Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Year of Mercy: How to Go to Confession

One of the very practical efforts that might be made during the Year of Mercy is providing resources for simply the mechanics of going to confession. Although fortunately many parishes already have thriving use of this wonderful sacrament, in many places it might not be used as frequently as possible. There are a number of possible reasons for this (I've written about some of them here and here).

But I think another reason that people don't go is that they simply don't know how.

We professional Catholic types can forget how important it feels to regular folks in the pews to just not do anything wrong at Mass. As an example, I remember my first time going to Mass at a Dominican priory that has wooden seats that flip up, and feeling very self-conscious about how loud they would slam if I made a mistake about lifting or setting mine down. A lot of people are probably like that in church, just wanting to do "the right thing" without disturbing the peace.

Imagine having the weight of this kind of fear of making a mistake, when considering approaching the sacrament of Confession, in addition to the normal inertia having to do with admitting sins, and everyone's busy weekend schedules, and everything else that impedes frequent reception. Months and even years might pass, with God's people carrying needlessly heavy burdens.

Fortunately this particular issue is very easy to fix. Most parish priests have already coached people through the process of going to Confession, both with schoolchildren and with adults entering the Church through RCIA. It wouldn't take much to adapt the written resources to be referred to parish-wide in the bulletin, or to make an RCIA discussion into a homily where the benefits of Confession are discussed and the steps of going to Confession are outlined.

It might even be nice to have an "open house" for the confessionals, so folks could see the placement of chairs and screens, before attempting to go on their own. And written resources for examinations of conscience and the order of the sacrament are highly useful to have around.

It would be wonderful if in the Year of Mercy every barrier that gets in the way of sacramental reconciliation were removed as much as possible, so that people could avail themselves of the beautiful graces of this sacrament of mercy.

Friday, July 22, 2016

A Feast Day for the Apostle to the Apostles

Monday, July 18, 2016

How to Introduce Ad Orientem to Your Parish

The Ordinary Form celebrated ad orientem at Prince of Peace, Taylors, SC:
photo credit, James Honker Photography

Robert Cardinal Sarah’s landmark address to Sacra Liturgia UK this month has pastors all over the world wondering how they might introduce ad orientem worship to their parish.  Particularly given the controversy that has erupted as a result, I am sure there are some of the brethren who may be thinking the time is not ripe for moving in this direction in their parishes.  On the contrary, I think the controversy may provide the perfect opportunity to explore how to implement this change of liturgical direction in the parish, and to do so by Advent 2016.

First of all, since news of the controversy is already all over Catholic and secular news, it provides the occasion for the pastor to explain to his people what all the fuss is about.  In a homily and bulletin column series, go back to Ratzinger’s famous Hermeneutic ofContinuity address to the Roman Curia.  Then, provide the faithful with quotations from both Sarah’s address as well as the communiqué from the Holy See and Cardinal Nichol’s letter about the matter.  You can explain that this current battle in the liturgy wars is a clear manifestation of the hermeneutic of continuity vs. continuity of rupture.  You can then provide the current legislation of the Roman Missal as well as the Holy See in which the people can see for themselves that the Missal presumes the ad orientem direction and that Bishops do not have the power to forbid it.

Then, the months leading up to Advent can be a powerful time for catechesis.  Father Jay Scott Newman of St Mary’s, Greenville, has an excellent set of bulletin columns by which he introduced the idea, along with a series of sermons, to his parish.  Excerpting and integrating these into bulletin columns and pastoral letters to the faithful can introduce the idea to the faithful.

In my own parish, we put into the pews a resource, which explains to visitors and parishioners why what they may see, hear and experience at our parish may be markedly different than their experience in other American parishes.  That resource is given to all new families when they register and is excerpted in the bulletin on a regular basis.  We also invite people at Christmas and Easter to take home the booklets to learn more.

It is a great time to do a book study on Michael Lang’s seminal work TurningTowards the Lord.  Send a personal invitation to your highest donors, heads of ministries, school faculty and staff, parish employees and members of the finance and pastoral councils. 

These months of catechesis leading up to Advent may be geared towards the implementation of ad orientem worship, but can also be used to address some of the lack of catechesis and liturgical confusion all around.  In my own parish we did a book study on Ronald Knox’s Mass in Slow Motion as well as a sermonseries to which I go back from time to time. 

It is important during this time to avoid polemics over the versus populum stance.  Attacking a position that the vast majority of the faithful have come to expect as the norm for worship in their time will bear scant fruit.  We can, however, emphasise the ad orientem posture, not as evidence of “turning back the clock to before Vatican II” or even “turning our backs on the people”, but as exercising a legitimate option that is part of the creative diversity of the Church, and of uniting priest and people on the same side of the altar.  It is also important to underline that this position in the Novus Ordo is generally taken up only at the Liturgy of the Eucharist, when the prayers are addressed to the Father, through the Son and in the Spirit, with the Cross on the Altar as a focal point for the entire assembly.  You can also mention that, in St Peter’s in Rome, Mass is celebrated in both directions every day: at side altars with the altar against the wall, with priest and people facing the same direction, as well as behind the altar towards the people, in the case of the Altar of the Chair and the Papal Altar.  If it’s good enough for St Peter’s in Rome, it should good enough for your parish, too.

Pope Francis celebrates the Ordinary Form ad orientem at the Altar of St John Paul II at St Peter's, Rome

 As far as the actual implementation goes, there are various theories about the best way to do this.  Some feel that using the so-called “Benedictine arrangement” of six candles and a more or less prominent altar cross on the altar is an important first step.  Parishes like St Mary’s went ad orientem at all their usual Sunday and weekday Masses after the catechesis occurred.  In my parish, for several years there were experiments with the new position: for brief periods of time, for holy days, for school Masses. 

Here is a way that the position can be gradually introduced:
1.    Daily Mass.  Often your daily Mass crowd can give you a very good read on the temperature of reactions in the parish.  Doing the position at some or all daily Masses, while tailoring catechesis to those Masses is a way to start.
2.    School Mass.  Catechizing school faculty, staff, parents and children through workshops, classes, and letters.  It also means that children will grow up in an environment where the position does not carry the same baggage as previous generations carried about it.
3.    Principal Mass.  After 1 and 2, maybe during Lent, is a good time to do the position at the principal Mass.  Especially if the Mass tends towards the “High Mass” variety with choir, incense and a serious complement of altar servers, it introduces the idea to Sunday worship while still giving options to those faithful who are not ready for the transition.
4.    Holy Day Masses and Holy Week.  Doing the position for those days highlights their solemnity by making them different, and the position can always be brought into the homily on that occasion.
5.    All Masses.  Repeat all of the catechesis again before doing this, and still keep a safety valve Mass, particularly the one where the oldest crowd, that might have more trouble receiving this change, go. 
6.    Keep Masses with the Bishop or visiting celebrants versus populum.  Instead of making an issue out of the contrary position, it can be presented as making the celebration special when someone comes like the Bishop or as an act of hospitality to visiting celebrants who might not be used to it.  The occasional reversion to versus populum will cause people to reflect on the differences between the two positions and want to explore the reasons for them, as well as their own reactions more. 

Some prelates legitimately fear that it will cause division and strife in the parish.  That is why priests must be prepared to know and exercise their rights in the matter, and to account for the gentle and firm way in which they have prepared the parish for the change.  Building up a culture of support for the change within the parish will also be important when the priest is criticized for doing so.

It is also important that parochial vicars or assisting priests prudently forego their right to celebrate ad orientem when the pastor has reaffirmed the versus populum position.  Creating division between priests in a parish will unsettle the faithful and provide them with ample opportunity to recreate that divide amongst themselves.  The young priests will get their chance, and it will be easier for them when their older brothers have blazed the trail.  If, after all of this, the Ordinary insists, then he is then in the position of having to explain to the faithful and his presbyterate why he insists on denying to some priests the right to exercise those rights which are instilled in the law itself.  A priest should always be obedient to his Ordinary, and God will reward that obedience and patience.  As more parishes experience ad orientem worship and more Catholics see that Vatican II is not undone and the sky does not indeed fall, ad orientem will move from the fringes of the life of the Church, where it has been unjustly exiled, back to the heart of the Church.          

The Coming of the Son of Man, Matthew 24:27

For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Where the Lord Stands to Face the Nations, Zechariah 14:4

In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

OT, Beauty in Sacred and Profane Arts

Apparently a pop singer wore this gown for a television appearance this past week.

The designer is one Michael Cinco, a Filipino, and the images he used are drawn from and inspired by the windows of Paris's Sainte Chapelle:

"Liturgy Breaks the Bounds of the Sanctuary"

The ad orientem kerfuffle, in the wake of Cardinal Sarah's address, has if nothing else, shown how passionately people on all sides of the matter care about Liturgy.
And this is only right, (as the Eucharistic Liturgy, the fons et culmen of our Faith will, after all, save the world.)
At First Things, Leroy Huizenga, Chair of Human and Divine Sciences at the University of Mary in Bismarck,  wants to
remind readers that the issue of ad orientem posture isn’t merely a minor matter of moment for fastidious liturgical nerds, as if the Mass were a mere matter of aesthetics [for] liturgy breaks the bounds of the sanctuary and affects all that we do and indeed the wider culture as it brings God's people to God. The cultivation of culture—first, among Catholics themselves, and then outwards from there—depends on a proper cultus, a liturgy in which God is sought and found.
He has a good summation of the current state of affairs and links to some of the most worthwhile commentary to be found on Those Interwebs.

The Way to Pray, Wisdom 16:28

One must rise before the sun to give you thanks, and must pray to you at the dawning of the light.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Psalm 19, the Path of the Bridegroom

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ezekiel 43, the Eastern Gate

Then he led me to the gate facing east, and there was the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east! His voice was like the roar of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. The vision I saw was like the vision I had seen when he came to destroy the city and like the vision I had seen by the river Chebar—I fell on my face. The glory of the LORD entered the temple by way of the gate facing east. Then the spirit lifted me up and brought me to the inner court. And there the glory of the LORD filled the temple! I heard someone speaking to me from the temple, but the man was standing beside me. The voice said to me: Son of man, do you see the place for my throne, and the place for the soles of my feet? Here I will dwell among the Israelites forever.

Southeastern Sacred Music Conference

Our readers will be interested to know that Registration for the Southeastern Sacred Music Conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee is ongoing through this Sunday night, July 17.

The conference is a project of the Southeastern chapter of the Church Music Association of America, and features CMAA leaders among its faculty, including Dr. Jennifer Donelson, Andrew Leung, and Bruce Ludwick.

The conference is hosted at the magnificent Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul on July 22-23 (Friday and Saturday), and includes instruction in the following areas:
  • learn to read and sing Gregorian chant (or further develop your chanting ability), under the direction of Dr. Jennifer Donelson
  • gain the skills and tools to immediately improve your parish music program, guided by the wisdom of the Second Vatican Council and
  • explore repertory options (many of them available at no cost) for the Ordinary Form of the Mass, no matter what your parish or choir situation
  • study special topics, including sacred polyphony, use of the organ, restoring Catholic tradition to the funeral Mass, and a session for clergy with Father David Carter, and
  • participate in a solemn Vespers and solemn sung Mass and hear the basilica’s majestic pipe organ in recital.
Full details, registration, and contact info may be obtained at the Southeastern Sacred Music Conference website.

Turning toward our Lord in Music

Amidst all the discussion of Ad orientem, many may not have caught a small but important musical note last week. In his Sacra Liturgia address of July 5, Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, his Eminence spoke at length of the need to reexamine conciliar and papal teachings.  Returning our focus to God, and our profound need to worship him, there was a beautiful reflection on Sacred music:
...we must sing the liturgy, we must sing the liturgical texts, respecting the liturgical traditions of the Church and rejoicing in the treasury of sacred music that is ours, most especially that music proper to the Roman rite, Gregorian chant. We must sing sacred liturgical music not merely religious music, or worse, profane songs.