The Pope, Oberon, Titania, etc.

…A limerick that may or not have been written by Cardinal McIntyre in St. Peter’s, during one of the sessions of the Second Vatican Council:

We are two thousand Patres in Session
Who feel a great weight of oppression
What with Cardinals talking
And lesser lights squawking,
Thank goodness, the bar’s so refreshing.

…The idea that ill deeds can wreak havoc with ‘the environment’ has been around awhile:

Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge, have suck’d up from the sea
Contagious fogs; which falling in the land
Have every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents:
The ox hath therefore stretch’d his yoke in vain,
The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn
Hath rotted ere his youth attain’d a beard;
The fold stands empty in the drowned field,
And crows are fatted with the murrion* flock; [killed by disease]
The nine men’s morris* is fill’d up with mud, [a board game]
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green
For lack of tread are undistinguishable:
The human mortals want their winter here;
No night is now with hymn or carol blest:
Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger, washes all the air,
That rheumatic diseases do abound:
And thorough this distemperature we see
The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
Far in the fresh lap of the crimson rose,
And on old Hiems’* thin and icy crown [winter]
An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
Is, as in mockery, set: the spring, the summer,
The childing autumn, angry winter, change
Their wonted liveries, and the mazed world,
By their increase, now knows not which is which:
And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension;
We are their parents and original.

(A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act II, Scene 1)

Last week our Holy Father spoke to the German parliament.

He gave the “green movement” credit for re-discovering the natural law:

Positivist reason which recognizes nothing beyond mere functionality resembles a concrete bunker with no windows, being no longer willing to obtain light and air from God’s wide world…The windows must be flung open again; we must see the wide world, the sky and the earth once more and learn to make proper use of all this…The ecological movement realized that something is wrong in our relationship with nature, that matter is not just raw material for us to shape at will, but that the earth has a dignity of it own and that we must follow its directives.

The Pope went on to add:

The importance of ecology is no longer disputed…Yet I would like to underline a point that seems to me to be neglected, today as in the past: there is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will…Man does not create himself.

At this point in the Pope’s speech, the Parliament burst into applause.

…Pass the Rebel Yell, please.

This evening, I intend to suspend my ferocious contempt of ACC football and root like mad for the HOKIES!!!

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91st Street Subway Station of Easter

When you ride the Seventh Avenue-Broadway IRT on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, you roll through the ghost of the 91st Street Station. The train doesn’t stop, because the station has been closed since 1959.

Book of the Holy Gospels
When you pray your way through the Easter season according to the Roman Missal–in most ecclesiastical provinces–you roll through the Seventh Sunday of Easter like a ghost station.

Because now this Sunday is the perpetual home of the Solemnity of the Ascension, transferred from Thursday. The liturgy train doesn’t stop on the pages of the Lectionary marked “Seventh Sunday of Easter” anymore.

The gospel reading for the Seventh Sunday of Easter is the priestly prayer of Jesus.

I certainly am not competent to judge great things, like how to make decisions about when people have to go to Mass.

But this situation is rather ironic.

According to the Second Vatican Council:

The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s word. In this way a more representative portion of the holy scriptures will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years.

And yet, because going to Mass on a Thursday is too inconvient for people, we solemnly read the Prayer of the Hour of Jesus–by any estimation, one of the most important texts of Scripture, upon which the entire spiritual life of the Church is based–we read it in church…never.

(Well, only at daily Mass.)

Alas.

Perhaps you will say, ‘Father, we actually hear the priestly prayer of Jesus at EVERY Mass, because the Eucharistic Prayer is the Church’s humble echo of Her Founder’s prayer.’

You would have a fine point. I would grant your penetrating pertinacity. Praise God. You cheered me up.

But, nonetheless, it would be edifying, don’t you think, to hear the original version of the Eucharistic Prayer read from the holy book, at least every once in a while.

Mary Has Chosen the Better Part

Now a Timberwolf
Now a Timberwolf
Will the Wizards win 40 games this season? That would be 21 more than they won last season, more than doubling their win percentage.

I was sorry to see Darius Songaila go. But the Wizards’ off-season trades have been excellent. I think they will play better-than-.500 ball and will contend for a playoff spot…

…For the record: I can think of a lot of places where I would love to sit and drink a cold beer.

The White House is not one of them…

…As they continued their journey, He entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed Him.

She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at His feet listening to him speak.

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”

The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” –Luke 10:38-42

There is plenty to do. But the life of action in this world is for the sake of reaching the life of contemplation in the next.

It is of the essence of the Church that she be both human and divine, visible and yet invisibly equipped, eager to act and yet intent on contemplation, present in this world and yet not at home in it; and she is all these things in such wise that in her the human is directed and subordinated to the divine, the visible likewise to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, which we seek. –Vatican Council II, Sacrosanctum Concilium 2

Christ_in_the_House_of_Martha_and_Mary

Three Years Our Shepherd

crozier wuerl

Three years ago today, Donald Wuerl took the crozier in hand to guide the Archdiocese of Washington.

Here are a few words about bishops from the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council:

Christ the Lord, Son of the living God, came that He might save His people from their sins and that all men might be sanctified. Just as He Himself was sent by the Father, so He also sent His Apostles. Therefore, He sanctified them, conferring on them the Holy Spirit, so that they also might glorify the Father upon earth and save men, “to the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12), which is the Church.

In this Church of Christ the Roman pontiff, as the successor of Peter, to whom Christ entrusted the feeding of His sheep and lambs, enjoys supreme, full, immediate, and universal authority over the care of souls…

The bishops…, having been appointed by the Holy Spirit, are successors of the Apostles as pastors of souls. Together with the supreme pontiff and under his authority they are sent to continue throughout the ages the work of Christ, the eternal pastor. Christ gave the Apostles and their successors the command and the power to teach all nations, to hallow men in the truth, and to feed them.

Bishops, therefore, have been made true and authentic teachers of the faith, pontiffs, and pastors through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to them…

illuminated-bibleBishops…have been taken from among men and appointed their representative before God in order to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. Bishops enjoy the fullness of the sacrament of orders…Therefore bishops are the principal dispensers of the mysteries of God, as well as being the governors, promoters, and guardians of the entire liturgical life in the church committed to them —Christus Dominus

May the good Lord prosper the endeavors of our father and shepherd, Archbishop Wuerl.

…Want to learn more about the Bible? Are you within striking distance of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, U.S.A.? Come to Scripture Study this evening at St. Mary of the Assumption School, starting at 7:30 p.m.!

Familiar Trinity

I am not trying to criticize anyone. But, back when I was a layman, I heard a lot of lame homilies on Trinity Sunday. Who knows? Perhaps by the time we are done here, you will be saying the same thing.

trinity coverThe thing that annoyed me was when the preacher would begin his Trinity Sunday homily by saying something like: “The Trinity is such a mind-boggling, impossible mystery, I simply cannot begin to explain it.” Then he tells you the story about St. Augustine trying to write a book about the Trinity, and the little boy by the sea, and putting all the ocean into one little hole, etc. Okay, okay—we get it. The Trinity is a mystery which surpasses our understanding.

The reason this annoyed me is: The best possible explanation of the mystery of the Holy Trinity is right in front of our noses. The Mass explains the Holy Trinity perfectly. The Holy Trinity is not abstruse, not remote, not unfamiliar. There is, in fact, nothing more familiar than the Trinity for people who go to Mass. Let me explain.

Continue reading “Familiar Trinity”

Old Time Catholic Religion

When I first started out in training for the priesthood, I worked in a parish helping to take care of the elderly people in the neighborhood. There was an old car for me to use to take the ladies to their doctors’ appointments.

One of these ladies became a good friend to me, and we stayed close for years–until her holy death in 2003. She was not particularly friendly, however, when we first met. In fact, when I told her I was from the local parish, and I offered my services to her, she pronounced the following in no uncertain terms: “Listen, I am glad that you are here to help me. But I do not hold with new-fangled Church. I believe in the old-time Catholic religion.”

Perhaps you, dear reader, are aware that the Sovereign Pontiff Benedict XVI has restored to all Catholic priests the option of keeping the old-time Catholic religion alive. I.e.: Mass in Latin. The priest facing east, the same direction as everyone else. The priest praying the ancient prayers and making the gestures of supplication to God that were faithfully done for centuries–until things were simplified, updated, and revised around 1970.

(thanks for taking pictures, Fr. Cusick)
(thanks for taking pictures, Fr. Cusick)

This week the Archdiocese of Washington had an optional training session for us priests who never learned how to say Mass the old way (that is, anyone under sixty). You can read all about the training sessions here, if you are interested. The priest who taught us is a member of a religious order called the Norbertines. They get to wear a white cassock like the pope, but they wear black shoes instead of the papal red. (Here is an interesting fact: The Pope wears red shoes because St. Peter’s feet would have been covered with fish blood when he hauled in the nets on the Sea of Galilee.)

Anyway, I am definitely not one of those priests who thinks that the new Mass—with English readings and prayers—is a bad idea. Most priests–even us rigid young ones–think that having the readings in English is a good idea. I very much like to say Mass the way I originally learned it six years ago from my beloved teacher, Fr. Stephen Nash (who is now a monk called Daniel at a monastery in Austria).

I will say this, though: There are some things about the Old Mass which make it more prayerful. To me, it makes more sense for the priest to face God when he is praying and not face the people. Praying to God and looking at the people at the time is one of the most ridiculous things I can imagine. There are moments during Mass when the priest speaks to the people; he should look at them then. But when the priest is praying, it makes sense for him to face the same way as the people–that is, toward the Lord.

The old Mass also makes it much clearer that the Mass is a sacrifice. In the Mass, the priest and the people together offer the Son of God to the Almighty Father for the salvation of the whole world. It is the only sacrifice that actually works. The human race has tried just about everything else: chickens, heifers, people…none have done any good. But the Precious Blood of Christ offered to the Almighty Father on the altar actually does bring about the forgiveness of sins and fills the world with grace.

If it is not a sacrifice, it is not the Holy Mass. The new way of saying Mass sometimes seems like an occasion for teaching and singing, but not a sacrifice (even though it is one). A priest should try to be a good teacher and leader, but first and foremost he is a man who offers sacrifice to God. The old way of saying Mass makes this much clearer to everyone, especially the priest himself.

I must admit that I have found it rather difficult to learn how to say Mass the old way–but I am getting there. I had better be getting there, since I am celebrating the Solemn High Tridentine Mass at 5:00 p.m. this Sunday (at St. Mary Mother of God parish on 5th St., N.W.) May it be for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls!