Video: A Year with the Franciscans of Life


Published in: on April 11, 2016 at 11:48 PM  Leave a Comment  

A question . . .


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Celibacy: a Jewel of Great Price


The question has often been raised by parents and friends. “Why would a ‘normal’ healtFrancis_and_Pietro_Bernardonehy man choose celibacy and chastity over a woman?” Another popular question, “How can you live without a woman?”
There are people who believe that such men do harm to themselves and eventually to others by engaging in gay sex or pedophilia. Nothing can be farther from the truth. There are married men who engage in both behaviors. Neither promiscuity nor marriage are “cures” for gay sex or pedophilia. In fact, these two behaviors do not belong in the same sentence, because they are not related.

To understand celibate chastity one has to understand love, marriage, and covenant. The man who chooses a celibate chaste life is not running away from marriage, love, and commitment. He is turning to something that he has found, that being the jewel of great price. He is overwhelmed by the love of God.

HeFrancis_leper can love another person and be intimate. However, when he experiences the love of God, he is filled with peace, interior silence, joy, and courage that he has never experienced. His life is different and he wants more. He cannot turn back to the love and intimacy of human romance, not because human romance is bad, but because he has found something even better than good. He has found Him who is the perfect lover: God.

When he compares his current state with his previous life, he discovers new things about himself. The first thing he discovers is that he has a courage that he never knew he had. He can stand up to those who try to control him. He is no longer afraid of bullies. And he makes choices and takes risks that he never took before.
Secondly, he finds that those romantic feelings he once had were truly beautiful and profound shadows of what consecrated life would later offer. Those experiences foreshadowed his romance with God.

Francis_blessingHow does he know this? He no longer question himself or his relationship. He is truly loved by God and he freely returns that love. He no longer wonders whether his beloved will change his mind. His relationship is no longer about liking what he feels or what the other feels for him.

His relationship with God is dynamic, because it is about surprises. God surprises him by filling his time, so that time seems to stand still God also surprises him when he looks back on his life and sees how much he has grown and how far he has moved from where he was.

Former relationships are now the old school where he learned the joys and sorrows of love. Now he feels ready and willing to live with the joys and tears that are part of loving God and being intimately loved by Him. Those old relationships were a training ground for what was to come.

One does not choose chastity and celibacy because he failed at romance, though it may have felt that way in the past. In hindsight, we realize that the past taught us that we could experience the joys and tears of love and continue loving and giving ourselves by the grace of the Beloved with whom we finally settle down.

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Experiencing the Proximity of God


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All too often we go looking for God only to experience frustration at not finding Him. Hence the temptation to think that “God has more important concerns than me” begins to grab hold of us. We begin to believe that the habitual sins that torture us will always be our masters, because “God does not care. God is angry at me or I’m a lost cause”.

The real problem is that we go looking for that which is right next to us.lighthouses-lighthouse-looking-wide-open-sea-horizon-cloud

Imagine the man who tells you that he has lost his mind. Have you ever considered how ridiculous this expression sounds if it’s taken literally? In order to make such a statement as “I’ve lost my mind” one must make use of the very thing that he believes has been lost.

The proximity of God is very similar.

Man cannot look for that of which he has no idea what it is and no experience. If we are looking for God, it’s because we have a sense of His existence. We can’t have a sense of His existence without knowledge. Finding God is not about feeling His presence. Sensual perceptions of God are gifts for a select few who can handle them. Finding God is about knowledge. Only the man who knows that God is closer to him than his own mind can find God, because he knows that God never lost sight of him.

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Published in: on February 23, 2016 at 12:06 PM  Leave a Comment  

Atonement or chocolate?


Lent is about to begin and many of us are thinking about what we want to give up. Here is the irony of it all. Some people give up chocolate. In fact, chocolate is the most common Lenten sacrifice, followed by dessert.
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Let’s take this in baby steps. The whole idea of Lent is that it is a time of atonement. Now let’s get this straight. We sin against purity, honesty, loyalty, charity, faith, justice, detachment and many other things and virtues. Then we try to atone for all of this by giving up Hershey’s Kisses or ice-cream and apple pie? Sometimes we have to ask ourselves whether our Lenten sacrifices are somewhat presumptuous. We hope to atone for a multitude of sins with a few candy bars and some dessert; if we remember, we abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent.

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“My merit is God’s mercy.” -St. Bernard

Fortunately for us, God’s mercy far exceeds our foolishness. We often forget that Lent is a time of penance. Penance means atonement and conversion of manners.

We can never atone for our sins on our own. For this reason Lent culminates in Passion week, when Christ enters Jerusalem to be executed for our sins. Only the perfect man can offer the perfect act of atonement.

Our Lenten sacrifices must be offered with the ultimate sacrifice that Christ offered. During Lent we must be able to answer several questions with honesty.

1. Whether I am giving up chocolate or something else that I like, am I aware that I must also give up a specific sin? The external sacrifice is only a reminder of what we have to change. It does little good to give up a goody that we like while continuing to fall into the same sin.

2. If I add extra prayer or an extra mass to my weekly schedule do I take the time to meditate on the sin that I am trying to atone? Or do I offer the mass and prayers without much thought to what I have to change? The purpose of the extra mass and prayers is to bring us closer to God and draw us farther away from sin.

3. Finally, do I remember that Lent is to the Church what novitiate is to religious formation? During Lent I take a closer look at what needs improvement in my life and I work toward a conversion of manners. That is, a change in how I live my life with God and neighbor.

One cannot enter Lent with heart and soul without acknowledging one’s sins and the Passion of Christ, which restored to man the necessary graces to change and become like Adam before the Fall. If we ignore sin and the fact that we are sinners, Lent becomes just another tradition that leads nowhere. If we recognize sin, the Cross, and our need for a conversion of manners, Lent becomes a season of extraordinary grace.

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The Perfect Joy of Saint Francis

What happens to a man who enters the Franciscans of Life?


To answer the first question, NOTHING.  We stopped torturing people a long time ago.  Having said that, you may find that you go through a transformation that you never thought was possible.  “I can never do that.”  Many people say.

The first thing one learns is to share.  For us, this means living in very small spaces.  You thought that an airplane bathroom was small?  Check out our sleeping arrangements.

WP_20160201_009These are our sleeping quarters, also called cells.  No brother owns anything, not even a room of his own.  A large room is divided by curtains, as you would see in a hospital.  Behind each curtain there are two beds for two brothers, bunks.  There is an aisle along the length of the bed that is 18 inches wide and another curtain, behind which there is another cell with two more beds the same size.  The brothers always remember Jesus’ words, “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

WP_20160201_004Every brother is assigned a flat sheet and a single blanket.  We use only what we need, not what we like.  We don’t use comforters or fancy bedspreads.  The money that can be spent on those items can just as easily be put into our apostolate among the voiceless, even if it’s just paying for gas to get from point A to point B.  After a few days, one becomes so accustomed to this arrangement, that we no longer miss our old bedroom in our former home.  The community house becomes home and the cells become our bedrooms; but they are more than that.  It is here that we experience the intimacy and poverty of the fraternal life that St. Francis so loved.  Like Christ and his Apostles and like Francis and the early brothers who shared huts, the brothers practice charity and detachment.

The cells are in the enclosed part of the house where no outsiders may enter, male nor female, not even our moms.  While in the cells, we avoid unnecessary conversation so that in solitude and silence the soul may be more attentive to the voice of God speaking from within.  The cell and the enclosure are only external reminders of an internal attitude that every brother should have.  Each of us carries within him an interior cloister where only the soul and God interact.  This awareness is the summit of poverty, when you own nothing, not even your inner space . . . everything belongs to the Beloved.

WP_20160130_004In the sleeping area there is always a small oratory.  An oratory is not a chapel.  The Blessed Sacrament is not reserved there.  Oratory comes from the Latin word oratio, meaning to speak and to pray.  Oremus,”Let us pray.  Let us speak with God.”   The brothers last conversation before retiring is with Jesus and His Immaculate Mother.  His first conversation of the day is also with the beloved Mother and Son.  During the day, the brother sneaks into the oratory, like a lover sneaking along the hedges to have a quiet words with his sweetheart.  Christ and the Immaculate are our sweethearts.

TUNIC_SMOCKWe don’t have closets, since we don’t have many clothes.  We share a row of hooks where we hang up our formal and work habits.  We also have a pair of grey pants and a grey banded shirt.  Here you see a typical work habit for a postulant.  Novices and professed brothers wear it with a cord or without a cord, depending on the task at hand.  The work habit it short.  It does not reach the knees.  It’s our version of grunge clothing.  Nothing is ever wasted.  Our Constitution reminds us that like  St. Francis, we follow the poor and suffering Christ who walked to Calvary in  shredded clothes, except for his sacred seamless tunic.  When a garment is too damaged to wear, it is cut up and used to patch up other work habits.  It is not unusual to see our brothers wearing patches on their work habits or displaying grease stains from an engine.  These stains are tough to wash out.  But we manage.WP_20141209_001 (1)  We don’t have cooks or housekeepers.  Those are chores that we do ourselves.  The brothers take turns cooking, scrubbing and cleaning.  Those brothers who have never done it before or don’t know how are taught by more experienced brothers.  WP_20151212_004St. Francis said that we are to be “minors”.   During the Italian Middle Ages there was a social class known as the Minores.  It seems that these men and women were of the lower class of serfs and peasants.  Even among the peasants, there was social stratification.  Christ reminds us that we have been sent to serve, not to be served.  “Go out and do what I have done for you.”

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It’s time to leave.  A brother may be going to class at the university, while another is going to the hospital or to hospice and another brother is on his way to do counseling or education with dads in crisis pregnancies or going to visit a newborn baby that was going to be aborted.  The brother is always there to say “Hi Little One”BABY M-2 (2)

Life calls out to life  We even have two pups.  The black and brown handsome fellow is Max, named after St. Maximilian Kolbe. max_and_tasha The little fawn cutie is Tasha, named after a character on Star Trek Generations.  Yes, we have former Trekkies among us.  The brothers may not watch television.  Start Trek is out of the question.  Besides, who has time.

No day is complete without prayer and the
Holy Eucharist.Archbishop Thomas Wenski celebrates Mass for Nascent Life

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In between we manage to insert
an hour of private prayer at 5:30 AM, the Liturgy of the Hours: morning, midday, evening, night and midnight.  There is always time for the Holy Rosary.

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I VOW AND PROMISE . . .

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COME AND SEE

Brother Bernardo Makes Vows


After three months as an aspirant, three months as a postulant and 12 months as a novice, Brother Bernardo D’Carmine made temporary vows as a Franciscan of Life.

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The vows are obedience, poverty, chastity and a fourth vow to proclaim the Gospel of Life.  Brother made vows during a solemn celebration of evening prayer (vespers) on January 18, 2016 at St. Maximilian Kolbe Chapel in Pembroke Pines, Florida.

Presiding over the Liturgy of the Hours was Rev. Mr. Scott Joiner.  Deacon Scott also preached the “exhortation” reminding us all that one man’s conversion can change the Church and history, referring to the Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi. DSC_0027

The first step is to embrace the poverty of Christ and his most blessed mother.  He also reminded the Franciscans of Life that we are an outgrowth of a long and venerable family that is more than 800 years old, with more than 100 different congregations, orders, societies and institutes.  Today, there are almost one million Franciscan men and women around the world, secular and religious, lay and cleric, men and women.  It all began with one man who responded to Christ’s call to “rebuild his house.”

Deacon Scott witnessed the profession, but he did not receive the vows.  Brother Jay Rivera, superior of the Franciscans of Life, received the vows.   Mrs. Tina Handal led the singing with the litany of Franciscan saints and blessed.  She did an outstanding job for the Lord and the community that was present.  She has an incredible spirituality and a voice that expresses it beautifully.    Extern brother, Chris Handal and regular brother, Leo Belanger were the witnesses to the profession.  Present were friends of DSC_0073Brother Bernardo’s from his days at university, other friends from the area and his mother, Mrs. Angela Torres.  The group was small.  The ceremony was simple, dignified, reverent and above all, prayerful.

Brother Bernardo will continue graduate studies in computer science, computer engineering, theology and philosophy.  In addition, during the period of temporary vows, the brother continues his Franciscan formation with studies in Franciscan history, spirituality, rule and constitutions, Franciscan pastoral practices, and Sacred Scripture.  Along with classes at the university, several hours per week active in the apostolate, a life in community, the brother is also homeschooled in Franciscan studies and Scripture. The years as a “student-brother,” as we call those in temporary vows, are very busy and exciting years.  The most exciting part of all is the brother’s knowledge that his life now belongs to Christ and to the voiceless.

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Litany of Saints

Published in: on January 19, 2016 at 8:18 PM  Leave a Comment  

FFV Highlights


Pax et bonum!

The past few months have been quite busy 🙂 We wish to share with you some highlights, hoping that you will enjoy them and pray for us! Also pray for vocations. The Year of Consecrated Life is not over yet. Could the Lord be inviting you to build with us in the footsteps of St. Francis…?

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The regular brothers wear the “corona” as a sign of consecrated celibacy.

 

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Extern Brother Chris Thomas More (right) renewed his Solemn Promise, and Regular Brother Leo (center) made his First Profession.

 

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In September we celebrated the birthday of Father Superior by throwing a “surprise puppy”… 😉

 

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We crafted our first holy cards featuring a statue of St. Joseph donated to us by a generous benefactress. Some of the cards were blessed in Philadelphia by the Holy Father.

 

 

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We went in pilgrimage to D.C. and Philadelphia following the footsteps of the Holy Father. In the picture: Pope Francis preaches the homily at the closing of World Meeting of Families.

 

 

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On the evening of October 3rd we celebrated the Transitus of our Seraphic Father, St. Francis outside of our mother house.

 

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The brothers worked hard to raise funds at the Flea Market of St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church. Most of the objects were donated to us for this purpose!

 

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Tailor and cobbler workshop at the mother house 🙂 In the pictures, a brother sows a pair of pants and admires its seam, then proceeds to repair some sandals.

 

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A big “thank you” to the generous donor who helped us purchase much-needed front tires for the community car!

 

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Boo! 😀 On Halloween we “dressed up” the front door of the mother house for the joy of the little children who live in the neighborhood.

 

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Franciscans of Life presented Project Joseph (Proyecto Jose’) at the II Respect Life Ministry Hispanic Conference.

 

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Mrs. Joan Crown, Executive Director of Respect Life Ministry Archdiocese of Miami, along with our Superior and Director of Project Joseph.

 

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Franciscans of Life attended the Ministry Fair at St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church, raising awareness for Project Joseph and its great need for mentors.

 

[How to Help]

St. Pius X – our “Brother Giuseppe”


We are celebrating today the feast of a Franciscan saint, Pope Pius X. Born Giuseppe Sarto, he entered seminary at 15, was ordained at 23 and became pastor of Salzano (province of Venice) at age 32, where he remained for the following eight years.

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It is during his residence in Salzano where he became a professed member of the “Ordo Franciscanum Saecularis”. Originally known as the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, this was the third order founded by St. Francis after that of the Friars Minor (the Franciscans) and of the Poor Ladies (the Poor Clares). It welcomed those who wished to follow the life of the Gospel but could not join the “regular” orders – this included married men and women, diocesan clergy, and also those who were single but discerning the call to marriage.

“Brother Giuseppe” was known for his kindness to the poor. He restored the Church of Salzano, enlarged the hospital, and was known during his years as bishop of Mantua to give copies of texts of dogmatic and moral theology to poor seminarians.

Upon election as bishop of Rome, with the name of Pius X, he followed his spiritual father St. Francis in promoting devotion to the Holy Eucharist, even when this meant breaking with long-established customs in the Latin Church.

He encouraged the faithful to receive Holy Communion daily in a time in which frequent communion was far from being the customary practice. He also dispensed the sick from the pre-communion fast, which at the time was due from midnight of the previous day. Furthermore, he strongly promoted giving First Communion to children as soon as they manifested sufficient discretion, lowering the “age of reason” from 12 to 7 years old. Finally, he urged the frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in order to worthily receive Holy Communion.

Intending to “restore everything in Christ”, he began a series of extensive reforms of the liturgy.

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The Porziuncula, a simple church where the first Franciscans praised and glorified God

The first step he took in this direction was to affirm the primacy of Gregorian chant in the Latin churches, but not for the reasons that some today wish to attribute it… He did so because it represented a much simpler musical style than the theatrical style that was predominant at the time, namely Classical and Baroque compositions. His intent was all-encompassing: by restoring the chanting by the people, he wished to restore the active participation of the faithful in the liturgy. In this he would be echoed by his successor to the Chair of Peter, who insisted that chant had to be restored to the use of the people since “it is very necessary that the faithful attend the sacred ceremonies not as if they were outsiders or mute onlookers“.

Insisting in the importance of the participation of the lay faithful in the life of the Church, St. Pius mandated that catechism classes be established in every parish in the world, and redacted a Catechism known for its “simplicity of exposition and depth of content”, which found its worthy successor in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, not StPiusXatDeskaimed to the use of the clergy but to the entire People of God.
His most encompassing reforms were of the Code of Canon Law and of the Divine Office. The former received a universal structure. The latter was a major revision: he abolished and forbade the Breviary established by St. Pius V, promulgating a revision that rearranged the psalms, dividing them when too long, and significantly reducing the individual Hours. The changes also made necessary a reform of the Roman Missal, which was completed in the 1920 typical edition by his successor to the Apostolic See. This was the fourth revision of the so-called “Tridentine Mass” since the day that St. Pius V established it as the norm for most diocesan clergy of the Latin Rite.

During his pontificate, St Pius X was very close to the people in times of natural disasters – we recall the earthquake of Calabria and the eruption of Mount Vesuvio – and showed his paternal care towards the Secular Franciscan Order by asking the Franciscan friars to take spiritual care of them (see the Latin document here). The Franciscan spirit which permeated his life and pontificate could be summarized by his words concerning the Catholic attitude towards the Holy Father:

“How must the Pope be loved? Not in word, nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth. When a person is loved, one tries to adhere in everything to his thoughts, to execute his will, to interpret his desires. When we love the Pope, we make no arguments around what he disposes or demands, or about how far obedience must go, and in what things one must obey; we do not say that he has not spoken clearly enough…we do not place his orders in doubt…we do not limit the scope in which he can and should exercise his authority; we do not set above the authority of the Pope that of other people no matter how learned who dissent from the Pope, who may be learned but are not holy, because he who is holy cannot dissent from the Pope.

This is the cry of a hurting heart, that with deep bitterness I express, not for your sake, beloved brothers, but with you in order to deplore the conduct of many priests, who not only dare to debate and criticize the wishes of the Pope, but are not ashamed to reach impudent and shameless disobedience, with much scandal for the good and with so much ruin of souls. (Discorso 18-XI-1912)”

In this he echoes the words of the Seraphic Father who writes:

“Brother Francis, and whoever may be at the head of this religion, promises obedience and reverence to our Lord Pope Innocent and to his successors. And the other brothers shall be bound to obey Brother Francis and his successors. […] Let all the brothers be Catholics, and live and speak in a Catholic manner. Let none of the brothers preach contrary to the form and institution of the holy Roman Church. (Rule)

The Lord gave me and still gives me such faith in priests who live according to the manner of the holy Roman Church because of their order, that if they were to persecute me, I would still have recourse to them. And if I possessed as much wisdom as Solomon had and I came upon pitiful priests of this world, I would not preach contrary to their will in the parishes in which they live. And I desire to fear, love, and honor them and all others as my masters. And I do not wish to consider sin in them because I discern the Son of God in them and they are my masters.”  (Testament)

St Pius was known to have said: “I was born poor, I lived poor, and I wish to die poor.” Falling ill on the feast of the Assumption, also weighed down by the distress of the First World War that he had tried so difficultly to prevent, he expressively prohibited the embalming of his remains and was buried in a simple, unadorned tomb in the crypt of St Peter’s Basilica.

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To him the Lord entrusted the Church at a very difficult time – when the world was transitioning into the Great Wars that would forever change its face and usher a new era for civilization in terms of destruction and reconstruction. We are all indebted to him for the courage and simplicity with which he embraced the task of laying the foundations for a comprehensive renewal of the Church.

For those who wish to read some of his writings, you may visit the page dedicated to him on the website of the Holy See, here.

 

 

“To be held as precious”


Today the Latin Church celebrates the solemnity of Corpus Christi to commemorate the institution of the Eucharist.

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Although the Seraphic Father never experienced this feast, he and his brothers certainly had a special devotion to the Holy Eucharist during his lifetime. In fact, St. Francis focused his first Admonition on the Holy Eucharist, professing that

the Sacrament of the Body of Christ which is sanctified by the word of the Lord upon the altar by the hands of the priest in the form of bread and wine […] is really the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

St. Francis emphasized that the Holy Eucharist shows the Lord’s great humility and simplicity, the same that He showed in the Incarnation:

Behold daily He humbles Himself as when from His “royal throne” He came into the womb of the Virgin; daily He Himself comes to us with like humility; daily He descends from the bosom of His Father upon the altar in the hands of the priest.

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The awe inspired by the great love of the Word made Flesh, united to the awareness that in this world we can see nothing corporally of Christ except the Holy Eucharist (Testament) moves us to revere the Real Presence and, by association to show respect for “the chalices, corporals, ornaments of the altar, and all that pertain to the Sacrifice“. These, Francis reminds, us, must be held as precious (Letter to all the Custodes).

In the Latin Church, such reverence was expressed in ways that were typically European, according to the circumstances. Customary gestures arose, some of which acquired meaning, and others to which meaning began to be attributed.

The latter revealed a weakness: the meaning of reverence appeared from the outside in. One had to ask “Why?” in order to be told “it is a sign of reverence“.

Other customary gestures, however, allowed the action to speak for itself. Consider for instance the elevation after the consecration, a late medieval introduction intended to show the consecrated host to the people. When St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, prior to her conversion from Anglicanism, witnessed this for the first time, she was well aware of what was being done (since it existed in the Anglican rite), but the awe that accompanied it was what she perceived, an awe sparked by the Catholic belief in the Real Presence. This, and not the gesture per se, would eventually lead her to the Eucharist. Reverence, then, can be experienced or defined.

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The Church, rather than rigidly defining reverence, mediates its experience by pointing to the value of that which is sacred. This she does in a twofold manner: expressing dismay when that which is sacred is treated carelessly, and showing forth the different degrees of reverence due to the sacred.

As an example of the former, the Church states that “sacred objects, which are designated for divine worship by dedication or blessing…are not to be employed for profane or inappropriate use” (CIC 1171), and that they be made of materials “truly noble in the common estimation within a given region, [being] reprobated…any practice of using…common vessels…or which are mere containers” (RS 117).

As an example of showing the different degrees of reverence that are due, consider the chalice. The minor clerics handled the empty chalice. The subdeacon handed the filled chalice to the deacon before consecration. The priest handled the consecrated chalice.

When for practical reasons laymen replaced the ministry of the minor orders and subdiaconate, the lay ministers handled the empty chalice, the deacon poured wine into the chalice and handed it to the priest, and the priest consecrated.

When order is restored, confusion disappears and once more reverence becomes visible.

If, however, we do not let reverence speak for itself, but rather focus on rigidly defining it, we risk embracing two imperfect mindsets.

In the first of these, we may apply gestures that express reverence in situations that do not call for it, which leads to an over-generalization or over-use of such gestures, so that eventually they lose their reverent meaning and become “common”.

An example of this is the practice of genuflection. In the Latin Church, genuflection became a common sign of reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament. Eventually, genuflections became common throughout the liturgy even when the Blessed Sacrament is neither present on the altar, nor reserved in the Tabernacle. This begs the question: “Why genuflect?” To which the answer comes: “As a sign of reverence“. This led to confusion, as the distinction between reverence due to the Blessed Sacrament and respect due to a sacred object (namely, the altar) became unclear. This of course can lead to such gestures being eventually discarded because they are no longer associated with the original context and thus  perceived as superfluous repetition.

The second of these mindsets, one may begin to perceive the absence of certain gestures as a “lack of reverence”, or the presence of certain gestures as a “need”, given our sinfulness or even “uncleanliness”.

Consider, for instance, the usage of gloves by altar servers. When the law of the Latin Church reserved, so to speak, the handling of the sacred vessels to the minor clerics, this came neither from divine revelation nor because of an intrinsic spiritual meaning. Certainly it was not the Church’s mindset that the laity was “unworthy because unholy”. It was done for very practical reasons. Furthermore, laymen and religious often functioned as sacristan. At times they handled the vessels with a piece of cloth, because it was fairly easy to transfer grease and dirt from their hands to the vessels.

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Yet by the 19th Century we read that if the sacristan is a layman rather than a minor cleric, “it is at least becoming that a veil be used in handling the chalice and the paten” (Collectio Rerum Liturgicarum). Statements such as these were understood in the negative, as implying that the gesture of a lay man or woman handling the chalice with bare hands is a lack of reverence, because the laity are somewhat “unclean”, hence the need to “restrict” them outside of the sacristy and to grant clerics alone the “privilege”of handling the sacred vessels. This, of course, confuses the way the Church intended to bring order and distorts the meaning of reverence. Even the previous Code of Canon Law stated that the sacred vessels could be handled by either the clerics or those who had their custody, including laity and religious (CIC/1917 1306), where the word “laity” made no distinction between male and female .

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St. Therese of Lisieux as sacristan

As for the honor due to the clergy, the Seraphic Father reminds us that it is “on account of their office and administration of the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which they sacrifice on the altar and receive and administer to others” (Letter to all the Faithful). That is to say: we honor them because they are the ministers of the Eucharist; they are not the ministers of the Eucharist because of their holiness.

In brief: this mindset, which focuses on our sinfulness alone, fails to acknowledge the Incarnation. Yet, it can still be found today, even when minor orders are no longer present in the Latin Church (with a few exceptions) and their functions are performed by the laity.

To avoid the two slippery slopes that we have described, we should bear in mind that the Church does not rigidly define reverence, but rather orders roles and gestures according to the need. Again, when order is restored, confusion disappears and once more reverence becomes visible.

Consequently, the focus shifts from our sinfulness and unworthiness to the Incarnation. At that moment, the Word becomes Flesh and the Second Person of the Holy Trinity assumes our nature, breaking into human history and beginning the journey towards our redemption.

True reverence has its roots in the Incarnation and naturally returns to it. We reverence Our Lord Jesus Christ when we acknowledge Him as true God and true man, hence becoming aware of who He is, our very brother, and of who we are in relationship to Him, children of the Most High.

St_Francis_embrace

 

Br. Bernardo di Carmine

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