April 2, 2022 Column Father De Celles

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, let’s get going. If you’ve neglected the season entirely, it’s not too late. 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.

During Lent, our focus on our sins and God’s redeeming suffering and death for our sins are called to mind by the many outward signs of Lent. The bodily/physical reminders of these days are so important to our experiencing the meaning of the season—Jesus suffered and died for us in His human body. And so it is important to experience the mysteries of this season “in the flesh.”

In our daily lives this is seen in our penances, including fasting and abstaining from meat. In the Mass we see it in the suppression of the Alleluia every day, and the Gloria on Sundays, as these joyful prayers are set aside during the sober and somber season. In Passiontide the elevated intensity of our focus is expressed in the outward and dramatic sign of covering most of the crucifixes statues, and other holy images in our churches. In part, this is to encourage us to sort of place ourselves 2000 years back in time with Jesus during those last two weeks before his Crucifixion and Resurrection: Good Friday has not yet happened, so there is no cross yet; Easter has not happened, so no saints are in heaven. Keep this in mind in the coming days: “I’m walking with Jesus, and Peter and John and the apostles…With Judas. With Mary Magdalene and Salome and the other holy women. Walking toward Jerusalem, stopping in Bethany, going to the temple…. In the Upper Room, at the Last Supper…In the house of Caiaphas…In the palace of Pilate…Standing with Blessed Mary as they scourge her sweet child….”

            This focus “in the flesh” can be experienced especially in our liturgical and prayer practices. So, please, come to the church and physically take part in the various sacraments, liturgies and other pious activities of the Church and parish in the next few weeks. Especially now that Covid is for practical purposes behind us, I plead with you, come back to church this Lent.

I strongly encourage all of you to take advantage of the extra and longer confession times (we’ll have at least 2 priests hearing at most times, and sometimes 3 or 4). I also encourage you to go to one or more weekday Masses and spend time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, especially during Exposition on Wednesday from 9am to 7pm and Thursday 7pm through the night to Friday 3pm. Please participate in praying the Stations of the Cross, especially in the church on Friday evening at 6:30 with other parishioners and led by a priest.

Holy Week. Next Sunday isPalm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, the beginning of Holy Week. Next week we will distribute a schedule for Holy Week, but I ask you now to plan ahead today. These are the most solemn and sacred days of the Christian year, marked by special and unique liturgies, including Holy Thursday’s evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, with the solemn procession and silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament until midnight— “can you not watch one hour with me?” Then there’s Good Friday’s Celebration of the Passion of the Lord, with the Veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion, which begins at 3pm—the hour of the Lord’s death. And finally, the Easter Vigil at the end of Holy Saturday evening.

            As your spiritual father I beg you to try to participate in all of these liturgies that are so important to experiencing the fullness of Catholic prayer in Holy Week. I especially recommend that you attend the 3pm Good Friday service with the Veneration of the Cross. I am always overwhelmed, edified and inspired as I see my good people humbly and happily coming to venerate the Holy Cross of Jesus and to receive His Most Holy Body in Communion. It is a powerful liturgy—stark, dramatic, somber, mournful, and transformative.

            Some say, “but it’s a workday!” But I say: “It’s the most sacred hour in the year! Why would any Catholic want to be at work?”

I’m Sorry, But I’m Confused. As you know, Pope Francis recently greatly limited the offering of Mass according to the 1962 Missal (i.e., the Extraordinary Form Mass) due his perception that it had led to problems with Catholic unity. But in his “Letter…That Accompanies the Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Data ‘Traditionis Custodes’” he also stated:

“At the same time, I ask you to be vigilant in ensuring that every liturgy be celebrated with decorum and fidelity to the liturgical books promulgated after Vatican Council II, without the eccentricities that can easily degenerate into abuses.”

Okay. I was disappointed in his suppression of the Old Mass, but was glad to see him remind us that we must obey the new rules when we say the New Mass.

So…. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2000) at article 119 states that the vestments that must be worn at Mass are: “a) for the Priest: the alb, the stole, and the chasuble;….[and] a cincture and an amice unless, due to the form of the alb, they are not needed.”

At article 209 it goes on to say that “should a just cause arise (e.g., …a lack of vestments), concelebrants …may omit the chasuble and simply wear the stole over the alb.”

And Pope John Paul II, in the 2004 document “Redemptionis Sacramentum” at article 126, decreed:

“The abuse is reprobated whereby the sacred ministers celebrate Holy Mass …without sacred vestments or with only a stole over …the common habit of religious or ordinary clothes ….” [Merriam-Webster defines “reprobate” as: “1a: morally corrupt : DEPRAVED; b: foreordained to damnation”]

Article 173 goes on to say: grave matters is anything …that contravenes what is set out above in [number]… 126…”

            Okay, so a priest concelbrating a Mass must wear at least an alb and a stole. No exceptions—if he doesn’t it is “reprobate” and “grave matter.”

            So then we read in the news that on March 12 Pope Francis was at a Mass  in Rome where he preached and concelebrated, but wore no liturgical vestments at all—just his white cassock. Photos show him extending his hand and giving himself Communion (things only a [con]celebrating priest is allowed to do) and preaching. 

So, I’m confused. Do we have to follow the rules or not?

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles