CNS STORY: No ‘Yahweh’ in songs, prayers at Catholic Masses, Vatican rules

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In the not-too-distant future, songs such as "You Are Near," "I Will Bless Yahweh" and "Rise, O Yahweh" will no longer be part of the Catholic worship experience in the United States.

At the very least, the songs will be edited to remove the word "Yahweh" — a name of God that the Vatican has ruled must not "be used or pronounced" in songs and prayers during Catholic Masses.

CNS STORY: No ‘Yahweh’ in songs, prayers at Catholic Masses, Vatican rules.

I’ll refrain from the “Life of Brian” reference here. I wasn’t too sure what I thought about this issue until this morning. I realize that it’s a good thing, because in these days we have what seems to be a lack of reverence. This is a byproduct, I think, of the whole “Jesus is your friend” movement from the 70s or so. And yes, Jesus is your friend. But he is also God, God both immanent and transcendent.

We’ve lost a kind of reverence. God is just another guy we know sometimes. We need to recapture the need to kneel, to bow, to refrain from pronouncing God’s proper name. We need to be in awe of God (yes, that’s still one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, you know!). And so not pronouncing the Tetragrammaton is, I think, a good thing. We’ll just have to learn to sing “O Lord, I know you are near…” or something like that.

Because God is awesome. Let’s never lose sight of that. God is awesome.

Lord of All Hopefulness

One of my favorite hymns from the Liturgy of the Hours is “Lord of all Hopefulness,” based on the Irish tune Slane. I found these two versions on YouTube, and think they are both good in their own way. The first is Winchester Quirister Harry Sever.

This second one, I can’t tell if it’s offered tongue in cheek or not. This is how the performer envisions Liberace playing it. It’s a very nice piano rendition, regardless.

Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

The Church’s Catechism tells us that “Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause.” (CCC, 1808) Jesus puts it even more succinctly in today’s Gospel: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” He wants us to be a people on fire, a people who will not waver in our pursuit of living the Gospel, a people who will not back down in the face of obstacles or even oppression, a people who live their faith joyfully and with firm conviction that our God is trustworthy and faithful. The Christian believer is called to exercise the virtue of fortitude because nothing else is worthy of our God.

Nobody says fortitude is easy. Jesus himself was very realistic about this, and warns us today that fortitude in living the Christian life can be a very divisive way of life. The disciple can and will run into all sorts of oppression, and can even lead to broken relationships with those who are dearest to us. If that Gospel calls upon us to take an unpopular position, and speak up on behalf of the poor, the alien, the prisoner, or a pro-life position, we may even find that some of our friends or family cannot go there with us. Being a Christian can make us feel like foreigners in our own land. It’s as if we are carrying a passport from another place. And we are, for those who are first of all citizens of God’s reign, Jesus’ vision and values come first in our lives. All because Jesus has come to set a blazing fire on the earth and that fire burns already in us.

Today’s reading from the letter to the Hebrews makes it clear that we aren’t running the race of fortitude alone. We have at our disposal the support and encouragement of a “great cloud of witnesses” which the Church calls the Communion of Saints. Some of these people may have already died, but their lives remain as testimony to the virtue of fortitude. Perhaps these people were friends or relatives who have gone before us, marked with the sign of faith, loved ones who were examples of unselfish commitment. Or maybe they are relative strangers to us, people whose courage in the face of death has caused us to stand in awe. They may be people among us who are still alive, people in the neighborhood or in the workplace or at school whose friendliness brightened our day. This great cloud of witnesses cheers us on, and are God’s way of helping us to live lives marked by fortitude.

Very often on the journey of discipleship, we may find that the oppression and division that the Gospel causes casts us down. Like poor Jeremiah in today’s first reading, maybe we find that we have been thrown into a cistern of despair or hopelessness. Fortitude is the virtue that helps us in the midst of all that, to wait with faithfulness on Ebed-melech the Cushite to come to our rescue and draw us up out of the pit.

The truth is, today’s Liturgy of the Word can come across as very negative. Who wants to hear about being cast into a cistern? Are we eager to find that we are going to be in angry division with those we love most? The temptation to let all of this go in one ear and out the other, remaining instead in the comfort of our luke-warmness is almost overwhelming. But that’s just not good enough. We can’t live that way and still call ourselves disciples. It is not enough to love God in our heads. We are told in the book of Revelation how God wishes to spew the luke-warm among us out of his mouth. We need to be on fire, actively living the graces of baptism that we have received – to live with fortitude, integrity, conviction, fervor, and burning zeal. We have to be willing to live in the shadow of the cross, where we resolve all our divisions and receive the baptism that promotes Gospel peace.

Anniversary of 9/11 Memorial Mass

Readings: James 4:1-10 | Psalm 23 | Matthew 5:2-24

911iconTragedy has a way of freezing time for us, of creating a kind of horrible snapshot that we’ll never forget, no matter how hard we try. Growing up, people always used to say that they’d always remember where they were when John F. Kennedy was shot. Since I was still in the womb, that’s not something I could identify with! But I’ll always remember where I was when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. And, like all of you, I’ll never forget the day the twin towers crashed to the ground.

I was in my third week of seminary, and getting ready to start my day. The first class of the day was one I had taken back in my college days, so I got to start my day a little later. I went to my computer to read the news headlines and saw something like “Plane crashes into World Trade Center.” I tried to click on the link to read the story, but the internet was clogged and I couldn’t get to it. So I turned on the news and saw the whole horrible thing. I watched in horror and grief as the second tower crashed to the ground, and then I caught up with my classmates who were getting ready for the second class and told them what I’d seen. Needless to say, we didn’t have that second class either.

But the snapshot I’ll always remember was going home that weekend and attending a prayer service at my home parish. It was a Friday evening, and the church was packed, and I mean packed . We sat before the Blessed Sacrament and prayed for peace and strength and comfort. It was a whole church full of people seeking to make sense of it all. And my home parish was not alone, of course. Attendance at churches all over America was off the charts in those days following the nightmare.

But five years have gone by and things have changed. The nightmare isn’t so fresh in our minds any more. If we didn’t know anybody killed in the twin towers, we may have moved on, content to leave the clean up to the city of New York and the working out of the consequences to the government. If one of our children or relatives is not overseas fighting the war on terrorism, this whole event may not be on our radar screen from day to day. We’re sympathetic to those who mourn the loss of their loved ones, but unless we have to get on an airplane and travel somewhere, the issue is not all that real to us, I fear.

Yet, as today’s scriptures tell us, the issue is right there in front of us. Each of us is on the front lines of the war against terrorism, war and hate right in our own hearts. We don’t have to travel abroad to seek out the enemy, because the enemy of enemies confronts us every day. Saint James makes it perfectly clear that the war is inside us when he says:

Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from?
Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?
You covet but do not possess.
You kill and envy but you cannot obtain;
you fight and you wage war.

The Church teaches us that the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” is first of all violated when we hate and bear grudges. This teaching comes from what Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel:

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa’
will be answerable to the Sandedrin,
and whoever says ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.

Anger and name-calling are indeed slippery slopes that can send us crashing right down into murder and war, or at least inciting that in others. For the Christian disciple, taking up the cross means leaving behind our grudges, jealousies, and bitterness so that we can embrace every person God puts in our midst with the love he has for that person. No other attitude is acceptable in any way, and may indeed be sinful.

Purple is the color of reconciliation, and it’s for that reason that we have purple vestments today. What we need to hear from today’s scriptures is that we must put the events of 9/11 back on our radar screen. We need to do that by looking at what can be the darkest and scariest place of all, right into the depths of our own hearts. When we do this, we receive the promise that James writes about, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” God longs to help us root out the war that rages in our own hearts. He deeply desires that his people should experience the peace that only he can give. With great abandon, he wants to embrace us all and help us to come to healing, peace and grace.

Too much blood has been shed in the days around and since 9/11, brothers and sisters in Christ. Thousands died in the towers, including many rescue workers. Many have become sick and died since from the affects of cleaning up the mess that was left. Hundreds have died on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq since that day. We cannot dishonor their memories by letting the snapshot of 9/11 fade into distant memory. We owe them more than the selfishness of letting them and their comrades work to protect us.

What can we do? We have to start with us. We have to heed these words of Scripture calling us to repentance, because peace is built one heart at a time. We have to pray for peace in every place, because we are all interconnected, and strife in one area of the world affects us all in some way eventually. And we have to remember those who died and who have since given their lives, because they are part of our communion of faithful departed. Above all, if we have come to the altar today with something against one of our brothers or sisters, we need to leave our gift here, and go out and be reconciled to them. As Jesus tells us today, only then can we offer our gift. And only then can we receive the great gift of God’s peace and comfort and healing. If we could all do that in some way, we have to believe that the snapshot that would be created – one free of horror and death and pain – would be a snapshot that was truly worth remembering.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
And let perpetual light shine upon them.

May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Mel Gibson’s Apology a Model of Contrition

From CATHOLIC LEAGUE for Religious and Civil Rights

“Mel Gibson’s apology is a model of contrition, and it reflects the genuineness of his faith. Indeed, it stands in stark contrast to the ‘If you were offended’ type of apology that we are so accustomed to at the Catholic League. We trust that most Jewish leaders will now do the honorable thing and work with Mel so that all wounds can heal.

“There will always be those who refuse to forgive. They are a tragic lot. Worse, they are the only losers.”

This actually ticks me off.  The Catholic League does good stuff, but this isn't it.  They should have stayed out of it, but everyone's so eager to adopt Mel Gibson as a Catholic.  Here's why they should have stayed out of it:

  1. Mel Gibson is not Catholic.  He belongs to an "independent" traditional "Catholic" sect that does not recognize the Pope or Vatican II. 
  2. The media, who are attacking him in the reprehensible way they attack just about anything they can find, are not attacking him for being Catholic.  They are attacking him for the string of anti-Semitic epithets he uttered while being arrested for drunk driving, epithets that apparently would have made Hitler a little uncomfortable.

It's darn nice of the Catholic League to forgive Gibson.  I'm in favor of forgiveness.  But they, and we as Catholics, were not the injured party.  Gibson needs to take that up with those he injured by his comments.  True contrition, I might add, involves more than just saying "I'm sorry;" it involves restitution, and he needs to take that up with Jewish leaders, who have standing to forgive since they were the injured parties.

So by rushing to Gibson's defense, the Catholic League did not come across so much as defenders of forgiveness.  They came across as anti-Semites as well.  I know that's not what they intended, yet that is how it looked.  Shame on them.

Cardinal George to Undergo Surgery for Bladder Cancer

Cardinal George to Undergo Surgery for Bladder Cancer

"I ask my fellow priests, the religious, all Catholics in the Archdiocese and other friends and colleagues to pray for me. I trust that the Lord will give me the strength and grace I need during these next days and weeks."

In some ways, this seems like a deja-vu experience. First Cardinal Bernardin, now Cardinal George. And most especially it is a deja-vu in perhaps the most important sense: both exhibit a trust in God regarding their disease that is hardly surprising. A friend of mine once said to me, "pray while you are well, because you cannot pray when you are sick." I'm not sure I agree with that totally, but it kind of makes sense. If you don't pray when you're well, praying when you're sick won't do any good: you won't have the context for faith that is required. Both Cardinal Bernardin, and now Cardinal George, have exhibited that faith that comes from their daily walk with Christ.

St. Peregrine, pray for Cardinal George, and for all who suffer from cancer.

CNS STORY: ‘Da Vinci Code’ draws laughs from journalists at press screening

CNS STORY: 'Da Vinci Code' draws laughs from journalists at press screening

CANNES, France (CNS) — Toward the end of the movie "The Da Vinci Code," the main character, Robert Langdon, tells his sleuthing partner, Sophie Neveu: "You are the last living descendent of Jesus Christ."

 

That line, meant to be the dramatic apex of the film, drew laughs from many of the approximately 900 journalists who viewed the film's first press screening May 16 at the Cannes Film Festival.

 

The derisive laughter, along with widely critical comments from reporters afterward, summed up the Cannes press reaction to the much-heralded launch of the movie. When the credits ran, silence and a few whistles drove home the response.

Director Ron Howard points out later in the article that this movie was not intended to be theology but rather entertainment.  The review makes the second portion of his comment seem unlikely.  And while not intended to be theology, I think the whole Da Vinci Code phenomenon — if you can call it that — is intended to put theology, or at least the Church, in a derogatory light.

But maybe that's not even the motivation.  Basically, these things exist because they'll sell, and heck, who wouldn't like to make a few million dollars?  The sad part is that people will go to see the movie, and be unentertained, and fuel the movement that derides the Church and the Gospel in the process.

I think I'll miss this movie.  But not much, if you know what I mean…

Our New Bishop: J. Peter Sartain

On Tuesday, May 16, 2006, the Apostolic Nuncio announced the appointment of Bishop J. Peter Sartain (pronounced Sar’-tin) as the Fourth Bishop of Joliet.

 

Bishop Sartain was born on June 6, 1952 in Memphis, Tennessee. On July 15, 1978 he was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Memphis. He was appointed as Bishop of the Diocese of Little Rock on January 4, 2000 and was ordained on March 6, 2000.

 

In addition to his pastoral experience as a parochial vicar and as a pastor, Bishop Sartain also has considerable administrative experience, having served as Director of Vocations, Chancellor, Moderator of the Curia, Vicar for Clergy, and Vicar General. He currently is a member of the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as the Chair of the USCCB Committee on the Home Missions.

 

During a press conference held at 10:00 a.m. at St. Charles Borromeo Pastoral Center, Bishop Imesch announced Bishop Sartain’s appointment as Fourth Bishop of Joliet. The ceremony of installation is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 27, 2006.

The long-awaited announcement has finally arrived.  Since I've heard nothing of his name thrown about in all the rumors, it appears Bishop Kaffer's quote of "them that knows aren't saying and them that are saying don't know" was entirely correct.  I haven't heard much about Bishop Sartain, although the occasional blog entry here and there has said non-specific good stuff about him.  So it will be interesting for the diocese to get to know him, and to see how his appointment will affect all the negative stuff flying around the diocese these days.

Holy Spirit, enliven us all, and help us all to do your will.

CNS Movie Review: United 93

CNS Movie Review: United 93

NEW YORK (CNS) — Is it too soon for a big-screen drama about Sept. 11, 2001? Does anyone really want to relive the events of that awful day? Can any film that makes the attempt avoid the specter of exploitation?

Those questions will surely percolate in the minds of prospective ticket buyers.

And good questions they are indeed.  The CNS review seems to portray the film in a pretty good light, and it may just be worth seeing.  I had heard that the movie was controversial, and I guess the controversy is whether or not it's too soon to make this kind of movie, or if it should have been made at all.

The real question, I think is why would someone want to see a film about That Awful Day?  Maybe it's morbid curiosity, the kind of thing that explains how the media get away with sensationalizing some of the terrible things they cover.  But maybe it's to remember those who died on Sept. 11, or to remember our own feelings that day, or even to deal with our ongoing grief.  If one of the latter are the case, maybe it would be a good movie to see after all, and it sounds like the film handles the subject pretty well, at least according to this review.