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Why don’t more priests in our Diocese…. March 14, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, Latin Mass, North Deanery.
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……use the ‘Benedictine’ altar arrangement?

This arrangement is something of a compromise.  It is intended as part of Pope Benedict XVI’s ‘reform of the reform,’ to return to a greater sense of reverence and Christo-centrism in the Liturgy (the Mass).  By placing the cross on the altar, even a minister celebrating Mass versus poplorum (facing the people) is still looking at Christ.  And while his back is still turned to the Lord in the tabernacle, at least we’re all looking at Jesus on the altar, nominally.  Plus, 6 candles on the altar are the norm, and are an ancient liturgical practice. 

It doesn’t seem to cost much.  It doesn’t seem to be much hassle.  It could help return to greater reverence in Mass and a better understanding of the Real Presence and the awesome nature of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.  So……why don’t we see this anywhere?

The problem of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion – UPDATED! March 14, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, Latin Mass, North Deanery, scandals.
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You're doing it wrongIn our churches today, in this diocese and many others, when the Blessed Sacrament is distributed at Mass, we frequently see the spectacle of many, many people going up to serve as Extraordinary Ministers. Now, in many places, these folks are called 'Eucharistic Ministers,' but this term has no official meaning. The proper term is Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. As the name implies, they are intended to be used rarely, if at all, but due to an erroneous understanding of the concept of 'active participation' and a desire in some circles to diminish the role of the priest and give to the laity roles formerly reserved to priests, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EHMC) have come to be distressingly widespread. In fact, it is so widespread, and so many people tend to present themselves for this 'service,' that I have come to refer to them as (un)extraordinary ministers, after seeing 12 or 14 or even 18 people go up to the altar to distribute the Blessed Sacrament.There is a pretty good article here that describes some of the problems associated with EHMCs. The 'ordinary,' or normal, customary minister of Communion is a bishop, priest, or deacon. Extraordinary ministers are really supposed to be just that - rarely used, needed only in exceptional circumstances such as when there is an unusually large Mass with an inadequate number of priests, or where the crowd is so large on an ongoing basis that the priest(s) and deacon(s) cannot distribute Communion in a 'reasonable' time. It is this last caveat that has led to the abuse of the extraordinary ministers - they are now institutionalized at many parishes with the assumption that having these many ministers is necessary to distribute Communion in a 'reasonable time.' In my experience, however, by the time the many EHMCs have gotten their chalice and gotten into position, everyone receives, and then the numerous chalices and bowls have been cleaned by the priest, as much time has gone by as would have been required if the priest had simply distributed Communion himself. To show how rare the law of the Church intends the use of EHMCs, see this example cited by the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts:A question had been submitted to the Council about Masses at which perhaps a cleric was physically present, but was not properly vested and/or prepared to distribute Holy Communion. Maybe a permanent deacon, for example, happens to be attending a Mass with his family, or a seminarian who has been ordained a deacon is back home at his parish for vacation. Or another priest may simply be sitting in the pews, quietly following the Mass with the rest of the congregation. If the celebrating priest needs extra help in distributing the Eucharist to large crowds wishing to receive it, can the priest ask a layperson to act as an Extraordinary Minister, or must this cleric get up and assist the priest?The answer to this very practical question was clear and simple. An Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist may not assist the priest to distribute Holy Communion at any Mass at which an available cleric happens to be present. In other words, a layperson may never distribute Holy Communion if an able-bodied cleric is available. The priest or deacon who is present at the Mass must be asked to assist in distributing the Eucharist. Ignorance aside, to fail to do this is technically to violate the law. This should give us all an idea of how truly extraordinary the use of an Extraordinary Minister is meant to be!I think another salient example the Catholic Exchange article misses is that the use of EHMCs, along with receipt of Communion in the hand, greatly undermines the sacrificial nature of the Mass. When one attends a parish thatThat's right

 uses an altar rail and all kneel to receive Communion on the tongue, one gets a profound impression in receiving something great and holy.  It ties in with the sacrificial nature of the Mass, the literal coming down from Heaven of the altar that is perpetually present before God, where Christ re-presents His once for all time Sacrifice on Calvary.  To receive Communion in the hand like a biscuit is to treat this literal Body of our Lord with what I feel is much less reverence, and at the same time, as Fr. Z has recently pointed out, is much more prone to abuse.  I have personally seen people receive the Blessed Sacrament in their hand and then put it in their pocket. 

There was an idea in the Church, particularly prevalent in the wake of Vatican II but still around today in some circles, that said that the only way to exercise ‘the common priesthood of the faithful’ was to have the laity perform functions previously reserved to priests.  EHMC is the prime example of this mentality.  This is based on an erroneous interpretation of the term ‘full, active participation’ that is in some Vatican II documents regarding how the laity should participate in the Mass.  What the council fathers actually intended, however, was not some physical role for the laity – they meant that people should be engaged with their whole mind, heart, and soul during the Mass.  So, the entire basis for the EHMC as a regular ‘service’ performed by the laity in churches around the US is founded on a fallacy.

I have assisted at Mass at parishes that are as large as some of the biggest in this diocese, but where only the priest and a deacon distribute Communion.  And that, kneeling and on the tongue, using intinction for the Blood of our Lord.  Communion takes perhaps a minute or two longer at these parishes.  But more importantly, I think we really need to get back to having a greater reverence for the literal Body and Blood of Jesus Christ that we are blessed to receive at Mass.  I don’t think EHMCs support reverence for Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  To the contrary, I believe they undermine it.  Since the Eucharist is the Source and Summit of our Faith, the very lifeblood of the Church and the vehicle for the most Grace for both us as individuals and for the Church as a whole, it should be treated with the greatest possible reverence.  It is also part of the priestly notion of offering Sacrifice that the priest not only offer the Sacrifice to the Father, but also insure that it is ‘transformed’ by consumption by the laity. 

EHMCs have always been viewed by the Vatican as an abuse.  It is time for that abuse to stop.  I will not receive from an EHMC because a) I always kneel to receive, but it makes no sense to kneel to a lay person, and not a priest in persona Christi, and b), I don’t want to support this abuse of Church norms.

More here.  The relevant documents are the Code of Canon Law and Redemptoris Sacramentum, which make clear that the common practice in so many parishes in the US is an abuse.

UPDATE: Commenter Larry B pointed out that I may have implied something earlier I did not intend to.  I probably should not have said I kneel because the priest is in persona Christi, I kneel because I am receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord.  There was a time in the Church, not very long ago, when only consecrated hands could touch the Blessed Sacrament.  This was because of the very special nature of the Eucharist and the reverence and awe with which it was held.  Now, everyone touches the Eucharist constantly – it’s treated like a common, even banal item. And I think that dramatically under-emphasizes what the Eucharist is and has played a very big part in the decrease in belief in the Real Presence, the lack of reverence exhibited at Mass, and the dimunition in many  quarters of the Mass into a sort of ‘happy clappy’ entertainment.  Which explains plunging Mass attendance – if I just want to be entertained, there is nothing a priest can do to compete with far superior entertainments elsewhere.  But that, of course, is not the point of the Mass.  The point is to adore, express contrition, give thanks, and implore God’s Grace.

Socialism = Utter Misery March 14, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, General Catholic, horror, Interior Life, religious, sickness, Society.
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I’m reading a book by a Jesuit (yes, really!) who spent 22 years in Soviet prisons from June 1941 until October of 1963.  Fr. Walter Ciszek wrote two books, He Leadeth Me and With God in Russia.  I’m reading the latter, which is an autobiographical and describes his experiences inside the Soviet “gulag archipelago.” 

I highly recommend this book.  It’s not heavy into theology or mysticism – it’s just the story of a priest who survived incredible conditions and managed to grow in faith in the process.  And those conditions – I cannot tell you how much this book makes me loathe socialism.  In pure socialism, wherever it has been practiced – the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba, East Germany, Bulgaria, etc – the individual counts for absolutely nothing.  You have no rights.  Even the high leadership lives in constant fear and unease, because it’s easy to fall out of favor and lose that position and wind up in the gulag – or dead.  Fr. Ciszek was imprisoned shortly after the Germans invaded the Soviet Union (this clash of twin evils is hard for me to study, although I have, quite a bit, because even though Nazism is so hideously disgusting, communism is worse, and I find myself almost favoring the Nazis) and thrown into various hideous prisons.  He eventually wound up in the infamous Lubyanka prison in Moscow, where he remained for several years while undergoing constant, endless interrogation – always in the dead of night.  He is also drugged and tortured.  The Soviets simply cannot believe his story – that he is a priest who came to minister to people.  They think he’s a German spy.  So, without any defense attorney, without ever appearing in court, he is sentenced to 15 years hard labor. 

He then bounces around some prisons for a while, where the prisoners endure terrible conditions (like, 120 men in a single room with nothing but a bucket for a toilet), a near-starvation diet (one pound of bread, 1 cup of soup, and a couple of corn fritters are the diet, every single day), beatings, illness, etc.  Through it all, the Soviets seem to be hoping that Fr. Ciszek will get sick and die, but he never does.  And Fr. Ciszek’s faith grows and grows as he prays every day, keeping a modified rule secretly, and as he celebrates and receives Sacraments as he can.  Without Fr. Ciszek using harsh words for his captors and tormenters, he completely indicts the entire socialist system for the antithesis of everything God Wills for us.  It’s truly fascinating.  I did not think I could loathe socialism any more than I did, but I do.  It is an evil, evil system, and we are insane to be flirting with it more and more in this country.  It will bring only misery and suffering.

Even more, socialism/communism are totally incompatible with the Faith.  It is no coincidence that in those countries where the politico-economic system tends towards socialism, the practice of the Faith tends to die out.  In Europe, where socialism largely prevails, the Faith is all but dead.  Here, things are better, but headed in the wrong direction.  Under socialism, the Faith can only be practiced privately, and then only in a hidden manner.  I do not understand how it can be endorsed by some Catholics. 

The book is reasonably priced and a quick read. I highly recommend it.

Tell Congress to defund Planned Parenthood March 14, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in Abortion, Basics, Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, North Deanery, scandals, sickness, Society.
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Via the Susan B. Anthony list, a request to contact your congressman today to tell them to defund Planned Parenthood:

The House of Representatives will vote tomorrow on a three-week Continuing Resolution to fund the government.

This three week spending bill does NOT contain the Pence amendment to defund Planned Parenthood of our tax dollars – which is why I need you to take action right now.Will you please send a quick email to your Representative and tell them to vote “NO” on the Continuing Resolution because it does not defund Planned Parenthood?During a time of economic crisis in our country, a scandal-ridden abortion business like Planned Parenthood is the last place our hard-earned tax dollars should be going.

The link provides a ready form letter and a quick system to get the letter to your Congressman.  It shouldn’t take more than a minute or two to fill out (it took me less than a minute).

Perhaps watching this will encourage you to contact Congress (thanks to CatholicVote):

I witnessed the exact same behaviors, the exact same language, from the small group that ‘walked’ in favor of abortion in Dallas a few weeks ago.  Their reasons are specious – “it’s not a baby,” “I don’t want a baby to mess up my job chances,” etc.  The entire abortion mentality is one rooted, completely and utterly, in the basest form of self-interest, and you can see from their antipathy towards Christianity and traditional morality how these folks stands in stark contrast to everything Christianity represents.  It takes a woman’s most noble role, and turns it into her dread enemy.  This mentality it totally opposed to the natural, and the crowds of foul mouthed women remind me of the insanity that surrounded the sacrifices to Baal and Moloch, when the Israelites allowed their newborn children to be burned to death in the “arms” of a white hot idol, turning a parent’s caress into a tool for murder.  Just as these pro-aborts want to turn the mother’s womb into a dark, hideous place of death.

Christ has alot of fans…. March 14, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, Dallas Diocese, Good St. Joseph, Interior Life, The Imitation of Christ.
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….but not many willing to take on the Cross.  Thomas a Kempis The Imitation of Christ Book II Chapter 11:

JESUS has many lovers of His heavenly king­dom, but few cross-bearers. Many desire His consolation, but few His tribulation. Many will sit down with Him at table, but few will share His fast. All desire to rejoice with Him, but few will suffer for Him.

Many will follow Him to the breaking of the bread, but few will drink the bitter cup of His Passion. Many revere His miracles, but few fol­low the shame of His cross. Many love Jesus when all goes well with them, and praise Him when He does them a favor; but if Jesus conceals Himself and leaves them for a little while, they fall to complaining or become depressed.

They who love Jesus purely for Himself and not for their own sake bless Him in all trouble and anguish as well as in time of consolation. Even if He never sent them consolation, they would still praise Him and give thanks.

Oh how powerful is the pure love of Jesus, when not mixed with self-interest or self-love! Are not they to be called hirelings who always look for comforts? And they who think only of their own advantage, do they not show them­selves to be lovers of self rather than of Christ? Where will a person be found ready to serve God without looking for a reward?

It is hard to find anyone so spiritual who is willing to be stripped of all things. Where will you find a person truly poor in spirit and free  from all attachment to creatures? Such a one is a “rare treasure brought from distant shores”(cf. Prov 31:14).

If we were to give up all our possessions, it is still nothing; if we did severe penance, it is but little; if we acquired all knowledge, still are we far from virtue. Even if we had great virtue and fer­vent devotion, we would be lacking that one thing necessary above all else. And what is that one thing? That leaving all things behind, we should leave self, renouncing our self completely and keeping nothing of self­ love. And then when we have done all things that we know we ought to do, let us think that we have done nothing. We should not regard as great that which may be considered so by others, but rather let us in truth look upon ourselves as worthless servants.

As our Lord, the Truth, has said: “When you have done all you have been commanded to do, say, ‘We are useless servents” (Lk 17:10). Then we will be truly poor in spirit and able to say with the Prophet: “I am alone and afflicted” (Ps 25:16). Yet there is no one richer or more powerful, no one more free than we are if we know how to re­nounce ourselves and all things, putting our­selves in the lowest place.

Thomas a Kempis – it’s like the man knew me.  He definitely knew the problems of human nature and the call to die to ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus.  I set a goal of assisting at Mass every day of Lent.  I usually attend Mass several days a week, but I want to go every day.  And yet, this morning, when it was still dark at 7:15 and I was needing to get up (stupid early daylight savings time – thanks, Bushie), I was quite grumbly and almost didn’t do it.  Because I’m weak and soft and don’t have much love in me.