.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Veritatis Splendor

"Keep your eyes fixed upon Jesus, who inspires and perfects our faith" --Hebrews 12:2

Pope Benedict XVI before our Lord

And only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution.
Each of us is the result of a thought of God.
Each of us is willed,
each of us is loved,
each of us is necessary.
There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.
~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily April 24th, 2005

Friday, June 29, 2007

Mass of Reception Homily

Just got home after attending the Mass of Welcome for Archbishop John Clayton Nienstedt at the Cathedral in St. Paul - a beautiful Mass, and an amazing homily! I did take pictures, they will be up soon. I did want to point out that Archbishop Nienstedt's Homily is online courtesy of the Catholic Spirit (thanks Lezlie for the tip!) - it is an advance text, there were at least a few changes (additions?) that I noticed.

The most memorable parts for me?

The first has to be when our new Archbishop got up to the high pulpit to give the homily... and broke into song!! He opened and closed his homily by singing "Christ Be Our Light" (!). I must admit I am not the biggest fan of that particular song, but, it did fit his "homilitic theme", and boy, he really does have a fine singing voice! (Now, if only we could hear it chanting Eucharistic Prayer I... ;)

The best has to be when Nienstedt was beginning his homily, I believe he was expressing thanks to the Msgr. who was present representing the papal nuncio (Archbishop Sambi, I believe his name is), and who had just read aloud the message from Pope Benedict to the people of our Archdiocese on his appointment of Archbishop Nienstedt. Then Nienstedt said something very special - this was not in the pre-posted homily linked above, and I do not recall precisely what he said, I hope I can at least convey the gist of it. He began by speaking on how the presence of this Msgr. made present the Nuncio, and in turn our Holy Father himself. He then began to speak briefly on the meaning and importance of the papacy, and then his voice choked up a bit as he said that the Msgr. should pass along our "gratitude, our obedience and our love for our Holy Father". The catch in his voice caught us all off guard in the pews, and the depth of his love and respect for Christ and His current vicar on earth, Benedict XVI, was very evident. I do not believe I was alone in feeling a bit of a choke in my own throat at that moment!

Following the Mass, at the reception, I was able to receive the new coadjutor Archbishop's blessing, and say a few words to him - he was very gracious, warm, and polite, carrying himself with a certain reverence that is inexplicable in words, but that those of you who have been fortunate enough to meet a wonderful bishop or cardinal (or even the Holy Father himself!) know well. I knew it the moment I greeted him by kissing his ring - some bishops get kind of "awkward" when you do this very basic and traditional greeting, but the best of them (IMHO) receive the respect graciously, and that is precisely how I would describe our new Archbishop. In fact, my brief encounter with him reminded me very much of another very brief encounter I had - last year in Rome with our Holy Father. The simularity is shocking, moreso because it is so hard to describe. If I had to pick a phrase I would say that they share a kind of "confident humility".

Also at the Mass for Archbishop Nienstedt was our newest member of the episcopal college - Bishop-elect Peter Christensen of the Diocese of Superior, WI! He was vested as Bishop Pates was during the Mass, without a mitre but with a brand new purple zuchetto! He was briefly acknowledged during the Mass, but did not speak himself. After the Mass, I spoke to him briefly on the front steps and assured him of our prayers - it is a wonderful vocation that the Lord has given him, but all wonderful vocations come with their share of difficulty and the Cross. I hope and pray that as bishop, Fr. Peter Christensen will be given both heavenly grace and earthly friendship to assist him as he steps out in faith as his namesake once did, with his eyes fixed firmly upon Jesus.

Please pray in the coming days and weeks for these two men, each assuming a new role in the vineyard of the Lord. Sts Paul, Peter, and John - pray for us!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Making use of the parish bulletin!

It's been a crazy busy week for me, we are doing "Vacation Bible School" at the parish. It's going really well so far, the kids love this great Catholic VBS program that we used this year! This, however, has been my very first VBS experience of any kind, and wow, does it take a lot of planning and effort! Every day I come home exhausted - to exhausted to even comment on all the wonderful news items that keep popping up this week! Yes, I'm very happy and excited about A) the announcement of Fr. Peter Christensen of our local Nativity of Our Lord parish as the bishop-elect of the Superior, WI diocese and B) the immenently pending arrival of the anticipated Motu Proprio regarding the Traditional Latin Mass!

Regarding B), I'm thrilled beyond belief that it seems to be finally coming, and find it very funny that I will be in Ireland actually when it comes (if it does indeed come on the most perfect day - 7/7/7!) I'll let you know what the Irish reaction is as I witness it. :)

I think that it would be a wonderful idea for all pastors and parishes to really USE the weekly bulletin for once, to catechize and prepare people for what this Motu Proprio really means to the "Catholic in the pew". Here is a wonderful article that a pastor is using to do just that! I encourage all of you who work in parishes to take a look at it, and see if your parish might want to use Fr. Fox's text (I'm sure he wouldn't mind - but perhaps you should ask first) or adapt it to craft your own bulletin article. Those of us who aren't pastors or parish employees could also just send the link to his article around your e-mail lists, your "virtual parish", so that proper basic information on this decision by the Holy Father can be made known more clearly.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Our priests are away...

...for the week at the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Assembly in Rochester - but Mass is still available tomorrow night (Tuesday, 6/26)!

Tomorrow is the feast of St. Josemaria Escriva (founder of Opus Dei), and there will be a special feast day Mass at 7:30pm at Holy Family Catholic Church in St. Louis Park (Confessions prior to Mass, beginning at 6:30pm). The celebrant will be Fr. Charles Ferrer, a priest of Opus Dei from Chicago.

Come one, come all!

Friday, June 22, 2007

My Big Birthday of Feasts!

"Pray for me, as I will for thee, that we may merrily meet in heaven."

Of course, with thousands of canonized saints, pretty much everyone's birthday is bound to have plenty of patrons to choose from. But I count myself quite blessed indeed to have been born on this date 26 years ago, on the feast day of three amazing saints - St. Thomas More, St. Bishop John Fisher, and St. Bishop Paulinus of Nola!

All three of these saints are wonderful patrons for anyone to have - though truly, I've often thought that the signs all point to a lot of lawyers being born on this day! :) In actuality, what links these men is not their life in service to the law, both of society and of God, but rather their service to TRUTH. These men stand as witnesses to the ages of the necessity of following what is true, so that one day when Death takes us, we will be prepared to follow the Truth into eternity. "Amen, amen", "truly, truly", I say to you that whatsoever you follow on earth you shall thus follow in death, from truth to truth, from falsehood to falsehood. "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world [or keep his reputation or amass power or exalt passing pleasures] and then to lose his soul?"

These three great saints gave up all, and won Everything. May all of us take courage from them and follow their example until we one day join them around the heavenly Throne!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

For Crying Shame...

I am responding to the call of Anglo-Catholic Ruminations' challenge to find the world's ugliest tabernacles... I present the following submissions for consideration (see also the Whappers' Shrine and the tabernACKles of Gerald) if you're hungry for more)

Well, now, I'll show you the living room... as you can see, Mildred's got a real thing for plants. What's that? Oh, that's just a box for our friend, he likes to listen to the plants too, and boy does he love sitting in the sun!

Hmmm... and this is in a medical center chapel. Do you think this helps patients feel better?

Wow. Never in a million years would I have thought you could wreck THAT image!

St. Patrick's Seminary tabernacle and "tet decorations", whatever the heck that means. And it used to be such a pretty place before they wreckovated it...

Well, it is from Canada. Apparently it's cold out so they built Jesus an igloo!

Behold, the chisel head of God.

Perhaps it's in Gaelic... can someone interpret please?

Jesus is so special to us that we gave him a cardboard box to live in!

The Jesus Crusher?

They say this is to represent the sun. Shouldn't it be to reserve the Son?

"And halfway along on our tour, I really want to tell you how NORMATIVE our parish is, we are so normative I can't even begin to tell you how! But, look, we definitely are, after all we keep Jesus off of our altar, nosirre, no Jesus on OUR altar, instead we keep him over here in this spare room! See, I told you were were NORMATIVE!" (Take the tour yourself)

No comment.

It's melting, it's melting!

The Tree Spirit seems to be out right now, but if you "leaf" your name I'm sure he will "fall" on you again some time.

The pillar of fire without the fire.

Who said resistence is futile? It's not futile, it's... ok, it is futile after all.

Proudly displayed in the Marin (not Marian?) Catholic chapel in Kentfield, CA.

The Eagle has landed at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Midland MI!

Earth to Irish Jesuits, Earth to Irish Jesuits...

What IS it with those Irish anyway?

You know, the saddest part is that A) most of these are ones I haven't seen on any of the other "watchdog" blogs, and B) I found them all within about 10 minutes searching on Google images for "catholic tabernacle". Yikes.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Novena: Our Lady of Perpetual Help

As Adoro helpfully reminds us, the novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help begins tomorrow (or today, if you're inclined to join the Redemptorists!)

I will be praying this novena for many intentions - I invite all of you to join in. (Pray all three prayers daily for the next nine days, until the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on June 27th. The litany is beautiful, but not part of the official novena. I'm praying it every day too though!)

Novena Prayers to Our Mother of Perpetual Help

First Prayer

Behold at thy feet, O Mother of Perpetual Help, a wretched sinner who has recourse to thee and confides in thee. O Mother of mercy, have pity on me. I hear thee called by all the refuge and the hope of sinners: be then, my refuge and my hope. Assist me, for the love of Jesus Christ; stretch forth thy hand to a miserable fallen creature who recommends himself to thee, and who devotes himself to thy service for ever. I bless and thank Almighty God, who in His mercy has given me this confidence in thee, which I hold to be a pledge of my eternal salvation. It is true that in the past I have miserably fallen into sin, because I had not recourse to thee. I know that, with thy help, I shall conquer. I know too, that thou wilt assist me, if I recommend myself to thee; but I fear that, in time of danger, I may neglect to call on thee, and thus lose my soul. This grace, then, I ask of thee, and this I beg, with all the fervor of my soul, that in all the attacks of hell I may ever have recourse to thee. O Mary, help me. O Mother of Perpetual Help, never suffer me to lose my God.

Three Hail Marys.

Second Prayer

O Mother of Perpetual Help, grant that I may ever invoke thy most powerful name, which is the safeguard of the living and the salvation of the dying. O purest Mary, O sweetest Mary, let thy name henceforth be ever on my lips. Delay not, O Blessed Lady, to help me, whenever I call on thee; for, in all my temptations, in all my needs, I shall never cease to call on thee, ever repeating thy sacred name, Mary, Mary. O what consolation, what sweetness, what confidence, what emotion, fill my soul when I utter thy sacred name, or even only think of thee. I thank the Lord for having given thee, for my good so sweet, so powerful, so lovely a name. But I will not be content with merely uttering thy name. Let my love for thee prompt me ever to hail thee, Mother of Perpetual Help.

Three Hail Marys.

Third Prayer

O Mother of Perpetual Help, thou art the dispenser of all the gifts which God grants to us miserable sinners; and for this end He has made thee so powerful, so rich, and so bountiful, in order that thou mayest help us in our misery. Thou art the advocate of the most wretched and abandoned sinners who have recourse to thee: come to my aid, for I recommend myself to thee. In thy hands I place my eternal salvation, and to thee I entrust my soul. Count me among thy most devoted servants; take me under thy protection, and it is enough for me. For, if thou protect me, I fear nothing; not from my sins, because thou wilt obtain for me the pardon of them; nor from the devils, because thou art more powerful than all hell together; nor even from Jesus, my judge, because by one prayer from thee He will be appeased. But one thing I fear: that in the hour of temptation I may through negligence fail to have recourse to thee and thus perish miserably. Obtain for me, therefore, the pardon of my sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace ever to have recourse to thee, O Mother of Perpetual Help.

Three Hail Marys.

Invocations to Our Lady

O Mother of Perpetual Help, thou whose very name inspires confidence.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may be victorious in the trying time of temptation.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may quickly rise again should I have the misfortune to fall into sin.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may break asunder any bonds of Satan in which I may have become entangled.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
Against the seductions of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may return to my former fervour should I ever become lukewarm.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may approach the Sacrament of Penance with a heart pierced by sorrow for my sins.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may receive and adore the Most Holy Eucharist with love, thanksgiving, and awe.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
[Priests: That I may live my holy priesthood in intimate union with thy Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Victim and Priest.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.]
Against my own inconstancy.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
Against my own infidelity.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
In the spiritual battle against my vices and sins.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
When the powers of darkness threaten me.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may persevere to the end in faith, hope and charity.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may never despair of the Mercy of God.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may ever love thee and serve thee and invoke thine assistance.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may make thy Perpetual Help known to others.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may invite others to pray to thee and to venerate thy sacred image.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
At the hour of my death.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Words We Pray

No, I'm not talking about the book of that title by Amy Welborn (which is quite good and highly recommended :) - I'm talking about one of my personal favorite methods of prayer. Now, let me tell you, I have got to be one of the world's worst pray-ers. I'm more fidgety than a 2 year old at the 15 minute mark of Fr's homily. After the "convert/revert's honeymoon" of consolations, the Lord (or perhaps it was my own doing) has in the past few years been a very distant figure for me. It's very hard, sometimes impossible, to focus or concentrate on my prayer. (And giving in even once and leaving just makes it that much harder the next time...!) Oftentimes my prayer these days is simply, "here I am, I don't know what to say and it's all I can do to force myself to sit here in Adoration before you Lord, but I'm here this instant at least!" One day, as I was digging my fingernails into the Communion rail at the Cathedral in an effort to stay kneeling there, suddenly this method of prayer came into my head. It's been a saving grace for me ever since. It doesn't always "work" for me, but often enough.

I have no idea if there is a specific name to it (probably) but this is what I do when I, well, can't pray: I take a short invocation prayer, or the Our Father, or some other prayer that has struck me, and I meditate (ok, "picture" - sometimes with difficulty) on an image that fits the prayer. Then, I say the prayer or invocation very slowly, emphasizing each one of the words and coming up with my own running dialogue on what it means or what it speaks to me. Maybe this is just flat out general meditative prayer that everyone else knows, but to ME it was an epiphany, ok? :)

Let's try it.

I went to Confession on the eve of the feast of the Sacred Heart, and for my penance Fr. assigned me multiple invocations of "O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner" (GOOD one Fr!). That sounds like a good one to use here!

First, set the scene. At the Cathedral, there is a beautiful chapel dedicated to the Sacred Heart, with a wonderful statue. So, what I usually do is picture Jesus as He appears in that statue, as I kneel at His feet. Whatever image strikes you, go for it. I liken this to St. Ignatius' method in the Spiritual Exercises, except your placing a scene for a prayer, not the Scripture passage.

Next, pray the phrase slowly, emphasizing the first word. Think as you pray the phrase what that first word means in the context of the prayer. Mull it over a bit if you wish. If you sense your mind wandering, repeat the phrase again, this time emphazing the second word and consider it the same way. Continue through the whole phrase. Short invocations work best, so you can repeat them and remember your "place" in them. For longer prayers, like the Our Father, I break them down into brief invocations, work through each word, and then move on to the next phrase.

O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

To say "O" means that I am hailing someone, that I am announcing that I am speaking to someone. It is not just "hey", but a term of respect and honor - Jesus, have I been respectful of You, or have I forgotten You and Your great mercy lately? Have I hurt You by my indifference? Have I wiped Your Blood off of my face carelessly and thoughtlessly, without giving you thanks for the blessings You have given me? Do I give a good witness to others of You by my respectful attention to You above all other priorities and desires I might have?

O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

O Lord, You are the Highest, the One High King, the "Most" of all that is Good! There is nothing, and can be nothing, Higher, more important, than You! Yet I do not always stay mindful of this, I push You away and minimize Your importance in my life. I set You aside for later, choosing to seek comfort now. As though hitting the snooze button, chatting with friends, or even going to get a bowl of ice cream is more important than You! Have I been following the plan of life that I have determined for the day - have I been fitting You to my day instead of fitting my day to You? Help me, God in Trinity and Unity, to follow Your commandment to serve nothing but You!

O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Holy of Holies, it is the Lord! What does it mean to be holy? How are You the Most Holy? It is because You are the Most Loving, the Most concerned with the wellbeing of the Other. Godhead, Trinity, Three Persons whose only distinction is that You are in relation to each other, Father to Son, Son to Father, Father and Son to Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit to Father and Son. All giving all to all. The more I give, the more I love, and the more that I love, the more that I will become an image of the Most Holy Trinity! O Most Sacred One, I am a sinner and cannot see you properly, help me to see You so that I may imitate You!

O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

The heart of something is it's center, it's essential core of being. Help me to see Your Heart as Your center, your fire of love that burns eternally with love. Draw me close to Your Heart, let me rest upon your Heart as John did. Help me to accept the fire and crown of suffering as the necessary step that I may be purified. O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, from which Blood and water poured, have mercy on us and on the whole world!

O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

To be of means to come from, to belong to, to have its origin in. O Most Sacred Heart of none but Jesus Himself, my Lord and my God. Your Heart is of You, and You have opened it to me, for I also come from You. You offer Your Heart to me so that I may return to You through It - for "ex corde scisso, ecclesia nascitir", from the pierced Heart, the Church is born. You are the Head, the Church is Your Body, and I am a member of Your Church, Your Body. Therefore, as I get my lifeblood from my own beating heart, so too let me receive the true Life that flows eternally from You to us through Your Most Sacred Heart!

O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Having means that you possess, that you have authority to dispense or withhold. Mercy can only come from You, O Jesus, and only You have the power to grant mercy. But by Your coming to us, You have given Your priests a special share in the dispensation of mercy - what a beautiful sacrament is Confession, where we encounter Your Most Sacred Heart, poured out by the hands of Your priests in floods of mercy! Have mercy on us Lord, in Your compassion, wipe out my offenses. Help me, too, to remember my own participation in Your mercy towards others, help me to always be merciful to others, to forgive others their trespasses as you have forgiven me. You alone have (and are) Mercy entirely, but I also "have" mercy to give, as You have given it to me!

O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

What does it mean, "mercy"? Is it mere kindness? Is it just being nice? Is it a feeling of compassion? You have said that You desire mercy, not sacrifice, how do I give You this gift of mercy that You so earnestly desire? In order for there to be mercy, there must be recognizable justice - there must be a reason to grant mercy and pardon. I must be able to judge when something is right or wrong in Your eyes, but I must not judge someone who has done wrong to be unworthy of equal or greater mercy. "Judge not, lest you be judged." I ask for the grace to be merciful to others, to reflect the light of Your mercy on all that I come into contact with today - O Jesus have mercy on us and on the whole world!

O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

On me. Your mercy comes not from within me, but from You upon me. Let me never forget that all that I am and have that is good comes solely from You, that all I have to give You in return is my own will. Your grace has come upon me, beginning from the moment of my creation in the womb, I pray Lord that You will continue to hold me upright in Your grace. Let me never think that I am the source of what is good, but that I always thank You for all things! Like St. Therese, give me the grace to say "I choose everything", everything that You can give me, understanding that it all comes to me for my purification and sanctification, that I may be united more fully to You forever! I bless You my God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, eternally one Love!

O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Me me me me me. It's always about me, even in my prayers, especially in my prayers! What I want, what I think I need, who are the people that I care about. Yet You know infinitely more than I, and You know far better than I ever can what it is that I should be praying. Therefore, my prayer now is that You pray for me! In giving You my will, I give You also my will to pray. The Spirit is groaning, and I unite myself to Him now, look not upon my sins but upon the faith of Your Church and grant us the peace and unity of Your kingdom! Amen.

O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I am a sinner. Not every sinner, not all sinners, but a sinner. And Your Heart was pierced for my sin, for each of our individual sins. You came not to save people, but to save persons. You came to save sinners, not nations. I am a sinner. I have committed many sins against You. Each sin I committ adds to Your chalice of suffering, and causes another Drop to be spilled from Your Heart. But through Your Sacred Heart I have the hope of mercy, that the Drop may cover me and wash me whiter than snow. Your mercy is so powerful, so healing, so transforming, that one Drop can change each one of us. I pray for all sinners, that each of us may turn to Your Heart and let the Drop of grace wash us clean. I end my time of prayer by allowing Your tears and Blood to fall on me, as I beg for the grace of contrition so that I might leave here with a firm resolution to follow Your will more closely. I offer You thanks for bringing me so close to Your Heart today, for helping me to meditate upon Your center of Love and Mercy, and for giving me so many resolutions to reflect this merciful love to those I will meet today. Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us! My Immaculate Mother, St. Joseph my father and lord, my guardian angel, intercede for us!

"Intention against the good of the sacrament"

(I am no canonist, only one who has had an interest in these types of issues - I hope to only represent the understanding that I have gained in this area, but I also seek correction if it is needed! If you have any questions about annullments and the Church's teaching on marriage, you should make arrangements to speak to your pastor and your local diocese's marriage tribunal regarding them. Further information on marriage can be found at Catechism #1601-1666.)

It is essential to Catholic sacramental theology that three things must be present for a sacrament to be effacious - Right form, right matter, and right intention. With the Eucharist, it is a sacrament when it is celebrated with the right words (form), upon bread and wine by an ordained priest (matter), who intends to confect the sacrament according to the teaching of the Church (intention). Marriage, as a sacrament, also requires proper form, matter and intention. If any of the three are lacking, it cannot be said to be a valid sacrament, the same way that if a Dorito is confected by a priest the Eucharist cannot be objectively present (sorry attendees of "pizza & pop" Masses in the 1970s). In the sacrament of marriage (to be distinguished from merely legal marriage), the priest doesn't "do" the marriage, instead the ordained deacon or priest is there to WITNESS to the Church that the two parties THEMSELVES have the proper form, matter and intention. But it is up to the parties themselves to confect the sacrament!

"Annullments" and "marriage tribunals" and all this "gobbledy-gook" jargon and nuancing may seem ridiculous to some of you, I know it did to me for years. I understand why some of you might hear about these "legalistic details" and scoff at them, turning away from it all and considering that it is all manmade nonsense. But, I hope and pray that more of you will make an honest effort to understand why the Church has the system it does regarding marriage and its validity. It boils down to something very simple - you either accept the dignity and character of marriage as given to us by God to learn how to become more perfect images of Trinitarian love, or you don't. If you accept this (and if you claim to be Catholic, you'd better!), then you must also accept the importance and the duty of protecting marriage, and the right understanding of marriage, from corruption. Any attempt to do that will naturally bring in all kinds of "jargon", such is the way of fallen human nature in dealing with simple issues that sin has made far too complex.

Here is a fascinating look at a particular annulment case heard before the Church's highest tribunal (the Roman Rota) over 50 years ago. The always insightful canonist Ed Peters translated it for those who are interested in such details of canon law.

The case in a nutshell: Following WWII, a French woman civilly divorced her Italian husband, after he had been interned in a concentration camp. The husband then sought an annulment. The annulment was initially granted by the Church, citing the wife's determination to not enter into marriage as permanent and sacramental union ("intention against the good of the sacrament"). A higher court (I presume reviewing cases on its own) overturned this annulment, saying that this intention was not clear enough to be decisive. The husband then submitted the case to the highest tribunal for review. The link above gives the findings of this court, which basically agreed with the first tribunal's determination that the wife did not intend sacramental marriage, and that the marriage could, therefore, be annulled. Got that? Whew!

There are many fascinating details that this case shows us about the need for our parishes to emphasize more and more clearly the sacramental character of Catholic marriage, and to show some discernment on the part of priests in condoning marriage liturgies in the Church. Two points in particular:

First, this case deals with the issue of "intention against the good of the sacrament" - in basic terms, this means that it deals with whether or not one of the spouses entered into marriage with the intention of seeking divorce and being free to marry again if it "doesn't work". This means that the spouse did not (at the time of marriage) and still does not hold that marriage itself is an indissoluble sacrament. As I understand it, the three requirments for a sacramental marriage are: 1) that the baptized man and woman are free to be married in the Church (there are no impediments, such as a prior marriage with the spouse still living), 2) that both understand and accept that marriage is Faithful (one husband, one wife), Fruitful (children are to be accepted as God's gifts and are not to be denied), and Forever (marriage lasts for as long as both spouses live, and cannot be dissolved) and 3) that both parties enter into marriage freely without coerciion. Any lack regarding these three issues can be grounds for granting an annullment.

In this case, the spouse is not actually intending to be married at all, because she is not really intending to enter into marriage "until death do us part". This "un intention" to marry forever, then, can thus be cause for the granting of a decree that the marriage was sacramentally null and void.

This brings us to the second point - this case happened over 50 years ago, long before "divorce" was as culturally common as it is now (notwithstanding the fact that the case relates that the French spouse did indeed see divorce as being common to her country at that time - another discussion for another day). Yet this very fact, namely, that this woman was "culturally conditioned" (so it seems) to accept divorce, and then freely chose to allow this conditioning to form her own will regarding marriage, effectively rendered this attempt at marriage null and void. Wow. Remember, this is 50 years ago - compare this case to where we are at now, culturally. Today, pick any Catholic off the street, ask if they were married in the Catholic Church, and ask them if they thought then, and think now, that divorce might be an option for reasons X, Y, or Z. Chances are, they'll agree that it is - and guess what, if their marriage ever goes on the rocks and they seek an annullment, your testimony that they told you this fact could in fact contribute to their being granted an annullment. Because they never had a marriage in the first place. Do they KNOW this? No. Does it really matter? Not necessarily - not until divorce suddenly happens and isn't just an option. Until that time, the Church continues to recognize their marriage as valid and binding, because there is no way to know the human heart. Additionally, marriages that are entered into under questionable validity can become valid - but that is a topic for another forum than this.

What this does mean, however, is that while some may have been skeptical of the sheer number of annulments that have been granted in the United States and elsewhere these last few decades, there may be more to it than simply having too many "rubber stampers" in the tribunal offices. If we take this decision from 1956 seriously, can we not fail to question whether or not this is a prophetic case for today?

Look at what has happened in our land since the era of divorce descended upon us like a thick and poisonious cloud - every kind of social and familial ill under the sun, now commonplace. Chesterton, even more than 50 years ago, foresaw this, and linked it all back to one misstep in society: the loss of an understanding of the permenance and dignity of marriage between a man and a woman, for the sake of unity and offspring.

One other thing to remember - when a valid sacrament is lacking, the specific sacramental grace that it would have imparted is also lacking objectively (that is not to say that God cannot will to grant grace, it only says that the effaciousness of the sacrament as promised by God through the Church was absent). To lose sacramental marriages hurts us all, because it is also a loss of grace that was meant to build up their family, their community, and the world at large. A butterfly flaps its wings...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Boston Archdiocese has its hands full again

Critic slams archdiocese land sale as betrayal - The Boston Globe

You don't see this often (thank goodness), but it does make you realize that there may be a lot more "spiritual combat" going on behind the scenes than we can know about. And before anyone starts in on the rector for this, I would first point out that there is nothing in this article that says HOW they acquired these letters. The fact that we have heard nothing of this until now tells me that the rector (while perhaps being overly harsh to his superior, which I cannot condone) did not set out to create a "stunt" - as might be inferred by the skeptical since he was scheduled to step down anyway this month. Rather, it seems he decided to make his opinions and reasons known by two private letters, and that is appropriate I think. Now that they are out though (and by who is a very good question), the Archdiocese has some serious defensive spin control to do...

The Boston College response sounds straight out of "Screwtape Letters". 30 pieces of silver indeed. Is the Boston Archdiocese really that desperate for money?

Catholic by Choice

"A Catholic is someone who believes Christ is Son of God, accepts His teachings and lives a life of worship, service and duty in the Catholic community," [...] "Catholics are not created by the accident of birth to remain only because their tribe has an interesting history."
~ Cardinal Pell

(from Cardinal Pell Explains Role of Church and Faith in Public Life)

In the modern age it is indeed important for us to be reminded that it is not enough for Catholics to live our lives simply "being" Catholic on the side, but to choose to live out our Catholic faith fully with regard to our state in life.

I might add as a side note that this "choice" does not happen once at Confirmation - contrary to what many believe today. Our choice for faith must happen throughout our lives or our Confirmation will bear no fruit and in the end have no meaning if its graces were not cooperated with.

As a second side note, there's a great new blog I just found: Roman Catholic by Choice, check it out!

Cheers for Cardinal Pell - I ask our Lady to continue to intercede for him to God as he faces the difficult situation in rapidly secularizing Australia. Memorare...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mother's Words of Wisdom

What is it in your life that makes you run once you begin to feel that God is after you? I'll tell you why you run, because you're afraid He's going to take everything away from you that's dear. There's a beautiful line in a poem by Frances Thompson and it says, "What I took from thee, I took not for thy harm, but only that you would seek it in My arms." Remember that! Don't ever be afraid to follow Jesus, to be a real Christian on fire with what you believe.
~Mother Angelica

(Just one nugget from her Little Book, something you each should run out and get today!)

Monday, June 11, 2007

In a few short weeks..

...this is what I'll be seeing!

I'll be traveling to the town of Tralee, in County Kerry, Ireland for the first half of July to attend my friend Bernard's priesthood ordination - perhaps he will one day be another St. Brendan (though hopefully not the Navigator part!).

Understanding does NOT equal comprehension

Once upon a time folks thought it would help the laity to "participate more fully and meaningfully" if they were to envision the Mass as a kind of conversation between them and Christ, or if they were to envision the Congregation, including the priest, as "gathered around" the alter, or if they were to envision the Mass as a kind of "banquet", with Christ as the "presider". In short, "participation" is like any other shibboleth: I can make it jibe with just about anything. Hearing the Mass in the vernacular enables you to "participate" more because you can understand what's happening? On the contrary, it give you opportunity to question the truth of every word you hear, thus destroying whatever "participation" you thought you had. Hearing the Mass in the vernacular enables you to "participate" more because you can understand what's happening? On the contrary, hearing it in Latin forces you to "participate" even more, because you have to be very alert to every little thing that is happening in order to know where you are in the Mass and what's going on. Hearing the Mass in the vernacular enables you to "participate" more because you can understand what's happening? Hearing it in Latin makes you part of a greater multitude of saints stretching back from today to the second century, when Latin was already itself the "vernacular", the "vulgate" or language of the vulgus (Latin for "crowd"). By participating along with this great multitude of faith and tradition by becoming one with them in language you "participate" in a much more important and meaningful way than merely by "understanding" the language in words for your own, private purposes. Our faith is one of symbols, indeed, we ourselves are imagines Dei, images of God; the use of Latin is far more symbolic than the vernacular could ever be in this sense.

I like An Examined Life more and more and more... These are EXACTLY the same points that I made recently when I happened to mention that I go to a Mass in Latin once in awhile and someone else happened to go off on me over it. I would only add one more thing - those who feel that they just can't "participate" if Mass is in Latin, the question to then ask them is: What did Fr. say this morning at the opening prayer? Or at the offertory? Or at the preface? Or at the closing prayer? Or even what the homily was, which has pretty much always been in the vernacular. "Knowing" the language DOES NOT mean that there is any better comprehension (ie, authentic participation) present. Instead, "knowing" the language can be a crutch that allows us to simply let the words glide right over us, and we presume that we don't have to prepare ourselves for the day's Mass any more.

In the "bad old days" right before Vatican II, Catholics used their missal to prepare themselves for the Mass of the day. In today's "bad new days", Catholics should use their missal to prepare themselves, but too many now just show up and hear words in one ear and out the other with less comprehension than their elders did when the Mass was only in that mysterious Latin language.

Corpus Christi Procession

On Sunday was the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, or "Corpus Christi" as it's traditionally called.

Being that Corpus Christi is one of my favorite feast days of the year, it should come as no surprise that I basically spent the whole day at various churches and processions. :) I began the morning by popping over to the parish I work at, for the morning Eucharistic Procession led by our little First Communicants - totally angelic and charming! Note to self though, next year I'm going to give them rose petals to drop before our Lord and perhaps figure out if we can get a kneeler or two out at the Benediction altar.

Then, I buzzed over to Holy Family parish for their 11am Mass, which was splendidly celebrated by Fr. Dufner (natch) accompanied by their beautiful choir, organ and brass singing and playing joyously to the Lord all those marvelous Eucharistic hymns and motets. We had everything from Alleluia Sing to Jesus to Ave Verum Corpus to At That First Eucharist to O Sacrum Convivium to the very beautiful Gonoud's Ave Maria. At the end of Mass there was a massive Eucharistic procession throughout the neighborhood, which I would have loved to have joined in on (and hearing the brass and choir as they processed along too made it even more tempting) but I had to be off to my next stop for the day - the Eleventh Annual Archdiocesan Corpus Christi Procession in downtown Minneapolis!

I've been processing with the Archdiocesan procession ever since I moved to the Cities and came back to the Church - in fact, I just realized that the year that all happened Corpus Christi fell on my birthday, that was quite the present to recieve our Lord knowingly for one of the very first times and to also celebrate the feast day of His Eucharist for the first time! :)

This year's big Procession was in downtown Minneapolis (it rotates between St. Paul in Minneapolis every other year), and was pretty well attended by representatives from all aspects of Holy Mother Church - priests, seminarians, religious, laity, and of course, unknowing onlookers blessed to be in the Real Presence of God for a brief moment. The route this year was a little different from years past, shorter and a little less public. However, being that it was so hot out, that may have been for the best. In any case, winding our way through Loring Park (which needs Him...) and concluding at the beautiful Basilica of St. Mary with a Vespers service and Benediction. Afterwards, we enjoyed a delicious ice cream sundae on the lawn of the Basilica, and then a few of us went out to everyone's favorite restaurant, Buca's, for a feast day dinner! Whew! I'm still exhausted! :)

Archdiocesan Corpus Christi Procession

O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine

all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

This Sunday - Eucharistic Procession

Join us at the Eleventh Annual Archdiocesan Corpus Christi Procession - this Sunday, June 10th, starting at 2:00pm from the University of St. Thomas Law School (Minneapolis campus - LaSalle Ave. between 11th and 12th Streets) and concluding at the Basilica of St. Mary with Benedition, followed by an ice cream social!

Get the flyer here and spread the word!

Norbertines Feast Day!

Today, June 6th, is the feast day of St. Norbert, and day of rejoicing for the Premonstratensian order (commonly called the Norbertines).

I got to know a few of the Norbertines from St. Michael's Abbey while studying at the Angelicum in Rome last year, and was greatly impressed at their spiritual maturity and fidelity to the Church - and by their beautiful singing charism! I joined them in the singing of the Angelus daily at school, and am happy to report that I continue to sing it in the same way daily now that I am home, always mindful when I do of where I learned it from. (Hear a sampling of their music online!)

Music and the Form of the Good

..."I must now point out that mere conformity with doctrinal purity is not the same thing as perfect goodness, because just as true beauty cannot exist without true goodness, so, too, true goodness cannot exist independently of true beauty, since The Good and The Beautiful always go together, like the convex and the concave. So when a liturgy is celebrated that is objectively ugly, it is not as fully good as it could be, any more than a beautiful Episcopalian liturgy celebrated around an empty altar is as good as it could be. Truth and Beauty are both of them necessary conditions on Goodness. In many Episcopalian churches you often have Beauty, but you never have Truth; in Roman Churches you always have Truth but you rarely have Beauty. This is a problem."

..."Perhaps more Catholic music directors need to be required to read Plato and Aristotle before taking on the task of running the musical side of a Catholic liturgy, but I would settle for just getting them to agree to try something different every now and then. Why must every Mass be equally banal? Why not offer at least one Mass where there is fine, classical music, with Gregorian chant for the texts? Why not restore the tradition of the sung Gospel with procession? Why not sing the Our Father? To the old chant tune, not the new, crappy tune. Why not re-orient the altar to the east, for that matter? Or restore the use of altar rails with kneelers? One can think of many little ways in which the beauty and dignity of the Mass can be restored to some of its former glory. But none of that can happen until Catholics generally are taught again to first recognize, and then to desire, what is truly, objectively beautiful."
(My emphasis)

Found today on one of my newly-discovered favorite blogs - An Examined Life. This gem of a post is on the "philosophy" of music, particularly music in relation to the Good, the True and the Beautiful (in other words, in relation to Catholicism and the Mass).

Read it all now at An Examined Life: Music and the Form of the Good!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Cathedral Centennial Celebrations

This past weekend, our Cathedral of Saint Paul celebrated its centennial of the laying of the cornerstone (June 2nd, 1907). To honor the occasion were four days of festivities and events, with the highlight being a Solemn Mass on the evening of the anniversary itself - complete with Apostolic Blessing granted to those participating by His Holiness Benedict XVI! (The notification was received via telegram that morning with greetings by both the Holy Father and the Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, and shared with us at the close of the Mass by our rector. I wish they would post the full text online!)

I had quite the busy weekend, between shooting photos for a friend's wedding on Saturday, hosting a meeting at the parish on Sunday morning for our mission trip youth, and driving back and forth from the west burbs to St. Paul every day... I didn't quite make it to all the events, but here's what I did make it for (click the photos to see the full albums and commentary):

Cathedral Centennial - Thursday Night Lights!

On Thursday evening, a donor paid to have a huge "stadium" light brought in and set up across from the front of the Cathedral, illuminating the (recently cleaned) building with a brilliant light that certainly attracted attention! I had been at the Cathedral for afternoon Mass, went to dinner (it was my feast day, the Visitation - had to celebrate! :) and then came back to the Cathedral around 8pm to help a friend get materials ready for the weekend. I was a bit surprised to see lots of random people loitering about, then realized that the special lighting had been advertised in the paper beginning at 8pm, I have no idea why since you couldn't really see it until full dark anyway. When my friend and I got done around 9:30 and went outside, boy, NOW I could see what the fuss was about! The shine of the light drew us along with a ton of other people to the front steps to just hang out, take photos and gaze in awe. Totally cool. There were literally hundreds of people, including families, just hanging out at the Cathedral all the way until midnight, when the lights were, sadly, turned off.

Cathedral Centennial - Choir Concert and Fireworks

Friday evening was packed full, the parish picnic was held in the courtyard (no photos, sorry - I didn't get there until late and it was starting to rain!) and then there was a spectactual free choir concert in the Cathedral, consisting of four choirs - ours, the Archdiocesan choir, and the choirs from the parishes of St. Olaf (Minneapolis) and Nativity of Our Lord (St. Paul). Each piece of music had some connection to the chapels, Latin inscriptions, or architecture of the Cathedral, and the program quite helpfully included commentary on each selection to explain why it had been chosen. I thought it was really great how they organized the concert - they split up the choirs, and had them sing one at a time from various points inside the Cathedral (one choir sang "Ave Maria" in the Virgin Mary chapel, another sang "Tu est Petrus" in the St. Peter chapel, etc.) so that the building seemed to be literally singing to us of its story! Really a remarkable and memorable effect. To conclude, all four choirs combined in the sanctuary and sang a few positively gorgeous selections. I really wish this had been recorded in some way, though I am not at all certain that anything like the effect of "surround sound" around the church could be attained. One more note on the concert - it was definitely an example of "if you build it they will come", my estimate is that at least 2500 people were in attendance! I say that because the Cathedral itself seats about 3000, and the only open space was the extreme ends of the pews in the far end of the transcepts... plus there were lots of people choosing to stand in the areas of better acoustics, so I'd say 2500 is a conservative guess!! And this was NOTHING like their typical Haugen/Haas church "experience" - Wow, what a prime opportunity for sacred music evangelization!

Following the concert, there was an attempt to have an "ice cream social" out on the front steps, but that didn't last long - there were way more people than expected and the ice cream ran out within a few minutes! Fortunately, everyone was happily chattering away and some didn't even notice. Then the fireworks began! It was a good showing of them too, I was quite impressed. I only wish I would have had the foresight to hightail it across the river right after the concert, so as to get shots of the fireworks WITH the Cathedral, instead of just the fireworks from the steps... I don't suppose I can ask for a "redo" though. We'll just have to wait until the Centennial of the first Mass - in 2015! LOL! :)

Cathedral Centennial - Solemn Mass

Saturday was another busy day for the Cathedral, but alas I was busy most of the day at a friend's wedding (a very moving and beautiful one - please pray for Maria and Joe!) and was not able to attend the events of the parade, parish festival, and, most of all, the guided tours led by various parishioners and clergy dressed up in historically correct garb (that would have been a sight to see :)

I did, however, make it over to the evening Mass. As mentioned above, the Solemn Mass was the highlight of the weekend, with the blessing of the Pope! On top of that, it was my first "sighting" of our next Archbishop, John Nienstedt, who concelebrated the Mass, but didn't say a word (Archbishop Flynn at the end of Mass humorously observed that this was NOT Nienstedt's "welcome Mass", I half expected him to then add "but that doesn't mean you're not welcome" but he didn't :) Bishops Pates (local auxiliary), Harrington (Winona MN), Swain (Sioux Falls SD), and Carlson (Saginaw MI) were also in attendance; it was great to see the regional episcopal support!

Cathedral Centennial - Solemn Vespers and Adoration

To wrap it up, on Sunday the official Centennial events closed with a beautiful Solemn Vespers service, complete with Adoration and Benediction by Bishop Pates. However, God added His own special touch of blessing upon the weekend, wrapped up with a bow:

And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will look upon it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth."
~ Genesis 9:12-16

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Entirely Miss Reverend Lady Mary Elizabeth the Carnivorous of Chortling Chesterton
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

I have to laugh. Somehow, it does fit. Except the Reverend part (and certainly not the Entirely part!). But, Carnivorous? You betcha. Chortling? I've been accused of that before. And Chesterton? I'll claim alligence to a place named after him any day! :)

Speaking of Chesterton... don't forget:

Fra Angelico's Annunciation