Monday, March 30, 2015

Palm Sunday, Beginning of Holy Week - 2015

Yesterday, March 29, 2015, Passion (Palm) Sunday, I began my third Holy Week as an ordained Deacon.  I assisted at Mass at two of the three parishes that make up the Beverly Catholic Collaborative.  At the beginning of each Mass, there was the blessing of the palms, followed by my proclaiming the Gospel reading according to Mark; of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into the city of Jerusalem.  Crowds gathered around Him, shaking palm branches, and yelling out “Hosanna,” and proclaiming that the Kingdom of David was at hand.  Yet, during that same liturgy, we would hear the Passion of Jesus Christ according to Matthew; during which the crowds are now yelling out, “Crucify Him!”   

The five weeks of Lent were meant to be a time to prepare for this Holy Week, for in many ways, this week will be the most challenging of the Church’s liturgical year.  We are to recall the events that lead to the Crucifixion of Jesus, and to His Resurrection.  We are being challenged to reflect more deeply and personally on what those events mean to our world, our Church and for ourselves personally.  We are being summoned to; if just for this week, live a life of intensive prayer and meditation.  We are being challenged to open our minds, our hearts and our souls to the presence of our Resurrected Savior, and be willing to be transformed by Him; transformed into bearers of the Good News.  Evangelizers, by word and deed; to let others know of the love and mercy of our God!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

An Old Argument Re-Surfaces, Communion in the Hand!

A long time ago, I was reading an issue of “Saint Anthony’s Messenger,” published by the Franciscan Friars.  I was scanning the comment letters, when I saw a letter in which the writer was complaining about a previous magazine cover depicting a woman holding a communion host in her cupped hands.  The writer was outraged that a Catholic magazine who depict a layperson (cannot remember if he made reference to gender) holding a consecrated Host.  The writer went on to state that because of this practice, the Eucharist was being demeaned in the eyes of the faithful.  Well, this letter got my dander up (I still had hair at the time!), and I wrote a reply, which actually was published.  As I recall what I wrote, I am sure I stressed that receiving on the tongue, or in the hand, were both valid choices.  What upset me, and continues to upset me, are those who believe that I am desecrating the Eucharist, when I receive in the hand.  For me, it is the greatest honor, the greatest joy, to be able to receive my Eucharistic Lord, in my hands.  To realize that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, loved me; loved all of us so much, that He humbles Himself each day to be with us, to feed and strengthen us.  He is willing be present in simple bread and wine, so He can be one with us.  This realization for me is awesome!

All this came to mind when I saw an article by Mathew N Schmalz, a contributor to the website Crux.  He also was commenting on how divisive how one receives Communion has become.  It is becoming a litmus test, a way to determine if you are for Vatican II reforms or against them.  Are you a “traditionalist,” or a “liberal” Catholic?  Do you believe in the sacredness of the Eucharist or not?  What should be the highest experience of Christ’s Presence among, has become just another theological or liturgical argument!

Since I was ordained as a deacon in 2012, I have distributed Communion at many, many Masses.  The vast majority of those who come forward to receive Communion come with their right hand cradled in their left hand.  Many approach me with a look of anticipation, a look of reverence in their eyes, as they receive the Body of Christ in their hands.  There are some who do come up to me and receive the Host on their tongues.  I see the same sense of reverence, in their eyes and in their voices, as they say “Amen,” and I place the Host on their tongue.  Whatever way we chose to receive the Eucharist, it is vitally important that we remember who it is we are receiving, and be open to His Eucharistic Presence.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A House Divided

March 13, 2015, was the third anniversary of the election of Pope Francis, as the supreme head of the Roman Catholic Church.  As he enters the third year of his pontificate, he appears to enjoy a great deal of support from the vast majority of the world’s Catholics.  However, on the opposite sides of the theological, ecclesiastical spectrum, there is a divided opinion.

When conservatives heard that the cardinals had elected a South American Pope, and a Jesuit no less; there were some who started getting a little nervous.  When he came out in just the white papal  cassock, throwing election night protocol to the winds, conservatives became increasingly concerned.  When traditionalists heard that he was not occupying the papal quarters; saw him adopting simpler vestments, compared to the liturgical finery of his predecessor; they were up in arms!
Then there were Pope Francis’ homilies, off the cuff remarks, and his actions towards reforming the Curia, the papal bureaucracy.  Not taking an extreme hard line approach against those who disagreed with the Church teachings on sexual matters, abortion, and homosexuality; while at the same time, denouncing the negative effects of a freewheeling capitalist system; caused some conservative commentators to question the legitimacy of his election.  Career bureaucrats in the Curia are upset over Pope Francis charges of clericalism, and cronyism in the Vatican.  They see his efforts to reform the way financial affairs are handled, as a threat to their way of patronage.  His intentions to introduce more laity, especially women, into the Vatican offices, are equally seen as threatening the curial lifestyle.

Now on the left, many saw Pope Francis as one of them, and expected a wholesale change of Church’s teachings on women’s ordination, sexual morals, homosexuality, and on divorce and remarriage.  And they were extremely disappointed when none of that happened, and with the Pope’s indications that such radical changes was unlikely to happen under his watch.  There are survivors of sexual abuse by clergy who feel that this Pope has not moved fast enough to implement worldwide protections for children, or to hold any bishops accountable for covering up the clergy abuse scandal.  Many are disheartened at the slow pace of the reform of the Curia.  There is a feeling among left wing Catholic reformists, that Pope Francis is all fluff and no substance.

Now I think the conventional wisdom is that when both extremes of a social spectrum are against you, you must be doing something right.  There are many commentators in the middle, one of them being John Allen of the Boston Globe’s website Crux, who feel that Pope Francis has already achieved much.  His reform of the Vatican’s financial system is in place, despite one curalist attempt to weaken it.  His council of cardinals, who are advising him on how to reform the Curia, has presented suggestions that have been discussed with all of Church’s cardinals.  The Synod of Bishops will convene again to discuss the status of the family in the Church and the world.  And Pope Francis continues to encourage open discussion on these and other topics among the Church’s bishops.  Where this will lead, no one is sure.  This will be a test of whether the Pope will continue to be a collegial shepherd, or be the Supreme Pontiff, enforcing his will on the bishops.  John Allen has written an interesting column on what we could see on what the third year of this pontificate might bring.  Strap in folks, this could be quite a ride!