Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Prayerful Soul

Since reading an article entitled "New-New Translation, Same Rotten Fruits: A Personal Experience" posted by Adfero (see Rorate Caeli), which saddened me, I've been left a bit pensive, not wondering so much about finding or proposing a way out of "the dilemma" as looking at the overall health of the "patient". More so in the past, talking with priests and people about the "funeral culture" today in the Caribbean, but also today and generally I wonder what can be done to inspire generous and even heroic efforts in petition and intercession for those who precede us in death (leaving judgment to God and canonization to His Church).

The kind of ignorance, bad theology, liturgical abuse, and more which desolates not only Adfero is ultimately a faith issue. Let me share a couple reminiscences!

  • As a very small boy in elementary school (before 1960), I can remember that we were able to assist from the back loft of the parish church at the funeral of a boy (8th grade or early high school) who had died after a short illness. He was already too big for the Missa de Angelis, but as it was thought that this good boy had wanted to become a priest, he was buried in one of Father's old cassocks, with his altar boy surplice. We were given to understand the honor as Father had often carried on sick calls the pix with the Blessed Sacrament in the breast pocket of that cassock. I am convinced that the sobriety of the whole occasion was conducive to opening the hearts of us children to the mysteries of life and death, of our longing for the heavenly kingdom, and the sublimity of priestly ministry, especially in terms of those vital ministrations offered through the sacraments to those at death's door. We all prayed very hard for that boy. The simplicity and the familiarity of the Requiem Mass and its chant (I always found the Dies Irae a challenge to sing, but appreciated it all the same) opened a window on time and eternity, enabling us to gently face death and hope for forgiveness and life forever with Jesus, Mary and all the saints, even as children.
  • Early in my stay in Rwanda (1986?), in the absence of the nuncio, I was asked to preside at the funeral Mass in French of an Italian business man (already buried at home in Italy), whose friends and employees were so numerous they half filled the cathedral in Kigali. I don't remember a word of the French chaplain's homily, which the Rwandan workers probably did not understand, but I remember their spirit of recollection and how obviously they prayed for the repose of the soul of their former boss. These people, like we children maybe thirty years prior, understood something of life and death; two continents, two generations, two very different worlds and reasons to pray, two very different liturgical experiences, but we both knew Who is the Author of Life and to Whom we all must return.

The crisis of catechesis, which has afflicted much of the Church for two full generations, is central to the malaise of which loosie-goosie liturgy is no more than symptomatic. We live in a world where we must hope that children will bring the faith home to their parents. We live in a world, a Catholic world, in need of renewal and reform.

A bishop friend recounted to me the experience of having inherited a diocese in total disarray. He was working, long-term, on promoting good priestly vocations and proper formation for his future priests; he was hoping that many of the older priests would accept his offer of early retirement (to get them out of the picture).

As believing people, we pray hard for the conversion of sinners; we pray hard for the souls in Purgatory, that they would soon be freed to see the Lord face to face, despite the times on earth they had sought to escape His loving glance.

People who have read me know I am convinced that the New Missal in English is a great thing, offering us, when coupled with truly sacred music and a return to faithful celebration according to the prescribed rubrics, the possibility of good space for encountering the only One Who is or can be the Lord of my life. Beyond that, I hope my carpenter is working on the new altar for my chapel and that very soon I will be able, as I was in Trinidad, to daily celebrate the preparation of the gifts and Eucharistic Prayer at Mass turned toward the Lord together with my chapel community, ad Orientem. My frequent encounters now here in Ukraine with the Byzantine Catholic Community at Liturgy, confirm me in the belief that a tradition far more than Roman needs to be restored and cultivated in the Catholic Church. Sursum corda! Habemus ad Dominum!


  1. I do not frequent Rorate Caeli so I was first tempted to be upset at Adfero for his myopic expectations and evaluations. But then I remember that others experience of these years of malformation are different than my own. Drop down ye heavenly dew, indeed.

    I know this is not your immediate question but has previously been your question. In answer, I do see the New Translation as a great opportunity to restore faith where it has gone malformed or absent. At least in among those who are receptive in the current clergy.

  2. Thanks, Father! When we speak about Eucharist as "source and summit" we need to remember that it goes both ways. While parish liturgy cannot supplant parish life (read: ongoing catechesis) it certainly go a long way to help us grow in faith. I get the long-distance impression that the new translation of the Missal has been a retreat or recollection for lots of people.

  3. The general problem at Rorate Caeli with the new translation, I think, is philosophical. It is a problem with their logic, which appears to go as follows:

    If something improves, but everything else does not, then nothing is better.

    A&(~B&(~C&(~D&...~Z)>~A&(~B&(~C&(~D&...~Z), where A is (in this case) "the translation is better".

    This is, of course, not only illogical but also impossible, as it is a contradiction.

    It is certainly legitimate to discuss and debate how important A is in itself and whether it will change ~B to B, etc., but Rorate Caeli goes too far by saying the change from ~A to A is not a change at all.

    I also think it's silly to portray those who think the new translation important as thinking that its effect would be instant, dramatic, and universal.

    In any case, most of the benefit reaped and to be reaped from the new translation is safely out of reach of the land of blogs. Thankfully.

  4. I think there are also a couple other dangerous a prioris at work that have little to do with either hope or perhaps the other two theological virtues. Sorry but I'm for peaceful not only recovery but growth.

  5. I agree.

    As far as recovery and growth are concerned, I also think that both require the other, at least right now. Without recovery, we shall struggle to grow; without growth, we shall not be able to recover some of those lost things that should be recovered (and we shall have great difficulties in figuring out what specifically ought to be recovered, and how, and when).

  6. I first, above all, want to thank Your Excellency for taking the time to read anything I write. What an honor that is and something I appreciate more than anyone can imagine. And I thank Your Excellency for the understanding and care Your Excellency shows for the true pain I felt, and feel all too often, at the funeral Masses of my family.

    God bless Your Excellency and the shining example Your Excellency shows for all the Church's prelates.


  7. Dear Adfero, Thank you. People can be very divided about the "pastoral" or didactic role liturgy is supposed to play in the life of the Church. Each day I become more convinced that such discussions are off-base. The greatest tragedy of the situation of rupture in which we find ourselves today is the loss of the Mass as what it was and should be where families and parishes are animated by faith, namely, the fixed star in the Catholic "firmament" which guides us and nourishes us for a life centered on Christ and oriented toward seeking His Kingship over us and the whole world, now and forever....

  8. Well said Your Excellency! Please call on me whenever you need anything.


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