30 June 2007

To the Church in China

You’ll want to read Pope Benedict’s Letter to the Bishops, Priests, Consecrated Persons, and Lay Faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China. At this point I’ve read it through only once, but I plan to go back and study it carefully. It certainly impressed me at first reading with its firm pastoral tone. There is also an Explanatory Note which has been issued by the Holy See, and that is well worth reading, too.

28 June 2007

The Year of St. Paul

The Holy Father has announced the opening of the “Year of St. Paul,” commemorating the two thousandth year of the birth of the Apostle to the Gentiles. The following news story gives the details:

ROME (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI announced a special jubilee year dedicated to St. Paul, saying the church needs modern Christians who will imitate the apostle's missionary energy and spirit of sacrifice.

The pope said the Pauline year will run from June 28, 2008, to June 29, 2009, to mark the approximately 2,000th anniversary of the saint's birth.

He made the announcement while presiding over a vespers service at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome June 28, the eve of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, patron saints of Rome.
(Read the rest of the story here.)

Over the many years I have been teaching the Scriptures, it’s evident to most anyone who attends that I love to explore the epistles of St. Paul. This past year at the parish, nearly every Wednesday evening was taken up with a look at the writings of St. Paul, and we’ll be doing even more careful looking at his epistles this coming year.

O God, who, by the preaching of thine apostle Paul, hast caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we beseech thee, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness unto thee for the same by following the holy doctrine which he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Novena to Our Lady of the Atonement

The Feast of Our Lady of the Atonement is on July 9th. In this parish we transfer it to the nearest Sunday so we can keep it with greater solemnity. This year we will celebrate it on Sunday, July 8th. The Novena leading up to the celebration begins tomorrow (June 29th, the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul).

To take part in the Novena:

On each day, if possible, assist at Holy Mass, and go to Confession and Communion at least once during the Novena. The following prayers are recommended to be said daily:

One decade of the Rosary
(One Our Father, ten Hail Marys, one Glory be.)

Memorare of St. Bernard
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.

The Three-Fold Salutation
We salute thee, Holy Mary, Daughter of God the Father, and entreat thee to obtain for us a devotion like thine own to the most sweet Will of God.
We salute thee, Virgin Mother of God the Son, and entreat thee to obtain for us such union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, that our own hearts may burn with love for God and an ardent zeal for the salvation of souls.
We salute thee, Immaculate Spouse of God the Holy Ghost, and entreat thee to obtain for us such yielding of ourselves to the Blessed Spirit, that He may, in all things, direct and rule our hearts, and that we may never grieve Him in thought, word, or deed.

The Litany
Lord have mercy upon us.
Christ have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God, the Father of Heaven,
have mercy upon us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
have mercy upon us.
God, the Holy Ghost,
have mercy upon us.
Holy Trinity, one God,
have mercy upon us.

Our Lady of the Atonement, Daughter of God the Father,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother of God the Son,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Spouse of God the Holy Ghost,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, standing by the Cross,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, given to us as a Mother,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, our Mediatrix,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, firm Hope,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, sure Refuge,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother of Divine Love,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Shepherdess of the wandering sheep,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, pillar of Unity,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother of Conversions,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother of the outcast,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Star of the pagans,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother of missionaries,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mother most sorrowful,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Lily of Israel,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Model of resignation,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Haven of peace,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Comfort of the afflicted,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Guide of the doubtful,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Welcomer of the pilgrims,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Handmaid of the Father,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Mirror of the Son,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Queen of the Precious Blood,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, true Model,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, strong Protectress,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, hailed by the Archangel Gabriel,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Splendor of Heaven,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Delight of the Saints,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Strength of the weak,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Comfort of the dying,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, triumphant with Jesus,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Queen of the Universe,
pray for us.
Our Lady of the Atonement, Queen of the Children of the Atonement,
pray for us.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.

Pray for us, O Blessed Mother;
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray. O God, who didst deign that we, thy children,
should invoke our Mother Mary under the title of Our
Lady of the Atonement; grant that through her powerful
intercession we may obtain the fullness of thy blessings;
through thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who liveth and
reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost ever, one
God, world without end. Amen.

I know it's not Niagara Falls...

When we built the large expansion to the parish facilities we needed to cut into the solid limestone to level out the building site. This left a dramatic stone cliff across the driveway in front of the church and school. When it rains the water pours off the higher ground and causes some pretty impressive waterfalls in place of the usual dry south Texas landscape.

We’re experiencing some amazing rainfall here, and it looks like it will be stretching out over the next few days. Because of the network of creek beds in the area, it can make driving on the roads quite dangerous. High, swift water crisscrosses even our neighborhood streets, and the safest thing to do is to stay inside.

I’m happy for the excuse. I just splurged on the complete set of recordings of every piece of music ever written by Johann Sebastian Bach, and what a deal! One hundred and fifty-five CD’s for $99.00 from Amazon! So I’m able to work in my nice dry office, the thundering sound of heavy rain beating on the roof, with the incredibly beautiful sound of Bach’s music filling the air.

So in the words of the old song from the 1920’s – “Let it rain! Let it pour!”

27 June 2007

It makes sense when he says it...

Every once in a while I like to go back to the writings of C. S. Lewis, that brilliant Anglican-with-a-Catholic-heart. Whenever I read something by him, I find myself nodding in agreement and muttering, “yes, yes!”

I happened to come across this in his book, Mere Christianity:

“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be and if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. We have all seen this when we do arithmetic. When I have started a sum the wrong way, the sooner I admit this and go back and start over again, the faster I shall get on. There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world, it is pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistakes. We are on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.”

The Knights of the Holy Sepulchre

Several of us in the parish belong to the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a papal order with the purpose of supporting the Christians living in the Holy Land. This new appointment was announced this morning:

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has named U.S. Archbishop John P. Foley pro-grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, a fraternal organization dedicated to supporting the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and to responding to the needs of Catholics in the Holy Land.

The 71-year-old Philadelphia native had been head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications for "23 years and three months," he said June 27.

Naming Archbishop Foley "pro-"grand master, Pope Benedict seemed to indicate that he would be named a cardinal during the next consistory, which likely will be held in November.

Archbishop Foley, who will remain in Rome, succeeds retired Italian Cardinal Carlo Furno, 85.

To read the whole story, go here. Also, here is further information about the Order.

25 June 2007

"Sunday's child is full of grace..."

A small thing, perhaps, but one of the joys of Sunday is standing in the narthex after Mass to greet the parishioners. Of course, much of it can be little more than the “good morning, nice to see you today” kind of greeting. And when I say it, I really do mean it. It is nice to see these faithful and wonderful people week after week, as well as speaking briefly with the many visitors. It’s interesting to find out where they’re from – Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, New York, various towns and cities around the country. Very few of our visitors come by accident. Most are here because they’ve heard of the parish, or they’ve seen the website, or someone told them that if they’re in San Antonio they “just have to visit Our Lady of the Atonement.” It’s always a pleasure to welcome people here.

But the greater joy for me is greeting the children when they’re coming out with their parents. I have seen more new teeth, examined more scraped knees, and given more birthday blessings than I can count. I’ve got one little boy who loves to wrap himself in my cope while I’m talking to his parents, and there’s another child who has to give me a complete report of his week’s activities. For many of them it’s an absolute routine, and they won’t move on until we’ve done the handshaking and they’ve had their say.

I marvel at the patience of those who are still in line making their way out of the church. I guess people know how important this is to the children, and they’re happy to indulge them this bit of time. And I guess they’re indulging me, too. Yesterday one of the precious little girls came and pulled on my vestments so that I would bend down. She wanted to whisper something to me. “What is it?” I asked. “I love you, Father,” she said. How do you top that?

23 June 2007

Get some popcorn... this should be good.

You might want to head over to Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s blog, Standing on My Head. He’s got a post called Latin Questions, where he asks the following questions which he is raising after attending a celebration of the Tridentine Mass:

1. If the Latin language is so wonderful, why is it inaudible on purpose?

2. How does the priest reading the Scripture in Latin with his back to the people inaudibly in a language they don't understand help the people of God to hear and understand the Word of God?

3. How does no hymns and a choir singing in Gregorian chant help the people to particpate in the Mass, or have I got this wrong and the people are not intended to participate in the Mass at all? If so, is this better?

4. How does it help the people to understand what is going on at the Mass when they can't see what is happening at the altar, can't understand the language, and can't hear what the priest is saying?

5. I've heard it said that the Latin language is 'ancient and mystical' and that having the Mass in a dead language assists the worship by making it more mysterious. But the Mass was first translated into Latin from Greek because Latin was the vernacular at the time. In other words, it was put into Latin so people could understand it. Isn't the veneration of Latin therefore artificial?

6. If one really wants an ancient, dead language that is mysterious, why don't we have the Mass in Aramaic or Syriac, which are the dead ancient languages closest to what our Lord himself would have spoken? Why is Latin so special?

The comments are beginning to roll in. This should get interesting.

UPDATE: Shawn Tribe writes an interesting and helpful response to Fr. Longenecker's questions.

21 June 2007

Rebuilding ruins

Having left the Episcopal Church some twenty-five years ago, I have made it my practice not to comment too frequently about the goings-on in the Anglican Communion. In fact, I’ve found that I feel a certain detachment from it all. Certainly it’s interesting, and I feel badly for those who are still there trying to clean house and make sense of the growing mess – but I have no real emotional involvement in it.

I do, however, try to keep up with what’s happening. At one time it was a big part of my life. I still have friends there. I read the blogs and the news stories and every time I think I could no longer be amazed, something happens that takes my astonishment to a new level.

I parted ways with the Anglican Communion when it was decided that women could be ordained. Not that I was able to see into the future or anything, but it didn’t take a genius to know where this was heading. Now the Episcopal Church resembles little more than a Gnostic sect, and we are witnessing its disintegration right in front of our eyes.

I guess the pièce de résistance is the recent revelation of the priestess in Seattle who claims she is both Christian and Muslim. Poor thing. Actually, she is neither Christian nor Muslim, but she doesn’t let that stop her. In fact, her bishop says that he finds this “exciting.”

With all the property lawsuits, a bishop in an openly homosexual “marriage,” a woman as Presiding Bishop who sees Jesus as “a way” to God but not “the way,” and other aberrations too numerous to catalogue, making one’s way through the many websites and blogs discussing these things is like wandering through a disaster site looking for signs of life. One interesting site is TitusOneNine, and there I came across the posting of one obviously frustrated Episcopalian who wrote the following “creed” as descriptive of the state of the faith in that church:

I may or may not believe in God/Goddess/Divine Force/Allah/Buddha/Nothing, the Father/Mother/Creator almighty, bringer of Shalom and Gaia.

I would like to believe in Jesus Christ, His/Her/Its only Son/Daughter/Redeemer, our Lord/Lady/Whatever, Who could not possibly have been conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit/Spirit of the Times/Nurturer/Earth Mother even though He/She/It would have been born of the Virgin/Lesbian/Transgendered Mary/Mother Goddess.

He/She/It would have suffered under Pontius Pilate, if He/She/It had actually been crucified;
for sure, He/She/It eventually died, and was buried. So He/She/It must have descended to the dead, if He/She/It ever existed.

On the third day, it is extremely unlikely, if not impossible, that He/She/It rose again. If you think so, you are a gullible fool.

If He/She/It had ascended into heaven, and been seated at the right hand of the Father/Mother/Creator, He/She/It would come again to judge the living and the dead, which would be really bad news for most of us.

However, this will never happen, according to Bishops Pike and Spong.

I may or may not believe in some sort of Divine Being or Spiritual Essence, but I definitely believe in:

the holy Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church,

the blessing of Gay/Lesbian/Transgendered/Bisexual unions of whatever number of individuals,

the unforgiveness of those mean-spirited bigots who claim to be orthodox in their beliefs,

the consecration of Gay/Lesbian/Transgendered/Womyn priests and bishops,

and the right to do whatever I please, whenever I want to, without any consequences. Amen.

Overstating things? Perhaps. But if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. The sad thing is, there are many very good people still there who are confused about what they should do and where they should go. We need to pray for them. They need the clarity of the Catholic faith, and our Catholic bishops need to throw out life-lines to them. The Pastoral Provision, with its Anglican Use liturgy, is just such a life-line – and yet there are still some bishops who don’t want it in their dioceses. In our prayers, I guess we need to pray for those bishops, too.

If we were to see someone injured beside the road, or a child being abused, or someone being threatened with bodily harm, wouldn’t we help in any way we could? Our beloved Holy Father, Pope John Paul the Great, provided the Pastoral Provision for that very reason. Let’s pray that our shepherds will be more generous with the Provision now and in the future, than they have in the past. After all, a gift is something that's supposed to be given.

19 June 2007

Soldier of Christ

I’m holding little Eric Christopher whom I baptized this past Sunday. As you can see from the picture, he wasn’t too thrilled at what happened. But one day he will be. He’ll look back on that day and he’ll realize that’s the day when his life was changed in an eternal way.

I really look forward to baptisms. It’s always a privilege to take into my arms what I jokingly refer to as “a little pagan baby” and hand him back to his godparents as the newest Christian in the Church. Before anyone scolds me, I know an unbaptized baby isn’t a pagan. But he is unregenerate, and his parents and godparents have brought him to the Church so he can be cleansed of the stain of original sin and be marked as Christ’s own.

That’s why I love the exhortation which is said at the beginning of the ceremony. It makes very clear what we’re about to do:

Dearly beloved, forasmuch as our Savior Christ saith, None can enter into the kingdom of God, except he be regenerate and born anew of Water and of the Holy Ghost; I beseech you to call upon God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that of his bounteous mercy he will grant to this Child that which by nature he cannot have; that he may be baptized with Water and the Holy Ghost, and received into Christ’s holy Church and be made a living member of the same.

As is the case with so much of the liturgy of the Anglican Use, there are few wasted words. Certainly the phrases are beautiful, but when it’s examined closely it’s evident that we’re getting right down to business. There’s a summary of what Christ said about being born again. We’re asked to pray for God’s mercy upon the one to be baptised, because this isn’t something he can do for himself. And then we’re reminded of what is happening in this sacrament.

It’s an elegant and straightforward exhortation. It makes it very clear that this is God’s work which is about to be done. And after the baptism is completed, the nature of our responsibility in the covenant is clarified:

We receive this Child into the congregation of Christ’s flock; and do sign him with the sign of the Cross, in token that hereafter he shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under his banner, against sin, the world, and the devil; and to continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant unto his life’s end. Amen.

This is no mere social event or formality. It’s serious business when someone is baptised. Even the tiniest child wrapped in an heirloom baptismal gown, after being cleansed from the inheritance of our first father Adam, is then enlisted in the army of the second Adam, Jesus Christ. We’re reminded of the work God gives us to do: to confess the Faith unashamedly, to fight manfully against whatever would try to drag us away from God, and to continue – for the rest of our lives – in faithful service to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

It’s a tall order. In fact, it’s pretty hard work. No wonder Eric screamed a little when he was baptised. But he can do it – and so can we, just like the saints who have done it before us – because of what God has done.

16 June 2007

Prayerful cadence

As most people know, the Book of Divine Worship draws greatly upon the Book of Common Prayer, an Anglican work which (along with the King James Version of the Holy Scriptures) has shaped the most beautiful aspects of the English language. In fact, there are a few places which are immediately evident in the Book of Divine Worship, when it departs from its traditional roots.

What is it about the soaring phrases and time-proven sentences which make them so memorable and so pleasing to the ear? It isn’t accidental that such prayers as “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open…” and “We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord…” get into our hearts and minds and stay there. Certainly, the sentiments expressed in so many of our traditional prayers mean that they remain with us. But there is more. There are actual physical reasons having to do with the rhythm of the words, the cadence of the phrases.

There is an excellent essay titled “The Prayer Book as Literature,” written by Dr. W. K. Lowther Clarke in 1932 and included in his larger work, Liturgy and Worship. In his essay he discusses possible reasons for the beauty of some of the phrases we use in our worship. In part, he says, “A particular theory has recently been propounded to account for the literary qualities of the sixteenth-century Prayer Book, namely, the survival of the cursus, or flow of the cadence in prose. The beauty of Latin prose depended on the arrangement of long and short syllables, especially at the end of the sentence… The cursus had three main forms: planus, with the accent on the second and fifth syllable from the end; tardus, on the third and sixth; and velox, on the second and seventh.”

Just as music follows certain rules to achieve a beautiful end, so it is with literature. Excellent writing does not consist simply of stringing words together. It involves a rhythm. It shows a sensitivity to the zenith of a phrase. It allows for a cadence. In the liturgy, when we think of a prayer as being “beautiful,” it describes not only the sentiment it contains, but also the way in which the thought is expressed. This is why so many contemporary prayers fall flat. The ancient principle of cursus has been put aside because of the mistaken notion that ignoring it would somehow make prayers clearer.

The “Prayer Book style” (if I may call it that) has survived in the Book of Divine Worship, and we can see this influence even in some of the translations now being considered by the Holy See for the Missale Romanum. It’s interesting, and almost ironic, that the principles of cursus (so much a part of liturgical Latin) should have been preserved by the Anglican Use, to be restored to the living liturgy of the Church.

15 June 2007

A wondrous love

On 15 May 1956 the Venerable Pope Pius XII issued his encyclical on devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Hauerietis Aquas, and here is a brief excerpt from it:

…the Heart of the Incarnate Word is deservedly and rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that threefold love with which the divine Redeemer unceasingly loves His eternal Father and all mankind.

It is a symbol of that divine love which He shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit but which He, the Word made flesh, alone manifests through a weak and perishable body, since "in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily."

It is, besides, the symbol of that burning love which, infused into His soul, enriches the human will of Christ and enlightens and governs its acts by the most perfect knowledge derived both from the beatific vision and that which is directly infused.

And finally—and this in a more natural and direct way—it is the symbol also of sensible love, since the body of Jesus Christ, formed by the Holy Spirit, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, possesses full powers of feelings and perception, in fact, more so than any other human body.

Today there will be many people in and out of the Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus here at the parish, spending time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, and giving thanks for the immense love our Lord has for each and every one of us.

O God, who hast suffered the Heart of thy Son to be wounded by our sins, and in that very Heart hast bestowed on us the abundant riches of thy love; grant that the devout homage of our hearts which we render unto him may of thy mercy be deemed a recompence, acceptable in thy sight; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

14 June 2007

Unexpected beauty

Sometimes something so beautiful and unexpected comes along that even the most jaded and worldly of people have to drop their jaws in astonishment. A case in point: here’s a mobile phone salesman from Wales who has an amazing talent. When he opens his mouth, what comes out is the last thing his audience expects.

It just goes to show how surprising God can be in distributing His gifts. It’s a reminder that we mustn’t judge books by covers, nor should we hastily dismiss someone without remembering that each man, woman and child is a unique creation of God, as precious to Him as the very ones whom we love the most.

Perhaps Shakespeare said it best. "What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties!”

12 June 2007

Civic duty beckons...

Next Monday I have to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and report for jury duty. It’s one of those things that seem to come to me more often than it does to any one else whom I know, but maybe that’s just my imagination. However, it has happened frequently enough that I can spot the envelope at twenty paces, and I know what will be inside: “Jury Summons” in big letters at the top.

I then go through my usual routine. My first words are always something like, “I can’t believe it! Another jury summons!” I might even throw in an expletive or two. I then examine my calendar meticulously, hoping to find some “unbreakable appointment” which would allow me to whine to the Central Jury Bailiff that I just can’t go. Actually, that doesn’t work any more because I have them trained. For the past several years when a summons has arrived, I’ve told them that I cannot take part in jury duty during the school year because our children have Mass daily and it’s difficult to find another priest to cover for me. I laid out the case that if they insisted I come then the government would be interfering with our students’ free exercise of religion. I then told them, “But I’d be happy to serve during the summer months when our children are on break.” Apparently they accepted my argument and then took my summer offer seriously: my summons now comes during June or July.

Actually, I don’t really mind heading down to the Justice Center to do my civic duty. It’s one of those things that cause an initial bout of complaints, but after it’s over I always think it wasn’t so bad after all. It does make it a rush to celebrate the 7:00 a.m. Mass and then try to fight the traffic to get there by 8:00 a.m. I’ll have to be late, but from what I’ve seen in the past, lots of people show up late. I’m always satisfied that I have a really good excuse, though. After all, the Mass is more important.

Only once have I actually been chosen to serve on a jury, and as luck would have it I ended up as the foreman. That involved an investment of several days, so I’m always hopeful I’ll be passed over. I fantasize that I’ll tell them I believe in capital punishment for parking tickets, or something like that. But I never do. I take a good book and keep my head down. I focus my prayers: I pray that I’ll be told to go home at lunch time.

Oh well, whatever happens will happen. Caesar has his needs, and justice makes her demands. I guess the least I can do is cooperate.

11 June 2007

The "Minimum Profile of Formation..."

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued an outline of the basic requirements for the preparation of those men who are former Protestant ministers, and who now seek to offer themselves for priestly ministry in the Catholic Church. (See also my post containing the letter which accompanied this document.) The fact that this profile has been produced by the CDF and distributed to the bishops in the United States indicates that the Holy See is prepared to consider such requests. That, in itself, is a cause for hope and encouragement for those men who do not qualify for consideration under the Pastoral Provision for former Episcopalians.

Minimum Profile of Formation for Former Protestant Ministers Who Desire to Be Ordained Catholic Priests:

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in its task of assisting the bishops of the church to address the desire of former Protestant ministers who wish to be ordained Catholic priests, has prepared this minimum profile of formation for such candidates to the priesthood.

It is understood that former ministers of Protestant ecclesial communities require particular attention in their formation for Catholic priesthood, particularly as regards those areas of Catholic theology which would be lacking in their previous studies. The bishop, in his care for these candidates, must apply this minimum profile in the light of both the circumstances of the local church and the needs of the candidate (cf. John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, Ch. 5). The study resources listed, while fundamental, are not exhaustive.

Human Formation

Although many former Protestant ministers present themselves as candidates for the Catholic priesthood later in life and in some cases as married persons, the need for human formation is ever present. As the candidate is called in priestly ordination to be the living image of Jesus Christ, due attention to human formation will only assist the candidate in reflecting in his person the humanity of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God.

Intellectual Formation

- Philosophy

The study of philosophy is a crucial stage of intellectual formation for it leads the candidate to a deeper understanding of the human person, founds the dynamic relationship between faith and reason, and provides a vital context for understanding the mysteries of salvation which are the focus of theological studies. When assessing the previous academic preparation of former Protestant ministers, the bishop must evaluate his philosophical preparation to ensure that the candidate receives adequate formation in those areas which may be lacking in that previous preparation (resource: John Paul II, Fides et Ratio).

- Sacred Scripture

In addition to a proper focus on Old and New Testament theology and exegesis, former Protestant ministers should receive specific formation in Catholic hermeneutics. Such a formation would not only include an emphasis on the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, but also on the ecclesial context of the interpretation of sacred Scripture (resources: Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 80-87, 101-141; Pontifical Biblical Commission, “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church”).

- Dogmatic Theology

The intellectual formation of priests is based above all on the study of sacred doctrine. In the case of former Protestant ministers, the bishop must ensure that the study of theology gives particular attention to Christology, ecclesiology and Mariology. Additionally, the Petrine ministry, apostolic succession and the theology of the priesthood should be areas of special emphasis. Some references to the fathers of the church may be helpful for the candidates (resources: Catechism, Nos. 142-1065, Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Iesus).

- Liturgical and Sacramental Theology

The sacramental ministry of priests continues Christ’s saving work in the church. It must be kept in mind that Catholic sacramental ministry is altogether different than the ministry for which most former Protestant ministers would have been prepared. The bishop should ensure that special attention is given to the theology of the Eucharist as the source and summit of the church’s life as well as to the sacraments of penance and anointing of the sick (resources: Catechism, Nos. 1066-1690; Pope John Paul II, Misericordia Dei).

- Moral Theology

As former Protestant ministers will have had some previous preparation in the area of moral theology, this formation should focus on the areas that are distinctive to Catholic moral teaching. An emphasis on the fundamentals of Catholic moral theology and the church’s understanding of human sexuality as well as the rich tradition of Catholic social teaching will be invaluable in confronting the complex moral issues of the day (resources: Catechism Nos. 1691-2557; Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor and Evangelium Vitae, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Donum Vitae).

- Canon Law

For former Protestant ministers who seek to become Catholic priests the study of canon law is an area of particular concern in that it is largely without precedent in Protestant ecclesial communities. Special attention should be given to the canons concerning the Petrine ministry and which regulate marriage and the other sacraments (resources: Code of Canon Law, Sacra Disciplinae Leges).

Spiritual Formation

Formation in the spiritual life is intimately bound with the intellectual preparation for priesthood. The bishop should ensure that former Protestant ministers receive a formation in Catholic spirituality and devotional practices, with particular attention to eucharistic devotion and Marian devotion (resources: Catechism, Nos. 2558-2865; Pope Paul VI, Marialis Cultus; Congregation for Divine Worship, Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy).

Pastoral Formation

The preparation of all candidates for the priesthood has as its object to make them true shepherds after the example of Christ. Pastoral formation allows for the practical application of the mysteries studied in theology. In the case of former Protestant ministers, particular attention should be given to their preparation for the celebration of the sacraments and the direction of souls (resources: Congregation for the Clergy, Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests).


The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith requires that former Protestant ministers should undergo a period of no less than three years of formation in Catholic theology. The purpose of this period of time is to give candidates the opportunity for a certain maturation in the Catholic faith that, through reading, coursework and discussion, candidates will internalize the tradition of the church.


In order to assure that a candidate has the requisite scientia debita for ordination to the priesthood, the bishop should provide for an assessment of the candidate in each area of theological study, with particular reference to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. As an evaluative tool, as assessment or examination of the candidate should ensure that a satisfactory level of academic competency has been attained.

08 June 2007

Former minister? Have a priestly vocation?

Frequently I am contacted by married Protestant ministers, especially those who are presently in the various “continuing Anglican” movements or in other related groups, asking how they might enter the process of the Pastoral Provision. Until now, I have been able to do little but offer sympathetic words and suggest that they contact the Pastoral Provision Office. Invariably, they have learned that the Pastoral Provision is intended for former Episcopalians, and that they do not qualify.

Some of them have contacted a Catholic bishop, but the usual response is less than helpful. And that is understandable. Until now, bishops have not really known what to do with a married Protestant minister coming to them asking to be considered for Catholic priesthood. With the issuance of the document entitled “Minimum Profile of Formation for Former Protestant Ministers Who Desire to Be Ordained Catholic Priests” there is now concrete guidance for bishops, and also for those who are petitioning to be considered for priesthood.

This is the text of the letter from Cardinal Levada to Bishop William Skylstad, president of the USCCB:

In the ongoing efforts of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to evaluate and adjudicate the cases of former Protestant ministers who wish to be ordained as Catholic priests, it has become clear that the theological formation of such candidates is a matter of utmost importance.

Currently, the pastoral provision in the United States provides for a process of assessment, study and certification for former Episcopalian ministers. Similar established criteria are lacking as regards former ministers of other Protestant denominations who would not fall under the care of the pastoral provisions.

Please find enclosed a copy of “Minimum Profile of Formation for Former Protestant Ministers Who Desire to Be Ordained Catholic Priests” (cf. enclosure). The congregation asks that this information be made available to the bishops of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in order to assist them in responding to the desire of former Protestant minister who wish to be ordained to the priesthood. The cases of former Episcopalian ministers, however, are still to be referred to the Office of the Pastoral Provision.

Wishing you God’s continued blessing in your ministry, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ.

/s/ Cardinal William Lavada

As soon as I have the document “Minimum Profile of Formation for Former Protestant Ministers Who Desire to Be Ordained Catholic Priests” in electronic form, I will post it. I have read it, and it outlines the required program of formation, including studies in the areas of Philosophy, Sacred Scripture, Dogmatic Theology, Liturgical and Sacramental Theology, Moral Theology, and Canon Law. It speaks of “human formation,” to assist the candidate to become “the living image of Jesus Christ,” and also of “spiritual formation” to provide the former minister with growth in Catholic spirituality and devotional practices, especially in the areas of Eucharistic and Marian devotion. There is also a section about “pastoral formation,” intended to help the candidates become “true shepherds after the example of Christ.”

Included in the document is the following paragraph:

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith requires that former Protestant ministers should undergo a period of no less than three years of formation in Catholic theology. The purpose of this period of time is to give candidates the opportunity for a certain maturation in the Catholic faith that, through reading, coursework and discussion, candidates will internalize the tradition of the Church.”

I’ll pass on more information as I receive it. But for now, this is a very helpful development. Now, when a former Protestant minister approaches a Catholic bishop to discuss the possibility of ordination, he can make mention of an actual document which gives real guidance.

07 June 2007

Making things clear...

The Holy Father has been giving a series of talks at his Wednesday audiences, spotlighting various Church Fathers. His talk this week was on St. Cyprian, the first bishop in Africa to be martyred.

Pope Benedict XVI had some interesting observations, including this:

"The Church was his favorite subject," the Holy Father said. He went on to state that in his writings St. Cyprian "strongly affirms that the Church is one, founded on Peter. He never tires of repeating that 'he who abandons the Chair of Peter, upon which the Church is founded, lives in the illusion that he still belongs to the Church.'”

The Holy Father concluded, "Unity is an irrevocable characteristic of the Church, symbolized by Christ's seamless garment: a unity that, as he [St. Cyprian] says, finds its foundation in Peter and its perfect fulfillment in the Eucharist."

I doubt that Rowan of Canterbury or Katherine of 815 are lifting their glasses of Chardonnay in a toast to Benedict of Rome.

06 June 2007

A brazen advertisement

Would you like to join us for eight inspiring days in beautiful Rome, Pompeii and Assisi? Our pilgrimage leaves on September 24th, and we have a wonderful itinerary planned, including daily Mass, an opportunity to attend the Papal Audience, and visits to some of the holiest shrines of our Catholic faith. In Rome we will be meeting other pilgrims from the various Anglican Use communities, and we will be celebrating Solemn Evensong and the Mass in some of the most magnificent basilicas in the world.

If you have any questions or would like to make your reservation, please contact Deacon Orr by e-mail at DnJames@atonementonline.com, or call him at the parish office, (210) 695-2944.

Here is the proposed itinerary:

Mon. Sept. 24 – Depart San Antonio for Rome, via Atlanta on Delta Airlines. The flight departure will be at approximately noon.

Tuesday, Sept. 25 – ROME. Arrive Leonardo da Vinci Airport and transfer to hotel in morning (Approx. 9:00 a.m. local time). After lunch, visit the 4th Century Basilica of San Clemente, with underground tour of 2nd Century A.D. old San Clemente church & crypt, and then down 60 feet to the 2nd Century B.C. Roman street and intact buildings. Then, on to Cathedral of Rome: St. John Lateran. The old section of the Lateran Basilica was originally a palace and was given to the Church by the Emperor Constantine (early 4th C.). Then, we’ll see the Scala Santa, wooden covered stairs over the original stone stairs brought from the Holy Land –said to be the very steps our Lord walked upon. We will have Mass at one of the Basilicas, then walk to the Colosseum and Palatine Hill. Our English word “palace” comes from “Palatine,” because the homes of the emperors here set the standard for large dwelling places! Here, we will have inside access to view the arena as the ancient Romans. Visit the near-by Arch of Constantine, built to commemorate his victories. Next, we will walk to the Roman Forum and see the remaining structures of Imperial Rome and the massive archaeological site there. We will also visit the Mamertine Prison on the Capitoline Hill, where St. Paul and St. Peter were imprisoned while awaiting execution. Then, on to visit the historic Town Hall Piazza, and the famous Piazza Venetia, where Mussolini gave all his speeches. The largest monument in Europe is in this plaza -- Victor Emmanuel Monument, dedicated to the first king of Italy and the unknown soldier. Dinner at the hotel.

Wednesday, Sept. 26 -- VATICAN CITY. (Morning) Papal Audience with Pope Benedict XVI. We will board a bus very early for this trip to the Vatican. Here we will see the many faces of the world-wide Catholic Church. We hope to meet up with the clergy and pilgrims from the other Anglican Use group. After lunch, we’ll visit the largest church in the world dedicated to St. Paul, outside the city walls, built on the site of Paul’s martyrdom. We will celebrate Mass at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls with the other members of the Anglican Use tour and Archbishop Myers. This church is “new” (19th century), and was built with lavish donations from all over the world after the old St. Paul’s burned down. Among the many treasures here are two matching altars made of precious malachite – a gift from a Russian Czar. Then, we will visit the Catacombs – the ancient Christian burial place – before returning to our hotel for dinner. After dinner, we will walk to the Piazza Navona for some tasty gelato (the Italian version of ice cream) and a view of the Bernini fountain of the Four Rivers of the World. Here, Roman nightlife comes alive.

Thursday, Sept. 27 – VATICAN CITY/ROME. Early bus trip to visit the world-famous Vatican Museum and Art Gallery, where we will view priceless works from the Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman cultures. We will tour the Raphael Rooms, where the works of the magnificent Florentine masters are on display, as well as the tapestry gallery and map gallery; ending with a view of the Sistine Chapel, now brilliantly restored as Michelangelo painted it. Next, we will tour the largest church in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica & extensive underground, where we will visit the new tomb of John Paul II. We’ll also see Michelangelo’s Pietá, and the fabulous mosaics and great treasure of Bernini and others. We can also visit the Vatican gift shop and Post Office to send postcards back home. In the late afternoon, we join Archbishop Myers and other clergy for Solemn Choral Evensong at the Basilica of St. Mary Major where the Academy Choir will sing. St. Mary Major Basilica, whose gold ceiling came from the Americas, is one of the largest churches in the world dedicated to our Lady. We will conclude the day with Mass. Bring your coins, because after dinner, we will walk to the Trevi Fountain (of Three Coins in a Fountain fame), and the Spanish Steps, beautifully illuminated at night and alive with Italian society.

Friday, Sept. 28 – VATICAN CITY/ROME. Early bus trip to St. Peter’s Basilica where Cardinal Levada will offer the Anglican Use Mass at the Altar of the Chair, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Vatican’s approval of our liturgy. Many other dignitaries will be in attendance and the Academy Choir will sing for the Mass – a distinctive honor to sing at St. Peter’s! The afternoon is free for shopping in the area along Borgo Pio near St. Peter’s, or for a climb to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica for a view of the city. We will meet at some point to walk over the Tiber River and see Hadrian’s Castle in the distance. If time will allow, we will walk to the Pantheon, an architectural Roman masterpiece, now dedicated to St. Mary of the Holy Martyrs. We’ll also stop at the Chiesa del Gesú, the Mother Church of the Jesuit Order – a gold & baroque wonder. We may visit the mother church of the Oratorians of St. Philip Neri: Chiesa Nuevo (New St. Mary’s) and St. Andre de Valle (St. Andrew) along the Victor Emmanuel. Dinner at hotel concludes our day.

Saturday, Sept. 29 – POMPEII/SORRENTO. Early departure 144 km south of Rome to the ancient city Pompeii, a ruined Roman city near modern Naples in the Italian region of Campania. It was destroyed during a catastrophic eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius on 24 August 79 AD. The volcano buried the city under many meters of ash and it was lost for 1,600 years before its accidental rediscovery in 1748. Since then, its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire. Today, it is one of Italy’s leading tourist attractions and is a World Heritage Site. We’ll visit the Bay of Naples, Our Lady of Pompeii and the area near Sorrento along the world-famous Amalfi coast, where dramatic cliffs and coastal scenery complete our exciting day. (Approximate drive time is 2.5 hours). Dinner back at the hotel in Rome.

Sunday, Sept. 30 - ASSISI. We depart by motor coach to the town of Assisi in the Umbrian countryside. (Approximate drive time is 3.5 hours). In Assisi, we’ll visit the three Patriarchal Basilicas of St. Mary of the Angels and Portiuncula, (in the valley), and in the upper walled town, St. Clare, and St. Francis. Assisi was the birthplace of St. Francis, who founded the Franciscan religious order here in 1208, and St. Clare (Chiara d'Offreducci), the founder of the Poor Clares. The Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi (St Francis) is a World Heritage Site. The Franciscan monastery, il Sacro Convento, and the lower and upper church (Basilica inferiore e superiore) of St Francis were begun immediately after his canonization in 1228, and completed 1253. The lower church has frescos by renowned late-medieval artists Cimabue and Giotto; in the Upper church are frescos of scenes in the life of St Francis by Giotto and his circle.

Monday, Oct. 1 – ASSISI/ROME. Mass in Assisi. We will enjoy the cobblestone streets of Assisi and the many shops which line the narrow avenues. Many of the buildings have been beautifully restored following the devastating earthquake of 1997. Mass at one of the churches. Arrive back in Rome in the evening. Dinner and overnight in Rome and preparation for our return flight home.

Tuesday, Oct. 2 – Depart for San Antonio via Atlanta. We will arrival in San Antonio this evening concluding our pilgrimage of faith to Italy.


Praise Him with string and pipe...

Ok, I just did something selfish. I took an hour and went to the organ loft to play that magnificent Casavant instrument. And the nave organ is now installed and connected, so not only does the sound soar from the gallery, but it also sings from half-way down the nave. What a thrill to hear the full sound of the Casavant, but then to make it “answer” itself with the distant pipes from the nave division. I haven’t enjoyed myself like that since my old days at Salisbury when I would play the marvelous Father Willis instrument which graces that gorgeous cathedral.

I started playing the organ when I was about twelve, back in the Methodist church where I grew up in Connecticut. We had a small Moeller pipe organ, and I can remember the wonder I felt when I was first allowed to play it. I was small for my age, and could scarcely reach the pedals. But I was hooked, and I’ve loved the pipe organ ever since.

I was pretty enterprising as a teenager, and as soon as I got my driver’s license I found “paying jobs” at the local Episcopal church and also at one of the Congregational churches. I can remember the mad dash on Sunday mornings as I juggled the various service times. Fortunately, it was a small town!

When I started college I was able to pay for my undergraduate degree by playing the organ and directing choirs, and even continued on through my seminary years. I’m happy to see some of our students at the Academy now studying the organ with Mr. Murray. I’ve told them that even if they don’t make it their life’s career, it sure is a great way to bring honor to God, pleasure to people, and maybe even make a little bit of an income along the way!

04 June 2007

Back from Washington...

I’ve returned from the Anglican Use Conference which was held on the campus of Catholic University in Washington DC, and I really enjoyed it. Getting there was a nightmare (par for the course when it comes to air travel these days), but it was an especially miserable trip from San Antonio. Bad weather in Dallas meant that flights were cancelled, and although I was supposed to leave by 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, we didn’t get a flight out until 6:40 p.m. This meant the arrival in Washington was at midnight. Of course, the luggage didn’t make the flight, which wasn’t completely evident until after 1:00 a.m. It showed up on the 2:15 a.m. flight on Thursday morning. By the time I retrieved my things there seemed to be little point in going to bed. Deacon Orr and I were staying with some former parishioners, Bill and Kathy Noel, and so Bill and I decided to stay up all night and head off to their parish for some early morning adoration and the Mass at 6:30 a.m. This meant no sleep from 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday until almost midnight on Thursday.

Anyway, after Mass I managed a quick shower, some breakfast, and then we went into the city to visit a few places of interest before the conference. We saw the new World War II memorial (absolutely wonderful!) and St. Matthew’s Cathedral (beautiful!), among other things. By lunch time we were dripping wet from the humidity and the Mayfair Hotel looked awfully inviting, so we had lunch there. Fortified with food, and much cooler than when we arrived for lunch, we made our way to Catholic University.

The speakers were terrific. Fr. Peter Geldard, Catholic Chaplain at the University of Kent at Canterbury, gave a wonderful “you are there” talk about how the events unfolded in England which led to the conversion of hundreds of Anglican clergy to the Catholic faith, and who were subsequently ordained as Catholic priests (Fr. Geldard being one of them). He was a key player in all of this, and his account of the discussions which included such people as Cardinal Hume, Msgr. Graham Leonard (former Anglican Bishop of London), Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI), and many others, made for a fascinating commentary.

Linda Poindexter, the wife of Admiral John Poindexter, spoke to us of her journey from Episcopal priestess to faithful Catholic laywoman. For me, the most interesting point she made was the “disturbing feeling” she had as she stood at the altar in her Episcopal church, leading the liturgy. “It just didn’t feel right,” she told us. After she spoke, I made the observation that perhaps it didn’t feel right to her because she, being a very obviously feminine lady, had brought that femininity to her work, as opposed to the raging feminists who are the usual participants in “priestly” work in the Episcopal Church. A real woman would feel uncomfortable in such a role, whereas those who are attempting to mimic masculine attributes are so maimed that they have lost the ability to feel discomfort about anything they do.

Fr. Charles Connor is always a winner when talking about the priesthood. His obvious love for priestly ministry came through in everything he had to say, especially when it came to the relationship between the priest and the parish. It’s always a joy to hear a priest who loves being a priest, and that certainly is the case with Fr. Connor.

I was utterly enthralled with Msgr. Bruce Harbert, the Executive Director of ICEL. I have to admit, I was unprepared for that. Before his talk I thought to myself, “Yuck, ICEL.” But what a brilliant man! If he had been the director in the early days of ICEL we would have a much different liturgical situation today, I’m convinced. His discussion of the real meaning of the term “liturgy,” and his examples of the small things which made for major theological misunderstandings was absolutely engrossing. I could have listened to him for hours, and I feel much more confident about the new translation which is to come.

On Friday evening we celebrated Evensong in the chapel at the Dominican House of Studies. This is an absolute gem of a chapel, complete with rood screen and lots of dark wood beautifully carved. As you can see from the picture above, it looks as tastefully Anglican as could be!

The final High Mass in the Crypt Chapel at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was, of course, the most fitting capstone to the conference. Hearing the venerable words of the Book of Divine Worship echoing through the archways in that holy place was a very inspiring experience.

We’re looking forward to hosting the Anglican Use Conference next year. This will be part of our twenty-fifth anniversary celebrations, and it will be good to welcome the Ecclesiastical Delegate, Archbishop John Myers, to this parish where the Anglican Use first became a reality in the Church.