Sunday, July 29, 2007

Summorum Pontificum Notes

It has now been nearly a month since the Pope issued his watershed motu proprio (and I do believe it will be a watershed document, both right now and in the future) Summorum Pontificum. A few interesting developments - trends if you will - seem to be developing among the faithful and the bishops that I have observed and are worth noting.

The first is (and this is something that I noticed both in myself and in a lot - maybe all - of the goings on online about this document) is the stark contrast between what the document really says and how people are reacting to it. Summorum Pontificum is above all else a power-to-the-people document. I takes decision making directly out of the hands of the Bishops and puts it into the hands of the priests and the people. To a large degree, the Bishops are taken "out of the loop". Why then is everyone so focused on the reaction of the Bishops?? Is it because we still subconciously look to them as the shepherds of their flocks, i.e. us? Or is it because we know that THEY are where the power lies and, no matter what the Pope says, they are not going to let go of any of their power?

This is, I think, a possible achilles heel to the implementation of Summorum Pontificum. If a Bishop lets the impression be made that he wants nothing to do with the Mass of John XXIII in his diocese, then it will simply not happen. Not without either a STRONG priest or an overwhelming number of requests from the faithful at a parish - probably at least as many as attend the least attended Mass on Sunday. Those kind of numbers would make it undeniable.

But mostly, what will happen is what I see personally around here, which is priests being willing, even happy, about the old mass, but not wanting to do it without the Bishops okay. Even though it is technically unnecessary, they want to know the Bishop supports them. Let's pray that that support is forthcoming soon, or that the Holy Spirit moves these priests to action one way or the other.

NOTHING will happen, though, if everyone who is interested in this EVERYONE. Doesn't get moving, get calling get emailing, get praying, and get ready to DO WHATEVER IS REQUIRED to make this happen.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Can't Get No Rest...

So goes the line to a 1970's hit song. But it more or less accurately describes my life right now. Work at work is pretty overwhelming. Business has picked up by about 150% in the past month, and we have lost three key people. At our current work load, my department needs 8 people minimum - six in the field and two in the office. I currently have 4. Which means lots of work for all partiues remaining, most especially myself who now has to run the department, work in the field a few days a week, and do almost all of the drafting and computations. Fortunately, I have purloined a CAD tech from another department to help out. I am NOT bellyaching, just putting it all in perspective.

Fortunately, summer session is almost over at school. I have exams to give and grades to compile, but that will all be over next week, thank God. Then I'll have three glorious weeks off before it all starts back up again.

Ahh, life is glorious. You see, I grew up on depression hard-times-no-work stories from my mother. I dare say they are a part of me. I never once go through a day that I am not thankful for the work I have. It sure beats the alternative.

A vacation would be nice, though! Someday maybe I'll take one.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Summorum Pontificum

Well, it has been a week since this watershed document was issued by Pope Benedict. And I have been watching, reading, calling, commenting since then. Now it's time to write.

One fascinating thing that I have seen (and found myself doing) is waiting anxiously to see the reaction of the Bishops to this motu proprio. This is fascinating, and revealing in a way because, as I (and others) read it, Summorum Pontificum is all about power to the priests and people, and very little about Bishops. It would seem that this is a tacit acknowledgement of just how much, consciously or subconsciously, we look to the Bishops for spiritual guidance.

In that light, it is truly revealing the incredible range of reactions we have seen. Some have been VERY positive, sayng, basically, we welcome the opportunity to become better through the guidance of the Pope, where as others have said, in so many words "we'll take it under advisement, Pope, f*** you very much for your input" The most common reaction is one of "roaring silence", and that is one I simply do not understand. All of this leads to the question, how can we be a universal Church if say, Bishop Trautman's Church is so fundamentally different than, say Bishop Burke's???

What I would like to see more is what the Priests are saying. Has anyone spoken to their priest? What was his reaction? I spoke to the Pastors secretary at one church on Tuesday, and she had never even heard of the motu proprio - had no idea that such a movement was afoot. She asked a number of questions about it , and seemed curios. I offered to email it to her, but she said that she was looking it up even as we spoke from the USCCB website. She also said that she would print it out and give it to Father. IIRC, she said she was "sure he'd want to read it". Whether that's good or bad, I can only guess. I am anxiously waiting to see what, if anything, appears in this Sunday's bulletin, or is said at Sunday mass. Probably nothing, but we shall see. I am hoping for a comment and contact information in the bulletin. I'd love to see a sign-up sheet in the front of the church!

Either way, I intend to follow up, and make every effort to see this thing blossom into a full-fledged renewal.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Vocations Follow-Up

At the risk of (though surely not the intention of) sounding like I'm blowing my own horn, I would like to bring attention to something that was said in an interview with The Remnant by Father Berg, Superior General of the FSSP. Apparently the good Father read my earlier post on vocations, and worked it into his own interview ;)

Here is an excerpt from the interview (my emphases):

Q: During a time in the Church in Western Europe and the U.S., when there are entire dioceses that frequently have no priestly ordinations each year, there have been 153 men request applications to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in the United States January through March 2007. Why do you think so many young men are attracted to vocations to the traditional priestly societies?

A: If one looks at the diocese and institutes where they are attracting a strong number of vocations, the young men are receiving a very strong priestly identity—one that really underlines the supernatural side of the priesthood. This is not true only of the Fraternity, but also of places like St. Gregory’s in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Sometimes I think we end up short-selling the youth and thinking what they really want, what is going to attract them, is this type of life or that—as if the priesthood is nothing more than being a social worker or a counselor. That is just not going to attract vocations. Men can go ahead and do that in other areas [without the sacrifices of the priesthood].

But in the end, it is the strong priestly identity that attracts them. Yes, they will end up doing a lot of natural things that are good—and they will end up needing to have a lot of natural virtues—but the priest’s job is about the supernatural life with the sacraments and everything else.

We’re fortunate enough to have a number of things [in the FSSP] that emphasize those elements, such as the priestly identify at the altar which is so stressed by the rite, and Thomistic theology which sees the priest’s fundamental act as offering sacrifice. It clearly underlines what the work of the priest is—what his essential work is. And that finally is the element which is most attractive about the priesthood: being able to deal with the things that are holy all the time; with the things that are most essential.

Having been a priest now for 10 years, I can’t imagine being a man and getting up every day and working 10 hours in a secular job on what is not most important. And I know there are men who have to do that according to their duty in state. But the priesthood is always dealing with the absolute essentials—with salvation.

That’s one thing that I think is fortunate about the way we form priests. It is centered around preaching and the sacraments: being dispensers of the mysteries of God as St. Paul says, is what is essential. Fortunately, the rite we use really emphasizes that role of the priest within the sanctuary, which a lot of men are looking for as well.

I would say that I couldn't have said it better myself, but in truth, I couldn't have said it nearly as good myself. I highly recommend that you read the whole interview. It is impressive in the extreme.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Sermons (a.k.a. homilies)

One of the subjects which seems to come up occasionally on the blogs is that of homiletics. I think of the priests I have heard over the years, and while I have heard many good sermons, and good preaching, one stands out above all.

The former pastor of St. Benedict's in Greensboro was Msgr. Joseph Showfety. He is retired now, but I still miss him. In 1993, I had just gotten married to a wonderful Catholic girl. Due to my crazy work schedule at the time, over a period of months we had just fallen out of the practice of regularly going to mass. When we did, we attended mass at the beautiful church where we were members and had gotten married just a few months earlier. It was nice and pleasant and uninspiring, like most catholic services nowadays. But it was the mass about like I had come to expect it.

Then, due to scheduling issues, we went one Sunday to St. Benedict's. The priest's homily was unlike any I had heard. First he went through the readings, and put them all into perspective, historically and theologically. Then, using that foundation he showed what it all meant for us today, and even gave some practical applications. I was floored. Then, he celebrated the rest of the mass very very reverently and well. Using eucharistic prayer 1 and singing much of the mass. And his movements were strikingly precise. I didn't at the time even know there were different eucharistic prayers, but I remember noticing the drastic difference from every other mass I could remember.

We were both blown away. Neither of us had ever been to mass like that (at least not in my adult lives). All of a sudden, in one hour, the whole perspective had changed. After years of homilies which rarely even addressed the readings, let alone explained them, all of a sudden it all made sense. We talked about it all afternoon. And from that day forward, we transferred our membership to that parish, and only go elsewhere for scheduling reasons. Over the years, I learned all about the mass, the sacraments, the church, and countless other things. It was like weekly catechism / bible study class. For example, when did you last hear it explained that the sacrifice of the mass was a re-presentation of the sacrifice on calvary?
He was stern, but brilliant. Loving, but firm. It makes me think of a line from a song "a thundering, velvet hand". And I will never forget his oft-repeated phrase "you can go to hell dialoging".

At that time, that parish was small and barely making it, but over the next ten years we grew more and more, built a new parish hall, refurbished the exterior of the church, and many other good things. Monsignor retired a few years ago, to be replaced by Father Ferris, who was great in a different way. And now Father Duc (the website calls him Fr. James, but I don't know why), a kind sweet and good man.

I must say that, until that day, I was, at best a lukewarm Catholic. I had ceased attending mass regularly in my early 20's. Then after a number of years, had joined the Mennonite Church, and was actively involved with them up until just before I met my wife. Her catholicism drew me back to the church, and Monsignor Showfety cemented permanently my place here. Other than sickness or simple impossibility, I have not missed mass since that day.

The other thing worth noting especially with respect to the soon-to-be-published motu proprio is that I have seen through my own personal experience how one mass - ONE MASS can change entirely your perspective and spiritual life. And your life everlasting.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Thoughts on the Mass

Well, we shall see....

Four more days and the much awaited motu proprio regarding the celebration of mass according to the old rite should come out. I have awaited this for a long time, and now that it is, apparently imminent, I find myself wondering where we go from here. I also wonder how we got here in the first place, and why is this such a controversy?

Regarding the where we go from here, Carolina Cannonball has an interesting post on some possible happenings in Charlotte regarding the Mass. They are only rumors at this point, but a rumor of "yes" are better than factual "hell no", which is what we had previously. It is my sincerest hope and prayer that the old mass sweeps in and becomes more and more wanted, demanded, and celebrated. I am planning on, this Sunday, asking for the mass to be celebrated here in Greensboro, either at my home parish, or the other one I frequent. I have been wanting to for months now, but without the papal blessing to back it up, I would expect yet another "no". On the other hand, our pastor speaks english with a strong Vietnamese accent, so I wonder what his latin will be like. On the other hand, he also speaks Russian and French, so he'd probably get along just fine.

There is a well-written post over at The Cornell Society that goes over the astonishing comments of the Archbishop of Boston regarding the recent meeting at the Vatican with the Pope regarding the impending motu proprio. And, more importantly, regarding the handling of it once it is in force. Unfortunately, this first hint of feedback makes it appear as if the rection by some will be one of brushing it all off, since "everyone knows" there is "no demand" for that kind of thing any more. Brian Kopp at Universal Indult Blog has a wonderful post comparing the Tridentine Mass to Chocolate Ice Cream. It just serves to remind that all of us who want the Mass to be celebrated need to make our voices, our "legitimate desires" heard. Politely, but clearly. I believe, no, I KNOW that, given a fair chance, the initiative to bring back the Mass of John XXIII will be successful. I have feared all along that it won't be given that fair chance, but I refuse to accept that option. I will do everything I can to make it happen. Pray, call, write, talk, beg, educate, volunteer, anything. One thing for sure, the "we already have on of those masses" attitude will not fly with me.

But this leads to the next question, how did we get here?? And why are so many people so hatefully opposed to anything that has a hint of tradition about it?? I have some kind of off the wall theories regarding the first, which I will go into in another post, but I am at a complete loss as to the second question. I remember some years ago, Msgr. Showfety, our old, now retired pastor, held forth at length in a Homily over why he would never celebrate the old mass. I never did approach him about it, but I am so tempted to call him now and ask. But, Msgr. notwithstanding (a good man, BTW, and the reason I am a devout Catholic today), I just don't get it. I guess I am with the Pope when I think "what could be wrong with it?". Like so many similar things, I suppose the only reason for most people is that it is a way of pointing out their insecurity, and that makes them defensive.

Well, one way or the other, I think we are about to find out which way is going to prevail. If nothing else, the sheep are going to be separated from the goats real soon. I pray that all of our leaders have the serene attitude the Pope is hoping for. And if not, I pray that those of us who will be slighted will rise up and demand what is right. But, lest we all come off like a bunch of kooks, we should all re-read Father Z's 5 "Rules of Engagement". I know I need to.