30 July 2007

"When I survey the wondrous cross..."

One of the striking features when entering our church is the almost life-sized crucifix surmounting the rood screen. It marks the boundary between the nave and the sanctuary. How it came to be here belongs to the lore of our parish.

When the church was built in 1987 there was but a simple wrought iron rail where people knelt to receive Holy Communion. When it was installed it was thought of as temporary, because the plan all along was to construct a rood screen with a communion rail incorporated into it. I found the right carpenter to build it, and plans were started. The search began for the great crucifix which would crown the screen. Catalogues were scoured, but I found nothing suitable. Word came that there was a large crucifix stored in the basement of a local convent. I went to look at it, but it wasn’t the right size. One day the idea came to me to call the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement in Graymoor. I spoke to Sr. Alexis Joseph, S.A., who was a good friend of the parish, and the godmother of one of my daughters.

“Sister, you don’t know of any large crucifixes looking for a home, do you?” I asked. “No, I don’t,” Sister replied, “but if I hear of anything I’ll let you know.” I hung up the phone, not feeling very hopeful. Scarcely had the receiver been replaced, and the phone rang. It was Sister Alexis Joseph. “You’re not going to believe this,” she said, and then went on to tell me, “I had just hung up the phone from our conversation, and when I happened to look out the window there was a truck with a trailer behind it coming into the convent driveway. I could see there was something wrapped up on the trailer, and when I went out to greet the two men in the truck, they told me that they had salvaged something from their church in upstate New York, which was undergoing ‘renovations.’ When I asked them what it was they told me that it was a really big crucifix.”

Apparently these faithful Catholic men couldn’t bear the thought of it being thrown out, so they decided to load it onto a trailer and drive to Graymoor because, in their words, “the Sisters will know what to do with it.” Sister Alexis Joseph went on to tell me, “I shouldn’t have been surprised that it arrived just as you were looking for it!”

So the Sisters shipped it to Texas, where it had a short wait for the screen to be built. When it was installed in the church it was as though it was put in the home for which it was always intended. Sister Alexis Joseph died a few years ago, but I think of her frequently as I pass under the great crucifix into the sanctuary, and I pray for the repose of her soul. She was such a delightful woman and a faithful religious, and she told me that her role in finding our crucifix was one of her truly unexpected joys. And I offer an occasional prayer of thanksgiving for those men, too, who like Simon of Cyrene, helped to carry the cross to where it belonged.

28 July 2007

Back home...

I got back in San Antonio last evening after a very enjoyable break. Ok, ok, I know it was in New Jersey, but I was at the South Jersey shore, which is absolutely beautiful. Also, I managed to spend several hours with our architect, and we were able to get some preliminary ideas worked out for our next expansion.

Last Tuesday we took a small power boat out and traveled some of the Inland Waterway. I don’t know when I’ve had a more relaxing day. Gorgeous weather, delightful temperatures, no humidity – it was like meandering along a liquid country road. The pesky greenhead flies managed to keep us rooted in reality, but they were only a minor annoyance. I suppose they do have some purpose in God’s creation, but I can’t imagine what it is.

On Wednesday we took the large boat out for some deep sea fishing. It was my first time, and it was a terrific experience! We left the dock at 4:00 a.m. and went about thirty-five miles out. I’d never seen sunrise out at sea, and that alone was worth the trip. We had an excellent first mate, Sean, who took care of preparing the bait and getting the lines set up. We were after some tuna, but the fish were very considerate – they didn’t bother us once all day. So we came home empty-handed. Thankfully, we weren’t planning on fish for supper, and good friend, Fr. Hartman (who is the pastor of Mary, Mother of the Church in Belmawr, New Jersey) joined us for the evening for some excellent Italian cuisine.

Thursday was a great “knock-around” day – bike riding around the town of Stone Harbor, eating breakfast and lunch in some of the local haunts, back out on the small boat – and then on Friday a little more work with the architect and off to Newark to catch the plane back to San Antonio.

It was a wonderful break. Before I went, I was sure I didn’t need any vacation, but I was wrong. Just those few days away, seeing friends and having no schedule, was just what I needed. Of course, as the plane touched down in San Antonio I realized how good it is to have this as home. And this morning, back at our own altar, I had a whole lot to be thankful for.

21 July 2007

Salt water and sea air

In Texas when we want the smell of sea air we “head for Corpus,” or we “go to South Padre.” Having grown up in New England, I’ve not managed to become a fan of the waters of the Gulf. I suppose it’s all the same water, but it sure doesn’t seem it to me. On Monday morning I’m catching a 6:20 a.m. non-stop flight headed northeast, and I’ll be spending the inside of a week on the New Jersey shore. It won’t be all play and no work – I’ll be meeting with the architect to discuss preliminary plans for the expansion we need to build – but I’m looking forward to some saltwater fishing and a little bit of a break. I’m indebted to some very kind parishioners who have been, for the past several years, urging me to visit them at their summer home there. I wish JoAnn could go too, but since she gets sick even thinking about getting on a plane, she and I decided that I might as well go. I guess after nearly thirty-seven years of marriage we've accepted the fact that I like to travel and she doesn’t.

Anyway, I’ll be away from Monday through Friday. Although I might post something on the blog, then again I might not. I won’t be away for any of our Sunday Masses, and Fr. Rutkowski will be celebrating the 7:00 a.m. weekday Masses while I’m gone. I’m looking forward to a little break – but you know, I really miss being here when I’m away.

18 July 2007

"...grafted into the body of Christ’s Church..."

The Lord be with you,
And with thy spirit.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up unto the Lord.
Let us give thanks unto our Lord God.
It is meet and right so to do.

It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should give thanks unto thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God, for that thy dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of our sins, did shed out of his most precious side both water and blood; and gave commandment to his disciples, that they should go teach all nations, and baptize them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Regard, we beseech thee, the supplications of thy congregation; sanctify + this water to the mystical washing away of sin; and grant that this Child, now to be baptized therein, may receive the fullness of thy grace, and ever remain in the number of thy faithful children; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, now and evermore. Amen.

- from The Book of Divine Worship
The picture shows the baptism of Benjamin Joseph Harrelson.

One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic...

I don’t know why I bother to read the local paper. Unless I’m interested in who stabbed whom, or want to hear about the latest drunken rampage on the highways, there’s very little that could pass as real news. World and national events I can get on the internet.

I’m especially irked by some of the local columnists. There was one this morning that really put me off my breakfast. As soon as I read the title I should have stopped. "'One true church' should start by cleaning its own dark closet." What good could possibly come after that? Not much.

The columnist starts out by saying that he is thankful that he didn’t have a painful experience with clergy, unlike so many other young boys. Ok, fair enough. He then moves on to describe what was “probably my most memorable encounter with a priest.” Some deeply spiritual encounter, perhaps? Maybe some life-lesson learned? No. This was it:

One day, the parish priest came walking up to me.

He was a distinguished figure; a balding man, who was blessed with a booming "voice of God" that most people, oddly enough, typically ascribe to radio and TV newscasters.

"Are you going to go home and fight with your big brothers?" the priest intoned.

"No, father," I stammered.

"Chicken," he said playfully.

That was it? The “most memorable encounter” he ever had? It’s a pretty weak memory, but so be it. It was when the columnist moved on the meat of his article that I decided to push my breakfast aside.

It wasn't until years later I came to my own conclusion that there were two distinct parts to the Catholic Church.

There's "the Church" in Rome where the pope makes grand pronouncements and sets a conservative tone for the faithful. And then there's "the church" in the neighborhood where the priest is a tangible, often less rigid, part of the community.

In my experience, the Church hierarchy, whether in the Vatican or the archdiocese, was the serious, conservative — even detached — patriarch of the Catholic family. By comparison, the individual priests were more like laid-back uncles.

He then went on to discuss the settlement in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

The settlement's timing couldn't be any worse.

Last week, the Vatican, with Pope Benedict XVI's approval, reasserted its claim that the Catholic Church is the one true church established by Jesus Christ and that other Christian denominations are defective.

It goes without saying how hypocritical it is to claim the spiritual high ground at the same time more than 500 victims of abuse were waging a war against Church obfuscation in the country's largest Catholic archdiocese.

It also comes at a time when the pope is making other controversial moves, such as calling for greater use of the Latin Mass.

This has ignited a fear that the Church will move away from the Vatican II reforms of the mid 1960s, which allowed Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular of the local community.

Speaking for this Catholic only, I know that individual priests and nuns do great works every day.

But, it's at times like these that Rome seems even more distant than ever.

When you want to beat a dog, any stick will do. In the mind of this columnist, “big bad old Rome” is the dog, and the stick happens to be the clergy abuse issue. Now, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the abuse which happened is a scandal, abhorrent to God and to every faithful Catholic. But to pit “Rome” against the local Church not only shows a fairly serious ignorance, but it’s the source of the some serious trouble. It's a misguided thought that if the mean old Pope in Rome would just stop handing down these decrees, then it would be easier for the clergy on the local scene to be the nice guys, the “laid-back uncles” everybody loves. The thing they don’t seem to get is that those laid-back uncles can cause real problems.

A family becomes dysfunctional when Mom is telling the children. “Don’t listen to your father. He's just a cranky old crab who doesn’t want you to have any fun.” Or when Dad says, “Your mother is nuts.” To be healthy a family must be unified. And what’s true about human families is equally true about the family of the Church. God in His wisdom has founded the Church to be mater et magistra. And she is able to be the best mother when her children obey her teaching.

17 July 2007

South Texas summer

Usually at this time of the year south Texas is a vast expanse of what looks like a landscape tortured with a blowtorch. July has never been known as one of our more lush months. But with the excess of rain we have had throughout these past weeks we have green grass, beautifully leafed-out trees, and the wildflowers are still blooming. This picture was taken at the crest of the hill just to the west of the church and school. For those of you who live in less arid climates it may not be remarkable. For us, though, the scenery is definitely out of the ordinary. The wild miniature sunflowers have popped up all over. The flowerbeds around the church are loaded with beautiful blossoms. It’s about the prettiest summer I’ve seen in my twenty-five years in Texas.

By the way, the hill from which this picture was taken is the location for our next building expansion. I wrote to the archbishop yesterday requesting his permission to begin fundraising for the project, and we really need to get going. When we completed our last building project nearly two years ago, we had already outgrown it. We’ve got students in every corner of the building. This is the year we add our twelfth grade, which completes our plan of having a pre-Kindergarten through High School institution. A student who enrolls at the age of four is able to complete fourteen years of education here. We have waiting lists in some grades, and the families keep coming, looking for the solidly Catholic education which we’ve pledged to provide. So we need to continue building. It’s a nice problem to have.

16 July 2007

Te igitur, clementissime Pater

This is pathetic. When I read this article this morning all I could do was give a long sigh. Have a look and see what you think.

Latin leaves priests at a loss
John Hooper in Rome
Monday July 16, 2007
The Guardian

In nomine Patris, et, er, ... thingummy.
Pope Benedict may want more of his flock to have the chance to hear mass in Latin. But there is a snag. Not many of his priests know enough of the language to hold a service in it. Even in Italy.

Yesterday the newspaper La Stampa reported on priests' reactions to the Pope's decision this month to extend the use of the old Latin-only rite. Their views ranged from embarrassment to downright anger.

"I wouldn't know how to say mass from memory in Latin," said a 60-year-old priest from Le Marche region. "No priest should be obliged to go back to school to brush up his Latin. If some dioceses want to hold courses, well, fine."

Father Maurizio Fileni, 57, from near Ancona, went further. "I am absolutely incapable of saying mass in Latin," he told the paper. "And I would actually be ashamed to do so".

During Pope John Paul II's 26-year papacy, the top hierarchy of the Catholic church became far more conservative than before. But many of its rank-and-file priests remain firmly wedded to the ideals of the reforming Second Vatican Council.

Pope Benedict's decree allows Roman Catholics to obtain a dispensation from their priest for mass to be said in the Latin-only form, which was sidelined in 1970. Followers of the late archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who broke with the church over its liturgical reform, have made a 90-minute video showing priests how to celebrate mass in the old way.

But Father Fileni, for one, is unlikely to be acquiring it. "I am certainly not going back to being a student," he said. "The faithful can't any longer understand us in Italian, let alone Latin."

I’m far from a great linguist, but I can attest that it’s not hard to learn enough Latin to be able to celebrate Mass in a clear and perfectly acceptable way. I had the usual two years of high school Latin, which didn’t do much more than teach me that “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres.” That wasn’t much of a preparation for saying Mass. But any priest with an average intelligence and a willingness to listen to any one of a number of recordings of the Mass in Latin can certainly work his way through the pronunciation. I was able to do it, and believe me – if I can, anybody can.

I’m assuming most priests aren’t born knowing how to play golf any more than they’re born knowing how to speak Latin. But if their presence on the golf courses is any indication, most priests are willing to put hours of practice into something they love to do. Surely, every priest loves the Mass, and if the Church asks that we develop the ability to celebrate the Mass (whether Extraordinary or Ordinary) in the official language of the institution to which we presumably have devoted our lives, I think that shouldn’t be a big problem.

The motu proprio hasn’t all of a sudden thrust Latin upon us. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council assumed that Latin would continue to be an integral part of our way of worship. The Council’s “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,” Sacrosanctum Concilium, states that "the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites." I would imagine these priests who plead ignorance of Latin probably pride themselves on being “Vatican II priests.” If that’s the case, they’ve got some work to do.

13 July 2007

Headin' for Gloryland

With the “all-motu-all-the-time” news coverage we’ve had lately, I’m getting sick and tired of references to the priest “with his back to the people.” It’s just childish and (I think) purposely ignorant to describe the position of the celebrant in that way.

It is called ad orientem or eastward-facing. Is that so hard to remember? The celebrant’s position is not in relation to the people; it is in relation to God. It is an ancient symbol when all of us – including the celebrant – face east as we celebrate the Holy Mass “in joyful expectation of the coming of the Lord.”

And in those places where the tabernacle is in its proper place – that is, front and center – is it somehow ok for the celebrant to stand “with his back to Jesus?” Of course, plenty of places have solved that problem by moving the Blessed Sacrament to some obscure corner, so much so that people are reduced to being latter day Mary Magdalenes saying, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him."

All of our Masses in this parish – whether at the High Altar or in the Sacred Heart Chapel – are celebrated ad orientem. If you hear someone, in their ignorance, commenting on “the priest standing with his back to the people,” please correct them. Explain to them that we are really a forward-looking people. We’re looking forward to the final day, when Jesus will return in glory. And explain that we do it together. Explain that Father isn’t there to entertain. He’s there in the place of the shepherd, heading with his flock to that final destination: heaven.

11 July 2007

"Shocking news"

Apparently Captain Renault still lives. Renault is, of course, the character in the movie Casablanca who was “shocked! shocked…” to discover a fact which he already knew full well. There seem to be a number of Protestant leaders who are shocked! shocked to discover that the Catholic Church teaches that it is the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ on the Rock which is Peter.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued a document titled “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church.” There is nothing new in the document. It restates the simple fact that the Church founded by Christ “subsists” in the Catholic Church, and discusses the ramifications of that fact.

Some Protestant leaders are claiming that this has “downgraded” them. Some say this is a “reversal of the ecumenical progress made under the last Pope.” Others assert this has “swept aside the Second Vatican Council.” Of course, this document has done none of those things. The Catholic understanding of the situation of the Orthodox Churches and the various Protestant denominations hasn’t changed in the least. Part of the problem has been that some people thought they could make their own interpretations and ignore uncomfortable truths.

The Catholic Church must be faithful to what our Lord has revealed, and that is what she is doing with this document. And other Christians, whether or not they agree, even if they don't like the teachings, know full well what we believe. It’s uncharitable and unfair to others to pretend to believe something untrue just so we can all “get along.” How could we ever have a serious discussion with other Christians if, after talking for a while, we then say, “Well, actually we believe something else, but we thought you might find it offensive, so we decided to lie to you.”

Read the document. I doubt you will be “shocked! shocked…”

10 July 2007

A new spouse of Christ

As miserable as it is to travel by plane these days, it was definitely worth the trip this past week when I went to Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Alabama. Sr. Elizabeth Marie of Our Lady of the Atonement (pictured here with her mother, Peggy Graham, and me) made her Solemn Profession as a Nun of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. Sister Elizabeth was a member of our parish until she entered religious life eight years ago. Nearly every year since then I have made a visit to see her and to witness her renewal of temporary vows. But this was the year for her final vows, and it was a grand occasion!

The Sisters really seem to look forward to the annual celebration of the Anglican Use Mass, right down to learning some Anglican chant for the gradual psalm at Mass. This year was no different. The stately words of the Book of Divine Worship, combined with the dignity of the Solemn Profession, made for a remarkable and inspiring occasion. The gorgeous words of the Collect for Purity (Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid…) were as much at home in the Chapel as was the chanting in Latin of the Litany of Saints. It all came together into a single beautiful liturgical sacrifice offered to Almighty God.

A particularly impressive part of the ceremony was when Sr. Elizabeth lay prostrate behind the grate, covered by the funeral pall and surrounded by her Sisters holding wax tapers. The Litany was chanted and the pall was sprinkled with holy water, after which I spoke words over her, which included these: “…cover with the shield of Your protection this Your servant whom You deigned to select from the entire number of the Flock, as a Good Shepherd, to preserve the crown of perpetual virginity and chastity of soul, and to prepare her for every work of virtue and glory with the aid of Wisdom, so that, overcoming all enticements of the world, she may merit the indissoluble union with Your son, Our Lord Jesus Christ…”

As the celebrant, I was privileged to bless the ring and place it on Sister’s finger with these words, “I espouse you to Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High Father; and may He keep you unharmed. Receive then, the ring of Faith, the seal of the Holy Spirit, that you may be called the Spouse of God. And if you serve Him faithfully, you will receive an eternal crown. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

The Shrine Chapel of the Most Blessed Sacrament was filled for the occasion, and there were several priests present who concelebrated. There was lots of happiness all around, and we’re grateful to God for the vocation He has given to this daughter of our parish.

09 July 2007

Summorum Pontificum: more thoughts

When I wrote my previous post about our parish’s experience some years ago with the 1962 Missal, I thought maybe what had happened could be instructive and helpful for parishes where the motu proprio might be implemented. I wasn’t looking for sympathy, although lots of people expressed their regret about what had happened. I appreciate the many comments, both on the various blogs and also what I received privately by e-mail, but my only purpose was to try and help others avoid possible difficulties.

Unfortunately, things seem to be ratcheting up a bit. A recent comment (anonymous, of course) takes me to task for my “disobedience” and for causing “scandal.” Here’s the comment:

Hi Father, I was just looking over the Motu Proprio which states "In parishes where a group of faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition exists stably, let the pastor WILLINGLY ACCEDE to their requests for the celebration of the Holy Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962." Thus, you should grant it without the need for the Archbishop to request it. I am sad to hear about your previous experience, but I am more alarmed to hear that so soon after the Motu Proprio was published, you already decided to, for lack of a better word, disobey. Is the Tridentine Mass not Holy too? Are the Tridentine Mass sheep not yours to watch over too? If all the other pastors follow your reasons, then the Motu Proprio will come to naught and the "smoke of Satan" will continue to choke the Roman Catholic Church. With all sincerity, I mean no disrespect Father. I beg you to reconsider the stance you have publicly declared because I am scandalized.

Let me help “anonymous” understand the situation better. Our Lady of the Atonement is a Personal Parish which was established for a particular liturgy, namely, the Anglican Use liturgy. It is part of the Latin Rite, but it was canonically erected for the specific purpose of providing the liturgical use found in the Book of Divine Worship. The fact that we also celebrate the Mass of Paul VI is simply part of our wider apostolate within the archdiocese, but it’s not why the parish was established. When Archbishop Flores asked if I would consider offering a Mass according to the 1962 Missal, he made the request knowing it wasn’t within the stated the purpose of the parish but he knew we were always willing to assist the wider mission of the archdiocese in any way we could. That was why I complied with his request.

Those who belong to our parish are here either because they are converts or because they have found the spiritual life here to be most conducive to their own. This is a “personal parish” with no territory of its own, so no one is here because they happen to live within the boundaries. They are here because they have chosen to be here. Because of the origins and particular canonical foundation of the parish, there is no “group of faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition.” This is why I stated that we would not return to the use of the 1962 Missal unless it was requested of me by the archbishop.

I guess this comment by “anonymous” is yet another indication to me of an area of potential difficulties in parishes. I certainly want to see pastors respond to the motu proprio in accordance with the mind of the Holy Father, and that may take a little time in some places. But I don’t think it’s going to help if accusations are hurled at priests. I don’t like being called disobedient when I’m not, and I don’t like to be blamed for scandalizing someone when I haven’t.

For those who want to help the motu proprio bear fruit – think before you speak, and be sure of all the facts before you accuse.

Today's a special day

July 9th is the Feast of Our Lady of the Atonement. This title embraces two mysteries of our faith: first, the atonement Рthe wonderful at-one-ment which was achieved by our Lord Jesus Christ as He shed His Most Precious Blood upon the Cross at Calvary, through which came the reconciliation of man with God, and of man with man, making us "at one" in His Sacred Heart; and second, the role of Our Lady in the atonement accomplished by God Рher coöperation with the Divine Will at the annunciation, and her participation in her Son's sufferings and death as she stood at the foot of the Cross. The words which Simeon spoke to her came to pass: "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

The crowning act of Redeeming Love – the Atonement upon the Cross – is the means whereby mankind finds salvation. There on the cross Jesus gave us the greatest gift – His precious life. There on the cross He gave His Blessed Mother to be our mother. There Mary stood, and there we stand next to her, at the foot of the Cross. We are children of the Atonement, and the Blessed Virgin Mary is Our Lady who bears witness to Christ's Atonement.

05 July 2007

Summorum Pontificum

Now that the motu proprio has been issued to allow the wider use of the 1962 Missal, some have asked if we will use the permission in this parish. Unless the archbishop specifically requests that we do, there are no plans to have this rite of the Mass here at the parish.

However, I should add that I am happy that the Holy Father has responded to the desire of so many of the Faithful in this positive way. We’d be the last place to squelch legitimate diversity. The principle of “unity in diversity” forms part of the foundation of the generous decision of Pope John Paul II to allow for the Pastoral Provision and our own liturgical use.

For a time we did offer the Mass according to the 1962 Missal. It was requested by our (now) Archbishop Emeritus Patrick F. Flores as his response to a petition from a group of Catholics who said they desired the celebration of the Tridentine Rite on a regular basis in the archdiocese. I agreed to provide this rite of the Mass on a weekly basis and on days of obligation. Our parish was an obvious place to offer this. The sanctuary was already arranged for an eastward-facing celebration. Our parish musicians were more than capable of providing the proper music. There was an exisiting dedication to celebrating all aspects of the Church’s liturgy with care and in accordance with the rubrics.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a happy experience for us. We made every effort to incorporate this into our Mass schedule so it would be seen as an integral part of the parish, but those who had requested the rite wished for it to be very much separate. While we provided bulletins for the Mass, including parish announcements, the Tridentine “organizers” made it a point to throw ours away and provide their own. There were attempts to engage other celebrants for the Mass without even mentioning it to me as the pastor of the parish. There were complaints to me if I used any Sacred Hosts from the tabernacle, and people would refuse Holy Communion if I did, because the Hosts “might be from the English Mass.” In following the rubrics of the Mass, I would receive complaints from some because “that’s not the way I remember it being done.” All I could do was assure them that the rubrics were being followed to the letter. The result was that fewer of those who had requested it continued to attend, and the congregation became more and more comprised of those who didn’t necessarily have an attachment to the tradition Latin Mass, but attended because the time happened to be convenient for them.

I know these things aren’t the fault of the 1962 Missal. The problems arose because of people’s attitudes and expectations. However, it’s not a situation I want to repeat unless I am told I must – but in saying that, be assured I would be immediately obedient if the archbishop told me that he wished for the motu proprio to be implemented here.

When we ceased using the 1962 Missal for our weekly Latin Mass, we began using the Missal of Paul VI for this Mass. The celebration continued to be carried out in a traditional way, eastward-facing with incense, excellent organ music and a men’s schola providing proper chants. When we made the change to the Pauline Missal for the Latin Mass, the attendance began to grow and it was seen simply as one more parish Mass. Of our four Sunday Masses, three are celebrated in English according to the liturgy of the Anglican Use, and one is celebrated in Latin. This seems to work for us very well. Our people are fully capable of participating in either rite of the Mass, and this diversity is accepted as a normal part of parish life.

I hope our experience might be cautionary for those parishes which will be implementing the provisions of the motu proprio. There will be a temptation for some people to erect an “us and them” attitude. There may be a creeping sense of exclusivity (“We attend the real Mass.”). There may be the danger that some will see their life in the parish as consisting only of taking part in the traditional Latin Mass with little or no need to be integrated into the totality of the parish.

On the other hand, perhaps our experience was unique and no other parishes will have these difficulties. Our Holy Father has granted this out of his pastoral love for the Church. We need to work and pray that it will produce the intended good fruits.

Update: here is a follow-up post about this.

03 July 2007

Scaling the mountain...

On Saturday, July 7th, it will be my privilege to celebrate the Mass at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Alabama. Our own Stacy Graham, who until eight years ago was a member of our parish, is now Sr. Elizabeth Marie of Our Lady of the Atonement, and she is now ready to make her Solemn Profession. Her vows bind her to Almighty God as a Poor Clare Nun of Perpetual Adoration.

For these past years I have travelled annually to celebrate Mass with the nuns there, and it has developed into a tradition now. We offer the Mass according to the Anglican Use liturgy. The nuns prepare everything carefully, right down to using Anglican chant for the psalm. It’s always wonderful to be there, and now it’s like going to the home of friends. Of course, this year will be a little different, a little more serious. Other visits were for the annual renewal of vows. This year it’s final. It’s forever. In fact, it’s put this way in the letter Sr. Elizabeth Marie sent out recently:

“Solemn Profession is at one and the same time both an ending and a beginning. The eight years of discernment have passed, the commitment has been made, and the definitive choice has been sealed. And so in this way it is an ending of sorts. But it is also a beginning. In scaling the mountain of holiness, the highest peak is not reached until we gaze upon His Holy Face in the eternal embrace of Heaven. The religious life is a mirror, a prelude, and a preparation for the eternal adoration of God in His Kingdom. Solemn Profession marks a definite beginning in scaling this great mountain.”

So remember Sister Elizabeth Marie of Our Lady of the Atonement in your prayers, and also the other sisters there and throughout the world. These holy women are front-line prayer warriors and quiet members of Christ’s Body, cloistered within His Sacred Heart.

02 July 2007

Suffering servants...

Christians are being persecuted at an unprecedented rate in the world today. Not just discriminated against, but tortured, exterminated, treated as criminals. Martyrs are being raised up, and for their fearless witness we give thanks to God. But countless numbers are suffering anonymously.

One of the tragic chapters in this story concerns the Christians in Iraq. Many of them feel abandoned but their faith is unwavering. The first step is for us to know about the situation. For some background information, go here. And then, read this story.