Monday, October 25, 2010

Westminster Movement

The Cathedral shows us the way ahead

Introibo ad altare Dei....

From an Article over at Inside Catholic, by Michael Foley

To raise the possibility of an all-male liturgical ministry is to invite tribulation. Those who prefer the traditional arrangement of male altar servers, lectors, and so on are nervous about vocalizing their convictions, let alone acting upon them. This in itself is significant: Regardless of where one stands on the issue, it should give us pause that many Catholics, from the pious in the pews to prelates in the Vatican, stand in fear of being stigmatized as supporters of a 4,000-year-old tradition, faithfully kept by God's chosen people from the days of Abraham until the Catholic Church began changing its practices in the 1970s.
But let us have courage and look again with fresh eyes. Such an investigation is necessary, especially if we wish to continue admitting women into the service of the sanctuary. G. K. Chesterton once complained of would-be reformers that they "do not know what they are doing because they do not know what they are undoing." His grievance was that reformers either do not sufficiently study the original rationale for the thing they are dismantling, or they assume "all their fathers were fools." Yet advocates for female liturgical ministers might go further and say that our fathers were not fools but worse: oppressors, sexists, misogynists. This forces us to ask: Are sins of bias the real reason behind an all-male liturgical ministry? What precisely are we undoing?
To address these questions, we turn to eight distinctions.

1.  Allowed vs. Encouraged
The Holy See allows female lectors, extraordinary ministers of Communion, and altar servers, but it does not necessarily encourage them. Despite the fact that papal Masses have female readers, permission for this has an officially optional, provisional, and exceptional nature (see Canon 230.2). Strictures surrounding altar girls are particularly tight. According to the Congregation for Divine Worship's 2001 letter "Concerning the Use of Female Altar Servers," the general law prohibiting them remains in effect except in those places where the bishop uses the indult allowing them. A bishop cannot compel his priests to use female altar servers; and every bishop, even when using this indult, is obligated not to undermine the "noble tradition" of altar boys.

2.  Liturgical vs. Non-liturgical
Saying that women shouldn't serve in the sanctuary says nothing about women's leadership elsewhere in the Church or other ministries open to them. Liturgy is a unique animal: It has its own rules, logic, and, as we shall see, symbolic demands.

3.  Holy vs. Sacred
"Holy" and "sacred" are not synonymous. To be holy is to be filled with and transformed by the Holy Spirit, whereas to be sacred is to be consecrated for special use. The opposite of "holy" is "wicked," but the opposite of "sacred" is "profane," a word that literally means "outside the temple" and has no necessarily negative connotations.
Both sexes are equally called to holiness, while they are called to different roles regarding the sacred. These roles do not prejudice the ability of one sex to become holy: As all the bad popes writhing in Dante'sInferno amply attest, having a particular access to the sacred and becoming holy are two different matters.
Per Alice von Hildebrand's The Privilege of Being a Woman, one way of describing the difference is that men are called to be protectors or keepers of the sacred, whereas women are called to be a particularembodiment of the sacred. Von Hildebrand, for instance, writes eloquently on how the female body is sacred in a way that a man's isn't.
The distinction between holiness and sacredness also explains how the same St. Paul who declares that there is "neither male nor female" in Christ (Gal 3:28) can also prescribe very different kinds of comportment for men and women in liturgical worship regarding headdress, lectoring, etc. (1 Cor 11:3-12, 14:34-35). Contrary to popular historicist readings, Paul's writings are not contradictory "products of their age" but a practical instantiation of the perennial distinction between holy and sacred.

4.  Function vs. Symbol
The sexes' differing relations to the sacred is connected to the innate typology of the Mass. For if men are the custodians of the sacred and women the embodiment, we should find this in the Church's supreme act of worship.
And we do. Since every Mass is a mini-Incarnation, a re-actualization of the great event that took place when the "yes" of the Blessed Virgin Mary ratified the divine initiative and made God really present in her womb, the sanctuary in which the Mass takes place is effectively a womb. This is why the traditional configuration of a church sanctuary is uterine. With its demarcating border of altar rail or iconostasis, it is an "enclosed garden" (Sg 4:15), a traditional image of maidenhood. And whereas the sanctuary is feminine, her ministers, as representatives of the sanctuary's divine Husband, are masculine. (For more on this crucial point, see Jacob Michael's outstanding "Women at the Altar.")
This is obvious in the case of the priest, the indispensable stand-in for the Groom who fructifies the sanctuary-womb by consecrating the Eucharistic elements (whereas a female priest is as impossible as the conjugal union of two women). But is it true for the other liturgical ministers? No and yes: No, it is no more essential for a priest to be attended by males in the sanctuary than it is for a groom to be accompanied by groomsmen in order to validly marry. On the other hand, yes, it is highly appropriate for a priest to be assisted by males in the sanctuary, just as it is highly appropriate for groomsmen to accompany a groom.
And thus our fourth distinction, between function and symbol. From the very first Mass in the Upper Room, which deliberately took place during the ceremonially rich Passover, the liturgy has never been a matter of pure utility. Everything in liturgical tradition has deep significance: In this case, the maleness of its ministers is an icon of the nuptial embrace between Christ and His Church, a dramatization of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

5.  Mars vs. Venus
Male custodianship of the sacred is also linked to sacrifice. Although offering oneself as a sacrifice is equally incumbent on both sexes (Rom 12:1), men are the only ones in the Bible who offer physical immolations. Scripture doesn't say why, but we may hazard a guess. Men after the Fall are the violent sex, more likely to have recourse to bloodshed as a means of obtaining what it wants. While this does not deny that women can also be violent, it does explain the causes of war, the population of our prisons, and the consumer demographic of video-game players.
God's strategy appears to have been to channel the postlapsarian male's propensity for violence away from murder toward animal sacrifice as a way of helping him recognize his devious impulses and repent. "God in his seeming bloodthirstiness," Patrick Downey writes in his superb Desperately Wicked, "is actually more concerned with curing us of our own." This strategy culminates in the New Covenant, when its High Priest, rather than committing violence, allows Himself to be victimized by it. God's final solution to the problem of man's deicidal heart is to give him exactly what he wants.
But the cross is a true sacrifice, as is the sacrifice of the altar which re-presents it. Thus, it remains linked not only to the darkness of the human heart but to the specific problem of male violence. Serving on the altar is actually a healthy form of humiliation for men and boys, for it constitutes a confession of their wicked hearts; God's restriction of sacrifice to males in the Tabernacle, Temple, and beyond is a back-handed compliment.

6.  Good for the Gander, Not the Goose
Altar service is also good for males because it encourages religious vocations and teaches all men to serve chivalrously and to respect the feminine, which is sacred, with reverence and awe. It is not so for girls. Let us be honest: When we allow a girl to serve at the altar, we are lying to her. We place her in the courtly role of page and tell her she can never be a lord. And we are not encouraging vocations to the convent: For a nun, as Rev. Vincent Miceli persuasively argues in "Sisters as Symbols of the Sacred," is called to besacred, not a knightly protector of the sacred.

7.  Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up
But wouldn't the Vatican's prohibition of female liturgical ministers invite howls of protests from those keen on tarring the Church with the dread label of sexism and the terrifying metaphor of "turning back the clock"? Undoubtedly, but change needn't happen by centralized proscription. There could be a grassroots movement in which parishes or dioceses restore the nuptial signs of the Eucharistic sacrifice for themselves. Such a movement could grow organically until it transformed the way the faithful approached liturgical worship.

8.  Thermometer vs. Thermostat
Some think we should downplay our hoary traditions in order to fit into our democratic, egalitarian society, as this would render us better citizens. But the opposite is true. The more we differ from society, the more we have something to contribute to it. The last thing our culture needs is more Yes Men bowing before the gender idols of the age; it needs Dutch uncles informed by a loftier view of things. Borrowing a distinction from Martin Luther King Jr., Catholics need to be a thermostat setting the temperature rather than a thermometer reflecting it. An all-male liturgical ministry would be an effective way of preaching the Good News about the higher meaning, so tragically overlooked now, of the noninterchangeable dignity of our sexual natures.

A more detailed version of this article, "Male Subjection and the Case for an All-Male Liturgical Ministry," will appear in the upcoming issue of Antiphon: A Journal for Liturgical Renewal.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Letter to Seminarians

The Holy Father has written a letter to HIS seminarians -- i.e. those men who are studying for the priesthood throughout the world.  It is right and proper that we refer to the seminarians in the possessive sense of 'his'.  He is our Father, our Shepherd and under HIS guidance and pastoral leadership, we may arrive in heaven.  It is a remarkable intimate and paternal letter.  He does not address it to Bishops, Patriarchs, People of God.... No, it is, "Dear Seminarians...." And, furthermore, be begins with an experience of his OWN time in the seminary.....

Let us pray and offer a small sacrifice for one seminarian -- that he might receive and respond to the grace of perseverance.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Original Sin

From a blog by Paul Zalonski
Is the Doctrine of Original sin relevant?

Good question. I am not always confident that the baptized ask this question enough in the lives as Christians. From what I can tell, there seems to be an easy dismissal of anything that requires assent and personal responsibility for our actions, words and thinking. Why? Do we admit there is a sin, that it's part of the human condition, that it's handed down from generation to generation? Are we no longer need of redemption? Is humanity's need for salvation a thing of the past, quaint?  Does the fear of God no longer have currency for a relationship with the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God, creator of heaven and earth?

Jesuit Father Donath Hercsik, a professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome), raises the question of relevance and Original Sin for those who are interested in a life with the Triune God from a some important points of interest. Father Hercsik's essay, "Original Sin, as a Doctrine, Is It Still Relevant Today?" should be of interest to all people of faith.

Hercsik asks the question: "Is there a need for a doctrine on original sin? This doctrine, interpreted according to the Catholic faith, offers an answer to at least four questions that are important to both believers and non-believers: anthropological, philosophical, liturgical, and dogmatic. The article goes on to examine the role of the Sacred Scripture, the position of Saint Augustine, of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and the outcomes of the Council of Trent. In contemporary theology, there exist various tendencies on this theme: original sin as sin of the world, original sin as psychological and/or social phenomena, and original sin and the supremacy of the grace of Christ. 

If you are interested in reading the entire essay, it can be can be read in the Vatican-vetted journal La Civiltà Cattolica 2010 IV, pp. 119-132; issue 3848, © copyright.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New Cardinals

We commend to God's Providence and Holy Will the strengthening and encouragement of the new Princes of the Church.  May they continue in their road of service and communion with the Holy Father and with Christ, Himself, to the point of "shedding blood" if necessary.

In a special way, we remember Cardinal-elect Raymond Burke, who, some have said, has a great devotion to St. Raymond Nonnatus.


Likewise, with the elevation of Archbishop Ranjith, to the rank of Cardinal, a true signal has continued to sound. Namely, that the Sacred Liturgy is a keen part of renewal in the mind of the Holy Father.  Numerous bloggers have written on the "Benedictine" mold that some prelates exhibit... Ranjith is one of those 'molds' -- and, indeed, Burke.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day of the Dead

Today, the Constitutions have designated that the Officium Defunctorum be offered, as well as, the Mass for the Dead....

Requiescant in Pace!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Feast of Blessed Juan

Priest, Founder of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy.

Juan Nepomuceno Zegrí y Moreno was born on 11 October 1831 in Granada, Spain. His father, Antonio Zegrí Martín, and his mother, Josefa Moreno Escudero, were most vigilant in educating their son and in helping to form his personality according to evangelical values. The young boy had a great love for Jesus and Mary and was particularly sensitive to the needs of the poor.

Binding wounds, healing hearts
As a youth, Juan felt called to serve the Lord in society's poor, and wanted to become a priest. He entered St Dionysius Seminary of Granada, and on 2 June 1855 was ordained in the Cathedral of Granada. He served in the parishes of Huétor Santillán and of San Gabriel de Loja in Granada. 
His vocation, as he once proclaimed in a homily, was to be "like a good shepherd, going after the lost sheep; like a doctor, healing sick hearts wounded by faults and binding them with hope; like a father, who visibly provides for all of those who, suffering from abandonment, must drink from the bitter chalice and receive nourishment from the bread of tears".

Fr Zegrí's priestly life was characterized by a profound experience of God and a deep love for Jesus the Redeemer and Mary, Mother and Protectress. His sermons encouraged listeners to live the Christian life radically and responsibly.
He always served with great humility in the positions he was asked to assume as a priest:  synodal judge, canon of the cathedral of Malaga, visitor of the religious orders, formator of the seminarians, and preacher of and royal chaplain to Her Majesty Queen Isabel II.

Founder inspired by Mary
It was with a profound interest in resolving social problems and in meeting the needs of the poor and neglected that Fr Zegrí felt called to found a religious congregation that would serve the most needy. On 16 March 1878 in Malaga, under the protection and inspiration of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, he began the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy.
The Congregation's main charism was to practice all of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy for the benefit of the poor. He asked the Religious to do all "for the good of humanity, in God, for God, towards God". In only a few years, the Congregation was established in many Dioceses throughout Spain, all due to the dynamism of Fr Zegrí's charismatic inspiration:  heal wounds, repair evils, comfort sorrows, dry tears, do not, if possible, leave even one person in the world abandoned, afflicted, unprotected, without religious education and assistance.
He firmly believed that "charity is the only answer to all social problems". In this light the key points of the spirituality of the Founder were:  redemptive charity; love and configuration with Jesus the Redeemer; love for Mary, Our Lady of Mercy.

Testing and vindication
God permitted Fr Zegrí to be severely tested and misunderstood after he founded the Congregation, and his own Religious "daughters" falsely accused him. With a Pontifical Decree dated 7 July 1888 he was sent away from the Order that he himself had founded.
After years of silent suffering, his innocence was recognized with another Decree dated 15 July 1894. Although he was permitted to re-enter the Congregation, he was not accepted. He voluntarily kept himself at a distance in order to preserve communion with the Church and his "daughters", so that they would not openly disobey Church authority.
On 17 March 1905 in Malaga, Fr Zegrí died just as he had desired:  like Jesus, alone and abandoned. He offered himself for the good of humanity and forgave "his own" who had accused him.
After many years, the Congregation once again recognized him as Founder, all due to the fact that there were Sisters who had kept alive his memory and witness of holiness. In 1925 Fr Zegrí was officially declared as Founder of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Increased Secularization continues

 Catholic News Agency (CNA) has a story that is becoming more and more common in world news today..... We saw it in Italy, in Spain, Ireland, and now it's returning to South America.....

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pillars of Love and Self-sacrifice

A good friend to one of our Friars, who, with his wife, make a yearly pilgrimage to visit the Friary in Philadelphia has posted on his blog a remarkable tale of his journey on a novena of fast days.  What is particular poignant about this man, is, not only his "no-frills" approach and perspective to life, but his genuine honesty, at times without much tact, but always cleverly witty.  I was struck by his post because it involves another friend of the community and it provides a keen example to what the Gospel for this the Memorial of St. Francis (we Mercedarian tremble and shake when we utter that name.... hahahaha).  The example is a reflection of the self-sacrificial love of Christ that is mirrored in the small actions of man.

The Gospel gives us the story of the Samaritan.  We all know the story so I don't have to get into the details of retelling it again.  Nevertheless, we seem to look over the point of the story.   It isn't about simply doing a good deed for one in need.  It's about being clothed in THAT NEW MAN so that the fiber of your being emanates and resonates the true and kenotic love of Christ.  This new fiber most especially finds its fulfillment and reverb when we can show, with a pure and clean heart, true LOVE to those who have hurt us, who are our "enemies".... When we can do this, the message of the Gospel will not be in vain.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Speak!!! MOVE!!!

Today's Gospel has that age-old story wherein Christ speaks to the disciples and gives them that curious admonition.  "If you had the Faith the size of a mustard seed, you could move mountains".  What is key about this is not necessarily the idea of the mustard seed. Rather, it is the reality that Christ invokes the necessity of speaking, saying, proclaiming, and commanding.  Speak to the mountain, say to the mountain, proclaim and command the mountain.  The faith is not an intellectual exercise meant to be kept between the individual and God.  No, it is meant to be proclaimed and proclaimed without fear, with boldness and confidence of spirit and soul.

OFten, the Church has been criticized in her bold moves to proclaim the Gospel, even in unpopular moments and situations.  She has been accosted by the media on account of her positions on human life, the natural law, and Church disciplines..... But what happens, over time? The mountains that have been built in the hearts of men are crushed and laid low.  We may not see this leveling in our lives, but in God's good time, HE will triumph.  We already know the end -- we but need to have the Faith to trust in the end....