Friday, July 25, 2014

Joshua's Vision

"Once when Joshua was by Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you one of us, or one of our adversaries?" He replied, "Neither, but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and he said to him, "What do you command your servant, my lord?" The commander of the army of the LORD said to Joshua, "Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy." And Joshua did so."  (Joshua 5:13-15).

Thinking about the ruthless attacks of the Russian soldiers of fortune in Ukraine and the even more devastating destruction of Mosul and all it stands for in terms of the survival of Christianity in the Middle East, Joshua's vision came to mind, the encouragement he received as he prepared to lay siege to Jericho and begin the conquest of the Land promised to Israel by God. As convinced as I am, that if it be His Will, God will save the Christian presence in its cradle lands even without a 3rd millennium edition of the Crusades, I would not be adverse to hearing news that "The commander of the army of the LORD" had made his appearance. Maybe it is enough to say that there is something terribly wrong about the world standing idly by to the tune of another genocide. You might say that I keep waiting for another parting of the waves.

Preach against this so called caliphate or against Putin's horde I cannot nor will I. Somehow announcing that trust in the LORD is our salvation seems just too enigmatic. Nonetheless, I would be wrong if I did not confess all the marvels I have witnessed over the last months in Ukraine. I can wish that others would share in my hope for victory over oppression. I suspect that we owe more to the LORD of all, that our worship cannot match Joshua's, that we are not prompt enough in obeying His command to remove our shoes in His Presence.

Lest it all sound too Old Testament, too warrior-like, let me close by confessing faith in the Blood of Christ's Cross, sufficient once and for all to save us from sin and everlasting death. Let us all take refuge in the Saviour's outstretched arms, for indeed His mercy will not fail us.


The Other Zebedee

St. James was the other son of Zebedee, both Apostles, but different than his brother John, the beloved disciple, James is among the earliest martyrs, another eliminated by Herod in his wrath.

Was he any less loved by God for not being spared a martyr's death? Hardly! Our faith teaches that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. James is a giant, as the centuries of pilgrimage to Compostela  attest.

And yet, those who would enter into the mystery of Christ's love are discouraged from outright seeking martyrdom. The Blood of Christ is sufficient and our witness in faith to that Blood might just as well be a confessor's or a virgin's, like John, as that of a martyr, like James.

These days I am reading a 20th Century spiritual classic from 1946, The Soul of the Apostolate, which is very much about the personal prerequisites for fruitful ministry for the sake of the Gospel. The book condemns activism in no uncertain terms and teaches the cultivation of an interior life, a life of prayer, as indeed it is The Lord Jesus Who accomplishes everything.

Certainly, it was the faith of James, his sanctity of life, in communion with The Lord, Risen and Victorious over sin and death, which provoked Herod and crowned James with martyrdom. Not knowing which brother's lot will be ours, we must seek intimate union with Jesus and bend to His Holy Will. It cannot not be inspired by that boundless love which draws us to Him.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Charisma vs. Canon

Talking with a priest friend, who has given of himself without counting the cost to reform his parish's liturgy and feed his people, I found myself once again before a challenge which cannot be. According to my friend, reforming the liturgy, while a determined effort, is to be likened to a "win-you-over" game of able and gentle persuasion. Especially when it comes to church music, old favorites can't be banned simply for being bad favorites and bad theology, or for having abusively supplanted prescribed texts. A "maladroit" appeal to authority is unacceptable and brother priests easily dismiss the accomplishments of a "trad" or an overly zealous "neocon". You could say that it is an even more worrisome case of "post-Benedict panic" written small. Instead of "one sows and another reaps", it sounds like "one reforms and another wrecks" might be a description of a change of pastors, all of it perceived as capricious by the puzzled flock.

 Charisma seems to be the sine qua non for shepherding these days. It cannot be. Ultimately, I guess you have to ask, "Who was the Cure of Ars?" Isn't great holiness on the part of the priest sufficient to renew a parish? Shouldn't most things play out according to the book? The other day, a family member expressed shock at the newsworthiness of a bishop putting an end to the 30+ years of the abuse of lay preaching he had found in that diocese. Rules are rules, as any child will tell you. Why indeed can't I "play by the book"!

Since we are writing things small, I will limit myself to an appeal to episcopal authority. To do what? Simply to enforce the rules, I guess. First and foremost, to put an end to liturgical abuse, to laud priests with regular confession times that permit people to confess before Communion, to encourage truly sacred music and help priests make it possible even in tiny parishes. A lot of Vianney "stuff", if you will. If we do not hold to the sacred canons, well, then we're in Limbo, and that cannot be.

I laud the bravado of pastors with charisma, who do the right thing, but shepherding Christ's flock should not be comparable to some sort of athletic ninja challenge.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Breadth, Length, Height, and Depth of the Church as Worshiping Community

Sacra Liturgia 
Summer School 
5-20 July 2014

                            La Garde-Freinet
                            (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur)
                         83680 France

For the very first time I participated also as a lecturer at a summer school devoted to the usus antiquior: singing and praying the full Divine Office together each day, with sung and solemn celebrations of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, pilgrimage opportunities in the south of France, with academic input (my part on 2 days), book discussions, offering training in chant for those who wished (a greater part of those present), and training in liturgical ceremonies for priests, seminarians and altar boys. 

I attended from the 5th to the 10th of July at the invitation of dom Alcuin Reid and just thoroughly enjoyed my time with enthusiastic young people, for the most part, from Lithuania, Great Britain, the United States and Canada. At my request, I had my own worthy tutor in the celebration of Mass, who dedicated an hour each day for three days to me. I presided over Solemn Sunday Vespers from the faldstool for the very first time in my life.

The experience convinced me even more of the approach I've generally taken in my blog, when it comes to questions liturgical. If I had a plea for Ordinaries of dioceses and for seminary faculties, it would be to expose our future priests to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite and as best you can to the beauty of our patrimony of chant.

Half hour talks are too long for blog posts, so I will link you to another page with the snappy title of longer interventions.

The Liturgy of Today and of Tomorrow: Cooperating with Grace and Discerning the Divine Will - Archbishop Thomas E. Gullickson, Apostolic Nuncio to the Ukraine (2 parts):

Part One: Indefectibility as Process in the Church - the application of SC to date and the re-emergence of the usus antiquior should give us pause to reflect upon God's providential care for His Church - 7 July

Part Two: “Attamen Liturgia est culmen ad quod actio Ecclesiae tendit et simul fons unde omnis eius virtus emanat.” SC 10. (Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.) - Choosing vs. being led and our obligations to the liturgical patrimony - 8 July

My talks were meant to encourage discussion. I hope they might be of service in the ongoing reflection of others and not be a cause of distress for any who may choose to read them.

My basic point is that we find ourselves where we are for not having found ways to shore up Catholic culture straight across the board. The culmen et simul fons needs much more than an hour a week to display its radiant beauty.