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Church

Palm Sunday

This Sunday marks one week before Easter and so it is Palm Sunday. Usually, we would begin Mass with a more formal beginning—a reading of a Gospel passage of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, the blessing of palms, and a solemn procession.

Due to the circumstances—and in accordance with the Vatican’s decree on Holy Week with the Coronavirus—the full beginning to Mass will not be happening this year.

While we can join with our parishes and our bishops in livestreams, it is also important to act as a domestic church—offering worship within our smallest units of community.

To that end, I put together a brief prayer service we’re going to hold at home this weekend.

Some key points of this liturgy:

  • Procession — My kids love singing and love being active. We will start near our front door with palms. Yes, I ordered a palm altar decoration last week, but historically, churches that could not source palms would use branches of local trees. This seems like a good time to utilize that tradition, so use any branches that you’re willing to have inside! We’ll gather at the front door (inside), bless ourselves with holy water, offer a prayer, and then process through the house with our palms and incense.
  • Readings — We will read, basically, the Sunday readings. The first reading, the psalm, the second reading are the ones for Mass this year. The Gospel will be the one that is said at the beginning of the solemn Palm Sunday entrance. The assigned Gospel is the Passion and, with the kiddos, we are going to just focus on that piece of our faith story on Good Friday.
  • Intercessions — The guide says leader, but I’d like to try to have each of the older girls read one of them.

Nothing fancy and most of it has been pulled with slight adaptations from official texts.

If this is fruitful for your family, please let me know!

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Church Featured

Sundays at Home

We are living in a new time with the Coronavirus. I’m not sure if we’ve ever had a time where public Masses were suspended across the country—maybe during the 1918-1919 flu epidemic—but not within virtually any of our lifetimes at least.

Our technology allows us to livestream Masses from our parishes into our home and I appreciate the comfort that comes from seeing our priests and hearing them.

Without judging anyone who finds following along with a livestream Mass fruitful, it isn’t my bag.

Have I watched Masses on television before? Absolutely. I followed the funeral Mass for Pope John Paul II live from within St. Mary’s Cathedral. I’ve watched liturgies from Rome with three different popes.

But, as the form of Sunday worship, I submit that we have such a breadth of Catholic tradition that we can look to other forms of worship to add to our homes and, perhaps, maintain once we can rejoin our parishes in person.

Why not the Mass?

Personally, there are a few rough edges with a livestream Mass as the primary form of worship.

First, while the Mass is effectual without my presence, when I am watching it on TV or my laptop or phone, I’m not in that presence. I’m watching a video. Do I kneel toward the TV? What am I kneeling toward? Is Christ, in the Eucharistic form, in front of me? Kinda? Maybe?

I’m a techie. I’m a distributed employee. Some of my best friends are work friends who I only talk to via Slack, Telegram, and sometimes on video. I have more beers with my friends via Zoom than I do in person. I’m not a Luddite who rejects technology, but when seeking out the Real Presence of Christ, I do want to be in the presence of the Real Presence.

Second, I fear that reducing our Sunday worship to the television opens the door to us not being active participants in our prayer. When we watch movies or TV or YouTube videos or Instagram stories, we can fall into a trap of being mere spectators. Sometimes, that’s okay, but if this is the form of worship we do, there’s something missing.

Third, we have so much Catholic tradition to draw from! The Liturgy of the Hours! Little Offices, Stations of the Cross. Seven Sorrows, litanies, the Rosary, and so on.

So what instead?

First off, if you find watching the Mass via livestream fruitful, still do it. I’m not saying don’t do it. I’m saying it should be, as the cereal commercials tell us, part of a balanced breakfast prayer practice.

The family is the domestic church. Whether you’re a family of one or of eight, through our baptism, we have been baptized into Jesus’ role of prophet, priest, and king and we have the grace and permission to act as Church within our own homes.

Let’s pray together as a family! Not gathered around a device, but gathered as a family.

The readings from Mass each day are available on the USCCB website. Light a candle, sing songs, offer prayer (something already written or from the heart) and read them as a family together.

Liturgical Press, the Benedictine apostolate from St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota, has released a “Holy Week at Home” guide.

I mentioned our family’s celebration of Night Prayer last week—there’s not only Night Prayer but the whole Liturgy of the Hours. I admit, though, that if you’re starting a home liturgical life, Liturgy of the Hours can be a bit scary. There are a lot of guides online and publications like Magnificat or Give Us This Day provide simplified Morning and Evening Prayer for each day.

This doesn’t mean don’t pray with the community.

I still think listening to the homily from your parish (or elsewhere too) is a great idea. I have a priest friend out of the Archdiocese of Atlanta who is praying the Angelus and Midday Prayer on Facebook Live and Instagram every day. I appreciate this since both parties—the broadcaster and the “viewer”—can fully participate.

While these are trying times, we can use them to strengthen our home prayer life in ways that can continue after we return to our churches.

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Church

Extraordinary Urbi et Orbi

Today, Pope Francis presided over an extraordinary Ubti et Orbi blessing. This blessing, “to the city and to the world”, is traditionally given a couple times of the year on Easter and New Year’s Day. It has attached to it a plenary indulgence. Pope Francis delivered the blessing after the below reflection due to the novel coronavirus impacting everyone around the world.

This is a beautiful reflection. I wanted to pull a few quotes from it, but frankly, the whole read is worth it.

“When evening had come” (Mk 4:35). The Gospel passage we have just heard begins like this. For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.

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Church Daddy's Corner

Night Prayer

As mentioned before, the older girls and I try to pray Night Prayer before bed each night. Also known as Compline, this is the last “office” of the daily Liturgy of the Hours in the Catholic Church. Most commonly associated with monks and whatnot, the Liturgy of the Hours is one of the Church’s ways of fulfilling St. Paul’s mandate to pray without ceasing through regular Psalm-based prayer.

Tonight, we recorded it to share with y’all. With the novel coronavirus with churches closing and a lot of us Catholics turning to live streaming our communal prayer, the girls thought it would be a good idea to share how we do this.

To set the stage, we pray this together after they have dressed for bed, brushed their teeth, and whatnot. They’re in their beds lying down each with their own copy of Fr. Weber, OSB’s version of Compline which has both the English and Latin texts of the Liturgy of the Hours and the musical notation for it. I use my personal copy of the 4-volume set so on regular days, I can tell them about the saint for tomorrow before we begin our prayer.

If you want to try it without buying anything, there are some great resources. A helpful note: While the other parts of Liturgy of the Hours vary a lot over a four-week cycle and based on the saint of the day, Night Prayer is on a weekly cycle. Every Monday is the same as every other Monday with few exceptions. To make things even easier, you can use the psalm from Sunday every day so if teaching your kids to chant a different psalm each night seems like a big step, just learn Sunday’s to start. For Teresa, we started before she could read and she ended up being able to sing along with almost the entire week’s worth of psalms before she could follow along with the text.

Anyhow, how to get the office.

  • Printable: eBreviary has PDF booklets for the next week’s worth of Night Prayer for free.
  • Mobile Apps: Unversalis has a different translation for free on their website, but includes the U.S. version of the translation for those who purchase their desktop or mobile apps.
  • Books: There are a few different ways to get it in printed form.
    • Compline – This is what the girls use and includes musical notation. If you want a beautiful version that includes music, this is it. This is what I suggest for anyone starting off with Night Prayer and wanting to sing it.
    • Liturgy of the Hours – This is the official 4-volume complete Liturgy. If you’re reading this post, this is likely overkill and should use one of the other options. 😃
    • Christian Prayer – This was my first Liturgy of the Hours book. It is a 1-volume version of the Liturgy. It includes complete Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Daytime Prayer, and Night Prayer. One thing it has that the “complete” 4-volume set doesn’t is a hymnal. If you’re interested in starting a broader Liturgy of the Hours experience, this is a great choice. Since the text is the same, you can purchase one of these with copies of Compline and everyone has the same text.
    • Shorter Christian Prayer – Like Christian Prayer above, but with only a one-week cycle. Great for travel.
    • Night Prayer – Same publisher as the three books above, but only Night Prayer. To me, I suppose if a parish or retreat center wanted to provide books for the congregation for Night Prayer, this would be nice. I would go with Shorter Christian Prayer or the Compline book over this one.

You may notice from the video we didn’t sing a hymn. We’re supposed to; hymns are proper to the Liturgy of the Hours. But, I’m tone-deaf and have a really hard time singing songs I don’t know. When the girls were younger, it was a major win to do what we’re doing, so we haven’t.

The twins will soon be joining us for Night Prayer and they love singing. I’m planning on letting them lead us in singing one of the hymns they enjoy during that part of Night Prayer to ease them into it, since their nighttime prayer now is straight singing from the old parish hymnals they gave away when the parish bought new ones.

In short, the Liturgy of the Hours is a great way to pray as a domestic church and Night Prayer, especially, is a great way to include all the members of your family.

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Church

West Virginia Troubles: Details about +Bransfield

In the years before he was removed from ministry for alleged sexual harassment and financial abuses, Bishop Michael Bransfield was reimbursed by the church for cash gifts he gave to fellow clergymen, records show.

Source: W.Va. bishop gave powerful cardinals and other priests $350,000 in cash gifts before his ouster, church records show

This story outlines a pretty amazing (in the worst way) failure of a bishop, his staff, and the diocesan boards. While he spent a large sum of money, I am glad that it wasn’t more and I’m glad that the diocese had random income-producing property to fund it. Any financial abuse in the non-profit sector is horrible and criminal, but I’m glad people in this incredibly poor region of the country didn’t donate that money he spent in such reckless ways.

The sexual abuse scandal is definitely the highest priority to resolve, but in my lifetime, financial abuse and mismanagement will be the next.

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Church Featured Travel

Scala Santa ⛪️

On this Good Friday, I remember last Friday when I visited the Scala Santa in Rome.

It is said in the 4th century, Emperor Constantine’s mom, Helena traveled to the Holy Land on a pilgrimage to the sites of Jesus’ life.

Being the emperor’s mom and an empress herself, gave her a ton of access. There she founded some major churches (like the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem) and brought back a number of relics—including the stairs of the praetorium that Jesus climbed to be condemned by Pilate.

Placed in Rome as stairs to the Pope’s private chapel (because of course), they became a pilgrimage location where pilgrims would climb on the knees.

Hundreds of years ago, worried about wear, the original steps were covered in wood. Until now. The wood was removed for restoration work and they decided to leave it off and open them to the public until the end of the Easter season before adding the covering again.

By just pure luck, I was in Rome when they reopened it last Thursday and able to visit on Friday morning. It wasn’t really a moment to snap pictures on the phone. In visiting Rome, almost everywhere, I saw others taking pictures, but no one had a camera or phone out, so I took a quick one as I walked in. The Catholic Traveler on Instagram took some better pictures.

Picture of the Holy Stairs in Rome
Pilgrims ascending the exposed marble Scala Santa on their knees for the first time in hundreds of years.

As we look to celebrate Good Friday today, my mind takes me to these stairs trying to imagine what Jesus must have been thinking climbing them, knowing that condemnation awaited him.

I’m reminded of Palm Sunday liturgy where we counterposition of laying palms before Jesus as he entered Jerusalem only to have the crowd condemn him a short time later. Last Friday, I joined with others to worship him and to honor the physical existence he had on Earth, but then turn around and assuredly condemn him through sin or inaction.

If you find yourself in Rome, especially before June 9th, find a few minutes to visit St. John Lateran and the Scala Santa across the plaza.