Monday, July 20, 2009

USCCB Passes All 4 Pending Items for Roman Missal Translation

Well, the good news is that the mail-in votes are now in and counted and all four items that the USCCB failed to approve at their June meeting have now passed. That is certainly an indication that the new translation will move forward... inching slowly toward a recognitio from Rome.

It's interesting to see the process, the progress and the occasional substantial minority opposition from some. See for the USCCB news release and the voting numbers.

Yes, whether we agree with this or not, it seems inevitable that we will have those new tranlations!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More on Liturgy and Grieving

It has been two weeks since the person I loved most died, and I have been the role liturgy and ritual are playing in the grieving process.

Mass the first weekend after the burial was difficult, bcause even though I am a seasoned choir singer and cantor, it's hard to praise the Lord when you do not understand why something devastating has happened in your life. Words in several songs brought me to tears. This last weekend was better - I was "drafted" when the scheduled cantor did not show up, and made it through with almost my usual degree of energy, only losing it on the final verse of the communion song, Bob Hurd's "Ubi Caritas" where the saints in heaven gather to sing praise.

Today, in comforting someone who was also a close friend of the deceased who is not Catholic, I witnessed to the power of the funeral liturgy. I told her "The reason I did not cry much during the liturgy at the funeral home and at the cemetery was because even though it was not quite all according to the book (the priest got a little mixed up a few times) it WAS liturgy - and there is comfort in the ritual for us Catholics. It grounds us and gives us a familiar place to go when life gets painful..."

Have you found the liturgy a "familiar place" to go when all else in your life is chaos? What has that meant for you at the time, and in later reflection on the experience? (OK, let's do mystagogy here!)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The New Encyclical is News, But Did You Read "Sacramentum Caritas"?

The internet is certainly alive these days with comments about Caritas in Veritate, the Pope's latest encyclical on Social Justice. Opinions certainly vary - and you can read many.

As part of my background preparation for our Diocesan Year of the Eucharist, I just finished a close reading of the Post-Synodal Exhortation Sacramentum Caritas and found it to be a really great document on the Eucharist. It is very clear, strong and readable. You can't miss his message. Pope Benedict certainly has set an agenda in this document - calling for focused catechesis of the faithful on the Eucharist, improvement in preaching, and a general sense of the connection between Eucharist and the rest of life. Find it on the web at

A couple of items struck me most powerfully: his statement that just because a person physically shows up at Mass, does not mean he or she necessarily has the right to receive Eucharist. Benedict calls for an examination of life, a suitable, penitent disposition - and says we should not assume it. That's news to most people. For those raised with a sense of "obligation" as one of the prime motivators for Mass attendance, most people probably assume if they show up, they get the good stuff, whether or not they participate, whether or not they prepare themselves in a meaningful way. This is not their fault - catechesis has failed to emphasize the importance of examining one's life, and the failure of most adult Catholics to celebrate the Rite of Penance points also to this insufficiency.

Benedict also points to the importance of a coherent life, where people are conformed to the Body of Christ in all they do throughout the week. The people we are on Sunday should be the people we are the rest of the week. He also seconds JP II's call for a renewed sense of the sacredness of Sunday, and he deals at least briefly with the cultural challenges to the Sabbath concept.

Certainly, both of these are important points to make with the parents of children receiving First Eucharist, or adults preparing for their first reception of the sacrament. Catechetical leaders would be well-served by a reading of this document.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ritual, even when imperfect, has power to comfort

Just celebrated the funeral of my dearest and most loved friend, and even though the grief is still raw, I have to admit - the liturgy (a Word service followed by the Rite of Commital at the cemetery) was a refuge of peace for me... that lasted pretty much the rest of the day.

The priest was an older man, rather old-fashioned, and a bit forgetful, but very sweet and sincere, and he knew the deceased from his attendance at Mass at that church for the last few years. He messed up a few times during the Word service, forgot I had already sung a psalm and did a second one, started to comment and homilize, then must have remembered he had not read the Gospel. He sprinkled in two rounds of Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be for good measure... really, by liturgist's standards, this was just shy of disaster - but it was sincere in its intent, and that covered a multitude of indiscretions.

Even though burying Jim was very hard, the Rite of Committal seemed fittingly dignified, and we all left in quietude, not tears, even the non-Catholics.

What is it about ritual that has this great power to comfort? The gathering of friends, the proclamation of the Word, the prayer, and the community joining in song... all of this leads us from that place of sorrow to a timeless place where even sorrow no longer seems to matter.

I had chosen to sing the familiar "Shepherd Me, O God" as the psalm largely because it is generic, and because I knew it so well that I felt I could actually get through it despite my sorrow at losing this person. Because that song is so much a part of my past experiences of funerals, it seemed fitting and it worked. Music, too, is a big part of that powerful ritual experience. I may not be able to hum the secular love songs that were special to me and my friend without tears yet, but I still can sing to the Lord in my friend's name without quavering. Ask me again why I love being Catholic!