March 18, 2024 Column Father De Celles News

Fifth Week of Lent: Passiontide. Today we cover the statues and crosses as we begin the last two weeks of Lent, called “Passiontide.” At this point in Lent some people often start to slip in keeping their Lenten penances, while others haven’t yet begun their penances at all. Passiontide reminds us to refocus or deepen our attention on the season and its purposes of repentance of sin, conversion of heart, and appreciation of Christ’s love manifested in His Passion and Cross. If you’ve been slacking in your observance of Lent, now’s the time to turn that around. If you’ve neglected the season entirely, it’s not too late. And if you’ve been having a good Lent, then consider how you might take it up a notch these last days.

Let us beg our Crucified Lord to shower us with His grace in these last two weeks of Lent, and that we may be open to His grace and love Him in return.

Beginning tomorrow, Monday, evening confessions will go from 6pm until 7pm with 2 confessors available. So, if you haven’t yet been to confession this Lent, PLEASE COME THIS WEEK.

I also strongly encourage you to intensify your Lenten observance by taking greater advantage of opportunities offered in the parish. In particular, consider attending Stations of the Cross on Friday at 7pm (and don’t forget Friday Soup Supper at 5:30pm), and Adoration, especially our all-day-and-night Adoration of Fridays. I also encourage you to attend at least one weekday Mass this week and next, maybe one of our 7pm Masses (Monday – Thursday). 

Solemnity of St. Joseph. This Tuesday, March 19, is the Solemnity of St. Joseph. Please consider attending Mass and/or spending time praying to Our Lord’s adopted father and Patron of the Universal Church, and reflecting on his life as father, spouse, worker and man. Fathers and all men should especially make the effort to venerate and pray to this uniquely holy exemplar of fatherhood and manhood. Note: the homily at this week’s Tuesday 7pm Mass will be on St. Joseph and NOT part of my Lenten Series on “The Seven Last Words.”

40 Days for Life. Thanks to all those who represented the parish by participating in the 40 Days for Life campaign last weekend. I know the weather made it particularly difficult this year, but I’m told that everyone who signed up showed up, young and old. God bless all these volunteers. We may never know the effect of your witness and prayers, but we are confident that they were, in God’s plan, efficacious in this spiritual battle. 

Samaritan Group. I hope this Holy Season has reminded you of the importance of doing works of charity (“almsgiving”). If this is something you want to keep up or expand in your life, consider joining our parish “Samaritan Group” which lends a hand to parish families in times of crisis by cooking dinners and running errands. If you are able to help out, please join our dedicated team.  If you are interested, please contact the parish office.

Cardinal Burke’s 9 Month Novena. It’s not too late to sign up for Cardinal Raymond Burke’s nine-month novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe, which began last Tuesday. you can find the novena prayer card in the pews and by the exits of the church, but please also visit to sign up and receive weekly reflections from the good Cardinal.

Why Does Father Do That at Mass? This is a question some of you ask when St. Raymond priests (or servers) do something at Mass that seems out of step with what most parishes do. Some wonder if we are doing things that come from our personal whim, or that we are inventing, or using customs from in the “Old Mass” (before the changes of Vatican II). Because of that, some may wonder if we are doing things that are not permitted.

But I assure you that everything we do here is permitted under liturgical law. Rather, most of the “differences” result from that fact that the current instructions governing the Mass, often called “rubrics,” are often silent or ambiguous in explaining exactly what the priest must/should/may do.

The reasons for this silence and ambiguity are several and complex, and go back to the composition of the New Mass (or “Novus Ordo,” the form we say now) introduced after Vatican II in 1969. But one basic reason was that it was the product of a committee of experts who disagreed a lot, often strongly, and one way to resolve conflicts on a committee is to leave ambiguity.

But ambiguity lends itself to individual interpretation, which is not what Catholic Liturgy is about. So then, how does a responsible, faithful priest interpret these kinds of norms, answer ambiguity and fill in the silence or gaps (or “lacunae”)?

Following the principle of the “hermeneutic of continuity” explained by the great liturgical theologian, Pope Benedict XVI, I try to look to what the tradition tells us to do, and try to work within that in an “organic” way. “What was sacred then is sacred now,” as he once wrote. And I go back to the documents of Vatican II itself, and ask, what guidance did that give us? This is what I find in Sacrosanctum Concilium (The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), and this is the rule I follow:

“…there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them, and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.”

So when there is ambiguity or silence, first I look to the “forms already existing” (i.e., in the “Old Mass”) and avoid anything not in those forms, anything that would be an “innovation.” Some might call this “following precedent.”

Let me give you an example. The “rubrics” in the “New Mass tell us repeatedly that the priest should normally stand with “hands joined.” But what does that mean? Can he join his hands hanging down below his waist? Can he join his hands with fingers interlocked, or clasped like a prizefighter after a knockout?

So I’ve always followed the traditional practice in the Old Mass. And then years into my priesthood, I found a much-ignored footnote in the 1984 “Ceremonial of Bishops” (no. 107, ft. 11) (part of the official Roman Ritual), published 15 years after the New Mass was promulgated. And that indicates I was absolutely correct in my practice: “Hands joined” means: “Holding the palms sideward and together before the breast, with the right thumb crossed over the left.” And that footnote quotes the 1886 “Ceremonial of Bishops,” in other words, it looks to the Old Mass to fill the silence in the New Mass.

That’s just one example, but I promise you that any “differences” you see at St. Raymond’s are permitted under Church law, and most are, in my opinion, clearly what Vatican II had in mind. And I believe they help us in our effort to emphasize and promote reverence in the Mass.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles