September 16, 2012

September 15, 2012 Column Father De Celles

Sad Announcement. Last Sunday I read the following statement at all the Masses. It was approved by both Bishop Loverde and myself:

Dear friends in Christ, as you know Fr. Joby Thomas left our parish last Wednesday. This came at the request of Bishop Loverde. As it turns out, Father [Joby’s] Superior General had not been aware that Father was ministering here and actually wants him to be with his community in India. So he is very grateful to Bishop Loverde for having asked Father to return and expects him to return soon. Unfortunately, Fr. Joby did not return [to India] on the day he was scheduled to leave. Therefore, to remove any confusion in the minds of the faithful, parishioners should know that Fr. Joby no longer has faculties to serve as a priest in the Diocese of Arlington. He is not permitted to say Mass, hear confessions, or preach. The best assistance to be extended to him is encouragement to return to India, in obedience to both our Bishop and his religious Superior.

I’m know this was a very difficult statement to hear/read, and that the situation has caused some of you particular distress and sadness. I also know it has generated quite a bit of conversation. I understand all this. So let me say that I am available if anyone needs to talk, or for any other assistance.

September 11. This last week America remembered that dark day in 2001 when Islamist terrorists viciously attacked our nation, and America finally entered a war that had been declared against us years before. We mourn the death of all those who died on 9/11/2001, and all those who have died in the “War on Terror,” most especially the American innocents, first responders, military and other brave supporting personnel. We pray for our beloved country, that the Lord send His holy angels to keep us safe, and that our hearts may turn to him so that we may be worthy to receive his tender mercy.

One of my most vivid memories of that terrible day and the weeks that followed is how the nation seemed to turn to God as one in prayer. We seemed to sense that despite our great military and economic power, in the end only God could keep us safe. And so the churches were filled and people were not ashamed to pray and talk about God in public. My, how things have changed in 11 years.

Did Democrats Delete “God,” and then “Boo” Him? In last week’s column I wrote about the Democratic National Convention and the party platform’s extreme positions on abortion. After I wrote that column it was reported that the party had also deleted the only specific reference to “God” from their platform. Then we watched on national TV as their leadership scrambled to put “God” back into it, and then as the crowd of delegates loudly booed their efforts. Were they booing “God”? Some argue “no”—they were voting and booing against the re-insertion of the language about Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, or against the chairman’s obvious and distinctly un-democratic (in the widest sense) disregard of the actual voice-vote which seemed clearly to reject the amendments.

Perhaps. But why did they delete “God” in the first place? In 2004 (i.e., the first post 9/11 platform) “God” was mentioned by name seven times.

Now, many have pointed out that “religion” and “faith” are specifically discussed favorably in several places in the platform—so that this proves the party isn’t “against God.” But there’s a big difference between 1) respecting other people’s faith and religion, versus 2) declaring that there IS A GOD who gives us “rights” and “potential.” It is this latter principle that is at the foundation of our nation: God gives us rights, not any man or government. Failure to recognize this tends to delegitimize a political party, as they distance themselves from the most basic and foundational American principle.

To be fair and non-partisan, the 2012 Republican platform mentions “God” ten (10) times, and refers to “God-given” rights etc. seven (7) times. And, amazingly, it quotes George Washington: “The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.”

Gestures at Mass. It’s always interesting to me to watch the acts of personal piety performed during Mass by our congregants. One example is the way some make the Sign of the Cross over themselves during the prayer after the Confiteor as the priest says, “May Almighty God have mercy on us…” This gesture is neither part of the actual norms of the Mass nor is it part of our tradition. Let me clarify that: traditionally, in the “Old Mass” the Sign of the Cross was never made during this prayer, but rather it was made during a prayer before the Confiteor and a prayer after the “May Almighty God…” When the Mass began to change in 1965 or so, and those prayers were deleted, the practice of crossing oneself was so ingrained in the faithful that many continued to do it.

I supposed one could say this signing is “wrong” since it is not mentioned in the norms. Remember, the law is that, “no one, not even a priest, may on his own authority add, omit, or change anything in the Liturgy.” But I would never say it is “wrong” to make this Sign of the Cross, considering that 1) the norms apply more strictly to priests and the congregation than to individuals, 2) it springs from an ancient practice, 3) it is a pious act, 4) it does not contradict an affirmative instruction (the norms don’t say you must not do this), and 5) many individuals perform much less pious and traditional gestures during Mass. So, as a liturgical purist it sort of causes me to pause, but as a pious pastor I appreciate the piety behind it.

Given that, I find it interesting that so many do this gesture and others, which are not required, and yet most do not do many of the gestures that are required. For example, most people don’t bow their heads, as the norms require, at the names of Jesus, Mary, and the saint of the day, or at formula “the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit…” Also, many do not bow their bodies during the Creed at the words, “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

Hey, it’s not the end of the world. And I don’t mean to pick on anyone. But let’s make a friendly deal: do your acts of personal piety (within reason), but also try to remember the gestures the norms require.

We Need Ushers. We are in great need of ushers at most Masses, especially adults. Please contact Paul DeRosa in the parish office if you are interested.

Parish Picnic. Remember to save the date of our annual picnic: Sunday, September 30, 1pm to 4pm. A great way to get to know your fellow parishioners.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles