St James Cathedral - Seattle, WA

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Revised Translation of the Cookie Recipe

So this isn't my usual kind of blog post, but now that 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal is in full effect, I thought sharing this would be very appropriate.  A priest friend got this from someone else and then posted it on Facebook.  

It will be especially funny if you've paid close attention to the new language in the Mass, it's quite a departure from the language we use everyday.

Blessed last days of Advent, and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Taking Things for Granted

I just read the following blog post, written by an RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) candidate. It's short and sweet, but has a lot to tell us Catholics who often take our faith for granted. My cradle Catholic remarks follow what is pasted below.


a little more like Mary: When you can't participate in the Eucharist: When I was in high school, my best friend and I went to her dad's place down south for the weekend.  Her father, a devout catholic (my friend....not so much), told me very sternly that I was NOT to participate in communion because I wasn't catholic.  I was pretty hurt by it, insulted really, and no real explanation made it worse.  Now, I absolutely understand why I wasn't allowed, but I didn't then.  That is the problem with looking at a religion based on the person who presents it to you.  A lot is lost in translation, and I bet most religious people have no idea how to explain their doctrines in a positive and helpful way.   It would have been way more christian of him to have a quick and helpful chat with me about "why" I wasn't allowed.  Unfortunately, just because we believe that something is true and just, doesn't mean that everyone else does...and if you want them to respect you and your belief, being rude doesn't help.

My real reason for this post was to say that I respect that I am not supposed to participate in the eucharistic portion of the mass.  I have been told, wisely, that I should focus and pray during that time.  My prayers should be centered on making myself ready to receive the true body of Christ.  I know I am not ready for that yet.  I have much to do with my spiritual self before I can REALLY say that I am fully involved.  Christ's sacrifice is a lot to digest (pun intended) and I need to make sure I respect that. 


This blog post struck me for a couple reasons. The first has to do with being the "translator" when it comes to the faith. For me, I've always tried to represent Catholicism well. I know that this hasn't always been the case, and until now, have never seen it through the eyes of the person on the other end of the conversation. I don't think I've ever done this in regards to receiving Holy Communion, but I'm sure I've probably done it with other aspects of the faith. I suppose I've always taken it for granted that people were OK with what I was trying explain to them.  I hope I've never turned anyone away.

The second reason has to do with receiving the Eucharist. We do this every Sunday (or at least we should). Some even go to Mass more frequently. It's good that we do this as often as we do, but the temptation with frequent reception is that it can become usual, habitual, and routine very easily. It's no secret that for many in the pews, receiving Holy Communion is just another thing we do. Some go to Communion because the person sitting next to them goes, without thinking about what is really going to happen.  People stand in the line approaching the altar no differently than standing in the checkout line at the store. We forget that what's happening is a close encounter with our Lord in a unique way, in way that unites us together for at least a few moments.

On the other end of the spectrum is someone who is wanting, yearning, and patiently waiting (or at least trying to) until she can do what we do so often.  
RCIA candidates and catechumens aren't alone. I'm reminded of the other Christians throughout our Church who so desperately want to receive the Eucharist but can't for reasons of safety or availability. There are Christians that go without because there are no clergy to administer the sacraments to them (such as in the Diocese of Juneau in Alaska where there are only 9 priests). There are Christians in parts of the world like Iraq who may be killed if the attend a public Mass. Finally, there are military service men and women who in the course of their duties go without sacraments, so that civilians like me can do so freely.

I was humbled by that blog post.  I'm sorry if I have ever taken for granted what God has given.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The December Misunderstandings

There are two liturgical misunderstandings that occur every December.  The first is about the Immaculate Conception; the second is about the rose colored candle on the Advent Wreath.  These are pretty common things, but some how both cause many debates that have to be settled by the priest in the sacristy before Mass starts.

For the Immaculate Conception, a lot of people think we are celebrating Jesus' conception.  The arguing usually starts the Sunday before the holy day when pastors remind the faithful that they are obligated to attend Mass on December 8.  The Gospel reading for the day also adds to the misunderstanding since it's the account of the Annunciation of our Lord, but this makes sense since Mary's conception isn't found in Sacred Scripture.  Referring to His conception on this day is a good thing, since true Marian devotion always points us to her Son.

It's neat that the Immaculate Conception is exactly 9 months from the day the Church celebrates Mary's birth on September 8.

Here is the promulgation at the end of Ineffabilis Deus from Pope Bl Pius IX on December 8, 1854: 
We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful.   
Incidentally, the holy day is celebrated as The Conception of the Mother of God in the Womb on December 9 in some of the Eastern rites. Leave it to them to be really wordy, but at least there's no misunderstanding!

BXVI wearing a rose chasuble.
Now to the rose colored candle on the Advent wreath. For some people, there seems to be a hesitancy to light this candle on the Third Sunday of Advent, which is when it is to be used. The temptation is to save this candle for the 4th Sunday in Advent, since that's the last one before Christmas.  The 3rd Sunday in Advent is traditionally known as Gaudete Sunday, getting its name from the entrance antiphon of the Mass which starts: "Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete."  Which translates to: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice."  The readings for the day also take on a more joyous tone than the other Advent days. 

In a lot of Catholic colleges and universities, this Sunday is often treated like a "mini-Christmas" since it is the last Sunday before the students left for winter break and no one would be at the school on Christmas Day.

Unfortunately, some places forgo the use of the rose color. (They might have 4 violet candles on the Advent wreath instead of 3 violet and 1 rose).  While I'm not a fan of this, I can see why since there are only two days in the liturgical calendar when rose vestments are worn: Gaudete Sunday and Laetare Sunday (the 4th Sunday in Lent).  Purchasing and keeping rose vestments can be rather impractical for only two days of the year.  I also know a few priests/deacons that really dislike the rose color since it's pretty much pink. 

I don't believe that people who carry one or both of these misunderstandings are bad Catholics- it just goes to show that as the Church, we still have a lot of catechesis to do.  Job security, I guess!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Leaving early? Light a candle.

After communion, it's very common to find me walking in the rear aisle of the church while holding my six month old daughter.  By this time, she's usually tired, and the walking helps keep her soothed.  I've been doing this for a while- I did the same thing with my son when he was this age.  When you're walking in the back, the number of people who leave right after receiving communion is really noticeable, especially when many of them smile at my daughter and I as they make their way to the door. 

I've accepted the fact that there are always people who will be leaving Mass early.  After all, this has been going on for the past 2,000 years.  Even at the Last Supper, one of the twelve left early (and we know what he had to go do).  

Now I don't think anyone who leaves Mass early is intentionally out to pull a Judas.  Maybe they need to get to work.  Maybe they blocked-in someone else in the parking lot.  Maybe they have to get to the airport, or visit someone in the hospital.  Maybe when they were children their parents always left early, so that's what they do now.  Maybe once they have their "little piece of Jesus" they don't see the need to stay any longer.  Maybe staying 50 minutes out of the hour is the best they can do, and I should just be thankful that they came. 

So leaving early by itself isn't what baffles me; what does is that I've noticed that more and more people are stopping to light a votive candle on their way out.  Lighting a votive candle is quite a nice gesture, but doing it as they leaving Mass early, that's what has me scratching my head a little.

For people that may not be familiar, a votive candle represents a specific intercessory prayer for someone or something.  Most of the time, you'll find racks of votive candles near a crucifix or some saintly image (they are also used to honor or show devotion).  A candle typically burns for at least most of the day, some up to a couple weeks depending on the size.  There's usually a box for a monetary donation nearby, this enables the individual to attach some sacrificial offering to their prayer and help cover the cost of the candle.  (In case you were curious, a box of a dozen 7-day candles is $50.20 plus shipping.)

Votive candles are a time honored tradition.  Since the erection of churches, people would stop in and visit outside of Mass, many times to pray for a specific intention or need.  As people became busier and had less time to visit in church, the custom of lighting a candle to supplement their visit and/or represent their desire to remain came into practice.

Well now it appears that two longtime traditions, leaving early and lighting votive candles, are becoming intertwined.  But should they be?  In my mind, leaving early and lighting a votive candle is like leaving before the movie is over and stopping to get popcorn on the way out.  What's the point of buying over-priced popcorn if you're not going back into the theater?

As Catholics, we are taught that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life (Lumen Gentium, 11).  Everything else, including a votive candle, is secondary.  If you want your prayer to be heard, what better way than to celebrate the entire Mass (including the last 10 minutes).  If you want to honor or show your devotion to Jesus or to someone saintly, why not do so by fully joining in the celebration that gets us a little closer to heaven?  Yes, it may cause you to have to wait in the parking lot, get stuck is some post-liturgical traffic, or be a few minutes late for the next thing; but if its more efficacious than leaving early and lighting a candle, isn't it worth it?

If it is, then good.  If it isn't, then I think my parish is going to have to install more candle racks!

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