Friday, November 29, 2013


Why does the priest turn his back on the people at the Latin Mass in the old form?
Your frame of reference is wrong. The action of the liturgy is neither "toward the people" nor "away from the people" because the people are not the focus, God is. The Mass is, essentially, the supreme act of praise and worship of God. It is not, essentially, the gathering of the people of God. Thus, the liturgical action is directed to God. The priest, and all the people, traditionally faced God. This great drawing, courtesy of Christopher's Apologies, sums this up perfectly

But the Mass was instituted by Christ at the Last Supper where He and the apostles would have faced each other across the table. Shouldn't we do the same at Mass?
Seating arrangements were quite different in the ancient world, with the guests seated all together on the same side of the table leaving the other side open for the servers to take and bring the dishes. In all likelyhood Jesus and the apostles were all facing the same direction, just like the traditional arrangement of the Mass.

What is the significance of facing east?
The entire assembled people, including the priest, face east for a few ver significant reasons. First, the sun rises in the east. Since antiquity, Christians have seen the rising sun as a symbol for the Risen Son, Jesus Christ. Facing toward the east, and remember Mass traditionally was said in the morning, means facing the rising sun, the Rising Son. Second, again since antiquity, the Church's tradition tells us Christ will come, at the end of time, from the east, thus we face the direction of the parousia, of the second coming. Thus, ad orientem worship is not dissimilar to Muslims facing Mecca, in that all Catholics turn and face the same direction to worship God.

What of Churches that are not constructed in such a way that the altar faces the east?
Ideally a Catholic church ought to be properly oriented so that the congregation, including the priest, can face east together, but this isn't always the case. This isn't a new problem, either. Nor is it one the Church doesn't have a solution for. When a congregation cannot face directional east, they may face "liturgical east" - that is they can all face the crucifix together.

Are there any negative side-effects when the priest celebrates versus populum?
There can be. Turning the priest around makes it seem like he is the center of the rite. That puts pressure on him to let his personality carry the weight of the Mass. The Mass quickly can become a form of religious entertainment complete with jokes and applause from the "audience." Each priest then impacts the Mass in an undo way. I've heard Mass in the old rite from several different priests and notice no difference expect when he turns around and preaches the sermon. In the new rite, each proest's personality dramatically effect the Mass. This isn't all attributable to the versus populum posture, but such a stance leads to a mentality that tends toward a corrupt understanding of the Mass.

Wouldn't changing the direction the priest faces confuse the people?
Not if it is done correctly and with proper catechesis. A great example of how not to institute this kind of change can be found by looking back at how liturgical changes were implemented following the Council. Changing the direction of the priest with little or no explanation at all caused a great amount of confusion that still hangs over many parishes. An example to emulate is the implementation of the new translation of the Mass. If the priest takes the time to explain why something familiar is changing, Catholics are bright enough to understand.

Hasn't versus populum worship become traditional? It has been half a century!
In a Church that has existed for 20 centuries, a mere 50 years is a fleeting moment. Think of it like this, some Catholics today can still remember what worship was like before the innovations. 

Didn't the Second Vatican Council call for this? How can you go against the Council?
This is a common myth. The sixteen documents produced by the Second Vatican Council mention turning the priest around not at all.

Still, isn't it more ecumenical for us to do the same?
The best approach to ecumenism is for both Protestants and Catholics to be honest about what separates us. Papering over the deep differences between what Protestants and Catholics are doing on Sunday mornings by making the Catholic and Protestant worship look similar will not, and indeed has not, ended the sad divisions within Christendom.

This still sounds very pre-Vatican Two. Have any recent popes supported ad orientem worship?
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, wrote, in The Spirit of the Liturgy, "The common turning towards the east was not a "celebration towards the wall"; it did not mean that the priest "had his back to the people": the priest himself was not regarded as so important. For just as the congregation in the synagogue looked together toward Jerusalem, so in the Christian liturgy the congregation looked "toward The Lord."

But surely Pope Francis would never turn his back on the people!

Does all this mean versus populum worship is bad (or at least worse than ad orientem)?
Not at all. Both are valid ways of celebrating the Mass and both have advantages and disadvantages compared to the other style. The focus here has been on ad orientem because it is the more maligned or misunderstood posture. Whichever your parish uses or you prefer, remember the maxim quoted by Pope St. John XXIII in Ad Petri Cathedram (frequently ascribed to St. Augustine),
In necessariis, unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas
Unity in necessary things; liberty in doubtful things; charity in all things.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Jesus versus Christ

Do you tend to refer to Our Lord as "Jesus" or as "Christ?" Have you ever thought that it might be significant? For centuries the common Catholic usage was "Christ", but, over the last 50 years, "Jesus" has come to predominate. Does this change reflect a transformation in the way many Catholics view their Lord or is it just an insignificant change of style?

In 1982, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, spoke of the wide ranging significance of this shift in an address he gave on Christology (emphasis mine).

"In contemporary writing, the title "Christ" has largely given way to the personal name "Jesus". This linguistic change reveals a spiritual process with wide implications, namely, the attempt to get behind the Church's confession of faith and reach the purely historical figure of Jesus. He is no longer to be understood through this confession, but, as it were, in and through himself alone; and thus his achievement and his challenge are to be reinterpreted from scratch. Consequently people no longer speak of following Christ but of following Jesus: for "discipleship of Christ" implies the Church's confession that Jesus is Christ, and hence it involves a basic acknowledgement of the Church as the primary form of discipleship. "Discipleship of Jesus", however, concentrates on the man Jesus who opposes all forms of authority; one of its features is a basically critical attitude to the Church, seen as a sign of its faithfulness to Jesus."

Friday, November 22, 2013

Is going to Mass all we need to do on Sunday?

As a Catholic you probably know that you are obligated, under pain of mortal sin, to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each and every Sunday (or on its vigil). This is one of the "Five Precepts of the Church" and is mentioned explicitly in the Cathecism of the Catholic Church:

The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor.119 Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.(2181)
 However, once we've fulfilled this obligation can we treat Sunday as just another day? Must Catholics rest of Sundays? Or is that just a matter for Fundamentalists and Pentecostals? It is important to note that our obligation isn't just to attend Mass, but to sanctify the entire day by using it as a time of rest, relaxation, and worship.

Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical dedicated to Sunday, Dies Domini, reminds us that:

"the link between the Lord's Day and the day of rest in civil society has a meaning and importance which go beyond the distinctly Christian point of view. The alternation between work and rest, built into human nature, is willed by God himself, as appears in the creation story in the Book of Genesis (cf. 2:2-3; Ex 20:8-11): rest is something "sacred", because it is man's way of withdrawing from the sometimes excessively demanding cycle of earthly tasks in order to renew his awareness that everything is the work of God." (65)

 Nor is this just recent teaching of the Church. Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum (from 1891) teaches that we have an

"obligation of the cessation from work and labor on Sundays and certain holy days. The rest from labor is not to be understood as mere giving way to idleness; much less must it be an occasion for spending money and for vicious indulgence, as many would have it to be; but it should be rest from labor, hallowed by religion." (41)
Which reflects the ancient teaching of the Church, stretching back to the Fathers and the regional Council of Laodicea, held in 362.

"Christians must not Judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honoring the Lord's day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians."(Canon 29).

And in the Code of Canon Law we find this requirement expressed.

"On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass.

Moreover, they are to abstain from those works and affairs which hinder the worship to be rendered to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s day, or the suitable relaxation of mind and body
." (1247)

As you can see, Sunday rest is not just a matter for Fundementalists, but is a deep part of our Catholic heritage. 

This Sunday allow the Mass to be the centerpiece of the day. Plan everything else around it. Allow yourself to rest. Don't work. Don't even think about work. Spend extra time with God in prayer. Spend extra time with your family. Prefigure the rest which we all strive to enter into when this life draws to a close.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Could Hitler be in Heaven?

 Today we ask a provactive question, could Adolf Hitler, widely considered to be one of the most evil men in history, be among the saved? Let's take a look.

Why does someone go to Hell?
The only thing that lands someone in Hell is dying outside the state of grace, i.e. dying in a state of mortal sin. 

Was Hitler ever outside the state of grace?
Hitler, and everyone else but Christ and Mary, is born outside the state of grace thanks to original sin. So he definitely spent at least sometime in a state of mortal sin and could, thus, theoretically have died in such a state.

Is there anyway to have original sin forgiven?
The ordinary way to have original sin removed is baptism (water, fire, or desire). So, the question is was Hitler baptized? Yes. Therefore, he also would have spent at least some of his life in a state of grace and could, thus, theoretically have died in such a state.

Did Hitler ever sin after his baptism?
Hitler was baptized as an infant, so the answer here also is yes because we are all sinners (cf. 1 Jn 1:8). Furthermore, Hitler was a notorious public sinner, we all know his many crimes. The idea that he never committed a mortal sin, is laughable at best.

Can Hitler have been forgiven these sins?
The only way to have a post-bapismal mortal sin forgiven is to either 
1) go to sacramental confession 
2) make an act of perfect contrition. 
Hitler wasn't a practicing Catholic and he didn't have access to a priest while he was in the bunker under Berlin for the last several months of his life, so we can pretty much cross option 1 off. That leaves option 2 - sorrow for his sins, not out of fear of Hell, but because Hitler loved God (perfect contrition). He would have to be sorry for all of his sins, including killing innocent Jews, which he seemed unrepentant of until the last.

But Hitler's sins were so terrible, how could confession or an act of perfect contrition save him? Surely some sins can never be forgiven.
We are all forgiven, not through any merits of our own, but though the saving Passion and Death of Our Lord. Christ's Holy Sacrifice on Good Friday is of limitless worth, there is nothing anyone (even Hitler) could do that would be so bad as to outweigh Calvary, therefore all sins (even Hitler's) can be forgiven through the means Christ established - sacramental confession or an act of perfect contrition.

Didn't Hitler commit suicide? Isn't that mortally sinful?
Suicide is grave matter and, under normal circumstances, is a mortal sin (one which leaves the sinner no time to repent). This could be grounds for his damnation, but Hitler seems to have been out of his mind by the time he killed himself, which would remove one of the three conditions necessary for mortal sin - consent. So the suicide might not be enough to damn him, although it might have been - we can't say.

If Hitler was insane could he sin at all?
The insane, if emptied of their ability to make rational choices, cannot commit a mortal sin. However, even if Hitler was out of his mind for some extended period toward the end of his life, out of his mind enough to not be culpable for his sins, he still would have had to of made an act of perfect contrition or sought sacramental confession before going insane for his pre-insanity mortal sins to be forgiven.
Hitler wasn't even Catholic, why would he seek confession?
This brings up an interesting point, Hitler was "outside the Church" and of course we all know extra ecclesiam nulla salus, outside the Church there is no salvation. Thus, Hitler would have to meet additional requirements (so to speak) to avoid damnation. According to Vatican Council 2, people outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church "also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience." (LG16). 
So Hitler would have to have:
1) not known about the Church and Jesus (if he wasn't Christian)
2) not been at fault for his not knowing, i.e. been invincibly ignorant
3) sincerely strove to seek God and do His will by his deeds.

So does that mean that we know that Hitler is in Hell?
It looks pretty bad for Hitler. Not because what he did was so evil (again, Christ's sacrifice is enough to blot out any and every sin any of us can commit) but because the likelihood of true contrition seems to be almost nil. All that being said, because we don't know for sure if Hitler died contrite, we can't answer definitively. Ultimately, we just don't know.

Doesn't the Church have a list of the damned, like she does of the Saints?
No. Unlike her power to canonize saints, to certainly discern which souls are in Heaven, the Church does not have the power to damn, to certainly discern which souls are in Hell. Only God knows this.

Should Catholics pray for Hitler's soul?
Because we ultimately don't know Hitler's final destination, we ought to pray for the man and all others who choose to sin against the All Holy One, although we might cautiously say the chances of such prayers being effectious might be very slim. Praying for the deceased is a spiritual work of mercy.

Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine
et lux perpetua luceat eis
Requiescant in Pace.

What do you think? Is there hope for Hitler? Can we know that he is in Hell?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Gettysburg Address

150 years ago this very day, Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States, right here in Pennsylvania, gave his famous Gettysburg Address.

Filmmaker Ken Burns has collected a variety of famous and not so famous Americans reciting the Address. You can view them online at One of my favorites is the recording by Timothy Cardinal Dolan which you can watch HERE.

Do you know the Address? Sadly, with the disappearance of memorization in schools, many Americans do not.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

A Hell of a Conversation with a Kindergartener

Being a transcript of a brief conversation I had after driving my kindergartener home from CCD:

Kindergartener: Daddy, what is Original Sin?

Me: Well, buddy, when God created Adam and Eve He created them in friendship with Himself, that's called sanctifying grace. We were all meant to be born and live our entire lives in this state of friendship with God, this state of grace. But Satan tricked Adam and Eve into committing the first sin. When they sinned they betrayed God and were no longer His friends. Ever since, everyone has been born outside the state of grace, this is called Original Sin. Do you know how we have Original Sin washed off us?

K: Baptism!

Me: Very good, buddy! When we are baptized Original Sin is washed away and we are made friends with God again, in fact we are made His sons and daughters. Do you know how we can fall back out of a state of grace after baptism?

K: When we sin.

Me: Right. But not all sins put us outside of friendship with God, only really bad sins, like sins that break the 10 Commandments. These we call mortal sins, because they kill our relationship with God. If we die while in mortal sin we won't go to Heaven. Do you know how we can be forgiven these sins?

K: Go to confession.

Me: Right, when we commit a mortal sin we should go to confession as soon as possible.

K: What if you want to go to confession, but you can't and you die.

Me: If you mean to go to confession, but you couldn't, God will forgive you. As long as you were sorry and were trying to get to confession, you're still forgiven. God knows what is in our hearts.

K: What happens if we die with small sins. Do we have to go to confession for these?

Me: While it's good to confess all our sins, we only have to confess mortal sins. Small sins, we call them venial sins, are sins that do not kill our friendship with God and will not keep us out of Heaven. Purgatory will cleanse us from all venial sins. Which is why Purgatory is a great blessing. Everyone in Purgatory will someday be in Heaven. The only bad place to go is Hell. What is your favorite place to go to?

K: Grandpap's the Dunkin Donuts...

Me: Imagine Heaven is eating donuts in the park.

K: Okay.

Me: Purgatory is like driving in the car. It's not fun, but you have to do it to get to the park!

K: Are mortal sins taken away in Purgatory?

Me: No. Only smaller sins.

K: Why not?

Me: Mortal sins make us enemies of God, but everyone in Heaven is God's friend, so we have to die without mortal sin on our souls to be with God in Heaven. 

K: So everybody who loves God goes to Heaven?

Me: Everybody in Heaven loves God and everybody who doesn't love God isn't in Heaven, but some people who love God still end up in Hell.

K: Why?

Me: No sins can be in Heaven. You have to leave all your sins behind. Some people love God, but they love their sins even more, these people would rather be in Hell with their sins than in Heaven with God. Purgatory will burn up all the sins that enter it. Some people love their sins so much they would rather burn up with them than let them go. To let our sins go we have to be sorry for them. As long as we are truly sorry for our sins, we can go to Heaven

K: Okay. So to go to Heaven I have to love God and be sorry for my sins?

Me: Right. If you stay close to Jesus you'll want to be sorry for your sins. The more we love Him the more we will hate sin because He hates sin. Do you know who helps God decide who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell?

K: SAINT MICHAEL! He weighs the souls. (K is a big fan of St. Michael and is wearing a St. Michael t-shirt)

Me: The saints help us to love God, to live good lives, and to be sorry for our sins. But you don't have to worry about all this right now, you are too young to sin or go to confession.

K: When can I go to confession?

Me: Second grade.

K: That's when I can receive the Eucharist!!

Me: Right, buddy. Now, let's go inside.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Gloria Patri A prayer of thanksgiving (pt 4)

In honor of Thanksgiving over the last few days we've been looking at prayers of thanksgiving and praise. You can read PART ONE, PART TWO, and PART THREE if you missed them.

Today, we're ending our series by examining another ancient prayer, one we're all familiar with from the Mass, the Gloria Patri. This is a short and simple prayer and can be said with or without accompanying it with the Signo Crucis, the Sign of the Cross.

Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto
Sicut in principo et nunc et semper 
Et in secula seculorum. Amen.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning is now and will be forever
World without end. Amen.

This prayer dates back to the earliest days of the Church and has been said with the wording we use today since the seventh century. It is used both at extraordinary form of the Mass and in the liturgy of the hours and we use it to end each decade of the Holy Rosary, so it is a prayer most Catholics are familiar with. 

This short prayer addresses each member of the Trinity and is a great way to end prayers, to use at the end of the day before we fall asleep, to say first thing in the morning, or to offer up praise to the Lord for being good to you. It is a prayer every Catholic should be familiar with (in their vernacular and in Latin).

This prayer, along with the others we covered this week, will arm you with a wealth of prayers to offer our Lord each and every day. Remember, we are called to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17). One way to fulfill this command, and to sanctify our days, is to use these short prayers.

God bless.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Laus Tibi Christe! A prayer of thanksgiving (pt 3)

Over the last couple days, in honor of Thanksgiving, we've been looking at some prayers of thanks that have been sanctified by long use in the Church - Non Nobis Domine and Te Deum Laudamus. Today I'd like to look at a couple of short prayers even more at the heart of who we are as Catholics, prayers that are a part of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. These prayers can be used throughout the day to keep our hearts and minds with God - a practice much recommended by St. Francis de Sales in his classic work of spirituality, Introduction to the Devout Life.

Gloria Tibi Domine (Glory to you, O Lord)
This short prayer of praise and thanksgiving is said at Mass right before the reading of Gospel in response to the priests words, "Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum..." (The continuation of the holy Gospel, according to...). I've written more about how we use this prayer in our family HERE.

Laus Tibi Christe (Praise to you, Christ)
This prayer is said immediately following the Gospel reading and echos the Gloria tibi Domine.

Deo Gratias (Thanks be to God)
This prayer is used a couple of times at Mass, most notably at the end when the priest says, "Ite missa est" (Go, the Mass is ended).

Armed with these three short prayers of thanksgiving you can offer up praise to The Lord of Lords and King of Kings throughout the day. Doing so will help you to grow in both gratitude and holiness.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Te Deum Laudamus! A prayer of thanksgiving (pt 2)

Yesterday, we looked at a great prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord, Non nobis Domine. Today, I'd like to look at another, greater (and longer) prayer of thanks, Te Deum laudamus. 

The traditional attestation for the composition of this great hymn is to Saints Augustine and Ambrose on the occasion of Augustine's baptism, which would date the poem back into the fifth century. Many scholars today doubt Augustine or Ambrose had a hand in composing the hymn, but it remains a great and very ancient song of praise in the Church and has traditionally been sung after glorious victories in war, for the coronation of popes and kings, and has been a staple in the Divine Office, being sung at Matins (a traditional nighttime prayer for monks). The Church also grants the possibility of attaining a plenary indulgence to the faithful who, in spirit of thanksgiving, recite this prayer on New Year's Eve.

Te Deum laudamus:
te Dominum confitemur.
Te aeternum Patrem
omnis terra veneratur.
Tibi omnes Angeli;
tibi caeli et universae Potestates;
Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim
incessabili voce proclamant:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra
maiestatis gloriae tuae.
Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus,
Te Prophetarum laudabilis numerus,
Te Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus.
Te per orbem terrarum
sancta confitetur Ecclesia,
Patrem immensae maiestatis:
Venerandum tuum verum et unicum Filium;
Sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum.
Tu Rex gloriae, Christe.
Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius.
Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem,
non horruisti Virginis uterum.
Tu, devicto mortis aculeo,
aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum.
Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes, in gloria Patris.
Iudex crederis esse venturus.
Te ergo quaesumus, tuis famulis subveni:
quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.
Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari.
Salvum fac populum tuum,
Domine, et benedic hereditati tuae.
Et rege eos, et extolle illos usque in aeternum.
Per singulos dies benedicimus te;
Et laudamus Nomen tuum in saeculum, et in saeculum saeculi.
Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire.
Miserere nostri Domine, miserere nostri.
Fiat misericordia tua,
Domine, super nos, quemadmodum speravimus in te.
In te, Domine, speravi:
non confundar in aeternum.

Which was translated by John Dryden (1631–1700):

Thee, Sovereign God, our grateful Accents praise;

We own thee Lord, and bless thy wondrous ways;

To thee, Eternal Father, Earth’s whole Frame

With loudest Trumpets sounds immortal Fame.

Lors God of Hosts! For thee the heav’nly Pow’rs

With sounding Anthems fill the vaulted Tow’rs.

Thy Cherubims, thrice Holy, Holy, Holy cry;

Tjrice Holy, all the Seraphims reply.

And thrice returning Echoes endless Songs supply.

Both Heav’n and Earth thy Majesty display;

They owe their Beauty to thy glorious Ray.

Thy Praises fill the loud Apostles’ Quire:

The Train of Prophets in the Song conspire.

Legions of Martyrs in the Chorus shine,

And vocal Blood with vocal Musick join.

By these thy Church, inspir’d by heav’nly Art,

Around the World maintains a second Part,

And tunes her sweetest Notes, O God, to thee,

The Father of unbounded Majesty;

The Son, ador’d Co-partner of thy Seat,

And equal everlasting Paraclete.

Thou King of Glory, Christ, of the Most High

Thou co-eternal filial Deity;

Thou who, to save the World’s impending Doom,

Vouchsaf’dst to dwell within a Virgin’s Womb;

Old Tyrant Death disarm’d, before thee flew

The Bolts of Heav’n, and back the Foldings drew,

To give access, and make thy faithful way;

From God’s right Hand thy filial Beams display.

Thou art to judge the Living and the Dead;

Then spare those Souls for whom thy Veins have bled.

O take us up amongst thy blest above,

To share with them thy everlasting Love

Preserve, O Lord! thy People, and enhance

Thy Blessing on thine own Inheritance.

For ever raise their Hearts, and rule their ways,

Each Day we bless thee, and proclaim thy Praise;

No Age shall fail to celebrate thy Name,

No Hour neglect thy everlasting Fame.

Preserve our Souls, O Lord, this Day from Ill;

Have Mercy on us, Lord, have Mercy still:

As we have hop’d, do thou reward our Pain;

We’ve hop’d in thee, let not our Hope be vain.

And by the Book of Common Prayer:
We praise thee, O God :
    we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee :
    the Father everlasting.
To thee all Angels cry aloud :
    the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
To thee Cherubim and Seraphim :
    continually do cry,
Holy, Holy, Holy :
    Lord God of hosts;
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty :
    of thy glory.
The glorious company of the Apostles : praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets : praise thee.
The noble army of Martyrs : praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world :
    doth acknowledge thee;
The Father : of an infinite Majesty;
Thine honourable, true : and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost : the Comforter.
Thou art the King of Glory : O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son : of the Father.
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man :
    thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death :
    thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God : in the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come : to be our Judge.
We therefore pray thee, help thy servants :
    whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with thy Saints : in glory everlasting.
O Lord, save thy people :
    and bless thine heritage.
Govern them : and lift them up for ever.
Day by day : we magnify thee;
And we worship thy Name : ever world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord : to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us : have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us :
    as our trust is in thee.
O Lord, in thee have I trusted :
    let me never be confounded.

Enjoy this beautiful rendition:

Monday, November 11, 2013

Non Nobis Domine! A prayer of thanksgiving (pt 1)

In my line of work, 100% commission sales, you really learn how much you depend upon Divine Providence to provide for you. Without a stable, fixed income you don't know if you're going to make enough to survive the next month and pay the rent. Of course, you can also make more than you would otherwise be able to, really you have a nearly limitless potential income, but that potency isn't always (or even frequently) actualized on a month to month basis.When a sale is made and we see good money, the very real prospect of not making it that month disappears. We could very easily not have made it, but we did.

This precarious lifestyle brings home how much we truly rely solely in Him who "provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call" (Psalm 147:9). We know we are worth much more than they are (cf. Matt 6:26). We also know that while we can do all things through Him (cf. Phil 4:13), we can do nothing without Him (cf. Jn 15:5). Which is why, when we find ourselves again with roof, food, and clothing, I raise my heart to the Lord to thank Him for His provision for my family.

One prayer I often use to this end is the ancient prayer "Non nobis Domine." A beautiful rendition is found in the movie adaptation of William Shakespeare's Henry V:

Non nobis, non nobis, Domine
Sed nomini tuo da gloriam.
(Psalm 139:9 - Vulgate)

which the King James version renders:

Not to us, not to us, O Lord,
But to thy name give glory.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

What is the Purpose of Life?

The purpose of our lives is to reveal God to men... Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him... it is beautiful and wonderful, because it is truly a service to joy, to God's joy which longs to break into the world. - Pope Benedict XVI, homily 24 April 2005
Purchase this prayer card HERE

  For the Year of Faith, proclaimed by Pope Benedict, I decided to purchase some holy cards to give out with tips to waitresses, to put in library books I checked out, and to have on hand as other occasions might arise. These cards easily fit into my wallet, so I am always prepared to drop one whenever the Spirit might move me. This last week at CCD was one of those times. I decided to give each of my students a prayer card to use as a bookmark for their Bibles. We do a lot of Bible reading in class, with frequent flips between the Old Testament types and New Testament antitypes. After passing them out, I read the extended quote to the class. They sat looking at me, perhaps not fully understanding.

Then I asked them a powerful question. "If I asked you what is the purpose of your life, how many of you would have said 'to reveal God to men'?" One solitary hand went up. But that is exactly what Pope Benedict, at the very onset of his pontificate, was telling us - "The purpose of our lives is to reveal God to men... There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him."

Do we take that challenge seriously? Do we wake each morning hoping for an opportunity to reveal God to those we encounter that day? This is the challenge of the New Evangelization. This is the challenge of living as a Catholic, because as another pontiff, Paul VI, reminded us in Evangelii Nuntiandi
 "the whole Church...receives the mission to evangelize, and the work of each individual member is important for the whole."
So get out there and live lives that reveal God to men or as I remind my students as they leave class each week, BE SAINTS!

Make sure you check out!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Female ordination? An interview with CS Lewis

Mr. Lewis thanks so much for the opportunity to interview you today on a topic that has been much discussed since you left us, female ordination. This certainly is a major issue in the Church today. In fact, knowing whether someone supports female ordination is almost enough to predict where they will stand on many of issues in the Church. What do you make of women who seek ordination?
I have every respect for those who wish women to be priestesses. I think they are sincere and pious and sensible people. Indeed, in a way they are too sensible... For at first sight all the rationality... is on the side of the innovators. We are short of priests. We have discovered in one profession after another that women can do very well all sorts of things which were once supposed to be in the power of men alone... What, then, except prejudice begotten by tradition, forbids us to draw on the huge reserves which could pour into the priesthood if women were here, as in so many other professions, put on the same footing as men?
That's exactly what many proponents of female ordination would claim, that predjuice alone keeps women from the priesthood, that advocates of an all male priesthood hold women in contempt.
That this reaction does not spring from any contempt for women is, I think, plain from history. The Middle Ages carried their reverence for one Woman to a point at which the charge could be plausibly made that the Blessed Virgin became in their eyes almost "a fourth Person of the Trinity". But never, so far as I know, in all those ages was anything remotely resembling a sacerdotal office attributed to her.  All salvation depends on the decision which (the Virgin Mary) made in the words Ecce ancilla; she is united in nine months" inconceivable intimacy with the eternal Word; she stands at the foot of the cross." But she is absent both from the Last Supper and from the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost. Such is the record of Scripture.
But weren't the conditions in first century Palestine such that Christ couldn't have included Mary as one of the Apostles? Isn't that merely an element of the culture Christ lived in?
Nor can you daff (the Sciptural evidence) aside by saying that local and temporary conditions condemned women to silence and private life. There were female preachers. One man had four daughters who all "prophesied", i.e. preached. There were prophetesses even in Old Testament times. Prophetesses, not priestesses.
If women can preach why can't they do the rest of a priest's work?
This question deepens the discomfort of my side. We begin to feel that what really divides us from our opponents is a difference between the meaning which they and we give to the word "priest". The more they speak (and speak truly) about the competence of women in administration, their tact and sympathy as advisers, their national talent for "visiting", the more we feel that the central thing is being forgotten. To us a priest is primarily a representative, a double representative, who represents us to God and God to us. Our very eyes teach us this in church. Sometimes the priest turns his back on us and faces the East - he speaks to God for us: sometimes he faces us and speaks to us for God. We have no objection to a woman doing the first: the whole difficulty is about the second. 
Why should a woman not represent God in that way?
Certainly not because she is necessarily, or even probably, less holy or less charitable or stupider than a man. In that sense she might be as "God-like" as a man; and a given woman much more so than a given man. 
If a woman might be holier than a man, why should the admittedly less holy man be allowed to become a priest while the holier woman is passed over? Wouldn't the holier person, regardless of sex, be a better representative of God?
The sense in which she cannot represent God will perhaps be plainer if we look at the thing the other way round. Suppose the reformer stops saying that a good woman may be like God and begins saying that God is like a good woman. Suppose he says that we might just as well pray to "Our Mother which art in heaven" as to "Our Father". Suppose he suggests that the Incarnation might just as well have taken a female as a male form, and the Second Person of the Trinity be as well called the Daughter as the Son. Suppose, finally, that the mystical marriage were reversed, that the Church were the Bridegroom and Christ the Bride. All this, as it seems to me, is involved in the claim that a woman can represent God as a priest does... 
(I)t is surely the case that if all these supposals were ever carried into effect we should be embarked on a different religion. Goddesses have, of course, been worshipped: many religions have had priestesses. But they are religions quite different in character from Christianity.
Of course, God isn't a man in the sky. He has no physical body, hence no biological sex. Why shouldn't we speak of Him as Her, even if it causes more than a bit of discomfort to some of us?
Christians think that God Himself has taught us how to speak of Him. To say that it does not matter is to say either that all the masculine imagery is not inspired, is merely human in origin, or else that, though inspired, it is quite arbitrary and unessential. And this is surely intolerable: or, if tolerable, it is an argument not in favour of Christian priestesses but against Christianity. It is also surely based on a shallow view of imagery. Without drawing upon religion, we know from our poetical experience that image and apprehension cleave closer together than common sense is here prepared to admit; that a child who has been taught to pray to a Mother in Heaven would have a religious life radically different from that of a Christian child.
It seems the proponents of female ordination underestimate the natural differences between the sexes.
The innovators are really implying that sex is something superficial, irrelevant to the spiritual life . To say that men and women are equally eligible for a certain profession is to say that for the purposes of that profession their sex is irrelevant. We are, within that context, treating both as neuters... This may be inevitable for our secular life. But in our Christian life we must return to reality. There we are not homogeneous units, but different and complementary organs of a mystical body. 
Isn't the equality of the sexes fundementally a Christian principal?
 I do not remember the text in scripture nor the Fathers, nor Hooker, nor the Prayer Book which asserts it; but that is not here my point. The point is that unless "equal" means "interchangeable", equality makes nothing for the priesthood of women. And the kind of equality which implies that the equals are interchangeable (like counters or identical machines) is, among humans, a legal fiction. It may be a useful legal fiction. But in church we turn our back on fictions. 
In the Church,then, we must people as God created, male and female, not as interchangeable sexless persons?
One of the ends for which sex was created was to symbolize to us the hidden things of God. One of the functions of human marriage is to express the nature of the union between Christ and the Church. We have no authority to take the living and semitive figures which God has painted on the canvas of our nature and shift them about as if they were mere geometrical figures.
This is how Christ constructed the Church and we simply must not tamper with it, then?
The Church claims to be the bearer of a revelation. If that claim is false then we want not to make priestesses but to abolish priests. If it is true, then we should expect to find in the Church an element which unbelievers will call irrational and which believers will call supra-rational...If we abandon that, if we retain only what can be justified by standards of prudence and convenience at the bar of enlightened common sense, then we exchange revelation for that old wraith Natural Religion.
What do you say to those who point to the obvious moral failings of men in the priesthood?
I am crushingly aware how inadequate most (men) are... to fill the place prepared for us. But it is an old saying in the army that you salute the uniform not the wearer. Only one wearing the masculine uniform can... represent the Lord to the Church: for we are all, corporately and individually, feminine to Him. We men may often make very bad priests. That is because we are insufficiently masculine. It is no cure to call in those who are not masculine at all. A given man may make a very bad husband; you cannot mend matters by trying to reverse the roles. He may make a bad male partner in a dance. The cure for that is that men should more diligently attend dancing classes; not that the ballroom should henceforward ignore distinctions of sex and treat all dancers as neuter. That would, of course, be eminently sensible, civilized, and enlightened, but... "not near so much like a Ball".
And this parallel between the Church and the Ball is not so fanciful as some would think... the Ball exists to stylize something which is natural and which concerns human beings in their entirety-namely, courtship. We cannot shuffle or tamper so much. With the Church... we are dealing with male and female not merely as facts of nature but as the live and awful shadows of realities utterly beyond our control and largely beyond our direct knowledge. Or rather, we are not dealing with them but (as we shall soon learn if we meddle) they are dealing with us.

Nota bene: CS Lewis' responses are taken from his essay 'Priestesses in the Church?' 

Friday, November 1, 2013

All Saints Day according to World Library Publications

"My parish recently inaugurated a one-day operation called "The Power of One"... The "one" referred not to each individual, but to one community, working together for the good of all. This rooted in the love God poured into our hearts...All Saints celebrates this power...More broadly, this power enters the world whenever men and women... (live) in right relationship with God, others, and the world. They not only will enter heaven; they bring it into the world now. These are the saints - Christians, but also Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and all who allow the Spirit of God to guide them."
 - From the Seasonal Missalette Worship Resource, August 4 to November 30, 2013, World Library Publications, J.S. Paluch Company, Inc.

 So saith WLP. But what does the Catholic Church teach? Does the Church teach All Saints Day celebrates a "power" that enters the world? Does she teach that the saints are men and women that do good things, that are basically good on the inside? And does she teach "these are the saints... Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists?" Or is WLP's theology as bad as it's music selections. Let's see...

What is All Saints Day? Is it the celebration of the "Power of One?"
All Saints Day is (surprise, surprise) a celebration, not of a "power," but of ... All the Saints! I suppose that's why it isn't called the Solemnity of the "Power." It originated when Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon (a Roman temple to "all the gods") to Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres (Holy Mary and the Martyrs) on May 13, 609, which was celebrated yearly in Rome. In the next century, Pope Gregory III  moved the date to November first as a celebration of all the saints, a feast we continue to keep to this day.

Aren't the saints just "men and women" who live "in right relationship with God, others, and the world?" 
The word "saint" comes from the Latin sanctus meaning "holy." The saints are holy men and women. This certainly means they are "living in right relationship with God" - that an essential aspect holiness, but many non-saints can (and do) live in right relationship with "others, and the world" (whatever living in right relationship with the world might mean). This view of sainthood seams dangerously close to Pelagianism, a heresy of the fifth century that claimed men can be saved apart from grace, if they lived good lives. Whenever you hear someone say that someone is "a good person," especially at a funeral, Pelagian alarm bells should start ringing in your ears. Saints are more than decent blokes who got along with others.

Are the saints - "Christians, but also Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and all who allow the Spirit of God to guide them"?
The Church has canonized many saints, all of them - let me repeat that, all of them are Catholic. Remember, the Church has always taught extra ecclesiam nulla salus - outside the Church there is no salvation. This ancient doctrine is found in the writings of the Church Fathers, including Saint Cyprian and the Fourth Lateran Council, in 1215, formally (and infallibly) declared, "There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved." 

That's Pre-Vatican 2. The Church doesn't teach that anymore.
The Second Vatican Council, in Lumen Gentium, upheld this ancient truth by teaching, "often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, "Preach the Gospel to every creature", the Church fosters the missions with care and attention." (paragraph 16). Pope Paul VI, who closed the Council, taught "Wanting to live with Jesus without the Church, following Jesus outside of the Church, loving Jesus without the Church is an absurd dichotomy." And Pope Francis recently reminded us that "it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church." All post Vatican 2. 

Does that mean everyone who isn't Catholic is automatically damned?
No one is damned for anything outside of their control. The Church has long recognized that those who couldn't possibly have joined the Church are not condemned for not joining the Church. Lumen Gentium 16 also tells us that "(t)hose also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience." Note that someone must not know the Catholic Church through "no fault of their own." Of course these souls must also have died in a state of grace. How likely it is for someone to die outside of a state of mortal sin without the teaching of the Church, the grace provided by the sacraments, and the ability to seek forgiveness through sacramental confession is anyone's guess.

So non-Catholic saints are possible. What's wrong with the comment from the missalette then?
All we know for certain is that there are Catholic saints and that it is possible that people who die outside of the Church through no fault of their own might be saved. That isn't the same as saying "These are the saints - Christians, but also Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and all who allow the Spirit of God to guide them."

Santa Maria dei Martiri (formerly the Pantheon)