FR. DE CELLES COLUMN – February 11, 2018
LENT. This Wednesday, February 14, is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the season that calls us to meditate on and experience the immense love of God that would lead Him to die on the Cross for our sins. At the same time, it is also a time to consider our sins—how we have failed to love Him—and to work to overcome them, through our diligent efforts and His grace.
Ashes will be distributed at all 5 Masses on Ash Wednesday: 6:30am, 8am, 12noon, 5pm and 7pm. Since ashes are not a sacrament, they may be received by anyone who wishes to repent their sins—Catholic or not, in “good standing” or not. (Note: There are no confessions scheduled on Ash Wednesday).
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of both fasting and abstinence, and every Friday in Lent is a day of abstinence. Failure to “substantially” keep these penances is grave matter (e.g., potentially a mortal sin). The law of abstinence requires that no meat may be eaten on these days and binds all Catholics who are 14 years old or older. No other penance may be substituted. The law of fasting binds those who are between the ages of 18 and 59. The Church defines “fasting,” for these purposes, as having only one full meal a day, with two additional smaller meals permitted, but only as necessary to keep up strength and so small that if added together they would not equal a full meal. Snacking is forbidden, but that does not include drinks that are not of the nature of a meal. Special circumstances can mitigate the application of these rules, i.e., the sick, pregnant or nursing mothers, etc.
Lent, of course, brings a much busier parish schedule, which we’ve laid out in detail in this week’s insert: please keep it in a central place to remind you of the many opportunities for spiritual growth the parish offers this Lent.
One important event on the schedule is the Women’s Retreat, which will be led by the Women’s Apostolate to Youth (WAY) on Saturday, February 24. I invite all women of our parish to bring their friends to what I think will be a very spiritually fruitful day. Please see the insert today for more details.
Lenten Series. As I mentioned 2 weeks ago, I will be giving this year’s Lenten Series, on my favorite topic: The Mass and the Eucharist.
How many times have I heard someone say that they don’t get much out of the Mass? I am convinced they would never say this if they really understood what was going on, not just in general, but thoroughly and profoundly.
If you want to get more “out of” the Mass, come to these talks, which begin next Thursday, February 22. IN FACT, I BEG YOU TO COME. In my experience, it seems to me that most Catholics have essentially an 8th grade level of understanding of what happens at the Mass, and those who have a better understanding often fail to adequately interiorize or spiritualize that understanding.
I love the Mass. You could say it is the reason I’m a priest; in fact, you might say that in a certain way it is the reason I am a Catholic, in that it draws me closer to Christ and His Church than anything else in my experience. Let me try to help you to share this love.
My first two talks will be about the Eucharist itself, beginning with the Biblical teaching, both in the Old and New Testament, then moving to what the early Church thought about the Eucharist, as explained in the writings of the early Fathers (Patristic), and then finally what the Church’s rich tradition teaches us today about the Eucharist.
Then the next three talks will focus more specifically on the Mass itself. First, I will explain how the Mass has developed from the first century to today. Then I will go through the Mass, part by part, with a mixture of explanation and meditation, trying show how the ritual brings the doctrine alive, and how the external actions of the Mass can be and should be expressions of our interior dispositions. And then finally I will give an in-depth explanation and meditation on the Eucharistic Prayer I, or “The Roman Canon.” A lot of folks ask me why I never use any other Eucharistic Prayer than this at Mass—I will explain why I think this prayer is so important to us.
This year we’ve also done two things which I hope will make it easier for some of you to attend: 1) we’ve moved the time to 7pm (from 7:30pm) and 2) we are providing on site babysitting (but you must call ahead and sign up for this, so we can have enough coverage).
I look forward to seeing you there on the 22nd and following.
Germain Grisez. I mentioned at my Masses last Sunday that the Church lost one of it’s greatest thinkers, as Dr. Germain Grisez passed from this life on February 1. Dr. Grisez is not well known by most Catholics in the pews, probably because his teaching style did not at all lend itself to television or radio appearances, or to popular reading. But every theologian and priest in the country knew he was one of the leading moral theologians in the world—of the first rank. His text book, “The Way of the Lord Jesus” (a four-volume tome), is used by most of the better seminaries in our country, and his writings in defense of traditional Catholic moral doctrine are standard reading for anyone who seriously studies Catholic theology. He was perhaps best known for his defense of Humanae Vitae in the 1960s and 70s, when he heroically stood out as the most outspoken and clearest thinking defender of the ancient teaching of the Church against the sin of contraception. He was also dedicated to systematically refuting the errors of proportionalism which infected the thinking of many moral theologians in the last few decades. He was a true “Lion” of the Church.
I was personally blessed to know and to take several classes with Dr. Grisez at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary, where he lived, taught and wrote. I was especially blessed to have him as my advisor for my Master’s Thesis. What an amazing mind! But also what a good heart, as he would tear up when he would talk about his beloved and saintly wife, Jeanette, or some other topic near to his heart, like the Eucharist.
Some will correctly point out that Grisez had some interesting personality quirks, or that some of his proposals were questioned by even his closest collaborators. Even so, he was deeply revered by all the faithful theologians in the Church. He made a huge difference in the lives of so many priests, especially mine. And he helped me to become a much better priest and theologian than I could have ever been if I had not come to know him.
Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles