June 22 Cathedral Mass – the homily

June 26, 2010

Introductory comments
Archbishop Dolan began his homily with thanking a multitude of people, from Bishop Clark for inviting him to the jubilarians to those who planned the Mass and quite a few others in between. When he commented on the “beautifully renovated church,” my pen came to a complete stop – then a loud clap of thunder could be heard.   Can you spell theophany?
“The jubilarians are an example of fidelity.” Archbishop Dolan spoke of fidelity, faithfulness to ones’ vocation, adding that whenever there’s a jubilee anniversary, he likes to ask what helped fidelity over the years.

Archbishop Dolan said Bishop Clark was his spiritual director and confessor while he was a seminarian in Rome. He invited the congregation to show appreciation to Bishop Clark, which became sustained applause.

The diocese of Rochester is familiar to him, Archbishop Dolan said. He said he studied Fr. Robert McNamara’s writing on Bishop McQuaid. “If anyone thinks rifts and tensions are new, they don’t know Bishop McQuaid,” Archbishop Dolan said. His interest in the diocese of Rochester continued because of Bishop Fulton Sheen. Archbishop Dolan added a third reason of being metropolitan archbishop and said he’s delighted to be here.

Unless a grain of wheat dies….
With that, Archbishop Dolan launched into the meat of his homily, addressing first the priests. Attention focused on Jesus, quoting today’s Gospel: unless the grain of wheat dies…. He said the Passion and death of Jesus is the supreme example and related it to each and every single Eucharist.

Widening his address to the congregation, Archbishop Dolan said we are enriched by other brilliant icons of the martyrs. He focused on martyr and patron of the Rochester diocese, St. John Fisher. Archbishop Dolan spoke about St. John Fisher’s excellence as teacher, simplicity as bishop, and heroic virtue (and also St. Thomas More, who shares this feast day). Archbishop Dolan then summarized from Butler’s Lives of the Saints the account of St. John Fisher sent to the Tower for not taking the oath to the King Henry VIII and the saint’s death after years of persecution and ill health.

Sacrificial priesthood
Archbishop Dolan quoted Bishop Sheen on the priesthood with a phrase that he repeated several times during the rest of his homily. I didn’t quite catch the phrase and indeed, had difficulty for the rest of the homily. Whatever it was started with a dry throat and need to clear my throat, progressing to coughing with irritated, teary eyes and by the end of the homily, difficulty breathing. I completely missed the concluding comments of the homily, but the last one I noted was a powerful closing note.

Back to Bishop Sheen who said that the priest must pour himself out for the people. Archbishop Dolan addressed the priests, quoting Bishop Sheen who said, “We may be in danger of losing our priesthood” because of the modern focus on self-fulfillment, etc. Archbishop Dolan then quoted (Burkhart? — and Burkhart?) applying the Eucharist to the priesthood: God takes us and breaks us and gives us to the people.

Archbishop Dolan told of a meeting with some seminarians when the Gospel of the day was the one where the mother of the sons of Zebedee asked Jesus to have her sons sit on Jesus’ right and left hand. Archbishop Dolan said his question to the seminarians was: Do you want to be like the sons of Zebedee or the son of Mary?

A scene from the 1953 version of Titanic was another anecdote that Archbishop Dolan told. He said that the priest had an opportunity to get in a lifeboat, then heard there were men pinned below. “For God’s sake, don’t go down there!” one of the ship staff said. “For God’s sake, I must go down there,” the priest replied.

Archbishop Dolan spoke of a parish or chapel whose altar was purposely made from a butcher’s block.

The last two anecdotes (at least that I noted) focused on perseverance despite frailty. When Archbishop Dolan was in Rome, he was able to offer to a married couple the opportunity to see Pope John Paul II. The wife said yes; the husband preferred to stay in the restaurant. Later, the couple saw Pope John Paul II at Mass. The husband later told Archbishop Dolan how powerfully moved he’d been by Pope John Paul II, specifically by the drooling (part of the Parkinson’s disease). The husband was moved by the drooling, wiping away the drool, and repeated perhaps a hundred times during the Mass.

Archbishop Dolan’s priest friend had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. One day when about to give the homily at Mass, his friend with multiple sclerosis began to feel unsteady. He said, “I’m okay but feel a bit unsteady; I’d better stand here and cling to the altar.” Those in attendance said it was the best description of the priesthood: “I’m okay but unsteady, but I can cling to the altar.”


June 22 Cathedral Mass part 1

June 25, 2010

Overall, Tuesday’s Mass was a step in the right direction.  Although I did not take the opportunity following the Mass, I would like to take the opportunity now to thank Bishop Clark for inviting Archbishop Dolan.  Thank you to Bishop Clark of making and/or allowing Tuesday’s Mass to happen.

What was good about the Mass?  In addition to Archbishop Dolan’s excellent homily, I recognized people who normally attend parishes representing both ends of the orthodox-progressive spectrum, people who normally would not be caught dead in a parish of “the other side.” Yet, here they were, attending the same Mass. I have no illusions that there will be a discernable difference for any of the people present today than on Monday, but one has to start somewhere and I think Tuesday’s Mass will be a reference point in the future. Having said that, some of what follows – okay, much of what follows – will be less laudatory. 

Masses at Sacred Heart Cathedral are known for “progressive” music (among other things); Archbishop Dolan is known to be orthodox. Not surprisingly, there were wonderings about what “liturgical style” the Mass would be.  As it turned out, the Mass was an attempt to combine both.

The processional hymn, Beethoven’s Hymn to Joy, is a standard in many parishes, although probably less so in the more progressive parishes. “Halle, Halle, Halle” as the Gospel Acclamation is frequently sung in progressive parishes and equally frequently grates on orthodox ears.  With probably good intentions for both ends of the spectrum, the Agnus Dei was the most conspicuous example of the incompatibility of trying to do so.  It began with Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, misere nobis and ended with Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem. In the middle however, were several “verses” (some in English, some in Latin?).  It was a clear example that the differences in this diocese are not about Latin, or which Missal, but catechesis on one hand and dissent on the other.

Before Mass
The parking lot was full a half hour before Mass started, so I parked on a side street and walked back, dodging the a first few raindrops as I neared the church doors. In the nave, near the altar on the right side were a couple of rows of seated white-vested priests, some with walkers in front of them. 

As I walked down the left side of the church towards the tabernacle, a sprinkling of people had taken their places, but not many. That was also true for the section in front of the tabernacle.  Beige papers with the outline of the Mass were place on the end chairs of the first three or four rows.  Thinking they had taken the sensible step of reserving a place while elsewhere, I followed suit and “reserved” the end chair in the following row by similarly placing the beige paper on the seat hooking my umbrella over the back of the chair. It looked like the perfect seat, close enough to hear and see and off to the side, behind a column from the main congregation. It was also close to the tabernacle, where I could spend a few minutes before Mass and still get to my seat quickly. Well, it sounded like a good idea.

During the announcements before Mass, as I saw the large number of white-vested priests waiting to process in, it dawned on me that they would not be sitting where I had expected them to be but in the reserved rows in front of me. Clearly, I was not used to “church in the round.” Priests processed in, filling the center front rows, and then indeed to the rows in front of me. I left an empty row between ordained and laity and sat in the row ahead of some other lay people.

Introductory Rites through Readings
After the processional hymn came a Sprinkling Rite while the Gloria was sung. It puzzled me and I looked it up later.  The Sprinkling Rite can be used in place of the Penitential Rite, which has an entirely different focus than the Gloria. No wonder the concurrent use of both was confusing. At the time though, my immediate attention was on the Gloria. I call it a “refrain Gloria” and it’s a pet peeve because a) the people don’t sing the entire Gloria and b) the congregation doesn’t come in at the right time.  Personally, I find it very confusing to know when to come in even when I try to sing the rest of it sotto voce.  It turns out I’m in good company. Andrew Brownell wrote this piece for the Adoremus bulletin: Rethinking the Responsorial Gloria.

After the Opening Prayer, the readings were taken from the Common of Martyrs: Sirach 51:1-8, Psalm 126, and John 12:24-26.

Sirach 51:1-8
I give you thanks, O God of my father; I praise you, O God my savior! I will make known your name, refuge of my life; you have been my helper against my adversaries.

You have saved me from death, and kept back my body from the pit, From the clutches of the nether world you have snatched my feet; you have delivered me, in your great mercy From the scourge of a slanderous tongue, and from lips that went over to falsehood; From the snare of those who watched for my downfall, and from the power of those who sought my life; From many a danger you have saved me, from flames that hemmed me in on every side; From the midst of unremitting fire,From the deep belly of the nether world; From deceiving lips and painters of lies, from the arrows of dishonest tongues.

I was at the point of death, my soul was nearing the depths of the nether world;  I turned every way, but there was no one to help me, I looked for one to sustain me, but could find no one.
But then I remembered the mercies of the LORD, his kindness through ages past; For he saves those who take refuge in him, and rescues them from every evil.

The Sirach reading is self-explanatory in context of a martyr’s feast day.

Psalm 126
The responsorial psalm was listed as “God has done great things for us, filled us with laughter and music.”  The psalm response in the lectionary is more more appropriate for a martyr’s feast day: “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy.”

John 12:24-26
Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.

Archbishop Dolan picked up on the Gospel in his homily, which will be described in the next post.

Fitting focus on the ordained priesthood

June 22, 2010

Just a quick note on today’s Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral and Archbishop Dolan’s homily, which deftly interwove celebration of the jubiliarian priests, the feast day of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, and in bringing the Year of the Priest to a close here in Rochester, focus on the essence of the ordained priesthood.

More to follow when I have computer access.

The Harm of Smear Campaigns

June 18, 2010

The topic of smear campaign(s) is all over the Catholic blogosphere prompted by the speculation that Cardinal Pell will not be named to the Congregation of Bishops. That specific situation attributes the possibility of a smear campaign against Cardinal Pell to liberals in th Church and is thoroughly discussed elsewhere.

It is natural that one first thinks of the harm to the person being smeared.   There’s more to it than that though.  Smear campaigns also harm the person(s) doing the smearing. A smear campaign is an attempt to defame another. That’s from thesaurus.com. The entry includes:

  • attempt to defame another
  • character assassination,
  • defamation of character,
  • dragging one’s name through the mud,
  • injury of reputation,
  • malicious defamation,
  • mudslinging,
  • personal attack,
  • slander,
  • whispering campaign.

That’s a secular listing of synonyms.  You can also find them listed in the Catechism under the section of “offenses against the Truth.”

Attempting to smear another is harmful to all involved. It behooves liberals and orthodox Catholics to examine their consciences to see if they’ve engaged in it.

Maybe yes, maybe no….

June 17, 2010

Rorate Caeli is reporting that Cardinal Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec, is likely to be the new Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.  Mixed feelings on this: obviously an excellent choice, but sadness at the loss at the local level.

(Edit: on second thought, this is still in the rumor stage.  Having not kept up with Catholic news, both Cardinal Pell or Cardinal Oullet would be a good choice.  Given the rumor stage, perhaps I should just take the post down, but I think I’ll leave it up and see what happens.)

Again, Belated Congratulations

June 10, 2010

After Monday’s 12:10 Mass, I heard that newly ordained tranisitional Deacon Scott Caton gave an excellent homily on Sunday.  Eight other men were ordained to the permanent diaconate last Saturday on June 5.  Congratulations and prayers to them all for their new ministries.

Communication meltdown

June 5, 2010

Communication meltdown is a phrase that could cover a lot of situations, but for this post, pertains to the machines chez moi.  Two months ago it was my phone and my answering machine (while the hospital was trying to reach me that my mom had been re-admitted); last week it was my computer.

Distressing news abounds – in my family, in this diocese, in the larger scale, however you choose to define larger scale.  During times of distressing news, I find the book of Job – the Scripture selection for the Office of Readings for the past two weeks – a comfort to read.  Who, in the throes of greatly distressing news, can not identify with Job’s railings and his wail that he wished he’d never been born?  Who hasn’t had their equivalent of the three friends, so full of the “right answers” yet who do “not speak rightly of the Lord”? 

It is a wonderful book about the difference between crying out one’s pain and the tendency to make God wrong in order to make oneself right. Of perspective of being God’s created. Of praying for those whose “helpful advice” was not speaking rightly of the Lord.

The book of Job is indeed a comfort during times of distress.