Category Archives: Mass

Facebook Debate Review

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Over the weekend, a Facebook friend of mine, a Deacon, made the following post:

“I was saddened this morning to see how a young lady who went on mission trips with <our> parish and was confirmed, posted yesterday pictures of her supporting Planned Parenthood.    I know that she is unaware of the truths of abortion mill that they are running and how they are murdering children.   I am praying that she finds out the truth.”

As one might imagine, this was met with the full gamut of potential responses, from those in complete agreement with the sentiment, to those who felt he was shaming someone publicly, to those who thought they were being condemned for ever having gone to Planned Parenthood for any reason.

Every now and then I like to break down posts and comments.   Today, I’m going to do that.

My commentary:     This may be, broadly speaking, a sort of shaming.   No names were provided, but there were some details that could be identifying in nature.   There is an acknowledgment that the person may be ignorant of the truths about what Planned Parenthood engages in.    I don’t think the post is out of bounds, as it is right and appropriate to rebuke people engaging in sinful activity, as long as it is done with charity.   I do think, though, that the reference to the Parish should have been left off.   It immediately identifies the person as local.   Had he left it at just someone who he knew had been confirmed, and had gone on mission trips then in the minds of readers it could be just about anybody.

The first back and  forth was as follows:  

Responder 1:  I’m saddened that you would put it out on face book rather than talking to her personally.

Poster: I am more saddened that she would post a picture first without talking to me so that she was well informed.

Responder 1:  But you are the adult here.

Poster: She is an “adult” as well, and “adults” should know that planned parenthood’s main revenue is from abortions.   Period.   Too bad so many people are misinformed when it comes to that.

Responder 1: I guess I’m not OK with shaming on Facebook.   A private conversation with some give and take seems more logical.   As for the adult part, well I guess the older adult should set the example.

Poster:  No give and take on that subject – abortion is the murdering of a child – it only is a choice of life or death – and I do set the example of standing up for life.

My commentary:   I can actually see points on both sides here.   I actually agree that the preferred initial approach would at least have been to ask the person in question whether or not she was aware of Planned Parenthood’s activities.    Perhaps even ask outright if she supported abortion rights (in private) to see where she stands.    And as I mentioned, even if one chooses to use this as an example for public consumption, care should be taken to use it as a teaching example, while minimizing the risk of revealing who the “sinner” is.    Also, saying there can be “no give and take” on any subject I think is wrong-headed.   One can know with certainty that they stand for what is good and true and still have a give and take with respect to a discussion.    Give and take does not imply compromise – it can imply trying to have a reasonable discussion so you can gain trust and figure out exactly where they are.    To should someone down will do no good.   I don’t think “give and take” means what he thinks it means.

Having said that, it’s a ridiculous assertion that it is completely out of bounds to make a public statement about something that someone else willingly posted in a public manner, and it’s all the more ridiculous to say that you need to treat another adult with kid gloves just because you’re an older adult.

Responder 2: How is that shaming someone?   He stated facts without naming her.    And if she believes PP is such a great organization, why would she be ashamed at all?

My commentary:   Generally agree, with caveats as already stated.   Though, I will say that it would be possible for someone to still feel good about their own support of PP while feeling a little offended by being called out by a member of the clergy, essentially, as a supporter of murder.   It may be true, but there may have been a more charitable way to go about it.

The next responder’s comment will be necessarily broken up into multiple parts.

Responder 3: As a young adult, my mom took me to Planned Parenthood to receive regular health screenings.   Does this mean I am damned for life?

This doesn’t make any sense at all, which tells me it’s an entirely emotional response.   As for the source of the emotion (either guilt, or simply an inability to accept that just because an entity does some “good” it cannot erase the evil nature of it).   For one thing, nobody anywhere said anything about being damned.   And the phrase “damned for life” makes no sense at all.   You are not damned for life if you’re damned.   You are damned for all eternity.   Which means ALL of us should be doing everything we can do to make sure we’re right with God!   Eternity’s a long time.   Finally, just because you went to PP at some point to get assistance, depending on what it is you did there, there may be nothing morally wrong with it.   If you got some check-up or general health screening, especially if you were ignorant of the other things they do, then there’s not a problem.

Unfortunately, this is why many turn from organized religion because we all judge versus support our own.

She may be right that we all tend to judge.   But the “thou shall not judge” thing is also misapplied.   The entire context of Scripture makes it clear that we should judge what people are doing from the perspective of discernment, correction, and aiding in another’s salvation.   It is not an act of love to allow one to persist in sin.  It is an act of love to correct it.   However, on the flip side, many people do not convey that correction in a charitable way.   And flipping around again, many will be corrected charitably and will see it as an act of hate because they feel they should just be “accepted.”    We “support our own” in the faith by trying to get them to heaven.    When we see error, it can be a tricky balancing act to try and figure out how to go about correcting that error, for that person’s own good.    It is not an error of organized religion that we sometimes fail to act in charity.   It is a failure of people, in general.   But those who persist in sin after receiving correction cannot be “supported” with respect to accommodating that sin.   Yes, we still need to love them, but that doesn’t mean what they think it means, often enough.

Knowing God does not judge, the message that is being forced onto us from our church leaders is disappointing.

Um…   God doesn’t judge?    Then who does?    Is there no hell?    This is the epitome of relativism.   Only are we not to judge anything anybody does as right or wrong, but God doesn’t even do it, apparently.   This is dangerous thinking.

I miss the days of feeling welcomed to church versus hearing how horrible we are because we may not attend every week, don’t dress appropriately or may support Planned Parenthood for many of their other services that help millions of people.

My commentary:   Oh, where to begin.   First, I would be curious to know exactly how this person was made to feel like she is a horrible person.   It is possible that an uncharitable approach occurred, in which case that is problematic.   But I have an inkling – maybe more – that this person heard a perfectly charitable reminder about the importance of weekly Mass attendance, the importance of modesty in dress, and felt personally offended because she was unwilling to look inward and consider what was said with humility.    Now, I don’t know her and can’t know that for certain, but what I do know is that there are many people out there who react that way even if she is not one of them.

The other irksome argument about the good the argument about pointing out the good things about Planned Parenthood is the willingness to just turn a blind eye towards the evil that they do for the sake of the good.   Not to mention, many people put contraceptive services in the “good” column.   They aren’t.

But more to the point, at the heart of all these protests in favor of Planned Parenthood is whether or not there should be federal funding for it.   So, if you feel that strongly about PP, then write them a check or use their services, or volunteer for them.   But don’t ask me to fund an organization that doers evil things.

 

Anyway, there’s actually more, and I could go on.   Maybe I’ll continue this with another post if I feel like there’s enough worth talking about.

 

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Keep Your Gender Neutrality out of my Hymnals

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As many hymnals in Catholic Churches throughout the land moved to gender-neutral references to God and man, often in ridiculous machinations, I always sort of thought that this was simply a feminist-driven scourge.   And it probably was, for the most part.  From the first moment I saw lyrical rewrites that created clumsy text for no reason other than gender-neutrality my reaction was one of disgust.

Some of the worst offenses result in ridiculously clumsy sentences, referencing God.    Instead of “Bless the Lord, His mercy extends forever…”   (or something like that, I made that up) we now have to deal with “Bless the Lord, God’s mercy extends forever…”    Which may not seem horrible, but now add line after line with masculine pronouns getting substituted with “God” and anyone who argues that this is easier to sing, and more linguistically correct, is an idiot.   It’s not.

As I was thinking about this blog and fumbling around the internet, I actually found this ridiculous “how-to” site on how to be as inclusive as possible:    https://eireinei.com/2013/08/28/5-tips-and-tricks-for-being-gender-inclusive-in-worship/.    What a bunch of progressive poppycock.

I occasionally sing and play piano at Church.    I am NOT a person who demands nothing but old hymns and pipe organ, with Gregorian Chant and Latin leading the way.   I appreciate all that, but unlike folks of a more Traditionalist bent, I am perfectly fine with contemporary hymns and instruments.   In my opinion, the key questions are (1) is it done well, (2) does it detract in any way from Mass, or draw attention away from the true point of the Mass, and (3) are you “performing” for your own sake or are you assisting at Mass for the purpose of praising God?    These are fair questions to ask, and I think people have a flawed idea that if you play certain instruments or certain songs, it is impossible to answer some or all of the above in the right way.    I dismiss that as nonsense, but I can at least see the concern.

But just because I may be more flexible in this area than some of my devout friends, it doesn’t mean I’m a liberal progressivist with respect to Mass.    Music style certainly does have the question of sacredness around it, but ultimately it is still about preference.    Gender neutrality has an agenda behind it.

As I mentioned, I used to attribute the agenda to an overinflated reaction by feminists who aren’t smart enough to realize that God is, in fact, a Spirit and not a man or a woman.   But we follow the lead of Jesus by using the masculine pronoun.    I’m unaware of anyone on earth who knows God the Father (gasp!   Another masculine term!) than Jesus the Son.    If feminists want to get all worked up and be overly sensitive to how Jesus references God then goody for them, but leave that out of my Church.   Outside of references to God are masculine references to humankind (mankind, man, men, brothers, etc.).    Anyone with a brain should understand that general references in the masculine are, in fact, intended to be gender neutral and encompass all women as well.   In fact, I refuse to believe the majority of people “offended” by this non-inclusiveness don’t actually know that.   Which means that you’re either stupid or you are purposely finding offense where none intended for reasons of politics or some other agenda.   And that has no place in worship.

More diabolical is now the realization that it goes beyond a purely feminist response, and actually goes further to the idea that there should be no such thing as gender, period.   For any of us.   That it’s all a mindset and transcends our physical nature.   This is purely an abandonment of the goodness and purpose of creation itself.  This goes beyond mere politics, offense, and some agenda of a misplaced sense of what male/female equality means.   It is a direct challenge to God’s entire purpose in the creation of man ç (inclusive).    If for no other reason than to ensure that our church is in no way a part of this movement of evil, it is time to abandon gender-neutral hymnals and get back to the original lyrics.

Note:   I have no issue with writing well-phrased music lyrics that include feminine references where appropriate (e.g. brothers and sisters).   It’s not problematic when it flows well with the music and is natural.    My concern and issue is when we are doing this out of some overzealous and incorrect attitude of what it means to be inclusive, especially when it erodes the quality of the song.

And yes, I find the change from “let me walk with my brother” to “let us walk with each other” to be the epitome of stupidity.    Had it been written that way to begin with, no issue.   But to feel we needed to change it so nobody feels left out is moronic.

Oklahoma Today: Black Mass and Desecration. You all need to Grow a Pair and Stop it.

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It’s a shock, it’s an outrage, and unfortunately in the times we are in it is not surprising.

We have perverted the meaning of religious freedom to be so inclusive that we now can’t even figure out a way from preventing a Satanic Mass on civic property.   As if that weren’t bad enough, on the Feast of the Assumption the statue of Mary will be desecrated.

So, if someone burns a Koran, that is intolerant and verboten.   But a public desecration of a statue of Mary and a blasphemous attack against the Catholic mass is fair game.   Got it.

What a spineless society we’ve become.

But, we can still pray.   From Spirit Daily:  “In the Name of Jesus, we break the power of satanists in Oklahoma and everywhere and pray a reversal of their curses; we claim victory over them; we declare everything evil they do be met by times more in the way of good, in the way of honor for Immaculate Mary.”

And, also

POWERFUL EXORCISM PRAYER

Kyrie eleison. God, our Lord, King of ages, All-powerful and Almighty, You Who made everything and Who transforms everything simply by Your will. You Who in Babylon changed into dew the flames of the “seven-times hotter” furnace and protected and saved the three holy children. You are the doctor and the physician of our souls. You are the salvation of those who turn to You. We beseech You to make powerless, banish, and drive out every diabolic power, presence and machination; every evil influence, malefice, or evil eye and all evil actions aimed against your servant. . . Where there is envy and malice, give us an abundance of goodness, endurance, victory, and charity. O Lord, You who love man, we beg You to reach out Your powerful hands and Your most high and mighty arms and come to our aid. Help us, who are made in Your image, send the angel of peace over us, to protect us body and soul. May he keep at bay and vanquish every evil power, every poison or malice invoked against us by corrupt and envious people. Then, under the protection of Your authority may we sing, in gratitude, “The Lord is my salvation; whom should I fear?” I will not fear evil because You are with me, my God, my strength, my powerful Lord, Lord of peace, Father of all ages. Yes, Lord our God, be merciful to us, Your image, and save your servant . . . from every threat or harm from the evil one, and protect him by raising him above all evil. We ask you this through the intercession of our Most Blessed, Glorious Lady, Mary ever Virgin, Mother of God, of the most splendid archangels and all yours saints. Amen.”

 

Cardinal Burke has asked all the faithful to pray a Rosary today in reparation of this evil in our midst.

 

To Turn or Not to Turn

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His Eminence Robert Cardinal Sarah stirred the pot and excited some people in early June when he announced that he prefers and recommends that Priests celebrate Mass ad orientem.   As Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, it seemed a legitimate thought that he made these statements in an official capacity.  Waves of cheers rocked the traditionalist community and they saw that it was good.  Most of us shrugged, and said, “whatever.”

Cardinal Vincent Nichols chimed in with a different view in July and essentially poured cold water on the idea, at least for his archdiocese.   It seemed that Cardinal Nichols felt like this could lead to a bit of Liturgical anarchy, and perhaps even some sort of competition.    He directed that his priests should not interject preference into the Liturgy.    Cardinal Nichols now became the subject of scrutiny in traditionalist circles – was he even Catholic? – and they feared the tremendous progress made would be sabatoged.   Most of us shrugged and said “whatever.”

Then the Vatican itself went to the replay booth and essentially overturned the play.  It became clear that, despite his official capacity in his role, Robert Cardinal Sarah overstepped a bit and had not run this idea past Pope Francis before springing it on the world.    The traditionalists’ fears were now confirmed, the Pope hates them, and all is still lost.    Most of the rest of us shrugged and said “whatever.”

Personally, I find the entire thing silly on the one hand and troubling on the other.

I love my friends – many of them who strongly prefer a more traditional Liturgy, and would essentially love to see all masses revert back to the traditional Latin Mass.  I respect their preference and would never, ever tell them that their preference is wrong.   Further, even though it’s a little bit longer of a drive, there is an oratory in our area that celebrates the Latin Mass.   They have that option.   I suppose it would be nice to have a few more places celebrate Mass in that way so they didn’t need to work as hard for them to have that experience.

My issue is, as usual, with those who cannot let this go.   Who elevate their preference to a dogmatic level and want to force everyone to accept this as the “correct” Liturgical form – not merely a preference in form – and that anyone who doesn’t see it their way is somehow less serious about the faith than they are.   Unfortunately, this is a very real phenomenon.    It is actually part of what keeps me from adopting a more traditionalist bent, myself.   I see spiritual pride and judgment and I want to avoid that.

Do not misunderstand that I don’t know the arguments that are made for why people really prefer the ad orientem posture.   I do.  There’s a symbolism there I can appreciate.  There’s nice symbolism in all sorts of things, though.   We follow the Church’s guidance on what must be an element of Mass, what should be, what may be, and what cannot be.    We need a certain uniformity among all the faithful, and then there is room for preference as long as it is within the guidance of Liturgical norms.   If you want to go to a church that celebrates in one way, then go ahead, but don’t tell me I need to want or desire that.   The same can be true of more liberal interpretations of the Liturgy, as well.   And I’m not saying there aren’t lines that get crossed – there are.   When things move from a preference that is allowable to something that is actually discouraged or outright impermissible, I don’t shrug.   That is simply wrong, and needs to be called out.   but this is NOT one of those things, as the GIRM currently stands.

The following cartoon has made the rounds:

This is stupid.

I will borrow my arguments from a Facebook exchange I read in discussing this cartoon.    But in general, the cartoon is trying to make the point that the Priest is turning his back to Jesus.    This is just unnecessary divisive.   Which, excuse the tangent here, is my main issue.   Why are we constantly arguing and hating on each other over things like this?    Do we really believe that God wants this to be the issue that leads our heart to determine that the Pope must be the Antichrist?    Seriously…

Anyway – again borrowing arguments from others:  Jesus is actually at the right hand of God the Father.  We don’t praise His image on the crucifix.   We may desire to look at it while we praise Him to help us focus on our image of Him and a reminder of what He went through, but it is not necessary to face the crucifix to pray to God.   Further, God is with us in our midst wherever any number are gathered in His name.    There is no requirement that we all face the same direction to acknowledge that.   Third, the altar is where Christ becomes physically present to us.   When the Priest consecrates the hosts and the wine he is facing Jesus.   So are we.   What difference does it make whether Jesus is between us or at one end of the line?

And yes, I know that there is more to it than that – the Priest is “leading” us.   But that’s not the point of the cartoon, so I’m responding to that whole “what makes more sense” bit.  Probably the only remotely reasonable argument I heard on this from the pro- camp was that it would have been a better representation above if it were the tabernacle instead of the crucifix.   I can buy that to an extent, but it’s not as if the tabernacle is ignored and dismissed during Mass.   Great reverence is paid to it.   Further, again, the altar is more the focus of the Mass itself, anyway, and the physical presence of Jesus that is in the tabernacle until communion became manifest on the altar.

Interestingly, the vast majority of Catholics probably don’t even realize this debate is going on.   If you’d bring it up they’d be all like “Uh…  what?”   Many people would default to the idea that this, in and of itself, is a bad thing.    We all need to be better educated and understand why this is important, and only then can we all be enlightened and think like they do.    I’m being a bit overboard here – I do think it is important to understand, but I also can’t really help but think about all the old ladies throughout the years who never concerned themselves with much other than going to Mass, praying the Rosary, and feeding their families.    The greater debates of the Church throughout the centuries more often than not took place without them having any particular clue about it.

I like that simple faith.    I try to abide by that as much as I can.   If the Church and the Pope says it’s OK, then I’m fine.   If they say it’s not, I’m fine.   If they need to change something, I’m fine.

I guess you need people to push and ask questions and keep things in check.   That’s OK, too.    I think some are called to that, but I think most are not.    Further, those that are called to it have a unique responsibility to do so in a manner befitting a Christian, and not create unnecessary division while they are doing so.   In extreme cases, some division must occur, but in most cases it does not have to.

Until then, I’m firmly in the camp that shrugs and says “whatever.”

“Pew Hugging” and the message it sends

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churchThere is a fascinating thing that can tend to happen in some Catholic churches. I’m sure it’s not totally unique to Catholics, but since that’s my own experience, it’s what I can personally attest to.

This phenomenon occurs primarily in traditional-style churches. Those are the single-aisle, long and narrow churches with pews extending from the center to the side perimeter of the building. The traditional construction is the general favorite of those who long for more classical and traditional liturgical celebration. And for good reason… the construction is meant to highlight the front-and-center nature of the tabernacle, while the typical high-elevation symbolizes a reach to the heavens. Obviously, in these buildings you are more apt to witness the tall, stained-glass windows and ornate designs that call to mind the sacredness of our faith, the beauty of statues and other sacrementals, and the ethereal feeling of being at peace with our Lord.

That’s the good part. But there’s also another thing that starts to happen, which this particular pew layout encourages: pew hugging.

Pew hugging is defined as the person, or couple, who enters an empty pew and sits on the outside edge of the pew. Rather than move to the center of the pew, as if to say “I welcome others to join me,” the pew hugger essentially blocks off the rest of the pew from an easy entry. Given the choice between entering an empty pew and either asking someone to move down or figuring out some way of moving past them without tripping or stepping on their feet, you will choose the empty pew every time. Given the choice between entering a pew where the only two people in the pew are in the center versus the edge, you will enter the pew where the people are in the center.

I happen to attend a church that is not a traditional style. I am not saying I prefer that, but I’ve attended the same church for nearly 20 years now, and the parish suits me just fine. It has its issues, as most parishes do, but all in all we do OK. What I will say, though, is that whatever benefits people may use for the traditional style (and I agree with those benefits, and would at this point prefer that our church was a little more traditional), I have never felt that the parishioners give an air of unwelcomeness at Mass. Perhaps it’s just the people, or perhaps it’s that the layout isn’t conducive to pew hugging. But I’ve only witnessed extreme pew hugging at traditional parishes. But not all. So, it’s not just a layout thing, but a people thing.

Extreme pew hugging occurs when you walk into the church and you see a vast emptiness down the middle of all the pews, and nearly every pew has someone planted on each end of the pew. At this point, you must choose to ask permission from some unlucky soul for entrance into the pew. Depending on the person, you may get a response ranging from welcomeness to outright annoyance that you would ask them to be inconvenienced. The persons usually will slide down to make room, but you also may be met with very little assistance. The people may not even shift, as if to make it as difficult as possible to crawl over and past them. You must choose wisely.

In all seriousness, obviously there are situations with some seniors and others where there is a physical reason why they sit on the end. It is not of them that this little rant is about. It is the message sent by able-bodied individuals who, intentionally or not, send off a cold, unwelcoming message. And don’t think it’s just rude young people who are thinking highly of themselves. There are plenty of older people who feel a certain sense of entitlement to the end of the pew for no physical reason.

I guess one reason I’ve noticed this is because I have seven kids. Clearly, we take up a chunk of pew. We Catholics are supposed to embrace larger families. Yet, I have often felt simply unwelcomed in many parishes. People see us looking for a spot and nobody moves. I don’t want to start off Mass with negativity, but it’s tough not to when nobody cares enough about welcoming you that they are unwilling to give up their precious spot at the end of the pew.

I can accept that perhaps people simply don’t even think about it. But from now on, if you find yourself engaging in pew hugging, maybe think about the message you’re sending and simply move down to the pew. That’s a huge “welcome” sign.

My family and I thank you.

Of Lent, Lenten Practices, Holy Week, and the Triduum

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Originally posted on http://digitaldiatribes.wordpress.com on April 9, 2007.

I feel guilty for not posting during the last week on the Holiest week of the Church year.  As I wrote that first sentence, I recalled the old jokes about Catholics and guilt.  OK, so I don’t feel really, really guilty.  I just feel a little guilty.

But Holy Week has now passed us by and we have embarked upon the 50 days of celebrating the Easter Season!   Woo hoo!    Hey, you non-Catholics can tease us Catholics all you want about our 40 days of Lent and giving things up and not eating meat on Fridays,  but what you fail to realize is the unabashed partying that takes place after all that.   (“Unabashed” and “partying” probably need a more refined, Catholicized, interpretation in this reading.  But still…)

I didn’t really post all that much on the Lenten Season.  I had hoped to get around to it, but life often throws you in another direction.  For me, that direction was my Dad, my kids, my sudden interest on Global Warming and Earth’s cycles, my CD project, and so on.  But I would like to take a little time to reflect on the last 40 days leading up to and culminating in Easter, which is not as much about the Easter Bunny as some may think, and probably more to do with the Resurrection of Christ than many wish. 

We try to give things up as a family and as individual members of the family during the Lenten season.  I try to be careful to be low-key on those things so as to not be building myself up.  But that will not be a concern this year.  If I’m being honest, I don’t think I made Lent the season it was intended to be this year as much as I would should have.  I’m human, and while that is a reason, it’s not an excuse.   But still, our whole family did manage to use the season to get a good confession in – as I think everyone should.  We said more complete Rosaries and/or Divine Mercies as a family, and we greatly curtailed our dining out.  All in all, the season still looked a little different.  In reality, it probably looked more like it should look!  Many people in the world have it a lot worse every day than I have it on my worst day during Lent, that’s for sure.

Holy Week was a little more trying this year because of the situation with Dad.  He offered his own “passion” for the week with the Passion of Christ as best he could, I think.  The Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil are always very enjoyable to me.  I know some people can’t get past the amount of time these services last (although the same people can sit and watch a stupid movie for two hours with no issues) but I hope most people take away the lessons of those days.  Holy Thursday, for any non-Catholics who may be interested, is celebrated in the Catholic Church as a celebration of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.   Of course, that’s the summit of it, but there are other interesting elements involved in that night. 

Normally, the tabernacle in the front of the Church houses our Lord in His Eucharistic presence, and so we genuflect as a sign of reverence.  This becomes commonplace for us and we sometimes forget why why do what we do.  Holy Thursday reminds us, because on that night the hosts are removed from the tabernacle and it is open.  Thus, no genuflection takes place, just a simple bow to the sanctuary.  Also, during the Mass there is a “washing of the feet” ceremony where the Priest washes the feet of the Parishioners.  I always welcome a good explanation of the sign of humility involved with that ritual.  In Christ’s time, this was the ultimate lowering of oneself in complete servitude to another.  The other thing about Holy Thursday that is special is the stripping of religious symbols (or covering them) in the Church.  All crosses/crucifixes are covered, the altar is stripped bare, holy water is emptied, etc.  This is because Holy Thursday marks the beginning of our Lord’s passion.  We will uncover all these things at the Easter Vigil in celebration of His Resurrection.

The Triduum is interesting in that the three days, Holy Thursday – Good Friday – Easter Vigil are all considered to be one continuous and long Mass.  Holy Thursday begins with the Priestly blessing, we have the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharist, but there is no profession of faith and no final blessing.  On Good Friday, there is no Mass said.  It is, in fact, the one day of the year where it is not permitted.  Instead, we have a service where we read John’s account of the passion and a veneration of the cross.  The veneration in a large church like ours takes a long time, but it is a wonderful opportunity to symbolically take your burdens and place them at the cross.  We do have communion with Eucharistic hosts consecrated at the Holy Thursday Mass, but no prayer of consecration is said, and thus it is not a Mass.

Finally, the Easter Vigil is the wonderful, high point of the Christian year in the Catholic Church.  The church starts out dark with only a single candle (a large candle that will burn all year, called the Paschal candle) lit.  From this candle, symbolizing Christ as the Light of the world, all persons in the church will receive a flame to light the candles they are holding.  When all is done, the church lights up and the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection begins!   The Vigil is lengthy, but very much worth it.  It is the night that many, many catechumens fully enter membership into the Church.  Any people that have not received a Christian baptism (non-Catholic but Christian baptisms of proper form are valid) are baptized.  Children are baptized.  People receive their First Eucharist.  People are confirmed.  It’s a wonderful celebration.  The readings, the Eucharist, the litanies, the candles, the entrants into the Church…   All point to Christ, and it is a fitting beginning to the Easter season!

Now, in our family, we used to attend the Vigil before, oh, the fourth kid or so.  As the kids get a little older we will go back to that, but for now we’ve attended Mass on Easter Sunday.  That’s very nice, too, but not as large a celebration as the Vigil.  (The early Vigils used to be the only Easter celebration, and would go all night! Now, people complain if they go past a couple hours…)   This year my two daughters and I joined in the music at the 10:30 Mass, so that was nice in a different way.

Of course, the Easter tradition with the kids just wouldn’t be complete, though, without a visit from the Easter Bunny.  That tricky bunny does have a knack for hiding the baskets of the older kids in the most difficult places!

Ash Wednesday’s Here? How’d That Happen?

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Originally posted on http://digitalditribes.wordpress.com on February 21, 2007.

Life’s pace never ceases to amaze me.  I know in my head that time goes along at a steady beat, but it just doesn’t seem like that’s the case.  Months and years become a blur.  Kids grow older and you find yourself thinking, “You shouldn’t be saying things that make you sound like an adult.  Stop it and go do something stupid so I can send you to the corner.”

So, as I reflect on the fact that it is Ash Wednesday, I’m thinking “How is it Ash Wednesday? I thought we just celebrated Christmas!”

But, nevertheless, I am incapable of slowing down or stopping time.  And so I must accept that we are now entering the Lenten Season and all that goes with it.  And, as with most things, I have a few random thoughts on this day.

The first is that I need to focus.  And it is my hope that everyone focuses.  What I mean is, an honest answer to the question “Why do we do that?”   It is so easy to refrain from eating meat on Fridays and getting ashes on the head today, and fasting today and on Good Friday, and so forth, without ever asking the question “What are we doing?”

Indeed, more than once us Catholics have been criticized for being overly ritualistic.  This criticism is unfounded in Scripture, however, as we observe Christ keeping the Passover and observing the Jewish laws and customs.  In fact, Christ even directed people to do what the Pharisees told them to do in obedience, but not to follow their hypocritical example in other ways.   There is humility in obedience, and humility in following the “laws” that our Church lays out for us.  And, it is true that Jesus relaxed certain laws, and had the authority to do so as the fulfillment of the Law.   But to suggest that this makes Church Law a sham is ill-conceived.  For one thing, Paul – a bishop of the Church – tells us to hold fast to our traditions.  Not to mention, we Catholics do believe that Christ established the Church to direct and guide us in His name.  Christ relaxed laws that had served their purpose to prepare the way for Him.  Also, many laws had lost their meaning, and people were going through the motions without thinking about their greater meaning.  This only shows us that certain rituals, obligations, or laws can occasionally be changed to meet the spiritual needs of the people.  These would not be doctrinal positions on faith and morals, but disciplines that help us live according to those doctrinal positions.  It also shows us that people have always had a problem with remembering that there is a reason they do what they do.

And therein lies the rub.  If there is one aspect of these criticisms that I do appreciate as being fair and on point, it’s the fact that too many people never think about why they are doing what they are doing.  And if that is the case, then people may be falling into a ritualistic trap of thinking they are saved by just doing things they are told.  While that certainly is obedient, it lacks the fullness of the beauty behind these rituals.  It also leads to the risk of loss of faith by just looking at these things as pointless rules that are placed in our path for the sole purpose of making our lives more difficult and taking the fun out of everything.  We should all understand the fact that such is not the case.  And if anyone reading this doesn’t understand that there are actual spiritual reasons behind the actions, then I encourage you to contemplate what those reasons might be, and then use this season to find out more aboout it.

Why do I get ashes placed on my forehead in the shape of a cross?  Think about it.  We are mortal.  The very words spoken as the ashes are applied should shake our sense of mortality.  Yet, the cross is a reminder that our mortality in one sense is no different than the mortality of Christ on the cross.  And with it comes the promise of Resurrection.  And why abstain from meat?  Why fast?   And why do we do what we do at Mass?  Why do we genuflect before the tabernacle and kneel during the consecration?  The list goes on.

Today and the next 40 days are a great time to reflect on the “why” of our worship both at Mass and in our daily lives.  There is real meaning to it, and it is beautiful in its constant theme of drawing us to divest oneself of the world and draw closer to Christ.  It is not the kind of detachment that says the whole world is bad.  It is a detachment that says, “All this will pass.  God will not.  Respect creation for what it is and as a temporary gift on your way to salvation, and don’t become too attached to it.”

I’m also always struck by the constant theme I see, and seem to be bringing to this blog: the need for balance.  For example, we read the Scripture today that tells us to not gloat about our fasting, and admonishes us not to go moping around drawing attention to ourselves.  And if we brag about our sacrifices, we have already received our reward.  Then, we receive ashes and our told to go out and display them for the world to see.  What gives?

Again, things are easily misunderstood, and context and balance are everything.  These things are about the heart.  Bragging brings glory to self.  And if you are wearing your ashes to draw attention to yourself in a way that makes you feel proud, then you should wash off those ashes.  But if you are “proud” to be a witness for Christ, and wear your ashes as a simple tool of evangelization and solidarity with Jesus, and offer this up for God’s glory, then by all means you should wear them until they fade.

May you all have a blessed Lenten Season.