Rita Ferrone is the author of several books about liturgy, including Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium (Paulist Press).
By this author
It's the night of the Easter Vigil. After the lighting of the new fire, the glow of candles in a darkened church is a vivid reminder that the light of Christ, shared in baptism, lights up our common life. The restoration of the baptism of adults to its primary place in the church’s ensemble of rites for the Easter solemnity underscores the treasure we have, and share, in baptism. But baptism is in trouble in the United States. Not only is infant baptism declining throughout Catholic dioceses, but adult baptism has been diminishing too—and at a startling rate.
It’s Holy Thursday. The Paschal Triduum is about to begin this evening with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. For Catholics these are our “high holy days,” a single celebration of the Paschal Mystery spread out over three days, the center and high point of which is the Easter Vigil.
How important is it to get to the three great Triduum liturgies? For a lot of Catholics, it’s getting harder and harder, because of work.
Two Italian priests and a Canadian nun were kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in Cameroon on April 5. The radical Islamist group Boko Haram from Nigeria is suspected. I don’t remember how I came across the story. Did I read it? Was it on the radio? But I know it registered. These were Catholic missionaries. Who were they? The news story didn’t say.
Robert McCullough at the CNS blog has posted a video message from Pope Francis to a gathering of Pentecostal pastors in the United States. It's a wonderful message, and well worth watching. Very affecting, and well-chosen to reach his intended audience.
The first thing that struck me in reading André Chouraqui’s essay on the psalms (see Praying with the Psalms Part I) was his passionate and lyrical affirmation of a kind of mystical reality that speaks both to Israel and to the whole of humanity through the psalms. Here is how he describes it:
In this book the world has come to know and recognize itself. Just as it narrates the history of us all, it becomes the book of all, the untiring and penetrating ambassador of the word of God to all peoples here on earth. …
On a thread initiated by Fr. Robert Imbelli earlier this month (“The Whole Christ” February 7), a question arose about praying with the psalms. I mentioned a couple of essays on this subject that I have found helpful, and Bob, seconded by Tom Blackburn, kindly invited me to share some insights from these works. I wrote a bit at that time, but other duties intervened and I was unable to finish. Thinking (rightly or wrongly) that others too might be interested in these ideas about the psalms, and given the fact that the older thread is now unlikely to be visited by any but the most obsessive blog followers, I’m posting some of this material here, in two parts.
When I read in the National Catholic Reporter blog that thirteen German moral theologians and pastoral theologians signed a document critiquing Catholic moral teaching on sexual issues, it did not surprise me or raise my expectations for the Synod on the Family. After all, theologians have been reflecting on sexual morality in various thoughtful and rigorous ways for years. Not all of their conclusions match those which have been proposed by the magisterium. But almost no one in the hierarchy seems to listen to those whose conclusions do not match theirs, so it has virtually no effect on deliberations in Rome.
To be sure, the theologians made some worthwhile suggestions. These included a “new paradigm for evaluating sexual acts” that would consist of at least three dimensions: a caring dimension to protect what is fragile; an emancipatory dimension which takes “the side of those who lose in relationships, the ones who are left and hurt to the core;” and a reflexive dimension which honors the joy of intimacy along with the vulnerability it entails. All good thoughts. But who is listening?
The recent observations, on the other hand, made by Martin Gächter, auxiliary bishop of Basel in Switzerland and published in his diocesan newspaper and the Swiss Catholic publication KIPA, did surprise me—both for their candor about the extent of the problem and for the bishop's admission that the Church doesn’t have all the answers. He said we must seek a common understanding through respectful, open exchange and patient listening. In his own words:
On January 6, the National Catholic Reporter suspended and hid all comments indefinitely, citing the proliferation of “malicious, abusive, and vile” comments.
In September 2013, the traditionalist blog, Rorate Caeli closed comments, citing overload:
Last night a CNN special on Pope Francis (Pope Francis, A Man of Many Firsts) aired in the US, in which I appeared as one of several commenters, including John Allen, Chris Belitto, and Cardinal McCarrick. As promised, I'm opening a thread to discuss the program.
First of all, let me say that I thought the program was well done. Although it did not shy away from controversy, it presented a positive view of what is already being talked about as an historic papacy. Some of the “firsts” named in the program were: first pope from Latin America, first pope who is a Jesuit, first pope to take the name Francis, first pope to use the term “gay.” Are there other “firsts”? Yes, of course. We could brainstorm a whole list of them. But the ones they chose to highlight were a fair summary.
I enjoyed the footage from World Youth Day. In particular, the aerial view of the 3.5 million people at the Mass on Copa Cabana beach was stunning. Speaking of views from a height, the panorama of St. Peter’s Square, seen from the vantage point of the new pope right after his election—the crowds, the lights, the hush that fell before he said “Good evening”—was also impressive. The close-up shots, at the Holy Thursday service at the prison, in the airplane on the return trip to Rome from Brazil, and of miscellaneous contact with individuals, were memorable too and fun to watch.
Of course, the story of a person—especially a person who has awakened admiration and interest in so many people—is easier to tell than so many other kinds of stories. We are hardwired to see events through stories about individuals.
Where I find myself thoughtful in retrospect is around this basic question: What is really happening in the pontificate of Pope Francis, and how do we talk about it? What do the pictures and the commentary really tell us?
I’m so surprised, and actually disappointed, that Desmond O’Grady’s “Can Francis Cure the Curia?”—posted to the Commonweal homepage on August 31—seems to have received little or no attention. It’s important, maybe the most important thing on the horizon for the future of the Catholic church, and thus in some sense important for all the churches. Does no one have an opinion, a concern, a perspective on what is happening in this arena?