SPARE ME THE LITURGICAL GEOMETRY LESSON


People have been trying to impress upon me and others too, that the “new” form of the mass is horizontal whereas the traditional Latin mass is vertical.  I’ve given this a great deal of thought.  From the perspective of language (not Latin, but words) the traditional Latin mass orients the person’s focus toward the transcendent.  There is no mistake about this.

But there is another mistake, which is to say that the current form of the mass fails to orient us toward the transcendent.

There are two ways to “touch” the transcendent.  One can reach up, or that which is transcendent can reach down to man.  Whether man reaches up or God reaches down, the vertical dimension of worship and Catholic spirituality has never been abrogated.  Rather, the action can be uplifting or incarnational.

I think that it would be fair to say that today’s form of the mass, if and when it’s celebrated as per the General Instructions for the Roman Missal (GIRM), has a very dynamic vertical dimension, because it places the focus on God breaking into human history:  the Incarnation.

Everything begins with man reaching out to God asking for forgiveness, during the penitential rite.  This rite is found in both extraordinary and ordinary forms of the Roman rite.  Next, we move to sacred Scripture.  In the ordinary form of the mass, the scriptures are proclaimed in the language of the people.  In the TLM, Latin is usual.  For those who understand Latin or have a missal with the translation, following the proclamation of the scriptures is not a hardship.

Here is where the weakness of both those who love the extraordinary form and those who love the ordinary form of the mass is most visible.  Unfortunately, catechesis in  the Latin Church has been very weak in the area of Sacred Scripture.  To say that many of the religious education books published in the United States could have just as well been produced by Disney Enterprises would not be much of an overstatement.  They fail to convey  the fact that God speaks and we must listen and then respond.

For many Catholics, traditionalists and other, the proclamation of the Sacred Scripture is like story time in elementary school.  Our priests and deacons add to the reduction of the proclamation, because they often fail to mention that what we are about to hear and what we have heard is God’s voice, not the lector’s or the clergyman’s.  Those people are conduits through which God wants to speak to His people.  The vertical quality of the Word of God is obscured by a lack of appreciation on the part of the congregation, poor delivery from those who read it, and very often sermons or homilies that sound more like motivational talks than Divine messages from God to man.

Those who see and hear the voice of God in the proclamation of the Scriptures are definitely praying, because prayer is simply lifting one’s mind and heart to God.  We don’t have to do more.  God does the rest.  During the proclamation of the Scriptures and the homily God calls out to man, as he called out to Adam in the garden, to Abraham, Samuel, and Moses, and to the apostles.  He communicates His love for man and repeats His promise to be save us.

But God also communicates the conditions necessary for salvation.  He reveals to man the moral law that we must observe to be saved.  He offers the means to reconcile, if we violate that law.  He also reveals the consequences for those who violate the moral law and do not repent.

It is during this message that says, “I AM your God and you are my people,” that the soul is intimately tuned in to the voice of God.  But the soul must have a springboard to make the leap from here, into the Word of God.   The springboard for the soul is not an object, but awareness.  We must be aware that it is God who is speaking and that we are commanded to listen carefully.  This is not story time, history class, catechism class or motivational speech to improve your fortune and acquire a younger and better looking wife.  This is the literal voice of God that becomes Incarnate in the Word.  This Word will be offered to the Father in an unbloody sacrifice under the appearance of bread and wine.  Then again, God responds by offering us the Word as spiritual nourishment in Holy Communion.

The horizontal dimension of faith plays an important part in the ordinary form of the mass.  We come to God as a people to fulfill the two Commandments that God gives us, “Love God above all things and love your neighbor as yourself.”   To understand that we relate to each other, not by how we interact at mass, but because of who we ARE, the People of God, and to convert our manners so that everything we do and say reflects God rather than us, adds the horizontal dimension necessary to complete the cross.  This is called ecclesial consciousness.

The ordinary form of the mass provides us with the means to touch and be touched by the Transcendent who speaks directly to us through the Scriptures.  The Word that is proclaimed in the Scripture points our attention to the sacrifice on the altar, which is the life of the Word Himself laid down for our Redemption.  But the Word does not remain in the grave.  It rises and reveals himself to us, glorious and triumphant at every elevation of the sacred host.  He invites us to eat and drink His body and blood under the appearance of bread and wine.  Such great wonder and mystery becomes visible to those who are familiar with the Sacred Scripture, who have an ecclesial consciousness and who attend mass  to present themselves to God, not to fulfill an obligation or to experience the warmth and friendliness of parish life.  Parish life that nurtures the soul is that life which begins with the acknowledgement that the Word has become flesh and is speaking to us.  This is not a replay or a reading of some historical event.  This is reality, more real than the pains of a woman in labor.

 

Br. Jay

The Quiet Amidst the Storm – Part 2


In our previous article on Hurricane Matthew, we closed discussing the attitude of anxiety that can contaminate others during such events, and we mentioned that our Holy Father St. Francis taught us instead to always go through the world filled with the Lord’s peace and joy.

In this article we wish to share a bit more alongside some practical “hints” on how to achieve and maintain inner peace during difficult times.

Transitus at St. Maximilian Kolbe parish

Transitus at St. Maximilian Kolbe parish

On his deathbed, afflicted by physical suffering and by the struggles of the newborn Franciscan family, St. Francis was able to compose his beautiful Canticle, of which we quote only some strophes:

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures…

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather …

 Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water…

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire…

Praised be You, my Lord,
through those who give pardon for Your love,
and bear infirmity and tribulation…

Blessed are those who endure in peace…

Praised be You, my Lord,
through our Sister Bodily Death…

Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will
find in Your most holy willl…

This is the commitment that the brothers take upon themselves when they profess to follow the life of St. Francis, when they commit to become mirrors of perfection.

Such was the inspiration that our Father gave us, that he would inspire other great saints to imitate this model. St. Teresa of Avila would write: “Let nothing disturb you”. St. Ignatius of Loyola would speak of “holy indifference” as “not preferring health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to humiliation, long life to a short one[; instead] wish only for those conditions that will aid our pursuit of the goal for which we have been created”.(Spiritual Exercises) There are many other examples, but  ultimately, they all refer back to the ultimate source of Peace and Joy, the good Lord who once said: “Do not worry about your lives…do not worry about tomorrow!” (Mt 6:25,34).

lighthouses-lighthouse-looking-wide-open-sea-horizon-cloud

Furthermore, as Franciscans of Life, we bear the additional commitment of witnessing to the power and majesty of Life, eternal and all-powerful. “I have come that you may have life, and have it fully” (Jn 10:10). Church Father St. Irenaeus once commented:

“The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation already brings life to all living beings on the earth, how much more will the manifestation of the Father by the Word bring life to those who see God.”

In a practical way, we know that “nobody has seen the Father except the one He sent” and that “he who has seen the Son has seen the Father”, as our Lord reminds us of this and St Francis wishes us to imitate this. Therefore the Franciscan of Life, when seeking to proclaim the Gospel of Life, looks at the person of our Lord within his earthly life, particularly at times when He was surrounded by great agitation and nervousness. How did He act? What did He say?

Thus walking unhurriedly amidst a hurried crowd, being polite at a tired stored employee, smiling at an upset customer, helping a frustrated stranger who is looking for batteries, all of these take a different meaning as they proclaim the Light that shines in the darkness.

A friend of our community mentioned to us during a recent conversation that she felt “ashamed” as she, too, was guilty of having rushed through several stores and having been glued before the TV screen following the alert updates. We do not wish you to misunderstand us… as we said, we too went through the necessary preparations, as prudence is a great virtue. There are, however, certain elements that everyone – even those who have not been through years of formation in Franciscan spirituality – can apply in their daily life to find more of that interior silence that helps us maintain the quiet through the storm.

For example, we avoid following the secular news – including weather updates. The Superior, a man who has mastered interior silence, is tasked with following the development of the event – whatever the event may be – and sharing what he considers necessary for the brothers to know.

To build on a metaphor by Thomas Merton, it seems that the media in this day and age has sadly become a sort of “digital acupuncture” designed to stimulate every possible nerve in the human body, to keep us “on the edge”. “Fortunately”, though, our first-world stores come to the rescue with every sort of product that will reinforce our sense of safety by reinforcing our sense of “having” – even when we purchase those items on credit cards and therefore we are increasing our degree of “not having” (that is, if we assume for the sake of the argument that money is something one can “have”, that is, if we assume that money “is” something).

To make things worse, the media – even those with the best intentions – often miss the elephants in the room. Mother Teresa, recently canonized to the great joy of us all and of so many around the world, reminds us that we need not look far in order to find our neighbor in need. Even before we look at Haiti and the Caribbean, we ought to ask ourselves what we can do to help the homeless men and women on the streets of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and many other cities of Miami-Dade and Broward who may not even know that there is a deadly hurricane coming their way. Some of them may not have the means to reach a shelter, others may lack an ID that will allow them access into a shelter. Could we find it in our heart to welcome them into our homes for the length of the emergency?

To turn off the “excitement” of the media and to turn from “self” towards the “other” – here are two very useful ways to maintain inner silence, peace, and joy.

The last suggestion I would like to make comes from the spiritual director of St. Teresa of the Andes, a young Carmelite mystic to whom the Lord revealed that she would die within the month. Upon mentioning this to her spiritual director and asking how to go about the remainder of the month, she was told: “Live as usual, as if you were not going to die“. For, in the words of St. Francis, “blessed are those whom the Lord will find doing His holy will“. Then even dreadful, ugly, scary Death becomes no longer our enemy, but our sister.

Francis_blessing

The Quiet Amidst the Storm – Part 1


Hello fellow readers! As some of you may have heard, we recently went through a weather emergency as a category 4 hurricane was scheduled to strike the coast of Florida, exactly between two of our community houses.

To make things worse, a particular satellite image caught the attention of the media, particularly as we approach the Halloween “season”, as the infra-red version of the hurricane looked somewhat like a skull. While this is a purely psychological illusion called pareidolia in which the human mind perceives a familiar pattern where none actually exists, the point is that the hurricane did prove itself deadly. The death toll in Haiti is reaching 900, and we know that deaths have been reported in other Caribbean islands.

Infra-red photo of the hurricane

One infra-red photo of hurricane Matthew

The State of Florida was largely unaffected by the hurricane, with no deaths reported. The Franciscans of Life “cloistered” the motherhouse with some good old wood planks, and even tied down a nearby palm tree! Some supplies and a few flashlights and candles completed our emergency preparation.

wp_20161007_003

The greatest impact we experienced were the wind gusts. You can see below a before-and-after of the above-mentioned palm tree.

palm_tree

The most important lesson we learned from Hurricane Matthew was that at times such as these we are called to be “channels of God’s peace”. Be it in workplaces or stores, we noticed many people looking extremely worried, angry, afraid, or stressed out.

Can anyone blame them? We all know how catastrophic (and even deadly) can a hurricane be…

However, our Holy Father St. Francis taught us that we must go through the world filled with the Lord’s peace and joy. This is something the brother must “radiate”.

– End of Part 1 – 

In Part 2 we will discuss practical ways to achieve inner peace during difficult times.

 

Published in: on October 8, 2016 at 9:53 PM  Leave a Comment  

Prophets and Prophecies


St. Francis of Assisi died on the evening of October 3, 1226; that is, 790 years ago.  Nonetheless, he remains very much alive in the Church and the world today.

This little man from a small town in the Umbrian region of Italy achieved what Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Mark Anthony, Mao, Stalin, Lenin, Hitler, Bonaparte, and George Washington never achieved.  On the day of his death, he left behind a family of men and women, today known as Franciscans.  On that memorable evening of October 3rd 1226, there were more than 5,000 friars, 200 cloistered nuns, and more than 1,000 secular men and women who formed the family of St. Francis or the Franciscan Family.

WP_20140825_081Today, we are about one million around the world.  No one really knows how many groups of Franciscans there are in the world.  The family grew so much that it was impossible to keep it under one superior general and to govern everyone with the same expectations.  Diversity in cultures, languages, political conditions and even geography made it necessary to breakdown into smaller communities that could be more easily governed and who were more cohesive.

This does not mean that the mind and rule of St. Francis were abandoned in order to accommodate to time and place.  It means that the mind, rule and heart of Francis emulated the mind, commandments and heart of Jesus, making room for men and women from every part of the world.  So, his little family of 11 Italian brothers from Umbria grew into an international family that has survived 800 years of changes,st maximilian kolbepolitical persecutions, Church politics, poverty, wars, disease, misunderstanding, rejection, martyrdom, even heresy.

This should make us think about the Church.  Christ promised Peter that the gates of hell would not prevail against him.  He promised to be with us until the end of time, through thick and thin.  Yet, many catastrophic minds believe that the Church is falling apart, the great tribulation is coming and the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

In every age God sends us prophets and prophecies foreshadowing his redemptive work for mankind. The Franciscan family has survived and prospered, despite many setbacks.  By the standards of some of these extremists’ minds, Franciscans contemplationshould have been wiped out during the Protestant Reformation, maybe the Reign of Terror, Nazism, Communism, or the Americanist Heresy.  The fact is that the Franciscan family is alive and growing.

Like every family, it grows old and tired in some places and dies out, only to sprout with vigorous new shoots in other cities and countries.  The gates of hell have never prevailed against the Franciscan family.

Maybe, October 4th, as we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Holy Father Saint Francis, we would do well to meditate on prophecy.  St. Francis and his WP_20140819_035descendants are not just another group in the Church.  We are a prophetic statement for believers and unbelievers alike.  We foreshadow the triumph of Christ the King over all the odds and a new springtime for the Church.

The Franciscans of Life wish all of our friends, a Blessed Feast of St. Francis.

caravaggio_st_francis_in_ecstasy