Wednesday, June 30, 2010

So, what does the average Catholic know about the new Roman Missal?

Not much, apparently.  I am finishing up facilitating the final week of "Introduction to Liturgy" for University of Dayton VLCFF - and in this last session, it's kind of Q & A time about liturgy. I asked if anyone wanted to know anything about the upcoming changes in the Mass - and got the message board equivalent of blank stares. Not one of them had heard the changes are coming. These are mostly Catholic school teachers and catechists - and apparently no one in their parish has yet mentioned this to them.

Although knowledge of the changes has caused some people around the country to become angry and resistant, the very fact that these average INVOLVED Catholics have not heard anything (these are not the pew-warmers - they are active in their parishes) is of concern. After all - we are human - and change takes some getting used to.  People need to have the time to get past the initial bewilderment and anger before they can get anywhere near acceptance.

Further evidence that we have a lot of work to do in catechizing people before the new translations become widely accepted.  

I will be interested to follow my students' discussion over the next few days to see their reactions to my explanation of what is changing and why.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer Homework - Catching up on the Documents for Hispanic & Multicultural Ministry in the Church

Just got my order of three books from USCCB Publications today - it's time to catch up on some documents and resources for Multicultural ministry - with a view to assisting my own parish and others in the diocese experiencing cultural transition, especially in communities with the rapidly growing influx of Hispanics.  Here is my booklist:

Many Faces in God's House: A Catholic Vision for the Third Millennium  - although this bilingual guide was prepared for the Encuentro 2000 in Los Angeles, this seems like it still is useful - it has a Vision Statement, Theological Reflection, and 6 Parish Sessions... along with references and a set of Communications Guidelines.  I think maybe some of this might be useful in my own parish, as we continue to work to bridge the gap between the Anglo and the Hispanic cultures.

Encuentro & Mission: A Renewed Pastoral Framework for Hispanic Ministry - bilingual edition of a USCCB statement updating the National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry. I am thinking I need to see where this went - my understanding is that the Plan was somewhat underfulfilled.

Concluding Document: Aparecida - from the May, 2007, V General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Carribean.  This document is one that was referred to several times at the NCCL annual conference in April as seminal to Hispanic Ministry.
These, along with the 2nd and 3rd PowerPoint presentations on the bottom of this page on the USCCB site for the Secretariat for Hispanic Affairs, are a set of resources over which I will spend much time and thought - and will be sharing with our diocesan Spanish Catechesis Support Cluster and with my parish pastoral council.   I have a strong feeling that the Holy Spirit has been guiding me in this direction for a long time... I have been at the center of a "perfect storm" for the last 8 years, as I have been faced in both my diocesan position and my parish volunteer activities, with the growing sense that I am being called to be leaven for a process of bringing the two cultures together toward greater acceptance and understanding.

As always, ministry happens in whatever corner of the world one finds oneself!

Finding God in the Digital Age: How do You take Time for Prayer?

If you have not yet had the opportunity to take 45 minutes to view the conversation on Bloggingheads TV between Fr. James Martin, SJ, and Bill McGarvey of on God in the Digital Age - it's definitely worth the time. Fr. Jim, throughout, expresses the concern that our engagement with all things electronic is keeping us from taking quality time to hear the voice of God.  However, the deeper question he asks is whether people in today's culture take that time at all.

In our fast-paced world where people are so busy, how many take quality time to pray?  Do we ever take time for silence at all?

I know that, like many people, when I first get up, the TV and the computer go on almost immediately. For me, living alone, that is a conscious choice. It is "company" - the assurance that there are indeed other human beings on the planet. Fr. Jim does admit that people form some level of community and connection online - and I have to admit that I rely heavily on Facebook for that. It is comforting to get up and check through the posts from the last 7 or so hours to see what friends from other parts of the world, or the night-owls among them, have been up to - or occasionally to use Facebook chat to connect with my son in the Air Force for a couple of minutes if he happens to log in.

However, Fr. Jim's warning that online community is no substitute for real human face-to-face connection is well-taken. My online connection enriches my personal relationships, but does not substitute for them.  I see many of these people at least occasionally, and some I see on a fairly regular basis.  Connecting with them through Facebook keeps up a connection when I am not able to see them, and has allowed me to become closer to many of them than I would have otherwise.  Some people, I have never met, but the online connection has been definitely enriching. I suppose that is the healthy way to use social networking - as a supplement, not a substitute for, interpersonal relationship.  It is an enhancement to my sense of community in the Body of Christ... and beyond (some of my gamer friends are Buddhists and Muslims.)

When it comes to relating to God, I do try to find quiet moments here and there during the day. In the car on the way to work is a great time, but I do also take my cues from online connections for prayer, such as the Loyola Press Daily 3-Minute Retreat, which I have emailed to me, a great reminder to take time for God. Another well-known and good one is . (Notice these are both Jesuit sites?) At various times in my life, I have found Morning Prayer from Liturgy of the Hours, fruitful. Personally, I prefer praying the Office from the book, rather than from the online sites, such as, but these, too, can be useful. Of course, the nighttime before-bed conversation with God is probably the most quality time I spend with God - and myself.

So, how do you take time for prayer?  Do you use technology to pray? Do you use a combination of technology and traditional prayer?  How has technology changed your sense of Christian community?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Can We Get Ready for a Future that is Already Here?

Fr. Allan Figaroa Deck, Director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church for the USCCB, has just posted a great summary of the issues regarding multicultural competencies for parish leaders on his blog.  He points to the needs of churches that are receiving an influx of people from other cultures and the need for certain skills for leaders in those churches, especially those pertaining to empathy and communication.

The multicultural Church is already among us. How fast can we get ready to deal with it, when we should have done that "yesterday"?  The challenge is to get in front of the misunderstandings and deal with the current reality that in many parishes, we are already facing culture clashes and division, even as we seek unity.  In our diocese, for the past two years, a small group of leaders from parishes with Hispanics has been meeting for sharing and dialog. This group, the Spanish Catechesis Support Cluster, has been engaged, faithful and grateful for the opportunities to raise the issues for discussion.  We may struggle in our parishes, but we can come together and share and encourage one another. It's a start.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Catholic in a Protestant Nation: how our concept of time- and work- should be counter-cultural

I have been mulling over a video, The Secret Powers of Time that I found yesterday on the how different concepts of time affect culture and outlook on life. One of the premises is that in "Catholic countries" people are more present-oriented (i.e., they do not plan because they enjoy life and live in the present moment) than those in "Protestant countries" (where people plan ahead because they believe that life does not begin really until after they die, so they work hard to prove they are God's chosen people). While these are generalizations, of course, according to the video there is some truth, if you use the Gross National Product of such nations as an index. 

It reminds me of the oft-quoted line from Anglicized Frenchman and Catholic apologist Hillaire Belloc: "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!"

Now, while  some people would point to the nations of non-planners as "lazy" (check out the remarks northern Italians make about those in the south in the video, or think of the prejudicial comments one sometimes hears about people from Mexico) living in the present moment is also an indication of trust in God's providence to provide. This, actually, is one of the quintessential messages of the Gospel. After all, Jesus said "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these". (Matt. 6:28-29)  This sentiment is at the root of the popular notion of "Let Go, Let God" and the country gospel tune that made the airwaves a number of years back, "One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus."

So, what does it mean today to be Catholic in the United States, founded as a Protestant nation, rooted in the "Protestant Work Ethic"? This term first was used by Max Weber in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. It has been in the country's ethos since its founding to point to 2 Thessalonians 3:10 "those who do not work shall not eat" rather than to "consider the lilies of the field".  We are a nation of people who, in general, see hard work as a virtue and, at least up until the current recession, that those who are unemployed must be lazy.  We often hear those who judge people on welfare harshly instead of being sympathetic to the life challenges that foster a welfare culture among the under-educated and poor, mostly black inner city population. 

However, in these harder economic times, it is no longer just the inner-city minorities who are affected. I'm a Boomer. I grew up in the 60's - the last time it was possible to think that "upward mobility" was possible for each new generation - that each would be better off economically then their parents were. We all have heard of young adults who cannot find a job, or who are so under-employed they have returned to live with their parents.  What do such realities say about our own ability to succeed by our hard work?
Life on earth should be about more than just the GNP:  Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Jesuit poet, wrote in "God's Grandeur":  
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge & shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

People of faith, instead of living as though earthly life barely matters, because it's all about "going to heaven", are called to live today, in the moment, not hedonistically and selfishly, but other-focused. We are here to build up the Reign of God (the "Kingdom") here and now - working for justice for the oppressed, the poor and the to make this earth more like what Jesus described in his teachings and actions toward the poor and unfortunate.  He did not indicate that the Kingdom was in the future, but NOW:

Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he said in reply, "The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, 'Look, here it is,' or, 'There it is.' For behold, the kingdom of God is among you." (Luke 17:20-21)

This is our work, partnering with God to make God's Reign visible on earth in every sphere, including the economic -  not just being all about the "getting and spending" that English poet William Wordsworth wrote of in "The World is Too Much With Us."  Economic Justice for All, the statement from the US Catholic Bishops, was written to show that "Our faith calls us to measure this economy, not by what it produces but also by how it touches human life and whether it protects or undermines the dignity of the human person."

So, what am I saying here?

First, we should remember not to be judgmental of others whose economic status is lower than our own. While we live in a nation that measures the value of a person by how much they earn, our faith calls us not to see this as who we are. God calls us to see the individual person differently -
 “ For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” -1 Samuel 16: 7.  It's not about the house, the bank account, the car or the job a person has. It is about who that person IS.

Second, our work in this world should not be about "getting and spending" but about making the world a better place - not just for ourselves and our famlies, but for everyone, including the poor, the elderly, the unborn - those who are powerless.  We should be counter-cultural within a consumer culture - not running out to buy the latest, newest, thing just because the media and those around us encourage it.

Finally, we are to be all about trusting God, not about trying to do it all ourselves. This is perhaps, the most counter-cultural call of all. In a nation that cut its teeth on Horatio Alger stories about people "lifting themselves up by their own bootstraps" we need to learn that is not always possible, and admit it - for ourselves and for others.

Monday, June 21, 2010

When Church Architecture Sends a Message

Just read Nick Wagner's provocative post about church architecture on the Today's Parish blog - and upon reflection, I realized something profound about my parish - that the architecture, especially the baptismal font in the main entrance is literally shouting about who we are as a community.

I have actually been aware of the font's message for a long time - ever since I first walked into the worship space for the first time.  When I first brought my sons to this parish 8 years ago as young adults and asked them about what the coffin-shaped lower pool of the font meant to them, my oldest responded slowly: "....Dying to old life, rising to new life?" Indeed. And as I reflect today, that is pretty much who we are today as a parish.

St. John the Baptist community was founded over 150 years ago in inner-city Joliet, and has had a history probably typical of many urban parishes - beginning with German immigrants. As the neighborhood economic demographics changed, the immigrants built up a stable well-to-do middle-class neighborhood and a vibrant parish. In more recent years, however, the neighborhood has declined in economic status and housing values dropped as the neighborhood's original families moved away to be replaced by those with lower incomes. As a result the parish school was closed, and over the past 15-plus years, the parish has transitioned to its current state as an 80% Hispanic community.  Most of the white parishioners no longer live nearby, but are committed enough to the parish to stay despite the challenges. 

We continue to struggle to bring the "two cultures" together - and issues of leadership, stewardship, parish economic reality and more make daily life at St. John's an interesting challenge. We have tried several things, including the Parish Assessment and Renewal (PAR) process, which was minimally successful, and have recently looked at reources about structuring multi-cultural parishes. There is no "magic bullet" - no instant cure for our issues. As is sometimes said the way through it is the only path.

We are indeed being called to "die" to the old familiar vision of St. John's - a once-thriving white parish with many ministries, parish retreats and activities, a strong community in a very white, middle class mold - to become who we now in reality are: a community privileged to have the riches of two cultures, one "European American" (as one of our older parishioners who dislikes the term "Anglo" likes to call it), the other Hispanic. Our faltering steps toward this new version of St. Johns are actually a form of Paschal Mystery - dying to familiar ways is never easy - and it is mirrored in the shape of that baptismal font, which literally shouts its message about who we are - "dying to old life, rising to new life."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

So, what do teens think of the new translation?

Just read the interesting post by Father Anthony Ruff, OSB, of Pray Tell, on his informal survey of youth regarding the current translation, the 1997 translation and the new translation of some of the orations of the Mass.  Although this is far from scientific, it is worth noting that teens found the new translation difficult to understand.

These kids, who are almost all from practicing Catholic families, which makes them even more connected to church than the average American teen, mostly found the new translation difficult. Here are their comments from Father Ruff's post:

"Too complicated. Too wordy. The language flows nicely. Too many words that are not absolutely necessary. Words get confusing. Got bored – sounds too much like a huge compound sentence. Too long and really big words. Too difficult to relax and pray. Hard! The way it is worded sounds weird. More feeling. Too many big words. Easy to follow. I don’t know what some words mean. Thoughtful. Confusing. “Grant, we pray…” gets confusing. More imagery, very poetic. It is real, people can relate to it. Has words I would never use. It beats around the bush. Way too complicated and wordy. I stopped listening half way through. A bit wordy, but still understandable. Just too long. Very confusing. Does not sound like it is from the heart. A little too hard to follow. I don’t think everybody can connect to these words. Seems kind of scholarly."

Sounds as if only a few found anything positive to say.  More evidence that we have a lot of catechetical work to do in response to the upcoming implementation of the new Roman Missal.

So, publishers, where are the catechetical materials for children and youth?  Already most of the major liturgical catechetical publishers have put out materials to help adults. Although Liturgy Training Publications in Chicago is apparently in process on some workshops for catechists of children, materials for use in the classroom by catechists are definitely going to be needed.  Major catechetical textbook publishers are promising reprints or downloadable supplements with the corrections for the Mass responses, but will this include catechesis on their meaning? And if the celebrant's prayers, such as those used in Father Ruff's experiment, are too difficult for most teens to understand, how are we going to help them with those?  Will Mass just become an increasingly adult experience which alienates and bores children and teens? More food for thought.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Proclaiming God's Marvelous Deeds - A Multicultural Celebration

Yesterday at my parish of St. John the Baptist, Joliet, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of religious profession of Father Fred Radtke, OFM., our parochial vicar, soon to be our pastor. Certainly, a good time was had by all and Father Fred was honored in a suitable manner, but true to his wishes, God and the community were the stars of the day... and the music and musicians were integral to that.

All the elements of a bilingual celebration our parish does well were present: a combined choir (the English Choir and the 1 p.m. Spanish Choir), a string trio, readers in both languages, and the prayers and homily in both languages. The music reflected not only European-American sensibilities and the Hispanic culture, but Gospel and Reggae as well, adding a multi-cultural flavor reflecting the diversity of today's Church. This "flavor" is a reality that has been long in development, mostly due to the hard work of bringing two diverse cultures together musically which our parish music director, Mary Beth Diab, has developed for a number of years.

We opened with Kenneth W. Louis's "Proclaim God's Marvelous Deeds", a New Orleans "gospel strut"reminscent of a jazz funeral song with the refrain in both English and newly translated by one of our parish ministers into Spanish. As cantor, I also played a Celtic drum (bodhran) in a decidedly un-Celtic manner... yet another cultural layer.  After the procession, we swung into the Bobby Fisher Gloria from the Mass of Santa Barbara, a bilingual Reggae setting. The responsorial psalm was one composed by Todd Russ, a young man from our parish which has become a favorite of the Franciscan friars, "All-Knowing, Mighty God," a setting of Psalm 139 in a modern melodic classical vein. Music of the Liturgy of the Word concluded with the rollicking "Salmo 117: Aleluya/Psalm 117: Alleluia" by Mary Frances Reza of New Mexico.

"Oyenos, Senor/Listen to Your People" by Bob Hurd was used as the General Intercession Response, and the English modern standard "You Are Mine" (David Haas) was the song at the Preparation of the Gifts. A Spanish echo-format "Santo" (unattributed) and the Hurd Memorial Acclamation and Amen from "Missa del Pueblo Immigrante" was followed by an intriguing setting of the Padre Nuestro/Our Father to the tune of "The Sounds of Silence."  (Great way to recycle an old familiar tune - sure to bring a smile to the faces of those of us who remember the old Simon and Garfunkel classic.) Bobby Fisher's Lamb of God/Cordero de Dios ("Bread of Life" setting) led us into the Communion Rite, which was accompanied by Bob Hurd's classic "Pan de Vida" and a sung meditation by Oscar Tejeda, our parish leader of the Spanish Choir. 

As the liturgy closed, we exited to the rock and roll anthem from World Youth Day 2004, "Jesus Christ, You Are My Life" with verses in English and Spanish, to a feast that included fried chicken, fajitas, and assorted entrees and treats reflecting both cultures.

Father Fred, in his homily,had emphaized it was his wish that this celebration be not about him, personally, but about God -- but I would add that it was also about the Body of Christ at St. John the Baptist in Joliet, gathered to honor not only Father Fred, but to proclaim God's marvelous deeds among His people.  The original St. John's German Catholic Church (founded in 1852) the presence of the Franciscans for many years, the growth of the Hispanic community over the past 15 years, the challenges and realities of inner-city parish life, modern culture and the struggles to bring two diverse cultural mindsets together in parish leadership, the great bilingual music... and indeed, the life and ministry of Father Fred - these are the marvelous deeds of God... and all of this is why I love St. John's. If lex orandi, lex credendi  (loosely, "how we pray is what we believe") is true, then this parish has a vision. We may struggle yet to achieve this in reality, but our worship shows we are on the way.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Looking for Great Resources on Eucharist, Reconciliation?

Just got Bishop Sartain's seal of approval for the Diocese of Joliet official list of recommended parish catechetical resources for our Year of the Eucharist. Thanks to the Catechetical Formation Committee for their assistance.  This list includes a variety of great websites, group reflection resources for adults, general adult resources, supplementary resources for children and youth, and lots more - on the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  We deliberately chose these from across a wide spectrum of methodologies, so there is something for every parish "style." Even if you are not from our diocese, take a look.  The list is posted at

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

New Roman Missal: If participation is the highest value, we have a lot of work to do!

Hmmm - I just got the new USCCB monthly e-newsletter on the Third Edition of the Roman Missal, (go here to subscribe) and as a result made a visit to their "modestly redesigned" Roman Missal web site.  Under the Parish Resources tab,  two of the three PowerPoints feature a screen with the same four points under "Theological Premises of the Conciliar Reform of the Liturgy." The second point is "Participation of the Faithful is the Goal to be Considered Before all Others."  (Sacrosanctum Consilium, 48)

In the years since Vatican II, apparently the priority of this has been replaced by the need for literal correctness. If paricipation is still truly the highest goal, then why has so much attention been given to the "correctness" of the new translation over it's comprehensibility? Archaic Latinate language, long out of common usage, that will require explanation is not going to support that goal unless we do a LOT of upgrading of the literacy of our American adults... or provide a great deal of catechesis.  This will be a big task... and many parishes may not be up to it.

In a Church where typically, most adults do not attend formation events after their own Confirmation and reading comprension scores have gone down since the era of classical prose, this will mean most catechesis will have to take place at Mass, which will put a lot of burden on the clergy and will necessitate the full cooperation of parish pastoral, catechetical and liturgical leaders. 

Our diocese is mandating training of all leadership - by participation in the"Mystical Body, Mystical Voice" workshop experience from the Liturgical Institute at Mundelein.  Apparently at least 43 other sites are using that resource as well.  The list on the front page of the USCCB Roman Missal web site names over 20 locations for the FDLC workshops on the topic. 

Will this instruction be enough to help foster in the Assembly the kind of active participation the Council called for?  What else will be needed? There are some good resources out there to be used in parishes, but again - will this be enough?  Who will equip the aging tired clergy and parish leaders to deal with the reality of the average parish?  I am still wondering. I think we have our work cut out for us!