Pope Paul VI, the new Roman Missal, and the ineffable Fr. Richard McBrien

December 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

Now that the much-anticipated new English translation of the Roman Missal has finally been promulgated and is being learned by priests and faithful alike, certain Catholics continue to disparage it, some through mockery. A fatuous example of this recently appeared on the website of Commonweal Magazine.

What’s interesting is that some who denigrate the new translation, such as the ineffable Fr. Richard McBrien, make the similarly fatuous claim that it was rammed through by “traditionalists in the hierarchy and a minority of ultra-conservatives within the Catholic church (sic).” Father McBrien’s recent commentary on the new translation revolves around the notion that there is a war being waged for “control” of the Mass between so-called “right-wing” Catholics and those “for whom Pope John XXIII is a hero and Vatican II was a great event.”

Seeking no doubt to console panicky progressives who are outraged (outraged!) that the pope and the bishops would have the temerity to impose liturgical changes, Father M encourages his fellow travelers to keep a stiff upper lip, secure in the reassurance that . . .

To be sure, the advocates of the “reform of the reform” have won only a partial victory with this new translation (for example, “I believe …” rather than the more communal “We believe …” in the Credo). But the Mass is still in the vernacular; the altar is still turned around; the great majority of people receive Communion in the hand; and there are more likely to be altar girls in the sanctuary than boys.

Notice the irony here. He is thoroughly gung-ho for reform, as long as it’s his kind of reform. You know, the kind that involves jettisoning as much of the Catholic Church’s rich, 2000-year-old liturgical patrimony as possible and replacing it with altar girls and such. How ironic, then, that his heart bleeds for

“those priests who have been reciting these prayers for many years [who] will inevitably stumble over the new wording, and those priests whose eyesight has failed them and who have memorized unchangeable parts of the Mass will continue to recite the words with which they have been long familiar. At least, that is what I would advise them if they were silly enough to ask.”

And yet, in his books and newspaper column, Father McBrien routinely engages in casuistry by scorning those Catholics who’ve had difficulties with or who for whatever reason resisted the far more sweeping and significant changes to the Mass that were enacted by Vatican II.

Happily, Pope Paul VI, the pontiff who presided over Vatican II, offered some prescient advice to those who, like Father McBrien, have difficulty understanding (or accepting) Pope Benedict XVI’s reasons for implementing the new translation of the Roman Missal.

I doubt that Father M has ever even heard of my lowly blog, much less reads it, but if in God’s providence he should happen to do so, I hope he will ponder the following section of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Mysterium Fidei, given in September, 1965, shortly before the conclusion of Vatican II:

It is only logical, then, for us to follow the magisterium of the Church as a guiding star in carrying on our investigations into this mystery, for the Divine Redeemer has entrusted the safeguarding and the explanation of the written or transmitted word of God to her. And we are convinced that “whatever has been preached and believed throughout the whole Church with true Catholic faith since the days of antiquity is true, even if it not be subject to rational investigation, and even if it not be explained in words.”

Proper Wording of Great Importance

23. But this is not enough. Once the integrity of the faith has been safeguarded, then it is time to guard the proper way of expressing it, lest our careless use of words give rise, God forbid, to false opinions regarding faith in the most sublime things. St. Augustine gives a stern warning about this when he takes up the matter of the different ways of speaking that are employed by the philosophers on the one hand and that ought to be used by Christians on the other. “The philosophers,” he says, “use words freely, and they have no fear of offending religious listeners in dealing with subjects that are difficult to understand. But we have to speak in accordance with a fixed rule, so that a lack of restraint in speech on our part may not give rise to some irreverent opinion about the things represented by the words.”

24. And so the rule of language which the Church has established through the long labor of centuries, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and which she has confirmed with the authority of the Councils, and which has more than once been the watchword and banner of orthodox faith, is to be religiously preserved, and no one may presume to change it at his own pleasure or under the pretext of new knowledge.

Who would ever tolerate that the dogmatic formulas used by the ecumenical councils for the mysteries of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation be judged as no longer appropriate for men of our times, and let others be rashly substituted for them? In the same way, it cannot be tolerated that any individual should on his own authority take something away from the formulas which were used by the Council of Trent to propose the Eucharistic Mystery for our belief. These formulas—like the others that the Church used to propose the dogmas of faith—express concepts that are not tied to a certain specific form of human culture, or to a certain level of scientific progress, or to one or another theological school.

Instead they set forth what the human mind grasps of reality through necessary and universal experience and what it expresses in apt and exact words, whether it be in ordinary or more refined language. For this reason, these formulas are adapted to all men of all times and all places.

Greater Clarity of Expression Always Possible

25. They can, it is true, be made clearer and more obvious; and doing this is of great benefit. But it must always be done in such a way that they retain the meaning in which they have been used, so that with the advance of an understanding of the faith, the truth of faith will remain unchanged. For it is the teaching of the First Vatican Council that “the meaning that Holy Mother the Church has once declared, is to be retained forever, and no pretext of deeper understanding ever justifies any deviation from that meaning.”

 

Ever wonder where your suitcase goes when you check it at the airport?

December 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

Over the 25+ years that I’ve been traveling a lot by airplane, I have checked my luggage at the airport literally about 1000 times. Maybe more. Once a bag has been tagged by the ticket agent, who then places it on the conveyor belt, it moves toward the rubber-flap draped entrance to the hidden world of airport luggage processing. This Delta Airlines video shows what your suitcase goes through from the time you check it in till you retrieve it again at the flight arrival baggage carousel.

An Embarrassing Case of Sacramental Mistaken Identity

December 19, 2011 by  
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One Saturday, many years ago, a friend of mine visits from out of town. Looking for some prayerful encouragement and, probably, a kick in the rear to get himself to confession, he confides painfully to me that he had fallen into a pattern of sexual sin, about which he is understandably distressed and embarrassed. (Let’s just say that the particular sins burdening him went beyond the solitary sort which many men are prone to these days.)

During a frank conversation in which my friend is searingly honest with himself, I offer some advice and encouragement, after which we clamber into my car and drive to a nearby parish so he can receive the sacrament of confession.

His discomfiture at having to confess these sins to another man is palpable.

Promising him the meager benefit of my prayers for courage and trust in the Lord’s mercy, I kneel in a pew at the back of the church while my friend approaches the confessional.

The red light above the door indicates that a priest is waiting for penitents. Aside from my friend and me, the church is completely empty.

15 minutes pass. My friend exits the confessional and scuttles to a back pew in the shadows of the left transept, where he remains motionless in prayer, head bowed, his face covered by remorseful hands.

There are no other penitents.

5 more minutes go by.

The priest exits the confessional and walks toward the back of the church . . . where I happen to be kneeling.

The priest does not notice my friend kneeling in the transept.

The priest does, however, notice me.

The closer he gets, the more clearly I see the abashed look on his face as he recognizes me.

Although this priest and I have only ever exchanged but a few words in passing, he knows who I am.

“Awkward” is not a sufficiently descriptive adjective to describe the look we exchange as he passes by. Panicking, I realize the priest thinks he has just heard my confession.

“Oh, ho!” I imagine the good father thinking to himself. “What a fraud!”

Meanwhile, my friend remains conveniently engrossed in prayer for several minutes more, off in his wonderfully anonymous dark corner, unaware of the unpleasant little drama playing out as the priest whisks by me with that look on his face.

I admit, I am tempted to run after him and explain that he has it all wrong, that I am not that guy, that his new-found view of me is really just a case of mistaken identity. But I stay put.

Why? Because, in a momentary flash of (albeit dim) understanding, I am painfully reminded of my own lifetime-constructed ziggurat of sin and, 2) my savior, Jesus Christ, was wrongly accused of crimes He did not commit but for which He willingly suffered the penalty — for my sake. For my countless sins He suffered so that by His stripes I may be healed.

In the years that have passed since that day, I occasionally see that priest. In truth, I have searched for but never detected even a hint of “that look” on his face when he sees me. Perhaps he forgot what he heard in the confessional minutes later (many priests have assured me that this happens to them — a kind of grace of state that enables them to blank out any lingering memories of what is unburdened to them by penitents). Or maybe he is just a kind and compassionate man who would never even think of betraying the thought that he had been scandalized. I don’t know.

I do know this though: My sins may be different from my friend’s, or yours, or that priest’s, but I am a sinner in grievous need of God’s grace and mercy, just like my friend. Just like you. And I am so grateful to the Lord for his gift of the sacrament of confession. He knows how much and how often I need it.

In North Korea, Tears for fear

December 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

I’m pretty sure that some, perhaps even many, of these poor, battered, starving North Koreans are only “weeping” because Big Brother is keeping careful track of who does and who doesn’t. Sure, some of them have no doubt been brainwashed to believe the Big Lie, but not all. Now that Dear Leader has died and gone on to his eternal reward, I hope North Korea can somehow rid itself of the atheist Communist cancer that has subjugated it for so long. Maybe a lot of them aren’t cyring for Kim Jong Il, but for themselves, as they reflect with fear and despair on their horribly bleak predicament.

Look at these spectacular pictures from the 90th floor of One World Trade Center

December 16, 2011 by  
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The day I flew into LaGuardia Airport early this year, I missed this. From my vantage point above Lower Manhattan, I couldn’t pick out this tower from the among the other high-rises clustered around what, a little over 10 years ago, had been the World Trade Center. I wasn’t sure what to look for. Now I know. Since then, One World Trade Center has been going up so rapidly that it’s estimated it has reached the rapidity of “one story per day.” Impressive. And what’s beyond impressive are these recent images from the new edifice’s 90th floor. Wow. Just wow.

I admit, I can’t help but think about how utterly horrifying it must have been to fall from that height on September 11, 2001. May God rest the souls of all those poor victims of terrorism.

According to the Daily Mail:

When it is completed, it will be the tallest building in Manhattan and one of incredible poignancy for New York City.  One World Trade Center reached its 90th floor this week – with just 14 more floors to go until the top. The structure can now be seen from all five boroughs of the city. Stunning pictures showed how the area has been reborn since the 9/11 attacks more than a decade ago where almost 3,000 people lost their lives in the worst ever terrorist attack on American soil.

 

“Change”: This movie will mess you up . . . in a very good way

December 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

Watching this short film will be 10 minutes of your busy life  well-spent. One of my Facebook friends reacted this way: “If you do not have the time to make a three day retreat this advent, why not make it a ten minute retreat right here and now?” Personally, I couldn’t help but think of the reality that Jesus Christ is truly present to us in our neighbor, both when we serve Him (Matt. 25:31-46) and when He serves us (Luke 24:13-52). I would love to know your reactions to “Change.” Please watch. Please share.

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A look at the biblical foreshadowing of The Blessed Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception

December 8, 2011 by  
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I wrote this article 20 years ago to give an overview of some of the biblical aspects of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Pope Pius IX, who defined this dogma, declared that Our Lady, ”in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin” (Ineffabilis Deus, 1854).

His face stiffened, and his eyes narrowed to slits. Until now the Calvary Chapel pastor had been calm as he “shared the gospel” with me, but when I mentioned my belief in Mary’s Immaculate Conception, his attitude changed.

“The problem with you Roman Catholics,” he said, his forefinger stabbing the air a few inches from my face, “is that you’ve added extra baggage to the gospel. How can you call yourselves Christians when you cling to unbiblical traditions like the Immaculate Conception? It’s not in the Bible–it was invented by the Roman Catholic system in 1854. Besides, Mary couldn’t have been sinless, only God is sinless. If she were without sin she would be God!”

At least the minister got the date right, 1854 being the year Pope Pius IX infallibly defined the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, but that’s as far as his accuracy went. His reaction was typical of many Evangelicals. He was adamant that the Catholic emphasis on Mary’s sinlessness was an unbearable affront to the unique holiness of God, especially as manifested in Jesus Christ. . . . (continue reading)

Ah. So that’s where babies come from

December 5, 2011 by  
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