop to come from another diocese to celebrate this Sacred Rite with us.  

During the Mass the bishop will bless the oil of catechumens (OC - often marked with a green ribbon), the oil of the sick (OI - often marked with a purple ribbon), and the oil of Chrism (SC - often marked with a gold or white ribbon).  We use the first for adult catechumens and infants, the second for anointing the sick, and the sacred oil of Chrism for baptism, confirmation, the ordination of priests, and the consecration of altars.  All three are basically an olive oil; chrism spices the air with the scent of a perfume, traditionally balsam. 

Historically, bishops have blessed oil since the early church.  They baptized catechumens at the Easter Vigil and prepared Chrism fresh for the occasion.  While they were blessing chrism, they blessed the other oils as well.  Rather than overburdening the Vigil with this ritual, bishops blessed these oils at the previous celebration of the Eucharist, the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday.  This also allowed time to transport vessels of oil from the cathedral to all the churches in the diocese.  For more than one thousand years, bishops blessed the oils at the cathedral Holy Thursday liturgy, but in 1955 we added a separate Mass earlier in the day at the cathedral for that purpose, the Mass of Chrism.  Today many dioceses, including our own, celebrate the Chrism Mass (or Mass of the Oils) a few days before Holy Thursday.  This is to allow sufficiient time for the transportaiton of the oils to the parishes of the diocese - and to give the priests the time they need to gather together for a day of spiritual reflection and renewal as they prepare to rededicate themselves to their priestly ministry. 

Since a bishop is the only minister who may consecrate chrism, this Mass highlights his ministry and the unity that exists between him, his priests and the people of the diocese.  At the Easter Vigil, the bishop will symbolically be present in every parish through the Sacred Oil which is used.  

This Mass is also a significant moment in the lives of us priests.  As I mentioned, it is a day when we gather for an entire day of spiritual renewal and prayer.  We also have the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance before Easter.  This moment always has a significant meaning for me, as a priest - but this year it holds special significance since we are in the midst of this Year for Priests.  Following the homily, which is usually directed to us priests, we will recall the promises we made on the day of our ordination and renew our dedication to be men of prayer, service and celibate chastity.  We certainly are aware of our unworthiness to exercise the priestly ministry, yet we are reminded to rely on the help of the Lord - and the prayers of the faithful - to sustain us in our priestly ministry and commitment to be configured to Christ, the Eternal High priest.  

It is a great source of blessing and encouragement for us that so many of the faithful also attend this liturgy and show their love and support for us, their priests.  Your prayers, the prayers of all the faithful, are so important for us. 

The Ceremonial of Bishops beautifully describes the Chrism Mass: “This Mass, which the bishop concelebrates with his college of presbyters and at which he consecrates the holy chrism and blesses the other oils, manifests the communion of the presbyters with their bishop. … Presbyters are brought together and concelebrate the Mass as witnesses and cooperators with their bishop in the consecration of the chrism because they share in the sacred office of the bishop in building up, sanctifying and ruling the people of God. This Mass is therefore a clear expression of the unity of the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ, which continue to be present in the Church” (no. 274).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday

So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!"  And Jesus found a young ass and sat upon it; as it is written, "Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on an ass's colt (Jn 12:13-15)!"

Today we commemorate Christ's entry into Jerusalem for the completion of the Paschal Mystery.  In the old calendar before Vatican II, the Church celebrated Passion Sunday two Sundays before Easter, and then Palm Sunday was the beginning of Holy Week.  The Church has combined the two to reinforce the solemnity of Holy Week.

The Palm Sunday procession is formed of Christians who, in the "fullness of faith," make their own the gesture of the Jews and endow it with its full significance.  Following the Jews' example we proclaim Christ as a Victor... Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.  But by our faith we know, as they did not, all that His triumph stands for.  He is the Messiah, the Son of David and the Son of God.  He is the sign of contradiction, acclaimed by some and reviled by others.  Sent into this world to free us from sin and the power of Satan, He underwent His Passion, the punishment for our sins, but comes forth triumphant from the tomb, the victor over death, making our peace with God and taking us with Him into the kingdom of His Father in heaven. 

Liturgy for Palm Sunday
The priest wears red vestments for Mass.  There is a special entrance at the beginning of each Mass, either simple or solemn.  This includes a blessing of the palms and the gospel reading of the entrance into Jerusalem (this year Luke 19:28-40).  The introduction by the priest explains the solemnity of Holy Week, and invites the faithful to take full part in the celebration:
Dear friends in Christ, for five weeks of Lent we have been preparing, by works of charity and self-sacrifice, for the celebration of our Lord's paschal mystery.  Today we come together to begin this solemn celebration in union with the whole Church throughout the world.  Christ entered in triumph into his own city, to complete his work as our Messiah: to suffer, to die, and to rise again.  Let us remember with devotion this entry which began his saving work and follow him with a lively faith. United with him in his suffering on the cross, may we share his resurrection and new life.
The palms are blessed with the following prayer:
Almighty God, we pray you bless these branches and make them holy.  Today we joyfully acclaim Jesus our Messiah and King.  May we reach one day the happiness of the new and everlasting Jerusalem by faithfully following him who lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.
As the faithful, we remember and dramatize Christ's triumphal entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey.  In Jesus' time, a huge crowd assembled, put their cloaks or branches on the ground, and waved palm branches, acclaiming Christ as the King of Israel, the Son of David.  We now wave our palm branches and sing as the priest enters the church:
Hosanna to the Son of David,
the King of Israel.
Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
These words of praise are echoed every day at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the Sanctus (Holy, Holy). 

Our joy, however, is quickly subdued.  We are jolted to reality and see the purpose of Christ coming to Jerusalem by the reading of the Passion at the Gospel. 

When Mass is finished, we take the palms home and hang them over crucifixes or holy pictures.  Another custom is to shape the palm into Crosses before hanging them.  The people of Italy and Mexico shape palms into extremely elaborate and beautiful figures.  Also, men in some places will wear a piece of it in their hats or pin it to their lapels.

Some of these same palm branches are saved and burned the next year to make the ashes for the next Ash Wednesday -- the palms, which symbolize triumph, and the ashes, which symbolize death and penitence, forming a great symbolic connection between suffering and victory.  Next year, when we get new palms, the old palms are burned and their ashes buried.
The Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday following Palm Sunday are another traditional time of cleaning.  Just as the house is cleaned during Advent in preparation for Christmas, and just as "Mardis Gras" is spent cleaning in preparation for Lent, these days are spent in preparation of the greatest Feast of the Church year: the Feast of Easter.  By Wednesday night, and the celebration of Tenebrae, the house should be spotless so that the days of the Sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) can be devoted to Christ's Passion.

Friday, March 26, 2010

What's the Construction About?

Perhaps some of you noticed last weekend that there's some construction work going on in the rear part of our parish property.  The Parish Pastoral Council has been looking at various ways to alleviate some of our space issues: adequate office space for parish & school, more meeting spaces, and more parking.

Well, at least one of those issues will soon be in the past - PARKING.  The parish has contracted with Waynesboro Construction to provide a 70 x 90 foot new parking area where the old garage used to be.  The new lot should provide about 20 new parking places for our parishioners.  This will certainly help with some of our parking issues.  I don't think it will be ready for Easter, but it's coming soon!

The council is also currently working on some possible solutions to our office space / meeting space challenges.  Watch for more information as things progress!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Another Solemnity - the Annunciation

Today the Church takes another step away from Lent as we celebrate the Annunciation - when the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would become the Mother of God - and the fact that "she conceived of the Holy Spirit" at the moment of her "fiat."  Why March 25?  Well, that's an easy answer - it's 9 months before December 25 - the celebration of Christ's birth.

The story of the Annunciation, meaning the announcing (from the Latin annuntiare), is told in Luke's gospel. At the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will conceive a Son, and his name will be Jesus. His greeting, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you" has echoed down through the ages in many prayers, and forms the beginning of the prayer the "Hail Mary." Mary is initially confused as to how she will bear God's Son, since she is a virgin. The angel then explains that the Holy Spirit will come upon on her. This is why when we recite the Nicene creed we say "by the power of the Holy Spirit, [Jesus] was born of the Virgin Mary and became man." The Apostles Creed likewise affirms that Jesus was "conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit." Thus, the Feast of the Annunciation is the beginning of Jesus' miraculous life, and it begins with the theotokos (the "God-bearer") conceiving Jesus by the Holy Spirit's power.

Mary's response to the angel, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word," is a statement of humble faith, and a model for how we are to respond when God calls us to do what seems impossible. This response is called Mary's fiat, from the Latin word meaning "let it be done." The Catechism addresses the significance of Mary's faith in relation to her role as Christ's mother:
By pronouncing her "fiat" at the Annunciation and giving her consent to the Incarnation, Mary was already collaborating with the whole work her Son was to accomplish. She is mother wherever he is Savior and head of the Mystical Body (973).
Historically, the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary dates back to at least the 6th century, and is mentioned between AD 530 and 533 in a sermon by Abraham of Ephesus.  In the West, the first authentic reference is in the Gelasian Sacramentary in the 7th century.  The tenth Synod of Toledo (AD 656), and Trullan Synod (AD 692) speak of the Annunciation feast as universally celebrated in the Catholic Church. In the Acts of the latter council, the feast is exempted from the Lenten fast.

The oldest observance of the day is on March 25, although in Spain the feast was at times celebrated on December 19 to avoid any chance of the date falling during the Lenten season. As I already said, March 25 is obviously 9 months before Christmas.  Scholars are not completely sure whether the date of the Annunciation influenced the date of Christmas, or vice-versa.  Before the Church adopted fixed days of celebration, early Christians speculated on the dates of major events in Jesus' life.  Some ancient Christians believed Jesus was conceived on March 25th because (based on Jewish calculations of the period) the creation of the world occurred that day.  So, they felt it was fitting that the one who makes us new creations was conceived on the day the world was created. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Why are the Statues and Cross Veiled?

Why?  Because my dad always did it in our house growing up.  Well, he did, but that's not the reason.  There is a longstanding custom of veiling all statues and images and crucifixes during the last two weeks of Lent - although the practice has a long, and somewhat confusing, history.  In fact, following Vatican II, there were some who sought to entirely abolish the practice, but it survived because of the "sensus fidelium" (the sense of the faithful) who had made the practice part of their own way of celebrating Lent.

The regulations regarding the practice are succinct and simple.  "The practice of covering crosses and images in the church may be observed, if the episcopal conference decides.  The crosses are to be covered until the end of the celebration of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday.  Images are to remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil" (Sacramentary).  They are to be covered from before the vigil Mass of the 5th Sunday of Lent, however neither the Stations of the Cross nor images in windows are ever veiled.

When we think about the liturgies of Holy Week, in some ways the unveiling of the Cross on Good Friday would lose its meaning if the crucifixes in the church were not already veiled.

But, why is this done on the 5th Sunday of Lent and not Palm Sunday or Holy Week, or even earlier in the Lenten Season?  Well, the custom comes from the former liturgical calendar in which the Passion narrative was on the Fifth Sunday of Lent (hence called "Passion Sunday") as well as on Palm Sunday, Tuesday & Wednesday of Holy Week, and Good Friday.  For this reason, the period that follows the 5th Sunday of Lent was called Passiontide.  A remnant of this custom is the mandatory use of the first Preface of the Lord's Passion during the 5th Week of Lent.  

Msgr. Peter Elliott, in a book entitled Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year remarks, "The custom of veiling crosses and images during the last two weeks of Lent has much to commend it in terms of religious psychology, because it helps us to concentrate on the great essentials of Christ's work of Redemption. 

Although the historical origin of the custom lies elsewhere, it probably derives from a custom, noted in Germany from the 9th Century (the 800's), of extending a large cloth in front of the altar from the beginning of Lent.  This cloth, called the Hungertuch (hunger cloth), hid the altar entirely from the view of the faithful and was not removed until during the reading of the Passion on Holy Wednesday at the words "the veil of the temple was rent in two."

Some say that there was a practical reason for this practice insofar as the often illiterate faithful needed a way to know that it was Lent.  However, the truth probably lies more in the fact that it is a remnant of the ancient practice of public penance - during which the penitents were ritually expelled from the church at the beginning of Lent.

After "public penance" fell into disuse - but the entire congregation symbolically entered the "order of penitents" by receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday - it was no longer possible to expel everyone from the church!  Rather, the altar (or "Holy of Holies") was shielded from view until they were reconciled to God at Easter.    For very similar reasons, later on in the Middle Ages, the images and crosses and saints were also covered from the start of Lent until Easter.  The rule that limits this veiling to "Passiontide" doesn't appear until the publication of the Ceremonial of Bishops in the 17th century.

Perhaps, as we enter into these last 2 weeks of Lent, we could take this practice into our own homes - using purple or red cloth to cover the crucifixes and statues in our homes - maybe not for these entire two weeks, but just for Holy Week.  Adopting the practice in our own homes would certainly remind us that we've entered into the most holy weeks of the year.  It might also help us avoid distractions during this holy time.  An added practice might be to place a shroud over the TV or computer, as a reminder during Holy Week that there should be no television viewing or playing on the computer.  Some families cover mirrors in various parts of the house, also to limit distractions.  These coverings should remain until after the Easter Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday (or until the children have gone to bed that night).

But we should keep one crucifix uncovered to use as a focal point for our family prayers and services throughout Holy Week.  If there isn't a family altar already, a special place or table might be set up which would have a crucifix, some candles and, maybe, covered in a purple cloth. 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saint Joseph Table Provides for Poor

O Glorious Saint Joseph, most just and most chaste; your entire life, your vocation was to care for Mary, your spouse, and to be the earthly father of Jesus, our Savior.  In this loving care for Christ, the Head of the Church and Mary, the Church's preeminent member, you truly are the patron of the Universal Church.  As our parish of Saint Andrew the Apostle honors you, we, too, provide for the Church by caring for those most in need.  Our food and bread will provide sustenance for the hungry and poor.  May we always imitate you in providing for your Church.  Saint Joseph, pray for us.

Yesterday, our school students and members of the parish brought various food items to offer at our Saint Joseph Table.  Homemade breads and many other non-perishable food items were presented during morning Mass and at the Stations of the Cross - and were taken to the New Hope Shelter here in Waynesboro.  Thank you for your love and concern for the least among us.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Solemnity of Saint Joseph

Everything we know about the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus comes from Scripture and that has seemed too little for those who made up legends about him.

We know he was a carpenter, a working man, for the skeptical Nazarenes ask about Jesus, "Is this not the carpenter's son?" (Matthew 13:55). He wasn't rich for when he took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised and Mary to be purified he offered the sacrifice of two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons, allowed only for those who could not afford a lamb (Luke 2:24).

Despite his humble work and means, Joseph came from a royal lineage.  Luke and  Matthew disagree about some details of Joseph's genealogy, but they both mark his descent from David, the greatest king of Israel (Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38). Indeed the angel who first tells Joseph about Jesus greets him as "son of David," a royal title used also for Jesus. 

We know Joseph was a compassionate, caring man. When he discovered Mary was pregnant after they had been betrothed, he knew the child was not his but was as yet unaware that she was carrying the Son of God. He planned to divorce Mary according to the law but he was concerned for her suffering and safety. He knew that women accused to adultery could be stoned to death, so he decided to divorce her quietly and not expose her to shame or cruelty (Matthew 1:19-25).

We know Joseph was a man of faith, obedient to whatever God asked of him without knowing the outcome. When the angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him the truth about the child Mary was carrying, Joseph immediately and without question or concern for gossip, took Mary as his wife. When the angel came again to tell him that his family was in danger, he immediately left everything he owned, all his family and friends, and fled to a strange country with his young wife and the baby. He waited in Egypt without question until the angel told him it was safe to go back (Matthew 2:13-23).

We know Joseph loved Jesus. His one concern was for the safety of this child entrusted to him. Not only did he leave his home to protect Jesus, but upon his return settled in the obscure town of Nazareth out of fear for his life. When Jesus stayed in the Temple we are told Joseph (along with Mary) searched with great anxiety for three days for him (Luke 2:48). We also know that Joseph treated Jesus as his own son for over and over the people of Nazareth say of Jesus, "Is this not the son of Joseph?" (Luke 4:22)

We know Joseph respected God. He followed God's commands in handling the situation with Mary and going to Jerusalem to have Jesus circumcised and Mary purified after Jesus' birth. We are told that he took his family to Jerusalem every year for Passover, something that could not have been easy for a working man.

Since Joseph does not appear in Jesus' public life, at his death, or resurrection, many historians believe Joseph probably had died before Jesus entered public ministry.

Joseph is the patron of the dying because, assuming he died before Jesus' public life, he died with Jesus and Mary close to him, the way we all would like to leave this earth.

Joseph is also patron of the universal Church, fathers, carpenters, and social justice.

We celebrate two feast days for Joseph: today, March 19 for Joseph, the Husband of Mary and May 1 for Saint Joseph the Worker (the origin of even communist "May Day" celebrations).

There is much we wish we could know about Saint Joseph -- where and when he was born, how he spent his days, when and how he died. But Sacred Scripture has left us with the most important knowledge: who he was -- "a righteous man" (Matthew 1:18).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Top of the Morning to You

Today is the Feast of Saint Patrick - the principal Patron of the Diocese of Harrisburg.  So, just like this coming Friday, today is NOT a day of Lent, but a day of celebration for us in the Diocese of Harrisburg - and everyone who, at least for today, becomes Irish.  By the way, today is a Holy Day of Obligation in Ireland.

St. Patrick of Ireland is one of the world's most popular saints.  He is considered the apostle of Ireland.  Along with St. Nicholas and St. Valentine, the secular world shares our love of these saints. This is also a day when everyone's Irish.
There are many legends and stories of St. Patrick, but this is his story.

Patrick was born around 385 in Scotland, probably Kilpatrick. His parents were Roman citizens living in Britian who were in charge of the Roman colonies there.

As a boy of fourteen or so, he was captured during a raid and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep.  At this time in history, Ireland was a land of Druids and pagans. He learned the language and practices of the people who held him.

During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer. He wrote

"The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same." "I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain."

Patrick's captivity lasted until he was twenty, when he escaped after having a dream from  God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to Britian, where he reunited with his family.

He had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him "We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more."

He began his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, whom he had studied under for years.

Later, Patrick was ordained a bishop, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland on March 25, 433, at Slane. One legend says that he met a chieftain of one of the tribes, who tried to kill Patrick. Patrick converted Dichu (the chieftain) after he was unable to move his arm until he became friendly to Patrick.

Patrick began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick's message.

Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461.

He died at Saul, where he had built the first church. 

Why a shamrock? 

Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Trinity, and has been associated with him and the Irish since that time. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Healthcare Bill Dosn't Meet Minimum Moral Standards - Must be Opposed

  • provide a truly universal health policy with respect for human life and dignity
  • provide access for all with a special concern for the poor and inclusion of immigrants
  • pursue the common good and preserve pluralism including freedom of conscience and variety of options
  • restrain costs and apply them equitably across the spectrum of payers

.- In his weekly column for the Denver Catholic Register, the Archbishop of Denver, Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., says the Senate health-care bill does not meet minimum moral standards and therefore, doesn’t have the support of the Catholic bishops.

“The Senate version of health-care reform currently being forced ahead by congressional leaders and the White House is a bad bill that will result in bad law,”  says the archbishop in his column titled, “Catholics, health care and the Senate’s bad bill,” published today on the archdiocese’s  website.

“As I write this column on March 14, the Senate bill remains gravely flawed.  It does not meet minimum moral standards in at least three important areas: the exclusion of abortion funding and services; adequate conscience protections for health-care professionals and institutions; and the inclusion of immigrants,” Chaput writes.

In reference to pro-Obama Catholic organizations who have been claiming that the bill is “sufficiently” pro-life, the Archbishop of Denver argues that “groups, trade associations and publications describing themselves as ‘Catholic’ or ‘prolife’ that endorse the Senate version – whatever their intentions – are doing a serious disservice to the nation and to the Church, undermining the witness of the Catholic community; and ensuring the failure of genuine, ethical health-care reform.” 

Such groups, Archbishop Chaput explains, “create confusion at exactly the moment Catholics need to think clearly about the remaining issues in the health-care debate.  They also provide the illusion of moral cover for an unethical piece of legislation.”

The archbishop then reminds his readers of  “a few simple facts.”

First, the Catholic bishops of the United States began pressing for real national health-care reform “long before either political party or the public media found it convenient.”  Second, the bishops have tried earnestly to craft a consensus “that would serve all Americans,” but the failure of their effort has one source:  “It comes entirely from the stubbornness and evasions of certain key congressional leaders, and the unwillingness of the White House to honor promises made by the president last September.”

Third, “the health-care reform debate has never been merely a matter of party politics.  Nor is it now.” In this regard, Archbishop Chaput praises Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak and “a number of his Democratic colleagues” for showing “extraordinary character in pushing for good health-care reform while resisting attempts to poison it with abortion-related entitlements and other bad ideas that have nothing to do with real health care.” 

“To put it another way,” the Archbishop says, “few persons seriously oppose making adequate health services available for all Americans.  But God, or the devil, is in the details -- and by that measure, the current Senate version of health-care reform is not merely defective, but also a dangerous mistake.”

Nevertheless, Archbishop Chaput writes that the “most painful feature” in the last weeks of the debate, “has been those ‘Catholic’ groups that by their eagerness for some kind of deal undercut the witness of the Catholic community and help advance a bad bill into a bad law. Their flawed judgment could now have damaging consequences for all of us.”

The Archbishop of Denver reminds his readers that the bill “does not deserve, nor does it have, the support of the Catholic bishops in our country, who speak for the believing Catholic community.” 

“Catholics and other persons of good will concerned about the foundations of human dignity should oppose it,” he says in closing.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Why all this Latin?

OK, Father, why are you using Latin this weekend?  The simple answer: Because Latin is a rich and essential part of our Catholic heritage.  We need to remember that, while Vatican II permitted the use of the vernacular (the local, spoken language), it did not forbid or outlaw the use of Latin.  In fact, Vatican II promoted the preservation of Latin in the Liturgy.  But like so many other aspects of our interpretation of the Council, we took things to extremes.

Believe me, I have no desire to return to an all-Latin liturgy. However, the occasional (twice a year) use of the Eucharistic Prayer in Latin is a way to speak to our heritage and the beauty, universality and "other worldliness" of our Catholic liturgy.  

There are many reasons why Latin should still play an important part in the liturgy of today's Church. Vatican II itself envisaged the continued use of Latin: "The use of Latin is to be preserved in the Latin rites." (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 36) Latin has been used in the rites of the Western Church since at least the fourth century, if not earlier. It is not surprising therefore that the Novus Ordo introduced by Pope Paul VI in 1970 was composed in Latin. Vernacular translations followed, rather than preceded, the Latin original. The use of the Church's traditional language of worship has the following important benefits:
  1. It is a sacral language, associated with the single, exalted purpose of the worship of God. The use of Latin in this way should not surprise us for a sacral language is a feature of all the major world religions: classical Arabic in Islam, Sanskrit in Hinduism and, of course, Hebrew in Judaism - the language in which Our Lord would have prayed. 
  2. Latin helps us overcome limitations of time and place, and helps us participate in the universal reality of the Catholic Church, linking us with the generations who have worshiped before us. 
  3. The use of Latin in all countries and across the centuries is a powerful symbol of the Church's unity. 
  4. The use of Latin enables also the use of the great liturgical music of the Church, particularly plainchant and polyphony. Vatican II said: "The treasury of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care." (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 114)
Consider the following quote from Cardinal Arinze:

Did Vatican II discourage Latin?
Some people think, or have the perception, that the Second Vatican Council discouraged the use of Latin in the liturgy. This is not the case.

Just before he opened the Council, Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1962 issued an Apostolic Constitution to insist on the use of Latin in the Church. The Second Vatican Council, although it admitted some introduction of the vernacular, insisted on the place of Latin: "Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites" (SC, n. 36).

The Council also required that seminarians "should acquire a command of Latin which will enable them to understand and use the source material of so many sciences and the documents of the Church as well" (Optatam Totius, n. 13). The Code of Canon Law published in 1983 enacts that "the Eucharistic celebration is to be carried out either in the Latin language or in another language, provided the liturgical texts have been lawfully approved" (can. 928).

Those, therefore, who want to give the impression that the Church has put Latin away from her liturgy are mistaken. A manifestation of people's acceptance of Latin liturgy well celebrated was had at the world level in April 2005, when millions followed the burial rites of Pope John Paul II and then, two weeks later, the inauguration Mass of Pope Benedict XVI over the television.

It is remarkable that young people welcome the Mass celebrated sometimes in Latin. 

Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, delivered this Keynote Address at the Gateway Liturgical Conference which was held in St Louis, Missouri, U.S.A., 11 November 2006

Friday, March 12, 2010

Action Needed on Health Care

Congress again is preparing to vote on health care reform. At this stage, it is difficult to predict how votes might unfold. It is very important that the language in the House-passed bill preventing abortion funding—the Stupak-Pitts Amendment—be incorporated in its essential features as a part of any final bill. 
Votes could occur at any time. Please click on the link HERE to send a message to House and Senate Members! Act now! 

What has happened up to this point in the health care reform debate? The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have passed different bills. On the question of preventing abortion funding, the House language is good, the Senate language is unacceptable. Outside the abortion context, neither bill has adequate conscience protection for health care providers, plans or employers.

What’s next? The two chambers need to agree on a final bill. It is not clear how this will be achieved. There is discussion of using a reconciliation bill, a budget measure that in the Senate cannot be filibustered and needs only 51 votes to pass.

Analyses of the House and Senate-passed bills can be found at the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment website at:
Thank you for all you do in support of life!
Help to ensure health care the promotes health, not death!

For even more detailed information, check out the Bishop's website on Health Care Reform.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Aposltes Creed

Throughout the Middle Ages, it was generally believed and accepted that this Apostles’ Creed was composed jointly by the twelve Apostles in Jerusalem, with each of the twelve contributing one clause of the Creed before embarking on their respective missions. This legend dates back to the 4th century. Today, this is a point of argument and debate, especially within the ranks of the Protestant scholars. Nevertheless, many continue to think of this creed as apostolic in nature because its basic teachings are agreeable to the theological formulations of the Apostolic Age. The Catholic Church does not hold a position one way or the other on this subject; however, it does hold that all of the points of the Creed are part of the Catholic Faith. Most of the western Christian faiths today profess the Apostles’ Creed as their core tenants of faith of Christianity.

  • Over history, the Apostles’ Creed functioned in many ways in the life of the Catholic Church:In the early Church, it was a confession of faith necessary for those to be baptized. 
  • Catechetical instruction was based on the major tenets of the creed. This was necessary, because many of the new Christians were not able to read and write; this, almost poetic, Creed was easy to memorize and make part of everyday life. 
  • In time, the Apostles’ Creed became a “rule of faith” to clearly separate the true faith from heretical deviations. 
  • By the 6th or 7th century the Creed had come to be accepted as a part of the official liturgy of the Church. 
  • Finally, it was used, along with the Lord’s Prayer, by devout individuals as a part of their morning and evening devotions.
During the 8am Mass on Saturday, March 13, the Creed will be presented to our Elect - those members of the RCIA who are preparing to be baptized at the Easter Vigil.  This is a special rite of the RCIA process which occurs sometime during the 3rd week of Lent.  During the rite, the Church officially entrusts the words of the Creed to those seeking to enter the Catholic Church. Nearly seventeen centuries old, the Creed is recited by the faithful at every Mass, and summarizes what we believe as Catholics. 
For those coming into the Church this Easter, this Rite symbolizes that our parish community is passing on and sharing the beliefs of our Catholic faith with them, so that those about to join our Catholic family embrace and treasure these venerable words as we do.  I invite you to join us as we "hand on the Faith" to our parish Elect.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Greatest Disaster? Sin!

When disaster befalls us and our lives are lost in storms, fires and floods, some wonder if they have been punished more than others as somehow more deserving of God's wrath. People reacted in much the same way in the Lord's day. A wall had fallen on some workers in Siloam, which some took as God's punishment for those who had sinned more than others. " you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." (Lk 13. 4-5) 
"[Jesus] tells us that, without Holy Baptism, no one will enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Jn 3:5); and, elsewhere, that if we do not repent we will all perish (Lk 13:3). This is all easily understood. Ever since man sinned, all his senses rebel against reason; therefore, if we want the flesh to be controlled by the spirit and by reason, it must be mortified; if we do not want the body to be at war the soul, it and all our senses need to be chastened; if we desire to go to God, the soul with all its faculties needs to be mortified" (St. John Mary Vianney, Selected Sermons, Ash Wednesday).
Repentance in the heart leads to confession with the lips. The Lord commands us to mourn for our sins and, with contrition, to embrace a firm amendment to avoid the near occasions of sin in the future. This contrition is not something added to the Gospel as an option but is of necessity if we are to love God and receive the gift of salvation. The disposition of contrition is required of us, therefore, when receiving the sacramental gift of divine forgiveness in Confession.

Among the penitent's acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is "sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again." (CCC 1451)  When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called "perfect" (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible. (Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1676.) (CCC 1453)

Perhaps this week, as we come to nearly the halfway point of Lent, let's continue preparing by examining our consciences in order to rightly confess our sins and be prepared for the celebration of the Resurrection.  Don't forget that our parish penance service will be Tuesday, March 30th.  Maybe use the next few weeks to be reflecting and preparing to experience Christ's "welcome" in the Sacrament of Penance.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Saint Katherine Drexel has Links to Central PA

Born in Philadelphia on 26 November 1858, Katharine was the second daughter of Francis Anthony Drexel, a wealthy banker, and his wife, Hannah Jane. The latter died a month after Katharine's birth, and two years later her father married Emma Bouvier, who was a devoted mother, not only to her own daughter Louisa (born 1862), but also to her two step-daughters. Both parents instilled into the children by word and example that their wealth was simply loaned to them and was to be shared with others.
Katharine was educated privately at home; she traveled widely in the United States and in Europe. Early in life she became aware of the plight of the Native Americans and the Blacks; when she inherited a vast fortune from her father and step-mother, she resolved to devote her wealth to helping these disadvantaged people. In 1885 she established a school for Native Americans at Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Later, during an audience with Pope Leo XIII, she asked him to recommend a religious congregation to staff the institutions which she was financing. The Pope suggested that she herself become a missionary, so in 1889 she began her training in religious life with the Sisters of Mercy at Pittsburgh.
In 1891, with a few companions, Mother Katharine founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People. The title of the community summed up the two great driving forces in her life—devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and love for the most deprived people in her country.
Requests for help reached Mother Katharine from various parts of the United States. During her lifetime, approximately 60 schools were opened by her congregation. The most famous foundation was made in 1915; it was Xavier University, New Orleans, the first such institution for Black people in the United States.
Mother Drexel also has several connections to our Diocese: St. Patrick Church in Carlisle is one of the places where she founded a mission and the construction of the current rectory (originally constructed as a convent and school) was financially supported, in large part, by St. Katherine Drexel. Another connection is that St. Katherine Drexel Parish in Mechanicsburg is the first parish in the entire world to be named in her honor.
In 1935 Mother Katharine suffered a heart attack, and in 1937 she relinquished the office of superior general. Though gradually becoming more infirm, she was able to devote her last years to Eucharistic adoration, and so fulfil her life’s desire. She died at the age of 96 at Cornwell Heights, Pennsylvania, on 3 March 1955. Her cause for beatification was introduced in 1966; she was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II on 26 January 1987, by whom she was also beatified on 20 November 1988.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

God's Beauty in Nature

Well, as some of you know, I took a few days off this week for a "little" ski trip to Colorado with a priest friend from Omaha (Fr. Joe Taphorn) and 4 other Omaha priests. We arrived to a pretty wicked snowstorm on I-70 from Denver to Copper Mountain, but once we all finally got here safe and sound, it's been beautiful. So often we sit on the lift and just comment on God's beauty in nature. It's really awesome! In a way, a beautiful mini-retreat - appreciating God's beauty. And the skiing ain't bad either... I'll be back in the parish on Friday evening (late).

Monday, March 1, 2010

Light of Christ Medal

Last weekend two of our parishioners received the Cub Scout's "Light of Christ Medal" following the Scout Mass. They are, pictured above, Kristian Bennett and George Skehan. Congratulations!