I was reading this post quite some time ago from the Chant Cafe by Reverend Father Christopher Smith and I enjoyed it!

I was having a delightful meal recently with a bishop whom I love and respect as a father, and who has been extraordinarily kind to me. My personal policy never to even mention the extraordinary form of the Mass at the dinner table was circumvented by one of my brother priests whom I also esteem as a friend and colleague. “So what do you think of the Tridentine Mass, Bishop?” Sweat began to form on my brow as my stomach churned and the previously delectable filet mignon on my plate suddenly revolted me. “Not again,” I said to myself as I began to drown out what I knew would be an deluge of verbiage against the Missal of Pius V/John XXIII by reciting the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar from memory.

It is a scene which has happened to me many a time, and which is very familiar to young priests all over the world. All of a sudden, I was no longer just one priest among others. I was a marked man. I had committed the not very original sin of being one of “those priests,” the kind who celebrated the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. I was an enigma to the many friends I had made in the communities who enjoy exclusive use of the pre-conciliar liturgical books, who could not fathom how I could wake up every morning and say the detestable Novus Ordo, aka Nervous Disorder. And I was a mystery to my brother priests and even some of my parishioners who couldn’t square the man they knew as their friend, who seemed so jovial, fun-loving and open-minded, with a liturgy which was caricatured by many as the hobbyhorse of the Chosen Frozen, the Walking Wounded, the Integristes, and the Rigid Frigid.

Why? is the question that so many Catholics in pews and rectories all over the world have on their lips after Summorum pontificum unshackled a particular historical form of the Roman rite to work its magic (or wreak havoc, depending on your point of view) on the Church. And it is not an unimportant question.

The fact that Benedict XVI has given me the freedom to celebrate this form of the Mass caused me to sing a quiet private Te Deum in my room, but it does not provide me with answers to that question.

A cogent answer to that question can be given. Priests and laity all over the world are capable of drafting an apologia of historical, theological, and spiritual reasons for why the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite is a good thing, why its continued celebration is a good thing, and why it has a place in the Church of today and tomorrow. Maybe one day the Magisterium of the Church will propose such an apologia so that those of us who enjoy the privilege of Summorum pontificum can point to all of those reasons.

But the reasons why people are still scratching their heads about why Pope Benedict XVI would “resurrect” a supposedly dead liturgy in a supposedly dead language for what is supposedly a miniscule minority of devotees have little to do with history, theology, and spirituality. They have to do with people’s experience of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite and those who are attached to it. At dinner, my dear father in God, the successor to the apostles, shared with us, “I remember the Tridentine Mass when I was a boy. I served that Mass. I still remember the responses: Introibo ad altare Dei; ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam. But it was not beautiful. We had priests who said Low Mass in fifteen minutes and had no idea what they were saying. I lived through all of that. I am done with that. I like the English Mass, and I don’t want to go back.” One can hardly argue with another man’s experience: it is what it is, it is his experience, and you can’t discount that.

Then the priest who launched the cannonball turned the discussion to the contemporary adherents of the extraordinary Mass, “They’re all crazy. They’re just nostalgic for a past they have never known. And most of them are just the walking wounded. The Pope celebrates the current form of the Mass, so that’s good enough for me.”

My dinner companions’ opinions had been formed by their experience, and that experience had left a bad taste in their mouths. No matter what papal legislation, theological study or heartfelt testimonial would be put before them, it was unlikely that their minds would ever be changed. None of that would change the fact that they would always be my friends and mentors, and the fact that they would always see my penchant for the “Trad” thing as a character flaw, a foible, an inexplicable eccentricity. They would love the sinner even if they hated the sin!

I am a simple parish priest. I cannot provide the air-tight argumentation for the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite which would bedazzle the world into whipping out their dusty hand missals and singing the Graduale Romanum. I celebrate the “Trad” Mass because I have parishioners who want it, and because I want to celebrate it. All I can do is share why my experiences of life have given me this love for something that so many of my fellow Catholics do not love. I am sure that there are many others who will find echoes of their own faith journey towards Trent!

As a child, I was raised as a Baptist. About as non-liturgical as you can get. One day I came across a copy of the Book of Common Prayer in a bookstore. I was hooked. All of these prayers and ceremonies, what were they? I saved my allowance and bought a copy. There are boys who drool over complicated football plays, who imagine themselves in military parades with a snazzy uniform and polished rifle, who rattle off baseball stats and have an encyclopedic knowledge of Beckett’s. And then there are boys who come across Adrian Fortescue’s Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described and fall in love.

At first glance, boy rubrical wizards may seem to have nothing to do with sports and army buffs. But many boys want to be in a place where they can be men with other men, where they can master something which others do not know so they compete with those who know some, where they can be on a team. Catholic liturgy traditionally has been a place where that boyhood dream can be fulfilled; the sanctuary, the sports field, the military academy all have provided that. I was introduced to the world of liturgy with its playbook, its rules, its teams, and its camaraderie. I was hooked.

Soon enough I read my way into the Catholic Church, and went dutifully to the ordinary form of the Mass in English. I became an altar server, a cantor and a lector. I sang in the choir. I had seen a Liber usualis in the choir loft, but didn’t know what the squiggles and the Latin words meant. I stole a little red book with parallel columns of Latin and Englishfrom something called the Commission in Support of Ecclesia Dei that someone had left in the church.

I came across Latin Mass Magazine in a bookstore which had articles about courageous priests and laity throughout history and today who performed heroic acts of sacrifice for what some priest called Fr Faber called “the most beautiful thing this side of heaven.”

All of a sudden my world opened up. There was more to my faith and the Mass than just what I had come to know as the Catholic Mass, which was what was celebrated in my parish every Sunday. I learned about young people from all over the world who walked from Paris to Chartres every Pentecost to pray for a return to the sacred. I was not sure what that meant, but I saw these pictures of thousands of young people like me who loved Jesus, the Catholic Church, and the Mass. There was something different about this Mass, this movement.

With the all-critical, all-knowing and all-judging eye of a sixteen year old, I began to see everything else around me in Holden Caufield terms, as “phony.” I never felt quite right about the Life Teen Mass. It just seemed like a bunch of old people desperately trying to relate to me, and we all know that old people, like 33 or so (like I am now!) just can’t understand the young. I had friends who went to Life Teen, and then just stopped going to Mass entirely. I was bored with Mass. It seemed all about the priest’s personality. It was all about jokes, felt banners, and bad music.

I stayed in the choir, and I was never happier than we sang Mozart, Gounod, and Bach. And then came the Glory and Praise and I was just, underwhelmed. And then my priest was exiled for an accusation of child molestation.

For a sixteen year old, this was a lot to take in. I felt betrayed, confused, and most of all, bored. Where was this other enchanted world of High Masses, processions and Holy Hours? Luckily, my senior year, I came across two things which changed my life. I started going to the Orthodox Churches, one Greek and one Russian, in the area, out of curiosity, which instilled in me a sense of the sacred and of liturgical worship. And I went to a conference on Gregorian chant at a Trappist abbey.

During the conference, where I came to actually understand what those squiggles and Latin words in the book I had seen years before in the choir loft were all about, I sneaked into the crypt in the middle of the night to explore and pray. In the dimly lit corridor, I heard the words, Dominus vobiscum. I turned the corner to see an ancient monk face an altar set into the wall, with a couple of people kneeling behind him. “What are they doing at four o’clock in the morning?”

I stayed for the rest of whatever it was that I was seeing, enraptured. Afterwards, I bounced up to the monk and said, “Was that the Tridentine Mass?” And he said, matter of factly, “Yes.” I asked him, “Are you going to do it again?” “Every morning, same time, same place. Can you come tomorrow and serve the Mass for me?” “But, I don’t know how.” “Here’s a little red book you can study for tomorrow. You have to start somewhere.” “Cool!” I said. All of a sudden, that little red book and a ninety-year old monk became my link to a wider world of the faith, and I was included. I was part of something new and exciting.

When I went home, I set about to learn everything I could about this Mass. And so I came across the books of Michael Davies, the figures of Archbishop Lefebvre, and the history of what happened after Vatican II. I also came across The Ratzinger Report and started to read everything I could get my hands on by this Joseph Ratzinger, who became my new hero!

By the time I went off to college, I was well-versed in the history of the crisis in the Church after Vatican II. But I had never studied philosophy or theology, never had a spiritual director, and never had a community of young Catholics where I felt I belonged. In college, I finally had access to all of those things. I had students and professors who painstakingly helped me to evaluate what I had been reading and to develop an authentically Catholic mindset and spirituality.
At college, I was able to see the Novus ordo celebrated well and beautifully and was able to participate in the “Old Mass” as well.

There was still something “edgy” about being a self-described “Traddie.” It was eccentric, it was different, it was cool. I built a huge liturgical library and began to meet other young people like me, and networks began to develop from all over the world. I was no longer bound to polemics and bitterness. As I studied the Roman liturgy, it came alive for me, and I grew to love the prayers, the ceremonies, the music of it all.

My freshman year, I concocted the bright idea that I wanted to see Holy Week in the Old Rite. So six like-minded buddies of mine and I got in a car and drove to Scranton, Pennsylvania to crash the Fraternity of St Peter’s seminary. All three Tenebrae services, the black vestments on Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and the fine party afterwards, the singing of the Haec festa dies: all of them are grafted onto my memory as beautiful and precious for me and for the whole Church. Who would not want to have all of this as part of the patrimony of the Church? I went back every year, and as word of mouth spread, by the last year, we brought 70 others with us.

The day after I graduated, I went on the famous pilgrimage to Chartres. On the middle day of the pilgrimage, we stopped in the middle of the forest for Solemn High Mass of Pentecost. The sumptuous procession of clergy, the active participation of thousands of young people singing with one voice the Latin chants of all ages, it was all a great respite from our grueling walk. And then, after the Offertory, it started to rain. I expected the stampede to find cover, the complaining, a total abandonment of what we were seeing. Nobody moved from the place, except the Scouts, who unfurled linen cloths in neat rows and held them like soldiers holding the flag over a casket.

Priests came with the Blessed Sacrament accompanied by scouts with gold and white umbrellas for the color of the Pope and the Sacred Host. And, as the rain drove down hard upon our faces and drowned out the singing, everyone knelt in the mud, clutching the linen cloths, and received their LORD and God on the tongue with great devotion and love.

This was the faith that I had been looking for my whole life. This was that beauty, ever ancient and ever new, which ravished my heart and gave me strength. There in the mud in the middle of a forest in France far from home, I knew that my vocation was to be a priest, to bring the LORD of faith and beauty to others like those priests who came to the adoring throngs covered in dirt and grime in body, but in grace and charity in soul. And that experience was during the extraordinary form of the Mass. Could I have had a similar or even the same experience in another form of the Mass, or even at some other time? Of course. But God chose that time to reveal Himself and His plan to me in a special way, and for that reason I will always be linked to the liturgy and the people who have sacrificed to encourage its celebration.

I am now a priest of God and the Catholic Church, faithful to the Pope and to the Tradition. Every time I see a young man with a missal in hand and that look of wonder and awe that comes to those who find the faith through its dignified liturgical celebration, I smile and remember. Now I even have to consult some of my spiritual daughters, whose knowledge of Fortescue and the liturgical calendars of various rites far outstrips my own. While I do not celebrate the extraordinary form of the Mass as much as I would like, as I follow the vocation God is laying out for me, I am thankful to Pope Benedict that I, and others like me, are no longer outcasts or orphans. We are Catholics, and as such, we rejoice to be such, with a beautiful liturgical heritage and a Pope to show us the way. My predilection for the “Old Mass” is not an indictment of those who do not have such a predilection, or of the Church’s power to reform the liturgy; it is an expression of something positive and wonderful I have found in the Church’s worship, and for that I am grateful to God!

If you’re wondering how the dinner ended, I kept silence because I was too busy thinking of all the things I am writing down here, of how I could respond to the Why? of my tablemates. As it happened, my steak had been whisked away and a lovely crème brulee had taken its place out of nowhere as the rest of the table were on to other topics of ecclesiastical politics. The milk and honey of the Promised Land after so much wandering was around the corner after all.

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O how blessed are we, Catholics!

Posted: October 16, 2010 by piusranson in Uncategorized

The Chinese has this saying, “身在福中不知幅 ” which is, “Living amidst blessings without knowing the blessings!”

I was asking Cara for the translation for the above and here’s how she explains the chinese saying:

“It means that from young, you grew up in all blessings possible but you don’t know and you neglect and fail to appreciate them. Not everybody has the same privilege as you do to have these blessings!”

Indeed!

Our dear Protestant brothers and sisters long for Jesus but cannot see him or experience the tangible presence of Jesus on earth. We, Catholics, get to opportunity to see him everyday in the Blessed Sacrament. What a great privilege! But often, we take this privilege for granted.

Jesus Christ, for the love of Mankind, died on the cross for us. At every Mass, Jesus humbled himself, into his tiny piece of host, we call, the Eucharist. Does Jesus, our Lord and God, need to do that? Of course he doesn’t need to but he did that for the love of his people, the love of the human race. It’s a gift that many times, we fail to appreciate.

He, who for the love of us, is willing to lock himself up, like a prisoner, in the tabernacle. The tabernacle which may even be left alone. We are leaving God, our creator alone?

He, who for the love of us, is willing to make himself present immediately at the words of consecration by a man, the Priest.

“What? Could you not watch one hour with me?” (St. Matthew 26:40)

This is Jesus, not just speaking to Peter but to everyone of us. Have we spent time with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, lately? If Jesus is Singaporean, his “What?”, pretty rude huh! =P

How awesome is it to bask not in the sun, but in the Holy Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament!

Personally, my two favourite adoration chapels are the one in the Carmelite Church of Sts. Peter and Paul and the one at Church of St. Mary of the Angels.

The one at St. Mary’s is unique because the monstrance is enclosed within metal grilles in the middle of the adoration chapel and it always remind me of how Jesus en-prisoned himself for us.

St. Faustina to Jesus hidden in the Blessed Sacrament:

“I adore You, Lord and Creator, hidden in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I adore You for all the works of Your hands, that reveal to me so much wisdom, goodness and mercy, O Lord.

You have spread so much beauty over the earth and it tells me about Your beauty, even though these beautiful things are but a faint reflection of You, incomprehensible Beauty.

And although You have hidden Yourself and concealed your beauty, my eye, enlightened by faith, reaches You and my souls recognizes its Creator, its Highest Good, and my heart is completely immersed in prayer of adoration.”

Inside the Vatican #50 News, Vienna

Posted: September 25, 2010 by piusranson in Uncategorized

The Primacy Debated in Vienna

For several days, leading Catholic and Orthodox theologians have been meeting in Vienna to discuss the issues which divide the two Churches. The meeting is focusing on the question of papal primacy. The ultimate goal: to end the “Great Schism” of 1054. But, is it possible?

By Robert Moynihan

===================================== 

Progress Toward Unity? Something important is happening in Vienna. For several days, leading Catholic and Orthodox theologians have been meeting in Vienna, Austria, to discuss their theological differences in view of moving toward greater unity.

(Photo: A group picture of the theologians meeting in Vienna. Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, Archbishop of Vienna, and Archbishop Kurt Koch, the new president of Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (he replaced Cardinal Walter Kasper, who is not attending this meeting) are in the center flanking Metropolitan Michael of Vienna, representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Each Local Orthodox Church is represented by two delegates. Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, representing the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, is on the left wearing the white head cover. Next to him Metropolitan John Zizioulas, the Eastern Orthodox metropolitan of Pergamon. He is the Chairman of the Academy of Athens and a noted Orthodox theologian. There is one woman in the group .)

The eventual goal? To overcome the “Great Schism” which has separated the Eastern and Western Churches since 1054, almost 1,000 years now.

Participants at the meeting say some progress has been made during the talks.

They say a possible model for the future is that of “sister churches” with separate hierarchies and liturgies, with the Orthodox accepting the Pope as their “titular” head.

The meeting ends on Sunday, September 26.

Dangers for the Faith?

Many traditional Catholics and Orthodox have a certain fear of talks such as these.

Some, in both Churches, are concerned that theological discussions like this may lead one or the other Church to “water down” essential doctrinal teachings for the sake of an external form of union.

In this specific case, some Orthodox may fear they will be asked to accept a type of “papal primacy” they do not in conscience believe in.

Likewise, some Catholics may feel that the Orthodox may be invited into a union with Rome without giving their assent to essential Catholic doctrines on the office of the Pope.

So there are fears on both sides. And the fears have a certain basis.

For there is always a danger that some aspect or tenet of the deposit of the faith may be placed at risk in the process of such a theological dialogue.

On the Other Hand…

But there is another concern that must also be kept in mind. Today, in our actual historical context, there is a danger that the enemies of the Church — and the chief enemy behind them — can exploit such fears to keep Christians divided against the wishes and the prayer of Christ himself.

Christ prayed on the night of the Last Supper that all of his followers would always remain “one” — united, not divided. But divisions between Christians came.

Some argue that divisions are necessary to clarify truth. Assertions of heretical doctrine do call forth from the defenders of orthodoxy a clear statement of doctrinal truth.

Pope Benedict once said precisely this, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, and the chief defender of doctrinal orthdoxy in the Church, as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.

So, though the way is treacherous, it would seem a mistake to not at least try to set out upon this path, despite the dangers.

The Purpose of the Meeting The purpose of this meeting is to examine key doctrinal questions dividing the Churches carefully, and calmly, and to see where the limits lie, from the perspective of each side. And in this sense, it is a very positive sign that the meeting has been held at all, and that it hasn’t broken up in acrimony, but is continuing toward its conclusion.

For, in the end, the present state of the world counsels openness to such discussions.

In the West, a certain “post-Christian” secular vision is dominant. At the same time, Islam is undoubtedly spreading its influence widely. These developments seem to counsel those who profess belief in Christ as the savior of man and the Son of God — Christians, that is — make every possible effort, short of compromising the deposit of the faith, to draw closer together, first in common work and charity efforts, then, eventually, in some form of public Church unity. Without this, not single tenets of the faith, but the faith itself, whole and entire, may find itself in danger in this world.

============================================

The Ultimate Victory

The Christian message offers an entirely new type of existence to men and women.

Preserving and defending the Church is to preserve and defend the vehicle, the means, of this message.

The theology of one of the participants at the Vienna meeting, Metropolitan John Zizioulas, has expressed this in a striking and powerful way.

Zizioulas, who studied under the Russian Orthodox theologian Georges Florovsky, received his doctorate in 1965 from the University of Athens and has taught theology at the University of Edinburgh and then the University of Glasgow, Scotland.

Zizioulas has argued that full humanity is achieved only as “person” so that one may participate (koinonia) in the personal Trinitarian life of God — participate in the life of the divinity.

He argues that man initially exists as a biological hypostasis (person), constrained as to the types of relationships such a being can have (biological) and doomed to the eventual end of this type of being — death.

He argues that Baptism constitutes an ontological change in the human, creating an ecclesial hypostasis, or person. This rebirth “from above” gives new ontological freedom as it is not constrained by the limits of biological existence. Such an ecclesial being is eschatological, meaning it lives in a paradoxical “now,” but “not yet.”

The completion of this rebirth from above is the day of resurrection when the body will no longer be subject to death.

============================================

The Proceedings

The 12th Session of the Joint Theological Commission for Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches began its work on 22 September 2010 in Vienna.

The commission is co-chaired by Metropolitan John of Pergamon, Patriarchate of Constantinople, and Archbishop Kurt Koch, president of Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Each Local Orthodox Church is represented by two delegates. Representing the Moscow Patriarchate are Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, DECR chairman, and Prof. Archpriest Valentin Asmus, St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Humanitarian University. Archimandrite Kirill Govorun, chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church’s education committee, participates in the meeting as consultant. Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, Archbishop of Vienna, and Metropolitan Michael of Vienna, Patriarchate of Constantinople, welcomed the participants.

The first day was mainly devoted to the methods of further work on the theme “The Primacy of the Bishop of Rome in the First Millennium.” Participants exchanged views on the status to be given to the document on this theme, which was partly considered by the previous meeting of the Commission.

In the evening, Vienna Burgomaster Michael Haupl gave dinner in honour of the participants in the session. The 12th session of the commission will work till September 26.

On September 22, 2010, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, DECR chairman, met with the head of the Vienna archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn.

Metropolitan Hilarion told the cardinal about today’s life of the Russian Orthodox Church, the trips made by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in Russia and far- and near-abroad countries, the Church’s missionary and educational work as well as the work of the Department for External Church Relations and some other Synodal institutions of the Moscow Patriarchate.

They discussed prospects for Orthodox-Catholic cooperation in Europe in general and a possibility for carrying out joint educational activities and youth events, in particular. In conclusion of the talk, which was held in a warm and friendly atmosphere, Metropolitan Hilarion presented Cardinal Schoenborn with an icon of the Most Holy Mother of God.

(Here is a link to this information: http://byztex.blogspot.com/2010/09/more-on-ongoing-orthodox-cat holic.html

Reuters Report on the Meeting

And here is the full text of a Reuters report on what has happened thus far.

Catholic, Orthodox report promising progress on unity

Fri Sep 24, 2010 11:36am EDT By Boris Groendahl

VIENNA (Reuters) – Roman Catholic and Orthodox theologians reported promising progress Friday in talks on overcoming their Great Schism of 1054 and bringing the two largest denominations in Christianity back to full communion.

Experts meeting in Vienna this week agreed the two could eventually become “sister churches” that recognize the Roman pope as their titular head but retain many church structures, liturgy and customs that developed over the past millennium.

The delegation heads stressed unity was still far off, but their upbeat report reflected growing cooperation between Rome and the Orthodox churches traditionally centered in Russia, Greece, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

“There are no clouds of mistrust between our two churches,” Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon told a news conference.

“If we continue like that, God will find a way to overcome all the difficulties that remain.” Archbishop Kurt Koch, the top Vatican official for Christian unity, said the joint dialogue must continue “intensively” so that “we see each other fully as sister churches.”

The churches split in 1054 over the primacy of the Roman pope, the most senior bishop in early Christianity.

The Orthodox in Constantinople, now Istanbul, rejected Roman primacy and developed national churches headed by their own patriarchs.

ADAPTATION NEEDED

The Vatican has sought closer ties for years but the Russian Orthodox Church — whose 165 million followers are the largest branch of the world’s 250 million Orthodox — responded slowly as it emerged from over seven decades of Communist rule. Roman Catholicism is Christianity’s largest church, with 1.1 billion of the estimated 2 billion Christians worldwide. Pope Benedict has close ties to the spiritual leader of the Orthodox, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul, and hopes to meet Russian Patriarch Kirill, who has shown great interest in better ties since taking office in February 2009. Benedict and Kirill are both conservative theologians who say Europe should return to its Christian roots. The Orthodox are closer to Catholicism in their theology and liturgy than the Protestant churches that broke from Rome in the 16th century. Unity will require change on both sides, the delegation heads stressed. “I won’t call it a reformation — that is too strong — but an adaptation from both sides,” John said. For the Orthodox, he said, that means recognizing there is a universal Christian church at a level higher than their national churches and the bishop of Rome is its traditional head. The Catholics would have to strengthen the principle of synodality, by which a church leader consults bishops before making important decisions, he added.

THE FIRST MILLENNIUM

Both those points are sensitive. The Orthodox traditionally prize their decentralized structures and reject the idea of a pope while the Catholic hierarchy is a pyramid with clear lines of authority from local churches up to the powerful pontiff. To work this out, they are studying Christianity’s early history to see how the Latin-speaking West and Greek-speaking East worked together for 1,000 years before the Great Schism. “The basic discussion is about how these churches lived in the first millennium and how we can find a new (common) path today,” Koch explained. Koch said Pope Benedict recently showed his readiness to accept diversity in the church by inviting disaffected Anglicans to become Catholics while keeping some of their traditions. John said a next step along the way to unity will be a pan-Orthodox council to work out relations between national churches and the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has spiritual leadership but no practical authority over them. “We hope that very soon we will be able to invoke such a council,” John said. He said the joint theological commission could probably meet again in 2012 to discuss the theological aspects of closer unity.

(Reporting by Boris Groendahl, writing by Tom Heneghan; editing by Noah Barkin)

© Thomson Reuters 2010 All rights reserved.

Called to One Faith One Church

Posted: September 22, 2010 by piusranson in Uncategorized

Shit Happens, in various World Religions

Posted: September 12, 2010 by piusranson in Uncategorized

Taoism: Shit happens, go with the flow.

Hare Krishna: Shit happens Rama Rama Ding Ding.

Hinduism: This shit has happened before.

Islam: Shit happening is the will of Allah.

Zen: What is the sound of shit happening?

Existentialism: Shit doesn’t happen; shit is.

Buddhism: When shit happens, is it really shit?

Confucianism: Confucius says, “Shit happens”.

7th day Adventist: Shit happens on Saturdays.

Protestantism: Shit won’t happen if you work harder.

Catholicism: If shit happens, you deserved it.

Jehovah’s Witnesses: No shit happens until Armaggedon, and it won’t happen to us.

Unitarian: What is this shit?

Mormon: Shit happens again & again & again.

Judaism: Why does this shit always happen to us?

Pentacostalism: Praise the shit!

Atheism: There is no shit!

New Age: Shit happens and it happens to smell good if you open your heart to it.

Rastafarianism: Let’s smoke this shit.

8 Tips for Catholic Men

Posted: August 15, 2010 by piusranson in Uncategorized

By Randy Hain, The Integrated Catholic Life

I had a recent epiphany as I was preparing myself for Reconciliation and realized that I was about to confess many of the same sins I have been struggling with for years.  I have made progress in some areas, but feel that I am going backwards in others.  Didn’t Einstein once say that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?”

I spoke with a few Catholic brothers the next day and they readily confirmed facing the same problem: we all struggle to break out of repetitive sinful behaviors and avoid self-created obstacles to drawing closer to Christ.  We also agreed that we desire a closer relationship with Him, we all want to get to Heaven with our families and we all want to be devout in the practice of our Catholic faith.  So where do we slip up?  Why do we fall short?

I don’t often write specifically for a male audience, but I believe our gender has some particular and unique challenges to staying on the right path.  I hope to offer some useful insight which will help you, me and other Catholic men be more aware of these self-created challenges and take the necessary steps to overcome them.  Let me start by listing a few general observations about men which may be uncomfortable to read and acknowledge:

  • We often struggle with humility and let our pride and egos get in the way.
  • We like to be in control.
  • We can be stubborn and inflexible to change.
  • Our identities are often wrapped up in our careers.
  • We struggle to ask others (especially the Lord) for help.
  • We are often inclined to action when reflection and discernment are more appropriate.
  • We are usually uncomfortable with open displays of emotion (ours and others).
  • We may be overly concerned about the opinions of others (What will our buddies think?).

My wife would say this list accurately describes me!  What would your wife or girlfriend say about you?  Do these observations resonate with you?  My intent is not to make any of us feel bad, but to illustrate some of the obstacles between us and Christ.  OK, we have acknowledged the problem…now what?  Let’s explore how to get on the right path and stay there.

Over the years since my conversion into the Church, I have become increasingly self-aware about my shortcomings and how they negatively impact the practice of my faith.  Knowing my challenges is only half of the equation-I must be willing to address them (remember that guys are inclined towards action!).  Before we begin, let’s examine what we know for certain-we have a goal (Heaven), a road map (Scripture and Tradition), examplesto follow (the Saints), leadership (the Pope, Bishops, Priests and Deacons), clear teaching authority (the Magisterium of the Church), help along the way (the Sacraments) and we have Divine guidance (the Holy Spirit).  It is obvious that we have the tools and resources we need.

Let’s consider how we can make progress and stay on the right path.  I don’t know about you, but if I can’t form the solution to a problem into an actionable and achievable goal, I will often struggle.  Here is a list of eight practical actions I am working on which I hope you find to be helpful:

  1. Surrender. We have to surrender on an ongoing basis to Christ for His will to be done in our lives.  Guys, we are not in charge…as much as we want to be!  St. Ignatius of Loyola once said: “Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.”
  2. Pray. Work on developing a daily prayer routine with the goal of at least an hour a day devoted to prayer.  Sound difficult?  Think about how much TV we watch a day.  Consider how much time we spend in our cars each day and how much time we devote to exercise.  We have more than enough time for prayer if we plan for it, schedule it and commit to it.  Pray the Morning Offering or other prayer before you leave home-10 minutes, Rosary in your car or while exercising-20 minutes, Daily Jesuit Examen-15 minutes, Prayer with all meals-5 minutes, Prayer with our children and spouse-10 minutes. Add it up-we just did an hour of prayer.
  3. Become passionate about the Eucharist. Want to fully experience Christ and be closer to Him?  Seek out the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist in daily Mass when possible and spend quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration every week. St. Francis de Sales once said:“When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage; speak to Him about your spiritual life, gazing upon Him in your soul where He is present for your happiness; welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence.”
  4. Go to Reconciliation more frequently-OK, we are hopefully praying and asking for God’s help with our burdens, but we are still saddled with the sins we commit daily.  Go to your Priest and partake of this wonderful gift we Catholics enjoy, but may not utilize enough-the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Commit to going once a month.  A thorough examination of conscience and honest confession will lift your spirit and keep you on the right path!
  5. Accept and Study our Faith. Accepting the teaching of our Church is necessary, but so is the knowledge that our full understanding may take time.  Trust that two millennia of Church teaching is probably much more reliable than what you or I might conjure up on our own.  Go to a parish bible study, take apologetics classes, read the bible and catechism, and read great Catholic authors like Peter Kreeft, Don DeMarco, Scott Hahn, Francis Fernandez, G.K. Chesterton, Fr. Groeschel, Fr. Spitzer, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II.
  6. Practice Detachment. Let’s ask ourselves if we really need “it”, what ever “it” is.  Let go of the material things that are in the way of our prayer lives, church attendance, charitable giving, friendships, volunteering and certainly our relationships with Christ.  The Catechism (2556) says, “Detachment from riches is necessary for entering the Kingdom of Heaven.”
  7. Understand our True Vocation. For those of us blessed to be married and have children, we must recognize that helping our families get to Heaven and being good husbands and fathers (and not our business careers) is our real vocation.  It is so easy to allow our family to serve our work (my issue many years ago) instead of having our work serve our family…and in turn, our family to serve the Lord.
  8. Be Courageous. Christians are meant to stand out, not blend in.  Blending in speaks to conforming and making sacrifices so our faith becomes part of the mainstream…and we need to fight it!  We live in difficult, trying times.  Families are under attack, our children are at risk, many people are blind to the need to respect and value all life and atheists are one of the fastest growing groups in the world.  We have an opportunity to be beacons of light and good examples of Christ’s redeeming love.  We will be judged one day on the fruits of our apostolate and hope to hear Jesus say the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

This list may look like a lot of hard work, but the real challenge is to practice these actions not as a bunch of new “to-dos,” but as part of a broader, unifying approach to a balanced and meaningful life that places Christ first in all areas of our lives.  I simply want to encourage all of us to remember that we are called to lead lives of holiness and we are made for Heaven, not this world.  As Catholic men, we have a responsibility to be strong fathers and husbands, leaders in our parishes, good stewards in the community and humble followers of our Lord.  Look to the example of St. Joseph, Patron Saint of fathers and the Universal Church for his obedience, humility, selflessness, courage and the love he showed to Mary and Jesus.  If we can emulate St. Joseph even a little each day, we will be that much closer to becoming the men we are called to be.

To Priests in the Archdiocese of Singapore

Posted: August 12, 2010 by piusranson in Uncategorized

A Letter from the Archbishop, Msgr. Nicholas Chia, to Priests in the Archdiocese of Singapore

8th December 2009

Dear brother priests,

The Second Vatican Council taught that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” In the liturgy, Christ is the celebrant. All of us are privileged to share in the prayer and sacrifice Christ offers to the Father through our baptism, which makes us part of the body of Christ, and through our ordination, which configures us to Christ the High Priest. As the visible body of Christ, the Church hence lays down how liturgy is to be celebrated. Our fidelity to the Church’s norms is a mark of our recognition that the liturgy is not our personal property which we can deal with as we please. Rather, it is a gift. In short, our fidelity to the way in which the Church desires us to celebrate the liturgy, is a mark of our love for God, God who loved us first, who now feeds us and his people with the body and blood of his beloved Son. It is also a sign of our love of the Church and our communion with each other. That is why, even as the Second Vatican Council sought certain liturgical reforms, it emphasised that no-one, not even a priest could alter anything in the liturgy on his own authority.

It is true that we do not like to be told what to do. Our fidelity to the liturgical norms demands something of us, it demands that we leave aside our personal likes and dislikes and do what the Church would have us do. It demands that we die to ourselves and to our thoughts of “improving” the liturgy by ad hoc changes on account of whatever we think best for ourselves or even for others. That demands conversion.

In 2002, the Church published a new General Instruction of the Roman Missal as part of the Third Edition of the post-Second Vatican Council Roman Rite Latin Missal. The General Instruction has been effective in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei since 1 January 2009. In many respects, it is not too different from the earlier version. Nonetheless, its adoption for our region is an opportunity for liturgical catechesis and for renewing together our commitment to a worthy and dignified celebration of the Mass, as the Church wishes.

In the coming months, the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission will be publishing a series of catecheses on various aspects of the General Instruction. In this, I would like to underline certain aspects which affect the whole body of the faithful, whenever Mass is celebrated, whether in a parish, school or religious community. I seek your co-operation in implementing these aspects in your respective communities.

[Liturgical Gestures and Posture.]

Liturgical gestures and postures performed by the entire congregation manifest outwardly the unity of the faithful in their baptism. I draw your attention to the following points.

– All are to strike their chest at the words “through my own fault” in the “I Confess” in order to express sorrow for sin.

– During the recitation of the Nicene Creed, all are to bow at the words “By the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man” to show our reverence for the mystery of the Incarnation.

– All are also invited to bow at the holy name of Jesus, for example, during the conclusion of the Opening Prayer of the Mass. In his name, the lame man walked and at his name, every knee shall bow.

– During the Eucharistic Prayer, all, other than the celebrating priest(s), are to kneel from the end of the Holy to the end of the consecration. In places where it remains the custom to kneel throughout the Eucharistic Prayer, this practice is to continue.

– The holding of hands during the Lord’s Prayer is not a recognised liturgical gesture and is not to be encouraged.

– The faithful may receive Holy Communion either kneeling or standing. Each communicant’s choice is to be respected. No-one is to be pressured to adopt one posture or the other. If a person chooses to receive Communion standing, he or she is either to genuflect, or if unable to do so, bow deeply, before receiving the Sacrament in order to express reverence for the Body of Christ.

– The faithful may receive Holy Communion either on the tongue or in the hand. Each communicant’s choice is to be respected. No-one is to be pressured to adopt one posture or the other.

[Liturgical Music]
Singing and chanting is another way in which we pray at Mass. There are different roles, each having their part, the priest, the cantor, the choir and the assembly, and these reflect the diversity of roles and gifts in the Church. They are not interchangeable at will. In terms of what is sung, I draw your attention to the following norms of the General Instruction:

– The above norm applies to the text of the Responsorial Psalm, which is to be taken from the Lectionary in the Graduale Romanum or Graduale Simplex. Our fidelity to the liturgy includes fidelity to the approved translations found in the Sacramentary and Lectionary. This applies to Mass celebrated in any language. A song may never be substituted for the Responsorial Psalm.

– Songs and hymns sung at Mass, other than those from the approved Latin chant books, i.e., the Graduale Romanum and Graduale Simplex, are to be approved by the Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. The Liturgical Commission is working on a list of hymns to be submitted for approval.

– The lay faithful are to learn some common Latin chants in order to foster a common repertoire spanning all cultures, languages and regions. This is especially important given the great diversity of languages in which Sunday Mass is now celebrated in Singapore. We need to find a common repertoire which we can sing together. We should not become a Tower of Babel. If you or your parish choirs need assistance, please contact the Liturgical Music Committee.

– Musical settings for the text of the Mass, such as the Gloria, the Creed, the Holy, the Memorial Acclamation and the Lamb of God, must not deviate from the approved translation of the Order of Mass. Any element of paraphrase disqualifies a composition. A song may never be substituted for any part of the Order of Mass.

[Conclusion]

Our Lord’s prayer before he suffered was “that they may all be one.” The Church is the bearer of the hope for unity. To be a sign of unity and a beacon in the world, the Church must herself be united and her members united. We are sinners called to holiness and we know too well the effects of sin in our lives. Sometimes the worst quarrels are with those nearest to us, even in the Church. The liturgy can turn into an arena of conflict. But it should not be so, for we risk trampling on the great gift of the Father to us, the gift that makes us one, Jesus Christ, himself present in the liturgy through the Holy Spirit. The liturgy of the People of God is not a canvas for personal opinions, innovations and preferences, in conflict with the norms of liturgy. We should put our desire for unity in the Church into acts that build unity, a unity that is God-given in the first and with which we co-operate by opening ourselves to his grace. The implementation of this new General Instruction is an opportunity for us to respond in unity of gesture and voice, so that our outward actions may incline us more and more to conversion of hearts and a welcoming of God’s grace.

Yours devotedly in Christ,
Abp. Nicholas Chia

-Typed out by Jean Elizabeth Seah-