Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Chaste Fatherhood of the Priest

I happened to be in small talk with a parishioner after Mass on Sunday. The question of hearing confessions in a school that was not only in another parish but in another diocese came up. I said that I couldn't go into a school in another parish or diocese to hear confessions if the pastor (parish priest) had not at least implicitly given his permission to do so. Just as I couldn't go to bless someone's home in another parish without the consent of the pastor of that parish. My parishioner friend said something like: "And by adopting that attitude you model chaste fatherhood in the priesthood." Wow! Okay... And he went on to explain that boundaries and hierarchy are things that husbands and fathers must also observe. He does not talk to another woman in the manner of a husband. He only does so with his wife. He does not intervene in another's family but honors the fact that the father of the family has jurisdiction over that family. Similarly a priest does not go into another priest's parish. He respects that priest's fatherhood, his jurisdiction over that parish.

My parishioner friend, of course, is right. A priest, by his assignment as pastor to a particular group of people, is, as it were, wedded to them. He acquires the relationship of father and husband by the canonical assignment given him by his bishop, or delegated to him by the pastor of the parish. This is why a priest's heart must be essentially paternal and his love spousal. As many say, priests must be those who would make the best husbands and the best fathers. They must be capable of an exclusive love - with Jesus Christ, who is the real Spouse of the soul.

It so happened that the next day, Monday, I read this in the wonderful book "In Sinu Iesu - When Heart Speaks to Heart, The Journal of a Priest at Prayer" by A Benedictine Monk. I shall quote the chapter in full for it bears meditating, particularly by priests. But laity will learn better how they should relate to their priests and how they should expect their priests to relate to them by pondering these words. The words that follow are words from God the Father to the monk.

Faith in My fatherhood will be the path of healing for many, who, like you, were kept from growing up in freedom and joy beneath the gaze of their father. I want to banish fear from your life. I want you to feel loved and surrounded by My presence as Father - a presence that supports you, that will not hold you back from becoming the man that I have always wanted you to be; a presence that will allow you, in turn to become a father, a father in My image, a father as My Jesus was fully a father in the midst of His disciples. They discovered My fatherhood in His countenance. They sensed it in drawing close to His Heart, the saw it at work in the signs of mercy and of power that He worked in My Name. 
It must be so for you. Be the image of My fatherhood. By means of the fatherly love that I shall place in your heart, be My instrument for the healing of many who did not know what it is to be loved by a father. The fatherhood of the priest is a grace that he corresponds to My designs of love upon him. The Church, the beloved spouse of My only-begotten Son, suffers in that so many priests do not know how to live the grace of their fatherhood. Souls ask for fathers, and too often they are sent away, abandoned to live like spiritual orphans. 
You, be a father. Receive the graces and energies of My fatherhood in your soul. The more a priest lives his fatherly mission, the more will he resemble My Son, who said, "He who sees Me, sees the Father." I bless you, My son. I bless you to be a father for the praise of My glory and for the joy of the Church of My Son.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Three years

I made a ten-day retreat at Our Lady of Clear Creak Abbey in Oklahoma in Advent. My first visit there was for a week retreat last Lent. In many senses I think I found my spiritual home. I'll be back.

One of the things that was revealed to me was that, after His thirty years of hidden life, Our Lord had just three years in which to carry out His public ministry, set out His teaching, gather together twelve Apostles who would be the foundation stones of the Church, setting Peter as the rock upon which the Church would be built. Three years! He didn't hold planning committees, make five year pastoral plans, devise strategies... He did and He taught. His mission would end in apparent failure, on the Cross. But by dying He was able to rise to a life beyond death and send the Holy Spirit to guide the Church through the centuries in accordance with His promise: "I will be with you always."

On that retreat I saw the futility of political thinking in the Church and, indeed, in my life. I must live as if I have only three years in which to do all that the Lord desires. I must take risks, be daring, and not embrace the prudence of the world. In these days of moral decadence in society and doctrinal crisis in the Church, this is all the more urgent.

I recently turned 60. I have no idea how long I have to live. My mother died aged 72 and my father died aged 79. I expect to live longer than they, but I do not know. I do not think that I am holy enough for death but I am ready for it at any time - all that I ask the Lord is to give me enough time to "get my affairs in order" so that others are not burdened by a death for which the deceased has not provided.

On that same retreat, Jesus and Mary asked me to make a very serious decision concerning renunciation. I was preparing to renew my Consecration to Our Lady's Immaculate Heart. I knew that I could not renew it coherently without making that renunciation. Our life must be for God or it's for nothing. The crises in the world and the crises in the Church are "crises of saints." We can enjoy the good things of the earth but this season of Lent is surely a season of special graces so that the Collect of this Monday after the Second Sunday in Lent (1962 Missal) may be granted:

Grant, we beseech Thee, O almighty God, that Thy family, while afflicting the flesh by fasting from food, may follow justice and abstain from sin. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Purity of heart and scandal

Last Sunday in Philadelphia Pope Francis told families and the whole Church:
"May (God) grant us the grace to be worthy of that purity of heart which is not scandalized by the Gospel."
Today at Mass we heard these words:
"Because of the hardness of your hearts (Moses) wrote you this commandment (permitting divorce.) But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate... Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."
These are scandalous words to a society with an impure, hardened heart. These words are probably scandalous to many catholics. How many priests dared to preach today on the indissolubility of marriage and the immorality of marrying another while the original spouse is still living?

How many, including catholics, are scandalized by the Church's teaching, in fidelity to nature and to Christ, that marriage is only between one man and one women?

And what scandal is caused by a homosexual priest who has for years been working at the heart of the Church in the office charged with defending the doctrine of the faith and who reveals he is in love with his male partner and that he has a right to marry him?

Which is why we need to pray for all the bishops gathered in Rome for the Synod on the family that they be granted the purity of heart so as not to find Our Lord's teaching scandalous but rather they way to truth, beauty, happiness and eternal life.

Archbishop Sample of Portland in Oregon has asked the faithful of his archdiocese to join him in prayer for the Synod:
AN URGENT APPEAL FOR PRAYER! I am going to make this bold request for prayers from all who are willing and able. The Ordinary Synod of Bishops begins this Sunday, October 4 and will run through October 25. The theme of the Synod is "The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World." This is an extremely important moment in the life of the Church and for the future of the Christian family. I am asking us all to begin now and pray for the Holy Spirit's guidance for the Holy Father, the Synod bishops and other participants. I am suggesting that we all commit to praying the Holy Rosary and/or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy every day from now through the end of the Synod on October 25. Pray that God's will be done at this Synod and that all the powers of the Enemy, Satan and his demons, be kept far from the work of the Synod. Pope Francis said earlier this year: “Let us pray to the Lord and ask Him to protect the family in the crisis with which the Devil wants to destroy it. Families are the domestic church where Jesus grows in the love of a married couple, in the lives of their children. This is why the Devil attacks the family so much. The Devil doesn’t want it and tries to destroy it. The Devil tries to make love disappear from there.” Will you join me in prayer?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Cassock and the Peripheries

It is well known that Pope Francis tells us to go the peripheries, to find those at the margins. The peripheries are not some place far away. They are right on our doorsteps.

Many have read the Esquire article "What Happened When I Dressed Like a Priest."

Sir Alec Guinness walked off a set wearing a cassock and a little boy came up to him and took his hand crying "Mon pere, mon pere!"

Yesterday I went shopping in a local supermarket. I happened to be wearing the cassock. Pope Francis had departed from the US that morning.

There is a transgender person who works in the store. I have got to know this person over the past few months. They always say hello and stop for a chat. Yesterday, this person put their arm around me and said what a wonderful person Pope Francis is. If ever this person felt alienated by the Church - and I have no reason to know one way or the other - they certainly feel at home in the company of a catholic priest.

At the checkout, I had a reasonably full cart. A man with a budgie on his shoulder had just a couple of items so I let him pass. He commented: Pope Francis is teaching you guys well! And spoke about how pleased he was that the Pope joined folk in a homeless shelter rather than join the White House banquet.

Pope Francis' visit has created a groundswell of good will. The best service we can do to our fellow citizen is to provide joyful, humble but unabashed witness to our respective states in life: priest, religious, lay person. The Church must be visible at the peripheries - which are just a short walk from home.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Dorothy Day and what the laity need from a priest

I am only now learning about the great Catholic social activist Dorothy Day. From the little I have read about her - I am just over half way through her autobiography "The Long Loneliness" - she must be a saint.

She made a choice between God and her common law husband. She chose baptism for their daughter even though she knew her husband would not support this. She chose entry into the Catholic Church even though she knew this mean the end of this common law partnership. Preferring God in everything appears to be what she came to learn was paramount.

In the midst of the "Long Loneliness" she was experiencing even while her life "was too full" she writes:

I arose arose early for Mass, and I began to go to daily Communion for the first time in the four years I had been a Catholic. This at the urging of a priest whom I never happened to see, to whom I spoke in the confessional, to whom I confided my struggles from week to week.
Father Zamien was Salesian and was not long afterward sent back to Jugoslavia. He was the kind of priest who gave you spiritual counsel, who recommended spiritual books to read, who advised daily Mass and daily communion and made you know your importance as a child of God. 
In that little church there were two priests who heard confessions every morning before and after Mass, one on either side of the rear of the church. When Father Zamien was no longer there I turned to Father Pelligrini, who even now is still hearing confessions in his stifling little box on the right-hand side of the church of Our Lady, Help of Christians, on East Twelfth Street. On the other side of the church, the windows were open all summer, and your eyes could wander if the sermon was too long (and in Italian), out to the window boxes of the tenements on Avenue A. There were the ever-present petunias, the boxed basil, the tomato plants, and the morning glories climbing up the fire escapes. 
Yes, I was happy that summer. In the evening I went back to the church for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Then in the quiet evening I went hope to read the life of St. Teresa of Avila and her foundations. She charmed me completely.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rescuing the Sign of Peace

It has been a long time since I have posted anything - I'm having to relearn! Sandro Magister informs us that a new teaching document has been sent to the bishops of the world concerning the sign of peace. Following the Synod on the Eucharist in 2005, a study was made as to whether the sign of peace should be moved to another place in the Mass, e.g. before the Offertory, or remain in its traditional place. It has been decided with Pope Francis' approval that no change should be made as to its place to avoid structural changes to the Mass but that its true nature should be taught.

I cannot find the letter in English but from the Spanish version one learns the following:

  • the invitation to exchange the sign of peace should not be given in a mechanical way, i.e. it shouldn't be just automatic. If it is likely that the sign of peace will not be exchanged in an appropriate manner in a given circumstance of if it is judged that pedagogically it is a good thing not to carry it out on certain occasions, it may be omitted and even should be omitted. We are reminded that the rubrics say: "Then, if appropriate, the Deacon, or the Priest, adds: Let us offer each other the sign of peace."

  • abuses such as the following are to be avoided:
    - the introduction of a "song for peace" which does not exist in the Roman Rite;
    - the moving around of the faithful during the sign of peace;
    - the priest leaving the altar to give the peace to some of the faithful;
    - in circumstances such as Christmas, Easter, or during ritual celebrations such as Baptisms, First Communion, Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination, Religious Profession or Funerals, turning the sign of peace into an occasion to greet or to express condolences to those present.

  • Episcopal Conferences are invited to prepare liturgical catechesis about the significance of the Rite of Peace in the Roman liturgy and the correct way of carrying it out during the Mass. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments encloses with their letter some orientational lines.
The Holy Father Pope Francis approved the letter on June 7 and it was published on June 8, the Solemnity of Pentecost.

So I bet every parish can soon expect some catechesis on the subject.

The above picture was taken from Father Tim Finigan's blog. It just so happens on the June 6 he posted an article about the distortion of the sign of peace in most parishes today. Since it does not appear to be possible to post comments on his blog, I thought I'd put a post up myself.

[Update: Fr Z reports and comments.]

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I met someone after Mass today who had read my blog but mentioned that perhaps I should change the picture by putting another post up and shift my last post of May 2nd down from the top of the blog. I hereby do so my putting a Happy Thanksgiving post. No guarantee of further posts is given. I'm rather enjoying the peace of not blogging. At least for now. Here is a post from the National Catholic Register about the Thanksgiving messages of Presidents Washington and Lincoln. Deo gratias!

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Daily News

George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Thanksgiving (1442)

Comforting words for a new nation and for a time when it was torn by civil war.

 11/28/2013 Comment
Photo illustration by Melissa Hartog
– Photo illustration by Melissa Hartog
In response to a joint request by both Houses of Congress, on Oct. 3, 1789, President George Washington proclaimed Nov.  26, 1789, as a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer” devoted to “the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”
Here is the full text of President Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving proclamation:
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and — Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other trangressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
Go. Washington

On Oct. 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued his own Thanksgiving proclamation. In it, he invited a nation “in the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity” to observe Nov. 26, 1863, “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” and to “commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”
Here is the full text of President Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving proclamation:
By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/george-washington-abraham-lincoln-and-thanksgiving?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-11-28 08:14:01#ixzz2lyvKeMc3


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