Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pope Francis Named Time Magazine's Person of the Year

Time Magazine has named Pope Francis its "Person of the Year." Of course, like Benedict and John Paul before him, he does not aspire to celebrity. Still, this recognition is an occasion to be happy because it ultimately is about more than Jorge Bergoglio the person - it shows that, as secularized as our culture has become, still there is a hunger for the spiritual. Even if the story below from Time gets some things wrong about the papacy, the Church, and Catholicism in general (and unfortunately uses what should be a moment of praise to, yet again, take unfair and mean-spirited slaps at Popes Benedict and John Paul), the award itself is nevertheless heartening and can be understood another step in that continuing journey of the secular in dialogue with faith.

Pope Francis, The People’s Pope
Time Magazine
December 11, 2013
On the edge of Buenos Aires is a nothing little street called Pasaje C, a shot of dried mud leading into a slum from what passes for a main road, the garbage - strewn Mariano Acosta. There is a church, the Immaculate Virgin, toward the end of the ­pasaje — Spanish for passage — where, on one occasion, the local priest and a number of frightened residents took refuge deep in the sanctuary when rival drug gangs opened fire. . . .

The word asesino — ­murderer — is scrawled in spray-paint on the sooty wall of a burned-out house, which was torched just days before in retaliation for yet another shooting. Packs of dogs sprawl beneath wrecked cars. Children wander heedless of traffic, because nothing can gather speed on these jagged roads. But even Pasaje C can lead to Rome.

As Cardinal and Archbishop of Buenos Aires, a metropolis of some 13.5 million souls, Jorge Mario Bergoglio made room in his schedule every year for a pastoral visit to this place of squalor and sorrow.­ . . . On other days, there were other journeys to barrios throughout the city — so many in need of so much, but none too poor or too filthy for a visit from this itinerant prince of the church. Reza por mí, he asked almost everyone he met. Pray for me.

When, on March 13, Bergoglio inherited the throne of St. Peter—keeper of the keys to the kingdom of heaven—he made the same request of the world. Pray for me. . . .
To read more, go to: TIME's Person of the Year 2013 Pope Francis, The People's Pope

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Fifty Years of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

Today is the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, on December 4, 1963. Understanding the primal importance of the liturgy, this was the first document approved by the Second Vatican Council and it followed a long and growing "liturgical movement," which extended back for many decades. Many prior popes and bishops, including St. Pope Pius X, had recognized the need for various reforms to meet people's desire for deeper appreciation of and greater lay participation in the Holy Mass.

One of those involved in the liturgical movement was Father Joseph Ratzinger, who was a peritus (advisor) to the Council (and later became Pope Benedict XVI). In his contemporary account, he described how important the sacred liturgy is and why the situation as it existed prior to the Council demonstrated an evident need for renewal.
[F]or the Church, divine worship is a matter of life and death. If it is no longer possible to bring the faithful to worship God, and in such a way that they themselves perform this worship, then the Church has failed in its task and can no longer justify its existence. But it was on precisely this point that a profound crisis occured in the life of the Church. Its roots reach far back. In the late Middle Ages, awareness of the real essence of Christian worhip increasingly vanished. Great importance was attached to externals, and these choked out essentials. (Theological Highlights of Vatican II, 129)
Although the Council of Trent eliminated some abuses that had crept into the liturgy over time and made some reforms to prevent new overgrowths in the future, Father Ratzinger noted that this created its own problems.
The main measure [after the Council of Trent] was to centralize all liturgical authority in the Sacred Congregation of Rites . . . This authority completely lacked historical perspective; it viewed the liturgy solely in terms of ceremonial rubrics, treating it as a kind of problem of proper court etiquette for sacred matters. This resulted in the complete archaizing of the liturgy, which now passed from the stage of living history, became embalmed in the status quo and was ultimately doomed to internal decay. The liturgy had become a rigid, fixed and firmly encrusted system; the more out of touch with genuine piety, the more attention was paid to its prescribed norms. . . . The baroque era adjusted to this situation by superimposing a kind of para-liturgy on the archaized actual liturgy. Accompanied by the splendor of orchestral performance, the baroque high Mass became a kind of sacred opera in which the chants of the priest functioned as a kind of periodic recitative. The entire performance seemed to aim at a kind of festive lifting of the heart, enhanced by the beauty of a celebration appealing to the eye and ear. On ordinary days, when such display was not possible, the Mass was frequently covered over with devotions more attractive to the popular mentality. . . . In practice this meant that while the priest was busy with his archaic liturgy, the people were busy with their devotions to Mary. They were united with the priest only by being in the same church with him and by consigning themselves to the sacred power of the eucharistic sacrifice. (Theological Highlights of Vatican II, 130-32)
Faced with this situation, as the bishops themselves could see in their own churches, the Council Fathers saw the need for liturgical renewal, including taking steps to make a reality the expressed desire of Pope Pius X for greater "active participation" on the part of the laity.
In order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the sacred liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself. For the liturgy is made up of immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it.

In this restoration, both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify; the Christian people, so far as possible, should be enabled to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community. (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 21)
Clearly, then, this was not a "reinvention" of the Mass, nor was it the creation of a "new Mass," as that term is sometimes derisively used. As a matter of sacramental doctrine, there is one and only one Mass, just as there is only one God, one holy sacrifice of Christ, and one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Rather, as the text indicates, this was to be a restoration of the whole purpose of the liturgy – "when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects. . . . Such participation by the Christian people as 'a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people' (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism." (Id., 11, 14).

It is to their credit that our excellent priests at Blessed Sacrament have helped to make the blessings of Sacrosanctum Concilium a reality. And thanks to Bishop Loverde, and Bishops Keating and Welsh before him, that the sacred liturgy throughout the Diocese of Arlington is so reverent and fruitful. (Sadly, in some locales this is not always the case, as many of us discover when we travel during the holidays and go to Mass in some other diocese and/or as some others of us experienced back in the 1970s. Although the Mass is always holy – because Christ himself who is present in the Mass is holy – that much-needed reverence can sometimes be lacking.)

The fruits of Sacrosanctum Concilium are many, but understanding that our faith is a journey, there is still room for us to grow, to move ever closer to the Lord. As Pope Francis has been saying a lot in a variety of contexts, let us ask God for this grace in the sacred liturgy, to be more worthily disposed and to grow deeper in the love of Christ, the Holy Bridegroom of the Church.

Monday, December 2, 2013

George Weigel Speaking at Blessed Sacrament This Evening

This evening, Monday, December 2, after the 7 p.m. Mass, Blessed Sacrament will once again welcome renowned author George Weigel who will speak about the joy of "full-time Catholicism," in light of his new book Evangelical Catholicism - Deep Reform in the 21st Century Church and, no doubt, Pope Francis' recent apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium on the proclamation of the Gospel in today's world.

"Recreational Catholicism — Catholicism as a traditional, leisure-time activity absorbing perhaps ninety minutes of one’s time on a weekend — is over," observes Mr. Weigel.
Full-time Catholicism — a Catholicism that, as the Second Vatican Council taught, infuses all of life and calls everyone in the Church to holiness and mission — is the only possible Catholicism in the twenty-first century.

The Evangelical Catholicism of the future is a Catholicism of radical conversion, deep fidelity, joyful discipleship, and courageous evangelism. Evangelical Catholics put friendship with the Lord Jesus at the center of everything: personal identity, relationships, activity. Evangelical Catholics strive for fidelity despite the wounds of sin, and do so through a daily encounter with the Word of God in the Bible and a regular embrace of Christ through a frequent reception of the sacraments.

Evangelical Catholics experience dry seasons and dark nights, like everyone else; but they live through those experiences by finding their meaning in a deeper conformity to the Cross of Christ — on the far side of which is the unmatchable joy of Easter, the experience of which gives the people of the Church the courage to be Catholic. And evangelical Catholics measure the quality of their discipleship by whether, and to what extent, they give to others what they have been given: by the degree to which they deepen others’ friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ, or bring others to meet the unique savior of the world.
Mr. Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, is one of the world’s leading authorities of the Catholic Church. He is the author of more than twenty books and is a regular columnist for the Arlington Catholic Herald. Before Evangelical Catholicism, Mr. Weigel is perhaps best known for his comprehensive biography of Blessed Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope, as well as God's Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church, written shortly after the 2005 Conclave.

Please join us this evening for this informative and timely discussion.