November 20, 2011

Next Sunday: Use of the New Translation. At the Vigil Mass next Saturday evening, November 26, all Masses said in English in the United States will begin to use the entire text of the New Translation of the Roman Missal. It will be an historical day in the life of the Church in America. It will also be the beginning of a very difficult adjustment, but I am confident that if we all approach this with open hearts and minds—positively trusting in the Holy Spirit’s guidance of this Church in this important change—it will be the beginning of a period of tremendous growth in understanding of the Mass that will yield immeasurable spiritual fruit. To prepare for all this, I recommend you read over the new Mass prayers contained in the 2 booklets I mailed you several weeks ago, (also available through links on the parish website). And remember: “The Lord be with you”…“And with your spirit.”

Consecration to the Sacred Heart. Today Bishop Paul Loverde will be consecrating the entire Diocese of Arlington to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the priests throughout the diocese will be consecrating their parishes as well. In today’s bulletin you will find a special insert, a picture of the Sacred Heart, which I invite you to place in a prominent place in your home as your recite the prayer on the back consecrating your home and family to the Sacred Heart. To help you to understand this consecration and the importance the devotion to the Sacred Heart, Bishop Loverde has issued a special Pastoral Letter to the diocese. Below follows a lengthy excerpt from the beginning of that letter. A limited number of copies of the entire Letter can be found at the church exits today, or you may view it by following the link at the top of St. Raymond’s website.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Fountain of Life, Fire of Love
By Most Reverend Paul S. Loverde, Bishop of Arlington

There is a deep longing in the human heart for enduring love, and because God is love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8), this deep longing is really a longing for God. God alone can ultimately fulfill this longing of the human heart because He Himself created us with this innermost desire for Him, although so often we do not consciously realize its true source.

No doubt, you and I have heard this truth expressed many times. But, in point of fact, do we really allow ourselves to be caught up into the wonder and power of this reality, which is not crafted by human imagination or ingenuity but which has been inserted into our innermost being by God Himself? Knowing how difficult it is for us to understand and to accept this amazing reality — almost too good to be true — God is relentless in the many ways by which He tangibly reveals this absolute truth, especially in ways which we can more easily grasp. One very tangible and humanly understandable way is the image of the Heart of Jesus, the symbol of God’s ever-faithful love.

“Behold This Heart.” A few years ago, I was privileged to accompany a group of pilgrims to various shrines of France. Among these was Paray-le-Monial, a city in the southeastern part of France and known worldwide as the site of the apparitions of the Sacred Heart to a cloistered Visitation nun, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque…

The well-known appearances of the Lord Jesus in which He revealed His Sacred Heart to Saint Margaret Mary began on the night of December 27, 1673. In this first appearance, the Lord spoke of the immensity of His love for all people and showed her His Heart, “like a sun, ablaze with a dazzling light,” as Saint Margaret Mary was later to record it…. In this same appearance, Jesus mourned the world’s ingratitude, indifference and coldness and asked Saint Margaret Mary for a Communion of reparation on the first Friday of each month.

In 1674, although the exact date is uncertain, Jesus again appeared to Saint Margaret Mary. Later, she wrote down what she heard and saw: “The divine Heart was represented to me as upon a throne of fire and flames. It shed rays on every side brighter than the sun and transparent as crystal. The wound which he received on the cross appeared there visibly. A crown of thorns encircled the divine Heart, and it was surmounted by a cross” …. Once more, Jesus spoke of His burning and pure love for humanity.

The third and most famous apparition took place in June 1675. As Saint Margaret Mary knelt before the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus exposed His Sacred Heart again and spoke these words to her: “Behold this Heart which has loved mankind so much that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love.” Christ then asked that the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi be set apart as a special feast day in honor of His Sacred Heart — “a day on which to receive me in Holy Communion and make a solemn act of reparation for the indignities I have received in the Blessed Sacrament while exposed on the altars of the world.” The Lord then said, “I promise you, too, that I shall open my Heart to all who honor me in this way, and who get others to do the same; they will feel in all its fullness the power of my love” ….

By the time of Saint Margaret Mary’s death on October 17, 1690, devotion to the Sacred Heart was well established in the Visitation community and the areas surrounding Paray-le-Monial. Over the succeeding centuries, thanks also to the efforts of Saint Claude La Colombière and the Society of Jesus, devotion to the Sacred Heart spread throughout the world, culminating in the consecration of the whole human race to the Sacred Heart by Pope Leo XIII in 1899.

Reflecting upon the message and the meaning of the apparitions of Our Lord to Saint Margaret Mary, we can see that through the symbol of His Heart, Jesus Christ desired (and still desires) to show us the depth of His divine love — a love that is faithful, a love that is redemptive, a love that is merciful; in short, a love that seeks out each one of us and calls us to a vital communion with Him…

November 13, 2011

Baby Mary Madeleine: Sofi. A year ago this coming Monday, November 14, is the first birthday of the baby girl I’ve been calling “Baby Mary Madeleine.” It is also the 1 year anniversary of the day a parishioner found her left in the parking lot of our church. That was a miraculous day. And we continue to give praise to the Lord Jesus for saving her life and entrusting us, if ever so briefly, with her young life.

When the police and EMS arrived to take her to the hospital she immediately became a ward of the County. Since then, officials have been rightly protective of her privacy. They have, however, kindly allowed me to keep in touch with her, while at the same time keeping me under a complete “gag-order.”

Well the gag-order has ended, as she has been legally adopted by the wonderful couple who have been her foster parents for this last year. Even though we want to continue protecting her privacy, her parents now want to bring her “home” and introduce her to her many brothers and sisters in Christ at St. Raymond’s.

So, next Sunday, Nov. 20, after the 12:15 Mass, all St. Raymond parishioners are invited to a birthday party in our Parish Hall for little Anna Sofia Rae, or “Sofi,” aka “Baby Mary Madeleine,” and her parents. This is a “private” party, parishioners only—no press, and I ask you not to publicize this in any way.

Sofi is a beautiful, sweet and vivacious child. And God has placed her with two kind and loving parents, whom I would like to thank for opening their generous hearts to God and Sofi, and also to me over this last year. And now they extend that generosity in a particular way to all of us at St. Raymond’s.

Consecration to the Sacred Heart. Next Sunday is also a special day for our whole diocese as Bishop Loverde will be consecrating the diocese to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Moreover, he has asked all the pastors to consecrate their parishes in like manner. So at every Mass next Sunday the priest will say the very short prayer marking this consecration.

The devotion is to the Sacred Heart, which is as old as the Church, but became more particularly developed after a series of apparitions of Our Lord to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque in 1673. All this is beautifully explained in Bishop Loverde’s new Pastoral Letter, Fountain of Life, Fire of Love, (a link to the letter is on the parish website). In his letter the Bishop quotes Pope Pius XII:

“…Christ our Lord, exposing His Sacred Heart, wished in a quite extraordinary way to invite the minds of men to a contemplation of, and a devotion to, the mystery of God’s merciful love for the human race. In this special manifestation Christ pointed to His Heart, with definite and repeated words, as the symbol by which men should be attracted to a knowledge and recognition of His love; and at the same time He established it as a sign or pledge of mercy and grace for the needs of the Church of our times”

The Bishop goes on to write: “I invite families to make a family act of consecration, together with an enthronement of the Sacred Heart — that is, the placement of an image of the Sacred Heart in a prominent place in the home — as a reminder that Christ should be the center of the family, the domestic church. In addition, the Lord promised that where the image of His Heart is honored, He would bring peace to the home, unite families, bless them with all the graces necessary for their state in life and be a secure refuge in life and death.”

NEW TRANSLATION OF THE MASS, continued. After a brief hiatus, let’s turn to the prayers/responses of the people after the Eucharistic Prayer. The first prayer would be the Our Father, which, fortunately, is not changed at all, since the old translation (OT) used a very ancient traditional translation. The doxology afterward (“For the kingdom…”) also remains unchanged.

The next part for the people comes when the priest lifts up and shows the Eucharist to the people and proclaims:

OT: This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
NT: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.

The phrase “This is” has been replaced with “Behold,” precisely translating the Latin, “Ecce.” Although “behold” is not used in every day English, it used very frequently in most translations of Scripture, particularly in translating John 1:29, from which this acclamation is taken: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” This is, of course, the prophet St. John the Baptist’s acclamation after he baptized Jesus, not only recognizing Him as the Messiah, but as the Lamb who would be sacrificed for our salvation. Also, notice how “Behold” is repeated in the Mass’s version, as if to emphasize the marvel before us: “Look!…Look!” But this second “behold” is not in John 1:29. Its inclusion in the Mass’s version may point to John 1:36, where the Baptist repeats, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” this time to two men who go on to become the first Apostles, Ss. Andrew and John. Here we see the priest as prophet, calling us to recognize that what we behold before us is truly God in the flesh, the Sacrificed Lamb of the New Covenant. And then we are called, like Andrew and John, to follow him.

The priest continues:

OT: Happy are those who are called to his supper;
NT: Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.

In the NT we are not merely “happy” but “blessed” (Latin: “beati), a word Scripture uses to describe those who receive the fullness of God’s gifts (“happiness” being only one of those). We are reminded of the Beatitudes, “Blessed are…” and the incredible promises they make, including, “the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” It also ties us directly to the Scriptural source of this saying, from John’s vision of heaven recorded in Revelation 19:9: “Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” So here the priest reminds us, again, that we are present at the heavenly wedding banquet, Christ the Bridegroom and His Church the Bride. A very different prayer in the NT than in the OT.

And then we respond:

OT: Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.
NT: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

Here, thankfully, the NT corrects the OT and gives us the Latin’s actual words, quoting from Matthew 8:8, as the Roman centurion responds to Jesus’ agreeing to go to cure his servant: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Scripture tells us: “Jesus …marveled, and said …”not even in Israel have I found such faith.” In all this we see not merely the profound humility (“I am not worthy”) but also the faith that is necessary to receive the Eucharist. This is a call to believe, with the faith of the centurion, that the Eucharist is exactly what we have just heard Jesus say it is: “this is my body.”

The only difference between the prayer and Scripture is the phrase “my soul” replacing “my servant” (and “I” in the OT), which reminds us that this is not merely physical food, but also food for the “soul.” On the other hand, “under my roof” reminds us that “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit,” so the spiritual food must have an effect on the way we live with our bodies: “So glorify God in your body” [1 Cor. 6:19, 20].

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2011

November 6, 2011
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort, Springfield, Va.

In the way the Church counts time, November is the last month of the year,
and the Church.s new year begins with Advent.
And as we come to the end of the year, we consider the end of our time on earth,
in particular we consider the “Last Things”:
death, judgment, heaven and hell.
So we began the month of November with All Saints. Day,
remembering all those who have died and gone to heaven.
And then the next day we celebrated All Souls. Day,
remembering all those who have died and are purgatory.

But both of these days also call us to look at ourselves,
and ask the questions:
am I ready to die?
have I prepared to be judged by Christ?
have I prepared myself for heaven…or for hell?

This theme continues throughout this month
and so today the gospel focuses us on preparing for the end, or death.
Think about these 5 wise and 5 foolish virgins.
Jesus tells us:
“The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.”

In other words, both had their lamps filled with oil,
but the wise brought extra oil, preparing for the worst
—in case the bridegroom arrived late.
They looked not at just the short-term,
but also at the long-term effects of burning their lamps.
They were planning ahead, taking care of the now, but with eyes on the future.
But the foolish virgins were not thinking ahead, but focused on the short-term.
And so when the bridegroom came and they weren.t prepared,
he locked the door and said to them:
“Amen… I do not know you.”

This reminds us that we all need to be prepared, looking to the future
and not just being concerned with problems that will soon pass away.
Now, some of you might say, “but Father, Jesus also tells us:
„do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself…”
But actually this makes my point.
Because in that passage Jesus is telling his disciples
not to worry about material goods…
“what you are to wear,” or “what you are to eat…”
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…
but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven….”
He makes the point, as he so often does,
that we must be morally and spiritually prepared for God.s judgment,
when the time comes for each of us.

So how do we prepare for judgment?
First of all, you begin by learning about God,
by reading the Scriptures, the Catechism, and other good Catholic books.
And then you add prayer,
talking with and listening to God.
And then we have the sacraments,
especially confession and the Eucharist, fonts of grace.
All this brings you close to God and strengthens your friendship with Him,
so that you can always resist sin and be prepared for heaven.

And that leads us to the final way to prepare:
we must avoid sin and live the righteous life Jesus calls us to.
Remember the rich young man asked Jesus
“what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
And Jesus responded without hesitation: “Keep the Commandments.”

All these—learning, prayer, grace, and righteous living—
prepare us for the final judgment
—they are the oil in our lamps when the bridegroom comes.

But sometimes we have a hard time seeing the importance of all this preparation,
usually because we tend, like the foolish virgins,
to focus on the short-term, rather than the long-term.
We think praying or reading a holy book is a good idea,
but we.ll do it later;
right now we.d rather watch TV, or play a game, or make some money.
Short-term thinking, so often dominated by our passions
like fear, greed, envy or lust,
doesn.t prepare us for the long-term “problem” of judgment.

On the other hand, sometimes,
we do recognize the long-term “problem” of God.s judgment,
but we think we.ll have time between now and then to straighten up,
to pray and read more, and to repent sin.
But there are a couple of problems with that.

First of all, today.s parable says:
“Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.” lived for 20 or 50 or 80 years and we haven.t died yet,
so we start to think it will be another 20 or 50 or 80 years before we do die.
Like the foolish virgins, been lulled to sleep.
But then one day we.ll wake up from this foolish dream and—surprise!:
“Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!”

The second problem with thinking we can deal with long-term problems later
is that by ignoring them today they can get worse as time goes on.

For example, a new husband knows marriage must be based on mutual trust,
but early on he discovers that telling little lies
can save him a lot of troubles with his wife.
After awhile, though, big lies become even more handy than little lies,
and soon the wife loses all trust in him,
and their marriage falls apart altogether.
Focusing on the short-term problems,
can often make the long-term problems into long-term disasters.

I could go on and on with examples of this.
But there.s one very important example I.d like to focus on now,
something coming up this week.
That is this Tuesday.s elections of our state and local leaders.

A recent poll tells us that when Americans were asked
what the most important problem facing the country today is,
first on the list, at 57%, was the “economy and jobs”1,
1 CBS News Poll. Oct. 19-24, 2011. N=1,650 adults nationwide. Margin of error ± 3.;

while second on the list,
but with only 5% saying it was most important,
was the budget deficit and national debt.
Now, without being political here, isn.t it interesting
that the immediate fears about the economy
so completely overshadow the long-term problem of the national debt
—57 to 5%?

I think we can all agree it is an extremely bad idea
to vote based strictly on short-term problems
while ignoring long-term problems,
—especially when they might eventually be much more devastating.

But that.s exactly what we tend to do.
At the moment, Americans seem to be focused
on short-term economic problems.
Some are driven by envy, some by greed.
But most are driven by fear,
fear of economic hardship and job losses,
of losing life savings, or retirement funds.

With all those passions in play,
is it any wonder folks can.t see the forest for the trees
—can.t see long-term catastrophes for the short-term problems in the way.

Unfortunately, this maxim seems to apply particularly
with regard to 2 other huge problems facing our country
that didn.t even make it to 1% in the poll:
the problems of abortion and same-sex marriage.

Folks tend to see abortion and same-sex marriage as long-term problems.
In the case of abortion, for example, they think,
“ been making slow but steady progress for 40 years,
but it.s going to take years more to change hearts, minds and laws….
So right now let.s take care of the economy and deal with abortion later.”

But we can.t afford this kind of thinking.

Because for one thing, it.s driven by our passions, not logic.
How can a society based on fear, greed, and envy,
much less lust, hatred and laziness,
ever survive?

For another thing, it ignores the fact
that what we see as merely long-term problems
actually include real and important short-term problems.

For example, some look at abortion and see a long-term problem
that may take years to solve.
But it.s estimated that 1 to 1.4 million unborn babies
will be aborted this year alone:
that is real and terrible short-term problem.
Think about it: what would we do if terrorists threatened
to explode a nuclear bomb killing a million Americans?
Would we say, “well the War on Terrorism is a long drawn out process,
but the economy—that.s today.s problem?”
I don.t think so.
We.d drop everything else
and focus on protecting the lives of those million Americans?

But beyond that,
this kind of thinking focusing on the short-term and ignoring the long term,
ignores the fact that if we don.t address the long-term problem right now
it will only become worse…in the long-term.
Part of our problem here is we don.t see what terrible long-term consequences
that abortion and same-sex marriage will have for our society.
We see the short-term problem and think this is as bad as it gets.

But that.s not how it works.
The 40 years of waiting to end abortion
have seen some progress in changing hearts and minds,
but in the meantime
it has also fostered a growing basic disrespect for human life
throughout our society.
We see this as the creation of human life is reduced
to manufacturing an embryo in a Petri-dish as if it were a commodity,
and then we treat it like a commodity
by freezing “it” or using “it” in medical experiments.
And we see it in the way women are treated as objects,
especially in the rise in pornography, rape and abuse.
And we see it in a rise in human trafficking, drug use, suicide, and euthanasia.

The same can be said for same-sex marriage.
After decades of compromising in the name of tolerance
somehow moved from tolerance of same-sex attraction
to forced acceptance
to mandatory approval—even of “gay marriage.”
Not to mention the ostracizing of traditional Christians as “bigots.”
This is where focusing on the short-term and ignoring the long-term has led us:
where will it lead us in the even longer term?

What are the long-term effects of saying marriage is whatever you want it to be?
Even now we see movements pushing to legitimize polygamy, incest, bestiality,
and even pedophilia.
And if the government can completely redefine what marriage is,
they can completely redefine what parenting is, and the rights of parents.
15 years ago people called me crazy when I warned them
same sex marriage was on its way.
Where will we be 15 years from now?

All this because we ignored the long-term
in favor of focusing on short-term.

But there.s an even greater problem with this wrong notion
short-term vs. long-term.
The ultimate long-term problem is… our death, and God.s judgment.

You may think it.s okay to take care of the economy today,
and worry about abortion and marriage tomorrow.
But God doesn.t think so.
It.s really very simple.
Remember Jesus tells the rich young that “to inherit eternal life”
he must, “keep the Commandments.”
And when the rich man says, “which [ones]” Jesus immediately responds:
“You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery…”
Without these 2 basic rules about respecting life and marriage-and-family,
what other rules make any sense?
And so as Pope Benedict wrote in 2007:
“…respect for human life…from conception to natural death,
[and] the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman…
These values are not negotiable.”

And as our own Bishop Loverde wrote last week, with the bishop of Richmond
“protecting life …should be our highest consideration when we vote.
…the fundamental right to life, … outweighs other matters.”

Because of this, it is almost never morally acceptable to vote for or support
a candidate who is not clearly pro-life and pro-tradition marriage,
when there is a viable pro-life and pro-marriage alternative candidate.

Now I say “almost,” because there might be a case someday,
where, for example, some pro-life candidate comes out in favor of
unprovoked nuclear war….
Maybe that would be the exception.
But there.s nothing remotely like that in this election.

Unfortunately, sometimes it.s hard to figure out
who the pro-life/pro-marriage candidates are.
So if you need help, I suggest you go to the website of
the Virginia Catholic Conference where there.s lots of information
— the address in today.s bulletin insert,
and there.s a link on the parish website.

I.d like to be more directly helpful in this regard,
but I.m pretty restricted by IRS rules and diocesan policies.
But let me say this:
according to their party platforms,
the Virginia Democrat party,
is officially supportive
of both abortion and “gay marriage.”
while the Virginia Republican party
is officially pro-life and pro-traditional marriage.
And, according to the information on the Virginia Catholic Conference website
the Republican and Democrat candidates
for senator and delegate
in the districts within our parish boundaries,
all seem to support their own party’s positions
on abortion and marriage.
I have neither endorsed, nor rejected any candidate.

In this month of November, the Church calls us to think about our lives,
and to think about our deaths.
Are we ready for the final judgment, that can come at any time for any of us?
If we are prepared, we have nothing to fear
as the Lord Jesus will welcome us with joy
into the perfect happiness of heaven.
But if we are not prepared,
if gotten all caught up in the passions of here and now,
and lost sight of the important long term problems we must face…
Well, then, we should change.
Lest we become like the fools
who stand outside the locked door of heaven crying:
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
While the Lord says to us in reply: “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.”

November 6, 2011

This Tuesday Virginians go to the polls to elect their state and local leaders. The right to vote is one of the greatest of our blessings as Americans, and one of our most solemn duties. And it is one of our proudest legacies as Virginians that this right, along with so many others, was originally secured by efforts of so many great Virginians—giants like Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Mason, and Henry.

For them the dream that would become the United States of America was worth fighting and dying for. Is it for us? If so, why is it that so many of us won’t even take the time this Tuesday to defend the American blessing, the Virginian legacy, by simply taking time to vote.

There are many who want to change America and Virginia, to lead us away from our foundational beliefs. In particular, they would discard the sacred words penned by Virginian Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men….”

Today many attack this creed. They would have our laws deny the belief that 1) it is God, our creator, who gives us our inalienable rights; 2) governments exist primarily to secure the rights God has given; 3) first among all God-given rights is the right to life; and 4) God, not human courts or human laws, has created us all equal, whether we have lived 80 years outside our mother’s wombs, or only 80 minutes inside our mother’s womb.

We all know that there are people who would like to “get God out of government.” But, according the Declaration, that is un-American. This, of course, does not mean that we should elect a theocracy. It simply means that Americans should base their electoral decisions on a conscience formed by God’s laws, whether revealed to us in the very nature of man and creation, or revealed to us in our Christian faith. It was commonly understood by the Founding Fathers that religion was not only a fundament human right, but also essential to the success of the American experiment. They believed that the only way America could have a moral and just government was if it had a moral and just people, and that religion was essential for this to happen. As George Washington himself wrote in his Farewell Address:

“Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. … Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

The Catholic Church teaches that governments have a legitimate autonomy from the Church. But it also teaches, as does the Declaration of Independence, that no government can ever usurp God’s authority by suppressing the rights God has given to the people.

Some basic moral principles are part of what philosophers call the “Natural Law,” or what the Declaration of Independence calls “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” These are moral principles that are so basic that any rational human being should be able to figure them out on their own. For example, any rational thinking person should be able to figure out that all men are equal in their rights before God, and that it is always wrong to intentionally take the life of an innocent human being.

Unfortunately, all too often we don’t think rationally—we let our passions, like hatred or greed or fear, lead us in our actions. So it’s important for someone, like the Church, to remind us to obey “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” Because without that, governments will inevitably enact laws that are contrary to both human reason and the good that our Creator intended: we will be ruled by codified passions, not justice.

There is no right more basic than the right to life, and there is no societal norm more essential to the happiness of society than the family, as nature and nature’s God, establish it: one man and one woman. As Pope Benedict has taught us, “These values are not negotiable.” And these values cannot be promoted or defended without religious liberty.

Therefore, no good American, no good Virginian, no good Catholic can 1) neglect the right and duty to vote, or vote for a candidate who does not actively and unquestionably protect and defend: 2) the right to life of unborn children, 3) the dignity of traditional/natural marriage, and 4) the religious freedom of all Americans.

Some will argue, “but Father, I understand all that…but with the economy the way it is…. I have to vote for a candidate who will fix things.” We must all be sympathetic to the pain, confusion and fear the economy is causing people. But remember what the Founding Fathers wrote in the very last line of the Declaration: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

These men did not place their “fortunes” much less their “lives” ahead of defending God given human rights—why do we think we should? Especially when we read the words of Jesus Himself: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap…Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ ….But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.”

This Tuesday, VOTE! And vote only for men and women who defend the right to life, traditional marriage and the freedom of religion. In short, be a true American, a true Virginian, and a true Catholic.

October 30, 2011

I’ve been “on the road” a bit over the last 2 weeks, so today I’m taking a break from my discussion of the new translation of the Roman Missal, and running a column that is essentially a repeat of my column from the same week last year. Even so, it’s as timely today as it was then. We’ll go back to the translation next week.

Of course tomorrow (October 31) is Halloween. As big a deal as this has become in certain circles in the last few years, for Catholics its main importance should be to point to the two very special daysthat follow it: November 1, All Saint’s Day, and November 2, All Souls’ Day.

These days are particularly important because they remind us that the Church of Jesus Christ is more than just those folks we see when we come to Mass, and extends well beyond the 2 billion plus Christians we can count on Earth. Because billions of Christians have lived and died before us, and many of those are in Heaven, or on their way there.

This is what the Church means when it speaks of the “Communion of Saints”—here the word “saint” being used as it is most commonly used in Scripture, to refer to all Christians. So that we who worship Christ on Earth are one with those who worship Christ in Heaven and in Purgatory. The Church therefore refers to three states, or parts, of the Church: “The Pilgrim Church” (“The Church Militant”) i.e., all Christians on Earth; “The Church in Glory” (“The Church Triumphant”), all those in Heaven; and “The Church Being Purified” (“The Church Suffering”), all the souls in Purgatory.

All Saints’ Day reminds us of our unity with the Church in Heaven. Throughout the year we celebrate the feasts of particular persons whom, because of their manifestly holy and heroic lives on Earth, the Church officially recognize as now living in Heaven, i.e. the people we normally refer to as “saints” (or “canonized saints”). But on this ALL Saints’ Day we remember not only those “official” saints, but also ALL the other countless numbers of souls who have gone to Heaven. For example, many of our deceased mothers and fathers are in Heaven, and so many little children who have gone before us. This is their feast day! So we honor them, and in honoring them we honor God Himself, who has given them a share of His glory. And we pray to them, asking the whole multitude in Heaven to assist us on our way to join them.

All Souls’ Day remembers our unity with the Church in Purgatory. Unfortunately, nowadays even the idea of Purgatory isn’t very well received; it often triggers reactions of disbelief or even ridicule— even among Catholics. Yet this doctrine goes back to the Old Testament, as 2 Maccabees 12:39-46 makes very clear. Some see Purgatory as a place of horrible torture—sort of a mini-Hell—and the thought that their deceased loved ones could be there strikes them as disrespectful: they want to think of them as in Heaven.

But remember, St. John tells us in Rev. 21:27 that “nothing imperfect shall enter into” Heaven. The thing is, who do you know that is perfect? Almost all of us have at least some venial sin we cling to, or have some inordinate attachment to earthly things. Does that mean that all of us imperfect people will not enter Heaven, i.e., and so go to Hell? Not at all. Because of God’s great love for us, He will not let this happen. So in His mercy the Lord takes all of us who die in a state imperfection (assuming that before death we have properly repented of any mortal—“deadly”—sins) and He perfects, or purifies, us. Another word for purification is “purgation,” so this time/place/state of purification is called “Purgatory.”

It is true that Purgatory is a place of some suffering, hence it is referred to as the “Church Suffering.” Perhaps this suffering is best understood in the light of the suffering that comes with any change: when we try to get into better physical shape, it hurts. When we try to learn a new subject it’s difficult, “painful” (“no pain, no gain”). But the pain of becoming physically stronger or mentally smarter is not something we should shun—in fact, the pain becomes, in some ways, a source of joy, as we begin to recognize it as a sign of change to a better state.

So is it a surprise that the change from imperfect to perfect will be painful? And while those in Purgatory do suffer during their purification, is it a surprise that St. Catherine of Genoa, after receiving a vision of Purgatory from Our Lord, wrote: “I believe no happiness can be …compared with that of a soul in Purgatory except that of the saints in Paradise.” The souls in Purgatory suffer, but they rejoice as it brings them closer and closer to Heaven. And while on Earth we rejoice in our hope for Heaven, in Purgatory the souls rejoice because they definitely know they are going there.

Even so, we must pray for the Souls in Purgatory—because they do suffer. And just as we try to help those we love on Earth by praying for them, we don’t stop loving someone when they die, so we should continue to pray for them to help them on their way to perfection. Even if we know that they were very holy on Earth, we still owe them whatever help, in prayer, we can give them in death.

So, contrary to what many people think nowadays, praying for the dead is not an act of disrespect, but of love. It does not imply that they are not good enough for Heaven, but presumes that they were so good that they are now assured of their Heavenly reward, after God has perfected them.

Who cares about Halloween? What great days lie ahead on All Saints’ and All Souls’! In the love of Christ, and with faith and hope in His promises of Heaven, let us pray to the saints in glory for their help, and lend our help to suffering souls by praying for them.

Et, oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

October 23, 2011

NEW TRANSLATION OF THE MASS, continued. Last week we discussed the changes to the Creed, or Profession of Faith, which basically (except for the ever-changing “Prayer of the Faithful”) is the last part the “Liturgy of the Word.” Now we move into the second major part of the Mass, or the “Liturgy of the Eucharist.”

After the priest has prepared the altar for the offering of the sacrifice, i.e., arranging the Missal, sacred vessels, linens, and the gifts of bread and wine, he then offers the gifts to God, taking first the paten with the host and then the chalice with wine, elevating them toward heaven as he prays the Offertory Prayers.

The new translation (NT) of the first of these, offering the bread, is very similar to the old translation (OT) but reflects a few changes that significantly add to our understanding of the action. While both versions begin, “Blessed are you Lord, God of all creation….,” the next phrase is somewhat altered:

OT: …Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made…
NT: …for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands …

The NT more exactly translates the Latin, and so adds new clarity to the prayer. While in the OT this phrase begins a new sentence, in the NT it is a continuation of the previous sentence, joined to the previous phrase (“Blessed…all creation) by the word “for.” This helps us understand why the Lord is “blessed” (i.e., worthy of supreme worship): the very bread we givetoHim in sacrifice we first “received” from Him. It is confusing in both translation and theology to say “the earth has given,” since the earth is an impersonal instrument and so cannot really “give.” God, who is a real loving person, is the true giver, and as “Lord God of all creation” he creates and gives us first the earth and then its “fruit.” As the OT of Eucharistic Prayer I (the Roman Canon) reminds us: “from the many gifts you have given us, we offer to you, God…”

This is emphasized as the NT says that the bread is the “work of human hands,” while the OT said, “which human hands have made.” This much more accurate translation of the Latin reminds us that God is the true “maker” of the bread (as we pray in the Creed, He is “maker of heaven and earth, of all things…”). At the same time we see that while we “receive” the gift He has made for us, through our “work” we add something of ourselves to it, so that it becomes truly our own, and a symbol of all our work and even of ourselves, which we can then truly give back to Him as a gift. The NT has given us a much different, and more spiritually rich, prayer.

In response to this prayer, if the priest says it out loud, the people still respond: “Blessed be God forever.” Then, after offering the wine and washing his hands the priest turns to the people and says:

OT: Pray, brethren (brothers and sisters), that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.
NT: Pray, brethren (brothers and sisters), that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.

Here again we find another small but important change. In the Latin the priest refers to “meum ac vestrum sacrificium,” which is properly translated in the NT as “my sacrifice and yours,” rather than the OT’s “our sacrifice.” This subtly reminds us that there are actuallytwosacrifices being offered here: 1)the people’s offering of their own personal sacrifice of themselves (including all their prayers, works and sufferings), and 2) Christ’s own sacrifice of the Cross which the priest offers in persona Christi (“my”). The people’s self-gift (represented by the simple bread and wine, “the work of human hands”) is united to and perfected in Christ’s self-gift to the Father on the Cross in the consecration of the Eucharist.

The people’s response remains mostly unchanged, except for the addition of one word missing from the OT, “holy”: “May the Lord accept …. and the good of all his holy Church.”

Skipping ahead to the “Preface” of the Eucharistic Prayer (we will return later to the “Prayer over the Gifts/Offerings”), we first examine the “Preface dialogue.” Notice, there is no change to the priest’s “side” of the dialogue.

Priest: The Lord be with you.
People: OT: And also with you.
NT: And with your spirit.

Priest: Lift up your hearts.
People: OT and NT: We lift them up to the Lord.

Priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. People:
OT: It is right to give him thanks and praise.
NT: It is right and just.
Latin: Dignum et justum est.

Of course the ubiquitous change “and with your spirit,” which we covered in my Oct. 9 column, is incorporated here. But we also note the change to the final response. The first three words remain the same in the NT as in the OT: “It is right” accurately translates “Dignum…est.” The rest of the response is substantially different, however. “Justum est” means simply “It is just,” not at all meaning “to give him thanks and praise.” This was an easy and necessary change to make, especially given Liturgiam Authenticam’s mandate that “the original text…must be translated …without omissions or additions….” The Latin and NT remind us that justice demands we give the thanks to God that He is due.

One small note: while the middle response, “We lift them up to the Lord,” remains literally unchanged, it will be a “practical” for some folks: many people currently respond, mistakenly, “We have lifted them up to the Lord.” I may be mistaken, but I believe this comes from one of the interim translations in use in the 1960s; folks memorized it and it stuck even when it was changed and finalized in the “OT” of 1973. Memorized responses become part of us, and they are hard to change. That’s one reason why I’m so concerned about the implementation of this new translation. But I am convinced that if we know why we are saying different words, we will more eagerly and easily embrace the new translation as our own.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2011

October 16, 2011
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort, Springfield, Va.

“Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,
and to God what belongs to God.”
As many times as we’ve heard this text,
perhaps its never been more apropos than today,
as we approach state elections in just 3 weeks away,
and as next years national elections are the topic of daily headlines.
Some try to use this text to tell the Church to mind it’s own business
and keep its nose out of public debate, especially out of elections
Others, however, use it to defend the Church’s involvement in politics.
So what is the meaning of the dichotomy between Caesar and God
that Christ lays out?

Like anything in the word of God, like God himself,
this text has multiple layers and multiple facets.
First, Jesus is talking about relationship between the Church and the state.
Historically, the Old Testament reveals that in the case of Israel
God intended there to be no real distinction.
When God established Israel as a great nation
he made Moses it’s absolute ruler, as well as prophet and priest:
a true theocracy.
And it would continue as a theocracy for 700 years
until Israel was conquered and ruled for another 700 years
by a series of foreign pagan kings.

Which brings us to today’s Gospel.
Here we see 2 groups who were deeply involved
in the political struggles of Israel.
The Herodians who were the “pro-Caesar” Jews
and had no interest at all in a return to a religious monarchy
And the Pharisees, devout Jews who longed for the coming of the Messiah
who would reestablishing the Jewish religious state.
And into their midst walks Jesus, who seems to be the messiah,
which is why the Herodians feared him.
But he’s not the kind of messiah the Pharisees were hoping for,
which is why they feared him.

And so they joined forces to force Jesus to take sides,
so that one or the other can have him arrested and executed.

But he does not take sides.
He simply says:
“Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,
and to God what belongs to God.”

He’s is not terribly concerned about the state or creating an earthly kingdom,
but about the conversion of individual hearts and lives.
So in this short and pithy saying he rejects both
the wall of separation
and the religious monarchy.

But he also means something more.
Remember what he says later to Pontius Pilate:
“You would have no power over me
unless it had been given you from above.”
Or what St. Paul’s writes 20 years:
“there is no authority except from God
…Therefore he who resists the authorities
resists what God has appointed.”
And then remember the words from today’s 1st reading from Isaiah,
as God says to Cyrus the Persian,
one of the foreign pagan king who ruled over Israel:
“For the sake ….of Israel…
I have called you by your name, giving you a title,
though you knew me not.”
But then he adds: “I am the LORD and there is no other.”

Now we see more clearly what Jesus meant:
civil authorities have their own proper authority,
but in the end that and all legitimate authority comes from God.

Now, some people today might say that teaching is un-American.
But to me it seems to echo in the words of our nation’s founding document:
“We hold these Truths to be self-evident,
that all Men ….are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable rights…
That to secure these Rights,
Governments are instituted among Men.”

Here the founder’s base our nation’s whole existence on God—the Creator—
and hold that our government exists only
to protect what God has given to man.
This seems to be very close to what Jesus told the Herodians.

Now, it is true that over the centuries the Church has often
become more involved in secular government than Christ
would seem to have preferred:
after the first 300 years of the state persecuting the Church,
we began to see various levels of blurring of the lines
between Church and state
—on the part of both the Church and the state.
In it’s defense we can say, truthfully, that the Church’s efforts
were often well intentioned.
Still, we have to admit that many of the motives of some Churchmen
were not so pure, nor were the results always happy.
And we also see that the more closely the church directly involved itself
with the state or in grasping secular power as it’s own,
the more likely it was to be involved in calamities.

Eventually people rejected the interweaving of the state and religion.
And this rejection came most radically
in the form of 2 great 18th century revolutions.

In one of these revolutions—the French Revolution—
the revolutionaries tried to eradicate the Church altogether,
killing or exiling 10’s of 1000’s of Frenchmen
who simply wanted to practice their Catholic faith.
In the end this was not a separation of Church and state
but merely a new example of the old problem:
a new state persecuting the Church.

But the other revolution was very different.
That was the American revolution.
It did not seek to banish God or Christ, or Christians or Churches
from it’s shores.
In fact the founding fathers saw religion
not only as a fundament human right,
but also as essential to the success of the American experiment.
They believed that the only way America could have
a moral and just government was if it had a moral and just people.
And they believed that religion was essential for this to happen.
As George Washington himself wrote in his Farewell Address:
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity,
religion and morality are indispensable supports….”
And he flatly rejected the idea that
“Morality can be maintained without religion.”

And here we come back to Jesus’ teaching about Caesar and God.
Yes, the government has a legitimate autonomy from the Church.
But no government can ever usurp God’s authority,
whether by suppressing the rights God has given to the people,
or by redefining good as evil, or truth and lies.

Granted, Churchmen have sometimes failed to recognize
the legitimate authority of the secular governments,
and so many times had to hang their heads in shame.
But when Churchmen have simply stuck
to teaching the justice and morality passed on to us by Christ
–of reminding Caesar exactly what it is that belongs to God–
they have fulfilled their God-given mission
and advanced the good of all mankind.

Of course, some today continue to vehemently disagree
even with this limited form of “interference” by the Church.
They say if religious people follow their Churches’
moral teaching when they vote
then Churches will wind up controlling the state.
And they ask, how can there be religious freedom
if we impose one denomination’s morals on the whole society?

The thing is, some basic moral principles transcend denominational teaching
—they are not merely the teaching of “the Church” but
part of what philosophers call the “Natural Law,”
or what the Declaration of Independence calls
“the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”
These are moral principles that are so basic that any rational human being
should figure them out all on their own
without a priest or minister teaching them.
For example, any rational thinking person can figure out
that it’s wrong to rape or to intentionally kill innocent people.

Unfortunately, though, all to often we don’t think rationally
—we let our passions, like hatred or greed, lead us in our actions.
And sometimes we just don’t have time to sit and think things through,
as if we were all professional philosophers.
So it’s important for someone—like the Church–to call us to task,
to think,
and to obey “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”—the Natural Law.

Because without that
governments will inevitably enact laws
that are contrary to both human reason
and the good that our creator intended:
all we will have is codified injustice.
For example, they might enact and enforce laws
that deny the natural God-given
right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”;
or the God-given freedom of religion or speech.
Clearly, no merely “Human Law” can be “good” or just or even binding
if it contravenes “Natural Law.”

And so we see a 2nd facet of Christ’s saying today:
we must obey Caesar only as long as
Caesar is consistent with the truth that God imprints
in the hearts and reason of all men, religious or not.
Even if man needs to be reminded of these truths
through the efforts of the Catholic Church,
or amateur philosophers like the founders of our great nation.

But how do we apply Christ’s teaching about Caesar and God in 2011?
In today’s Gospel the Herodians come to Jesus with flattering words:
“we know that you are a truthful man
and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion.”
But Jesus does not respond so sweetly.
Instead he calls them what they are: “hypocrites,”
they don’t really want the truth from Jesus;
and they don’t really want him to “teach” them “the way of God”;
and while they call themselves “Jews”
they have chosen to render to Caesar
what belongs to God alone.

Today millions of Catholics do the same thing.
For 38 years Human Law has established a false right to kill unborn babies.
And for 38 years Catholics have gone to the polls and voted for candidates
who defend, support and encourage this abomination.

Like the Herodians 2000 years ago, these so called “Catholics”
choose opinion over truth.
They know the Church teaches infallibly that
abortion is always a grave moral evil.
And they know that the popes have made it clear
that unlike any other issue today,
except same-sex marriage,
abortion is non-negotiable in the political realm.
But even give all that, millions of Catholics still give more credit
to public opinion polls, or to the opinion of the media or a political party,
than to the truth taught by the Church.
They say “I know the Church teaches abortion is wrong…But I think ….”
They can think what ever they want, but they can’t say “I’m a good Catholic”
if they reject Catholic teaching.
A person who does that is called, like the Herodians, a hypocrite.

But it’s not just the teaching of the Church that condemns abortion
—it’s the Natural Law itself.
Every rational human being should know that
there is absolutely no principle more fundamental in the Natural Law
than the absolute right to life of the innocent.
What good is a right to health insurance or economic security or anything else
if there is no right to life?
Any candidate who says he stands for justice
but then refuses to protect this most foundational right
that candidate, like the Herodians,
has given Caesar authority over the things of God
and, like them, is nothing less than a hypocrite.

And, frankly, a Catholic who supports or votes for that candidate
is an even worse hypocrite.
Because while Jesus calls the Herodians “hypocrites” once in today’s Gospel,
in the very next chapter of Matthew Christ turns on the Pharisees
and calls them hypocrites 6 times.
They’re worse than the Herodians
because they should know better than to play games with God’s law.
Catholics who support pro-abortion politicians should also know better.
And they should listen to the warning Christ reserves for Pharisees:
“”Woe to you, …Pharisees, hypocrites!
…You serpents, you brood of vipers,
how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?”

Finally, some say,
“Father, I understand all that…but with the economy the way it is….
I have to vote for a candidate who will fix things.”
I am very sympathetic to the pain, confusion and fear
the economy is causing people.
But remember, in today’s Gospel,
what does Jesus have in his hand that he says belongs to Caesar?
A Roman coin: money.
This reveals a 3rd facet of this text:
Jesus doesn’t care a whole lot about money
—it’s part of the world, not part of God.

Who was it that gave you all you have
—the money and the skills and the breaks to have it all?
Was it Caesar, or was it God?
Try as it might, can the government Caesar stop stock market crashes?
It can’t even balance its own books,
how can we expect it to really “fix” all of our economic problems?
And at night is it Caesar you pray to
or do you pray to God
to bring us back from the precipice?
Remember what Jesus says elsewhere:
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap
…Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’
….But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things shall be yours as well.”

In the coming days, weeks and months, we face some very important decisions.
But when you make those decisions, ask yourself:
when the day of judgment comes
what will you say to Christ, the true king of the world?
Will you have to explain why you joined the other bad Catholics
who were willing to render unto Caesar what really belonged to God;
who were more concerned with Human Laws, personal opinions,
parties ideology, or even their bank accounts,
than with the most simple and fundament demands of justice?
What will you say to Christ?
And what will Christ say to you?
Let us pray that it will not be those 2 terrible words
he once spoke to the Herodians and Pharisee’s:
“you hypocrite.”

October 16, 2011

NEW TRANSLATION OF THE MASS, continued. Today we’ll take a look at the changes to the Creed, or Profession of Faith.

The Creed is actually called the “Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.” Its original form was approved by Council of Nicaea in 325AD, the first ecumenical council of the Church. Recall that for most of the first three centuries of the Church it was illegal to be a Christian, and thousands were martyred for the faith. This persecution caused there to be very poor communication between the Christians around the world, which inevitably led to confusion in doctrines from place to place. So, when the Emperor Constantine ended the persecution in 321, the bishops then came together in council to discuss and clarify our common or “Catholic” (“universal”) beliefs. The main result was the precisely worded “Nicene Creed,” which listed the most fundamental articles of faith. In 381 the Council of Constantinople adopted several key clarifications to counter certain “Arian” heresies. The Creed has remained unchanged since then, except for the clarification called the “Filioque” added by Pope Benedict VIII (1014-15).

This then, is an absolutely uniquely important treasure of our faith, with the original Greek words carefully chosen by the ancient fathers, and equally carefully translated immediately into Latin. Martyrs have died for refusing to deny these words. So you can see why a correct and precise translation into English is so critical.

For the most part the changes to the Creed in the new translation (NT) are rather few. So instead of going through line by line I will first point out one general change, and then move on to explain other key words and phrases that have changed.

“One general change” reverberates throughout the NT, and will be, perhaps, the change most difficult to adjust to, in no small part because it is reflected in the very first word of the NT. While the old translation (OT) began, “We believe,” the NT begins, “I believe,” reflecting the actual and literal Latin “Credo” (rather than “Credimus”), and emphasizing that while we hold the doctrines of the Creed as one common faith together, faith is something each individual must profess for salvation. This shift from the plural voice to the singular voice permeates the prayer and necessitates changes in several other places.

That opening line also has one other change, at the very end, where it expresses our belief that the one God is maker of, as the OT says, “all that is seen and unseen,” and as the NT translates more accurately: “all things visible and invisible.” This article is not about whether we accidentally see or don’t see some things, but that some things are seeable and some are not seeable: i.e., “visible and invisible.” This refers, for example, to angels and demons (who are spirits), and alludes to the words St. Paul writes about Jesus in Col. 1:15-16:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers …”

The next changes in translation comes in very next line:

Latin: Et in unum Dóminum Iesum Christum, Fílium Dei unigénitum, et ex Patre natum, ante ómnia sæcula.
OT: We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father,
NT: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all

The NT more accurately translates the Latin, while the OT reflected some confusing and unnecessary re-ordering and editing of the Latin.

The most important change in the text comes next, just a few lines down, as the Latin speaks of Jesus as, “consubstantiálem Patri.” The OT translated this as “one in Being with the Father,” while the NT more precisely says, “consubstantial with the Father.” This change was specifically required by Liturgiam Authenticam 56, because of the importance of this dogma. Unfortunately, while the expression “one in being” is not incorrect, it is theologically vague, whereas the term “consubstantiálem” (and the underlying Greek “homoousious”) was coined by the early Church to have a very precise theological meaning; that is, the Father and Son share the same nature, literally share the same substance, the divine nature. As the Catechism (262) teaches: “with the Father the Son is one and the same God.”

Another critical change comes several lines later, as we profess our faith about Jesus:

Latin: Et incarnátus est de Spíritu Sancto ex María Vírgine…
OT: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary…. NT: and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary….

The Latin here is not concerned with Jesus being born, but with the fact that he was incarnated—that he literally he took on flesh. The article is looking not at Christmas, but nine months earlier at the Incarnation when the eternal God the Son took to himself a human nature, body and soul: God “became man.” (Note, the phrase “the power of” is nowhere in the Latin, and so is omitted in the NT).

The Creed goes on to say that Jesus “rose again on the third day.” This happened, as the Latin says, “secúndum Scriptúras,” which the OT rendered as “in fulfillment of the Scriptures,” but the NT more accurately renders: “in accordance with the Scriptures.” The NT brings out a subtle but important point intended in the Latin but missed in the OT: the word “fulfillment” in the OT refers back to the Old Testament prophesies, whereas “secundum”/”in-accordance” refers to both the Old Testament prophesies and the New Testament eyewitness accounts: to those who deny that Jesus really physically rose from the dead, the Creed says, “he did in fact rise just like the Gospels say.”

As the Creed moves on to speak about the Holy Spirit it makes a small but important change in translating the word “adoratur” from “worshipped” to the more exact “adored.” While lost in common parlance, “worship” is, by definition, something that can be given to both God and creatures (British refer to certain public officials as “your worship”). But “adoration” is a form of worship that can be given to God alone, and is theologically distinguishable from other forms of worship of God (e.g., supplication, confession), as a humble recognition of God’s transcendence.

The Creed goes on to say “Confíteor unum baptísma,” rendered in the OT as “We acknowledge one baptism,” and in the NT as “I confess one baptism.” The NT reminds us that the faith is not something we simply recognize, but rather something we confess, or publicly make our own.

Finally, we conclude with a statement of our faith in “the resurrection of the dead.” The Latin “exspecto,” translated as “we look for” in the OT, is better translated in the NT as “I look forward to.” We are not merely watching, but rather joyfully anticipating “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

October 9, 2011

NEW TRANSLATION OF THE ROMAN MISSAL, continued. The last few weeks we’ve discussed the new translations of the Holy, Holy, the Mystery of Faith and the Gloria, which we have already begun to sing at Mass. This week we’ll begin to discuss the remainder of the changes that will be introduced on November 27, in particular the prayers of the Introductory Rites.

Some of these changes were mandated by specific provisions of the Vatican’s 2001 instruction on translation, Liturgiam authenticam [LA]. In particular, LA 56:

Certain expressions that belong to the heritage…of the ancient Church…are to be respected by a translation that is as literal as possible, as for example the words of the people’s response Et cum spiritu tuo, or the expression mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa in the Act of Penance of the Order of Mass.

Of all the changes in the new translation, the most difficult for the people to get used to will be the change in a response repeated throughout the Mass, literally from beginning to end. Whenever the priest says, “The Lord be with you” (or “peace be with you”), it has become second nature for us to respond, “And also with you.” In the NT, however, this response will change to, “And with your Spirit,” which, following the mandate of LA 56, is a word-for-word translation of the Latin, “Et cum spirtu tuo.” This brings the English translation into accord with the Mass translations in the other major languages (e.g., Spanish: “y con tu espiritu,” French: “et avec votre esprit,” etc.).

The OT reflects the view of some that the exchange “The Lord be with you…And with your Spirit” is more or less a simple friendly exchange of greetings. Others, however, including the renowned theologians Fr. Joseph Jungmann and Cardinal Yves Congar, point out that the tradition sees this exchange as a form of prayer. The priest calls on the Lord to be with the people, and then the people respond by invoking the Holy Spirit to enliven the special graces given to the priest at ordination (his “spirit”) so that he may perform his special priestly sacramental duties well and fully in the Mass. Because of this, from the earliest days of the Church the liturgical response, “et cum spiritu tuo” was only said to a bishop, priest or deacon.

Of course, besides the greeting “Dominus vobiscum”/“The Lord be with you,” the Roman Missal provides the priest with two alternative greetings, which we should consider briefly. The first alternative is taken directly from 2 Cor. 13:13[14], and was well translated in the OT as: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” The only difference in the NT is changing the word “fellowship” to “communion.” This seems to reflect the thought of both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who maintain that the word “koinonia” in the original Greek Scriptures is better translated as “communion,” signifying a relationship of true unity/union, rather than “fellowship” which implies merely a type of friendship.

The second alternative greeting, however, shows significant differences between the OT and the NT, as the NT uses a word for word literal translation of the Latin, which directly quotes St. Paul’s greeting in Rom 1:7 and 1 Cor. 1:3.

Latin: Grátia vobis et pax a Deo Patre nostro et Dómino Iesu Christo.
OT: The grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. NT: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Immediately after the opening greeting and response, the priest introduces the penitential rite:
Latin: Fratres, agnoscámus peccáta nostra, ut apti simus ad sacra mystéria celebránda. OT: My brothers and sisters, to prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries, let
us call to mind our sins.

NT: Brethren (or brothers and sisters), let us acknowledge our sins, and so prepare
ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.

While at first the changes here seem only to be in word order, one key difference should be noted: “agnoscamus” is more properly translated as “acknowledge” rather than “call to mind.” The difference is important: we not only think about our sins, we make it publicly known that we are sinners. The invitation is not to simple internal reflection, but to public confession.

Note that in the OT three different forms of the invitation by the priest were provided, and the priest was instructed to use “these or similar words,” so that he could change the words if he chose to. These options are not in the Latin, and so not in the NT.

Although the penitential rite may take various forms, the one most commonly used at St. Raymond’s is the ancient “Confiteor,” or “I confess.” Several changes are made to the words of this public confession, but the most dramatic is found in the following:

Latin: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa.
OT: through my own fault.
NT: through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault

It is striking how the OT reduced the three “mea culpas” to one, and how the NT corrects this, according the specific mandate of LA 56 (see above). This omission in the OT seems to have been an application of Vatican II’s call to reduce “useless repetitions” in the liturgy (see last week’s column). However, this principle applies to the Pope (and his collaborators) as he composes/selects the prayers to be included in the Latin Missal, and it is not the role of translators to second guess the Pope’s judgment (see LA 20).

Moreover, not all repetition is “useless.” Consider two examples: 1) “Lord [Christ] have mercy” (“Kyrie eleison”), and 2) “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” Both of these use the triple repetition to emphasize God’s infinite mercy. The thrice repeated “through my fault” in the Confiteor emphasizes our sinfulness, and so forms a parallel and connection to these two subsequent threefold pleas for God’s mercy. [Note also: 1) any triple repetition in the Mass is always an allusion to the Trinity, and not to be considered “useless,” and 2) the triple “mea culpa” reminds us of Christ’s triple forgiveness of St. Peter’s triple denial].

Note also the OT’s omission of the phrase “my most grievous fault,” (“mea máxima culpa”). We also see a similar omission earlier in the prayer where “peccávi nimis” (“I have greatly sinned “) is translated in the OT as “I have sinned.” There seems to be a clear trend in the OT of downplaying the gravity of our guilt. Fortunately, this is corrected in the NT.

Besides the Confiteor, there are two other optional forms for the Penitential Rite. The first of these (“Lord, we have sinned against you…”) has been substantially reworded in NT to conform to the Latin, but for brevity’s sake I will forego further discussion here. The second alternative (“You were sent to heal the contrite…”) remains mostly unchanged.

Next week…The Creed.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2011: “Respect Life Sunday”

October 2, 2011
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort, Springfield, Va.

The first Sunday of October, has, for years,
been designated by the Catholic Bishops in America
as “Respect Life Sunday.”
So, as I have for the last 16 years,
today I will preach on the topic of respecting life:
specifically on the evil of abortion.

But I gotta tell you, part of me wonders: Why? What good does it do?
After all these years of 1000’s of priests, bishops and Popes,
proclaiming the Gospel of Life
so many Catholics still don’t understand
that abortion is destroying not only
the lives of millions of unborn babies, and their mothers,
but also mankind’s fundamental respect for all aspects human life.

Sometimes I feel a bit like those servants we read about in today’s Gospel:
“he sent his servants to the tenants ….
But … one they beat,
another they killed,
and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants….but they treated them in the same way.”

Now, it’s true, no one has stoned or killed me
or any other priest I know for preaching pro-life.
True: but they’ve done worse:
they continue to either support or to vote for those who support
the killing of the most innocent human beings in abortion.

Why don’t Catholics get it?
The last few years one particular reason seems to stand out.
It seems that sometimes we allow the term “pro-life” or “respect-life”
to have a mixed or ambiguous meaning
that winds up confusing Catholics
regarding the fundamental issues and priorities involved.

So let’s clarify something: what does it mean to “respect life”?

Now, as Christians, we are called to respect the life of all human beings
because each is created in the image of God,
and shares a unique dignity and life given by God himself.
But it doesn’t take a Christian or even a religious person to see this:
every rational human being should understand
that the life of every human being demands respect.

But how far do the demands of respect go?
Does respect for human life demand that if someone attacks me,
I can’t defend myself,
even if they’re trying to kill me?
What about if they’re trying to kill my children?

Does it mean countries can’t go to war for a grave reason,
even if their attacked or fight to liberate the oppressed?
Does it mean that we can never punish a criminal,
or deny immigration to an alien?
Going even further, does it mean you can’t provide for yourself or your family
before you provide for a stranger?

“Respect” is a big word, and respect for human life is very demanding.
But there are limitations.
Common sense, and the Church, teach us that there is
a certain hierarchy and order in human life, and so in the ways of respect.
For example:
we place duty to family ahead of duty to strangers,
we respect individual responsibility and free will,
and we recognize that some human choices don’t deserve respect
because they are contrary to human dignity.

Now, it can be very confusing to figure out all the various duties and demands
of respecting human life.
But to begin to do this we need to keep in mind the fundamentals
—the most basic and important principles
set the priority and order of everything that follows.

So what is the most fundamental demand of respecting human life?
It’s not to hard to figure out on our own, but again God helps us by commanding:
“thou shall not kill.”
If we look carefully at Scripture
we discover that this has pretty basic common sense meaning:
one can never ever intentionally and directly
kill an innocent human being.
This is the most fundamental principle of respecting human life.
And so it is absolute and without exception.

And as we sort of move away from situations
where this fundamental principle directly applies
we see that all the other demands of respect for life
come from it and relate back to it,
even as they become more subtle,
allowing for different non-absolute responses.

So, for example, the first step away might be the case of self-defense.
If someone is trying to kill you he is not innocent,
so the principle in it’s most absolute form does not apply.
You still have to respect the person’s non-innocent life,
but not at the cost of your own innocent life:
you can fight back, even taking his life to save yours.

Or take another step.
You’re driving at a normal speed
and suddenly someone rushes into the road and you hit him.
Respect for life requires you to try not to hit him
—but if it’s unavoidable,
if you unintentionally hit him, you have not failed to respect his life.

Walk way down that road now.
Say a man comes to you demanding money for food.
You know he’s healthy and employable, but he’s lazy and chosen not to work.
If you refuse his request for help do you fail to respect life?
He was not innocent, and you did not intend for him to starve.
So respect for his life did not require that you help him.
In fact, you could reasonably argue that respect required you to scold him,
to have more respect for himself: “go get a job.”
As St. Paul says elsewhere: “If any one will not work, let him not eat.”

The point is: we begin with the fundamental rule and that orders all the rest.
And the flipside of this is equally important:
if we don’t observe the fundamental rule,
none of the rest have any order or make any sense.

Elsewhere in Scripture Jesus talks about:
“a foolish man who built his house upon the sand;
the rain fell, and the floods came, and …that house, …fell.”
And in today’s Gospel Jesus reminds us:
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”
The cornerstone of respecting human life
is the absolute right to life of innocent human beings.
Pull that cornerstone out, and like a house built on sand in a flood,
the whole house will fall.

If we don’t understand that duty to protect innocent human life,
what would make us think we’re required us to feed the hungry,
even when they truly cannot help themselves?
How do we know that one nation may not attack another without a just cause?
All of our high-minded ideals of justice and duty and respect
are nonsense, if not grounded in the most simple, basic and fundamental
principle of respect for innocent life.

And so we come to abortion, which is unarguably the killing of
the most innocent and defenseless of human beings.
And talk about abortion obviously has public and even political ramifications,
especially just one month before state elections,
and we get deeper into next year’s national elections.

Some people argue that there are more important issues at stake than abortion.
But what can be more important than the systematic promotion
of the abuse of most fundamental moral principle,
attacking the most fundamentally innocent?
1.4 million abortions a year, more than 50 million in 38 years,
and millions more to come?

Or they say that even if abortion is the most important single issue,
lots of other smaller issues combine to outweigh it.
Some people say they show their respect for life by working for
the end of the death penalty,
health care for the uninsured,
prosperity for the poor and middle classes,
and for the rights of immigrants.
Let’s set aside the fact that good people—even Good Catholics—
can disagree about each of these issues and others like them;
for example, the Church teaches that sometimes
the death penalty is allowed and even necessary.
But what sense do these lesser issues make
and how can we understand the right way to approach them,
if our understanding of them is not founded upon the issue:
absolute respect for the right to life of innocent human beings?
And how can we trust someone to promote and value these subsidiary issues,
when he rejects the cornerstone issue ?
It’s like putting up the windows or the doors of a house
before you lay the foundation
—they’ll either blow away in the wind
or some dishonest person will come and walk off with them.

For example, how can we trust a politician
with making the right decision about health care rights
—a decision that embodies a true respect for life—
when the politician can’t understand that a baby’s right to health care
exists only when it has life,
that health without life is literally meaningless.

Some argue that we need to fix our immigration policy:
some say we need to crack down and seal the borders,
others say we need to open the borders and end alleged discrimination.
Good Catholics can disagree with on this issue,
and question each other’s judgments,
but why would we think politicians
who enthusiastically embrace unquestionably unjust attacks
on the most defenseless and innocent members
of our own society—the unborn—
would avoid unjustly harming immigrants in the future?
It’s like voting for a member of the Klan
because he claims to support minority voting rights.

Some even argue that the current economic crisis requires us
to ignore abortion in order to fix our fiscal house
–and I agree that our fiscal problems are hugely important.
But how do you begin to count the cost of millions of aborted innocents?
How do you weigh on a scale
10’s of millions of babies against trillions of dollars of debt?
Would you take a trillion dollars to kill your neighbor’s child?
Sounds a bit like Judas accepting 30 pieces of silver
For betraying the perfectly innocent one.
“What does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”

And in a certain sense, it doesn’t matter if it’s 1.4 million babies or only 1 baby:
anyone who’s moral system,
whose sense of respecting human life,
promotes and defends the death of even one innocent human life
in order to achieve some perceived good of many others
is a fool and a reprobate.
This logic is nothing new:
Caiaphas, the high priest who condemned Jesus to death, once said:
“it is better that one man should die for the people,
than the whole nation perish.”
One wonders if Caiaphas was in the group of “chief priests”
that Jesus was talking to in today’s Gospel.

Speaking of priests,
some of you may be tired of priests preaching about abortion.
Friends, frankly, I agree with you.
But remember how Jesus chastised the Jewish priests for their failures:
for rejecting the prophets—and him!
So as long as human life is so fundamentally disrespected by so many Catholics
that they fail to rise up with all other like-minded pro-life Americans,
and crush the plague of abortion in this country,
God himself will continue to send his servants, his priests,
and they must do their best to try to collect what is due Him:
respect for the truth, and respect for human life.

But priests are not the only servants he sends.
Each of you is also his servant.
So act like it, and go out into the world you live in
and proclaim the Gospel of Life.
Demand, with charity and clarity,
that human life be respected, especially in the most fundamental way:
respect for the life of the innocent and defenseless unborn.
And make that demand known wherever God sends you
—at home, at work, at school, at play,
and in the voting booth.

Friends, Christ is the cornerstone of our faith and of our life itself.
And he has taught us to recognize that common sense dictates
we must respect every human being
as having a unique dignity and life given by God himself.
And he has taught us that the cornerstone of that respect for life
is respect for the right to life of the most innocent and defenseless among us.
If we would not reject Christ the cornerstone,
let us not reject this cornerstone of respect for human life.