Monday, April 30, 2007

Bishop-Designate Elliott

In my days back in the seminary, I was one of a corps of Masters of Ceremonies in the house. Once in a while this was fun, especially when a bishop came for a visit or we had some special event in the seminary. But more often than those special occasions, usually what being an MC meant was that I had to get to the sacristy first, turned the lights on in the chapel, unlocked the cabinets, made sure the servers scheduled to be there were all there, called over to the room of the Deacon who had overslept and was scheduled to preach that day, made sure there were enough stoles for the concelebrating Priests, got everything started on time, and then did the opposite of all these things afterwards to clean up and go quietly on my way.

One of the books that came out in my seminary years (and made my life easier) was called "Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite", written by an Australian working at the Vatican named Msgr. Peter J. Elliott. It was then, and still is, a great resource book, not only for Young Fogeys who love to know the details of liturgical ceremonies and may have to set up for one of those ceremonies someday, but for the average Catholic who wants to know more about the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. Come to think of it, parish Sacristans would also find this book especially helpful.

Today it was announced that Msgr. Elliott was named an Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Australia. He was ordained to the Priesthood in 1973, and served as a parish priest before being assigned to the Pontifical Council for the Family in Rome. After returning to Australia, he became the Director of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne, as well as other archdiocesan jobs (including being pastor of a parish).

Besides writing "Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite" in 1995, then-Msgr. Elliott also wrote "Liturgical Question Box: Answers to Common Questions About the Modern Liturgy" in 1998, and, "Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year" in 2002. These were published and are available from Ignatius Press at
Congratulations to Bishop-Designate Elliott, and thank you for your books. But can you imagine being the guy who has to coordinate his episcopal ordination?

Oy, Mari, Oy, Mari...

True Vatican junkies will recognize the gentleman on the right (standing with Cardinal Glemp of Poland) as Arturo Mari, a photographer for L'Osservatore Romano. Almost as present in the Pope's life as his personal staff, Signor Mari has the official task of recording the day to day events of the pontiff's life for the Vatican archives, something he has done (and his father did before him) for every pope since Paul VI. Of course, one of the pleasant side effects of this is that not only do we get great, up-close photographs of the Pope, but if you should ever get within camera shot of the Pope there is someone always there to take a photograph of the moment!

Yesterday the photographer became the photographed as Arturo Mari's son, Juan-Carlos Mari, a member of the Legionaries of Christ, was one of the 22 men ordained to the Priesthood by Pope Benedict.

This past weekend being "Good Shepherd Sunday", ordinations to the Priesthood were a natural thing to occur. "Each one of you," The Pope said to the ordinands, "will become a good shepherd with Jesus' help, ready even to give your life for him if it is necessary."

He told the men, "Draw near to the altar, your daily school of sanctity, of communion with Jesus, the way of entering into his sentiments; draw near to the altar to renew the sacrifice of the cross, you will discover the richness and tenderness of the divine master's love more and more."

Pope Benedict continued: "May the certainty that Christ will not abandon you and that no obstacle can stand in the way of his universal design of salvation be for you a reason for constant consolation -- even on the difficult days -- and indestructible hope." "Despite misunderstandings and problems," he continued, "the apostle of Christ does not lose his joy, indeed he is the witness of that joy that flows from being with the Lord, from love for him and one's brothers."

Congratulations to Fr. Mari and his family, as well as the families of all the new brethren in the Priesthood.

Thanks to L'Osservatore Romano/Reuters for the photo and for the homily translation.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Goin' Global!

Yesterday, I got word from the publisher of the "For Dummies" series that John Paul II for Dummies is going to be translated into Polish and released for sale in bookstores in Poland.
Or should I say, "jest znakomitymi wiadomościami"

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Bishop of Rome at One of His Parishes

Some of the least covered events (outside of Italy) in the life of the Holy Father are the visits he makes to the parishes of the Diocese of Rome, usually on Sundays. During Pope John Paul's twenty-six year, five month, and seventeen day pontificate, he was able to visit 301 of the 333 parishes of the diocese which he was Bishop. Then in 2002, as his mobility became an issue, another 16 parishes came to the Vatican to meet with him, bringing the total to 317. Though he hasn't continued every tradition begun by his predecessor (allowing people to attend Mass in his private chapel, for one), Pope Benedict has continued the tradition of visiting Roman parishes.

On Sunday, March 25, Pope Benedict made a pastoral visit to the parish of St. Felicity and her children, Martyrs. There, he spoke to the parish's Pastoral Council. Thanks to Zenit News Service, an English translation of the talk is available. I've highlighted some parts of it I think are key, because I believe questions like, "What is a parish?", "What is its role within a diocese?", and, "What determines a 'successful' parish?" will have to be answered in the next few years. Anyway, here's Pope Benedict:

"...I would only like to thank the adult lay people who are building a living parish.

Here you have the Vocationist Fathers. The word "Vocationist" is reminiscent of "vocation". We can examine two dimensions of this word. First of all, we think immediately of the vocation to the priesthood. But the word has a far broader, more general dimension.

Every person carries within himself a project of God, a personal vocation, a personal idea of God on what he is required to do in history to build his Church, a living Temple of his presence. And the priest's role is above all to reawaken this awareness, to help the individual discover his personal vocation, God's task for each one of us. I see that many here have discovered the project that concerns them, both with regard to professional life in the formation of today's society -- where the presence of Christian consciences is fundamental -- and also with regard to the call to contribute to the Church's growth and life. Both these things are equally important.

A society where Christian conscience is no longer alive loses its bearings; it no longer knows where to go, what it can do, what it cannot do, and ends up in emptiness, it fails. Only if a living awareness of the faith illumines our hearts can we also build a just society. It is not the Magisterium that imposes doctrine. It is the Magisterium that helps enable the conscience itself to hear God's voice, to know what is good, what is the Lord's will. It is only an aid so that personal responsibility, nourished by a lively conscience, may function well and thus contribute to ensuring that justice is truly present in our society: justice within ourselves and universal justice for all our brothers and sisters in the world today.

Today, globalization is not only economic: there is also a globalization of responsibilities, this universality, which is why we are all responsible for everyone. The Church offers us the encounter with Christ, with the living God, with the "Logos" who is Truth and Light, who does not coerce consciences, does not impose a partial doctrine but helps us ourselves to be men and women who are completely fulfilled and thus to live in personal responsibility and in deeper communion with one another, a communion born from communion with God, with the Lord. I see here this living community. I am grateful to the priests, I am grateful to all of you, their collaborators. And I hope that the Lord will help you and enlighten you always."

Friday, April 27, 2007


Today's first reading at Mass told the story of St. Paul's (or, if you wish, "the artist formerly known as Saul") conversion. Being the nerdy trivia geek that I can be sometimes, I thought I'd share some factoids with you:
  • This account is one of three times it appears in Acts (the other two times are situations when Paul tells the story to others, in Acts 22 & 26, and the timeline between his conversion and his return to Jerusalem is explained by St. Paul in Galatians 1:15-24).
  • Damascus is about 140 miles from Jerusalem. This was no "daytrip"; it would've taken about one week to travel.
  • Despite Caravaggio's depiction in the picture above, there's no horse to be found in the accounts.
  • Paul is a Pharisee, traveling with Temple guards who are Saducees. Even here, Paul is being an observant Pharisee (which literally means "the separated ones") by walking separately from his non-Pharisee companions.

But that's not my purpose in writing today. The other person we hear about today is one of the "unsung heroes" of Scripture. The courage of Stephen during his stoning may have moved Saul emotionally, but his conversion is owed to Ananias just as much (if not more).

Why is Ananias "heroic"? God asks Ananias to trust Him. He's being asked by God to "turn himself in as a Christian" to Saul, whose reputation has already preceded him into Damascus. What trust was needed by Ananias to reach out to someone who had the authority to drag him back to Jerusalem and prosecute him as a Christian.

Do we have that kind of trust in the Lord? And even if we obey God out of "fear", what's our attitude while we're doing what we know God wants us to do? Do we accept the work cheerfully? Or do we do it with a pout on our face and words under our breath?

How does Ananias greet this persecutor of Christians? Does he say, "Look, I don't like you, and I'm only doing this because for some reason God has a plan for your sorry butt." Au contraire, Scripture tells us he enters the house where Saul is staying, lays his hands on him (in a nice way; not to play "taunt the blind man"), and has the conviction of his faith enough to call him "brother". Then, the scales on his eyes fall off, he stands up, and Ananias baptizes him then and there (calm down, RCIA teams!).

Ananias. Here's a guy rarely spoken of, but one to whom we owe a great deal. How many of us are willing to become God's "unsung heroes", doing important and necessary work without necessarily getting the recognition?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

30-Minute Catechumenate, Or Your Pizza is Free!

The first reading at today's Mass (Acts 8:26-40) tells the story of Philip's (that's Philip the Deacon, not Philip the Apostle) evangelization moment with the Ethiopian eunuch. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, Philip heads out on a road, chases down a chariot, "proclaims Jesus" to the occupant and does a quickie bible study, and baptizes the court official. That was easy, what's for lunch?

During Mass as this was being read, the cynic in me got the giggles. I kept imagining the "RCIA Shiites" who'd be complaining about how Philip violated protocols. "What? No 'Rite of Acceptance' into the Catechumenate? No Scrutinies? No weeks and weeks of classes? No retreat day? You baptized him outside of the Easter Vigil? No godparents? Wrrronnnggg!" It seems to me that today it has become unthinkable that a Deacon or Priest could baptize someone without the help of a team of laypeople.

In the "life imitates art" department, I remember my classmate, Fr. Bailey Clemens of the Diocese of Baker, Oregon, (who, by the way, created and maintains a Catholic internet radio station called told us a story of how, while he was a lay missionary in Africa, he was driving along when he passed a soldier who was signaling to him that he wanted a ride. Fr. Clemens had been told that you never give a soldier a ride, since there was always the chance they'd take the vehicle by gunpoint and leave you stranded. But this day, my classmate stopped. They started talking about religion, and the soldier indicated that he was unbaptized, but wanted to be a Roman Catholic. Fr. C. pulled off on the side of the road and, with the water in his canteen, baptized the soldier.

I suppose that today both Philip the Deacon and Fr. Clemens would have been directed to indicate to the person that when they got home they should contact their local Catholic Church and ask when the next RCIA classes would be starting up. But life was simpler, then.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"Simon-Peter Sez: Put your hand on your head"

It's That Darn RuncieCareyWilliams Generation!

Fr. Jim Tucker, at his Dappled Things blog, pointed the way to Father Bob Griffith, an Episcopalian Priest who blogs at Hypersync. He makes the observation that the younger generation of Episcopalian/Anglican laity, seminarians, and clergy seem to be more interested in the traditional music and liturgical worship. Check it out.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Pope says, "No more limbo!"

No, not THAT limbo. The one with the capital "L". The one that news media has gone all lusty over in the last few days (in my humble opinion) as retribution for the U.S. Supreme Court's decision about Partial Birth Abortion (as if this partially delivering babies and then killing them is only morally objectionable to Catholics).

Anyway, Zadok the Roman has a great synopsis of how this story has taken on a life of its own, not just here in the US but overseas. He also gives a great summary of Catholic teaching and shows how some theologians will truly say anything to produce a soundbite for the media and thus stay relevant.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

What to do?

For those who are feeling like they want to do something to help the students and faculty of Virginia Tech, click here for the website for Catholic Campus Ministry Center of Virginia Tech.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

St. Thomas: What He Saw and What He Said

I know, the gospel reading about the Apostle St. Thomas was last Sunday, but this has been bouncing around in my head since last Sunday night as I was sitting in Newark Airport, so here goes.

Last Sunday we heard the famous passage in John's Gospel about St. Thomas' doubt in the Resurrection of Christ. "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe." Now, Scripture and Tradition tell us that the only Apostle at the crucifixion was St. John, but the "C.S.I. junkie" in me tells me that St. Thomas was, at the very least, an eyewitness to Jesus' crucifixion. How do I know? Thomas knows where the wounds are on Jesus' body. "Big deal", you say, "Crucifixions were common and any idiot knew where to look for the wounds." For the nail marks, yes, but what St. Thomas mentions specifically is Jesus' side. Remember that most crucified persons died, not from the puncture wounds of the nails, but from suffocation once the soldiers broke their legs. Without the use of his legs, the crucified person was unable to push up in order to get air into his lungs. St. Thomas does not tell the rest of the apostles he wants to see the nail prints and the broken legs made whole again. He knows Jesus' legs were not broken and that his side was stabbed with a spear. That in itself is ironic, since Thomas himself was to be martyred how? By being stabbed with a spear by Brahman priests. But I've digressed.

So Thomas doubts, and the following Sunday, Jesus appears to the eleven again and allows Thomas to "let his fingers do the walking." St. Thomas then utters those famous words, "My Lord and my God." That's what bugged me all day last Sunday. Why does he say both? Don't we use both interchangeably? Isn't Thomas being redundant? Not really.

A "lord" is someone who has power or authority over you. The English use it as a title in their peerage system, going back to the days of feudalism. Even the ecclesial title of Monsignor, translated literally, means "my lord". We all have a bunch of "lords" over us, whether it be our boss at work or someone with power to legislate laws or rules that affect us. "Lord", if we could draw its dynamic, is someone above us reaching downwards.

A "god" is someone you give honor and glory to. Today, sadly, we use the word so often it seems to have lost its power (witnessed by statements like "Clapton is god", or, "I swear to God that's the best cheesecake I've ever eaten!"). We can have lots of gods in our life that we make the center of our worship and adoration. Growing up, my dad had a little Mercedes sportscar that I often joked he loved more than his children. For some people, the object of their devotion, their 'god', is having the right job, or the right look, or the right bank account. In Church circles, clergy go nuts trying to have as much 'face time' with the Bishop as possible (in my previous life in the political world, we used to call those people "velcroids", because they attached themselves to the elected official like pieces of Velcro). If we drew a picture to describe the dynamic of "God", it is us reaching upwards towards another.

Now certainly these words are most especially used when referring to Jesus Christ. But nowadays people aren't not so keen to give Him both titles, as St. Thomas did. Some people will call Jesus "God", but not "Lord". This means He's up there in heaven, but I have no obligation to follow any guidelines or rules that He gives to humanity through the Church (the best example of this is the gang who says, "I'm a spiritual person, but I don't believe in organized religion.") Other people, meanwhile, say that Jesus is "Lord", but not "God". This means He's given us some worthwhile guidelines on how to live our lives, but they're only boundaries (like the foul lines on most sporting fields). Besides, since in their minds Jesus Christ wasn't God, there's going to be no accountability for our actions during our lives on earth. (think of the Calvinist idea of predestination, the Deism idea that God set the world in motion and then left it on its own, or the moral relativists who say, "There's no black or white, only shades of gray" or hold to the "Fundamental Option" theory).

St. Thomas sees the wounds and, St. John tells us in 20:28, "answers" Jesus by giving him both titles. Well, an answer presumes a question was asked, so what was the question? John 20:27 tells us that Jesus said that Thomas should not be faithless, but believing. There is an implied question there that relies on Thomas' free will to reply (much like we saw when the Archangel Gabriel explained to Mary that she was to be the mother of the Messiah, if she would give her consenting "yes"). Seeing the wounds as they were burned into his memory as he watched hidden from a distance, Thomas understands that Jesus has not only power over him, but has earned his adoration. Thus he easily comes call Jesus "My Lord and my God."

So what do you think about in airports?

Mercy and Trust in Storms

The Responsorial Psalm, either recited or sung during Mass, is often the neglected "middle child" of Sacred Scripture. I like to encourage daily Mass attendees to use that refrain they repeat 2-4 times at Mass as their "meditation for the day", to help them see God's presence in whatever happens to them as the day goes on.

Today's refrain, "Lord, let your mercy be upon us as we place our trust in you", is a great one to reflect upon, particularly as it relates to the readings which it preceded and followed. Whether it's the grumblings of the widows in Acts 6, or the squall that tossed the apostle's boat in John 6, storms are going to come up in our lives.

This past week I was away with some priest friends on a trip which involved flying on the night that the whole east coast was being hit with a storm. I'm not a good flyer, but I know that it's necessary timewise and statistically a pretty safe way to travel. But that doesn't mean I like flying through turbulence. Believe me, I was asking God for both mercy and the grace to trust the flight crew as we climbed up through the storm in order to get above it. But, looking back, the plane had an interesting collection of reactions to the turbulence. Little children were laughing (not knowing what was happening), some slept through it as if nothing was going on (obviously they'd been through this before), and others (like me) made Acts of Contrition and waited for the big white light.

The storms in our lives are relative things. What I consider the storms of my life would probably be insignificant to some people as well as unbearable to others. The bumps in the first 15 minutes of my flight made the minor shaking during our descent at the end of the ride seem insignificant. But, knowing myself, I'm also aware that had there been no turbulence at the start, those bumps at the end would've made me crazy. You think anyone with children enrolled at Virginia Tech have spent the last few days lamenting their child's grades last semester or their child's credit card bills?

What are the "bumps" in your life? How do you handle them? Do you scrub the trip and avoid the bumps altogether? Or, with your trust in (the oft-used cliche) "God as your co-pilot", are you willing and able to ride through the turbulence to achieve your goal?

Today's snippet in the Office of Readings of the Liturgy of the Hours for the Feast of St. Anselm of Canterbury gives this beautiful reflection on God in his work, "Proslogion":

"The light in which you dwell, Lord, is beyond my understanding. It is so brilliant that I cannot bear it, I cannot turn my mind's eye toward it for any length of time. I am dazzled by its brightness, amazed by its grandeur, overwhelmed by its immensity, bewildered by its abundance. ... O God, let me know you and love you so that I may find my joy in you; and if I cannot do so fully in this life, let me at least make some progress every day, until at last that knowledge, love, and joy come to me in all their plenitude. While I am here on earth let me learn to know you better, so that in heaven I may know you fully."

THAT'S why we trust God. THAT'S why we ask for mercy. THAT'S what waits for us when we cross through the storms in our lives and make it to the other shore, where Jesus says "It is I; do not be afraid."

Catholics and Hockey

Paul Nichols' Catholic Cartoon Blog had this entry recently, which confirms (in my heart, anyway) why I love the game of hockey so much. In fact, here's a picture of your humble blogger in action. Yeah, I know it's not a perfect split like you see the NHL goalies do, but they're about 20 years younger and much more flexible than I am.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Meatful Friday Revisited

Today is the first Friday after Easter Sunday, and while technically it is the "Friday within the Easter Octave", I think of it as the first Friday that we Catholics can eat meat since before Lent. For those who didn't see it, check out my pre-Lenten blog entry. I was out for breakfast and treated myself to some bacon with my eggs, so I hope you treated yourself today!

Today I was driving through Philadelphia on my way home and found myself alongside the Philadelphia Museum of Art. From my vantage point on the highway across the river, I still had a clear view of those steps made famous by Sylvester Stallone in a bunch of the Rocky movies. I could see people making their run up the steps, some on their own; others in groups of two or three. Yeah, I had my little fantasy moment of running up the steps with the Bill Conte music playing. But then it hit me: following in the footsteps of someone famous (albeit a fictional movie character) and applying his situation to your own life's situations. It was like all those step-runners were making a secular "Station of the Cross" in running up the museum steps! As they ran, in their own imaginative minds, they stopped being who they were and they were Rocky Balboa!

Sadly, this is also the first Friday in weeks that 99.9% of Catholic parishes will not have the recitation of the Stations of the Cross. Lent has come and gone, Easter is here, and this beautiful devotion of the Church has sadly become one of those devotions that gets put on a shelf along with the purple cloth and the sand and pebbles that liturgists stick in holy water fonts in an effort to be relevant and trendy. But if the devotion was only meant to be recited communally during Lent, why are Stations of the Cross permanent fixtures in our churches? In fact, anyone who has spent time in the sacristy of a church may have noticed a certificate on the wall (usually in Latin) which gave permission for the Stations of the Cross to be erected in that particular parish church. If anything, parishes should have the mysteries of the Rosary up on the walls of the church, since that seems to be a "year round" devotion.

I know having "post-Lenten Stations of the Cross" is a "chicken or the egg" thing for parishes. If my parish announced that we were continuing Stations after Lent, would people come? On the other hand, maybe the laity don't come out for the Church's treasured devotions because I don't provide them the opportunity? It's one of those things to think about. Many parishes still have novena recitations, such as the Miraculous Medal novena or novenas to particular saints. But what if parishes started having recitation of the Stations of the Cross either before or after Friday's daily Mass? It doesn't have to be an elaborate thing. In fact maybe it shouldn't be elaborate. This way we're considerate of the extra time involved, and it doesn't take too long. But also it would then make the Stations during Lent stand out more precisely because they are more elaborate.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Young Fogeys caught on tape

Not many people in the Church know that, for a while now, YFs have had a branch of our vast army that do the little "dirty work" that needs to be done. These are our "black ops" guys ("ops" for "operations", not that they're Dominicans).

Before I never would have revealed our secret Special Forces, but recently a church surveillence camera caught our troops in action. So since the secret is out, I suppose I can show you what happens when YFs swoop in.

A special thanks to Fr. Zuhlsdorf and his blog at What Does The Prayer Really Say for this clip which gives a whole new meaning to "extreme makeover".

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Me in the M-C

A week ago a reporter from the Lehigh Valley's "The Morning Call" contacted me. He had been reading my blog and wanted to ask my opinion about a premise made by an author about the religious literacy of average people. The article appeared in the newspaper today and a smaller version of it can be read by clicking here.

While I really don't remember making the first quote about the religiously illiterate generation, I understand the reporter was writing the article to explain the premise of an author who does think we have a religiously illiterate generation. The other quote, though, about the Church seeing parents as the primary teachers of faith to their children, as well as the cracks about piano lessons and a Buick, I vividly remember saying.

I did give a little bit more about how I see many good signs of hope in the people who are making genuine eforts to learn more about their Catholic faith (including our own Monday night adult education classes here at my parish). But I understand there's only so much column space and other people to quote.

Texting with B16

Photo - Reuters/L'Osservatore Romano

The nice folks at Vatican Radio have English translations for those who want to read Pope Benedict's homily at the Easter Vigil last night, as well as his "Urbi et orbi" message given at noon in Rome.

Also, for those who want to read this year's meditations on the Stations of the Cross from the Roman Coliseum on Good Friday, the Vatican website has a page for that.

So Easter is about the bunny, eh?

Let's wait three days and see if lil' Thumper here resurrects.

Happy Easter

"At daybreak on the first day of the week
the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus
took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.
They found the stone rolled away from the tomb"

Friday, April 06, 2007

B16 Meditation on Good Friday

Thanks to Maurizio Brambatti of Reuters for the photo
"If we want to unite the Good Friday of the twentieth century with the Good Friday of Jesus Christ, we must convert the cry of anguish of our century into Jesus' cry to the Father for help - turn it into a prayer to the God who, despite all appearances, is truly near. We might, of course, carry our thought a bit further here and ask: Can we pray with honest hearts as long as we have done nothing to wipe the blood from those who have been tortured and to dry their tears? Is not Veronica's gesture the very least we must do before we can even speak of prayer? Can we pray with the lips alone or does not prayer require the participation of the whole person? To raise these questions again each year is the crucial demand that Good Friday places upon us."

Good Friday

Rocco Palmo is (for church-blog neophytes) the author of the blog, "Whispers in the Loggia", and the "Willy Wonka" that it seems that everyone with an addiction to church gossip seems to turn (both those who crave the information as well as those who can't keep information to themselves). But ahead of the curve, he has posted English translations of the Holy Father's homilies from yesterdays events in Rome.

In Pope Benedict's Chrism Mass homily, he gives the clergy of the Diocese of Rome (and all of us) a beautiful meditation on the vestments worn by the Priest at Mass: the amice, the alb and the stole, and the chasuble. It's odd there was no meditation on the cincture, which represents purity (can't wait for the kooks to speculate he's about to do away with Priestly celibacy). I dunno, maybe some pages got stuck together.

In the Holy Father's Holy Thursday homily, he became a university professor again, as he explained the Hebrew roots of the 'berakhot' prayers of thanksgiving to God, the ritual book called the haggadah which even today Jews use to guide them through the seder meal.

But something else in that Holy Thursday homily knocked me out, which I heard for the first time ever. There's always been a battle over whether the Last Supper took place on Passover night or the day before. This comes from the fact that John's gospel tells us that Jesus was led to Calvary on the preparation day for Passover (when everyones' passover lambs were slaughtered), and so the midday crucifixion of the Lamb of God coincided with the midday slaughter of the lambs of the faithful. But if that's the case, then the Last Supper was the day before. Scholars tell us that, since Passover was always on a fixed date, there were times when it fell on the Sabbath, and then came the dilemma of which of God's mandated feasts do you keep (since one involves heavy work and one requires no work be done)? So in his homily, B16 tells of scholarly research that says that the people of Qumran (where the Dead Sea scrolls were found) would, in the case of the Passover and Sabbath collision, have their seders the day before, with all the froo-froo, but intentionally without a passover lamb. The implications of Jesus and the 12 apostles having such a seder are interesting. With no lamb on the their table, Jesus himself is the Lamb at that seder (adding a whole new profound depth to his command to eat his body and drink his blood). Anyway, read it. It's wild.

In the meantime, I'm watching the Good Friday Liturgy from Rome on EWTN, and Fr. Cantalamessa is preaching. Only this year, I'm looking at him and saying, "Yeah, I met him. He signed a book for me."

Thursday, April 05, 2007

B16 on Holy Thursday

It's my yearly routine to spend a lot of time today getting everything ready for tonight's Mass of the Lord's Supper. I've learned that it's easier and less stressful to set everything up little by little over the course of the day than it is to wait until about an hour beforehand and go into a nervous panic. In the meantime, though, here are two bits of Pope Benedict's previous writings on the meaning of this first day of the Easter Triduum:

"The Liturgy for Holy Thursday has a uniquely twofold orientation. On one hand, the Gloria expresses the joy of the redeemed, who on this day celebrate the victory of the love of Jesus Christ, who has given us the gift of all gifts - himself. But at the same time there is the gradually increasing silence, the eventual emptying of the church, the removal of the Blessed Sacrament. Both orientations correspond to the events of the first Holy Thursday."

"Let us cast a glance at the incredible scene that St. John unfolds before us in his account of the washing of the feet in chapter 13 of his Gospel. In this scene, the evangelist summarizes, as it were, everything about Jesus: his word, his life, his Passion. We see, as in a vision, what the whole is like. In the washing of the feet, we catch a glimpse of what Jesus does and what he is. He, who is the Lord, stoops to our level. He lays aside the robes of his kingship and becomes a slave, standing at the door and performing the duty of a slave - the washing of the feet. That is the meaning of his whole life and Passion: that he bends to wash our dusty feet, to wash away the dust of humanity, and, in his exceedingly great love, washes us clean. ... He wears, so to speak, the garment of our wretchedness and, by taking us with him, makes us fit to stand in the presence of God; we have gained access to God. We are washed by letting ourselves be drawn into his love. This love means that God receives us unconditionally even when we are not capable and are not worthy of it, because he, Jesus Christ, transforms us and becomes our Brother."

Monday, April 02, 2007

Sheen on The Perfumed Feet

The gospel at this morning's Mass told the story of Jesus having his feet anointed at the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Archbishop Sheen wrote this reflection about the scene:

"Our Lord attended a banquet in Bethany, given by Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. The 12 apostles were there. In the course of the dinner, Mary Magdalene - if she be Magdalene - took perhaps what was the fruit of an evil life, namely some precious perfume, to give it to the Lord. In those days, women often carried precious nard in a bottle about the neck. If one of their beloved ones died, they would break the bottle over the corpse and then sprinkle the corpse with perfume and throw the remains of the bottle on the corpse. Mary Magdalene came to the feet of our Lord, for in those days they reclined at table. She did not do what you and I would do. She did not pour out the precious perfume drop by drop as if to indicate by the slowness of the giving the generosity of the gift. She broke the vessel and gave everything, for love knows no limits. Immediately the house was filled with perfume. It was almost as if, after the death of that perfume and the breaking of the bottle, there was a resurrection. Broken things are precious. We eat broken bread because we share in the death of our Lord and his broken life. Broken flowers give perfume. Broken incense is used in adoration. A broken ship saved Paul and many other passengers on the way to Rome. Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them."