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Our Lenten Journey

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This from my twin, Fr Stephen Schultz of St Timothy parish in Chantilly, VA.

The Holy Trinity is our origin and our destiny, our beginning and our end. We are made for perfect love. In God's perfect love, he will always forgive us because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. This should give us the greatest hope and trust in God. He will always forgive us, we just have to return to Him with our whole heart, confess our sins with sorry, and promise to amend our life. I could write a great deal about the Sacrament of Reconciliation and why it should be part of our life, not once in a while or almost never. But I'd like to write about something that keeps us from the Sacrament, keeps us from peace, and indeed keeps us from reconciliation with others. It is our own failure to forgive.

Do we have to forgive everyone who has every harmed us, betrayed us, disappointed us, or turned their on us? Yes. We say in the Our Father, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." We ask the Father to make our forgiveness of others the condition of our forgiveness. Therefore, we have to forgive those who have wronged us.

What if it is someone from our past who we will never see again (before Heaven!) or someone who has gone before us to the Lord? What of someone who doesn't want to be forgiven, someone who won't apologize or repent? What if we think they don't deserve forgiveness? We're called to forgive as Christ forgives, even as Christ forgave
the soldiers who nailed him to the Cross, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34) If we don't, we're closed to the freedom and healing of God's forgiveness for us.

Yet, we find it difficult to forgive! All of us can probably call to mind someone who we need to forgive. We think forgiveness is impossible because many of us don't understand what forgiveness is. "I can't forgive," we say, because the feelings of hurt, disappointment, anger all return when we think about what has happened in the past. Goodness knows when those past wounds come to mind all the feelings can return as though it all is happening all over again. The fact is, our forgiveness doesn't depend on our feelings. Forgiveness depends on our faith. What may seem impossible for us is possible through God.

Does healing seem impossible? Does reconciliation also seems impossible? It is possible with God. "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God" (Mark 10:27).

Forgiveness is a choice, an act of the will. Our choice to forgive with the grace of God removes the burden of grudges, resentment, and bitterness from us. It does more for us than it may do for anyone else, and though we should desire reconciliation with the one forgiven, even though they might not wish it, we can still make the choice to forgive.

Here's how to forgive from the heart: Repent of being unforgiving, of harboring grudges, or holding that sin against someone. Put that person before the Cross of Christ and say, "I forgive you." Say exactly what you are forgiving! "I forgive you for..." Say it all. Then, "I forgive you from my heart." Turn to the Lord and say, "I ask you to forgive them, to grant them peace and healing, conversion of heart, and help them to be as holy as you made them to be."

Forgiveness is the key that opens our heart to God's mercy and healing. Be forgiving, and you will be forgiven.

What's that smell?

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It's... an Apostolic Visitation!

U.S. nuns join seminaries in the U.S. as well as the Legionaries of Christ for the full on review of if they are living up to the rules of their orders, their mission and their commitments to the Church.

In other words, the shepherd is watching out for the sheep.

Here's the laugh outloud line of the day:

But the investigation of American nuns surprised many because there was no obvious precipitating cause.

arl-cath.jpgOur friend, brother, and colleague Steve Schultz was ordained in a joyous ceremony today at the cathedral in Arlington.

arl-inside.jpg Steve's twin brother John was chosen to be cantor for the Mass; believe it or not, he's in this photo, singing in rehearsal from the back of the choir loft; thus he is more or less directly under the Cross in the image. The lovely and talented Teresa Schultz, in the choir, joined John to lead the Litany of the Saints.


arl-blessing.jpgThe congregation attending filled the cathedral, and filled the reception hall downstairs even more so. Steve kindly prayed for and blessed the many friends, relatives, and other well-wishes in attendance; after a while, you could tell he was working! From there, he was scheduled to go straight to work on confessions at St. Rita parish, on day one. Fr. Steve's first Mass is scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday (Corpus Christi Sunday) at that church.

At the parish today, there was a rite of sending the catechumens (and candidates too!) for the Election rite to be held at the cathedral: and, man, was it overdone! Since the books on-line describe it as an "optional" rite, that probably means that some liturgist invented it out of whole cloth.

Here's an excerpt from some old LTP book:

Reverend Father, these catechumens, whom I now present to you, are beginning their final period of preparation and purification leading to their initiation. They have found strength in God's grace and support in our community's prayers and example.

Now they ask that they be recognized for the progress they have made in their spiritual formation and that they receive the assurance of our blessing and prayers as they go forth to the rite of election celebrated this afternoon by Bishop N.

Ugh: "they ask that they be recognized" for their spiritual progress? Thank God I didn't have to go through that indignity as a catechumen.

Ed Peters has put together another response to the Legionaries of Christ / Regnum Christi (LC/RC) crisis, which is well worth reading. You can check it out here. Since I'm likely to be asked for a response, here's a line-by-line:

I think that Fr. Alvaro Corcuera's apparent claim that he knows nothing about Maciel's behavior, except that Maciel sired a daughter, is utterly unbelievable. I have nothing else to say about this kind of stone-walling. I will simply re-endorse Dr. Germain Grisez's and Mr. George Weigel's proposals for direct intervention by the Holy See.

Out of Christian charity I will assume Fr. Alvaro is telling the truth. The Holy See should intervene anyway. Directly.

The situation is so muddled that I cannot see how the LC/RC can fix it without outside help and expertise. Of course I'm just one canonist out of thousands in the Church. But given how the LC/RC have maintained Fr. Maciel's innocence for years, the severity of the allegations against him - both proven and unproven, and other structural problems within the movement, how the initial response has been bungled, it will be difficult for the LC/RC to regain the trust of orthodox Catholics without assurances that Rome has performed a thorough housecleaning of the movement.

Apologists for the LC/RC are already stating that Fr. Alvaro and the LC/RC are following Rome's instructions. And Rome has stated it has no immediate plans to step in, but would do so if requested by the Legion. So it might be best is the Legion simply go through the official step of asking Rome to step in directly.

Moving on Peters's rebuttal of the "reform-from-within" assertion and the "carry-on-the-charism" assertion:

Assertion 1. Because the Legion and Regnum Christi have within their ranks many obviously good and faithful Catholics, they should be allowed to try a reform from within. Response: the presence of good and faithful Catholics within an organization, particularly when the organization (in terms of Church history, if nothing else) is so young, says almost nothing about whether the organization itself is sound and/or salvageable.

Here is where I think Peters needs to make a distinction. Those making the "reform from within" suggestion (like myself) are not a unified camp. Some maintain the LC/RC should be permitted to reform from within, without any direct outside intervention. Very unlikely to work, as proven by the fact Fr. Maciel got away with his misdeeds for so long. And even if it were possible, there's still the problem of restoring the RC/LC's credibility.

Like Peters, I believe the LC/RC's current structure is deeply flawed, and have for some time, according to criteria developed with Fr. Frank Morrisey - one of the Church's foremost canonical experts on religious law and structures of institutes of consecrated life - and cult expert Michael Langone. You can read a summary of the criteria here. (Please note: I am not claiming that all of these criteria apply to the LC/RC, but those that do need to be rooted out if the LC/RC is to reform.)

Having said that, given that the majority of LC/RC members are orthodox Catholics faithful to Rome, I believe a "reform from within" is possible if the Holy See intervenes directly and appoints someone credible from outside the LC/RC to do a thorough investigation of LC/RC practices, and oversee their reform. It needs to be someone known for prayer and orthodoxy, experienced in religious life, and highly respected within the Church. For example, Cardinal Francis George from Chicago or Archbishop Seán O'Malley from Boston. Of course this assumes LC/RC members cooperate - not only in letter, but in spirit - with the reform.

Such a reform must begin with a sincere apology to Fr. Maciel's victims, followed by restitution. Also, no more excuses suggesting Fr. Maciel's innocence, or trying to dampen the severity of his sins. Of course the structural weaknesses that allowed Fr. Maciel to get away with his double-life for so long must also be fixed. Good faith only gets one so far. Peters identifies the question many canonists are asking, namely whether there are structural problems to the Legion, expressing them as only he can, when he states in response to the second assertion:

There is, I think, at least as much reason to wonder whether Maciel set up an institute in order to assure himself of ample access to sexual targets and unaccountable funds, or whether he suffered from some warped psycho-emotional condition that enabled him to compartmentalize pious devotional practices and sexual predation for decades on end...

Here is where I take a somewhat harder line than Peters. I don't wonder. In fact, I'm pretty sure Fr. Maciel set up the LC/RC to, as I put it in the following interview, acquire, maintain and protect his access to victims.

I won't comment on funds, except to say well-placed sources within and outside the LC/RC told me that Fr. Maciel was frequently given thousands of dollars in cash without any questions being asked. I haven't looked into the issue deeply enough to give it much thought; it's entirely possible the financial irregularities came after, as a by-product of the sexual irregularities. Of course, none of the above excludes the possibility Fr. Maciel also had a serious psychological condition.

But I've skipped ahead a bit. Here's how Peters begins his response to the second assertion:

Assertion 2. Maciel's canonical crime spree was a grave personal failing, but it does not negate the L/RC 'charism', and they should be allowed to continue their work. Response: This argument misses the key question, namely, whether in fact Maciel ever bequeathed an authentic charism to the L/RC...

This, then, is what separates our positions at the moment. If one believes the LC/RC lack a true charism, then Peters is right in suggesting Rome may have to shut down the movement completely and reconstitute it. (Without a true charism, there is nothing to reform.)

On the other hand, if one believes the LC/RC possess a true charism from Christ, but that it has become seriously clouded by Fr. Maciel's sexual vice, then it may still be possible to rescue the charism. Of course it will still require delicate surgery on Rome's part. It's possible the movement is so far gone that the necessary reform is no longer possible. The LC/RC will have to show they are capable of true reform.

Peters then says (skipping over the part I had quoted earlier, out-of-sequence):

I do not know whether the L/RC can (following a complete leadership replacement!) reform itself from within, although I am almost certain that they cannot;

A complete leadership change may be the only thing that can save the LC/RC at this point. Certainly this is how I feel, humanly speaking, although the Holy Spirit could intervene in a way that canonists haven't imagined. But, assuming most of the current leadership was honestly in dark about Fr. Maciel's double-life, this speaks to a weakness in LC/RC formation that so many clergy suspected so little for so long. This is not to say they were bad people or terrible priests - only that they appear to lack a certain skill-set needed to exercise prudent governance over a large religious institute.

This is not uncommon among young institutes of consecrated life where one is dealing with leadership known for its holiness (let alone living a double-life). I've experienced this at least twice in my career as a canon lawyer. A young institute and its young superior come up with some grandiose ideas, or overlook the obvious. An older priest, with several years of priestly experience before joining the institute, jumps in points out what's being overlooked, or otherwise brings some common sense to the discussion. Older priests can help guide a young superior of a young institute through sensitive pastoral issues, temper and focus the zeal of younger newly-ordained priests, and put bishops as ease knowing there is someone with experience keeping an eye on the new institute.

The problem with the current LC/RC superiors is that none of them kept an eye on Fr. Maciel. This is not surprising. Abusers cannot bear close scrutiny, which would threaten their access to victims. Fr. Maciel reportedly handpicked his superiors. Not surprisingly, he often named young priests who lacked practical pastoral experience. Which is why most Catholics would feel more confident about a reform of the LC/RC if Rome stepped in directly.

and I do not know whether Maciel developed an authentic charism for clerical, religious, and lay life, but I have serious doubts that he did.

And now the question of charism. The reason orthodox Catholics have struggled so deeply with the crisis, in fact the reason there are such strong feelings of anger and betrayal, is that the LC/RC's good works have been visible to us for so long. But looking back in retrospect, so too have the institutional signs of Fr. Maciel's double-life. How does one reconcile such a stark contrast?

Normally, an institute's charism is tied to its founder and its good works. However, the two don't match in this case. Some argue that the LC/RC's founding charism was fraudulent from the start. Others argue that God used Fr. Maciel as His imperfect human instrument. In reflecting upon this dilemma, attempting to reconcile these questions in my own mind, I stumbled across the biography of Saint Rafael Guízar Valencia.

Saint Rafael was Fr. Maciel's uncle and the bishop who oversaw most of Fr. Maciel's seminary formation prior to dismissing his nephew from the seminary. Saint Rafael exemplified many of the Christian virtues LC/RC attempt to emulate as members of their movement. In fact, his life story reads like a blueprint for the LC/RC's good works, and LC/RC members in past have recognized his influence in the founding of their movement.

Perhaps - and this is highly speculative on my part - Saint Rafael is the true spiritual founder of the LC/RC movement, and the instrument used by God to transmit its charism. It's something for LC/RC members to pray about.

palkowski-reduced.jpgA photography student followed Capuchin friar Fr. Matthew Palkowski around for a few days for a project; here's his glimpse at one priest's life in the city.

The photos are pretty cool; it's too bad the artist David Jolkovski only posted these few online.

Not looking forward to January 18

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Some of my friends are getting geared up already for the sad anniversary of the Roe decision, hoping that their pastors will give the new administration's pro-abortion policies the sound thrashing they deserve on January 18.

Oddly enough, I can't be very upbeat about the prospect.

I'm glad that the bishops are encouraging the Catholic people to send a strong message against FOCA, the proposed pro-abortion law that would fund abortions with tax dollars and abolish the few existing legal limitations on procuring abortion, all of them democratically enacted by state legislatures, and all of them having already passed court challenges to their constitutionality.

And I hope that the Catholic people will send a strong message against FOCA. What I don't look forward to is homilies against it.

In part, it's because of my personal temperament: I find redundant talk rather annoying. And at least for me, preaching about the wrongness of FOCA is redundant. I'm not confused about the immorality of abortion, and most Catholics who attend Mass regularly are not confused about it either. At least according to surveys, churchgoing Catholics hold pro-life views, much more than do Catholics who don't attend church, or non-churchgoers in general. So is this going to benefit the congregation?

Also, I'm not looking forward to the sort of sermon that my friends seem to like: I think it's unfitting for the holiness of the Mass. They want to hear priests denouncing the sins so widely justified in elite secular society: immorality in marriage, unchastity, and the killing of the unborn; they want to hear their outrage expressed, and hear about the fire and brimstone; and some of the priests I know are happy to provide that. But in order to denounce these evils, they think they have to be rather blunt and rather angry; and the result is that the ugliness of these sins ends up invading the sacred liturgy, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. There's something bad about that.

Some of my friends complain that their priests don't preach enough against sin, and they feel cheered when they hear a real barn-burner -- at least when Father is denouncing sins that other people commit. But I think that our priests don't preach enough about God.

In a sense, preaching about the moral law and thinking about the moral law come relatively easy to us; after all, people speak and reason and argue about right conduct all the time in private life and public life and even in secular society. But thinking about God and communicating to people about God are not so easy, and we don't get a lot of that in our interactions with people in the secular world. So when we go to Mass and find in it the same sort of discourse that we get from secular voices, we're missing something. The priest is missing an opportunity to feed souls with a word about God and the things of God.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is more important than the evils of the world, and the holiness of the Mass, offered to God and made visible before man, does more good for the world than the finest words of moral instruction or correction.

Of course, the homily is a fitting place for moral instruction, but when the Mass is largely centered on the evils of society or of the state, a sort of profanation has happened. The Mass must never be instrumentalized, becoming primarily a means to accomplish a secular good, even a high good such as respect for life or some other grave matter of justice.

So I welcome announcements in church about the campaign against FOCA, and bulletin messages, and invitations to sign postcards; yet do not let the liturgy itself be profaned by excess.

June 29:
The last Masses were offered Sunday morning at Holy Trinity Church, and the administrator read the decree from Cdl. O'Malley ordering the suppression of the parish at noon on June 30.

The decree includes provisions that the nearby Cathedral parish receive the goods and obligations of Holy Trinity, and assume responsibility for the special liturgies and music ministry Holy Trinity provided.

That last part is probably intended to refer to the traditional Latin Mass, to observances of German-American heritage in the parish, and to the parish's sacred music concert series.

Accordingly, the incoming Cathedral rector "with the encouragement of Cardinal Sean" is starting a Gregorian-rite Mass next Sunday at 11 AM. The outgoing Cathedral rector also invited the congregation of the ordinary-form Mass to join the Cathedral's principal English Mass at 11:30 AM. The overlapping times will let the two congregations meet together after Mass.

The 11 AM EF Mass will use the lower church. In my opinion this is OK, as the lower church, while not perfect, is more attractive and traditional in appearance than the upper church, whose sanctuary is badly in need of a restoration.

Update: I was wrong. On visiting the cathedral today (Saturday, July 5), I found that the upper church, while not ideal, is looking better than I remembered it; the main altar is not obstructed by the bishop's chair, and is attractively maintained.

The lower church, on the other hand, is looking worse. There is even some construction disarray: Some of the back pews were removed from the lower church in some maintenance or refurb effort, but it was aborted when asbestos was found in the flooring under them; the budget for the project wasn't enough to cover the expense of removing that.

But there are ample pews, and the altar is accessible with one step up - a plus for priests with knee troubles, such as Fr. Shea, the celebrant this Sunday.

fr-dismas-sayre-prostration.jpgCongratulations to Fr. Dismas Sayre, O.P., and his confreres who were ordained Saturday (photos) by Oakland's Bishop Allen Vigueron at a beautiful church in San Francisco. Ad multos annos!
fr-dismas-sayre-ord.jpg

HT: Thanks to Eleen Kamas and family for the photos!


Live from Lublin!

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If I remember right, the Rev. William Lowe has long been friendly with Catholic thought and as rector of an Episcopalian parish, welcomed Catholic speakers there (e.g., Peter Kreeft). Now he has entered into full communion with the Church and has been ordained by Cdl. Mahony for service in the Los Angeles archdiocese. God grant him many happy years!

Competition takes its toll

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It must be tough to survive in the religious marketplace out there, competing with other progressive chapels for the gay Catholic demographic; and especially so when you don't have any other clientele. The Jesuits in Boston have announced the planned closure of their city church in the South End neighborhood, the Jesuit Urban Center.

Besides a general decline in the gay-Catholic market segment, credit for the Jesuits' downtown defeat probably has to go to the Franciscans of Holy Name Province. St. Anthony Shrine moved into the gay-friendly market a few years ago, making for a three-way competition against the Jesuits and the Paulists who have catered to dissenting Catholics downtown for over 30 years. The Shrine's broad-based weekday Mass attendance, heavily trafficked location, and extensive service hours probably give it a stronger position than either of its two competitors, so St. Anthony's is probably best situated to endure for years to come. In contrast, the JUC had only one Mass per week, with a congregation of 150-200 confused souls.

Cari fratelli e sorelle

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From the Pope's homily at the Chrism Mass:

Dear brothers and sisters,

the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy tells in a little story about a severe ruler who asked his priests and wise men to show God to him, so that he could see him. The wise men could not satisfy this desire at all. Then a shepherd, who had just come from the fields, offered to take on the task of the priests and sages. He told the king that his eyes were unable to see God. But then, the king wanted to know at least what things God does. "In order to answer your question," said the shepherd to the sovereign, "we will have to exchange clothes." With hesitation, but intrigued with curiosity, the sovereign agreed; he turned over his regal vestments to the shepherd and dressed himself in the simple clothing of a poor man. And then came the answer: "This is what God does." In fact, the Son of God - very God of very God - left behind his divine splendor: "...he emptied himself, taking on the condition of a slave; being born in the likeness of man, he humbled himself... even to death on a cross." (cf. Phil 2:6ff). God has -- as the Fathers say -- completed the sacrum commercium, the holy exchange: he has taken on that which was ours, in order that we may receive what was his, to become similar to God.

Fr. David Barnes, Star of the Sea parish

Bravo to Fr. David Barnes of Star of the Sea Church in Beverly, MA: he's inspired a general recovery in a once-struggling parish. With a praiseworthy sense of liturgical dignity, he graciously invites us chanteurs to sing in his church once a month, which we are only too happy to do. It's especially gratifying to see students from the nearby Evangelical college attending Mass there.

Audio slideshow

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A look at Boston's Tridentine Mass community, likely to be moved to Newton soon, and at the Korean Catholic community, also likely to be relocated from its church.

Dear Archdiocese, get a clue

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What on earth is going on with the new administrator of Holy Trinity Parish in Boston?

Twice in a month, he's replaced the Tridentine Mass Sunday at noon -- the only such Mass in the Boston archdiocese -- with an English Mass in the new rite, due to "scheduling errors".

In the first case, the priest scheduled to celebrate the Sunday Mass did not arrive at the church at the appointed time, and a call to his rectory brought back the report that he was out of town. The administrator apologized and had a substitute offer Mass according to the new rite. But he (lacking any understanding of traditionalist issues) did so entirely in English, using the free-standing altar, facing versus populum, not using the Roman Canon. What a missed opportunity.

This past Sunday, the administrator knew a day in advance that he had a scheduling problem. Word reached parishioners, and half the congregation went to Mass elsewhere: that is, those who went at all.

If people have a choice between driving an hour for a reliable old-rite Mass in the next diocese and driving an hour for an unreliable one, they will choose the reliable one.

For over fifteen years, Holy Trinity parish has fulfilled its role of bringing about the reconciliation of disaffected traditionalist Catholics. Provoking the faithful of that parish to mistrust their pastor and - dare I say - their bishop gravely harms that mission.

Furthermore, there are now even more illicit Latin Mass groups operating in the city of Boston than there were fifteen years ago -- some of them openly sedevacantist schismatics. This is not a time to fall down on the Archdiocese's commitments to the Latin Mass community in Boston.

A parable for Newton

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When hostile parishioners drive out their pastor, what's a bishop to do?

9 Then he proceeded to tell the people this parable. "(A) man planted a vineyard, leased it to tenant farmers, and then went on a journey for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenant farmers to receive some of the produce of the vineyard. But they beat the servant and sent him away empty-handed. 11 So he proceeded to send another servant, but him also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed. 12 Then he proceeded to send a third, but this one too they wounded and threw out. 13 The owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I shall send my beloved son; maybe they will respect him.' 14 But when the tenant farmers saw him they said to one another, 'This is the heir. Let us kill him that the inheritance may become ours.'

When the Son comes, will they respect Him?

Two encouraging actions show bishops with backbone:

The bishop of Peterborough (ON) has removed a pastor who not only vocally supported ordination for women, but declared that he had celebrated Mass with "women priests" during a visit to the US.

In Sacramento, Bp. William Weigand directed a high school to dismiss a non-Catholic teacher who was found by a local pro-lifer to be a Planned Parenthood abortion mill volunteer, directly opposing the efforts of pro-lifers to save women and their unborn children from abortion.

The Synod Propositions

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A few points from some of the fifty propositions offered (I paraphrase):

13: The synod Fathers suggest rethinking the order in which the Sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, First Communion) are given. In the Latin tradition, the First Communion of children has come to be before Confirmation, but there is no dogmatic reason for this; for adults, Confirmation precedes First Communion.

23: The Fathers suggest moving the Sign of Peace to another point in the Mass.

24: New formulas for the "Ita missa est" (solemn blessing, prayer over the people, etc.) could be given to better express the sending of the faithful to their mission in the world.

36: Priests should be taught in seminary to understand and celebrate Mass in Latin, and to use Gregorian chant.

37: The Fathers suggest that the competent organizations (Episcopal Conferences, SCDW) propose regulations for concelebration when the number of concelebrants is especially high.

46: Catholic politicians should note that there is no "eucharistic coherence" when they promote laws that harm the integral good of man, which are against justice and the natural law. Bishops should apply the virtues of strength and prudence, taking into account the concrete local situation.

Cdl. George gives it a try

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Usually when I hear people rant that bishops should send the sex-abuse perps away to a monastery, I figure it's not a good idea: monastic communities aren't a dumping ground for the Church's problem cases.

Cardinal George is trying something similar, though, having 11 such priests relocated to a diocesan retreat house, for what one hopes will be a closely monitored life of penance and prayer. It'll be interesting to find out how effective and fruitful this approach will prove.

(Thanks to Rocco).

A Good Man

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I would post more often if I had the perspicacity and insight to come up with something like this.

Sermon

Go. Read.

(This priest received me into the Church several years ago. He da man.)

Food for the Poor, a very efficient charity with strong Catholic involvement and only 4% overhead, normally specializes in shipping food, medications, and other needed goods to the Caribbean from their base in Florida. That same location is also a good launching-point for their hurricane-relief efforts. Help 'em out if you can.

And I thought Bingo was bad

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(20:52:08) chonak2: here's something I should blog --
(20:52:41) chonak2: I went to a city parish on Saturday afternoon, and noticed an item in the bulletin...
(20:53:00) chonak2: this parish has really gone beyond Bingo, as fund raising goes...
(20:53:14) JimmyO12: high stakes gambling?
(20:53:19) chonak2: they hosted a Texas Hold 'Em poker tournament...
(20:53:23) chonak2: *on Sunday night*
(20:53:32) JimmyO12: wow wow wow
(20:53:35) chonak2: with a "buy in" of $100!
(20:53:37) JimmyO12: that is unbelievable
(20:53:47) JimmyO12: totally beyond the plae
(20:54:04) chonak2: The notice said: "$6000 first prize if there are 100 players"
(20:54:09) JimmyO12: pale rather
(20:54:14) JimmyO12: amazing
(20:54:14) chonak2: yeah
(20:54:28) chonak2: I think Cdl. Law told the parishes at some point: no new bingos
(20:54:35) chonak2: but he didn't say anything about this ! :-)
(20:54:55) chonak2: lol
(20:56:07) JimmyO12: poker tournament
(20:56:34) JimmyO12: doesn't sound like a Catholic Church
(20:56:50) JimmyO12: what were they raising money for?
(20:56:58) chonak2: And this is in a working-class neighborhood; a great parish with lots of devout Hispanic folks
(20:57:07) chonak2: For the school, probably
(20:58:52) JimmyO12: hmm
(20:58:59) chonak2: I happened to go to that parish 'cuz a priest friend just got transferred there (as a p-vicar). He can't be too thrilled about this!
(20:59:04) JimmyO12: I didn't know the latinos liked their poker so much
(20:59:07) chonak2: heh
(20:59:36) chonak2: maybe they do
(20:59:39) JimmyO12: I think that's immoral
(20:59:41) JimmyO12: the poker thing
(20:59:51) JimmyO12: maybe I just have a firm grasp on the obvious
(20:59:56) chonak2: pretty much. Maybe they should open a bar next
(21:00:03) JimmyO12: exactly

More about B16

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Last week, Vatican Radio presented an interview with an American priest and theologian who served under then-Cardinal Ratzinger for several years as the undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Fr. Augustine DiNoia, OP, speaks about the Holy Father from a personal angle in this audio excerpt (15 minutes, 2.8MB).

Pope Benedict was installed as bishop of Rome in a Mass at the city's cathedral on Saturday. His homily for the occasion is just so full of material for meditation that I want to look at it over a few days:

This day, in which for the first time I may sit in the chair of the Bishop of Rome, as Successor of Peter, is the day in which the Church in Italy celebrates the feast of the Lord's Ascension. At the center of this day is Christ. And only thanks to him, thanks to the mystery of his Ascension, are we able to understand the meaning of the chair, which in turn is the symbol of the authority and responsibility of the bishop. What, then, does the feast of the Lord's Ascension tell us? It does not say that the Lord has gone to a place far away from men and the world. The Ascension of Christ is not a journey into space to the most remote heavenly bodies, because in the end, heavenly bodies, like the earth, are also made up of physical elements.

The Ascension of Christ means that he no longer belongs to the world of corruption and death, which conditions our life. It means that he belongs completely to God. He, the eternal Son, has taken our human being to the presence of God; he has taken with him flesh and blood in a transfigured form. Man finds a place in God through Christ; the human being has been taken into the very life of God. And, given that God embraces and sustains the whole cosmos, the Lord's Ascension means that Christ has not gone far away from us, but that now, thanks to the fact he is with the Father, he is close to each one of us forever. Each one of us may address him familiarly; each one may turn to him. The Lord always hears our voice. We may distance ourselves inwardly from him. We can live with our backs turned to him, but he always awaits us, and is always close to us.

These words remind me of Our Lord's words in John 16:
"Now I am going to him who sent me, and no one of you asks me, 'Where art thou going?' But because I have spoken to you these things, sorrow has filled your heart. But I speak the truth to you; it is expedient for you that I depart. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you; but if go, I will send him to you."
Jesus goes to the Father, leaving this physical universe behind, so that his life -- his divine-human life -- is now fully given to the Father. He, hypostatically united to the Word of God, has brought our humanity to the Holy of Holies, to the eternal communion of the three divine persons.

Going away he has not abandoned us: being fully with the Father who gives the world existence, Jesus Christ is now tenderly present - with his divinity and humanity - to all created things and all created persons in their inmost depths.

Yet this is not enough: he sends the Holy Spirit who is active in all the Sacraments -- material signs of grace -- the Holy Spirit who makes Jesus present in them. Through the Sacraments Jesus becomes nearer to us than ever before. He goes beyond the relationship of Creator to creature and enters into the most profound union with us, becoming one with us, making each of us another Christ.

Why Men Hate Church

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A book excerpt by Evangelical writer David Murrow.

Tough, earthy, working guys rarely come to church. High achievers, alpha males, risk takers, and visionaries are in short supply. Fun-lovers and adventurers are also underrepresented in church. These rough-and-tumble men dont fit in with the quiet, introspective gentlemen who populate the church today. The truth is, most men in the pews grew up in church. Many of these lifers come not because they desire to be transformed by Christ but because they enjoy participating in comforting rituals that have changed little since their childhood. There are also millions of men who attend services under duress, dragged by a mother, wife, or girlfriend. Todays churchgoing man is humble, tidy, dutiful, and above all, nice.

What a contrast to the men of the Bible! Think of Moses and Elijah, David and Daniel, Peter and Paul. They were lions, not lambstakecharge men who risked everything in service to God. They fought valiantly and spilled blood. They spoke their minds and stepped on the toes of religious people. They were true leaders, tough guys who were feared and respected by the community. All of these men had two things in common: they had an intense commitment to God, and they werent what youd call saintly.

Such men seldom go to church today.

Data! I love data!

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Every ten years or so, an organization of sociologists of religion prepares a study on religious denominations and their membership. Catholic data was gathered by the Glenmary Research Center, and their web site includes an overview of the findings.

The good folks at the Church of the Nazarene took part in the project too, and organized the data into a handy web site where you can find the figures on your city. For a data junkie such as myself, it'll be hours of fun.

And it contains some surprises: little Massachusetts would seem to be a relatively religious place, with 64% of the population having some (at least nominal) religious affiliation.

Here are data on the Boston metro. They confirm some things that are obvious: this isn't a hot town for Evangelicals: sorry, brethren; but still they're growing while the "oldline" communities are shrinking, with strong declines among the denominations most identified with moral and doctrinal liberalism. Cynically, it's more or less good news for the future of the culture and the politics here. It doesn't look like it would be in a public official's interest to hitch his star to the agenda of -- well, I won't name names.

I'll leave it to others to comment on greater Washington.

Prediction

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This year's World Youth Days are going to be a blast!

By the way, the Vatican website has been updated: "refresh" if you don't see the announcement.

Pictures at an ordination

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My Capuchin buddy Fr. Matthew's ordination on Saturday was a beautiful ceremony, and he even had the unexpected honor of being ordained by two, count 'em, two prelates. In addition to Bp. Donald Wuerl, the diocesan ordinary of Pittsburgh, a retired Malagasy bishop Ferdinand, also a Capuchin, participated in the rite. He's been visiting the Order in the US, while he's here learning English.

The Capuchin province's website has photos of the ordination, and I've got a few photos of the fine German-American church where it took place: it's the home base for that particular province of the Cappies.

Since Fr. Matthew's had the conviction of wanting to be a priest since he was a toddler forty years ago, his vocation has been "incubating" for a long time!

Christ Jesus calls us all to holiness; He, living in us, is the holiness we seek; He is the food for the journey; He is the destination and He is the way. The priest speaks His word; the priest gives us Jesus; the priest makes Him into our food; the priest guides us to our goal; the priest points the way. As Fr. Matthew continues to follow the Lord Jesus, may He unite him ever more closely to Himself.

The Exorcist passes away

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(thanks Rich)

Fr. Halloran was a legend in the Diocese of Scranton where I lived and worked for over a year. Please pray for the repose of his soul.

"You've probably heard of "The Exorcist." Father Halloran, who died Tuesday (March 1, 2005) at 83, was the last living Jesuit to be involved in an exorcism that took place in 1949 at a psychiatric unit in St. Louis. The incident provided the inspiration for William Peter Blatty's 1971 runaway bestseller by that name, which led to the hit movie, and a few more of lesser box office appeal, including a recent prequel."

[continue]

Over at Dom's, there's a thread about the need that a priest's way of life be characterized by simplicity and shun whatever smacks of worldliness. A few commenters there mentioned priests wearing lay attire at inappropriate times. I agree with their concern, but I hope nobody jumps to conclusions about a priest's good character just because they see him out in the world from time to time without his collar on.

A few weeks ago, a friend and I went out to dinner with a friar. We started to wish that he had worn civvies that evening, because his friar's habit tends to function as a kook magnet, even more than a diocesan priest's black suit.

After we got to the Italian restaurant, a very devout and patriotic but eccentric woman latched onto us. She thinks she's being led by God to spread the message of how Catholic-friendly George Washington was. Her devotion even went to the point of putting portraits of George and Martha under her images of the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart. She kept coming back, chatting and showing us clippings (!), five times in all.

So if you see a priest wearing lay attire, please don't assume he's failing in his duties based on that fact alone. Maybe he's just trying to eat a little spaghetti and have a conversation in relative peace.

That's what I like about the South!

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Here's a trend: Time says the Church is just booming down South, and it's full of believing Catholics, not mere "cultural Catholics". Rejoice!

Some help from the brethren

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Poland comes to the rescue again! Only 1100 of the 3000 parishes in the Czech Republic have resident priests, so the bishops have obtained about 200 priests from the Polish dioceses and religious orders to serve alongside them.

[Fr. Piotr] Krysztofiak[, O.P.], meanwhile, said that after seven years in Prague, he does not feel homesick. "I don't look out of the window and miss Poland. I have a good relationship with the seven other Dominican friars in the priory here.

"And I feel personally closer to Czech Catholics than to Polish communists, or Polish nonbelievers."

The Prague Post has an article, and Radio Prague prepared a radio feature for the Insight Central Europe magazine show. It's available on the net in RealAudio format. (The feature starts at 11'25" into the program.)

A handy site!

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Baltimore deacon Mark Ripper has assembled a useful web site with information on the Faith. I came across his St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Resource Site while looking for the text of the rite of Ordination, and indeed he has all three versions. Thanks, Deacon Mark!

That's my kind of ecumenism!

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Holy Name of Jesus Church in Providence is celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by demonstrating the depth of Christian unity that exists in the Catholic Church: they're offering seven days of Masses with celebrants of various countries and rites. What a neat idea!

A pastor from B.C. got interested in the new religious communities and movements after attending the 2002 World Youth Days, so he made a pilgrimage out of visiting fifteen of them in Ontario and Quebec. They're some inspiring and faith-filled people!

Surprise! Mass attendance is steady

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The CARA organization at Georgetown reports that the level of self-reported Sunday mass attendance hasn't changed much over the past four years: up at the Jubilee, down again, up after 9/11, down when the sex-abuse scandal went nationwide, and now more or less where it was in late 2000.

Admittedly, the real level of Mass attendance probably doesn't live up to the 33% figure, but the self-reported number is probably a good indication of trends.

It had to happen! Here's a new Internet service: if you want to have a Mass said, but are too busy to run down to the parish or send a request in the mail, the Conventual Franciscans will help you out, accepting your Mass intentions over the net and the stipend by PayPal or credit card. Just click to get those graces moving!

Is it a promotion or....?

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Msgr. Michael Bransfield, the long-time rector of Washington, D.C.'s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was named a few days ago to become the new bishop of the diocese of Wheeling and Charleston: that is to say, all of West Virginia.

A friend who grew up there warns that the place takes some getting used to: "Do you think he has an opinion on using moonshine for altar wine -- yet? I don't remember seeing that at the Shrine!"

Anyway, we here at Catholic Light wish the Bishop-elect all the best.

No, it doesn't really look like this:

But there's a real-life Confession-Mobile in Germany, offering "reconciliation with God and men":beichtmobil.jpgOf course, for the charity Aid to the Church in Need, taking the grace of the sacraments into the marketplace is standard procedure.

The blunder of the parish closings

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The church closings in Boston are underway, and it's getting harder to see them through. Some congregations are being transferred in their entirety to neighboring parishes, so at least they have somewhere to go -- a "welcoming parish" that will take in the people and some of their church furnishings -- serving at least as a commemoration of the old parish.

In contrast, members of some ethnic parishes - churches unique in the Archdiocese for their ministry to a specific nationality group - are being told: your parish's ethnic-specific mission is completed, so you should join your geographical parish.

Of course, there is a problem with this. Regardless of whether we think separate ethnic parishes were ever a good thing at all, these communities exist. They are real groupings of the faithful with a shared history. And unlike the parishes being merged into specific neighbors, they are being told: your community is to be dissolved. This is about as far as you can get from "strengthen your brethren".

No wonder the faithful of the Lithuanian, German, and French parishes are distressed: those communities are not experiencing the change as closing one door and opening another. For them, it's just a closing.

If I remember right, the rebellious non-ethnic parish in Weymouth whose parishioners are occupying their old building is in an analogous position: instead of being merged into some other parish as a group, their territory has been carved up and dispersed.

I guess this can serve as a "lesson learned" on how not to set about closing parishes.

St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua, NH runs a community outreach program called the "Parish Nurse Center for Wellness". The hospital reports:

2003 Accomplishments:
(1) Continued program development including screenings, classes, health fairs, held at the Parish Nurse Center for Wellness. Expanded current program offerings and increased total class enrollments 10% over prior year.
(2) Partnered with NH Technical College massage therapy students to begin offering free massage therapy services at the Parish Nurse Center for Wellness.
(3) Completed Reiki training, became certified Reiki providers, began offering Reiki twice per month at the Parish Nurse Center for Wellness....
Former "new age healer" Clare McGrath Merkle tells what Reiki is about and why it's not really a good idea for Catholic hospitals to offer it.

An organization has been started to inform the Catholic faithful and clergy about options for coping with celiac disease.

Hello? anybody home?

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A friend of mine is on vacation in Colorado right now, where he writes about his puzzling visit to a monastery with lots of activity but no monks.

The case for not closing my parish

Holy Trinity Church, the home of Boston's indult Mass, is profiled in the Globe, and now the secret's out: it's a growing parish with a lot of young families, not a service for a shrinking bunch of seniors. We expect to be on the parish closure list when it comes out tomorrow, but I'm glad the case for keeping the church has been made publicly.

More parishes to be closed

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A panel of the Archdiocese of Boston has proposed an additional 37 parishes for closure, alongside those already recommended by local "cluster" consultations. It's not clear whether these are all additions to the earlier list, or whether some of the choices are alternatives to those originally proposed.

You can help start a school

Fr. Gee is asking for help in funding the start of a school at the Banica mission where he serves. Can you pitch in?

Since the permalinks for his blog are broken, I'll quote the post here...

Find the Latins in this picture!

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Our pal Steve Schultz is hard at work at St. Charles Seminary, so do remember to pray for him and his studies. On Sunday, he and another seminarian were invited to serve at an Armenian Catholic parish.

Steve at the Armenian Church

He writes:

The attached photo was taken today at St. Mark Armenian Catholic Church. I have been to this parish several times this year when we have had free weekends. The rite is different from the Latin rite that most Catholics celebrate. The pastor, Fr. David Bedrossian, likes for us seminarians to do the readings and serve Mass. He is pictured in the chasuble on the left. The priest next to him is a retired General in the Chaplain Corps, Monsignor King. I like the vestments because they are so ornate but mostly because they have a slimming look. The way the deacons wear the stoles is pretty cool too - I wish we did that in the Latin rite.

Take care, everyone! You are in my prayers!

A word from tonight's homily

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John 19:30: "when he had taken the vinegar, Jesus said, 'It is finished,' and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit."

The Greek expression translated "It is finished" is a single word: tetelestai. It is completed: it is fulfilled. The word was used by tax collectors, who marked it on a bill, with the meaning: paid in full.

New bishop for Richmond

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Richmond's new ordinary, Bp. Francis DiLorenzo, is being transferred in from Honolulu.

Before his service there, he was an auxiliary in Scranton, and if the rumor mill is right, he was, alas, not very sympathetic to the traditionalist movements in that diocese.

But that was ten years ago, and during those ten years in Hawaii, commenters at Amy's and Dom's sites say, he improved the discipline of the clergy in what had been a somewhat lax diocese. Congratulations to everybody in Richmond.

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

John Schultz


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