Sunday, 28 October 2012

Life and wisdom of St Benedict/23 - Not to nurse a grudge

The twenty-third of the wisdom sayings from Chapter Four of St Benedict's Rule is, not to nurse a grudge.

Its Scriptural basis is St Matthew 5:22-26:

"But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison;  truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny."

Monday, 22 October 2012

Bible Reading Plan: Ezekiel

Fra Angelico
The Vision of Ezekiel

If you are following the Bible in a Year reading plan, its time to move to the Book of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel is quite long, at 48 chapters, and is the first in a sequence of the prophets read in the Office around the time of Advent (next up is Daniel).

The author of the book, Ezekiel, was a priest and prophet born around 623 BC and living in Babylon during the exile.  He was active between around 593 and 571 BC.

The book opens with the story of Ezekiel’s calling as a prophet, and includes a series of dramatic visions that point to the majesty and transcendence of God; the importance of inner conversion; and the importance of the Temple and its liturgy.

Ezekiel a very rich text, well worth reading in full.  But some of the key chapters to focus on include:
  • Chapters 1&16, which are foundational texts on mystical prayer;
  • Chapters 8&10, on the abominations occurring in Jerusalem, and God's response, as his presence leaves the Temple;
  • Chapter 18, used in Masses during Lent; 
  • Chapter 36's prophesy of the coming of the Holy Spirit (which will be very familiar to Sydney WYD attendees); and
  • Chapter 37, used in the Easter and Pentecost Vigils.
For useful commentaries:

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Life and wisdom of St Benedict/22 - Not to give way to anger

This week's saying from Chapter 4 of the Rule of St Benedict is not to give way to anger.  It is the first of a group of sayings that can be seen as summarising the 'new law' of the Sermon on the Mount, or alternatively perhaps as a little commentary on the seven deadly sins.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Latin (and Greek) Prayer of the Week: Our Father

One of the things I suggested you do for the Year of Faith is learn some key prayers in Latin.

The Our Father is one most people will be pretty familiar with, even with the Latin, and is easy to pick up if not.

It is an important prayer, being Scriptural, and one of the traditional organising principles for many Catechisms.  And of course you need to learn it so you can pray the rosary in Latin!

And for our Eastern Catholic brethren, how about it learning it in the traditional liturgical language of your particular rite?  There are certainly recordings around of the prayer being read in Greek as well as Latin.

Our Father (Pater Noster)

Here is the text:

Pater noster,
qui es in cælis:
sanctificétur nomen tuum;
advéniat regnum tuum;
fiat volúntas tua, sicut in cælo, et in terra.
Panem nostrum cotidiánum da nobis hódie;
et dimítte nobis débita nostra, sicut et nos dimíttimus debitóribus nostris;
et ne nos indúcas in tentatiónem;
sed líbera nos a malo.

If you are not familiar with it, listen to it being read a few times until it starts to sound familiar.  

Looking at the Latin  

In terms of the Latin, notice that the word order differs from English.  That's because whereas we depend on word order for meaning in English, in Latin meaning is mostly dictated by the ending of the word.  That means word order can be used to for emphasis:

Pater (Father) noster (our), qui (who) es (is) in cælis (in the heavens): sanctificétur (let it be sanctified) nomen (name) tuum (your); advéniat (let it come) regnum (kingdom) tuum (your); fiat (let it be done) volúntas (will) tua (your), sicut (as) in cælo (in heaven), et (and) in terra (in earth). Panem (bread) nostrum (our) cotidiánum (daily) da (give) nobis (to us) hódie (today); et (and) dimítte (forgive) nobis (to us) débita (debts/tresspasses) nostra (our), sicut (as) et (and ) nos (us/we) dimíttimus (we dismiss/forgive) debitóribus (the trespasses/debts) nostris (of ours); et (and) ne (not) nos (us) indúcas (you lead) in tentatiónem (into temptation); sed (but) líbera (free) nos (us) a (from) malo evil.  

If you want to try and learn a little Latin as we go along, go back and pick out those recurring words, like et, tuus (and various endings), and make a list to learn!   Finally, the Our Father is a particularly good prayer to sing rather than just say.  Here is a version that helpfully gives you the words to you learn it off by heart...

*Note: Cotidianum vs quotidianum?

An astute reader has noted that I've used 'cotidianum' rather than the more familiar version to many, 'quotidianum'. That's because I'm using the official version given in the Catechism.

Bible Reading Plan : II Maccabees

If you are following the Bible in a Year reading plan I suggested, its time to move onto II Maccabees.

If you've been struggling a little with 1 Maccabees and its endless battles, you might find this a little easier going, as even though it overlaps in historical content, it is rather more explicitly theological in approach.  This book was probably actually written before 1 Maccabees, and covers the same historical period, of the revolt against the Seleucids, as it.

Why Luther excluded Maccabees from the Protestant Bible...

II Maccabees is particularly important from a Christian perspective in emphasising the value of suffering and martyrdom, its firm belief in the resurrection of the dead, and particularly in its articulation of the links between the Church Militant, Suffering and Triumphant.

The text points out that the living can help the dead by their prayers and sacrifices, and that the saints in heaven can intercede for the living.

Key sections to dip into include:
  • Chapter 1, especially verses 23-27 (used at the Lent Ember Saturday Mass);
  • Chapters 6-7, on the positive value of suffering;
  • Chapter 12, on how the living can help the dead through their prayers and sacrifices;
  • Chapter 15, on the intercession of the saints in heaven.
Aim to finish it by the 21st....

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Life and Wisdom of St Benedict/21 - To prefer nothing to the love of Christ

St Benedict receives the habit from the monk Romanus

This week's wisdom saying from Chapter four of St Benedict's Rule is 'to prefer nothing to the love of Christ'. 

It is perhaps the quintesssentially Benedictine summation of  the monastic life.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Bible Reading Plan: I Maccabees

I suggested, in my list of things to do for the Year of Faith, at least dipping into each of the books of the Bible in the course of the year.

If you want to follow the suggested plan I'm using, right now you should be taking a look at I Maccabees (I'm linking to the excellent New Advent online Bible, since it gives you the Latin, Greek and English in parallel text form).

And for a Gospel book for the quarter, I'm reading St John (I plan to develop my Greek reading skills this time around, and it seems to be the easiest of the four from a language point of view!).  And to go with it, the commentary of St Thomas Aquinas.

The struggle against tyranny

Maccabees is worth a look for a number of reasons: firstly because of its references to the clash between Greek and Jewish cultures, as it deals with the fallout from Alexander the Great's conquest of the known world of the time; and secondly because they challenge assorted Protestant beliefs, hence Luther's decision to exclude them from the Old Testament canon!

Written around 100 BC, I Maccabees was originally written in Hebrew, but only survives now in Greek.

I Maccabees basically tells the story of the struggle of Matathias (who was both a priest and military leader) and his sons, especially Judas Maccabeus, one of the great soldier-heroes of the Old Testament, fight to free Israel from Greek occupation in the period 175 to 134BC.

The book opens with a discussion of the split of Alexander the Great's Empire following his death in 323 BC.  A period of Hellenization ensued, and in 175 Antiochus IV Epiphanes came to power and launched a campaign to outlaw Judaism altogether.  The Maccabees resisted his persecution of practising Jews and profanation of the Temple, fighting a guerrilla war against this successor of Alexander the Great.

By 165 BC they had recaptured Jerusalem and purified and rededicated the Temple, and the Jewish feast of Hanukkah celebrates this.  By 134 BC they were in control of most of Palestine.

God's providential guidance of history

The book highlights the idea that those faithful to the Covenant and the purity of Temple worship will be granted victory, as well as stressing the importance of Jerusalem and the Temple.

The book has sixteen chapters, and the reading plan has us start 2 Maccabees on 16 October, so the key chapters to read if you are just dipping in, are chapter 1 (to get the political and religious setting), and 3-9 (covering Judas Maccabeus).


Useful Catholic commentaries to consult as you read include:

Police accuse Church of protecting abusers in Victoria

The Victorian Inquiry into Child Abuse in the Church heated up yesterday with a submission from the Victorian Police.

The Melbourne non-response?

The Submission apparently accuses the Church in the State of moving alleged abusers to hinder their investigations, prematurely alerting abusers that they were being investigated, and more.

The claims are not new.  And they have been denied vigorously by the Church's lead investigator and other spokespeople.

But it surely does undermine the Melbourne Archdiocese's continuing insistence on doing it's own way with the so-called 'Melbourne Response'.

Meanwhile The Age is accusing the Church of stonewalling the media.  The Archdiocese has apparently put in place some co-ordination arrangements to deal with media queries and generally instructed Church officials not to comment on the Inquiry.  That is sensible.  But the Archdiocese has also refused to provide contact details for its media spokesperson.

Not a good look.

Victim group credibility

At the same time, the credibility of some of the claims being made took a serious hit yesterday with yet another attempt to implicate Cardinal Pell.  The claim was that as a parish priest he had refused to speak to a rape victim who had, as a result been physically punished for attempting to report his abuse. 

The problem is, the Cardinal was not actually a priest of the diocese concerned (Ballarat) at the time (indeed, not even in the country) of the alleged events. 

There have been a series of articles, over the last few weeks from assorted lawyers and legal students, about how terrible it is that the legal industry has largely been excluded from the handling of child abuses cases in this country.  This kind of thing illustrates just why that is no great tragedy, but rather a positive!  A little basic fact checking on the part of lawyers would go a long way...

Are there new teachings in V2? Pope says no....

The Pope officially opened the Year of Faith yesterday, and in the process pronounced on one of the ongoing debates about Vatican II, namely whether there are new teachings defined in the Council's documents that we must accept.

And it seems that the answer is no!

No new teachings in Vatican II

VISNews reports Pope Benedict XVI as first citing Pope John XXIII's explanation that the purpose of the Council was not to resolve doctrinal issues, but to look at how the faith could best be presented.  He then says:

"The Council did not formulate anything new in matters of faith, nor did it wish to replace what was ancient. Rather, it concerned itself with seeing that the same faith might continue to be lived in the present day, that it might remain a living faith in a world of change.:

'Spiritual desertification'

The Pope went on to talk about the creation of the spiritual desert that we see around us now, as a result of the distortions engendered by the spirit of Vatican II:

 ... The Council Fathers wished to present the faith in a meaningful way; and if they opened themselves trustingly to dialogue with the modern world it is because they were certain of their faith, of the solid rock on which they stood. In the years following, however, many embraced uncritically the dominant mentality, placing in doubt the very foundations of the deposit of faith, which they sadly no longer felt able to accept as truths.

The task of the New Evangelization, he said, is to tackle this spiritual desertification using sources such as the letter of the actual documents of the Council, rather than their alleged spirit, as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

You can find the full text of the Pope's speech here.

And for an interesting take on Vatican II, including a timely rejection of the Trent vs V2 mentality, have a read of Archbishop Coleridge of Brisbane's piece over at ABC Religion and Ethics.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Reading the documents of Vatican II: a false compass for the Church today?

Source: Vatican Radio

The fifth of my suggested actions for the Year of Faith is to reread the documents of Vatican II.

As today is the fiftieth anniversary of the start of Vatican II, it is a particularly appropriate day to look at how to approach this task!

Pope Benedict XVI used his General Audience yesterday to talk about his memories of the occasion, and the continuing relevance of Vatican II for the Church today.

This one of those occasions, I think, where I for one will clearly state that I am not an ultramontanist: not every word that drips from the mouth of a Pope must be accepted as Gospel truth!

Vatican II Constitutions as compass points?!

The Pope's comments suggest that the four main constitutions of the Council remain compass points for the Church today:

"Looking in this light at the richness contained in the documents of Vatican II, I would like to mention the four constitutions, almost like the four points of a compass that can guide us. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium tells us how to worship in the Church at the beginning is adoration, there is God, there is the centrality of the mystery of Christ's presence. And the Church, the Body of Christ and a pilgrim people in all ages, has the fundamental task to glorify God, as expressed by the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium. The third document which I would like to mention is the Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum: the living Word of God calls the Church and vivifies her along the journey through history. And the way in which the Church brings the light she has received from God the whole world so He may be glorified, is the underlying theme of the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes."

That's a nice gloss.  But does it stand up to a reality test?

Rereading the texts

It is certainly worth rereading these documents today to see what they have to offer fifty years on, and I've suggested this as the fifth of my 'things to do for the Year of Faith' list.

But if one does take a hard look at those documents, I think the consensus judgment on most of them is that they are pretty much all inherently flawed, and have more often served to misdirect the faithful than to direct the Church appropriately.

The hard reality is that Sacrosanctum Concilium, though certainly containing some worthy sentiments and ideas (such as the attempt to revive the popularity of the Divine Office, subverted in the event by the complexity and untraditional nature of the 'Liturgy of the Hours', not to mention the popularity of evening Masses that displace Vespers), is largely based on a flawed anthropology.  It disdains, for example, the use of repetition in the liturgy, not understanding that repetition is the very key to ritual and reinforcement.

Gaudium et Spes is, as the Pope himself pointed out in a  previous life, similarly undermined by its implicit (and even explicit) Pelagianism (the view that we can do it all ourselves, without the need for grace).  And it generated the need for a stream of Magisterial documents, from Pope Paul VI onwards, to insist that it did not in fact justify liberation theology or the abandonment of mission!

Dei Verbum, far from stimulating a new, genuinely Catholic focus on Scripture, has seen the historico-critical method unleashed on the Church with devastating effects, resulting in a de facto protestanization of most Catholics' understanding of the Bible.

And Lumen Gentium has led to an excessive stress on the horizontal unity of the body of the Church ('the People of God') at the expense of the counterbalancing hierarchical and divine (vertical) constitution of the Church ('the body of Christ').

If these are compass points, they are wildly wavering ones!

A Council in search of a purpose

The biggest problem with Vatican II remains its ongoing search for a reason for having been called in the first place.

As Pope Benedict XVI said in his remarks yesterday:

"In the history of the Church, as I think you know, various councils have preceded the Second Vatican Council. Usually these large ecclesial assemblies were convened to define key elements of the faith, especially to correct errors that put her in danger. We think of the Council of Nicaea in 325, to counter the Arian heresy and to emphasize the divinity of Jesus, as the only Son of God the Father, or that of Ephesus in 431, which defined Mary as the Mother of God; the Council of Chalcedon, in 451, which affirmed the one person of Christ in two natures, the divine and the human person. Closer to our time, we have the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century, which clarified the essential points of Catholic doctrine before the Protestant Reformation, or Vatican I, which began to reflect on various issues, but had time to produce only two documents, one on knowledge of God, revelation, faith and relationships with reason and one on the primacy and infallibility of the Pope, because it was interrupted by the occupation of Rome in September 1870.

If we look at the Second Vatican Council, we can see that at that moment in the journey of the Church there were no particular errors of faith to correct or condemn, nor were there specific issues of doctrine or discipline to be clarified..."  

Instead, the task was allegedly to update the Church and renew it.   But the potential for this was largely high jacked by the 60s revolution and that false aggorniamento that saw the destruction of most Catholic institutions of the laity, of the religious orders, and the massive exit of many priests from the ministry.  An 'updating' that saw the rejection and subversion of Catholic morality, even on the part of priests, and opened the way to many evils.  

The way forward  

I'm not suggesting that there is nothing at all positive in the documents of or reforms that followed Vatican II.  A key task for this Year of Faith is, I think, to use the distance of fifty years to take a hard, fresh look at those documents and reforms and decide what does withstand the test of time, which reforms have born good fruit.  

But on the face of it, the actual results of the process of 'updating' and 'renewing' the Church have been disastrous.  Let's not pretend otherwise.   

The Year of Faith must not become an occasion for undue adulation of the Council; rather it must take on the task of integrating its positives into the two thousand year tradition of the Church.

A psalm for the New Evangelization....

I've been posting this week, a series of psalms that collectively might form a little devotional Office for the conversion of lapsed Catholics.  And so today, the last of the 'Matins' set, Psalm 102.

Antiphon: Forgive our sins, O Lord

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and let all that is within me bless his holy name.

2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and never forget all he has done for you.
3 Who forgives all your iniquities: who heals all your diseases.
4 Who redeems your life from destruction: who crowns you with mercy and compassion.
5 Who satisfies your desire with good things: your youth shall be renewed like the eagle's.
6 The Lord does mercies, and judgment for all that suffer wrong.
7 He has made his ways known to Moses: his wills to the children of Israel.
8 The Lord is compassionate and merciful: longsuffering and plenteous in mercy.
9 He will not always be angry: nor will he threaten for ever.
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins: nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
11 For according to the height of the heaven above the earth: he has strengthened his mercy towards them that fear him.
12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our iniquities from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children, so has the Lord compassion on them that fear him: 14 For he knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust:
15 Man's days are as grass, as the flower of the field so shall he flourish.
16 For the spirit shall pass in him, and he shall not be: and he shall know his place no more.

17 But the mercy of the Lord is from eternity and unto eternity upon them that fear him: And his justice unto children's children,
18 to such as keep his covenant, And are mindful of his commandments to do them.
19 The lord has prepared his throne in heaven: and his kingdom shall rule over all.
20 Bless the Lord, all you his angels: you that are mighty in strength, and execute his word, hearkening to the voice of his orders.
21 Bless the Lord, all you his hosts: you ministers of his that do his will.
22 Bless the Lord, all his works: in every place of his dominion, O my soul, bless the Lord.

Antiphon: Forgive our sins, O Lord

And here is the Latin.

Antiphon: Propitius esto peccatis nostris, Domine

Bénedic, ánima mea, Dómino : * et ómnia, quæ intra me sunt, nómini sancto ejus.
2 Bénedic, ánima mea, Dómino : * et noli oblivísci omnes retributiónes ejus.
3 Qui propitiátur ómnibus iniquitátibus tuis : * qui sanat omnes infirmitátes tuas.
4 Qui rédimit de intéritu vitam tuam : * qui corónat te in misericórdia et miseratiónibus.
5 Qui replet in bonis desidérium tuum : * renovábitur ut áquilæ juvéntus tua.
6 Fáciens misericórdias Dóminus : * et judícium ómnibus injúriam patiéntibus.
7 Notas fecit vias suas Móysi, * fíliis Israël voluntátes suas.
8 Miserátor, et miséricors Dóminus : * longánimis et multum miséricors.
9 Non in perpétuum irascétur : * neque in ætérnum comminábitur.
10 Non secúndum peccáta nostra fecit nobis : * neque secúndum iniquitátes nostras retríbuit nobis.
11 Quóniam secúndum altitúdinem cæli a terra : * corroborávit misericórdiam suam super timéntes se.
12 Quantum distat ortus ab occidénte : * longe fecit a nobis iniquitátes nostras.
13 Quómodo miserétur pater filiórum, misértus est Dóminus timéntibus se : * quóniam ipse cognóvit figméntum nostrum.
14 Recordátus est quóniam pulvis sumus : * homo, sicut fœnum dies ejus, tamquam flos agri sic efflorébit.
15 Quóniam spíritus pertransíbit in illo, et non subsístet : * et non cognóscet ámplius locum suum.
16 Misericórdia autem Dómini ab ætérno, * et usque in ætérnum super timéntes eum.
17 Et justítia illíus in fílios filiórum, * his qui servant testaméntum ejus.
18 Et mémores sunt mandatórum ipsíus, * ad faciéndum ea.
19 Dóminus in cælo parávit sedem suam : * et regnum ipsíus ómnibus dominábitur.
20 Benedícite Dómino, omnes Angeli ejus : * poténtes virtúte, faciéntes verbum illíus, ad audiéndam vocem sermónum ejus.
21 Benedícite Dómino, omnes virtútes ejus : * minístri ejus, qui fácitis voluntátem ejus.
22 Benedícite Dómino, ómnia ópera ejus : * in omni loco dominatiónis ejus, bénedic, ánima mea, Dómino.

Antiphon: Propitius esto peccatis nostris, Domine

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Things to do for the Year of Faith:3. Read the Bible

The third of my list of things to do for the Year of Faith was read the Bible.

I'm not suggesting you read the whole thing in a year (that's a worthy objective for monks, but most of us don't have enough time).

Just refresh your memory on what each book is about, and dip into a few key chapters or sections of it, ideally each day, but at least each week.

Knowledge of Scripture is essential

Knowledge of Scripture, particularly what the Gospels actually say (as opposed to the soft soap version most are familiar with that avoids all the 'hard sayings'), has fallen to an appalling low amongst Catholics.

In part, in my view, that is because the Novus Ordo lectionary tries to load too much in, with the net result that Catholics aren't even familiar with that core of Sunday Gospels set for the traditional Mass.

But the other, far bigger problem is the prevalence of rationalist and modernist interpretations of Scripture that denude it of any real content.

How to read Scripture

A key challenge for the Year of Faith then, is to start recapturing a genuinely Catholic reading of the Bible.  Scripture didn't come down to us out of thin air as some protestants seem to believe.  Rather it grew out of and was transmitted down to us by a living community of faith.

To make sense of the Bible, we have to read it in the light of the broader context of the Tradition passed down to us, and captured particularly in the liturgy, the writings of the Fathers, and the teaching of the Magisterium.

The first key to the Bible is the interpretation the Church gives it in the liturgy - by assigning texts to particular feasts; by placing related texts together; and in the assignment of particular books of the Bible to particular seasons in the context of the Divine Office.  The Bible reading plan I most like broadly follows the traditional flow of the Divine Office.  Right now, for example, it has us reading I Maccabees.

The second key is the writings of the Fathers, are there are now some good editions of key texts available in English, and even online for free.  One of the most useful resources, though, I would suggest is the Ancient Christian Commentaries series that provides an anthology of Patristic texts arranged by Bible chapter.

For Magisterial texts tied to chapters (as well as some Patristic and other sources) the Congregation for the Clergy's Biblia Clerus site is worth a look.

A plan

The reading plan I linked to above, at New Liturgical Movement, is not, I have to admit, terribly user friendly.  For a starter, it uses French abbreviations for the names of books, although one can generally work it out and cross check by looking at the number of chapters.

Accordingly, each month I'll try and provide a quick English summary of which books the plan suggests reading, and supplement that with some notes on those particular books of the Bible, and any good Patristic or other sources on them.

Happy reading! 

Bishops: Why are the pages of our 'Catholic' media running the homosexualist lobby's case!

Over the last few weeks the Federal and Tasmanian Parliaments have voted down proposed legislation to legalise 'gay marriage'.  That was due, in no small part, to the hard work of assorted Christian organizations, including our bishops.

So why then, in the time since, has the pro-homosexualist case been given so much space on Eureka Street and Cath News?

Both of these organizations are listed in the Official Directory of the Catholic Church in Australia. 

Eureka Street (run by the Jesuits) appears under Catholic Media. 

Cath News (Church Resources) under the category of 'Organizations having Liaison with the Bishops Conference' (along with organizations such as the National Vocations Office, Catholic Mission, and more).

Yet both consistently promote points of view at odds with Catholic teaching.

I noted yesterday last Thursday's pair of articles over at Eureka Street advocating for homosexual marriage to be recognised.  And today at Cath News we are graced with a blog post that attempts to utterly distort the plain meaning of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in order to attack Cardinal Pell's defence of exemptions from anti-discrimination legislation for Catholic institutions - exemptions that attempt to protect our children from the advocacy of lifestyles at odds with church teaching.

Ironically, perhaps, the excellent ABC religion and ethics site has consistently provided a much more balanced set of offerings on the homosexualist debate.  I'd particularly recommend a read of Gordon Preece's response to Michael Kirby.  Apart from anything else it makes clear just how far Protestant ideas have infiltrated Catholic thinking!

If we want to truly launch the New Evangelization, we need to evangelize ourselves first.  We need to clean house.

Time for the bishops to act.

A psalm for the conversion of souls (including our own!)

Continuing my series of psalms to pray for the conversion of souls, today's psalm, Psalm 77 (78) is a reminder that the lapse of the current generation into apostasy is nothing new: rather it is a pattern that has recurred throughout salvation history.  Nor should we think that we ourselves are not guilty of the same sin!

Psalm 77, though a great psalm well worth reading in full, is very long (as it reviews a lot of salvation history), and the Benedictine Office actually splits it in two in the context of Thursday Matins.  Accordingly, I've made a selection of verses from it.

And by way of an antiphon to go with it, I'm suggesting one of my favourite psalm verses (though whether I've actually fully accepted its teaching into my own life is a different matter!).  It's from Psalm 31 (32), that urges us to use the intellect God gave us and accept his instruction, rather than having to be dragged kicking and screaming by means of bit and bridle...

Antiphon: Do not become like the horse and the mule, who have no understanding.

1. Attend, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

2 I will open my mouth in parables: I will utter propositions from the beginning.
3 How great things have we heard and known, and our fathers have told us.
4 They have not been hidden from their children, in another generation. Declaring the praises of the Lord, and his powers, and his wonders which he has done.
5 And he set up a testimony in Jacob: and made a law in Israel. How great things he commanded our fathers, that they should make the same known to their children:
6 That another generation might know them. The children that should be born and should rise up, and declare them to their children.
7 That they may put their hope in God and may not forget the works of God: and may seek his commandments.
8 That they may not become like their fathers, a perverse and exasperating generation. A generation that set not their heart aright: and whose spirit was not faithful to God.
36 And they loved him with their mouth, and with their tongue they lied unto him:
37 But their heart was not right with him: nor were they counted faithful in his covenant.
38 But he is merciful, and will forgive their sins: and will not destroy them. And many a time did he turn away his anger: and did not kindle all his wrath.
39 And he remembered that they are flesh: a wind that goes and returns not.
52 And he took away his own people as sheep: and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
53 And he brought them out in hope and they feared not: and the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
54 And he brought them into the mountain of his sanctuary: the mountain which his right hand had purchased. And he cast out the Gentiles before them: and by lot divided to them their land by a line of distribution.
55 And he made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tabernacles.
56 Yet they tempted, and provoked the most high God: and they kept not his testimonies.
57 And they turned away, and kept not the covenant: even like their fathers they were turned aside as a crooked bow.
58 They provoked him to anger on their hills: and moved him to jealousy with their graven things. 67 And he rejected the tabernacle of Joseph: and chose not the tribe of Ephraim:
68 But he chose the tribe of Juda, mount Sion which he loved.
69 And he built his sanctuary as of unicorns, in the land which he founded for ever.
70 And he chose his servant David, and took him from the flocks of sheep: he brought him from following the ewes great with young,
71 to feed Jacob his servant and Israel his inheritance.

72 And he fed them in the innocence of his heart: and conducted them by the skilfulness of his hands

Antiphon: Do not become like the horse and the mule, who have no understanding.

And here is the Latin:

Antiphon: Nolite fieri sicut equus et mulus, quibus non est intellectus.   1 Attendite, popule meus, legem meam; inclinate aurem vestram in verba oris mei.
2 Aperiam in parabolis os meum; loquar propositiones ab initio.
3 Quanta audivimus, et cognovimus ea, et patres nostri narraverunt nobis.
4 Non sunt occultata a filiis eorum in generatione altera, narrantes laudes Domini et virtutes ejus, et mirabilia ejus quæ fecit.
5 Et suscitavit testimonium in Jacob, et legem posuit in Israël, quanta mandavit patribus nostris nota facere ea filiis suis:
6 ut cognoscat generatio altera : filii qui nascentur et exsurgent, et narrabunt filiis suis,
7 ut ponant in Deo spem suam, et non obliviscantur operum Dei, et mandata ejus exquirant:
8 ne fiant, sicut patres eorum, generatio prava et exasperans; generatio quæ non direxit cor suum, et non est creditus cum Deo spiritus ejus.
36 Et dilexerunt eum in ore suo, et lingua sua mentiti sunt ei;
37 cor autem eorum non erat rectum cum eo, nec fideles habiti sunt in testamento ejus.
38 Ipse autem est misericors, et propitius fiet peccatis eorum, et non disperdet eos. Et abundavit ut averteret iram suam, et non accendit omnem iram suam.
39 Et recordatus est quia caro sunt, spiritus vadens et non rediens.
52 et abstulit sicut oves populum suum, et perduxit eos tamquam gregem in deserto:
53 et deduxit eos in spe, et non timuerunt, et inimicos eorum operuit mare.
54 Et induxit eos in montem sanctificationis suæ, montem quem acquisivit dextera ejus; et ejecit a facie eorum gentes, et sorte divisit eis terram in funiculo distributionis;
55 et habitare fecit in tabernaculis eorum tribus Israël.
56 Et tentaverunt, et exacerbaverunt Deum excelsum, et testimonia ejus non custodierunt.
57 Et averterunt se, et non servaverunt pactum : quemadmodum patres eorum, conversi sunt in arcum pravum.
58 In iram concitaverunt eum in collibus suis, et in sculptilibus suis ad æmulationem eum provocaverunt.
67 Et repulit tabernaculum Joseph, et tribum Ephraim non elegit:
68 sed elegit tribum Juda, montem Sion, quem dilexit.
69 Et ædificavit sicut unicornium sanctificium suum, in terra quam fundavit in sæcula.
70 Et elegit David, servum suum, et sustulit eum de gregibus ovium; de post fœtantes accepit eum:
71 pascere Jacob servum suum, et Israël hæreditatem suam.
72 Et pavit eos in innocentia cordis sui, et in intellectibus manuum suarum deduxit eos.

Antiphon: Nolite fieri sicut equus et mulus, quibus non est intellectus.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Things to do for the Year of Faith/2: Read the (Compendium of the) Catechism

In my post a few days back on what to do for the Year of Faith, I suggested reading the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

It really is important, I think, for us all to refresh our knowledge of the content of the faith at regular intervals. 

It is all very well to repeat ad nauseam Karl Rahner's mantra that we should all be mystics now (!).  Even if you accept that extremely dubious proposition, as the redoubtable first Abbess of Solesmes, Cecile Bruyere pointed out in her book on the Spiritual Life, a sound foundation in dogmatic theology is a necessary foundation for a good spiritual life.  Moreover, she points out:

"It is absolute presumption to expect to obtain, by immediate light from God, that knowledge which we can and ought to acquire for ourselves as part of our work in this world." (pp9-10)

Reading the Compendium

The Conpendium of the Catechism is a good way to approach this task, not least because it is a lot shorter and pithier than the full text!
The Compendium of the Catechism is divided into four parts, so a reasonable plan would be to tackle one part each quarter.  It also provides links to the full text of the Catechism so you can easily track back to the longer version if you wish.

Accordingly today I wanted to suggest a couple of supplementary resources to help you in this endeavour, and offer an opportunity to ask questions you'd like to see answered on this blog!

The Catechism in a hermeneutic of continuity

One useful way of approaching the Catechism is to compare and contrast what it says with past Catechisms.  And a great resource for this purpose is the Nazareth Master Catechism, which allows you to read the treatment of the same issues in the Catechisms of St Thomas Aquinas, Trent, Baltimore and Pius X.

Another excellent resource (though you will have to buy it, it is not online) is the Companion to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  It provides all of the Scriptural, Patristic and Magisterial documents referred to in the Catechism, making it easy to follow up all those footnotes and get the context for a particular paragraph.

What the Catechism does and doesn't say

Even with those resources, though, one of the key challenges in reading the Catechism (or its compendium) from a traditionalist perspective  is putting it into context. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (just like that of Trent) doesn't attempt to give an in depth treatment of every issue going, but rather focuses particularly on those issues dealt  with by the Council.

Looking at it now, twenty years on, there are more than a few issues which you wish it had rather more to say about.

Tradition and traditions

A classic example from a traditionalist point of view is the rather distinction between big T 'Tradition' (or Apostolic Tradition), and small t traditions, which the Catechism notes can be "retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church's magisterium" (CCC 83).

That throwaway line entirely encapsulates the mentality of the last forty years or more that has often viewed longstanding traditions, even ones stretching back to the apostolic era, as of little more than 'passing worth', as The Teaching of Christ A Catholic Catechism for Adults by Bishop Wuerl and others (2005:pp190) put it.

The older theological tradition took a rather more nuanced view of this topic, employing a whole range of categories that distinguished between Divine, Apostolic and Ecclesial Traditions, and then sub-divided each of these categories in turn.  These are helpful distinctions to make I think, because they help explain why the prescriptions about not eating blood (Acts 15) or covering women's heads in Church, though clearly apostolic in origin, are not 'Divine Apostolic' injunctions valid for all time.  Yet at the same time, the very fact that something is a tradition dating back to the apostles should surely make us think hard before discarding it!

The pre-Vatican II theological tradition, reflected in texts such as the excellent Tradition and the Church by Msgr Agius, emphasized the principle lex orandi, lex credendi (the law of praying is the law of believing).  That's a concept we need to recover.

Aids to reading....

Accordingly, as a progress on my own rereading, I'll try and highlight some of the issues I see (or don't see) in the text, and point to some of the resources on topics I know of (and inviting others to share any particularly good ones they know of).

Please do feel free to suggest particular topics you'd be interested in seeing covered.

And in the meantime, get ready to start reading and studying!

Thinking of a liturgical dancing at that upcoming confirmation? Rome says no!

One of the smart ideas at a parish I often attend was the idea of shifting school Masses to Sunday, so the kids (and their parents) are actually encouraged to attend Mass.

The downside of this is the pressure to find something for all the kids to 'do' in the Mass. 

Fake action at school masses

In Australia, unfortunately, the stock standard approach seems to be to have a Gospel procession with kids clutching numerous streamers, a little liturgical twirling/dancing from the embarrassed looking girls, and mumbled contributions to the prayers of the faithful/readings.

Time for a rethink, because Rorate Caeli has just published a dubium from the Congregation of Divine Rites which states:

"The liturgical law of the Roman Rite does not foresee the use of dance or drama within the Sacred Liturgy, unless particular legislation has been enacted by the Bishops' Conference and confirmed by the Holy See. Any other practice is to be considered an abuse."

Genuine active engagement

Now personally I think there are more traditional solutions available.

First make the kids the choir (or at least the choir for a few items) for the occasion and teach them some chant or other simple traditional pieces to perform.  Mulier Fortis offers a nice example of such active engagement in her own parish that shows that it can be done!

Secondly, have the kids prepare the Church for the event: perhaps they could help make a nice altar cloth in the appropriate liturgical colour for the day; decorate the Church with icons from home to decorate the bare walls of the Church (or even make some of their own under guidance) and flowers; polish the brass and so forth.

Thirdly, for those who really can't sing or play (I'm not suggesting guitar twanging, but some suitable pieces with instrumental accompaniment such as recorders could be considered for the Offertory), have a procession of half a dozen (boy) torchbearers (assuming you can rustle up enough candleholders!).

Fourthly, use the kids to teach their parents (and teachers!) to follow the actual rubrics when it comes to making the appropriate gestures at the confiteor, Creed and so forth.

Fifthly, ensure the kids understand that true active participation is above all about internal engagement with what is happening, not just external activity.

Finally, have the kids look distinctive and appropriately modestly dressed - perhaps wearing their school uniforms - as they perform tasks like take up the collection, do the offertory procession, act as welcomers and so forth.

Psalm for the conversion of heretics and schismatics!

One of the things I suggested doing for the year of faith, and particularly while the Synod for the New Evangelization is in session, is praying for the conversion of lapsed and uncatechised catholics.

Perhaps one particular intention in this regard might be a prayer for those wolves in sheep's clothing who despite rejecting the faith, continue to claim the title Catholic and seek to lead others astray.

The pages of Cath News and Eureka Street over the last week or so will give you a pretty idea of what I'm talking about:
  • the series of articles on Vatican II over at Eureka Street and featured on Cath News by people like Geraldine Doogue and Fr Michael Kelly SJ;
  • the outrageous defences of 'gay marriage' over at Eureka Street, such as the allegedly 'conservative' arguments for it (such as don't take the Bible too literally!) and the local vs international politics of the push;
  • Fr Frank Brennan SJ's advocacy of allowing Aboriginal pagan practices and beliefs to co-exist with Christian ones at funerals and more broadly;
  • the rejection of the inherent value of the family (and many other Catholic teachings) by Michael Mullins over at Eureka Street, and promotion of dissent over at Cath News' blogwatcher.
I could go on, but I'm sure we all have our own lists of bishops, priests, religious and others in positions of authority who stand in need of conversion to the actual faith!

So here is today's psalm and antiphon for the cause, both from Psalm 33.  I've highlighted a few verses in the English version that you might want to especially ponder.

Antiphon: Turn away from evil and do good.


1.  I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall be always in my mouth.
2. In the Lord shall my soul be praised: let the meek hear and rejoice.
3.  O magnify the Lord with me; and let us extol his name together.
4. I sought the Lord, and he heard me; and he delivered me from all my troubles.
5.  Come to him and be enlightened: and your faces shall not be confounded.
6.  This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him: and saved him out of all his troubles.
7. The angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear him: and shall deliver them.
8.  O taste, and see that the Lord is sweet: blessed is the man that hopes in him.
9.  Fear the Lord, all you his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.
10. The rich have wanted, and have suffered hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not be deprived of any good.
11. Come, children, hearken to me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12. Who is the man that desires life: who lives to see good days?
13.  Keep your tongue form evil, and your lips from speaking guile.
14.  Turn away from evil and do good: seek after peace and pursue it.
15.  The eyes of the Lord are upon the just: and his ears unto their prayers.
16. But the countenance of the Lord is against them that do evil things: to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
17. The just cried, and the Lord heard them: and delivered them out of all their troubles.
18.  The Lord is near unto them that are of a contrite heart: and he will save the humble of spirit. 
19. Many are the afflictions of the just; but out of them all will the Lord deliver them.
20. The Lord is near unto them that are of a contrite heart: and he will save the humble of spirit.
21.  The death of the wicked is very evil: and they that hate the just shall be guilty.
22. The Lord will redeem the souls of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall offend.

Antiphon: Turn away from evil and do good.

And here is the Latin:

Antiphon: Divérte a malo, et fac bonum

Benedícam Dóminum in omni témpore : * semper laus ejus in ore meo.

2 In Dómino laudábitur ánima mea : * áudiant mansuéti, et læténtur.
3 Magnificáte Dóminum mecum : * et exaltémus nomen ejus in idípsum.
4 Exquisívi Dóminum, et exaudívit me : * et ex ómnibus tribulatiónibus meis erípuit me.
5 Accédite ad eum, et illuminámini : * et fácies vestræ non confundéntur.
6 Iste pauper clamávit, et Dóminus exaudívit eum : * et de ómnibus tribulatiónibus ejus salvávit eum.
7 Immíttet Angelus Dómini in circúitu timéntium eum : * et erípiet eos.
8 Gustáte, et vidéte quóniam suávis est Dóminus : * beátus vir, qui sperat in eo.
9 Timéte Dóminum, omnes sancti ejus : * quóniam non est inópia timéntibus eum.
10 Dívites eguérunt et esuriérunt : * inquiréntes autem Dóminum non minuéntur omni bono.
11 Veníte, fílii, audíte me : * timórem Dómini docébo vos.
12 Quis est homo qui vult vitam : * díligit dies vidére bonos?
13 Próhibe linguam tuam a malo : * et lábia tua ne loquántur dolum.
14 Divérte a malo, et fac bonum : * inquíre pacem, et perséquere eam.
15 Oculi Dómini super justos : * et aures ejus in preces eórum.
16 Vultus autem Dómini super faciéntes mala : * ut perdat de terra memóriam eórum.
17 Clamavérunt justi, et Dóminus exaudívit eos : * et ex ómnibus tribulatiónibus eórum liberávit eos.
18 Juxta est Dóminus iis, qui tribuláto sunt corde : * et húmiles spíritu salvábit.
19 Multæ tribulatiónes justórum : * et de ómnibus his liberábit eos Dóminus.
20 Custódit Dóminus ómnia ossa eórum : * unum ex his non conterétur.
21 Mors peccatórum péssima : * et qui odérunt justum, delínquent.
22 Rédimet Dóminus ánimas servórum suórum : * et non delínquent omnes qui sperant in eo.

Antiphon: Divérte a malo, et fac bonum

Prayer for the intention

You could use the prayer I provided yesterday with this psalm, or if you want to pick up the particular intention of the conversion of those living in error and leading others astray, the following prayer, from the Good Friday liturgy, might be particularly appropriate:

"Let us pray for heretics and schismatics, that our Lord and God may deliver them from all their errors, and vouchsafe to recall them to their holy Mother, the Catholic and Apostolic Church. Almighty, eternal God, Who dost save all, and willest not that any should perish, look upon the souls deceived by diabolical fraud, that, abandoning all heretical depravity, the hearts of the erring may regain sanity and return to the unity of truth. Through our Lord. Amen."

Here is the Latin:

"Orémus et pro hæréticis et schismáticis: ut Deus et Dóminus noster éruat eos ab erróribus univérsis; et ad sanctam matrem Ecclésiam Cathólicam, atque Apostólicam revocáre dignétur. Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, qui salvas omnes, et néminem vis períre réspice ad ánimas diabólica fraude decéptas; ut omni hærética pravitáte depósita, errántium corda resipíscant, et ad veritátis tuæ rédeant unitátem. Per Dominum. Amen."

Monday, 8 October 2012

What to do for the Year of Faith: 1. Learn a little Latin

I provided a suggested list, yesterday, of things to do by way of taking the Year of Faith, that starts this Thursday, seriously. 

This week, I want to expand a little on each item in my list, on the basis that we'll get going properly on this next week.

First, learning a little Latin.

Practical Latin

I'm not actually suggesting that you need to sit down and learn Latin properly, in order to read the language fluently.  Great if you can spare the time, but most can't.

Instead I'm suggesting recovering that basic bit of practical knowledge of the Latin of the Mass and Office that Catholics down the ages acquired by hearing and saying it over and over in the proper context.

I'm talking about learning to recognise, say, sing (where appropriate) - to memorize key prayers and texts in Latin.  To be able to say them with understanding.

What did the Council actually say?

The Council – as well as every Pope from John XXIII on wards - actually affirmed the importance of Latin in the Church. Paragraph 36 of Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC) firmly states that:

"The use of the Latin language, with due respect to particular law, is to be preserved in the Latin rites."

The Council did, it is true, then  go on to permit the use of the vernacular on a limited basis.  But it gave no mandate whatsoever for the wholesale abandonment of the Churches official language that has in fact occurred.

In fact, SC 54 goes on to say that although the vernacular can be used as appropriate:

"Nevertheless, care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them."

Gradually some attempt is being made to promote Latin again. 

Indeed, the Vatican is doing its own little bit to emphasize this, in its own inimitable way, by only providing the document setting out the details for the indulgences available for the Year of Faith, for example, only in Latin and Italian (indeed certain other key documents, such as Summorum Pontificum, remain similarly available only in Latin and languages such as Hungarian...).

Why Latin is important

All the same, recovery of the Ecclesiastical use of Latin is still pretty much a traditionalist enterprise.

In fact the International traditionalist organization, FIUV, recently put out a position paper on Latin as a liturgical language which is well worth reading.

Here is the abstract:

"Latin is the normative language of the liturgy, in the Latin Church, and also of the great majority of the Church’s teaching documents and administration, since very early times. The teaching of Blessed Pope John XXIII in Veterum Sapientia emphasises the value of Latin as universal, unchanging, and dignified. The rise of migration in recent decades has given particular value to the universality of Latin. It remains the essential language of the Latin Church’s culture and spirituality. Its use in the liturgy, even where the congregation may have little knowledge of the language, can give rise, as Blessed Pope John Paul II expressed it, to a ‘profound sense of the eucharistic mystery’, since it can assist in communicating the grandeur and importance of the liturgical action. Particularly in the context of a proper liturgical formation, far from being a barrier to participation, therefore, Latin can be an aid to it. Pope Benedict XVI has asked that seminarians be taught to celebrate the liturgy in Latin, noting that the Faithful can be taught many texts and chants."

How to tackle learning Latin

If you are serious about learning Latin, there are some good distance education courses available if you don't have access to courses in your area.  You could audit, for example, the Australian Catholic University's Ecclesiastical Latin course (for which I believe Cardinal Pell provided the funding to get going).

Alternatively, by way of excellent teach yourself courses, Carol Byrne's Simplicissimus Course can either be purchased cheaply through the UK Latin Mass Society, or found for free online in a number of places.

Learning enough Latin...

If you are a priest who went through seminary at a time when Latin wasn't actually taught, you could perhaps focus first on how to pronounce the Latin of the Novus Ordo Mass correctly (because you already know what it means given that you say it every day!).

If you then want to graduate to the Extraordinary Form, there are lots of sound recordings and videos around to help on this. Or you could also take a look at the really excellent, very focused resources provided by the UK Latin Mass Society to this end.

The common prayers, chants and parts of the Mass

For the rest of us, a good starting point might be to learn how to sing or say the key parts of the Mass that pertain to the people (as Vatican II prescribed) and the 'common prayers' set out in English and Latin the back of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

I have to admit that though my Latin is reasonably good, I'm absolutely hopeless at memorizing texts, even of many of the prayers I say every day (though I remember tunes well enough, I went through school at that time when memorization was deemed A Bad Thing). I do know some, but quickly forget, or have never properly learnt, all too many of these key texts, so one of my resolutions for the year is to remedy this.

Accordingly, I'll try and highlight a prayer or other text each week to learn, perhaps with some notes on the Latin or other material on it to help ensure it penetrates the brain!

Here's a little sample of the kind of thing I mean...

In nomine Patris....

The very first of the 'common prayers' contained in the Compendium to the Catechism is:

"In nómine Patris et Fílii et Spíritus Sancti. Amen."

or in English:

"In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

It is one of those blessings that is used over and over in many different contexts, so you should at least be able to recognise it so you can join in with the amen!

Indeed, making (and saying) the sign of the Cross comes with a partial indulgence.

Get used to how it sounds

So the first thing to do is listen to it being said several times until you have it in your head.  The speaker on the sound file at Boston Catholic says it nice and slowly to help you.

Look at the Latin

Next, have a closer look at the Latin. 

There are a couple of things you can immediately notice, the most obvious being that there are a lot fewer words in Latin than in English.  There are two reasons for that. 

First, Latin doesn't have a definite (or indefinite) article - no 'the' 'a' or 'an' (in translating, you have to guess which is appropriate from the context).

Secondly, Latin is an inflected language, meaning that instead of adding extra words such as 'of ' or 'to' or 'from', it just changes the end of the word to indicate the particular 'case' or way it is being used in the sentence.

You may know the word 'pater' for example, meaning father, from the Our Father (Pater Noster). Patris is the same word but inflected so as to mean 'of the Father'.

So here is a word by word translation of the sentence:

In (in) nómine (the name) Patris (of the Father) et (and) Fílii (of the Son) et (and) Spíritus Sancti (of the Holy Spirit/Ghost). Amen (actually a Hebrew word meaning 'so be it', but rarely if ever translated into Latin or English)."

Say it

The final task is to listen again to a sound file until you can say it yourself, and say it up to speed.  The sound file on this excellent parish site is a useful one for this purpose.

Then keep practising each day until it comes naturally (I've put it in the sidebar on the blog as a prompt).

And if you would like to read more on this excellent little prayer, the short essay over at Thesaurus Precum Latinarum is well worth a read.

More next week!

Prayers for the conversion of lapsed catholics

I signalled yesterday that one of the things I think we should consider doing for the year of faith is praying for the conversion of lapsed and uncatechized Catholics.

The synod for the New Evangelization is underway, so I thought I'd start listing out some suggested psalms and a prayer for this purpose.  A psalm a day or week would be a nice offering for this purpose I think, but I'll signal upfront what those who are familiar with the Office will quickly work out for themselves, namely that the psalm selection I'm going to suggest could readily be added together to mimic the form of one of the many devotional Offices devised in the past.

Matins: Psalm 94(95)

So, my suggestion is to start with the traditional Matins invitatory psalm (Psalm 94), which is particularly appropriate to the cause I think, and use the verse 'If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart' as the antiphon.

Here is the psalm, first in English:

"Come let us praise the Lord with joy: let us joyfully sing to God our saviour.
2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; and make a joyful noise to him with psalms.
3 For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
4 For in his hand are all the ends of the earth: and the heights of the mountains are his.
5 For the sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Come let us adore and fall down: and weep before the Lord that made us.
7 For he is the Lord our God: and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.
8 Today if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts:
9 As in the provocation, according to the day of temptation in the wilderness: where your fathers tempted me, they proved me, and saw my works.
10 Forty years long was I offended with that generation, and I said: These always err in heart.
11 And these men have not known my ways: so I swore in my wrath that they shall not enter into my rest."
Glory be....

And here is the Latin, in the version used in the traditional Office:

Antiphon: Hódie, si vocem ejus audiéritis, nolíte obduráre corda vestra

Veníte, exsultémus Dómino, jubilémus Deo, salutári nostro: præoccupémus fáciem ejus in confessióne, et in psalmis jubilémus ei.

Quóniam Deus magnus Dóminus, et Rex magnus super omnes deos, quóniam non repéllet Dóminus plebem suam: quia in manu ejus sunt omnes fines terræ, et altitúdines móntium ipse cónspicit.
Quóniam ipsíus est mare, et ipse fecit illud, et áridam fundavérunt manus ejus (genuflectitur) veníte, adorémus, et procidámus ante Deum: plorémus coram Dómino, qui fecit nos, quia ipse est Dóminus, Deus noster; nos autem pópulus ejus, et oves páscuæ ejus.
Hódie, si vocem ejus audiéritis, nolíte obduráre corda vestra, sicut in exacerbatióne secúndum diem tentatiónis in desérto: ubi tentavérunt me patres vestri, probavérunt et vidérunt ópera mea.
Quadragínta annis próximus fui generatióni huic, et dixi; Semper hi errant corde, ipsi vero non cognovérunt vias meas: quibus jurávi in ira mea; Si introíbunt in réquiem meam.
Gloria Patri....

Antiphon: Hódie, si vocem ejus audiéritis, nolíte obduráre corda vestra


And as a prayer to go with the psalm, a traditional prayer for the conversion of the lapsed that I've found in a number of places, including as one of the intentions for the week of Christian Unity:

"Almighty Father, You desire not the death of the sinner, but that they may be converted and live. Pour out upon us Your mercy and hear the prayers of Your servants. Soften the hearts of Your children who have strayed from the true faith which You established for their salvation. They are now forgetful of their duties as Catholics and pursue the pleasures of the world. Grant that they may quickly return to the practice of every Christian virtue so that their lives may shine with the integrity of faith, the fervor of piety and the ardor of charity. Restore them all to Your sacraments and the life of Your grace through the merits the most Precious Blood of Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen."

You could perhaps top this off either with a prayer for a particular person or persons, and/or for the conversion of our country:

O God, Who hast appointed Mary, Help of Christians Patroness of Australia, grant that through her intercession our brethren outside the Church may receive the light of faith, so that Australia may become one in faith under one Shepherd. Through Christ our Lord. R/. Amen.

Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us.
St Mary McKillop, pray for us.

Opening of the Synod on the New Evangelization

Source: Vaticna Radio

The Pope opened the Synod on the New Evangelization yesterday, and proclaimed two new Doctors of the Church, St Hildegard of Bingen and St John of Avila.

The Pope's opening address made some interesting points on what the sees he New Evangelization as being about.

1.  Evangelization starts with our own conversion to Christ

The Pope makes the obvious point that we can't convert others unless we convert ourselves:

"In every time and place, evangelization always has as its starting and finishing points Jesus Christ, the Son of God (cf. Mk 1:1); and the Crucifix is the supremely distinctive sign of him who announces the Gospel: a sign of love and peace, a call to conversion and reconciliation. My dear Brother Bishops, starting with ourselves, let us fix our gaze upon him and let us be purified by his grace. look with humility at the fragility, even sin, of many Christians, as individuals and communities, which is a great obstacle to evangelization and to recognizing the force of God that, in faith, meets human weakness. Thus, we cannot speak about the new evangelization without a sincere desire for conversion. The best path to the new evangelization is to let ourselves be reconciled with God and with each other (cf. 2 Cor 5:20). Solemnly purified, Christians can regain a legitimate pride in their dignity as children of God, created in his image and redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, and they can experience his joy in order to share it with everyone, both near and far."
The point is that we cannot just continue with business as usual if we truly want to reclaim Catholics to the Church, but must truly 'start afresh in Christ' (to use the Year of Grace catch-phrase).   We say the words: but are there actual actions to go with it?

2. We don't have to reinvent the wheel: look at models of evangelization that worked!

A lot of the past rhetoric around the New Evangelization was that it meant new in methods and approach.  Pope Benedict XVI has dumped that line and instead pointed to the successful models of the past to learn from:

"The Church exists to evangelize. Faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ’s command, his disciples went out to the whole world to announce the Good News, spreading Christian communities everywhere. With time, these became well-organized churches with many faithful. At various times in history, divine providence has given birth to a renewed dynamism in Church’s evangelizing activity. We need only think of the evangelization of the Anglo-Saxon peoples or the Slavs, or the transmission of the faith on the continent of America, or the missionary undertakings among the peoples of Africa, Asia and Oceania."

Above all, he points to the example of the saints, particularly in the two new doctors of the Church, and the call for us all to become saints:

"One of the important ideas of the renewed impulse that the Second Vatican Council gave to evangelization is that of the universal call to holiness, which in itself concerns all Christians (cf. Lumen Gentium, 39-42). The saints are the true actors in evangelization in all its expressions. In a special way they are even pioneers and bringers of the new evangelization: with their intercession and the example of lives attentive to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they show the beauty of the Gospel to those who are indifferent or even hostile, and they invite, as it were tepid believers, to live with the joy of faith, hope and charity, to rediscover the taste for the word of God and for the sacraments, especially for the bread of life, the Eucharist. Holy men and women bloom among the generous missionaries who announce the Good News to non-Christians, in the past in mission countries and now in any place where there are non-Christians. Holiness is not confined by cultural, social, political or religious barriers. Its language, that of love and truth, is understandable to all people of good will and it draws them to Jesus Christ, the inexhaustible source of new life.

3.  The New Evangelization is directed at the lapsed: but we must also continue the mission to non-Christians and non-Catholics.

"...evangelical dynamism produces a beneficent influence on the two specific “branches” developed by it, that is, on the one hand the Missio ad Gentes or announcement of the Gospel to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ and his message of salvation, and on the other the New Evangelization, directed principally at those who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live without reference to the Christian life. The Synodal Assembly which opens today is dedicated to this new evangelization, to help these people encounter the Lord, who alone who fills existence with deep meaning and peace; and to favour the rediscovery of the faith, that source of grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life. Obviously, such a special focus must not diminish either missionary efforts in the strict sense or the ordinary activity of evangelization in our Christian communities, as these are three aspects of the one reality of evangelization which complement and enrich each other.

4.  The recovery of the Christian family should be a key focus for the New Evangelization

"...matrimony is a Gospel in itself, a Good News for the world of today, especially the dechristianized world. The union of a man and a woman, their becoming “one flesh” in charity, in fruitful and indissoluble love, is a sign that speaks of God with a force and an eloquence which in our days has become greater because unfortunately, for various reasons, marriage, in precisely the oldest regions evangelized, is going through a profound crisis. And it is not by chance. Marriage is linked to faith, but not in a general way. Marriage, as a union of faithful and indissoluble love, is based upon the grace that comes from the triune God, who in Christ loved us with a faithful love, even to the Cross. Today we ought to grasp the full truth of this statement, in contrast to the painful reality of many marriages which, unhappily, end badly. There is a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage. And, as the Church has said and witnessed for a long time now, marriage is called to be not only an object but a subject of the new evangelization. This is already being seen in the many experiences of communities and movements, but its realization is also growing in dioceses and parishes, as shown in the recent World Meeting of Families."

Please keep the bishops at the Synod in your prayers, especially the Australian participants, viz Cardinal Pell, Bishops Costelloe and Prowse, and auditor Sister Suzanne Louise Phillips, F.M.M., Superior General of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.  You can find a full list of participants here.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

What to do for the Year of Faith?

The Australian 'Year of Grace' is, apparently characterized not by events or content, but rather represents a time for reflection or contemplation: as such, it arguably represents that content-free approach to catechesis that has dominated over the last fifty years.

The upcoming Vatican instituted Year of Faith, which starts on October 11, by contrast, emphasizes actual doing and actual content.

Plenary Indulgences

Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI has now authorized a number of plenary indulgences available for the Year of Faith.  They are basically available for:
  • hearing three sermons during the Holy Missions, or at least three lessons on the Acts of the Council or the articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in church or any other suitable location;
  • each time you visit, in the course of a pilgrimage, a papal basilica, a Christian catacomb, a cathedral church or a holy site designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith (for example, minor basilicas and shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Apostles or patron saints), and there participate in a sacred celebration, or at least remain for a congruous period of time in prayer and pious meditation, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary and, depending on the circumstances, to the Holy Apostles and patron saints;
  • each time that, on the days designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith, ... in any sacred place, you participate in a solemn celebration of the Eucharist or the Liturgy of the Hours, adding thereto the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form;
  • on any day during the Year of Faith, make a pious visit to the baptistery, or other place in which you received the Sacrament of Baptism, and there renew  baptismal promises in any legitimate form.
Upcoming opportunities to obtain those indulgences!

The first and last of those indulgences, from hearing three sermons in the course of a mission, will obviously depend on your bishop and/or getting something specifically organized in your area.  The upcoming Christus Rex pilgrimage though, potentially provides an opportunity to pick up a couple of those Indulgences for visiting a Cathedral on pilgrimage and prayin therein!

And as for that visit to the Church you were baptised in, what a great idea!  I'm going to have to make a little pilgimage of my own, and revisit St Joseph's in Hobart!

Other things you could consider...

A few blogs have been offering suggestions on what to do for the Year of Faith by way of personal devotion and commitment, so over the next few days, I'm going to explore a few ideas, along with some notes on what I'm planning to include on the blog, that reflects these.   Here is the short version.

1.  Learn (a little bit of) Latin/memorizing key prayers

The Council – as well as every Pope from John XXIII onwards - actually affirmed the importance of Latin in the Church. Indeed, the Vatican is doing its own little bit to emphasize this by only providing the document setting out the details for the indulgences available for the Year of Faith in Latin and Italian (!).

One good starting point might be to learn how to say the 'common prayers' set out in English and Latin the back of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, so I’ll try and highlight one of these (along with selected other key texts you should know) each week.  Many of them have accompanying chants associated with them, so a little singing will be in order too...

2. (Re)read the Catechism

OK, actually I've read the thing many many times now, starting off in French when it first came out in that language (our chaplain at the time gave a series of seminars on it working from the French).  Back then it seemed like a great advance on Catechisms then available, such as the Dutch Catechism, with its list of Vatican ordered corrections at the back.  Having had to reread it several times more recently though, in the course of my theologies studies, I found it often long winded, somewhat turgid, and fluffy, particularly when dealing with the issues that are creating confusion today. 

So I actually think the Compendium of the Catechism is a much better place to start. Its question and answer format is clear, and it provides link backs to the full text if you want to know more.  It has 598 questions, so to get through it in a year, you need to read 11.5 a week...  Or you could, as I plan to do, tackle one part (the four parts cover the Creed, Sacraments, Commandments and Prayer) per quarter.

3.  Read the Bible

Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ, according to St Jerome, so this year is a good chance to remedy that! 

There is a great Bible in a Year schema that was published on New Liturgical Movement a few years back that more or less mirrors the order of the liturgical seasons set by Matins in the Divine Office.  While reading the whole Bible in a year might be a little over-ambitious, you could certainly aim to read selected key chapters.  So I plan to revive my series of notes on each book of the Bible, and publish them at intervals that reflect the 'Plan 1' version of the schema.

The schema doesn't cover the Gospels or the psalms though.  So plan on reading one of the Gospels each quarter, and an average of three psalms a week (assuming you don't say them as part of the Divine Office...) if you are aiming to read all of Scripture in a year.

4.  Pray for the conversion of souls.

The Year of Faith begins, in effect, with the Synod on the New Evangelization. 

For many if not most of us, the need for a evangalization is very real: surely most of us these days have family or friends who have lapsed from the faith, or who, though baptised, in practice were never taught to practice it?  Surely many of us have protestant, non-Christian friends, or even atheists amongst our family and workmates.

We should fear for the fate of their souls, and take St Monica as our model in praying for their conversion, and perhaps add an appropriate psalm or two to our daily prayer routine to that end.

5.  Read the documents of Vatican II

The Year starts on the fiftieth anniversary of the Council.  It is time to revisit and take stock of the sixteen documents of the Council.  Some have already fallen into oblivion - is this status deserved?  Others have a much higher profile - but has the time in fact come to move on from them!

More tomorrow...