Rita Ferrone is the author of several books about liturgy, including Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium (Paulist Press).
By this author
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.)
In a July letter, the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) warned against “abuses” such as “the movement of the faithful from their places to exchange the sign of peace” during Mass. The CDWDS also criticized “the departure of priests from the altar” to greet parishioners and the practice of expressing congratulations during the sign of peace, as sometimes happens on feast days. The document, signed by CDWDS prefect Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera and approved by Pope Francis, was sent to bishops conferences around the world.
The results of a recent survey by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate indicate that more than half the priests in the United States dislike the new Missal translation. A very large majority finds parts of it “awkward and distracting.” Many believe it urgently needs revision. Fr. Tony Cutcher, president of the Federation of Priests’ Councils, says it’s time to move forward with “constructive criticism” and changes. Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory said much the same thing recently at a conference in Florida.
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. …