Monday, May 24, 2010

Belated Pentecost Reflection

“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” (Acts 2: 2-11)

On that day of Pentecost, a fire was lit; it burned in the hearts of all disciples of Jesus. They went out and began proclaiming the Good News, by word and actions, and they passed on that fire to others. During times of persecutions, the flame may have dwindled, but it continued to burn in the hearts of the survivors. It would eventually spread throughout the world.

Now it appears to some that the flame is dying out, in Europe, England, Canada, and the United States. A church historian would describe this area as “the ice belt.” Aspects of modern culture, rampant consumerism, breakdown of civility, loss of trust in Church leadership, have dampened the flame. Many are looking to the faith communities of the southern hemisphere to keep the flame alive. But I say that as long as there is a tiny flicker in our communities, in our hearts, the Spirit can blow, and the flame will burst forth again.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Time To Move On. Time For New Beginnings.

The National Catholic Reporter has posted on their website the Catholic News Service story of the Vatican rejecting the appeals of various closed parishes of the Archdiocese of Boston, to reverse the closings. These parishes were closed in 2004, when the Archdiocese determined that they had neither the funds nor the personnel to keep these churches open. At least three of these closed parishes have been occupied by former parishioners, maintaining 24/7 vigils.

I remember well those days; the Archdiocese called it a reconfiguration plan, a process to close inactive parishes. I personally felt that, however necessary it was, the process was ill conceived, and poorly implemented. It was another blow to a Catholic community already battered by the clergy abuse scandal. My own parish was on the short list to be closed. It was a very anxious period, but we survived because we successfully made the case to stay open. That said I really feel that it is time for these former parishioners to accept the inevitable, mourn your losses, and move on. The Catholic community is more than any one parish; it is a body of believers, united with all other believers in the world through our bishops, united in and through the Body of Christ. It is time to rejoin your sisters and brothers in Christ, and seek new beginnings

Monday, May 17, 2010

Franciscan Family Offers Support to the Pope.

In response to the bad press that has been directed towards Pope Benedict XVI, and the calls from several groups, both within and without the Catholic community, for his resignation and/or arrest; many other Catholics have been voicing their support. On April 11, 2010, the Ministers General of the Franciscan Family (OFM, CONV, CAP, TOR, and SFO) sent a letter of support to the Holy Father.

The Catholic News Service reported that on Sunday, May 16, 2010, around 120,000 individuals gathered in St. Peter’s Square for a demonstration of support for the Pope.

The Holy Father has definitely needed these expressions of love and respect. Some of the secular press, columnists, and commentators, have been very savage in their criticisms of Pope Benedict’s actions, or lack thereof. Unfortunately, some of these writers had their own agendas, gotten their facts wrong or taken out of context. Other writers, notably John Allen of National Catholic Reporter, have pointed out the substantive actions Benedict XVI has taken to deal with the scandal, both before and after he became Pope. Now I also believe that this is true, but I also believe that in order for the Church to get beyond this scandal, a lot more needs to be done, a lot more needs to be revealed, a lot more needs to change. Sadly, I feel we are still dealing with only the tip of the iceberg.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

National Catholic Reporter Interview with Archbishop Sean Cardinal O'Malley OFM CAP

Concerning the clergy sexual abuse scandal, one of the American bishops who has done the most to deal with the situation is Cardinal Sean O'Malley OFM CAP, of the Archdiocese of Boston. He has been the Vatican's go to man when it came to dealing with the scandal, in a couple of dioceses before Boston. His approach has lead to some healing of the victims; resolutions of a majority of the lawsuits; and a new confidence in the Archdiocese. Now, I have not always agreed with all of his policies, but overall, Boston has been blessed by his presence.

He has been at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal with Pope Benedict XVI. While there, he was interviewed by John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter, which can be accessed by this link.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Times They Are A Changing!!

I was recently going through a local magazine, “The Improper Bostonian,” when I came across an article about Ayla Brown, daughter of Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, former contestant on American Idol, and a student at Boston College. In the article was this picture of her working out with a group of other students. As I looked at the picture, I recognized the building they were in.

Many years (Okay, decades!) ago, I was a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Boston, attending St. John’s Seminary. It was a large campus, with the seminary’s college, and school of theology, archdiocesan offices, and the Archbishop’s residence. In the days, before my time, seminarians were pretty much restricted to the campus. They had built a small gym building, so that they would get needed exercise. When I was there, the building was a little rundown, but still saw a good number of basketball and volleyball games.

When the Archdiocese was deep in debt, on top of the settlement payments to victims of clergy abuse, it sold just about all of the campus to Boston College. It appears that BC is making use of the old gym as a exercise hall. Where once male seminarians played indoor sports, now male and female students are working out. Near the old gym building is the tomb of William Cardinal O’Connell, the first Archbishop of Boston to receive the red hat, and who was a bit of an ecclesial tyrant. He must be spinning in his grave!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mary Protectoress of the Franciscan Family, My May Column for Fraternity Newsletter

“Toward the Mother of Jesus he was filled with an inexpressible love, because it was she who made the Lord of Majesty our brother. He sang special Praises to her, poured out prayers to her, offered her his affections, so many and so great that the tongue of man cannot recount them. But what delights us most, he made her the advocate of the order and placed under her wings the sons he was about to leave that she might cherish them and protect them to the end.” (Second Life of St. Francis, Thomas of Celano)

“Mary, Mother of Jesus, is the model of listening to the Word and of Faithfulness to vocation; we, like Francis, see all the gospel virtues realized in her. The brothers and sisters should cultivate intense love for the most holy virgin, imitation, prayer, and filial abandonment. They should manifest their own devotion with expressions of genuine faith, in forms accepted by the Church.” (Art. 16.1, General Constitutions, Secular Franciscan Order)

At St. Bonaventure University in New York State, the University Chapel has a small side chapel. On the wall behind the altar was a mosaic depicting Mary with the Child Jesus, surrounded by friars. It illustrates how important Mary was to Francis and to the Franciscan Family. Francis asked her to be the Advocate for his order, his movement, before God. She is a model for us on how to live as a follower of Jesus. It begins with listening to His Gospel, then meditating on it, then living it.

One practice of meditation we have is the Franciscan Crown, a form of rosary where one meditates on seven joyful mysteries of Our Lady: 1) The Annunciation; 2) The Visitation; 3) The Birth of Our Lord; 4) The Presentation of Jesus; 5) the Finding of Jesus in the Temple; 6) the Resurrection of Our Lord; 7) The Assumption of Our Lady. The Franciscan Crown dates back to the early 15th Century, it officially became a devotion of the Franciscan Order in 1422. The Crown is a part of our spiritual legacy, during this month of May, Mary’s month, we should strive to learn more about it and practice it, in honor of Our Lady and Protectoress.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Impact on the Future Church

Conventional political wisdom is that every U.S. President wishes to make at least one appointment to the Supreme Court, or at best, several appointments; because he (or she) will then continue to have an impact on the country long after he has left office. The same could be said about the appointment of bishops in the Catholic Church.

Because of his long reign, Pope John Paul II could be said to have the most impact on the life of the Church, for good or ill, than most recent pontificates. And that influence is still being felt. Pope Benedict XVI has made some episcopal appointments, but he now has made a curial appointment that could definitely shape the future of the Church, and will be a part of his legacy. As reported by Rocco Palmo in his blog, “Whispers in the Loggia,” Cardinal Archbishop George Pell of Sydney, Australia, is rumored to soon be appointed Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. This is a sort of good news, bad news story; depending, of course, on your ecclesial point of view. Good news, if the rumor is true, observations have been made that this is another instance where the Pope has looked outside the Curia for someone to head a very crucial Vatican post. He is looking for bishops who have been out in the field, with real life experience in leading the local Church. The bad news is that Cardinal Pell is about as conservative as you can get, and is not shy about getting in people’s faces when it comes to certain issues, like the Church’s teachings on sexual relationships, women’s ordination, and the liturgy. Cardinal Pell, with the Holy Father, is on the verge of having an impact on the life of the Church that could be felt long after they both have left the Church’s stage. Heaven help us!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Time of Change Coming Closer

The National Catholic Reporter website is carrying a Catholic News Service story on the completion of the new English translation of the Roman Missal, and its presentation to Pope Benedict XVI. It is suppose to be a closer translation of the Latin, and has more formal liturgical tone. The versions that have adaptations for specific English speaking countries should be approved soon.

As I may have written in an earlier post, I am not too crazy about this translation, at least as illustrated by the samples shown on the National Catholic Conference of Bishops website. I think people will find it awkward and does not flow as it currently does. I have no idea how music composers are going to convert these words into new hymns. From my point of view, the goal of liturgy, of good liturgy, is to help people to encounter, to experience the divine. Experience it as a worshipping community; experience it by witnessing the coming of the Lord Jesus in consecrated bread and wine. Liturgical language must then aid this experience, must speak to the minds and hearts of the community. This can lead to a tension between being faithful to the Tradition handed down since the time of the Apostles; and speaking to the people of this time and place.

Still, no matter how any one of us may have felt about this translation, how it was put together, it is going to be a part of our liturgical life soon. We will just have to trust in the Holy Spirit, that it will guide us and inspire us as we gather to worship.
Image from CNS.