Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Wewease the Secwet Weapon!

Fr. Stephanos hails a valuable tool for use by the Catholics in the Crusade for Truth. The Compendium hasn't gotten the attention it deserves, and really can do wonders in reclaiming the multitudes confused about our Catholic faith.

This really is what many of us have been waiting for.

I'm not sure, on the other hand, what the hell this is. Perhaps I've grown a little cynical and to "beware Greeks bearing gifts." Or in this case, Americans.

Still, Fishers of Men is solid, so there's hope...

An interesting take...

... has one Catholic author on dealing with the DVC. Check it out.

I can't say I wholly agree, but the article is illuminating.

With obeisance to the Drew at the Shrine.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ite ad Joseph - Part III

III. Joseph - The Quiet Man

Trooper Thornton, John Wayne's character in the classic romance The Quiet Man, is described as a "quiet, peace-lovin' man." Although the latter epithet might not apply to other characters played by Wayne throughout his career, the former description seems to be a trademark. There's a manliness and strength in the virtue of silence. Reticence suggests thoughtfulness, composure, and attentiveness. From their silence, Wayne's characters burst into action, quick and deadly, a storm following calm. We admire and muse at these characters, and the figure of the "quiet man" has become almost cliche, reproduced variously in other personae such as James Bond or even Clark Kent.

The man of silence is really an archetypical figure of sorts. He is a classic staple used in a plethora of literature and media; and there are plenty of historical precedents as well. Who can forget Teddy Roosevelt's admonition to "speak softly and carry a big stick?" Or the countless military greats, from Washington to Napoleon to Lee, who have been described as "quiet leaders?" Silent composure was a mark of regency according to chivalric code; a sign of gentility by the standards of Victorian decorum. And of course, Our Lord Himself was Kingly in His silence before Pilate.

It has been noted that there is a remarkable lack of information about Saint Joseph in scripture. In fact, the great man actually speaks not at all. In all of the actions we read not a single word spoken from his saintly lips. Why? Did he say much, but little worth note? Or did he, in fact, say little? I suppose this to be the case. Perhaps the silent figure presented in the Bible is less enigmatic than we think. Perhaps the portrait we receive of a quiet man of action is as accurate a picture as we could desire.

Surely, at such a moment as the finding of Jesus in the Temple, most earthly father's would have had their lot to say. But we find Joseph standing in quiet support of Mary at this moment. Fading into the background even at such a moment as this, Joseph probably lived most of his life in such a way: with his hand on Mary's shoulder, composed as her pillar of strength. From this composure, we rest assured, he occasionally broke forth into action. Many legends surround his role in leading Mary and Jesus into and back from the land of Egypt. But, chances are, such great deeds as make up these legends are the exceptional moments in Joseph's life. The man of quiet composure probably spent most of his years as a background figure to the life at Nazareth, humbly fulfilling the terrible task of rearing the Son of God, attmepting to raise him as a man after his own example with God's grace.

There is a great poem by Robert Hayden called Those Winter Sundays, describing how a father would wake early each morning and prepare the fire so that the family would wake up to a warm house. The poet movingly depicts a wearied working man caring for his family, even polishing his son's shoes before the start of each day. Hayden closes the poem with a particularly poignant rhetorical question: "What did I know of love's austere and lonely offices?"

This question we may ask ourselves about the hidden life of Saint Joseph. In all likelihood, the silence of scripture masks nothing more than the regular deeds of an ordinary father. Yet, in such deeds consists the great man's saintliness and virtue. As many recent saints such as Josemarie Escriva, Therese de Lisieux, and Mother Theresa have taught us, great holiness is often achieved through the accomplishment of ordinary and daily tasks, especially when these tasks are fulfilled humbly and quietly. I like to think that scripture is silent about most of Saint Joseph's deeds because Joseph himself was silent in accomplishing them. Seeking no praise and admiration, working dutifully and gratefully without hope of fame or fortune - this is the "way" advocated by many modern spiritualists and (I believe) it was also the "way" of Saint Joseph.

May we often meditate on scripture's silence in regard to Saint Joseph. What are the many deeds that go undescribed and uncelebrated? Are they so different than the ones which we find ourselves doing day in and day out? And might scripture's silence be but a reflection of Joseph's own silence, as he humbly worked out the will of the Heavenly Father whom He emulated and represented for Christ his foster-son? May our meditation move us to do our daily work with equal reverence and devotion, seeing in Joseph a model of perfection through "love's austere and lonely offices."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sic transit gloria linguarum...

UPDATE [24 May 2006]: Turns out the letter is legit. So, my complaints are justified. Rocco has Bishop Trautman's response. And Diogenes has pictures. I have champaigne!

Original post follows.

Well, an alleged letter from Cardinal Arinze to Bishop Skylstad has been making waves in the blogosphere for a number of days. I've been waiting to comment on the letter, pending confirmation of its authenticity from some reputable source. God knows the USCCB would never publish the thing, but since Bishop Skylstad is instructed to "pass it on" in the text, it seems that there would be some surfacing of it by now (the letter is dated May 2.) Notably, VIS and Zenit have been silent on it as well. So, I am a little inclined to say that the letter is a hoax, as much as I would love to believe it is true. However, the content of the letter, even if it is fake, gives me pause to reflect on a number of issues regarding the ICEL/BCL runaround. The letter brings to the fore a couple of points that have been irking me for some time.

Before I begin, for those scratching their heads and wondering "What the devil is Joe talking about?", click here. This month's ADOREMUS Bulletin has a couple of good articles on the upcoming vote in the USCCB.

Now, to the letter...

I quote at length from the author, be it the good Cardinal Arinze, or merely a bored blogger:
The attention of your Bishops’ Conference was also recalled to the fact that Liturgiam authenticam was issued at the directive of the Holy Father at the time, Pope John Paul II, to guide new translations as well as the revision of all translations done in the last forty years, to bring them into greater fidelity to the original-language official liturgical texts. For this reason it is not acceptable to maintain that people have become accustomed to a certain translation for the past thirty or forty years, and therefore that it is pastorally advisable to make no changes. Where there are good and strong reasons for a change, as has been determined by this Dicastery in regard to the entire translation of the Missale Romanum as well as other important texts, then the revised text should make the needed changes. The attitudes of Bishops and Priests will certainly influence the acceptance of the texts by the lay faithful as well. [Emphasis mine]
Now, the author of this letter is onto something. The author, one infers by the first bolded statement, is responding to an objection. It is an objection commonly used in our country. It's called the "pastoral difficulty" argument. It's a vague, cover-all tautology employed in a way similar to a mental insanity plea in legal procedures. When all else fails, plead "pastoral difficulty," and no one will convict. In fact, lack of conviction is exactly what the perpetrators of this argument hope to achieve.

It is an argument that has been used throughout the ICEL debate by, among others, Bishop Trautman. And I, for one, am tired of it. Now, I bear all deference and respect to the bishops of this country: their job is not easy, and I do not envy them. But, I can't help thinking that this argument a red herring, an excuse for weak will or laziness. "Pastorally difficult" should refer to a difficulty that will be felt by the sheep, a legitimate difficulty from which the pastor is seeking to defend them - metaphorically, a particularly difficult movement to new grazing territory, in the case of Parish restructuring. And there are cases in which the trauma that the flock will experience is not justified by the expected good of the outcome. But it is always the pastor's job to come up with a more amiable, but practical, solution. In this case, however, the "pastoral difficulty" seems to reflect more the difficulty that will be encountered by the shepherds, not the sheep. The current translation of the Missal is one to which the flock has become accustomed. It is a "habit," that they have come to wear rather complacently. "We agree that the sheep need shearing," the shepherds say, "but gosh, it's a difficult job. How they will complain! Yes, we went through this a few years ago with the new GIRM and again with Redemptionis Sacramentum, and they got used to it quickly enough... But is it really worth all that trouble for us? We're busy, you see... there's so much else to attend to. We're seeking unity in our own ways - through diversity, you see. If we sheer the sheep... why, won't they just molt if they need to?" I know I may sound flippant and umsympathetic. But, perception is large part of truth. And when the bishops are perceived as whiny and complaining by members of their flock, well, isn't that a problem? Even supposing that such bishops were right about the pastoral implications of the Missal translation (I believe, however, that they are not), their method of argument is unsettling. It seems as though they're always trying to "sneak one past" Rome.

A second annoyance with this argument is that it is insulting. It is insulting to me, and it should be insulting to every other Catholic in this country. Again, this might only be the perception - it might not reflect what the bishops actually think about the laity of this country - but one would think, based on the objections raised, that our bishops suppose us to be extraordinarily stupid folk.

Now, the reason that this perception exists is part of a whole vicious circle. Vatican II, in its writing on the liturgy, ordered full and active participation and intentionality in the celebration of the Mass and the Sacraments. A new Missal was developed. This latin document, itself, drew not a few criticisms. But its use was mandated, and the various translations were developed. In the great majority of these, a simple idiomatic translation was employed. The goal of most commitees was simply to say in the vernacular what was being said in Latin. But, not for ICEL.

The cavalier linguists of this noble body prepared a special translation for English speaking Catholics, carefully adapted to the unique pastoral needs of the apparently stupid flocks to which it was being sent, along with some hymns and architecture borrowed from the Episcopal Dollar Store. Now, whether ICEL really thought English-speaking Catholics too stupid to handle the Latin Novus Ordo, none can really tell. But the product of their translation is grossly dumbed down, and also unsatisfactory to Rome, hence the current retranslation project.

And the new translation did anything but facilitate "full and active partipation" and "intentionality". Rather, the Church in America, newly possessed of their grossly inaccurate Missal, began celebrating a Novus Ordo whose sights and sounds, writ large, were drab and pedestrian. Consequently, the laity responded in kind. With Cheerios for the kids and a bulletin to read during the homily, families packed the crying-rooms of American Church-Gyms dressed in jeans and tee-shirts. After a rousing Marty Haugen tune, accompanied by a raucus procession of the children of the parish carrying stuffed animals to place on the altar for the reading of the Noah account, these families sat complacenty down and zoned out until communion. There was nothing to engage them, sensually or intellectually, any more intensely than what they encountered in daily life. The language of their translation had hardly the pomp or circumstance of the Saturday Morning Funnies, nothing to awaken their minds to the transcendant reality in which they had been recently called by an Echumenical Council to participate more fully.

And, the more mundane the celebration of the Mass became, the more robotic and automatic the responses of the people. Hence, on the rare occasions that the Roman Canon would be used for the Eucharistic Prayer, the fourth concelebrant would be interrupted after the words "Through Christ Our Lord," by those congregants responding "Amen," evidently mistaken that this formula phrase is simply a cue that the prayer is over. In this sight of this, and other such inattentiveness, surely pastors must've thought their parishoners rather stupid. So much for intentionality... these dolts hadn't even the attention span to listen to the simplified words of the Eucharistic Prayer. Imagine if they had to listen to a real translation! But, in point of fact, the reason for their inattentiveness is that their intellect has been underestimated. In this cycle, the American worshiper has become like a savant held back in school, supposed to be too dumb for material which is actually too watery thin to provide any sustinance for his hungry mind.

Now, granted, I've oversimplified many a complicated issue in order to illustrate a particular facet of the problem of the Church in America. But, hopefully the illustration brings to light how translational concerns are at least a part of the larger picture of unintentional liturgy and lukewarm worship in our country.

A third annoyance fueled by the article relates to the second bolded statement in the above quote. The author refers to the "attitudes of priests and bishops..." Here is perhaps my greatest frustration with the current debate. Whatever the pastoral concerns may be, the chief concern in all worship should be with what we are rendering unto God. Are we giving Him the best we have, which even so falls ever short of what is His due? Thanks be to God we have the Eucharist to make our meagre efforts acceptible to the Father... but are we uniting our best efforts to that sacrifice? Or are we giving Him what is cheap, timely, and easy to mass produce? (No pun intended.)

The attitude of bishops, as an example to the people of God, should demonstrate that the Lord is worthy of our very best. God deserves all the good that we can give. Even if I were to accept the premise that the exalted language of the Missale Romanum will be tough for Americans to digest - so what!? I disagree with the conclusion that we should give them dumbed-down language. Even if they are simpletons, which I do not think them, they can be taught and instructed to participate fully in a Mass whose language is over their heads. In fact, it would be ideal that the Mass were over most of our heads. That would means we were giving God more than most of us could individually achieve. It would be true liturgy.

Liturgy should be an effort. Our participation should involve striving and come of loving labor. Otherwise, we are not earnestly endeavoring to render due worship unto God. If given the chance to perform Shakespeare before the Lord, would we change "But soft what light from yonder window breaks..." to "Wow, look at that moon!" simply because it is harder for us to relate to the former expression? The very otherness of Shakespeare's language is a large part of its beauty. And our effort in understanding him is greatest enjoyment. And, if done for the Lord, it is a more pleasing offering. And so with the Missal...

And finally...

Roma locuta est, causa finita est.

The Missal doesn't need rewriting. Liturgiam Authenticam defines that it needs translating. Just translate the thing! Hell, give me enough Starbucks and a copy of Cassel's and I'll do it!

I'm no Latin scholar... but et cum spiritu tuo doesn't mean "and also with you." Ut intres sub tectum meum is not the infinitive expression "to recieve you." (In fact, intres signifies verbal action being done by the Second Person (Domine) in this expression, not the first person (ego understood) of the former clause... interesting what person seems to be the focus, isn't it?) And Accepiens et hunc praeclarum calicem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas, is alot different than simply "taking the cup."

I know there's a lot of issues. We don't have any Enlish-language Glorias that will work in translation anymore. (God forbid, we'll have to teach the Mass of the Angels to the people...) I know it won't be easy. Maybe I'm even wrong about the pastoral concerns. Or about the readiness of the people.

But, the bottom line, past all debate, is this: when we pray the Mass, we're not saying what Rome says. And, Rome says that we have no right not to say what Rome says. And, for Pete's sake (or here, literally, for Peter's sake - ut unum simus), I want to say what Rome says! Most of us want to say what Rome says! So, please... let us say what Rome says!

Roma locuta est... fiat!


Administrative Note

Due to theological scruples, I have begun revisitation of the Saint Joseph reflections that I had prepared for posting... so those will be out shortly. Sorry for the delay.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Ite ad Joseph - Part II

II. Introduction – Dignum Est?

[An afterthought, this post will serve - hopefully - to "justify my theme," so to speak, and to clarify my intention with this series of posts.]

The life of Saint Joseph is wrapped in the enigma called “hidden years” of Jesus Christ. Only a small percentage of Christ’s earthly life is given detailed treatment in Scripture. The years between age 2 and 12 are glossed over quickly in a sentence; and there is a large leap from Jesus’ conversation with the elders in the temple to the beginning of His “public life.” Over the years there have been many efforts to make Saint Joseph seem “more human” by speculating about what happened during these many years. This is not to say that the deeds of Joseph told in scripture are an inadequate foundation for devotion to the great man; yet there apparently has been want for more details, as countless saints and popes have given their attention to filling in the “gaps” left by the biblical account. It is with humility that I will attempt in this series of posts to join the company of these writers, explaining the rationale of my own devotion to my patron, and attempting to defend as feasible (or maybe even probable) some of my personal speculations about the character of the just and holy spouse of Mary.

Before I fully enter into this endeavor to illustrate how and why Joseph serves as a role model in my pursuit of a priestly vocation, I will first outline a brief argument to justify this attempt. Why are we entitled to speculate as to the missing details of Joseph’s life? Why might it be beneficial to do so? And does this speculation have reputable precedents?

Fittingly, I begin this argument with the figure of Joseph’s wife, Mary. The history of Mariology in the Church is a fascinating study, which is beyond the scope of my present endeavor even to outline. However, I believe that Mariology teaches us a valuable lesson about how we must approach the figure of Saint Joseph. The first Marian dogma proclaimed by the Church was that she truly deserves the title “Mother of God.” The subsequent teachings have all been based upon this fact; viewed in light of this special vocation, the other proclamations about Mary have been substantiated when proclaimed by Holy Mother Church – e.g., that she is ever virgin, was immaculately conceived and assumed body and soul into heaven, reigning as queen of creation, the Mediatrix of all graces. In other words, in our catechesis, we understand that such teachings are appropriate and seemly only in light of her honor of being chosen as God’s own mother. Much of this development of doctrine has been incremental, growing out of the purely biblical evidence about Mary’s life based upon the speculations of various Saints and Popes, as the corpus of tradition on Mariology became more sophisticated and lucid.

It seems that we may approach Joseph in like manner. Working from biblical evidence, so long as we stay within Church canons, we are welcome to theorize as to what might be “meet and just” in the character of such a man, based upon what we definitely know of him from scripture. Just as it is seen to be fit that Mary was conceived immaculate in light of her being the mother of God, so Joseph, chosen to be the husband of such a one and the foster-father of God Himself, would have been prepared with many special graces and honors for this noble office.

Apart from justification, this argument also demonstrates the potential benefits of such speculation and enquiry. Mary’s Magnificat became more estimable a prayer with each further definition of Marian dogma clarified by the Church. If we are able to discern more clearly the reality of who Joseph was and how he fit into the Divine Plan, his example of holiness and his patronage will become all the more satisfying for our needs as we invoke him along our pilgrim way. And, as with Mary, understanding Joseph better is to understand, a little bit more, the God’s Providential plan for our salvation. Such knowledge will inspire us to greater love – first for Joseph, then for Mary, and ultimately for God. How can we not know the Heavenly Father better by knowing more about the man who alone was found worthy to be called “Abba” by the young Christ Himself?

There is, of course, limitation to this speculation: we must be careful to hypothesize within the bounds of logical probability. I will take particular pains to avoid venturing too far. However, it must also be noted that the envelope had been pushed farther than one might first think. For example, several early Church fathers speculated, among other things, that Joseph remained perpetually inviolate in life and – perhaps – may have been somehow free from original sin from the time of his conception, in a way similar to that of the Blessed Mother. This is not to say that I give credence to these particular teachings; I simply want to illustrate that pious investigation can be wider in scope than we might at first admit.

My defense made, and calling upon the Holy Spirit to aid me, I will now proceed in subsequent posts to the particular elements of my devotion to Jesus’ Foster-Father. These meditations will each focus on a particular element of the Saint’s life, some clearly substantiated, some merely probable and speculative. My final posts will be to elucidate how I have personally found Joseph particularly useful in the discernment of my vocation, as indicated in my introduction. Hopefully at least something I have to say will be found of value to some reader. If I can help to bring even the slightest added honor to my beloved Patron, I will feel find my effort to have been worthwhile.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Mea Culpa

Below is my first post in the series which I promised would begin on Saint Joseph's feastday. The series will consist of reflections on devotion to Saint Joseph, from the perspective of a seminarian. However, as I failed to get onto the server last night, I have backdated the first post in order to satisfy my obsessive want for order. Anyhow, sorry about the tardiness, and enjoy. More to come soon.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Ite ad Joseph - Part I

I. Prologue – The Auguries of the Holy Dove

People have crazy dreams. How many breakfast conversations have revolved around the telling of a strange episode imagined during the previous night’s rest? Each of us has, at one time or another, risen in the morning, and, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, wondered, “What, in the name of God, was that all about?”

In ancient times, there was a man who had some of the strangest dreams worth telling, and many mornings asked himself, “What, in the name of God, was that all about?” And, in the name of God, he received an answer. By strange and unexpected ways came suddenly to this king of Egypt the great figure of Joseph. One of the sons of Jacob, Joseph was a wise and prudent man whose closeness to God gave him the ability to interpret dreams. This aid Joseph offered to Pharaoh and thus was assured prosperity and safe transport throughout the alien land for him and for his descendants.

In slightly more modern times, in the city of Rome, were men and women to whom the rulers of the land would come with questions about their own strange dreams. These men and women also were supposed to be able to explain natural phenomena which seemed to the pagan citizens of Rome to be ill portents: earthquakes, storms, and the like. A particular omen to which they were given responsibility to provide elucidation was the flight of birds. The patterned migratory flights of various fowl, they believed, were manifestations of the wills of the gods, which could, if properly interpreted, serve as a guide for mankind in times of doubt and trouble. And so, these men and women – called augurs – looked to the skies for answers to men’s worries. Reading the auguries of birds, they prophesied to the people of the land, and everyone took note of their prognostications, including the emperor himself.

In still more modern times, there are now many men who have uncanny dreams. These men need not hold any particular social status – they come in all colors, ages, sizes and shapes. Nor does geographic location seem to be a necessary determinant in the occurrence of such dreams. It simply happens, that one day, a man will wake with the overwhelming sense that he has been spoken to by God. And as multifarious as are the dreamers, so do the particular details of each dream take many different forms. Some are nocturnal notions; some arise during the day. Some in the office; some in the line at the supermarket. And although rarely this hearing of God’s voice is a sensorial perception of the auditory organs, it sometimes is just that. And however varied and unique may be the ways in which God’s word is heard, the message always stays the same. He tells them they are special; although they most often think themselves exceedingly ordinary. He tells them that they have a special task; although their calendar is usually booked full. He tells them that He has called them from among their peers for this special service; although they could pick at least ten of their peers whom they might find more suitable to the task. He tells them that He wants them to become priests; although they very often want very different things.

And down upon these dreamers rushes another omen, a Holy Dove, whose flight has puzzled the wisest augurs of every time and place. Erratic and unpredictable, it is no wonder that men find the flight of this Bird to be ominous, for wherever falls the shadow of Its wings, there are strange happenings and signs difficult to explain. And for men of modern times, already beset with confusion by the portent of their troubling dreams, the omen of this Holy Dove working its strange power in their lives is all the more upsetting.

In many instances, they have cried out for help in discerning the meaning of such signs in their lives, such dreams strange beyond all telling. And to their aid has come another dreamer, another augur, another man called by God to special service, and his name, too, is Joseph…