Please pray for me and my brother priests!

Friday, February 26, 2010

A New Column

I have been asked to write a bimonthly column for our local newspaper, The Chelmsford Independent. Stop by every other Thursday to give it a read, and feel more than free to leave comment over there!

God love you,
Father V.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Faithfulness in Small Things...

There has been a lot of discussion about the upcoming new translation of the Roman Missal (the texts used by priests to offer the Holy Mass). The translation we use now, hastily constructed after Vatican II, has been shown by Latinists, and declared by the Church, to be a translation that is wanting. The evidence of this? Very simply, the fact that there is a substantial new translation being promulgated! One can argue that this is not the right time, one can argue that the translation is sufficient. I would argue that the translation of the Holy Mass, the source and summit of our faith, must not simply be sufficient, and that if we do find it simply sufficient, we must move immediately to bring it to excellence.

We have become minimalistic in so many ways. Our dress, our entertainment, our music, our films, our literature...the list goes on and on. We are content with simply, trite, casual distractions and tasks, and as a culture have grown complacent with ordinariness. The Holy Mass must never be viewed as ordinary, but as extraordinary, as it is the pluperfect expression of our faith, the highest and most perfect form of divine worship, and the closest man can get this side of death to Heaven. We must never be satisfied with sufficiency, but strive for excellence, we must never be content with what is ordinary, but always reach for the extraordinary. Why? King David tells us in the 8th psalm:

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and
the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him but little lower than God, and crownest him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet...

We should not settle for less than the inheritance the Father wishes us to have as His children through baptism. He does not want us to settle, but wants us to come to His glory by means of His Church, and the highest action of that Church: The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

There have been some priests who have been trying to delay these new translations, and some who have openly called for dissent and disobedience when they are promulgated. I offer to all those who would contemplate that route this passage from Pope John Paul II's letter to the Church, Dominicae Cenae. The Holy Mass is entrusted to the Church by the Lord for the salvation of the world. Entrusted to the Church. Not to the individual, be he bishop, priest, or laymen to do with what he will. It is a gift that is given to us, and it is for us to reverently love and offer as the Giver of the gift intends.

God love you!
Father V.

The Obligations of the Priest
in Offering the Most Holy Sacrifice

Every priest who offers the holy Sacrifice should recall that during this Sacrifice it is not only he with his community that is praying but the whole Church, which is thus expressing in this sacrament her spiritual unity, among other ways by the use of the approved liturgical text. To call this position "mere insistence on uniformity" would only show ignorance of the objective requirements of authentic unity, and would be a symptom of harmful individualism.This subordination of the minister, of the celebrant, to the mysterium which has been entrusted to him by the Church for the good of the whole People of God, should also find expression in the observance of the liturgical requirements concerning the celebration of the holy Sacrifice. These refer, for example, to dress, in particular to the vestments worn by the celebrant. Circumstances have of course existed and continue to exist in which the prescriptions do not oblige. We have been greatly moved when reading books written by priests who had been prisoners in extermination camps, with descriptions of Eucharistic Celebrations without the above- mentioned rules, that is to say, without an altar and without vestments. But although in those conditions this was a proof of heroism and deserved profound admiration, nevertheless in normal conditions to ignore the liturgical directives can be interpreted as a lack of respect towards the Eucharist, dictated perhaps by individualism or by an absence of a critical sense concerning current opinions, or by a certain lack of a spirit of faith.

Upon all of us who, through the grace of God, are ministers of the Eucharist, there weighs a particular responsibility for the ideas and attitudes of our brothers and sisters who have been entrusted to our pastoral care. It is our vocation to nurture, above all by personal example, every healthy manifestation of worship towards Christ present and operative in that sacrament of love. May God preserve us from acting otherwise and weakening that worship by "becoming unaccustomed" to various manifestations and forms of eucharistic worship which express a perhaps "traditional" but healthy piety, and which express above all that "sense of the faith" possessed by the whole People of God, as the Second Vatican Council recalled.(70)

As I bring these considerations to an end, I would like to ask forgiveness-in my own name and in the name of all of you, venerable and dear brothers in the episcopate-for everything which, for whatever reason, through whatever human weakness, impatience or negligence, and also through the at times partial, one-sided and erroneous application of the directives of the Second Vatican Council, may have caused scandal and disturbance concerning the interpretation of the doctrine and the veneration due to this great sacrament. And I pray the Lord Jesus that in the future we may avoid in our manner of dealing with this sacred mystery anything which could weaken or disorient in any way the sense of reverence and love that exists in our faithful people.

John Paul II
Dominicae Cenae
February 24, 1980

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Catholic History of the New Orleans Saints

We hear the phrase "cultural Catholic" and what comes to mind is a person who, while still identifying themselves as Catholic, no longer practices the faith. This is a problem on a host of levels. However, one antidote to that is a Catholic Culture, which is only built by a Catholic people who take their faith seriously.

This culture is composed of Catholics who realize that to be a member of the Mystical Body of Christ is not to simply attend the Holy Mass on Sundays, but to pray with our families and by ourselves. It means Catholics not to relegate religious objects to churches and Christmas decorations, but have pictures and statues of Our Lord and Lady in our homes as we would have of any people who are dear to us. It means that we behave as a Catholic at work, in the ballot box, at a ball game or in a restaurant; it means to think like a Catholic who is informed about and embraces all that the Church teaches about things "seen and unseen," it means that when people think of us, they know immediately that we are a Catholic, and that the faith is not simply important to us, but essential to who we are.

One fruit of this Catholic culture we see in the names we give to those things which are important to us: namely our children and our businesses. Think of all the Francis X. (insert Irish last name here!) and Margaret Marys and Mary Catherines there used to be. I can think of such businesses as "Little Flower Florist," "Domino's Pizza (after the Latin word for Lord) and, here in my area "Trinity Ambulance". We do this because the faith matters, and we with to inculcate our lives, and our society, with the Faith. To live the Catholic culture means to not so much be a member of the Church, but to "be" a Catholic.

This article from the Catholic News Agency about the New Orleans Saints points to a small piece of Catholic Culture. One note not mentioned in the article: the owner of the Saints choose the name "Saints" because he was awarded the NFL franchise on All Saint's Day, 1967. He saw the hand of God and the intercession of His saints in the gift of the franchise, and wanted to honor them through the name of the team. He then went to Archbishop Hannon, the then Archbishop of New Orleans, for his approval, and the rest is history!

May we all want to be in that number, when the saints come marching in!

God love you,
Father V.

The Catholic History of the New Orleans Saints

New Orleans, La., Feb 6, 2010 / 08:04 am (CNA).- As the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts prepare to lock horns in the Super Bowl, CNA spoke with the Archdiocese of New Orleans about the Saints and discovered that the team has a significant Catholic history as well as a strong presence in the local Catholic community.

"In recent years, as Mr. Tom Benson has owned the team, the Saints organization has been very involved with the local Catholic Church and Catholic Charities,” Sarah Comiskey McDonald, Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, said on Friday. “Mr. Benson is a major donor to our PACE Center (Program for all-inclusive care for the elderly) and our first center was named the Shirley Landry Benson PACE Center at St. Cecilia in memory of his deceased wife.”

"His granddaughter, the team’s executive Vice President, chaired the 2009 Archbishop’s Community Appeal to raise funds locally for the work of Catholic Charities,” she added.
The communications director also commented on the involvement of the team members within the archdiocese.

“Throughout the years, players have been involved in different programs and school visits – recently, Drew Brees visited one of our elementary schools; Reggie Bush has donated several hundred thousand dollars to Holy Rosary Academy and High School, and Scott Fujita, who is adopted, has been an active spokesperson for our adoption services of Catholic Charities,” the archdiocesan spokeswoman said.

“Additionally, Coach Sean Payton, who is Catholic, sends his kids to one of our Catholic schools and appeared in a PSA for the archdiocese on racial harmony.”

The Catholic connections to the New Orleans Saints will be in evidence on the day of the big game as well. Archbishop Gregory Aymond, retired Archbishop Philip Hannan and two Dominican sisters from Cathedral Academy in New Orleans will be attending the Super Bowl this year as guests of the Bensons.

Even the name “Saints” has a Catholic genesis. According to the New Orleans archdiocesan paper, the Clarion Herald, in 1967, the owner of the team approached then-Archbishop Hannan and asked if using the word “Saints” for a football team was sacrilegious. Archbishop Hannan not only loved the idea but wrote an official prayer for the team within that year.

One line of the prayer reads “...Our Heavenly Father, who has instructed us that the 'saints by faith conquered kingdoms...and overcame lions,' grant our Saints an increase of faith and strength so that they will not only overcome the Lions but also the Bears, the Rams, the Giants, and even those awesome people in Green Bay... .”

However, the Colts also have Catholic boosters of their own, including Archbishop Daniel Buechlein of Indianapolis, who called New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond to make a bet about the gridiron match. If the Saints win, Archbishop Aymond will receive southern Indiana pork chops, but if the Colts win Archbishop Buechlein will have gumbo on his dinner table.

When asked if prelates often bet on sporting events, Archbishop Aymond told CNA that “As far as our friendly wager, we cannot say whether it is a norm, but it is all in good fun.”

“The Archbishop of Indianapolis called us to offer the wager, and I look forward to enjoying the pork chops!”

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Year for Priests

As many of you undoubtedly know, we are in the midst of a "Year of the Priest", as declared by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. As a priest, this year is meant to be a time of great grace, in which my heart, and the hearts of all priests, is renewed and more closely conformed to the Sacred Heart of the One High Priest, Jesus Christ. A great means for that grace is the prayers of so many faithful who recognize and cherish the essential and unique gift of the priesthood.

I was once told that the shortest vocations pitch ever given was:

Without the priest there is no Eucharist.
Without theEucharist, there is no Church.
Without the Church, there is no hope.

To know and to love this Truth is to love not only Our Lord Jesus, but to love the means by which He loves and transforms us on Earth in preparation of Heaven. It is to love the sacraments by which He touches us and makes us more like He who loved us first. It is to simply Love God and recognize that every gift and the fullness of Truth He has given us finds its home and earthly repository in the Church.

The priest is called to be the doorway, the bridge, to all the above. To love Christ is to Love His Church, and to Love the Church is to love the dispensers of Her Sacred Gifts, the priest, and through him to enter more deeply into the Sacred Mysteries of our redemption.

Below is an essay I found in Magnificat magazine's special issue in honor of the Year for Priests. It is simple, different, and very beautiful.

St. John Vianney, pray for priests!

God love you,
Father V.

Looking to the Priest

In the land of the Cheyennes, there is a mountain higher than all the mountains around him. All the Cheyennes know that mountain; even our forefathers knew him. When children, we ran around wheresoever we wanted. We were never afraid to lose our way so long as we could see the mountain, which show us home again. When grown up, we followed the buffalo and the elk; we cared not where we pursued the running deer, so long as the mountain was in sight; for we knew he was ever a safe guide, and never failed in his duty. When men, we fought the Sioux, the Crows, the white men. We went after the enemy, though the way ran high up, and low down. Our hearts trembled not on account of the road; for as long as we could see the mountain, we felt sure of finding our home again. When far away, our hearts leaped for joy on seeing him, because he told us that our home came nearer.

During the winter, the snow covered all the earth with a mantle of white; we could no longer distinguish him from other mountains except by his height, which told us he was the mountain. Sometimes dark clouds gathered above. They hid his head from our view, and out of them flew fiery darts, boring holes in his sides. The thunder shook him from head to foot, but the storm passed away and the mountain stood forever.

The mountain is the Black-robe*.
His heart is firm as a rock.
He changes not.
He speaks to us the words of truth.
We are always sure of our path, when we look to him for guidance.
He is the mountain that leads us up to God.

(*A Native American expression for a Roman Catholic priest.)

A story told by Old Wolf, a Cheyenne Chief from Montana, in the 1880's. This passage is quoted in Parish Priest, Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism.