Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Mary of Bethany

Jesus clearly loved the family of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  They were close to His Heart.  He wept when Lazarus died; showed special attention to their needs; and included them in His life and ministry. 


Martha is celebrated in the Church on July 29th but not her sister Mary.  In times past, Mary the sister of Martha was assumed to be the same person as Mary of Magdala (Magdalene).  Mary Magdalene has also been used as an “everywoman,” e.g. in Jesus Christ Superstar she is given to bear the roles of the “sinful woman” (usually interpreted as a prostitute) and the woman who wiped the feet of Jesus in addition to her own personhood as a disciple out of whom Jesus cast seven demons.  For the witness of her great conversion and her privilege as the first to see the Resurrection, she is a saint.  In the year of Mercy, Pope Francis elevated the celebration of Mary Magdalene to the dignity of a Feast in the Universal Church.  By conflating the two Marys, we do a disservice to both.  Such a conflation makes Mary Magdalene out to be a prostitute, when in fact she was not, and glosses over the unique story of Mary of Bethany. 


Back to Mary of Bethany.  Matthew, Mark and John all situate the anointing of Jesus in the context of the Passion.  Matthew and Mark both record that a woman anoints Jesus while at table in the house of “Simon the Leper.”  None of the three describe her as sinful.  John is specific about Jesus being in the home of Marth and Mary.  Martha serves and Mary anoints Jesus, thus they both take on their respective roles of service and devotion as in Luke chapter 10.  Jesus quiets the indignant disciples by saying that Mary has done an act of love which is her way of preparing Jesus for His impending death and burial.  Bethany is clearly the home of Mary and Martha, a very distinct place from Magdala.  Bethany is in Judea, while Magdala is in Galilee.   Jesus visits the home of Martha and Mary (Luke 10), which we are told is Bethany in the story of the raising of Lazarus (John 11). 


Luke, who is always unique in his writing of the Gospel stories in order to emphasize Jesus’ ministry to the poor and marginalized, contextualizes the anointing at the house of Simon the PHARISEE and earlier in the life of Jesus than the others.  Here the woman is clearly a sinner, a woman of ill repute.  Jesus pardons her sins in a great act of mercy.  Jesus is chastised for giving time for a sinner but it is precisely to sinners that He came.  Through this story, Luke shows the purpose of Jesus’ incarnate life: not to entertain the prestigious but to save sinners. 


Notice how important this story must have been for the disciples, since it appears in all four Gospels!  They all remembered and treasured the lessons of this encounter between Jesus and the woman.  Luke’s account includes many of the same details, even if it is situated for literary purposes in a different time in Jesus’ life.  What is Mary of Bethany is the “sinful woman”?  Then, all the more reason why, after experiencing the mercy of Jesus and conversion from sin, she would remain devoted to Him and would do anything for Him.  Perhaps she is even the “other Mary” (Matthew 28:1) who appears at the Resurrection scenes.  In that case, she could not be the same person as Mary Magdalene.  But it would be no surprise that these two women, for whom Jesus had revealed Himself as Savior and Divine Physician, would be spiritual friends and travel to the tomb together. 


All this having been said, it would seem appropriate to give the converted sinner and devoted disciple of Jesus MARY OF BETHANY a feast day in the Church.  Mary of Bethany is a repentant sinner who has learned to sit at the feet of Jesus and pour out her love to Him.  That is all of us if we are honest and actively seeking to know Christ more every day.  That image of hope deserves to be lifted up for all to see. 


Matthew 26

The Anointing at Bethany.*

6 Now when Jesus was in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,

7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster jar of costly perfumed oil, and poured it on his head while he was reclining at table.

8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant and said, “Why this waste?

9 It could have been sold for much, and the money given to the poor.”

10 Since Jesus knew this, he said to them, “Why do you make trouble for the woman? She has done a good thing for me.

11 The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me.

12 * In pouring this perfumed oil upon my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.

13 Amen, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be spoken of, in memory of her.”



The Anointing at Bethany.*

3 When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head.

4 There were some who were indignant. “Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil?

5 It could have been sold for more than three hundred days’ wages and the money given to the poor.” They were infuriated with her.

6 Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me.

7 The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me.

8 She has done what she could. She has anticipated anointing my body for burial.

9 Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”


Luke 7

The Pardon of the Sinful Woman.*

36 A Pharisee invited him to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.*

37 Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment,

38 she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages* and the other owed fifty.

42 Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.

45 You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.

46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment.

47 So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love.* But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

48 He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”


John 12

The Anointing at Bethany.

1 * Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.

2 They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him.

3 Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus* and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.

4 Then Judas the Iscariot, one [of] his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said,

5 “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages* and given to the poor?”

6 He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions.

7 So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial.*

8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

9 [The] large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came, not only because of Jesus, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.

10 And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too,

11 because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.


Luke 10

Martha and Mary.*

38 As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.

39 * She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.

40 Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”

41 The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.

42 * There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”


John 11

The Raising of Lazarus.*

1 Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.

2 Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.

3 So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.”

4 When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death,* but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

6 So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.

7 Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?”

9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.

10 But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”*

11 He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.”

12 So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”

13 But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.

14 So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died.

15 And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.”

16 So Thomas, called Didymus,* said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.

18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles* away.

19 And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother.

20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.

21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

22 [But] even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”

24 Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”

25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,

26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 *She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.”

29 As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him.

30 For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him.

31 So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

32 When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed* and deeply troubled,

34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”

35 And Jesus wept.

36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”

37 But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” 

38 So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.

39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”

40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father,* I thank you for hearing me.

42 I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice,* “Lazarus, come out!”

44 The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Laying the Foundations for ad orientem worship

Several weeks ago, Cardinal Sarah issued a fraternal challenge to priests to begin to catechize the faithful on the meaning of ad orientem worship, in order to prepare them for worshipping in this manner beginning in Advent 2016.  The Holy Father’s press secretary issued a clarification shortly thereafter, stating the obvious, namely, that the cardinal was not expounding new directives or rubrics.  There need not be any new rubrics because the Missal and GIRM already presume and allow for Mass being celebrated facing “East” – the altar, the Lord.  His Eminence knows the significance of turning toward the Lord and the value of this traditional posture in fostering the deeper devotion to Christ called for by the New Evangelization. 

Father Uwe Michael Lang, in his book Turing Toward the Lord, outlines the historical, spiritual and theological foundations of ad orientem worship.  From the earliest days of the Church, Christians believed that Jesus would return from the East and so that celebrated Mass facing in a common direction to the East.  Whenever and wherever facing compass East is not possible, the rich symbolism of facing together in a common direction speaks volumes about who we are and what we believe.  Together, we turn to the Lord Jesus, our savior and redeemer, for all that we need.  We look to Him, the object of our worship, when we adore and receive Him in the Mass.  Therefore, when we pray, it only makes sense that we should look at Him and not at one another. 

Unfortunately, because our Church has drifted from this important liturgical pillar in the last half-century, restoring it will be perceived as a “change” even though it is nothing new at all.  “Father Z” has expertly outlined the issues involved with this necessary liturgical development called for by Cardinal Sarah.  His words speak for themselves:

When the 2000 GIRM was issued (now usually cited as 2002 GIRM because it is in the 2002 Missale Romanum), a question was put to the Congregation for Divine Worship: Can a bishop, in his role as moderator of the Sacred Liturgy in the diocese, forbid ad orientem worship?

On 10 April 2000, the Congregation for Divine Worship issued an official response (Protocol No. 564/00/L) about GIRM 299 (my emphases):

This dicastery wishes to state that Holy Mass may be celebrated versus populum or versus apsidem. Both positions are in accord with liturgical law; both are to be considered correct.
There is no preference expressed in the liturgical legislation for either position. As both positions enjoy the favor of law, the legislation may not be invoked to say that one position or the other accords more closely with the mind of the Church.

In a nutshell, bishops can’t overrule universal laws, including rubrics.  Bishops cannot forbid legitimate options.

The rubrics of the modern Roman Rite, the Novus Ordo, the Ordinary Form, do NOT favor celebration of Holy Mass versus populum, so-called “facing the people”.

That said, one bishop after another is tumbling headlong into the trap laid in the purposeful mistranslation of GIRM 299.   More HERE.  Alas, most bishops these days did not have any training in Latin before, during or after seminary, including those trained after the 1983 Code of Canon Law laid down in can. 249 says that seminarians are to be be “very well-trained” (bene calleant) in Latin.

We are now beginning to see what damage can be done when clerics depend on translations.

The mistranslators, and those who are in the trap pit with them, say that GIRM 299 reads in such a way as to favor Mass “facing the people”.  The false, erroneous translation reads:

299. The altar should be built separate from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible. …

No. That last clause, introduced by the relative pronoun quod, does not refer to the orientation of the celebration of Mass.  Rather, it refers to the first clause and separation of the altar from the wall.  And I refer everyone to the quote from the Congregation at the top of this post.

What does 299 really say?

Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit. …

The main altar should be built separated from the wall, which is useful wherever it is possible, so that it can be easily walked around and a celebration toward the people can be carried out at it.

Recently in the Diocese of Little Rock, the local bishop sent a letter to priests in which he says that he “expects” that priests will say Mass “facing the people” because of what GIRM 299 says.  HERE  He didn’t try to impose that, because, well, he can’t.  Bishops cannot forbid the legitimate option of ad orientem worship and impose Mass “facing the people” only.  However, they can torture priests who say Mass ad orientem in a thousand ways.  But that would be abuse of power.  And that would be something new, wouldn’t it!

Now I read that another bishop, in Davenport, IA, has written to priests. HERE  He cites, again, the erroneous English version of 299 and then writes: “To be clear, this is the posture [“facing the people”] that priests are to take when celebrating the liturgy (in the Ordinary Form) in the Diocese of Davenport.”

BTW… Bp.  Amos says that the “normative” posture is “better”. Why? Because the priest and the assembly are “facing the altar together”.  Ummmm….

While Bp. Amos’ language doesn’t seem to rise to the level of a formal decree, and the letter isn’t framed in a juridical form, the bishop takes a step beyond that of the Bishop of Little Rock.

The good news – if there is good news in this development – is that some bishops might issue preemptive statements like this because they think priests will listen to The Sarah Appeal™!

Here’s the deal.

It is surreal to have to write this, but we now have to defend ad orientem worship in the Roman Catholic Church!

To be clear, while we have to acknowledge that versus populum celebration is an option in the rubrics (as it also is and was in the Extraordinary Form), given our tradition, ecclesial realities today and, yes, rubrics, I agree with Card. Sarah and strongly believe ad orientem would be of great benefit to the whole Church.  

I and others, therefore, are left with the bizarre task of writing again and again that ad orientem worship cannot presently be prohibited.  And neither can be versus populum!  

It is unfortunate that the poor English (and Italian, etc.) translation of GIRM 299 lead unsuspecting bishops and priests to think that worship versus populum, “is desirable whenever possible.” It was this very confusion that lead to the submission of the question, the dubium,  to the Congregation some 16 years ago and, consequently, to the official response which I quoted at the top.  Back then, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship (who was not acting merely as a private citizen, btw…) made clear that, according to the law, Holy Mass in the Novus Ordo could be celebrated in either position.

Two final points.

Confusion flows from the poor English and Italian translation. However, the French, German and Polish managed to get it right!

FRENCH: (299) Il convient, partout où c’est possible, que l’autel soit érigé à une distance du mur qui permette d´en faire aisément le tour et d´y célébrer face au peuple.

GERMAN: (299) Der Altar ist von der Wand getrennt zu errichten, so dass man ihn leicht umschreiten und die Feier an ihm dem Volk zugewandt vollzogen werden kann. Das empfiehlt sich überall, wo es möglich ist.

POLISH: (299) Ołtarz winien być zbudowany w oddaleniu od ściany, aby łatwo można było obchodzić go dookoła i celebrować przy nim w stronę ludu. Wypada go tak umieścić wszędzie, gdzie to jest możliwe.

But I, friends, don’t need translations to be able to read 299, and neither should any other priest or bishop of the LATIN Church.

Next, way back in 1969, when the first Novus Ordo Missal was released, the 1969 GIRM 262 (the predecessor of 2002 GIRM 299) said:

262. Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit.

The main altar should be built separated from the wall, so that it can be easily walked around and a celebration toward the people can be carried out at it.

Note well that the pesky quod clause, which has caused such confusion in the 2002 version, is absent.

So, you might be asking, WHY was that quod clause inserted into the 2002 version?  It was probably an attempt – ham-fisted – to curtail the wide-spread destruction of existing altars that was going on.  There is NO LEGISLATION that requires that existing altars be reworked or destroyed or detached or chopped off or … anything.  That quod clause expresses a suggestion that, if it is possible, altars should be constructed far enough from the wall that they can be circumnavigated and Mass can be said from either side. That’s it.

Fr. Z’s position: All things being equal, ad orientem worship is superior, but both ad orientem and versus populum are provided for in the rubrics of the Ordinary Form. Attempts to forbid ad orientem worship today are based both on erroneous scholarship from decades ago that promoted versus populum worship (later repudiated by some of the scholars who proposed it), and on bad translations of present day liturgical legislation (which were subsequently clarified the Congregation for Divine Worship).

Celebrating the Holy Mass in a common direction and assuming the posture of adoring Christ together will orient our lives, beyond our worship, more perfectly around Him, without whom we wither and die.  Until our fellow clergy are ready to accept this development which will be so beneficial to the Church, there are three things we can do to lay the foundations:

1.         Teach.  There is no wrong time for catechizing the faithful about the mysteries of the faith.  Using Fr. Lang’s book and other writings of recent popes and scholars on the subject, each priest can catechize through homilies, bulletin inserts and adult faith formation classes about the fundamental orientation of the Christian life and its liturgical expression: turning toward the Lord.

2.         Make visible the Holy Cross.  As Cardinal Ratzinger pointed out in his book Spirit of the Liturgy, placing a Cross and its accompanying candles on the top of the altar reminds the priest and the people not to gaze at each other but to gaze together at Jesus.  “True love consists not in gazing at each other but gazing together in a common direction.” – Antoine de Saint Exsupery.  With the Cross at the center of the liturgical action, everyone will be encouraged, even subtly, to look at Jesus and ignore the rather insignificant face of the priest.  Then, the priest can feel comfortable doing what is right while praying, namely, looking at God when speaking to God.  The celebrant should never stare out into the congregation during the Gloria, Creed, and Offertory/Eucharistic Prayers.  He should be looking at the altar, the Cross or the Eucharistic elements.  When addressing the people, he should look up or turn around to speak to them.  This common sense practice will help to quietly form the people to see Jesus as the object of their worship and keep they eyes fixed on Him. 

 3.        Use the Prayers of the Faithful to promote turning toward the Lord.  Saint Augustine and other Church Fathers speak of the custom of the early Church, that a minister would announce to the people after the homily: “conversi ad Dominum!”  Turn to the Lord!  The people would then face East with the priest.  This is the message at the heart of Cardinal Sarah’s call to celebrant Mass ad orientem.  It only makes sense that the priest should be leading us together in a common direction toward Christ.  No one wants the bus driver to be looking back at them while driving them to their destination.  In the introduction and concluding prayer to the Prayers of the Faithful, priests can use the words “turn toward the Lord” in such a way as to restore this ancient call to worship and to instill in the hearts of the faithful a sense of clarity about what we are collectively going to do next in the Mass: worshipping and receiving the living Christ.  For example, at the introduction one might say: “Let us turn toward the Lord and offer Him our prayers in peace and confidence.”  At the end one might pray, “Heavenly Father, God of infinite love and tender mercy, hear the prayers of your people.  As we now turn to the Lord Jesus to adore and receive His Body and Blood, bestow on us the grace to love you above all else.”  This is open to interpretation and adaptation but the basic concept is to incorporate the idea of transitioning from the Liturgy of the Word, which is essentially a dialogue and teaching experience, to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which is an experience of adoring Christ together and receiving Him in Holy Communion. 

Taken together, these three simple practices will shape the congregations entrusted to our care to
understand more fully the authentic meaning of the worship of God in the Holy Mass.




Monday, July 18, 2016

Collossians 1: A complex summary of the Kerygma

Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.


In the preface of Christmas, we hear that, through the incarnation and birth of Jesus, God made Himself visible so that we might be “caught up in the love of the God we cannot see.”  Jesus is “God with skin on.”  The incarnate Jesus Christ experiences and redeems the totality of our human life.  Jesus lived among us and thus understands all our joys and sorrows.  God is not the watchmaker of the Deists but a deeply personal God, who loves us enough to want to be with us in the most intimate way, and to bear our burdens with us. 

For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers;
all things were created through him and for him.

Creation takes place IN, THROUGH and FOR Jesus Christ.  The Son of God, even before He was incarnate and was given the name Jesus, was involved in the creative action of the Father.  Genesis 1 says that “God spoke and it was made.”  The Word of the Father is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, who would in the fullness of time take on flesh and become man.  Jesus was there at the beginning.  He was also involved throughout the Old Testament as the Word who spoke through the prophets.  He is the Rock who gave life-giving water to the thirsting Israelites.  The Fathers of the Church even say that the MIND of God takes on flesh in Jesus.  God’s Mind and Word take on a “life of their own,” so to speak, in the Incarnation.  The Son of God becomes flesh and reveals the will of God in a deeply personal way among us. 


The Trinity is unified in every act of creation, redemption and sanctification.  All things were created through the utterance of the Word of God, who is Jesus Christ; in Jesus Christ, that is, with His involvement and intimate participation; and for Jesus Christ, for His sake.  God did not need creation but created the universe in order to share His love.  The Father first and from eternity shares His love with His Son.  Everything that exists is made by God to exist first and foremost for the praise and glory of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the fullness of who God is and the perfect manifestation of God to us. 


He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.

This verse reminds us of the prologue of John’s Gospel.  John says that the Word was with God in the beginning and IS God.  Jesus is supreme over the universe.  Everything in the universe depends on Christ to remain in being.  We cannot even breathe without His grace. 


He is the head of the body, the church.

Jesus established the Church and remains its Head.  His headship is manifested through the ministry of the bishops and priests.  Just as creation depends on Christ, so does the life of the Church. 


He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent.

Jesus is the beginning of creation and also of the New Creation.  Through His Passion and Resurrection, Jesus has saved us from sin and opened the way for us to eternal life.  All things have been made new in Christ.  He alone is the savior of the world.  He has done first what we hope to do: rise to eternal life with the Father.  By rising from the dead, Jesus is supreme and preeminent in all things.  There is no other “god” or “messiah” who has died and rose from the dead for our sake.  Jesus deserves our total devotion and obedience because He is the source of eternal life for us.  Jesus is the first to be born from the dead, to rise from the grave, and He shows us the pattern of what we are called to be and to do. 


For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through him to all things for him,
making peace by the blood of his cross
through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.


In the New Covenant, Jesus is the center of the universe.  Through Jesus everything is reconciled; through His blood enmity is put to death and harmony is restored; in Him we see the totality of who God is; for His sake everything is reconciled and redeemed so that the entire universe owes all praise and glory to Jesus Christ. 




Jesus is God from the beginning and shares form eternity in the fullness of who God is.  The Father empties Himself in love in begetting the Son, who returns the Father’s love perfectly from eternity.  Their love is fruitful in the Spirit, who proceeds from the shared love of them both. 


Jesus became incarnate in order to make god visible to us.  In Jesus we see the fullness of redemption.  God cannot teach us more about Himself than He already has in Jesus. 


He is the first-born from the dead and provides the path for us to rise from sin and death into eternal blessedness with God.  Jesus became like us that we might become like God.  His paschal mystery is our salvation from sin.  He took pour place, bore our infirmities and suffered the punishment we deserve. 


Jesus is the Head of the Church, which carries on the sanctifying work which He began with the Apostles.  The Spirit guides this work of evangelization. 


Therefore, in everything, Jesus is preeminent.  He is the center of the universe and the center of our lives. 

Seeking a fuller definition of conscience

Cardinal Newman defines conscience as the "aboriginal vicar of Christ," according to the triple munera which are rooted in the Old Testament figures of priest, prophet and king, which Christ assimilates unto Himself and perfects, and which the Church is given as gifts and duties. 

Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ, a prophet in its informations, a monarch in its peremptoriness, a priest in its {249} blessings and anathemas, and, even though the eternal priesthood throughout the Church could cease to be, in it the sacerdotal principle would remain and would have a sway.

The conscience, in other words, exists in a manner more fundamental that any other manifestation of God in our human experience.  Even without any other religious experience, man still possesses the voice of God deep in his heart.  Conscience proclaims the truth like a prophet, rules over our actions expecting obedience as a king, and blesses or condemns the choices we face as a priest blesses or condemns heresy. 

Therefore, conscience cannot be the opinion of the individual but, rather, the voice of God Himself in the heart of His creature - the pinnacle of His creation, made in his image, capable of union with Him and able to love Him in return - the human person. 

Gaudium et spes no. 16 concurs:

In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged.(9) Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths.(10) In a wonderful manner conscience reveals that law which is fulfilled by love of God and neighbor.(11) In fidelity to conscience, Christians are joined with the rest of men in the search for truth, and for the genuine solution to the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals from social relationships. Hence the more right conscience holds sway, the more persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the objective norms of morality. Conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity. The same cannot be said for a man who cares but little for truth and goodness, or for a conscience which by degrees grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin.

Marriage Preparation

Several weeks ago, Pope Francis asserted that most marriages are invalid because young people today do not understand the Church’s definition of marriage nor the reality of that to which they are expected to consent. 

News story:

It appears that the relevant canons would be 1099 and 1101.  The Diocese of Madison has a helpful website which presents the cannons along with commentary and examples. 

A person cannot validly consent to something they do not believe in.  A deeply held false belief that marriage is disposable, for example, constitutes a defect of consent. 

However, the modern progressive societies where such a belief would be prevalent are the same places where there is a widespread and easily accessible information network, along with sufficient resources to provide marriage preparation, such that a person would be stretching the limits of the plausible to claim ignorance about a basic element of both family life and Christianity, namely, the qualities of indissolubility and unity in marriage.  We have the opportunity, in the developed world at least, to overcome the false beliefs imposed on young people by the media and the bad example of their elders. 

The text of the vows is sufficient to declare to the individuals what constitutes the definition of marriage.  Marriage preparation in the most basic form can explore the text of these vows and unpack their meaning for the couple.  Insofar as they are not impeded by mental illness, drugs or alcohol, or have not been otherwise deceived or manipulated, they have the ability to know and understand that to which they are consenting.  Therefore, their declaration of consent is made with knowledge. 

Other defects enter in when the individuals consent for the wrong reasons or without careful thought, or are otherwise under undue pressure, duress or influence.  Even in such a case of outside influence, the individuals would have knowledge of what constitutes the Church’s definition of marriage because they heard it in marriage preparation and in the ceremony. 

The question arises in an annulment investigation: did one or other of the persons explicitly or implicitly simulate an essential property of marriage?  Did they verbally speak words they could not have the ability to understand because of a deeply held understanding of marriage contrary to Catholic doctrine?  Sure, this is possible.  But so widespread that most marriages are invalid?  Unlikely. 

Either way: the pope’s words are as clear a reminder as any that marriage preparation is a vital part of the new evangelization and the quality of said preparation must be improved.  There is no excuse for a couple not to know want they are committing to in their vows.  The priest needs to share the doctrine and holy couples are essential as "sponsors" to give a living example of a holy family life. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Clarifying the clarification

Regarding the below post:
1. Current liturgical norms presume the posture of the priest is such that he is oriented, together with the people, toward the altar when he is at the altar.  He is instructed, when necessary, to "turn toward the people."  No new norms are being proposed because none are necessary. 
2. GIRM 299 addresses church architecture not liturgical orientation.  Mass may be celebrated facing the people.  Still, no theological or spiritual reasons exist which compel anyone to do so.
3. Facing the object of our worship is common to all major religions and consistent throughout the history of Christianity until recent alterations were introduced in a manner that was neither organic nor integral.  The cardinal is encouraging, not mandating, that we recall our tradition and orient our worship of God to the very God whom we are worshipping. 
4. The "ordinary form" is only "ordinary" numerically.  More people celebrate it.  Both forms of the Roman Rite are equally valid and acceptable.  One is not essentially "better" than the other, for Jesus is truly present in every Mass, even if the more traditional celebration of the liturgy has a far superior effect in bringing the faithful to a deeper understanding of the faith and more intimate relationship with God. 
5. It is better to refer to the "reform of the hijacked implementation of general and limited conciliar directives contained in Sacrosanctum concilium according to the false hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture" and to the "restoration of the sense of the sacred." 

Posted by ZENIT Staff on 12 July, 2016

The Vatican press office on Monday released a clarification regarding media presentations of an address given July 5 in London by Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

The cardinal spoke about Masses celebrated ‘ad orientem,’ that is, with the priest facing away from the people (to the east, if the church was built with that traditional layout).

The Vatican’s statement clarifies that the cardinal’s address was not an announcement of new directives for the celebration of Mass. Here is the text of the statement, with the English translation provided by the press office.


Some clarifications on the celebration of Mass

It would appear opportune to offer clarification in the light of information circulated in the press after a conference held in London a few days ago by Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Cardinal Sarah has always been rightly concerned about the dignity of the celebration of Mass, so as to express appropriately the attitude of respect and adoration for the Eucharistic mystery. Some of his expressions have however been incorrectly interpreted, as if they were intended to announce new indications different to those given so far in the liturgical rules and in the words of the Pope regarding celebration facing the people and the ordinary rite of the Mass.

Therefore it is useful to remember that in the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani  (General Instruction of the Roman Missal), which contains the norms relating to the Eucharistic celebration and is still in full force, paragraph no. 299 states that: “Altare extruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit. Altare eum autem occupet locum, ut revera centrum sit ad quod totius congregationis fidelium attentio sponte convertatur” (“The altar should be built separate from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible. Moreover, the altar should occupy a place where it is truly the centre toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns”.)

Pope Francis, for his part, on the occasion of his visit to the Dicastery for Divine Worship, expressly mentioned that the “ordinary” form of the celebration of the Mass is that expressed in the Missal promulgated by Paul VI, while the “extraordinary” form, which was permitted by Pope Benedict XVI for the purposes and in the ways explained in his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, must not take the place of the “ordinary” one.

Therefore, new liturgical directives are not expected from next Advent, as some have incorrectly inferred from some of Cardinal Sarah’s words, and it is better to avoid using the expression “reform of the reform” with reference to the liturgy, given that it may at times give rise to error.
All the above was unanimously expressed during a recent audience granted by the Pope to the same Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Follow-up: Futile efforts to stem the tide of immorality originating in the State

The Supreme Court is a negligible concern in the election, unworthy of consideration.  You and I will never see a pro-life politician, justice or other government official. The U.S. government we know has abandoned the Constitution and our nation's moral foundations.  Roberts, hailed as the savior of life ten years ago, has done nothing of value for the pro-life cause.  The State is not our ally in this battle, which is primarily a spiritual one. 

Much time, money and energy has been wasted on political efforts which have not borne fruit.  Instead, may we focus on the conversion of hearts and the building of a world that does not desire the evils our leaders have legalized. 

The secret and, therefore, the essential locus of evangelization with respect to the Gospel of Life is the medical pregnancy center. They are the only ones having any notable success-not the screaming fundamentalists with bloody pictures on the street, not the lobbyists, not the pundits. If we had spent the money wasted on failed pro-life voting initiatives on clinics we would have saved more babies.  The conversion of the heart of a mother begins with her first ultrasound and the embrace of a loving staff.

Pray for conversion of hearts not political victories. Pray for a world that no longer needs abortion and recognizes need to reform an overgrown and meddlesome State.

Consider the following Message from Cleveland Right to Life:

June 29th 2016

In 2011 alone, abortion related complications affected 26,500 women and over 3000 women needed hospitalization; but the abortion industry has opposed Common sense health standards at every level in every State in America, and on June 27th 2016 the abortion industry received the highest court in the land's approval to continue to operate on unsuspecting women in the usual substandard and sometimes deadly fashion.

According to a report just released by Family Research Council, "the U.S. Supreme Court announced its 5-3 decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, striking down Texas' H.B. 2 commonsense regulation and enforcement of basic health standards in abortion facilities. The Texas law required that abortion facilities be held to the same standard as surgical centers and that abortionists must have admitting privileges at a local hospital not further than thirty miles from the abortion facility."

Cincinnati Right to Life points out that "The Court's decision affects states beyond Texas, including Ohio, as currently 29 states prescribe health and safety standards for abortion facilities, and 15 states require abortionists to maintain admitting privileges with a local hospital or a written patient transfer agreement with a doctor with such privileges to ensure knowledgeable care should an emergency occur" 

The Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt decision is yet another example of the mess that our country is in, a mess that will only be overcome when we fall on our knees and ask for God's forgiveness for allowing this slaughter to continue on our watch.  For at least a decade many in the prolife movement have placed their trust in the courts as they have tried to regulate abortion out of existence.  This strategy has to change.  The deciding vote in this latest Supreme Court decision was made by a Republican appointed judge, Justice Anthony Kennedy.  This decision is a clarion call to all of us in the prolife/pro-family movements to think outside the box as we regroup after this devastating blow to men, women and children.  The "same ol' same ol" will get us more of the same failed results. 

In a recent comment Attorney Gualberto Garcia Jones, Vice President of Personhood Alliance notes " This decision officially spells the end of the strategy of chipping away at Roe. I think it also stands as a solid rebuke to those who tried to fight absolute evil with a compromise of principle and half measures. Abortion was never about women's health, it is bloody murder.  I think yesterday's decision was not a blow to the pro-life movement at all. It should be a great gift, a wake-up call to stop the fantasy that the abhorrent evil of abortion will somehow be rooted out by appealing to the mad executioner's sense of justice."

These are sobering words, but ones that need to be heard.  All too often we hear the prolife leadership say that they need to temper the message so as to keep the troops "encouraged" and "positive".  Unfortunately this strategy has failed to help the grassroots to face the reality of what is ahead.  No matter who is elected up or down the ticket in November, we have a "focus" problem on our hands within the movement.  When a national leader within the prolife movement states publically (as was recently the case) that the most important challenge facing us today is to pass a 20 week abortion ban, then we know that we are in trouble.  According to Wikipedia only 1.4% of all abortions are performed after 20 weeks. What about the other 98.6%? 

Furthermore, the 20 week abortion ban legislation that was written and submitted by our prolife leadership, and which the leadership considers to be the most important effort to end abortion, has institutionalized the idea of "classes" of pre-born children where a litmus test is applied on "how you were conceived".  If you were conceived through  rape or incest - sorry, you fail the test - you have to go elsewhere to get protection for your Right To Life.  Your little body will be offered up on the altar of prolife compromise!   

We might want to throw up our hands and cover our eyes at this latest SCOTUS decision but let's face the facts.  It is a Republican, Regan appointed Supreme Court Justice who has just pushed us over the cliff into hell.  There is no "encouraging" or "positive" way to spin that.  Sorry, but the whole mantra about "elections have consequences" so we must vote for the establishment in order to get "good" Supreme Court justices has just been blown asunder.  The deafening silence on this latest disastrous court decisions, of the presumptuous GOP presidential candidate, Donald Trump, does not bode well for the child in the womb!  
Justice Kennedy broke ranks over 20 years ago with his Casey decision, a decision that should have heralded in a new path of action for the prolife movement.  Gualberto Garcia Jones makes a very good point in his commentary when he says "The fight at the Supreme Court should have been abandoned 15 years ago after Casey, just like the fight against slavery was abandoned after Dred Scott in 1857.... We have a clear path ahead of us now. End abortion absolutely by a constitutional amendment, or be complicity with it.... Let's get to work." 
It is time to stop with the failed policy of relying on politicians and the courts. It is time for "we the people" to insist on a Human Life Amendment and unite the whole movement behind ENDING abortion.  It is time to fall on our knees and beg for forgiveness for trusting in SCOTUS instead of our Lord and Savior.  

Let us remember these beautiful words in Psalm 146, "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save - Blessed is he whose help is in the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God"