05 May 2012

Dare to ask for pruning

[NB.  An edited homily from 2006. . .]

5th Sunday of Easter (2012)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

During the summer of 1991, I sat on a five-gallon pickle bucket all day everyday pruning tomato vines. The hothouses in the field were lined up like barracks. Each of the twelve houses were covered in thick plastic and they fluttered as a huge fan pulled the air through, cooling the plants. I started at the first house nearest the road and worked slowly each week from the first house to the twelfth house, pruning the suckers that grew in the between the branches and the vine. Cutting the suckers away is a necessary step in the growth of the plant. Suckers drain moisture and nutrients from the vines. They look exactly like the good branches; however, one bears fruit, the other doesn’t. Cutting the branch that bears no fruit makes the whole plant healthier. At the end of each day, I would sweep up the pruned suckers and it felt like going to confession or taking a bath, a sacrament of clearing away, brushing out the debris, pushing along the stuff of distraction, diversion, and disease. I ended each day with a fire—the dried suckers burning at the edge of the field, sending bitter smoke into the trees, making my eyes water. 

Jesus reveals to his disciples that he is the true vine and that his Father is the vine grower. His Father cuts away branches that do not bear fruit and prunes the ones that do. Then Jesus says to the disciples: “You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.” Because I have revealed the Father to you, because I have taught you the way of salvation in mercy, because I have given you to one another as a Body, because I am the Word speaking the Word to you, because you have died with me and will suffer for me, because you will rise again with me and see the Father face-to-face, and because I am the way, the truth, and the life—because I have taught you, given you, shown you, lead you, and because I love you—you are pruned, productively wounded, and more than ready to bear the fruit of the Spirit that marks you as mine. 

Are you pruned to produce the fruits of the Spirit that mark you as a child of Christ? In his letter to us this morning, John writes: “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth[…]this is how we will know that we belong to the truth[…].” We know that we belong to the truth—to Christ the true vine—when we produce the good fruit of charity, when we not only talk about doing good for others, but when we actually do the good for others. To produce the good fruit of love is to fashion from the Word given you a life wholly surrendered to the service of the truth, to the service of Christ, the true vine. To keep his commandments of fidelity—to believe in his Name, Jesus Christ, and to love one another—this is what pleases him. 

Have you wholly surrendered to the service of Truth? Being good postmodern folks, I bet most of us heard a little whisper in our hearts just then, the small voice of Pilate asking: what is truth? Aren’t we conditioned to ask these sorts of questions, trained to a certain skepticism about claims of this or that being true? We know that truth demands our obedience, morally obligates us to believe, so, eyes askance and lips pursed, we ask what any sensible soul would: what is truth? In his letter this morning, John writes: “Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from Him whatever we ask[…].” The NRSV says that we have “boldness before God” because we believe and pray in obedience to His will for us. The disciples in Jerusalem did not believe that Saul was a son of the true vine. Only after he had spoken boldly, confidently, in the name of Jesus, teaching the faith in truth and love to the Hellenists, only then did they recognize him as a brother in Christ. 

Truth, then, is a relationship, the way that we live and move in the love of Christ, the way we witness publicly to him. Truth is the love that the Father and the Son have for one another, the love of the Holy Spirit. John writes: “Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us.” Those who surrender their lives to the service of the truth—to the service of the love shared in the Blessed Trinity—are true branches, fruitful in charity, ready to be pruned to perfection. 

What do you need God to prune? What suckers are sucking the life from your branches, depriving your good fruits of nourishment? What falsehoods have attached themselves to the truth? What lies scar your relationship with Christ? What sins block your roots from receiving the good food of the Spirit? What do you need God to prune? Do you need God to prune away the false notion that there is another way to Him other than His Son, Jesus Christ? Do you need God to prune away the false teaching that your conscience decides what's true and false? Do you need God to prune away the false notion that love is just a warm, fuzzy feeling that makes us all cuddly to others? Do you need God to prune away the false teaching that loving means unconditional acceptance and approval of any and everything any and everyone wants to believe or do? Do you need God to prune away the false notion that you can earn His love, work for His approval? Do you need God to prune away the false notion that He will condemn you in anger, in righteous fury? Do you need God to prune away the false notion that you can live fruitfully in His love but without His truth?

We cannot bear the fruit of love without the vine of truth. Cut off from truth, our love withers. Cut off from the true vine, from the vine grower, we find ourselves in the fire at the edge of the field, burning, sending up acrid smoke and puffs of ash. Our assurance that we remain in Christ and he remains in us is our life in the Spirit, our participation in the life of the Body, the Church. How else do we maintain a fruitful confidence, a boldness before God that we are loved? With hearts schooled in the Word, hearts strictly poised for obedience, eager to hear and listen, we are one mind, one spirit surrendered to truth, given to the service of God for one another, and brought to perfection as disciples who greatly please our Teacher. Surely we can look around and see the drying suckers of falsehood pruned from our branches. Surely we can see the suckers that still need pruning. But more surely, most certainly, we know that so long as we remain in Christ—believe in his name and love one another—he will remain in us. 

Boldly ask for what you need. Start with what needs pruning. Start with what clogs your roots, what prevents your growth in love and truth. Boldly ask to have pride, anger, lust, and fear pruned. Boldly ask to have hatred, selfishness, spite, and self-pity pruned. Boldly ask to have envy, pettiness, vengeance, and despair pruned. And then in all humility ask to love more, to love larger, deeper, wider, longer, to love in greater truth, to bear abundant good fruit and to love, always to love, for His greater glory, to love for no other reason than to praise His holy Name and share the abundant good fruits of His Holy Spirit! 

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PNP, OP Updates

Thanks for the notes inquiring about my blood pressure/general health!  My cardiologist has wrangled the HBP into decent shape with a handful of pills.  The weight continues to S-L-O-W-L-Y melt away.  Feeling pretty good these days.

A couple of New Things are on the horizon for me. . .please pray that God's will be done and that I have the courage to say Yes.

Starting in May, Yours Truly will be a teacher in the Master Catechist certification program for the archdiocese.  I'll be teaching Sacraments/Worship and The Creed.  

Also, I'm hoping/praying for an adjunct position in philosophy or English at Notre Dame Seminary, NOLA, starting in August.  

I'm off to Summit, NJ in June to sit in seminar with the Most Holy Dominican Nuns of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary.  We will be reading and discussing BXVI's Deus caritas est.  Help the Good Nuns by visiting their soap shop!

In October, I'll be in Ortonville, MI with the Most Holy Dominican Nuns of the Monastery of Mt. Thabor

Yesterday, I was invited to bless the state championship rings of the girls' soccer team at Mt. Carmel Academy.  Congrats, ladies! 

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A shout out to Shelly R. for the Garrigou-Lagrange book. . .

Thanks!  And I'm very glad that you enjoy the homilies.

Fr. Philip Neri, OP

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Coffee Cup Browsing

Anti-bullying activist bullies Christian students with obscene insults.  Scratch a self-anointed "victim" and you get a tyrant.  Every. Single. Time.

Hysterical anti-Catholic Catholic Dowd claims that the Church is hunting women.  Pieces like this are designed to whip up the base and make the topic at hand untouchable for the opposition.

Because their Suicidal Allegiance to the Zeitgeist has proven so fruitful. . .

"Diversity sensitivity training" promotes prejudice.  No. 2 is particularly important.  I call these folks The Hoping to be Offended.

Only the "right-wing" can be terrorists. . .the Southern Poverty Law Center sold its soul to the Left years ago.

The ravages of Spirit of Vatican Two Butterflies & Rainbows catechesis. . .

"Giving scandal" doesn't mean what you think it means. . .Shea is pretty smart, especially when he agrees with me.

The USCCB is muddying the waters in its fight for religious freedom.

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04 May 2012

Permanently dwelling with the Father

4th Week of Easter (F)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Jesus is saying a long goodbye to his disciples. He knows that his departure is causing them a great deal of anxiety. He tells them all that will happen to him in the next week or so: his betrayal, arrest, trial, torture, and execution. Knowing this, the disciples are not only worried for their Master but for themselves as well. Jesus tries to console his friends by assuring them that they will follow him on the Way. Always the worrier, Thomas asks, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” This is a strange question given that Jesus had just said, “In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” Thomas' question is evidence of his anxiety, his fear. Basically, he's not thinking clearly, allowing his building grief to overwhelm his reason. Had he been paying more careful attention, or had he been a little less distraught, Thomas would've caught on to what Jesus was saying: there's more than enough in the Father's house, enough room for everyone who will follow me. 

The Greek word monai (μοναὶ) is variously translated into English as “mansions,” “rooms,” or “dwelling places.” All of these capture the basic idea that there are enough rooms in the Father's house for all who want to live there. Digging a bit deeper into the Greek word reveals a subtle connotation that the English words do not immediately translate: permanency; that is, monai means a permanent dwelling place, a room or house in which one resides for a long time. Digging even deeper, we discover that monai can also be used as a verb to mean “to live with permanently,” or “to dwell with over time.” So, Jesus is saying to the disciples, “I'm going to prepare a permanent place for you to live in my Father's house and there you will dwell permanently.” Both the place and the living there are permanent. Why is this important? Think about Jesus' ministry and the nomadic culture he ministered to—shepherds, fishermen, soldiers, merchants, all people who were used to roaming about, pulling up stakes and heading off to the next town. Jesus himself wandered the countryside with his disciples, coming and going whenever the Spirit moved him. Now, at the end, he's telling his friends that he's leaving again. This time without them! What better way to console their grief at his departure than to assure them that not only is he coming back to get them but also that he is taking them to a permanent place to dwell? 

The monai of the Father's house are not tents nor are they rented rooms or sleeping bags. They are mansions for family members, suites for sons and daughters who live from now on with the Father. We often refer to ourselves as a Pilgrim People; a nation of priests, prophets, and kings on a pilgrimage from the darkness of sin to the brightness of freedom. Along the way we suffer, rejoice, prosper, fail but at the last, in the end, if we endure the pilgrimage, we arrive at our appointed place, our inheritance as children of God: a permanent dwelling with the Father. Some will dismiss this promise as “pie in the sky by-and-by,” just a way to keep us in line while evil rules. But we know that our Lord never promised us a comfy ride; he never promised us that our pilgrimage following him would be smooth and easy. All that he ever promised us is that he would be with us always, no matter how rough it got, no matter how desperate the situation—he is with us always. With Christ along for the ride, nothing can defeat us. We know that there is a permanent dwelling place for us in the house of the Father.

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03 May 2012

Am I a revelation of God?

Ss. Philip and James
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to his Father to prepare a place for them, “Where I am going you know the way.” Our hard-headed brother, Thomas, filled with worrisome questions, asks, “How can we know the way?” Jesus answers, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. . .Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do. . .” The Way to the Father is to believe in his Son and to manifest the Holy Spirit by doing the works that Christ did. The Church teaches that Christ Jesus is the “perfected revelation” of God. The bishops of the Second Vatican Council write, “To see Jesus is to see His Father. For this reason Jesus perfected revelation by fulfilling it through his whole work of making Himself present and manifesting Himself. . .”(DV 4). So that we might have access to the Father, the Son of God is given to us as a fulfillment of all revelation. Christ is how the Father made good on His promises to the His people. When we believe in the Christ and do the works that he did, we participate in God's revelation to His creation. 

OK. That's some heavy-duty stuff. Let's break it down a bit. First, any good work that we do is done b/c we share in the goodness of God by His grace. We do no good work on our own. Next, if the good works that we do always share in the goodness of God, then it follows that our good works demonstrate something of God's nature; namely, they manifest God's goodness, His abundant generosity. The more good works we do, the more fruitfully we participate in God's goodness. The more we participate in God's goodness, the more we reveal about God's nature. Our goal here is to become “perfected revelations” of God. Of course, as long as we remain on this side of heaven, our particular revelations will be imperfect, incomplete; however, the perfect should never be an enemy of the good. That we cannot be perfect revelations of God right now cannot be allowed to prevent us from being the best possible revelations that we can be! Even imperfect revelations of God can bring to the light of Christ those who are lost in darkness. We are vowed in baptism to be small lamps along the Way for yourselves and for another. 

Jesus says that those who know him also know the Father. The challenge this presents for us is: can those who are lost know the Father by knowing me? Now, Catholics seem to instinctively shy away from this kind of question b/c it sounds very Protestant, very Evangelical. Our instincts lead us toward a more devotional life, a life of corporate public prayer (Mass) and private, personal devotion (novenas, rosaries). We do not gravitate toward public witness or showy evangelization. Being a revelation of God to the world does not require theatrics—no soapboxes in the town square or radio programs or going door to door. All that is required is that when we are presented with the chance to act, to speak, to think like Christ, we do so. And in that act or word or deed we reveal God's goodness and shine His light in the darkness. Will that light result in a lost soul finding the Way? Maybe, maybe not. That's God's work. Our work, the work we have vowed to do, is to shine Christ's light everywhere we go, in everything we do, and be—though imperfect—living revelations of God. If you will be perfect as the Father is perfect, ask yourself every minute of the day: am I—right this minute—revealing the goodness of God, His abundant gift of mercy and love?

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Two belated Fat Reports. . .

I realized this morning that there's been no Wednesday Fat Report in two weeks!

Last Wednesday, I weighed in at 326lbs.  Yikes.

Yesterday, the scale reported 324lbs.  Better.

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02 May 2012

Two Thank You's

Thanks to Patrick Q. for the Kindle Book!  I've been looking forward to getting this one for some time.

Also, a big Thank You to Jean B. for the Garrigou-Lagrange book from the Wish List!   Glad you found that post helpful.

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No homily?

Why no homily posted this morning, Father?

Well, you see. . .Fr. Mike and I trade off the two daily Masses on a weekly basis.  This week I'm scheduled to celebrate the 5.30pm Masses. . .except for today.  

I didn't look at the schedule.  So, about 8.20 this morning, my phone rings and its the sacristan wanting to know if I knew that I had the 8.30am Mass.  I didn't.  

The upshot is that I had to ad-lib a homily on just one cup of coffee!  YIKES!  

No one threw a missalette at me, so I guess it wasn't horrible.

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30 April 2012

Listen to the Shepherd not the Stranger

4th Week of Easter (M)/St. Pope Pius V
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

At Mass yesterday, we heard Peter's proclamation of the name and nature of our Savior. Speaking to the partisan Jews and their leaders, Peter says of the Christ, “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved." Today, we heard Jesus say, “I am the gate for the sheep. . .Whoever enters through me will be saved. . .I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” Given these two proclamations and the concurring proclamations of the remainder of scripture, it would difficult—probably impossible—for us to conclude that the name of Jesus is just one of many attractive yet equally effective names we might call upon for our salvation. It seems abundantly clear that the name of Jesus is only name we might utter for the good of our spiritual health. And yet, we are still tempted to scratch our itchy ears with the names of the thieves and robbers that promise us an easier way over the fence and through the gate. Jesus says of his sheep, “. . .they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” Do we recognize the voices of the strangers who try to steal us from the Lord's pasture? 

One way of approaching this question is to name names. Who are these strangers? Name them so that we might know them. That would be futile since strangers come and go. Though the lies they tell never change, their names do. We could run through a list of recognized heresies, but how many of us could identify modern versions of Arianism, Donatism, or Pelagianism? We could rehearse the Creeds of the Church and point out contemporary examples of those who would have us believe that our redemption and holiness proceed from sources other than the Self-gift of the Holy Trinity. But that too would be useless b/c—as I've said—the names change. What never changes is the lie; the falsehood that there are names other than Jesus upon which we might call for our salvation. So, the best way of approaching our original question—do we recognize the voices of strangers?—is to be very clear about what it means to hear the voice of our Shepherd, Christ Jesus. What does it mean to call upon his name for our salvation? 

Everything we need to begin and end the awesome work of cooperating with God's grace for our salvation can be found in scripture, our faith-family's history of living and dying with Christ. To ensure that the preaching and teaching of the Good News would continue after his resurrection and ascension, our Lord commissioned his apostles to go out into the world and teach everything that he had taught them. With the fiery assistance of the Holy Spirit, they did exactly that. Their students became apostles and theirs after them and so on until we arrive in 2012 with the successor of St. Peter and a College of Bishops who succeed the apostles in the teaching and preaching ministry of Christ. Our history of living and dying with Christ, authentically interpreted by the magisterium of the Church, tunes our ears to hear the voice of our Shepherd, to recognize his voice, and follow him into his pastures. When it comes to leading us on The Way, no other voice speaks with this authority, with this legitimacy. No philosopher, theologian, politician, scientist, guru, apparition, or best-selling author possesses the singular grace of our bishops in teaching us to hear the voice of the Lord. If you will hear his voice and follow his lead, then listen to his Church, his Body on Earth. And treat the thieves and robbers as the wolves they really are!

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29 April 2012

Sweating for Jesus, or My Kingdom for a Hankie!

St. Paul was given a "thorn in his flesh" to keep him humble.  We all have something that reminds us we are mortal.

Mine is sweating.  Not just a healthy sheen of sweat but rivers of perspiration running down my collar.  If you've ever attended a Mass where I celebrated, you've seen me wiping my brow every fifteen seconds or so.

Most who witness my thorn in action assume that all these excess pounds I carry around cause this unsightly problem.  Not so.  When I was 190lbs. at 18, I could sweat through a McDonald's uniform in twenty minutes flat.  Being overweight doesn't help the problem but it doesn't cause it either.  Nor am I nervous about public speaking. My cardiologist tells me that high blood pressure can exasperate the problem, but years of HBP meds haven't helped the sweating.

I've tried everything known to the gods and science--medical, herbal, mechanical, and spiritual.  The only thing I haven't tried and will not try is surgery.  Too dangerous and expensive.

I'm going to give science one more try before I submit to my thorn and offer up my sufferings.  Just ordered a box of SweatBlock.  

Since I know you are all sitting on the edge of your seats, hyperventilating in anticipation of how this stuff works, I'll keep you posted. 

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Good Shepherds & Good Sheep

[NB.  Our deacons are preaching this weekend, so here's a repost of a Good Shepherd homily from 2007.  The readings are not from the 4th Sunday of Easter, but the gospel readings cover the same material.]

16th Sunday OT: Jer 23.1-6; Eph 2.13-18; Mark 6.30-34
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Sisters of St Mary of Namur

Shepherds all over the world must quake in their sandals when they hear Jeremiah prophesy: “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the Lord. . .against the shepherds who shepherd my people [the Lord says]: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.” If these malicious sheep-herders don't flinch in fear at this warning, they should! They have taken on not only the hard work of keeping their sheep safe from the wolves, they have placed themselves squarely in the sight of the sheep's owner who watches his flock with an unblinking eye. What the Lord knows and the shepherds should know is that the dangers of the wilderness loom all the more ominously when the flock is divided. One set of shepherd's eyes cannot keep watch over a flock separated by hungry wolves. The lambs are the first to die, but the killing rarely stops there. And so says the Lord: “I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing...” The Lord has done more than appoint responsible shepherds for his flock; He has sent us the Good Shepherd who keeps the flock together, creating in his own body one flock, one people. Woe to the wolves who would divide his flock and woe to any of the Lord's shepherds would let the wolves among his sheep!

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and his disciples are exhausted and hungry because they have been preaching the Word and healing the sick for many days. They retreat to a deserted place to grab a snack and catch a quick nap. Leaving in a boat to find a moment of peace, they are astonished to find that a vast crowd of clamoring souls waiting for them when they arrive. Mark tells us that when Jesus sees the crowd “his heart [is] moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he [begins] to teach them many things.” Not yet made one flock in Christ, the vast crowd is united however in achieving a single purpose: they are in pursuit of the Truth—a truth that binds and heals in the binding.

Hungry for a Word of healing and compassion, those in the crowd are relentless in chasing down Jesus and his disciples. They are sheep without a shepherd. Men and women without protection, without a teacher. They have been abandoned by their appointed shepherds who rule them from the temple with the legal commentary and ritual minutiae. They are mislead and scattered by shepherds who attend to nothing but their own power and prestige. No longer born or raised in compassion, the people of the crowd seek after a better way, another path to their Lord's affections. In the preaching and good works of Jesus they see and hear a way to be one people again, living and loving under the merciful eyes of their God. What they do not yet understand is that the way of Christ they hope to follow will lead them into a flock larger and more robust than any they have ever imagined possible. This is just one of the many true things that Jesus has to teach them.

Many years after Jesus looks out over the vast crowd with compassion and teaches them the way to salvation, Paul writes to the young church in Ephesus, reminding them of their of spiritual history, calling to mind again their fallen state before the coming of Christ. He writes, “You were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you once lived...All of us once lived among them in the desires of our flesh...and we were by nature children of wrath...Therefore, remember that [you] were at that time without Christ, alienated from the community of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world.” Dead in sin. Children of wrath. Alienated from Israel. Strangers to the covenants. Without hope. Without God. Without God in the world until the Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us as one of us. Having devastated the Ephesian pride by retelling their mournful history without Christ, Paul goes on to teach them one true thing: “...through [his] flesh, [Christ] abolish[ed] the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two...” This new creation brings the Father's two children together in peace—His chosen people and the people who choose Him: all of Israel and the Gentile world. One person—one body, one soul made whole again in Christ.

The unity we enjoy as sheep in the Good Shepherd's flock binds us and heals us in the binding. No longer outside the promises of the covenant, we as a Body live and love with one heart and one soul, burdened by nothing more than a lightened load carried under the well-worn yoke of a Master Craftsman. And though our unity—more often than makes for a good witness—creaks under the strain of theological and cultural differences, we can look toward the ultimate fulfillment of our created purpose to be Christs for the world and find—if nothing more—a blueprint, a promise for what it looks like to stand before the throne of God and sing His praises with one voice, to worship in His glory as nation, a people, a priesthood of prophets and kings. But if we live now dreaming only of a perfected future, we fail to do the work of the apostles; we fail to go out and teach everything that the Lord as taught us. Who will hear the Word if no one speaks it? Who will speak the Word if no one is sent.

We are sent to speak the Word of reconciliation and peace to the world to hear. Not words of passive forgetting or surrender, not words of capitulation and withdrawal from conflict, but the Word of God Who created us to love Him and one another. As brothers and sisters in Christ we are both sheep and shepherds, leaders and the led. If we will to be good shepherds, then we must will to be good sheep. And as faithful leaders, we will listen eagerly to the warning Jeremiah sends from the Lord: “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture...” The wolves circling the flock are called by many names: Indifference, Violence, Relativism, Scientism, Repression of Freedom, Slavery to Material Desire, New Ageism, and many, many others. The immediate and most effective means of confronting these wolves is the teaching of Christ in his Church, the ancient and unbroken teaching of many true things.

We are no longer a vast crowd clamoring after Jesus and his disciples for healing in the truth. He has given us every truth we are capable of hearing. Our task now is to grow in our hearing so that our understanding may overflow in love, and by overflowing in love, draw us closer and closer to the holiness we were made to enjoy.
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Liturgical Abuses, or Praying with the Church

In 2004, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued the document, Redemptionis sacramentum in order to correct a number of pervasive liturgical abuses. This document is not well known, or not well known enough. Here are some of the more salient paragraphs for your consideration:

6. For abuses “contribute to the obscuring of the Catholic faith and doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament.” Thus, they also hinder the faithful from “re-living in a certain way the experience of the two disciples of Emmaus: ‘and their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.’ For in the presence of God’s power and divinity and the splendor of his goodness, made manifest especially in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, it is fitting that all the faithful should have and put into practice that power of acknowledging God’s majesty that they have received through the saving Passion of the Only-Begotten Son.

[Abuses rooted in a false understanding of liberty]*

7. Not infrequently, abuses are rooted in a false understanding of liberty. Yet God has not granted us in Christ an illusory liberty by which we may do what we wish, but a liberty by which we may do that which is fitting and right. This is true not only of precepts coming directly from God, but also of laws promulgated by the Church, with appropriate regard for the nature of each norm. For this reason, all should conform to the ordinances set forth by legitimate ecclesiastical authority.

11. The Mystery of the Eucharist “is too great for anyone to permit himself to treat it according to his own whim, so that its sacredness and its universal ordering would be obscured.” On the contrary, anyone who acts thus by giving free reign to his own inclinations, even if he is a Priest, injures the substantial unity of the Roman Rite, which ought to be vigorously preserved, and becomes responsible for actions that are in no way consistent with the hunger and thirst for the living God that is experienced by the people today. Nor do such actions serve authentic pastoral care or proper liturgical renewal; instead, they deprive Christ’s faithful of their patrimony and their heritage. For arbitrary actions are not conducive to true renewal, but are detrimental to the right of Christ’s faithful to a liturgical celebration that is an expression of the Church’s life in accordance with her tradition and discipline. In the end, they introduce elements of distortion and disharmony into the very celebration of the Eucharist, which is oriented in its own lofty way and by its very nature to signifying and wondrously bringing about the communion of divine life and the unity of the People of God. The result is uncertainty in matters of doctrine, perplexity and scandal on the part of the People of God, and, almost as a necessary consequence, vigorous opposition, all of which greatly confuse and sadden many of Christ’s faithful in this age of ours when Christian life is often particularly difficult on account of the inroads of “secularization” as well.

12. On the contrary, it is the right of all of Christ’s faithful that the Liturgy, and in particular the celebration of Holy Mass, should truly be as the Church wishes, according to her stipulations as prescribed in the liturgical books and in the other laws and norms. Likewise, the Catholic people have the right that the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass should be celebrated for them in an integral manner, according to the entire doctrine of the Church’s Magisterium. Finally, it is the Catholic community’s right that the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist should be carried out for it in such a manner that it truly stands out as a sacrament of unity, to the exclusion of all blemishes and actions that might engender divisions and factions in the Church.

[Baptismal and Ordained priesthoods differ in kind not degree]

36. The celebration of the Mass, as the action of Christ and of the Church, is the center of the whole Christian life for the universal as well as the particular Church, and also for the individual faithful, who are involved “in differing ways according to the diversity of orders, ministries, and active participation.” “In this way the Christian people, ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy people, a people God has made his own,’ manifests its coherent and hierarchical ordering.” “For the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical Priesthood, though they differ in essence and not only in degree, are ordered to one another, for both partake, each in its own way, of the one Priesthood of Christ.”

38. The constant teaching of the Church on the nature of the Eucharist not only as a meal, but also and pre-eminently as a Sacrifice, is therefore rightly understood to be one of the principal keys to the full participation of all the faithful in so great a Sacrament. For when “stripped of its sacrificial meaning, the mystery is understood as if its meaning and importance were simply that of a fraternal banquet.”

[Proper understanding of "active participation"]

40. Nevertheless, from the fact that the liturgical celebration obviously entails activity, it does not follow that everyone must necessarily have something concrete to do beyond the actions and gestures, as if a certain specific liturgical ministry must necessarily be given to the individuals to be carried out by them. Instead, catechetical instruction should strive diligently to correct those widespread superficial notions and practices often seen in recent years in this regard, and ever to instill anew in all of Christ’s faithful that sense of deep wonder before the greatness of the mystery of faith that is the Eucharist, in whose celebration the Church is forever passing from what is obsolete into newness of life: “in novitatem a vetustate.”

45. To be avoided is the danger of obscuring the complementary relationship between the action of clerics and that of laypersons, in such a way that the ministry of laypersons undergoes what might be called a certain “clericalization,” while the sacred ministers inappropriately assume those things that are proper to the life and activity of the lay faithful.

[Male servers preferred, female servers permitted]

47. It is altogether laudable to maintain the noble custom by which boys or youths, customarily termed “servers,” provide service of the altar after the manner of acolytes, and receive catechesis regarding their function in accordance with their power of comprehension. Nor should it be forgotten that a great number of sacred ministers over the course of the centuries have come from among boys such as these. Associations for them, including also the participation and assistance of their parents, should be established or promoted, and in such a way greater pastoral care will be provided for the ministers. Whenever such associations are international in nature, it pertains to the competence of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to establish them or to approve and revise their statutes.121 Girls or women may also be admitted to this service of the altar, at the discretion of the diocesan Bishop and in observance of the established norms.

[No ad-lib Eucharistic Prayers]

51. Only those Eucharistic Prayers are to be used which are found in the Roman Missal or are legitimately approved by the Apostolic See, and according to the manner and the terms set forth by it. “It is not to be tolerated that some Priests take upon themselves the right to compose their own Eucharistic Prayers” or to change the same texts approved by the Church, or to introduce others composed by private individuals.

59. The reprobated practice by which Priests, Deacons or the faithful here and there alter or vary at will the texts of the Sacred Liturgy that they are charged to pronounce, must cease. For in doing thus, they render the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy unstable, and not infrequently distort the authentic meaning of the Liturgy.

[No non-biblical readings at Mass]

62. It is also illicit to omit or to substitute the prescribed biblical readings on one’s own initiative, and especially “to substitute other, non-biblical texts for the readings and responsorial Psalm, which contain the word of God.”

63. Within the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, the reading of the Gospel, which is “the high point of the Liturgy of the Word,” is reserved by the Church’s tradition to an ordained minister. Thus it is not permitted for a layperson, even a religious, to proclaim the Gospel reading in the celebration of Holy Mass, nor in other cases in which the norms do not explicitly permit it.

[No lay homilies at Mass]

64. The homily, which is given in the course of the celebration of Holy Mass and is a part of the Liturgy itself, “should ordinarily be given by the Priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating Priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to a Deacon, but never to a layperson. In particular cases and for a just cause, the homily may even be given by a Bishop or a Priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate.”

65. It should be borne in mind that any previous norm that may have admitted non-ordained faithful to give the homily during the eucharistic celebration is to be considered abrogated by the norm of canon 767 §1. This practice is reprobated, so that it cannot be permitted to attain the force of custom.

66. The prohibition of the admission of laypersons to preach within the Mass applies also to seminarians, students of theological disciplines, and those who have assumed the function of those known as “pastoral assistants”; nor is there to be any exception for any other kind of layperson, or group, or community, or association.

[Proper subjects for the homily]

67. Particular care is to be taken so that the homily is firmly based upon the mysteries of salvation, expounding the mysteries of the Faith and the norms of Christian life from the biblical readings and liturgical texts throughout the course of the liturgical year and providing commentary on the texts of the Ordinary or the Proper of the Mass, or of some other Rite of the Church. It is clear that all interpretations of Sacred Scripture are to be referred back to Christ himself as the one upon whom the entire economy of salvation hinges, though this should be done in light of the specific context of the liturgical celebration. In the homily to be given, care is to be taken so that the light of Christ may shine upon life’s events. Even so, this is to be done so as not to obscure the true and unadulterated word of God: for instance, treating only of politics or profane subjects, or drawing upon notions derived from contemporary pseudo-religious currents as a source.

[Sober exchange of the Peace]

71. The practice of the Roman Rite is to be maintained according to which the peace is extended shortly before Holy Communion. For according to the tradition of the Roman Rite, this practice does not have the connotation either of reconciliation or of a remission of sins, but instead signifies peace, communion and charity before the reception of the Most Holy Eucharist. It is rather the Penitential Act to be carried out at the beginning of Mass (especially in its first form) which has the character of reconciliation among brothers and sisters.

72. It is appropriate “that each one give the sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner.” “The Priest may give the sign of peace to the ministers but always remains within the sanctuary, so as not to disturb the celebration. He does likewise if for a just reason he wishes to extend the sign of peace to some few of the faithful.” “As regards the sign to be exchanged, the manner is to be established by the Conference of Bishops in accordance with the dispositions and customs of the people,” and their acts are subject to the recognitio of the Apostolic See.

[Lay testimony at Mass]

74. If the need arises for the gathered faithful to be given instruction or testimony by a layperson in a church concerning the Christian life, it is altogether preferable that this be done outside Mass. Nevertheless, for serious reasons it is permissible that this type of instruction or testimony be given after the Priest has proclaimed the Prayer After Communion. This should not become a regular practice, however. Furthermore, these instructions and testimony should not be of such a nature that they could be confused with the homily, nor is it permissible to dispense with the homily on their account.

[No political or special interest Masses]

78. It is not permissible to link the celebration of Mass to political or secular events, nor to situations that are not fully consistent with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Furthermore, it is altogether to be avoided that the celebration of Mass should be carried out merely out of a desire for show, or in the manner of other ceremonies including profane ones, lest the Eucharist should be emptied of its authentic meaning.

[Communion for non-Catholics]

84. Furthermore when Holy Mass is celebrated for a large crowd—for example, in large cities—care should be taken lest out of ignorance non-Catholics or even non-Christians come forward for Holy Communion, without taking into account the Church’s Magisterium in matters pertaining to doctrine and discipline. It is the duty of Pastors at an opportune moment to inform those present of the authenticity and the discipline that are strictly to be observed.

[Communion may be received standing or kneeling]

90. “The faithful should receive Communion kneeling or standing, as the Conference of Bishops will have determined,” with its acts having received the recognitio of the Apostolic See. “However, if they receive Communion standing, it is recommended that they give due reverence before the reception of the Sacrament, as set forth in the same norms.”

91. In distributing Holy Communion it is to be remembered that “sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who seek them in a reasonable manner, are rightly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.” Hence any baptized Catholic who is not prevented by law must be admitted to Holy Communion. Therefore, it is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing.

[Latin is always permitted]

112. Mass is celebrated either in Latin or in another language, provided that liturgical texts are used which have been approved according to the norm of law. Except in the case of celebrations of the Mass that are scheduled by the ecclesiastical authorities to take place in the language of the people, Priests are always and everywhere permitted to celebrate Mass in Latin.

[No glass, clay, ceramic, or wooden vessels--metal only]

117. Sacred vessels for containing the Body and Blood of the Lord must be made in strict conformity with the norms of tradition and of the liturgical books. The Bishops’ Conferences have the faculty to decide whether it is appropriate, once their decisions have been given the recognitio by the Apostolic See, for sacred vessels to be made of other solid materials as well. It is strictly required, however, that such materials be truly noble in the common estimation within a given region, so that honor will be given to the Lord by their use, and all risk of diminishing the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in the eyes of the faithful will be avoided. Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily. This norm is to be applied even as regards metals and other materials that easily rust or deteriorate.

[Purification of the vessels reserved to the priest, deacon, or instituted acolyte]

119. The Priest, once he has returned to the altar after the distribution of Communion, standing at the altar or at the credence table, purifies the paten or ciborium over the chalice, then purifies the chalice in accordance with the prescriptions of the Missal and wipes the chalice with the purificator. Where a Deacon is present, he returns with the Priest to the altar and purifies the vessels. It is permissible, however, especially if there are several vessels to be purified, to leave them, covered as may be appropriate, on a corporal on the altar or on the credence table, and for them to be purified by the Priest or Deacon immediately after Mass once the people have been dismissed. Moreover a duly instituted acolyte assists the Priest or Deacon in purifying and arranging the sacred vessels either at the altar or the credence table. In the absence of a Deacon, a duly instituted acolyte carries the sacred vessels to the credence table and there purifies, wipes and arranges them in the usual way.

[Proper vestments and how to wear them]

123. “The vestment proper to the Priest celebrant at Mass, and in other sacred actions directly connected with Mass unless otherwise indicated, is the chasuble, worn over the alb and stole.”213 Likewise the Priest, in putting on the chasuble according to the rubrics, is not to omit the stole. All Ordinaries should be vigilant in order that all usage to the contrary be eradicated.

[A priest is necessary for Mass]

146. There can be no substitute whatsoever for the ministerial Priesthood. For if a Priest is lacking in the community, then the community lacks the exercise and sacramental function of Christ the Head and Shepherd, which belongs to the essence of its very life. For “the only minister who can confect the sacrament of the Eucharist in persona Christi is a validly ordained Priest.”

[Pastoral Assistants are not Pastors]

149. More recently, in some dioceses long since evangelized, members of Christ’s lay faithful have been appointed as “pastoral assistants,” and among them many have undoubtedly served the good of the Church by providing assistance to the Bishop, Priests and Deacons in the carrying out of their pastoral activity. Let care be taken, however, lest the delineation of this function be assimilated too closely to the form of pastoral ministry that belongs to clerics. That is to say, attention should be paid to ensuring that “pastoral assistants” do not take upon themselves what is proper to the ministry of the sacred ministers.

[The use of Extraordinary Ministers of Communion is not about lay participation]

151. Only out of true necessity is there to be recourse to the assistance of extraordinary ministers in the celebration of the Liturgy. Such recourse is not intended for the sake of a fuller participation of the laity but rather, by its very nature, is supplementary and provisional. Furthermore, when recourse is had out of necessity to the functions of extraordinary ministers, special urgent prayers of intercession should be multiplied that the Lord may soon send a Priest for the service of the community and raise up an abundance of vocations to sacred Orders.

153. Furthermore, it is never licit for laypersons to assume the role or the vesture of a Priest or a Deacon or other clothing similar to such vesture.

156. This function is to be understood strictly according to the name by which it is known, that is to say, that of extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and not “special minister of Holy Communion” nor “extraordinary minister of the Eucharist” nor “special minister of the Eucharist,” by which names the meaning of this function is unnecessarily and improperly broadened.

157. If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. The practice of those Priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons.

[Every Catholic's duty to guard against abuses]

183. In an altogether particular manner, let everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected. This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favoritism.

184. Any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. It is fitting, however, insofar as possible, that the report or complaint be submitted first to the diocesan Bishop. This is naturally to be done in truth and charity.

*All bracketed headings are mine.

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