January 31, 2009

The Prophet Like Moses

St. Mark's gospel, in which the demons recognize Jesus right away but human beings generally don't, forces the question upon us, "Who do you say that I am?" My homily for this weekend is posted here.

January 30, 2009

A Little of the Ludwig Van

So said Alex, as the way to end a perfect evening, and I agree. This version by none other than the great Brazilian thrash metal band, Sepultura:

Ah, the "saddest of all keys." Now that's two random references from favorite movies.

Franciscan Blogroll

Check out the fascinating and erudite Breathing with Both Lungs.

The Superbowl and the Culture of Death

From several places, especially Historical Christian--which I recommend to everyone--I heard this morning of NBC's rejection of this beautiful Superbowl ad:

Of course it's a little flawed. One isn't against the crime of abortion because of the possibility that a child will be someone talented or important, or could contribute much to the world, but because life is the original gift of God, and the only appropriate response to this 'original blessing' is gratefulness. Nevertheless, the ad takes a clever rhetorical strategy, hoping that those who participate in the happy and wholesome uplift Obama has brought might become willing to extend that hope to the unborn as well.

January 29, 2009

The Veil

In these days when we have been reading the letter to the Hebrews at weekday Masses, I have to admit that my fascination with the "letter" has been renewed. If I had the same Mass each day, I might have even tried to preach it straight through. Today's passage is almost overwhelming:

Brothers and sisters:
Since through the Blood of Jesus
we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary
by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil,
that is, his flesh,
and since we have “a great priest over the house of God,”
let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust,
with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience
and our bodies washed in pure water.

I'm amazed by this idea of the flesh of Christ as a "veil." It is the veil, perhaps, between heaven and earth, between the human and divine united in his Person. When this veil is torn upon the Cross, the perfect delight and blessing pour out upon the world in the form of the Lord's Precious Blood. Conversely, we are given the opportunity to enter into the divine realm by crawling into the entrances that the wounds of Christ become. "Within thy wounds hide me," prays the Anima Christi. The Lord's Passion and death break the veil between human and divine and offer us the opportunity to share in the divinity which Christ humbled to share in our humanity.

In this spirit I offered the votive Mass of Christ the High Priest this morning, with the preface of the Holy Eucharist I:

As we eat his body which he gave for us,
we grow in strength.
As we drink his blood which he poured out for us,
we are washed clean.

January 28, 2009

Baby Names

One thing about being a parish priest is that you get a sense of what people are naming their babies. I have honestly been surprised by the lack of diversity:

A quarter of all the baby boys I have baptized have been named Matthew or Andrew.

Of all of the girls, an impressive 23% have been named Madison.

Also a Man with Faults and Sins

Way back in this post, when I was blogging the overwhelming experience of concelebrating with Benedict XVI, I tried to reproduce the spontaneous, touching words the Holy Father spoke at the end of Mass. So I was delighted to receive the Christimas gift of an edition of all Benedict's homilies and addresses during his time among us here in the U.S.A. Here's the actual text of what he said at the end of the Mass for priests and religious at St. Patrick's Cathedral here in New York:

At this moment I can only thank you for your love of the Church and Our Lord, and for the love which you show to the poor successor of Saint Peter. I will try to do all that is possible to be a worthy successor of the great Apostle, who also was a man with faults and sins, but remained in the end the rock for the Church. And so I too, with all my spiritual poverty, can be for this time, in virtue of the Lord's grace, the Successor of Peter.

It is also your prayers and your love which give me the certainty that the Lord will help me in this my ministry. I am therefore deeply grateful for your love and for your prayers. My response now for all that you have given to me during this visit is my blessing, which I impart to you at the conclusion of this beautiful Celebration.

Check out the book here.

January 27, 2009

Holocaust Memorial Day

I just wanted to post this as a counterpoint to recent concerns regarding the Holy Father and the SSPX.

The Dark Night of the Web

You don't have to spend much time with souls these days to realize that the internet is an occasion of sin for a lot of people. I've been trying to figure out why this should be, and why the attachment to sins facilitated by the internet become so binding so quickly.

My proposal for how to think about it has to do with the indulgent spoiling of the curiosity of the mind and the eyes. When using or surfing the web, you can get an immediate answer--though not necessarily the best or correct one--to anything you might have a casual or passing thought about. The same goes for images. As soon as some useless or passing curiosity comes into my thoughts, (e.g. How big is the sun? Why is White Castle so good? What did Zooey Deschanel wear to the Screen Actors Guild Awards?) all I have to do is type it into the search box and in a third of a second or so (according to Google anyway) I have what I want.

This process trains the mind and eyes to get what they want immediately, without reflection or effort. So, having made a spoiled child out of the curiosity of the mind and eyes, one has little defense when curiosities emerge that are objectively sinful, hurtful or degrading to oneself or others, or against one's state in life.

In order that I might have something to say to people thus afflicted, as well as a practice for myself, I have come up with a spiritual practice for the struggle against this occasion of sin. It's based on what John of the Cross calls the "active night of sense" in The Ascent of Mount Carmel. John recommends that in order to make a beginning of the spiritual life, we need to deny our outward senses what delights them, thus leaving them 'in the dark.'* My adaption of this for the use of the internet goes like this:

Look for opportunities to enter the "active night of sense" in the use of the internet. Before typing in that search term or clicking that link, examine yourself. Do I need to know this information? Is there a genuine spiritual or charitable concern the leads to my curiosity? If not, take the opportunity to leave the curiosity in the dark. By this practice we can unspoil our curiosity and become better equipped to deal with the more serious temptation to sin that the web affords.

*This is the first step of John's fourfold scheme for the spiritual ascent. After the active night of sense comes the passive, followed by the active and passive nights of spirit.

Falling Apart

As I once heard an old friar say, "A breviary that's falling apart is a sign of a vocation that isn't."

January 26, 2009


How we choose to look at things matters so much in the spiritual life. As I practice watchfulness of thoughts and daily mindfulness, which patterns of thinking do I nourish and which ones do I reject or allow to pass by?

This came home to me when I read beautiful reflections here and here on a visit to the house where I live. In the course of a day, do I choose to focus on the difficulties and distractions of parish ministry or worse, on my own sins and failings projected onto others? Or do I watch my thoughts so as not to nourish such as these, but to notice "a long and joyous past" and "a profound sense of brotherhood and self-sacrificing love."

Spirituality, and the spirit of prayer and devotion which must be at its heart, is an exercise of true freedom. And to be free is to be able to choose the right and the best. This goes for our thoughts and perspective on each other and our situation in life as much as it does for anything else. Let us choose God's interpretation of the world around us and see with His eyes. May I learn to watch my thoughts with peaceful vigilance, so that I may see with the Vision of the Holy Spirit.

January 24, 2009

A Taste of Easter

During this year of St. Paul, celebrating the bimillenium of the Apostle's birth, the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has granted permission to celebrate the feast of the Conversion of Paul in place of the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. The transformation of Saul of Tarsus into St. Paul the Apostle is one of the great moments in the history of Christianity, illustrating the power of the Lord's Resurrection to transform lives. My homily for this weekend is posted here.

January 23, 2009

Reality TV

I've never been a fan of so-called "reality" TV. Luckily for me, I was always completely disinterested in The Real World when it appeared back when I was in college. Back in studies one of the friars who was a big fan convinced me to watch Survivor. I think it was the seventh season. They were on some island. I remember being really appalled by how easily I was psychologically manipulated by the program. Investing emotionally in their aggravation or happiness, in their friendships and rivalries, I would think about the people all week, wondering how they were doing. I would find myself hoping that this one was doing o.k., or that this one would get what was coming to him. I was shocked to find myself walking down the street or sitting on the bus wanting to be in competition with one of the men or in love with one of the women. The experience made me very worried about our culture. In a world where so many people live with intolerable thoughts and feelings, it's an easy solution to submit oneself to cheap emotional manipulation in order to feel something, anything at all.

After this emotional rollercoaster I said that I would never submit to such cheap manipulation again. And I've been pretty good about it since then. But now I must confess that I have come to love the guilty pleasure of Top Chef, and I've been feeling bad for poor Radhika since Wednesday night. It all reminds me of Thomas Merton's words on the subject of television, which I know I have reproduced here before:

I am certainly no judge of television, since I have never watched it. All I know is that there is a sufficiently general agreement, among men whose judgment I respect, that commercial television is degraded, meretricious and absurd. Certainly it would seem that TV could become a kind of unnatural surrogate for contemplation: a completely inert subjection to vulgar images, a descent to a sub-natural passivity rather than an ascent to a supremely active passivity in understanding and love. It would seem that television should be used with extreme care and discrimination by anyone who might hope to take interior life seriously. New Seeds of Contemplation, 86.

January 22, 2009


I know I've told this story before, but I think it makes sense on this day that our bishops ask us to observe as a day of prayer and penance for violations to the sanctity of life through abortion.

One night I was on the subway in Boston, on my way home from school. I was probably reading or saying my breviary, but in any case I was minding my own business. Some guy, seeing my habit I guess, came up to me and nastily asked, "What do you get out of this?"

Turning it back on him, I said, "I'm supposed to get something?" Probably not the most pastoral response, but it was late and I was tired.

But for me this exchange reveals the spiritual sickness at the root of our society's disregard for human life. Instead of placing ourselves in the fundamental stance of gratitude and awe for the fact of our existence, for the grace of our creaturehood, we look instead for what we can get out of existing. When it comes to finding ourselves as human beings in the world, we become basically acquisitive instead of basically grateful. (This happens just as easily in the spiritual life as it does for materialistic folks; we want more and better prayer, deeper recollection, more certain faith, etc., instead of simply being grateful for grace.)

In the state of this spiritual sickness, then, things that can be gotten become more important than the basic fact of existing and living. Commodities, both spiritual and material, become more important than life. And so any number of things that can be had, like time, convenience, money, pleasure, revenge, oil fields, etc., start to take precedence over life itself.

This cultural illness, which John the Paul the Great called the "culture of death," continues to grow and metastisize in our society. Offenses against the sanctity of life become more and more acceptable. Current examples include the tolerance of torture and the mainstreaming of pornography.

Therefore it is required of us Christans, who believe and stand in awe of our nature as creatures of God through his Word, to struggle against the spiritual sickness of our time. We must first of all do our best to form ourselves in an attitude of awe and gratitude for our own lives and existence. We must learn that the evident fact of our being alive reveals a grace of God more important than anything we will or can "get out of" life. And then we must learn to treat everyone else the same way, no matter how disagreeable or even despicable, as persons that God has created on purpose.

January 21, 2009

New Web Discoveries

This blog has received about 800 hits over the past week, which is more than ever. Most of this spike came from my post of hermitage pictures being picked up by other sites, such as one of the forums of Phatmass.org.

Looking through the logs I have discovered several wonderful Catholic sites that seem to be doing great ministry through the web. Some of them are this wonderful Catholic Vocation blog, Vocation Station, and the impressive Gloria.tv, a kind of Catholic YouTube.

May God bless them in their ministry and bless all of us in our work of redeeming the internet for Christ!

Benedict and Obama

Check out the Holy Father's telegram to the new president of these United States:

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House
Washington, D.C.

On the occasion of your inauguration as the Forty-fourth president of the United States of America I offer cordial good wishes, together with the assurance of my prayers that the Almighty God will grant you unfailing wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high responsibilities.

Under your leadership may the American people continue to find in their impressive religious and political heritage the spiritual values and ethical principles needed to cooperate in the building of a truly just and free society, marked by respect for the dignity, equality and rights of each of its members, especially the poor, the outcast and those who have no voice.

At a time when so many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world yearn for liberation from the scourge of poverty, hunger and violence, I pray that you will be confirmed in your resolve to promote understanding, cooperation and peace among the nations, so that all may share in the banquet of life which God wills to set for the whole human family (cf. Isaiah 25:6-7). Upon you and your family, and upon all the American people, I willingly invoke the Lord's blessings of joy and peace.

It's always a good spiritual practice to take seriously how others see your spiritual state; often our idea of ourselves is subject to many falsehoods and blind spots. Benedict sees in us an "impressive" religious heritage that could equip us to build a society of Gospel justice and peace for all. Let us accept his invocation of the Lord's blessing upon us and make it so.

January 20, 2009

Hermitage Notes: Real and Fake Fireplaces

In the friary where I live we have an electric fireplace in the room where we gather for prayer and meals. I have come to really despise it. Perhaps I'm just overly sensitive to symbol and metaphor, but the occasionally "lit" fake fireplace is too much a symbol for me the problems of tackiness and decadence of North American mainstream religious life.

So it was rather healing for me to have to tend a real fire during my recent time at the hermitage. As I sat, tending the fire, reading St. John of the Cross or praying the rosary, I got to reflecting on real and fake fireplaces as metaphors for genuine or imitation spirituality. Here are some of the distinctions:

1. A real fire needs to be built if it's going to get started. Wood and kindling need to be arranged so that air may circulate. Similarly, our spiritual lives need to be a balanced construct of different elements: meditation, liturgical prayer, spiritual reading, etc. A real fire needs to be tended and stoked or else it will wane and go out. In the same way our spiritual lives need to tended each day and stoked by constant exercise. A real fire needs to be rekindled when you wake up in the morning, and so it is with our prayer each day.

Not so the fake fireplace. It doesn't need to be constructed or tended; you just press the button and it goes on. It doesn't require attention or commitment. And so it is with a a spirituality that isn't real; it doesn't demand anything of us, either to get started or to keep it going. We can turn it on when we want to feel "holy" or "spiritual" and then turn it off when we want to be someone else.

2. A real fire gives both heat and light to those who gather near it. So it is with a truly spiritual person; her behavior and her speech are enlightening to others, and her presence gives courage to the hearts of others.

The fake fireplace can give light and heat as well (if you turn on the "heat" option.) For example, I can preach or teach the faith as a mere technician, without knowing or doing it myself. But the light and heat that come from such a minister will be like the light and heat that come from the fake fireplace: they will always be the exact same light and heat. Just as the "wood" of the fake fireplace doesn't move and the light doesn't change, so the ministry of someone who lacks a real spiritual life will lack the dynamism of the Spirit. The light and heat of the fake fireplace may enlighten and warm someone for a while, but in the end it will not have the power to induce the fascination of a real fire.

3. A real fire consumes and transforms. Fuel becomes light and heat and ash. So it is with our prayer; we ourselves will be transformed into light and warmth for others, and the sins and false self that seemed so much part of our identity will be reduced to weightless ash.

The fake fireplace cannot consume or transform. It is only a novelty to be amused at for a few moments. And so it is with a fake spirituality; it will not change or purify us. The fake wood of the fake fireplace is always the same, and so it will be for us if we settle for a shallow sense of prayer.

January 19, 2009

Hermitage Notes: The Blessed Sacrament


It's dark at night in the woods. In a little tiny house warmed by a wood stove fire, the Most Blessed Sacrament and I sit quietly with each other. I in my chair, He in his luna. That the Lord in the blessed host is willing to keep me company in the quiet night reminds me of his arrival in my little life.

And in the clean clarity of this quiet it's almost hard to image--and yet I know my shame--all the noise and trifles I choose instead of His quiet Presence. And that is the tragedy of sin: to settle for less.

January 17, 2009

Meeting Jesus

John the Baptist points Jesus out to Andrew, who introduces him to Simon. We too have been introduced to Jesus so that he may encounter us. My homily for this weekend is posted here.

January 16, 2009

Hermitage Pictures

For two half-days and an overnight, I went with another friar for recollection in some hermitages that the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal have built upstate. I have some written reflections to share, but first: Pictures!

Here's the hermitage I stayed in, dedicated to the Assumption:

And a closer view:

Here's the little chapel. Notice that the Blessed Sacrament hadn't arrived yet; more on that in another post. Notice too the mural above the crucifix. The Holy Spirit and the crown of twelve stars are descending upon Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is being reverenced by Francis, Clare, and an assortment of Franciscan saints.

Here's my little stove after I built a fire to warm the place.

Here are the steps that went up to the loft:

And here's the loft where I slept.

Mmm...rice and beans!

January 15, 2009

Apostolic Visitation to Seminaries

Via the always informative Communio, it has come to my attention that the report of the Apostolic Visitation of United States seminaries and religious houses of priestly formation has appeared. I myself was interviewed for this visitation, and was very curious to read their findings.

The report echoes both my own experience of ten semesters of theological education and what I have observed going on around me. It says that things are basically functioning well and in good order. This is to say that the 'reform of the reform' seems to be working, and the excesses of post-conciliar confusion seem to be going out of style. This is basically my experience as well; I feel like I received a very fine education where we studied, particularly in the areas of Sacred Scripture, patristics, and fundamental systematics.

On the other hand, the remaining troubles delineated by the report also resonated with my own experience. The report is very worried that there is not enough of a sense of the specific theology of the priesthood being taught, and that in some places one comes away with an impoverished, functional sense of who a priest is within the Church. For me, I happened to take a course called "The Theology of Ordained Priesthood" as an elective, and it was only through this sustained study of the priesthood of Christ--which the Church shares in as his sacramental Body--that I was able to know that I should declare myself a candidate for Orders. I might have done it anyway without the course, but not with the best theological discernment.

In those schools where candidates for ordination are educated alongside those preparing for lay ecclesial ministry, (as it was where I attended) the report is concerned that there was not enough distinction between the two "tracks," to the detriment of both. The same criticism goes, mutatis mutandis, for religious formation programs in which all candidates are preparing for ministerial life, but not all for ordained life.

The report is also concerned that the prerequisite study of philosophy is not always handled well. In some places it is a "hoop" to be jumped through in the most slipshod way possible. This echoes my experience even in my own community, where brothers were not always set up for success in theology by a thoughtful and sustained journey through the rigors of the history of thought in general.

In the areas of orthodoxy and morality, the report, I think rightly, says that things are much better than they were even a half of a generation ago. However, seminary education still suffers in some places from teachers who aren't interested to sentire cum ecclesia, as it were. The indulgence of homosexuality (and the decadence and irreverence of its attendant culture) remains a problem in some places as well.

The one criticism of the report that did not match my experience was the concern that seminary programs were lacking in patristics and mariology. My own theological course did well with these, patristics especially.

Thanks to everyone who worked in this ministry, congratulations on the report, and thanks especially for listening to us.

January 14, 2009

Not Fit To Touch

I admit it, for a long time I've been fascinated by the music of the band Cake. I guess it's because of the odd instrumentation, or because it's light and fun and melancholy all at the same time. I think that anyone who knows the oscillations of the spiritual life can relate, in the darker moments, to their song, "Hem of Your Garment:"

(All right)

I am intrinsically no good
I have a heart that's made of wood
And I'm only biding time
Only reciting memorized lines

And I'm not fit to touch
The hem of your garment
no, no
I'm not fit to touch
The hem of your garment

I have no love but only goals
How very empty is my soul
It is a soul that feels no thrill
It is a soul that could easily kill

And I'm not fit to touch
The hem of your garment
no, no
I'm not fit to touch
The hem of your garment

(yeah, yeah, no, all right)

I am intrinsically no good
I have a heart that's made of wood
And I'm only biding time
Only reciting memorized lines

And I'm not fit to touch
The hem of your garment
no, no
I'm not fit to touch
The hem of your garment
no, no
And I'm not fit to touch
The hem of your garment
no, no
I'm not fit to touch
The hem of your garment

(Yeah, yeah, no, no, all right, etc.)

January 13, 2009

My Funeral Homily

On Sunday morning I was in the sacristy setting up vessels for the next couple of Masses. One of the friars started to make fun of me a little bit, suggesting that if I had enough chalices, patens, ciboria, linens, sacramentaries and lectionaries, (as well as some way to keep bread and wine fresh) I would lay out and have set up and ready to go every Mass from now until the Lord's return.

When I thought about it, I realized that he was probably right. So I related to him how another of the friars once remarked that he observed my basic desire in life as to become "all set."

So then the brother in the sacristy said that this would be a fine funeral homily for me: "Well, Charles, now you're all set." Let's hope that I will be.

Apostolic Zeal

One of the friars who lives here, who was born during the First World War and completed his formation in the Order during the Second, has transferred to another community in order to find more work and excitement.

May the Lord help us all to accept the grace of such zeal!

And he's not even the oldest one we have here in the "monastery." The oldest was born the same week that the Red Sox last defeated the Giants in the World Series.

January 12, 2009

January 11, 2009

Poll on Mass "Alone"

The question of celebrating Mass by oneself has vexed me for a long time. Can one do it? Does it make any sense? Here's what goes into my reflection:

On the one hand:

1. Both the current and 1962 liturgical rubrics specify that a priest is not to offer Mass without at least one other minister, to serve at the altar and to make the responses.

2. On even the surface level it would seem a little absurd to perform the ritual by yourself. "The Lord be with you; and also with....me?" Etc.

3. More deeply, the Mass is the act of the gathered assembly, is it not? So how does it make sense as a solitary kind of prayer?

On the other hand:

Contra 1. I have routinely observed priests offering Mass alone, without such a minister, all through my religious life. The practice seems to be fairly common, especially among the older generation. Some seem to have a "just cause," while it's hard to imagine such a cause for others. Is this one of those things in which the law speaks to the perfect ideal, with the expectation that practice will be short of it?

Even more, my instructional video for learning the Extraordinary Form has an entire section devoted to detailed adjustments to be made when offering the Mass without a server. This would suggest that it's not only a possibility, but something one needs to know how to do.

Contra 2 and 3: The priest offering Mass is not alone. At the very least, the saints and angels are present, as well as the church suffering in purgatory. Almost all of the regular Masses in the parish where I work are offered on behalf of the Church Expectant, so why would I imagine that they are absent? (This is why, for example, you still say "brothers and sisters" even if only one sex is visibly present)

This has become a question for me because of my current effort to learn the Extraordinary Form. When a day rolls around on which I am not scheduled to offer Mass for the pastoral benefit of the people, I will have a chance to try my first EF Mass. I don't have a server lying around, though, and for various very good reasons I want to keep this whole effort a little secret. So, can I offer the Mass without someone else there?

What do you think?

January 10, 2009

Jesus Rises and the World with Him

The Christmas season concludes this weekend with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus descends into our humanity and we rise from the waters with him. My homily for this weekend is posted here.

January 9, 2009

Extraordinary Form Kit, Continued

I spent most of yesterday going through the materials of my FSSP kit for learning the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Not that I read everything, but I looked it all over and watched the instructional DVDs with the Missal in front of me. It's all very helpful, and I think I'm almost ready to offer my first Mass in the EF.

One thing really surprised me, though. Nowhere did I hear or read that the priest or seminarian who wants to learn the EF ought to really learn Latin first. This is partly because many of the instructional materials are reprints from the days when all seminarians would have learned Latin as a matter of course. But in our day, even though the current Program of Priestly Formation urges the learning of Latin (and Greek) in several places, I'm not sure this is the norm. Perhaps those who put these materials together--priests of the FSSP, after all--aren't aware of the world in which you can get to be a priest without ever encountering the ordinary language of the Western Church.

It would seem to me very irresponsible to try to offer Mass in Latin without a sufficient sense of grammar and vocabulary to be really praying with mind and heart. For me, I would wonder if it would be a serious defect of intention, but I'll leave that one to the canonists.

So, if this is you, learn a little. To this end I've written the previous post, "Learn Latin."

Learn Latin

I can only say what worked for me, but for what it's worth, here' s my foolproof plan for becoming a church Latin dilettante like me:

1. Obtain and work through A Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin by John F. Collins. It's in an easy format and is pointed squarely toward the student who needs Latin for specifically Catholic purposes. You've probably had some Latin before, enabling you to start quickly and feel very encouraged.

2. Practice regularly. There are at least two simple practices I have found for this:

a. Read. You can read whatever you like, but the Sacred Scriptures is a classic choice. You can get a "Nova Vulgata" Bible from the Libreria Editrice Vaticana, or just get it from the Holy See's website. You can also get an old school Vulgate from the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. If you read scholastic theology you will want the latter; if you try to check their citations in a modern Bible you will sometimes end up very confused.

b. Pray. If you are ordained or are aspiring to Orders, you are supposed to pray the Liturgy of the Hours anyway. So why not order typical edition, Latin breviaries? I know they're not cheap, but you won't be disappointed. Get the so-called "economical" edition and put a protective cover on it. Even if you don't know much Latin, you have at least said Night Prayer or the Sunday Week I psalms a zillion times and you will know what it says already.

If you are a priest, think about learning the secret prayers of the Mass in Latin. It's in the back of the Sacramentary, in case you never noticed. If you're interested, I have made an "altar card" of these prayers that I can send you if you want.

January 8, 2009

Where My Christmas Money Went

Today my Extraordinary Form kit from the FSSP arrived in the mail. It's a lot of stuff! Check it out:

There's a facsimile edition 1962 Missale Romanum, complete with a little sticker to amend the Canon to include St. Joseph (Bl. John XXIII added St. Joseph to the Canon in 1962) and a copy of the accompanying decree from the Congregation for Rites. There are two sets of compact, laminated altar cards, plus another, larger set that could be put into one of those nice frames. Where do I get a set of those?There are laminated cards for the vesting prayers, the prayers at the foot of the altar, and the thanksgivings after Mass. Finally, there are a few instructional books, two DVDs, and a CD to learn the ordinary sung parts of the Mass.

Special thanks to the FSSP for including their new "An Instructional Video for Priests and Seminarians" free of charge!

I have only one complaint: The otherwise very helpful CD, "The Prayers of Holy Mass Recited and Sung" does not have built-in track titles. Those like me who want to import the CD into their iPods will have to supply titles for 137 tracks, unless of course their Latin is so good so as not to need them.

January 7, 2009

The Rule and Life of the Friars Minor

One of my confreres pointed out this slideshow of our life accompanied by a reading of selections from our Rule. It's from one of the brothers of our Province of Mid-America, which has always had some of the best web presence of the Order here in North America.

Check it out below. You can catch your humble blogger at the left of the shot at about 3:55. I think we're in front of the cathedral of San Rufino in Assisi.

January 6, 2009

Given Up For You

Some weeks ago our pastor decided to move our early weekday Mass (6:45 am) into the friar's chapel. Twenty or so people in a church that seats 800 didn't make much sense! One aspect of the change I've really come to appreciate is that the priest now faces a large and beautiful crucifix. Here's the view from behind the altar:

Having this image of Christ crucified in front of me has really added a new and prayerful dimension to my offering of the Mass. I think I grasp in a deeper way how the "which will be given up for you" of Jesus' words are necessary for understanding the "take this, all of you, and eat it. This is my body..." Christ rising into the bread and wine of the Eucharist are part of the same giving up, the same self-emptying as the incarnation and the passion. It is all a single and eternal act of God, which is why the Eucharist can be offered each day and still be the same sacrifice as the perfect sacrifice of Calvary.

This experience has helped me to appreciate the wisdom of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal 308 when it says: "There is also to be a cross, with the figure of Christ crucified upon it, either on the altar or near it, where it is clearly visible to the assembled congregation. It is appropriate that such a cross, which calls to mind for the faithful the saving Passion of the Lord, remain near the altar even outside of liturgical celebrations."

In my own experience, though, this means that the assembly, facing liturgical east, gets to gaze upon Christ crucified, but the presiding priest, in the versus populum stance, does not. However, I remember that when I concelebrated with Benedict XVI at St. Patrick's Cathedral, there was a crucifix on the altar facing the Holy Father.

January 5, 2009

What Happened to the Gold?

When I arrived at the parish office this morning, a lively theological reflection was in progress on this question. What did Mary and Joseph do with the gold that the Magi brought for the newborn Jesus? Several possibilities were put forward:

1. Joseph used it as start-up capital for his contracting business.

2. They used it to pay for the Lord's college. After moving home again after college, Mary and Joseph kicked him out, which is where the canonical account picks up again.

3. Mary used the gold to buy the great many outfits she is known to appear in, some of which must have been quite expensive, e.g. Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

I think that only the first would be even be remotely likely to win a no-prize.

January 3, 2009

Light to the Nations

The Son of God, born into darkness, poverty, and obscurity, is revealed today as the Light of the world. My homily for this weekend is posted here.

January 2, 2009

Liturgical Birthday

A couple got married here on the Friday after Thanksgiving. A nice day to get married, and convenient for family and friends, but I saw the problem right away. The poor kids will end up with both a notional and a chronological anniversary. The actual date of their marriage and the day after Thanksgiving won't coincide again for another six years. So which will they think of as their anniversary? Perhaps they will remember the date, but everyone will remember their wedding as the day after Thanksgiving.

All of this gave rise to a thought: If you were born on a movable liturgical day, then you have a natal anniversary in both solar and liturgical time. On the other hand, if you were born on a fixed liturgical day, like Christmas or a dominical or sanctoral feast, the two coincide.

I was born on the second Sunday of Lent. The Gospel would have been the Transfiguration.

January 1, 2009

The New Creation

On New Year's Day we celebrate the new creation that Mary conceives and bears into the world. God once re-created the world violently, but in the covenant with Noah vowed to never do so again.

In fulfillment of the Noachide covenant, God now re-creates the world gently, sending his creative Word as one of us. In this admirabile commercium our humanity is given access to the beauty and delight of the divine life.

Our culture tells us that New Year's Day is the time for resolutions, and I think this is a holy and good thing. We should be encouraged to see ourselves as we might be: happier, healthier, flourishing more in love of neighbor. Indeed this is how God sees us, at least in the sense that God's vision for us is one of joy and delight and flourishment. The renovation of the world that begins with the birth of Christ can get us there through our communion with God through him.