Rita Ferrone is the author of several books about liturgy, including Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium (Paulist Press).
By this author
It seems like all my life people have been arguing about the appropriate age of confirmation. Should it be conferred along with infant baptism, as it is in the Eastern churches? Should it be united with first Communion, inspired by the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults? Should it be delayed to the late teen years, young adulthood, or even after marriage? Should it be celebrated in adolescence, as a rite of passage, like a Catholic bar mitzvah?
March 7, 1965, came to be known as Bloody Sunday in the civil-rights movement, as peaceful protesters in Selma, Alabama, were assaulted by police wielding clubs and tear gas. The same day, Pope Paul VI entered All Saints Church in the suburbs of Rome and said Mass in Italian. It was the first vernacular Mass celebrated by the pope in modern times.
In December, I wrote a post here at dotCommonweal about how Pope Francis's leadership is having an impact on the bishops of Spain. The sex abuse scandal in Granada is one of the instances in which Pope Francis's personal initiative has made a difference. The story continues today with an update in the New York Times.
As you may recall, one of the remarkable features of the case was that the Pope himself contacted the victim, identified at the time only by the name of "Daniel," and followed up with him.
As part of the American Historical Association’s convention this year, the American Catholic Historical Association hosted a panel put together by Christopher Bellitto of Kean University. The panel was held January 3rd, in New York. The topic was how church historians can make a contribution through the media. The panel was chaired by David Gibson of Religion News Service, a journalist well known to Commonweal readers. Presentations were given by Rachel Zoll, national religion news reporter for the Associated Press, Enez Paganuzzi television producer at WNBC, Chris Bellitto, and me. The other talks (all excellent) were mostly oriented toward contributing to mainstream media as a source for journalists. Mine (below) was on blogging and writing about specialized topics for a general readership. (Unfortunately I do not have texts of the other presentations.) I welcome further discussion from dotCommonweal's readership.
Does anyone remember the phenomenon of “Our Lady of Bayside”? Beginning in 1975, there was a series of supposed apparitions of the Blessed Mother (deemed inauthentic by church authorities) in Bayside, Queens. The visionary there, a Queens housewife, claimed she received some 290 messages from Mary, and many other saints as well. The devotees of these apparitions gathered in the former (1964) World’s Fair grounds, at the site that once was the Vatican pavilion. The alleged messages from Mary were many. Many! And they just kept coming. They included tirades against removing altar rails and warnings against playing guitars in church, and numerous other things.
I’ll never forget the story of a theology professor who, when asked about the plausibility of these so-called revelations, dryly observed: “Our Lady seems a bit… talkative.”
Alas, being “a bit… talkative” is not limited to apparitions. Remember how Pope Benedict was going to be “hidden from the world” after his retirement? This fall the emeritus pope sent a talk to the Urbaniana (Oct 21), a message to Summorum Pontificum pilgrims (Oct 25), a message to the Anglican Ordinariate (Oct 30), and met with leaders of Caritas Veritate International (Nov 6), all of which were reported in the press. On Nov. 17 he again made headlines by changing his 1972 views on admitting the divorced and remarried to communion, with his new views now being published in his collected works. He then talked with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Dec 7) saying it’s ridiculous to think he was trying to influence the Synod on the family. “I try to be as quiet as I can,” he said.
And then there’s his secretary and master of the papal household, Archbishop Georg Gänswein. When his picture appeared on the cover of the Italian edition of Vanity Fair, in January 2013, he was quoted virtuously suggesting that his role should be like glass: “the less you see of the glass, the better it is.” But that didn’t stop him from giving interviews. He was interviewed on Rome Reports, Reuters, Vatican Radio, the Washington Post, and Gloria.tv. Next thing you know, he gave an interview on German television in March 2014 saying Pope Francis is “not everyone’s darling,” and darkly predicting that his popularity won’t last.
But the all-time chatterbox award has to go to Cardinal Raymond Burke, now former head of the Apostolic Signatura.
Pope Francis's Christmas address to the Roman Curia on December 22 contained a lengthy examination of conscience, which was reported on in the press as a pretty stern dressing-down. In his usual vivid style, Francis enumerated 15 "diseases" or pathologies that must be addressed to improve the health of that body as a whole, and offered some prescriptions to help.
When Benedict was first elected pope, there was a lot of interest around the question of whether he might be able to turn the tide of rising secularization in Europe. Countries that were once bastions of Catholicism had long been experiencing low Mass attendance and growing indifference to church teaching. Bishops faced a steady stream of rejection on public policy issues as well as empty pews in church and low enrollment in seminaries. Benedict cared deeply about Europe, and tried to win back the indifferent with his thoughtful writings and appeals to tradition. Eight years later however, by the time of his resignation, it was clear that Benedict had not reversed these trends.
When Francis was elected pope, the spotlight shifted to Latin America and the developing world. No one particularly expected him to have a significant impact on Europe. Yet Francis is changing the situation in Europe, step by step — not in a dramatic way, but by implementing a pastoral strategy to address some knotty problems, one knot at a time.
A good illustration of this can be seen in recent episcopal appointments in Spain. In September it was announced that Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra of Valencia (photo right) would replace Cardinal Antonio Ruoco Varela as Archbishop of Madrid (photo left). Osoro, in turn, would be replaced by Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, who was then serving as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. U.S. press coverage of these changes was sparse, mostly noting the appointment of a “Francis moderate” in Madrid. These are deft choices, however, and – combined with new elected leadership in the bishops’ conference – they have opened up new possibilities.
I am pleased to share with the readers of the blog a project I’ve been working on: a new online publication of the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. It’s called The Yale ISM Review, and I’m the general editor. It’s an open-access publication for practitioners of sacred music, worship, and the related arts, and anyone else who may be interested. It includes contributions from Yale faculty and other leaders in the field. I’ve had a lot of fun working on it, and the initial responses we’ve received have been very positive. I hope you'll enjoy it.
We’re in the midst of the annual highest-days-of-travel now that Thanksgiving is near. With weather conditions changing, and the inevitable crowds, I am sure tempers will often be frayed. Perhaps you are reading this in an airport even now, wondering how much longer you’ll have to wait to get where you want to go. Well, better to read dotCommonweal than to brood—or fume. (I’ve often wondered why some people feel free to vent their feelings of frustration upon airline personnel who, as far as I’m aware, have no control over the weather.)
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