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Church

McCarrick

The Vatican released today a report from the Secretariat of State on Theodore McCarrick, the sexual abuser and predator who rose the hierarchy’s ranks to became a Cardinal.

I’ve only had a chance to skim it, so this isn’t a full summary except to say that some bishops didn’t share their full knowledge, some ignored reports or actively discredited the reporter. There was an implicit bias that worked in McCarrick’s favor (forms of clericalism). There was a failure to treat the reports as potential (and now confirmed) serious crimes against people, replaced with treating this as potential public relations and public scandal problems.

I don’t want to get into who, more specifically, is to blame or not without reading the report in more detail.

As a Catholic and a former lay minister, thus a tiny part of the institutional Church, I’m sorry. The Church failed on so many levels for such a long time.

I don’t have confidence that the lessons have been learned yet. Yes, a report of a sexual crime is taken far more seriously with a more objective process. Has the Church—specifically the bishops—learned to put humility and holiness over protectionism? Some always put humility and holiness over protectionism, some have learned to, but all of them? All of them in higher positions?

In addition to my continued prayers and support for those who have suffered at the hands of the Church, I pray for the institutional leaders that they receive this report with open arms and minds, learn from it, and make the sometimes radical change to return to the first principles of their vocational call. I pray for myself, too, for the grace and wisdom to help in my future roles within the Church.

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Church

Dedication of the Archbasilica

Today’s feast day in the Latin Church is the Dedication of St. John Lateran. It’s the only “archbasilica” in Christianity as the chief and highest-ranking church in the world—the Mother Church.

Briefly, this area of Rome just inside the city walls was given to the Pope around the year 300 or so with a church on the site dedicated in 324. For a long time, the Pope lived at the Lateran and a number of councils were held here over the years.

It was–and still is—the Cathedral for the Diocese of Rome and for the Bishop of Rome, which is just another name for the Pope. St. Peter’s is just another church, but St. John Lateran is the Cathedral.

I’ve been able to visit a couple of times; here are a few pictures from April 2019, including the Baptistry adjacent.

Whenever we come to church, we must prepare our hearts to be as beautiful as we expect this church to be. Do you wish to find this basilica immaculately clean? Then do not soil your soul with the filth of sins. Do you wish this basilica to be full of light? God too wishes that your soul be not in darkness, but that the light of good works shine in us, so that he who dwells in the heavens will be glorified. Just as you enter this church building, so God wishes to enter into your soul, for he promised: I shall live in them, I shall walk through their hearts.

St. Caesarius of Arles as found in the Office of Readings.
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Church Reflections

One Priest Can Make All The Difference

Today is the birthday of Fr. Ivor Koch, who spent hours sitting outside of the funeral home with my mom after my dad died. We were lapsed Catholics and a family holding a lot of pain from church mistakes decades before.

I was baptized, but we never went to church for the 11 years that followed. But, nevertheless, he sat there, listening to my mom’s grief about my dad and her pain about the church.

We always considered ourselves Catholic. But the Church had burned us. Fr. Koch wasn’t pushy. He was simply present.

He was present in ways that the priests weren’t in the 70s when my mom wanted to talk about her brother’s suicide.

And that made all the difference. He cared. He brought Christ to us again.

He wasn’t perfect. He was a bit grumpy. But, he made all the difference, healed a massive rift in my family, and gave me a spiritual home when I needed it most as a 12-year-old dealing with losing a father.

He died a few years ago, but I keep his birthday on my calendar. If you’re one of the priests that follow me, know that you’re changing lives every day by just being you. Keep fighting the good fight.

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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.