Monthly Archives: August 2009

Edward M. Kennedy

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Edward Kennedy’s funeral Mass took place the other day at Mission Church in Boston. It’s actually a church honoring Our Lady of Perpetual Help and is staffed by the Redemptorists.

Reports in the media say that the senator and his wife went there to “reflect” and look for healing. The media has trouble saying the word “pray.”

Not much was said about the long-standing devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help that has its center in that church, or that the Redemptorists, as their name indicates, are dedicated to the mystery of Redemption.

This is the prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help that most people who frequent that church would be aware of:

“See at your feet, O Mother of Perpetual Help, a poor sinner who has recourse to you and confides in you. O Mother of Mercy, have pity on me! I hear you called the refuge and the hope of sinners; be my refuge and my hope.

Help me, for the love of Jesus Christ; stretch forth your hand to a poor fallen sinner. I devote myself to your devotion and ask that you remember my needs (here make your request).

I bless and thank Almighty God, who in His mercy has given me the grace to seek eternal salvation in your holy name.

Mother of Perpetual Help, grant that we may be delivered through the help of your intercession, from the slavery of all our sins.

Amen”

Changes in the Liturgy

The American Catholic Church is gearing up for changes in the liturgy. There’s a site on the bishops’ web pages outlining the changes. The opening page captures some of my questions about the new changes, to be voted on by the bishops this November, submitted to Rome afterwards, and likely introduced in Advent of 2011.

“New Words: A Deeper Meaning but the Same Mass,” reads the heading announcing the changes: “Prayers for the observances of recently canonized saints, additional prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayers, additional Votive Masses and Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Intentions and some updated and revised rubrics (instructions) for the celebration of the Mass.”

“The English translation of the Roman Missal will also include updated translations of existing prayers, including some of the well–known responses and acclamations of the people.”

The last sentence announces the changes that will impact ordinary church-going Catholics most of all. I was thinking of recent complaints against drug companies for introducing new medicines and applications without proving they are better and more cost effective than previous ones. Will the new words lead us to a deeper meaning of the Mass? I’m not sure.

A picture on the site’s opening page shows the back rows of a congregation at church at Mass. From where the picture’s taken those back row Catholics can hardly see the altar in the distance. Is that going to be the experience of most ordinary people when the new words are introduced?

Looks like some dark clouds ahead.

The Depression, Then and Now

I’m reading David M. Kennedy’s  fine book “Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945”.  The time he describes seems to be almost a mirror of ours–loss of jobs, world-wide economic uncertainty, fear about the future.

Then as now, the best brains couldn’t figure out the causes and cures for the depression. The government was hard-pressed to cope with it.

There were expectations of revolution and violence in the most troubled areas of the country that depended on agriculture and mass production, but popular reaction to the situation didn’t occur to any great extent.

Instead, Kennedy says, a silent helplessness fell over the country as people lost their homes and fell into poverty. People, especially men who had quality jobs, felt shame and guilt for losing them.

“The Depression revealed one of the perverse implications of American society’s vaunted celebration of individualism. In a culture that ascbribed all success to individual striving, it seemed to follow axiomatically that failure was due to individual inadequacy”

That’s still true today, I believe. The more you think you can do and be anything you want to do and be, the harder it is not to think that losing a job is your fault.

Health Care and “Expressive Individualism”

Charles Taylor says that “expressive individualism” is the predominant trait of our time. Taylor doesn’t consider the trait without merits, I think, but when it takes over it causes havoc. That’s when it becomes “I gotta be me,” and everybody in the world has to know about it and listen to me.

I watched a meeting on CSpan recently on health care from Dartmouth, MA. Congressman Barney Frank, not known to shy away from a fight, was fielding questions from a contentious crowd.

“On what planet do you spend most of your time?” Frank responded to a woman who called the new government  health initiatives a “Nazi plan.”

“Expressive individualism” at its worst. No one seemed to be there to listen or learn; they were there to make their own point–loudly. So we should worry about the future of health care in this country.

St. Bernard, in a homily on Mary, said, “It was God’s will that Mary be meek and humble of heart, since Jesus was to become the outstanding example of these virtues, so necessary for the health of humanity.”

Humility necessary for the health of humanity?

Listening and learning are certainly part of it, and isn’t that what we all must do today? I like the sites of the Catholic Health Association http://www.chausa.org/ and the US Catholic Bishops at http://www.usccb.org/healthcare/

Our church has been at health care for a long time, and is a major provider of health care in this country.

Be good to listen and learn from her.

The Miracle of Belief

I ‘ve been doing some research recently on the life of Father Theodore Foley, CP, a native of Springfield, MA, whose cause for canonization is being considered in Rome. A relative of his, Bill Wendt, introduced me to historians at the Springfield Armory and the Springfield Historical Museum last week, who gave me a good overview of that city in the 1900‘s.

Why look at where someone grew up and the family he came from?  We’re influenced so much by these things. The gospels included information about Jesus’ early years so that we could know him better.

Interest in Father Theodore is strong in Springfield, a city that is going through hard times now. The local media and the diocese of Springfield have been particularly attentive to the news of his possible canonization.

Here’s an example from a story by Jack Farrell in the local paper from West Springfield from a few week ago:

“Father Foley died in Rome on Oct. 9, 1974 (the same day, incidentally, as Oskar Schindler, the German who saved hundreds of Jews in the Holocaust and who received a papal order of chivalry from Pope Paul VI as a result) from an apparent virus he’d contracted in his missionary travels around the world.

But shortly before his death, he came to West Springfield to visit his aunt and sister Marie, for whom he’d recently found a place to live – Marie Foley called West Springfield home until her death in 2002 at the age of 86.  On that visit, the priest told fellow Passionists that he wanted to be buried on the monastery grounds.  But in the 1990s, when the monastery closed, the cemetery, including Father Foley’s grave, was moved to Gate of Heaven in Springfield.

Father Foley’s original gravesite had an impact on at least one participant at a 1970s retreat, the late West Springfield resident Daniel Baldyga, who’d been having doubts about his faith.  When he began to pray at his grave, the result was life-altering.

“As I stood before Father Foley’s grave and prayed, I experienced a profound religious experience.  There’s no way to describe it,” he told the former Union-News in a 1989 interview tied to publications of his novel, “A Sailor Remembers.”

“But any doubt I had experienced was erased, and it’s never returned.”
Mr. Baldyga, who went on to become a Eucharistic minister and a church lector, said at the time that his life became more ordered.  “It’s as if it was by design,” he said.

Mr. Baldyga’s experience would likely be of interest to the Passionists and to the Vatican as the study of Father Foley continues and witnesses are called to testify regarding his sanctity.”

Is belief recovered a miracle? I think it is, and we need that kind of miracle today more than ever, don’t we?

Here’s a video on Fr. Theodore’s life, in case you missed it>

Prayer for the Canonization of Father Theodore Foley, C.P.
Lord Jesus Christ,
you called Father Theodore Foley to follow you as a Passionist Priest even to Calvary’s heights.
Through your Immaculate and Sorrowful Mother,
you taught him obedience to your Father’s will and the fulfillmentof your Commandment of loving God and neighbor.
Let the loving inspiration of your servant move us to live a more profound life of virtue.
We humbly ask that you glorify your servant Father Theodore Foley
according to the designs of your holy will.
Through his intercession, we ask you to grant the request I now present (mention your request).  Through Christ our Lord, Amen. (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be to the Father).
Approved + Paul M. Boyle, CP, Bishop Emeritus of Mandeville.
To report favors received, please contact:
Rev. Fr. Vice Postulator, CP
Immaculate Conception Monastery
86-45 Edgerton Blvd.
Jamaica, NY 11432
718.739.8184

Prayer for the Canonization of Father Theodore Foley, C.P.

Lord Jesus Christ,

you called Father Theodore Foley to follow you as a Passionist Priest even to Calvary’s heights.

Through your Immaculate and Sorrowful Mother,

you taught him obedience to your Father’s will and the fulfillment of your Commandment to love God and neighbor.

Let the loving inspiration of your servant move us to live a more profound life of virtue.

We humbly ask that you glorify your servant Father Theodore Foley according to the designs of your holy will.

Through his intercession, grant the request I now present (mention your request).  Through Christ our Lord, Amen. (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be to the Father).

Approved + Paul M. Boyle, CP, Bishop Emeritus of Mandeville.

To report favors received, please contact:

Rev. Fr. Vice Postulator, CP

Immaculate Conception Monastery

86-45 Edgerton Blvd.

Jamaica, NY 11432

718.739.8184

Let’s Go To Mass

I have been working on some simple explanations of the Mass in video form and here’s the latest. You can get it on Vimeo; it’s based on the miracle of the loaves and the fish.

The first video in the series you can also find on Vimeo, same place.  I reworked it lately. That’s what you have to do: work and rework.

In the future I hope to do instructions on how you pray at Mass, where do the scriptural readings come from, the Mass and the Cross of Jesus, its history, and so on.

Who knows, maybe they will get done.

What’s Enough?

Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld_Bibel_in_Bildern_1860_193

Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and fishes, the subject of our gospel readings for the last two Sundays at Mass and next Sunday’s readings as well, has been on my mind these days.  The disciples’ complaints “We don’t have enough!” when they’re asked to feed the crowds echo the complaints of the Jews who journey through the desert from Egypt to the Promised Land. “We’re all dying of famine; at least in Egypt we had plenty to eat,” they say. (Ex. 16, 2-4)

The complaints aren’t only about food. They touch upon a deeper hunger for something beyond food and drink.

The psalms express that deeper hunger so beautifully. “Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God.”  “My soul is thirsting for the Lord, when shall I see him face to face.” The same sentiment is there in the wonderful words of St. Augustine: “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in you.”

Often, though, we’re looking for a more immediate god.

The flamboyant black evangelist “Rev. Ike,” who promised people they could get all the money they wanted through positive thinking, died July 28th in Los Angeles. “Close your eyes and see green,” he said, “Money up to your armpits, a roomful of money and there you are, just tossing around in it like a swimming pool.”

He wasn’t ready to wait. To the thousands crowding his United Church Science of Living Institute in Washington Heights, New York City, he would say:  “How many here gave a $100 in the collection? Stand up for a blessing. How many $50? Stand up and get blessed. How many $20, $10,  $5?  How many gave nothing? You get a special blessing. Bring me something next week.”

“Change makes your minister nervous in the service,” he would tell his congregation. His own high life style exemplified the “gospel” he preached.

We may smile, but his pitch isn’t far off from what appeals to us. In a softer version we’re told to look for the gifts all around us, maybe not just money, but friends, health, family, love and so on.

But what then?

The Feast of the Transfiguration we celebrate today has it right:

“Let us be caught up like Peter to behold the divine vision and to be transfigured by that glorious transfiguration. Let us retire from the world, stand aloof from the earth, rise above the body, detach ourselves from creatures and turn to the creator, to whom Peter in ecstasy exclaimed: Lord, it is good for us to be here.” (Anastatius of Sinai)