Archive for July, 2009

His guardian dear

July 30, 2009

pope castHey, the Pope was talking guardian angels yesterday (and even Drudge linkled to it!).  Not in general, but about his own.  Can you imagine being an angel and getting that assignment from the Boss?  Well, I suppose he kept the same angel he had, so I should say, Can you imagine the human you’re “assigned” suddenly becoming Pope?  The pressure!  Does a promotion come with that, say from Cherubim to Seraphim?

Further, can you imagine the scene in the angelic locker room after something like the Pope’s recent accident happens?  The ribbing the Pope’s angel would take from the other angels?  A demotion?  And if a guardian angel is in deep hot water, does that mean we should be praying for him and not just to him?

I gotta ask Mike Aquilina about this!


Why I’m not a fan of the ‘Usus Antiquior’

July 28, 2009

elevationoftheeucharist_ql2xIt invites division.

I say this as someone who has long been very sympathetic to the “reform of the reform” movement.  I’ve studied the books by Ratzinger and Crouan, Gamber and NicholsLang and Reid.  Most of those authors’ books are on my bookshelf, marked up with my highlighter marker.  I stop by the NLM blog almost daily, WDTPRS less often but occasionally.  I interviewed Alcuin Reid for an article marking the hundredth anniversary of the birth of the liturgical movement that will be published soon in Our Sunday Visitor, because I thought his viewpoint would be a worthwhile one (I was right).  I get the criticisms.

I just don’t think the introduction of the 1962 rite as the “usus antiquior,” available for broad use, is the answer.  I think the division mentioned here will grow.  Most people are not liturgical scholars who can understand and articulate all of the fine distinctions and nuances of the relationship between the “old use” and the “new use.”  They’ll see the separation, and sense that a choice for the old is a choice against the new. 

“But,” I can imagine the objection, “the history of the Church is full of the use of various rites in various times and places.  Many rites are in use around the world today.  Are you suggesting that the very existence of all of them ‘invites division’?” 

No.  Those cases are all different.  As far as I know, the situation that we find ourselves in now, with Summorum Pontificum (so why, by the way, is this not available on the Vatican website in English? am I missing something?), is a rather unique one — two specific “uses” approved for use by people of the same rite.  I know there have been other “uses,” but as I understand it (and admittedly, I’m no expert) these were local variations of the Roman rite that developed during the Middle Ages.  Two uses were never used side by side in the same locality. 

Another (pseudo-) objection I imagine being raised: “Oh, well, there’s no division now is there?  What with all the anger and resentment by those who long for a return to the Eucharist celebrated with dignity and splendor, and the utter goofiness that is tolerated and promoted in so many parishes and dioceses.  What could possibly be worse than what we have now?”

And my answer to that is, if my wife and I are having major problems, the answer is not to buy a set of two double beds.  No, we need to work on it, talk about it, even if that’s hard and takes a while.

I think it would have been a better idea for Pope Benedict to focus on reforming the way we all celebrate Mass.  That might have simply meant continuing to form the Catholic people, particularly priests, to celebrate the liturgy with respect, reverence, dignity, awe, etc., and to reject abuses and irreverence.  This has been the approach up to now.  I think it’s fair to say it was John Paul II’s approach (traditionalists insert snide comment here about indigenous dances at papal masses).  Many have noted that this was working, and in my opinion, quite well.  Much of the goofiness that was commonplace 25 years ago is still around, but more on the fringes, and in my view, destined to go the way of the dinosaurs.  I mean, have you met any seminarians lately?  These guys are duro — often moreso than I’m comfortable with, but let me tell you, Piero Marini they ain’t. 

He might also have gone so far as to introduce significant changes that he sees fit, perhaps reversing some of the innovations that were introduced following the Council.  Back to Latin?  Altars facing east?  One Eucharistic prayer rather than 13?  He’s the Pope, after all, he could do it. 

I think any of that would be better than what we have, which amounts to the beginnings of division into two camps.  The best that we can hope for, in my opinion, is that one camp will remain small, but that its existence will be salt in the leaven of liturgical reform in the Roman rite as it’s celebrated by the rest of us.  In that regard, I wish the usus antiquior movement well; I hope it makes a big splash in the wider Church.  I just think that splash could have been brought on in ways other than the Summorum Pontificum approach.

I should note, credit is due in some of these thoughts to the work of John Baldovin, whose book Reforming the Liturgy is helpful and interesting.  He also has a good article, “Reflections on Summorum Pontificum,” in the March 2009 issue of Worship.

“Teacher of His Epoch”

July 26, 2009

An interesting profile of Cardinal James Gibbons, one of the titans in the history of the Church in the United States, was posted yesterday at Whispers in the Loggia.   A few days ago, Archbishop O’Brien, the current Archbishop of Baltimore, offered a special Mass to mark Gibbons’ 175th birthday.  He’s an interesting figure, with whom more American Catholics should be familiar.

“Champion of the Unborn and Unwanted”: Another American in the pipeline?

July 23, 2009

On the cause of Bishop Alphonse Gallegos, who was auxiliary bishop of Sacramento until his death at 60 in an auto accident, in 1991:

St. Alphonse of Sacramento?

Process to canonize beloved former auxiliary bishop moves forward

An effort to beatify and canonize former Sacramento Auxiliary Bishop Alphonse Gallegos, described in one biography as a “champion of the unborn and the unwanted,” continues to move forward.

The diocese is in the process of preparing a more than 1000-page report summarizing the testimony of over 100 witnesses attesting to Bishop Gallegos’ virtuous life and declarations from those who say the bishop has interceded on their behalf since his death almost 18 years ago. The report is scheduled to be sent to the Vatican at year’s end.


Sara Sevilla, 15, of Oxnard, told the Bee that she was nearly blind and said Bishop Gallegos’ intercession restored her vision a year ago. “My family and I prayed, asking for his help,” Sevilla told the Bee. “I got this warm feeling all over me and then I got my eyesight.”

Full article here.  Thanks again to Matt, at Sacred Heart Radio, for spotting it.

More NLM on Newman

July 22, 2009

The New Liturgical Movement blog posted the third of its three-parter on Cardinal Newman yesterday.  Some rarely seen photos, including one of the Cardinal’s private chapel and the interesting detail it includes: a large portrait of St. Francis de Sales over the altar.

Somewhat meatier than any of those three, though, is still another NLM post yesterday, including these snips:

Newman’s importance to the future of Catholic Christianity is a theme dwelt upon by Father Ian Ker of the University of Oxford.

He writes that ‘Newman will be seen, I am convinced, as the Doctor of the post-conciliar Church, who not only anticipated the teachings of the Second Vatican Council but who also in his theology was insistent on what Pope Benedict XVI calls “the hermeneutic of continuity”’.


The exemplification of the unity of intellectual and spiritual depth, not only in Newman’s teaching but also in his life, leads Fr Beaumont to ‘look forward to his eventual canonization and also, I fervently hope, to his being declared Doctor of the Church.’

‘The witness of Newman’, writes Fr Jonathan Robinson, ‘like that of his patron St Philip Neri, the Founder of the Oratory, was based on personal holiness, a holiness that was rooted in the conviction that sanctity is only possible through the imitation of Christ, and in the acceptance of the suffering this inevitably brings.’

Prayer to Christ the Healer

July 21, 2009

I found this prayer here.  Thought it was quite beautiful.

The Alexian Brothers’ Prayer to Christ the Healer
In the comfort of your love,
I pour out to you, my Saviour,
The memories that haunt me,
The anxieties that perplex me,
The fears that stifle me,
The sickness that prevails upon me,
And the frustration of all the pain
that weaves about within me.
Lord, help me to see your peace in my turmoil,
your compassion in my sorrow,
your forgiveness in my weakness,
And, your love in my need.
Touch me, O Lord, with your healing power and strength.

(And if you’re asking “Who are the Alexian Brothers?” (I did), you can go here.)

Communion on the Moon

July 20, 2009

Wow, today the First Things blog points out a fascinating item from writer Eric Metaxis.  It’s the story of how Buzz Aldrin, 40 years ago today, received Communion (the Presbyterian version, if you want to be picky about it) on the moon.  Both Aldrin’s story and Metaxis’ commentary are well worth a look.

On loan

July 20, 2009

In English class, you’ll remember, we called them loan words — words that have worked their way into the English from other languages. We got chauffeur and amateur from French, karaoke from Japanese, and graffiti, ballerina, and diva from Italian.

Anyway, I’m always interested when I notice loan words from English in Italian. (I’m sure English works its way into most languages in the world, probably more than any other language, but it’s Italian I’m a little familiar with.) For example, the Italians use the English word to talk about blue jeans and the weekend.

Anyway, I noticed a new one today (new to me). Here’s a sentence from Andrea Tornielli on the Pope’s trip to the hospital this weekend: “Dopo colazione, è stato portato in ospedale e qui sottoposto a un check-up completo…”

After breakfast, he was taken to the hospital and there underwent a complete … check-up!

Is Caritas in Veritate poorly written? (updated)

July 18, 2009

Peter Steinfels has a piece about Caritas in Veritate in yesterday’s New York Times.  He basically asks the question, Why is the thing so hard to read?  Actually, Steinfels asks why it’s “so poorly written.”

Working busily on a companion guide to the thing, I had asked this question myself already (and commented on the fact here), though I guess I was thinking more that it was hard reading than poor writing (but I can live putting it either way).  My basic answer has been: it’s the subject matter.  Reading about economics and business ethics is just not as much of a grabber (to me anyway) as the Eucharist and the value of human life.  But I suppose that only goes so far.  Let’s face it, Populorum Progressio is not as difficult. Maybe it is more than the fact that it’s a hard topic.

Steinfels suggests three answers: 1. It’s an encyclical.  (Not a good answer, because this one is obviously more difficult than most.)  2. It’s the work of many hands.  (Not a good answer, because so are most encyclicals — as he acknowledges.)  3.) The Pope tries to cover too much ground.  As Steinfels puts it:

“Caritas in Veritate” is a document about human nature and the Trinity and the current economic crisis and inequality and the energy problem. It argues a link between Catholic teaching on sexuality and life issues like abortion and Catholic stances on social issues like poverty and the environment.

It carries on an internal Catholic debate about continuity versus discontinuity in interpreting church teaching. It even offers a tantalizing glimpse at a new variation on markets, profits and the relationships between economics and politics.

This seems to make the most sense of the three, I guess.  But even with this, some good rewriting and editing could have solved a lot.  I know in my own work, once I’ve written something, I need to stop, step away (at least mentally, though literally getting away from it for a few days  is better) and then almost sneak up on it, approach it as a reader who has never seen it before.  Is it clear, understandable, interesting, etc, to someone who’s not in my own head? (And that, of course, is why blogging is generally not a forum for stellar writing.  We write the first draft and publish at the click of a button!)

It seems like this is the step that was missing in the drafting of CiV.  I doesn’t seem like they asked themselves, Are the people — remember, it’s not addressed only to bishops or theologians, but “all people of good will” — going to be able to get this?

Anyway, Jody Bottum, whose work I admire, suggests at the First Things blog that Steinfels’ asking this question is akin to George Wiegel’s earlier criticisms.   But that’s disingenuous.  Weigel, of course, was not “pilloried” (as he puts it) because he said the encyclical is poorly written.  Rather, he used this fact as an excuse to suggest readers could disregard major sections of it as not worth our attention.  There’s a big difference there.

UPDATE: Someone has now put it all far better than I did in the comments to the post — second one down.  Well said, Mr. Martens

Newman relics

July 17, 2009

Part II on Cardinal Newman is up at the New Liturgical Movement.  It features some interesting information about the (very few) relics recovered from Newman’s tomb earlier this year.  Also, excellent photographs. 

Kudos and thanks to NLM and the unnamed author of the posts.

(I blogged on the mystery of Newman’s relics here.)