Sunday, August 31, 2008
QUOTE II - ". . .[I]ndifference is near a kin to dishonesty . . ." from Mary Elizabeth Houston's, "Lady Audley's Secret"
IN OTHER NEWS:
Jay say, "Hey! Nay say no way today to Catholic Carnival 187."
So, I was sitting in my office when I heard a noise from my childhood. I knew what that dull roar, which was so different than anything else, was. I tore out of there to see a perfect view of the blimp floating past the bell tower of Saint Sebastian. It would have made a perfect picture had I my camera with me but alas and alak I did not. I shot back into the house, found the thing, but even at lightning speed, by the time I was back out the blimp had gone quite a distance. But here is a picture none-the-less. When I came to Saint Sebastian the bishop said, "Just don't end up on the front page of the Beacon Journal" or some such thing. I did however end up several sections in. Here is a link of you care to see. Thanks to St. Paul Today for helping me find it.
The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter says that this is the last week to see the Vatican Splendors exhibit here! If you have not been there yet - GO!
B. wrote in to say her daughter who is a relatively new member of the Sisters of Life in New York have a blog about their experience at World Youth Day in Australia.
I. E. forwarded this message, "Have you ever heard of the World Meeting of Families? It's a world youth day for families of sorts. John Paul II initiated them in during the Year of the Family in 1994 and they have been held every three years since then. The last one was in Valencia in '06 and Benedict scheduled the next one to be held in Mexico City in January of 2009. The whole thing doesn't seem to be getting a whole lot of publicity (naturally) so I'm trying to do my part in promoting it. The official web site is http://www.wmf2009.com/ please check it out and consider going."
Today's first quote was brought to my attention by Father Damian Ference who was the celebrant here at Saint Sebastian for the 4:30 Mass. I find him to be a brilliant homilist and hope he will return here often. (The Masses are piped in to the rectory and I had the pleasure of hearing his latest proclamation at the dining room table.) After Mass we had the opportunity to dine together and then decided to take dessert up into the bell tower and watch the sun set. As great as my camera is it did not do justice to the colorful sky nor could I get Father and the sunset in the same picture so here is one of each.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Trees can be a symbol of life or death. For example there is the tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden and then there is Tree, or Cross, upon which our Savior was hung. The state of the tree can give off meaning. “You can tell a tree by its fruit” as the Scriptures allude.
In his class on Theology of the Body, Christopher West says something along the lines of, “In a fallen world, fig leaves are a necessity.” That is, though we were originally made to be “naked without shame,” sin entered the world and with it shame. In Genesis we read that Adam and Eve, after sinning, realized that they were naked and covered themselves with fig leaves. Thus the fig is often used in much the same way as the apple as a sign of the fall.
The fir tree is a sign of the elect in heaven for as even the cut branch will not wither, neither do those who die ceased to exist but enjoy God’s presence eternally. It can also represent people who excel in the virtue of patience.
The oak is heavily used in symbolism. It is a steady, solid, hardwood tree and its strong limbs provide shade, security, and comfort. Ancient cultures worshipped this wonderful tree. We, however, appreciate it and use it as a symbol of strength, virtue, and endurance in faith even during persecution.
Occasionally you will see a painting of the Blessed Virgin holding an orange. The orange tree is a symbol of purity, chastity, and generosity, all certainly virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Orange blossoms also suggest purity and so is also used on wedding days for the bride.
Finally we have the grand cedar which is a symbol of Christ Himself. It is a tree of stateliness, beauty, and majesty. The Scriptures refer to this “Tree of Lebanon”. Christians see Christ referred to as the Messiah in the Song of Solomon, “his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars (5:15) and in Ezekiel, “I will also take the highest branch of the high cedar . . . and will plant it upon a high mountain and eminent. (15:22)”
I think we are out of the woods now.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Most interestingly the smallest amount of space was reserved for offices. If you were lucky there may have been three offices. One office, the most grand of them, would be the pastor’s. A second would belong to the lone secretary. If the parochial vicars were lucky they shared the last office if available. At least such was the case with many of the parishes in these parts.
Quite honestly not much more was needed. School was free. There were not a lot of employees. There was not quite as much transparency demanded. Finances were pretty straight forward. The pastor handled it. Quite often he counted the money and paid out the bills as needed. There was no need for a business manager and bookkeeper. One of the vicars or nuns was the equivalent of the youth director and did not need an office. And since school was free there was not a big call for PSR leaders (and hence DREs and such.) Technology was low (just TRY to find a plug in an old rectory!) If you were lucky there was a meeting room. But it worked. The walls of these grand old buildings tell great stories.
The needs of the modern parish have changed dramatically. With what is expected of parochial vicars these days, that they have their own office is quite necessary. There are many times more than one secretary owing to the increased workload on them, a business manager, a bookkeeper, a DRE, a youth director, and now with the advent of the permanent diaconate there is often needed a space for them. And these are just the basics. Many larger parishes have more personnel than these who also need space.
Retrofitting the modern need into an old rectory can sometimes be a challenge but I am glad so many pastors have met the challenge in preserving these sometimes grand buildings. Sometimes the results are better than others. My first assignment was not a great success in this department (though it was a great assignment that wouldn’t trade for the world!) The basement was all offices. The first floor had living space on one side of the hall (living room, dining room, kitchen) while the other side of the hall was offices that were occupied until 9PM. Upstairs remained the private rooms of the priests. This simply meant that there was no privacy unless you stayed in your room until late at night. Are you dressed for bed and remembered you left something downstairs or wanted a drink of water? That meant getting dressed. That’s when I fell in love with the cassock.
One of the greatest priests I know was my pastor then. There was only one time in seven years when Fr. Hilkert and I came to an impasse. He was going to have the guest suites upstairs turned into offices. Could imagine living in a place where on any given day just about anybody of any age or gender could be standing just outside your bedroom door? Fortunately he had a change of heart in the matter.
Oh, I suppose things could be worse. Many people do live like that and worse. The rectory in which I live now is of the old school. It is a fantastic structure and we make do. The old live-in suites are offices as are some of the old priest suites, storage rooms, and even the old living room has been transformed into an office though I hope to reclaim at least part of this last room. I wouldn’t trade this rectory for anything though. It is beautiful and full of history and stories. A few weekends ago a number of priests came to visit and as they sat around the dining room table and the room itself spurred tales of by gone days. There is a little door in the wall (that was covered when I arrived) that separated the dining room from the kitchen and priests and cook never crossed to the other side. Dinners were passed through the little butler’s door and one of the vicars would carry the plates to the table. Maybe some day I’ll chronicle some of the more interesting stories.
Sometimes walls do speak. We just need to learn how to listen.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Thank you for your birthday greetings (it was a good day!) and for your advice to dump AOL. Actually I do need to do so. I already have two other wire addresses but I am not sure how to do this and not mess up the blog (and I am woefully behind on updating it already.) As the song goes, "Soon and very soon . . ."
Sorry, but today is going to just be a catch up of what did not make it yesterday so I can cull the heard of Emails. So here we go!
IN OTHER NEWS:
Jay says, "Don't miss Catholic Carnival 186!"
The Diocese of Cleveland Enewsletter reports, "WASHINGTON - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) invites U.S. Catholics to pray before the November election a novena for life, justice and peace called Novena for Faithful Citizenship. It is a podcast and available for download."
L.M. sent this game in to help you waste some time. WARNING: Addiction level MODERATE. Oh yes! This game is Evile!
L.M. also sent this in. If there were ever an argument for a married priesthood this would be it. There would have been a goodly woman with this man who would have hit him up side the head and said, "What are you thinking?"
Monday, August 25, 2008
IN OTHER NEWS:
I am having troubles getting my AOL mail but hope to rectify that soon. But for now if you are expecting a reply you may have to wait a little. All the other posts that I would normally post today are stuck there at the moment. I fear what may be waiting for me when I get that service back! Sorry there is no more to the post today!
Interestingly enough it works the other way also. Priests look to the parishes to which they would like to be assigned. In the way, what people ask of a new priest (would they be happy of Jesus Himself were to become their pastor?) priest have their own similar views of what they want in a parish. It may vary slightly from priest to priest, they hope that there is a school or really hope that there is not one, they may hope that it is a beautiful old church or a sleek modern one, but they all hope that there will be no debt, plenty of money in the bank, few troubles, lots of hope for the future, solid buildings, lots of help, in a safe neighborhood, with a great choir and plenty of happy, well balanced, helpful folk. (Would they be happy if they were granted the great St. Peter’s itself?)
The process of being assigned as pastor is probably as mysterious a process to you as it is to the priest going through it. It is different to some extent from diocese to diocese. In fact, some places men barely ordained are suddenly thrust into pastorates – sometimes of even two or three places. We are fortunate in this diocese that a man still has about ten years or so of learning the ropes before being saddled with that responsibility. That time may even grow a bit as we contemplate the closing of some 40 parishes in the near future. As sad as that prospect may be, it will be beneficial in at least this: Allowing young priests more time to learn the ins an outs of priesthood before being sent on their own to take care of couple thousand families or so.
For me, the process began with a letter in the mail. It was from the Clergy Personnel Board and it informed every priest of the diocese that there were two men who were about to retire from their pastorates after many years of faithful service. Generally the letter lists the barest essentials about the parish such as when it was founded, of what the staff consists, what the demographics are, the financial situation and such things as that. Priests are then invited to submit a letter of application stating that he would like to be considered for the position.
That letter goes to the Clergy Personnel Board who make reply that the letter has been received. Eventually a phone call comes asking the priest to come before the board to, in effect, interview for the position. Now this is were many priests (myself included) make a mistake. From this point forward, for very good reasons which may be explored later, the process becomes rather hush, hush. But how can you refrain from your friends and family, “Hey! I got a phone call from the Clergy Personnel Board asking me to come down for an interview”? If the process continues all of a sudden you must stop talking about it. Rather suspiciously no?
To be continued.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Strangely enough, the olive branch is also a symbol of the annunciation. It was used by artists in Siena because they did not wish to use the lily which was used as the symbol of Florence with whom they were bitter enemies. Just the same the olive readily lends itself since it symbolizes God’s providence toward His children. From the olive we receive great amounts of oil (and oil is a symbol of favor and blessing) and thus the olive becomes a handy symbol in this instance. Particularly if you disfavor Florence over Siena.
One of the books that I consult lists the pomegranate as a symbol of the ascension but I must disagree. None of my other books confirm this assertion. At most I find the pomegranate as a symbol of the Church or the Resurrection. The book also failed to give a reason as to why it would be a good symbol of the ascension but I mention it here merely for reference or if someone could find another resource to counter my position.
The color of Pentecost is of course red owing to red being attributed to the Holy Spirit Who appeared as tongues of fire and fire being, of course, red. At least it is in my crayon box. Therefore any flower sporting this color would be appropriate. Of course all the flowers used for baptism and confirmation would also be appropriate as well as any plants associated with the Holy Spirit.
All Saints day can allow for quite an imaginative array of flowers. All plants that are associated with saints and symbols of life over death can be used. Palms and lilies might be most appropriate. White is the official color of the day so that might be worked into a theme or a mixture of white and red (for martyred saints – red being the color of the blood that they spilt). Wheat could also be used in reference to John 12:24. Then there are all of the plants associated with specific saints such as the three leaf clover (Oh just guess who) and the rose (St. Therese.)
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
“I want to say something about this part of the Creed because I have found this to be so meaningful to me. Having grown up in England as a member of the Church of England I had never experienced the feeling of a ‘Universal Church’ however many of the traditions were similar to the Catholic Church.
“So when my Father’s business opportunities started our families travels and moves I experienced a connection with many people of different faiths eventually meeting my husband in Casablanca, Morocco. Angelo was Catholic and was a true example to me. We were married in a little Italian church in the heart of a Muslim country where the priest performed our ceremony in French. There, I began to see what his faith meant to him.
“When we transferred back to Akron, Angelo met with Fr. Byrider to register at St. Sebastians. Over the next few years raising our children in a Catholic school I began to feel the need to learn more about the Catholic Church. Several times I heard Fr. Byrider tell the ‘same’ story of a woman who he asked why she had not become Catholic and her answer was ‘No One Had Asked Her’! I think at that point I felt by the example of my husband’s faith I cane to realize that it was his way of ‘asking’. I truly believe the Spirit works through others and somehow the time was right.
“For many years Angelo continued to travel to different countries and told me how in Tel Aviv as their Holy Day was Saturday – he had to take the time to fund a bus on Sundays to go to a Catholic Church in the next town. The thing happened often in other countries such as Argentina, Romania, Iran, and Japan.
“We also traveled to Greece where my parents were living, made a return trip to Morocco and of course the UK. Everywhere Mass would be said in whatever the language was in that country but it still was the same Church.
“When looking for the true meaning of ‘Apostolic’ it is referencing The Twelve Apostles of Jesus, or something related to them. Our Catholic Church has the doctrine connecting it to the original Twelve Apostles’, true teachings of Christ. Through the world the apostles preached and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. This Apostolic succession is the line of bishops all over the world that we have today stretching back to the apostles. This is something that is impossible in the Protestant denominations most of which do not claim to have bishops.
“To those of you preparing to become full members of the Catholic Church it is my hope that you will have the opportunities of experiencing our Church in many different areas of the worlds as I have – the language you may not understand but the Church is the same wherever you go. To belong to a parish, become active in your faith, you will gain friendships forever. I once heard Fr. Glen Murray speak and his words are what I live by, ‘Get out of the pews and into your shoes.’
“The unanimity of the peoples and nations keeps me here, as I hope it will you. St. Augustine said of the one true Church, ‘Her authority, inaugurated in miracles, nourished by hope, augmented by love, and confirmed by her age keeps me here – the very name Catholic (universal) belongs to this Church alone. Welcome.”
Do you remember that scene from the DiCaprio movie “Man in the Iron Mask”? After all those years of wearing the mask they finally went to remove it and he grasped for it. You would think that he would want nothing more than to get that darn thing off of his head. But after years of wearing it the unexpected aspect of removing it must have felt like they were going to remove a part of him. Oddly, it eventually gave him some amount of security. Would it be possible for touch deprivation to become the norm and for people to be appalled at the prospect of having the bishop place Chrism on their forehead during confirmation?
Years ago for a summer job at a Catholic Church I watched kids for the summer camp. The first three rules were these: 1) Do not touch the kids. 2) Do not let the kids touch you. 3) Do not let the kids touch each other. And this was before the Church scandal. Since then the same rules have been reiterated in more strong terms officially along with the after thought, “But we do not want you to be afraid of kids!” which caused priests to glance at each other and say, “Yeah right.”
So this past week you probably saw the article in the paper about the bishop in Cincinnati and his new proposal for his priests that comes very close to the first three rules mentioned above. (Though if any moron is still tickling or kissing kids I doubt a rule will stop it at this point.)
I am generally not too skittish around kids but there are times when a kid comes running and plows into me with a hug and my first reaction is to put my hands up and look to the parents. Then with one hand I pat them on the head and say, “Thank you” and extricate myself. I may find the situation sad, but not unnecessary. This is just a weird time. After the ‘70s call for priests to “get down with the people” we seem to be setting up all the walls and pedestals again ushering in a new pseudo-Victorian age though not out of propriety or (over the top) respect for the priesthood, but because there is always the threat of a lawsuit in the wings.
Sad to say, here is not a solution, just an observation. This is where we are. Though we are fine and will be fine, I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore.
IN OTHER NEWS
Ed, the hero of Monday’s story has an update after doing some research on the net. He said that these birds can suffer from narcolepsy when under stress. The bird may have not have been as overly distraught as we thought. He may have been in fact napping and receiving breakfast in bed!
Monday, August 18, 2008
QUOTE II – (In an interview about liturgical music) “Change will occur, but it will not be the result of controlled efforts by would be innovators.” Karolyn Kope
IN OTHER NEWS:
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Mass was over and Ed, one of our weekend guys, left the doors open hoping that the little fella would get the hint and go outside, but he was determined to stay indoors it seemed. Finally he flew into a window and Ed was able to scoop him up in an usher’s basket.
The poor little guy was pretty out of it and he had to have been hungry and dehydrated from spending so much time in church without much more than what he could glean from the flower arrangements. So Ed stopped by the rectory to find out if anybody might know what a humming bird eats. As it turns out my sister likes to keep hummingbird feeders about and makes her own food which largely consists of boiled sugar water. So we made up a batch and tried to feed it to the distressed bird who seemed to lap it up quite greedily. But it was obvious his body was still not working in a coordinated fashion.
Ed was a good physician but we were getting worried. How much longer could the bird hang on like this? Everything seemed intact and working, just not in the way it was supposed to. We could take it in our hand and hold it up to a blossom and it would feed. Then finally it took a few coordinated flaps of its wings and landed on a low branch where we fed it more sugar water.
Running low on sugar and water, Ed ran in to get more and came out just in time to see the little bugger take flight, make a circle around us once and then fly high and land on the side of the building. At that point we left hoping that it would start taking nourishment from the many flowers by the school if we were not there to make it any more nervous. Now, if there are any bird enthusiasts out there who want to tell me, “Oh, it probably didn’t make it,” I don’t want to hear about it. Ed and I are pretty happy thinking that it made its way back its average bird life.
Not a very profound diary entry, but it was pretty cool. It is not often that people get to spend such intimate time with one of these zippy little creatures.
Friday, August 15, 2008
This was actually a fun project to work on with the school kids. In the fall we would get a couple of bags of bulbs, a bunch of little shovels, and then head out and about the church property to tell this story and plant. When spring came about not only could we reiterate the story of Christ, a service project saw fruition in the beautification of the Church property for Easter in which they could take pride.
Of course the Easter lily is to Easter what the poinsettia is the Christmas. There are a number of legends about the lily. One is that after Christ resurrected from the tomb wherever He walked lilies sprang up.
The palm branch may be most associated with Passion (or Palm) Sunday but it is also of interest to us at Easter. It would make much sense as part of an arrangement. You may notice that martyrs are pictured holding palm branches. The Romans used the palm branch as a sign of victory and we adopted it to show victory of the Christian over death. Both the martyrs and the resurrected Christ are shown holding palm branches as a sign of that victory.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Answers to yesterday’s quiz. It should be noted that the Scriptural references are not complete, just a starting point. I also realize some of the answers may be contested. Have at it but if you feel compelled to argue please be scholarly.
1. Scripture 1 John 5:16-17
2. Scripture James 5:14-15
3. Tradition. The titles are not part of the actual Gospels and even if they are mentioned by name it does not say that the person is the disciple. To believe that is Tradition then.
4. Scripture MT 19:13-15 - ACTS 2:38-39 - LK 18:15-17 - I realize this one might be of particular controversy.
6. Tradition - There is plenty of groundwork here to highly back up Tradition, but there is no specific explanation of the Trinity nor, like purgatory, is the word even used.
7. Tradition - See above.
8. Scripture - too many references even to begin printing them.
11. Scripture - Once again, the word is not used but the action is described. Acts 8:14-17.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
The following questions ask you to state whether the concept is found primarily in Scriptures or primarily (though it may be backed by Scripture) through Sacred Tradition. Answers tomorrow.
1. That there is a difference between mortal and venial sin.
2. The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
3. The names and identity of the persons who wrote each of the Gospels.
4. Infant baptism.
5. God created the world ex nihilo (out of nothing.)
6. An explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity.
7. Information about the Holy Spirit being part of the Trinity.
8. The existance of hell.
9. The fact that Jesus is one in substance with the Father.
10. That Jesus was fully God and fully man at the moment of His conception.
11. The sacrament of confirmation.
12. A listing of which books that actually belong to the Bible.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Thank you fellow bloggers who so thoughtfully got together and had made this beautiful vestment in honor of my father who recently died. LM and MJ came by for benediction and to drop it off on Tuesday night. This is me in the dining room trying it on. I shall wear it for the Feast of the Assumption and think of all of you. Wow. Thanks.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
This is not a Vatican II thing.
We are talking Trent. As far back as then there was the clarification that the danger of death was not a condition for the reception of this sacrament. Unfortunately they did not go so far as to change the name of the sacrament from Extreme Unction then causing people to this day to try to wait to the very last possible second in order to be anointed.
The reason I mention this is because of an incident that happened this past weekend. We had our 80th anniversary celebration of our parish. After a great Mass (but are not all Masses great?) and a picnic and various other activities I retired to my humble abode and unexpectedly fell into a deep sleep on my couch. Waking up some time later I did not bother checking my emergency cell phone thinking that I had slept with it right next to my ear and surely if it had rung I would have heard it.
As it turned out I did not.
Fortunately I happened to check the phone later and found a message asking for “Last Rites” which turned out to be not only for a parishioner but for a family with whom I have been friends since before my priesthood. Thank goodness the call was caught!
Another call came about a week before asking for the same service but I was in Cleveland. It would be a couple of hours before I could make it but fortunately they thought it could wait.
Of course there are always emergencies that lead a person’s life to unexpected peril but for the vast majority of the cases this is not true. It is good to be anointed when it is needed, not trying to wait to the last possible moments as some used to in the early years of the Church with baptism hoping to get a free pass into heaven (since baptism wipes away all sins.) Risky business if you happened to get hit by a first century bus or if your twenty-first century priest decided to go for a walk in the woods and his cell phone does not pick up your call.
The opposite extreme which is equally as bad is getting anointed every time you get a head cold. There must be some serious (not necessarily grave) illness, debilitating chronic condition or extreme old age. A future surgery is also a reason to be anointed. Minor surgery is like Minor Asia: there’s nothing minor about it.
If you get sick and recover you should offer thanks. If you recover but then get sick again, you may also be anointed again. If your condition deteriorates dramatically that is also a condition in which you may be anointed again. If it is a persistent chronic problem and a sufficient amount of time has passed (6 months to a year) you may wish to be anointed again. To be avoided is being anointed as often as you shower. “Fr. X just anointed me but you can too! I could use the blessings Fr. Y.” That would be a bit like stepping out of the confessional and going into the next one just for blessing of it. It is rather an abuse (which is also why we may only receive Communion up to two times in one day and the second time must be in the context of the Mass.)
So plan! Be anointed before that surgery! Be anointed at the onset of illness and do not wait to the last second! It may not happen! And it would have been avoidable.
Monday, August 11, 2008
QUOTE II - "I'd rather be an optimist and fool than a pessimist and right." From the movie "IQ".
IN OTHER NEWS:
There was a request for a posting of some of the pictures from the trip up into the bell tower of St. Sebastian. Enjoy the view! I love the picture of flowers in front of the church. It is done by volunteers and I think they do a swell job.
With that joy, joy, joy, joy down in his heart, Jay announces Catholic Carnival 184.
Just a note of interest: Fr. Z from, "What Does This Prayer Really Say?" was in Cleveland this week to help Fr. Ireland of St. Gregory celebrate his 25th anniversary as a priest. Fr. Z is quite the celebrity blogger with about 10,000 original hits per day. (In case you are wondering, there are in the neighborhood of about 200 here exclusive of the weekend.) If you think he knows Church stuff you should tap that brain about baseball. Holy cow! Notice my shadow on the wall to the left?
My sister sent this in. No, I haven't the slightest idea how it works. Maybe I'll set our math students on to it so that they can explain it to me.
If you are interested, my cousin who, if God so wills it, will be ordained this year has a blog chronicling his summer trip to Guatemala and El Salvador. (Those of you who came to the weekend masses at St. Sebastian saw him receive a recognition from the K of C at the 9:00 and serve at the 11:00 Mass.)
Sunday, August 10, 2008
When a seminarian who is about to be ordained asks for some advice, one of the bits that I always give is, “Prepare you Mother. She has no idea what is going to hit her.” Right after the newly ordained, it is typically the newly ordained’s mother that receives the next amount of attention. Fortunately my Mom had other mothers of priests that warned her of the up and coming pandemonium and she was somewhat prepared and had for a number of years written letters to other mothers preparing them for the very public attention that they would receive.
Life changes for the newly ordained priest also. I had a cousin who understood this and so as an ordination present handed me a wrapped book with the mandate, “You are now going to be a very public figure. The only place where people won’t be telling you what to do is in your bedroom and in the kitchen. Learn to cook!” And she handed me a cookbook.
The next day after ordination was the First Mass of Thanksgiving. For our class this would take place on Pentecost Sunday. The Mass at which I would be celebrant was the last of the day and so we busily went about the tasks of preparing the church for the celebration. Priest friends arrived having found replacements at their parishes and seminarians and local boys acted as servers. Fr. Ireland, most recently of St. Gregory the Great and who is celebrating 25 years a priest this year was my MC.
Like the ordination itself, I only remember the Mass in bits and pieces. Listen to Fr. Kumse give the homily, receiving the gifts from my Mom and Sister, being awed that I was at the altar praying the Mass with brother priests behind me, being overwhelmed at holding the Body of Our Lord in my hands, walking out and smiling at the choir who sang a special Slovenian hymn for me.
Fr. Ireland took me aside and said, “Well done. But in the future you do not give the final blessing ‘in the name of’ but simply say, ‘May Almighty God bless you, the Father, Son . . .”
There were then many more blessings and then finally over to the church hall for another dinner. The gym had been transformed into quite the hall and after the late afternoon dinner we headed back into the church for a Litany to Mary and benediction. It had been suggested that confessions then be offered but it was too late and I was too drained and so we headed home and went immediately to bed.
There were days of events yet to come including moving into the rooms that I would soon be occupying as parochial vicar at Saint Ambrose. But as wonderful as that weekend was, it does not compare to waking up every morning loving what I am doing as a priest of Jesus Christ.
Friday, August 8, 2008
The passion flower has made its way into art more recently but is not really available on the market. The reason that it is called the passion flower is that with a little imagination one can make out the artifacts of the crucifixion.
The cockle, because it invades fields and chokes off desired crops is associated with sin and sinners invading the Church as in Christ’s parables. Another weed, the dandelion is considered one of the bitter herbs and thus a symbol of Christ’s Passion. The reed should be fairly obvious as it was used to lift the sponge soaked in vinegar to Christ’s lips as He hung upon the Cross. The thistle can be added to this list as a symbol of sin (from Genesis as part of Adam’s curse as the ground would bring forth thistle) and because of its thorns, reminiscent of the crown of thorns.
“Life has always poppies in her hands,” or so it says in the book, “The Portrait of Dorian Grey”. Dorothy almost never returned home because of the poisoned poppies that caused her to fall asleep. Because of their red color they are also used in depictions of the Passion but they are also, symbols of sleep, fertility (interesting combination), ignorance, extravagance, and indifference.
Pansies are a symbol of mediation and remembrance and have traditionally (in art) been a particular symbol for lent. I think an attempt to use them on the altar without deep catechesis could be mighty confusing.
There are two stories about the aspen tree. You might notice that its leaves seem to shake in the summer breeze and legend says that when the aspen learned that it had been chosen to be the tree out of which the Cross was to be made it shook in horror. The other legend says that when all of the other trees bowed in sorrow at the death of Christ on the Cross the aspen refused out of sinful arrogance and its leaves were doomed to shake and shiver thence forth.
The cypress, reported earlier in the symbolic language as used in our cemeteries, is a symbol of death because of its dark leaves and because once chopped down it never springs up again from its roots. The dogwood was once said to be a massive tree like the oak and was originally chosen to be the wood of the Cross and was horrified. Jesus looked with compassion on the tree and transformed it into a twisted, brittle shrub so that it could never be used for such a purpose. Hence the flowers of the dogwood resemble a cross (four petals long and two short) each marked with a rusted, blood soaked nail, and crown of thorns at its heart.
During the Renaissance holly was often used in representations of the Passion though we would find it odd now I suppose since it is so intimately associated with Christmas. As all of the other trees shattered themselves as the axe was brought down on them so that they could not be used as lumber for the Cross, the proud holly would not so defame itself. As a result it is now a twisted shrub, humbled for daring to be so prideful before its maker. The prickly leaves were associated with sin and the red berries with Christ’s blood.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
First, a little background: What the Church does in the United States is a bit unique. Ask almost any foreign priest functioning as a parish priest here for a spell. We tend to do more, provide more, expect more as parishes than most of the rest of world. The way I understand it this came about largely through the influence of ethnic parishes. The nationality parish was often the center of the community. The very reason that nationality parishes sprung up in the first place was that there were communities of Catholics that felt excluded, needed a unique experience of community, and looked to the Church for assistance in this new world. As a result the parish became the center of the community. It provided not only sacraments and education but almost anything that the community needed or desired. Sports, social clubs, banking, community dances, picnics, fairs, and what we would call today social services. It was not unheard of for parishes to have such amenities as bowling alleys or the like. At one point at my home parish of Sacred Heart Slovenian Church the pastor built a bar and told people that if they were going to go drinking and waist their money do it at the parish! And then he opened a bar.
Of course there is also the experience of the model of the mega-Protestant-church today that provides every kind of service conceivable (save the sacraments) for those who join along with gourmet donut and a cup of Starbuck’s Coffee. As a result many want to mimic this example of church in the Catholic Church in order to stave off loosing people to “Every Sunday is Donut Sunday” at the latest church down the street.
So now we have mega parishes often providing services comparable with a small city. On the one hand this is pretty great as long as our primary objectives (sacraments and Christian education) do not just become one on the list of services provided. (They must be FIRST and all else flow from it.) But on the other hand the parish is often entrusted to the leadership of just one priest who could not possibly run all of these programs and be ever present to his people and be a fabulous preacher and show up to all of the meetings and promote every club, and who, quite honestly, is probably not qualified to do it all.
So what is the problem of the pastor handing over the reigns to non-clergy and focusing on what a priest is “supposed to do?” The first problem is that the parish priest was ordained to be entrusted with the care of a parish. The way that I see it, to change this would either require a change in the universal Canon Law which governs the Church or that we would become a Church without pastors. A priest would simply be assigned to a parish to provide sacramental services and otherwise not have much to do (Canonically) with the place.
Without this change in law, if something were to wrong on the parish level resulting in a law suit, the person who is ultimately responsible is the pastor (and through him the bishop. And he would be thrilled about this.) In a court room an unacceptable answer to a prosecutor’s (or bishop’s) question is, “I did not know it was happening. I trusted everything to this person.” “But Father, were you not responsible by your own governing law to watch over this person?” “Yes.” “Then why did you not keep a closer eye on what he did or put safe guards in place?” “But I wanted to focus on spiritual matters I trusted this person to do the business aspects.” “And now because of your negligence this happened. You were responsible Father. You should have tried to do something!”
Unless there would be a change in Canon Law (which I do no foresee) or that priests simply become sacramental machines and not pastors of parishes (which at least I do not want), it will require more cooperation between the parish and its pastor. Even if the priest hate it, he must keep his finger on the pulse of everything of consequence at the parish. Much trust and responsibility must be given to others but there also must needs be strict checks and balances. Only with this can we continue to be both healthy and provide all of the services to which we have become accustomed.
It means that priests need to be better trained in these areas. As they are trained to know the limitations of their counseling skills and when to refer someone to more competent professionals, so must they be able to do in parish activities: knowing enough when they are over their heads in order to pass on the day to day load and also knowing enough to be able to assess the process and results. That is simply good stewardship.
It also means that if a person thinks that there is a great need for a ministry or activity at the parish, it is not simply a matter of suggesting and waiting for someone to make it happen, but offer to be the person to make it happen. (And of course support the parish so that it has the resources to do it.)
It also means praying for and promoting vocations. There are a number of empty suites here at Saint Sebastian and I would love to fill them with priests eager to take on the duties expected of the modern parish and to eventually take care of me in my dotage.