Fourth Sunday of Easter
Sign of Peace. Due to the flu epidemic, for the last few months priests celebrating Sunday Masses at St. Raymond’s have often omitted inviting the congregation to exchange the “sign of peace.” This Sunday we will revert to my usual policy of allowing the priest to make invitation (at his discretion). But even as I do this, I continue to be concerned that, as the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) noted in 2014, there is need for “greater restraint in this gesture, which can be exaggerated and cause a certain distraction…just before the reception of Communion.” Now, I am very pleased that we exchange the sign of peace with much more reverence than most other parishes. Even so, some still don’t seem to understand its actual meaning and purpose, and so still use it as a time to exchange merely friendly greetings, or as the CDW says, “the occasion for expressing congratulations, best wishes or condolences….”. But the sign of peace is so much more than that. As the CDW noted: “The sign of peace…is placed between the Lord’s Prayer, to which is joined the embolism which prepares for the gesture of peace, and the breaking of the bread, in the course of which the Lamb of God is implored to give us His peace. With this gesture, whose function is to manifest peace, communion and charity, …the faithful express to each other their ecclesial communion and mutual charity before communicating in the Sacrament, that is, the Body of Christ the Lord.” Thus, the sign of peace inherently flows from and leads back to the Eucharist: “By its nature the Eucharist is the sacrament of peace.…[T]his dimension of the Eucharistic mystery finds specific expression in the sign of peace.” “It should be made clear once and for all that the rite of peace already has its own profound meaning of prayer and offering of peace in the context of the Eucharist.” (For a further discussion of this, please see my homily from last week, or the video excerpt from this year’s Lenten series, both of which are available on the parish website). The CDW went on to say, “If it is foreseen that it will not take place properly ….it can …and sometimes ought to be omitted.” Should I omit the exchange of the sign of peace at all Masses? I sincerely don’t want to. I’d like to keep it, but do it better. One thing I’ve been thinking of is inspired by something else the CDW wrote: “[I]n0 those places where familiar and profane gestures of greeting were previously chosen, they could be replaced with other more appropriate gestures.” It occurs to me that the handshakes are “familiar and profane gestures of greeting,” and so perhaps we could use another gesture, one that is inherently more liturgical. In particular, I was thinking that perhaps we might turn only to the person on our left and right (so, just 2 people) and, with folded hands, give a slight bow of the head or shoulders, much like the servers do when they serve the priest at the altar. This might be a nice compromise, keeping the exchange, but making it more reverent, sober and liturgical. (It also solves the very real problem of those who are uncomfortable, being forced to shake a stranger’s hand—in charity, we shouldn’t dismiss their sensibilities). I’m just “thinking out loud” here. I haven’t made up my mind. But I would very much like your input: what can we do to make the exchange more reverent and “sober”? Would the bowing alternative above be a good idea? Etc. So please,
write me a note (email me at firstname.lastname@example.org) or call the office and leave a brief message with the secretary. But please, keep your note short and to the point so I will be able to read it quickly. Also, please be respectful and courteous. And note, this is not a vote, but input. I may make no changes at all. Maybe all that will come of this is an increased awareness of the meaning of the sign of peace. Thanks for your patience and consideration.
Prayers for Priests and Future Priests. For decades the Arlington Diocese had the reputation of being largely spared from the nationwide (and worldwide) shortage of priests. But in the last few years, as the number of parishioners has rapidly increased in the Diocese, priestly ordinations have been declining. Moreover, the number of priests from other dioceses who are living in residence in our parishes (and helping with some Masses and confessions) while attending various Catholic theology schools in the area has also dropped. And so, the priest-shortage is starting to be felt in Arlington, especially in the last few months, when 6 diocesan priests have left active ministry in the diocese for various reasons. And this has created at least an immediate “staffing” problem—there aren’t enough priests to provide the services we are all used to. We’ve seen this at St. Raymond’s: 6 years ago, we had 4 priests (2 Arlington priests assigned, and 2 students), now we have just 2. At the same time parishes twice our size are making due with 3 or even 2 priests. All this leads me to wonder about what will happen this summer when new assignments are announced. Will some of the smaller to medium size parishes (we are “medium sized”) go from 2 priests to 1 in order to provide a 3rd or 4th priest for some larger parishes? This is all speculation on my part. Frankly, I don’t think St. Raymond’s will be affected—it would seem to me that there are several smaller parishes which are much more likely to be affected (smaller parishes with 2 priests). In any case, this leads me to ask 4 things of you. First, pray for the priests of our diocese, that they remain strong, committed and not overworked. Second, pray that the Bishop doesn’t transfer either Fr. Smith or me this summer (I don’t think he will, but…). Third, pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood in our diocese—especially from our parish: right now, we only have one seminarian from St. Raymond’s, when we should have many more. I look around and I see all the young men who reverently attend Mass and go to frequent confession, and I think, surely we should be producing at least 1 if not several vocations a year. So, pray for our young men, that they take time to listen to God and talk to Him about His plan for them. And pray that they have the courage, the faith, hope and love to answer the call. In particular, pray for your sons and brothers. Fortunately, there are great signs of hope on the horizon: the number of Arlington seminarians is increasing, and I’m told that next year Arlington’s First Theology Class will have 14 men in it, meaning possibly 14 new priests in 4 years. So, fourth, pray for our seminarians, that they persevere in pursuing Our Lord’s plan for them.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celle