Saturday, November 22, 2014

Archbishop Vigneron prohibits speaker who promotes 'gay' agenda



Yesterday's Detroit Free Press featured a piece by Patricia Montemurri entitled, Archdiocese of Detroit bans Catholic gay rights speaker from parish.  She begins this way:

The Archdiocese of Detroit has banned a support group for Catholic families with gay members from using a Detroit parish for a Saturday meeting because the scheduled speaker represents a pro-gay rights ministry censured by the Vatican.

This part is true. In fact, to the reporters credit, she later mentions a 1999 censuring of the founders of New Ways Ministry, the organization whom the speaker, Francis DeBernardo, represents. I'll offer a little more background here.  This organization was founded by Sr. Jeanne Grammick, SSND and Fr. Robert Nugent, SDS - two individuals who were the subject of a notification from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under the pontificate of Saint Pope John Paul II over what they taught, and neglected to teach, in their ministry to people with same sex attraction (SSA).  The end of that document states (emphasis mine in bold):

Father Nugent and Sister Gramick have often stated that they seek, in keeping with the Church's teaching, to treat homosexual persons “with respect, compassion and sensitivity”. However, the promotion of errors and ambiguities is not consistent with a Christian attitude of true respect and compassion: persons who are struggling with homosexuality no less than any others have the right to receive the authentic teaching of the Church from those who minister to them. The ambiguities and errors of the approach of Father Nugent and Sister Gramick have caused confusion among the Catholic people and have harmed the community of the Church. For these reasons, Sister Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Father Robert Nugent, SDS, are permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons and are ineligible, for an undetermined period, for any office in their respective religious institutes.

New Ways Ministry was also the subject of a statement by the USCCB in 2010, which states:

No one should be misled by the claim that New Ways Ministry provides an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice. Their claim to be Catholic only confuses the faithful regarding the authentic teaching and ministry of the Church with respect to persons with a homosexual inclination. Accordingly, I wish to make it clear that, like other groups that claim to be Catholic but deny central aspects of Church teaching, New Ways Ministry has no approval or recognition from the Catholic Church and that they cannot speak on behalf of the Catholic faithful in the United States.


Bill Donohue at the Catholic League released a rap sheet on NWM.


Getting back to the Detroit Free Press article, Montemurri writes:

It comes a month after Catholic bishops publicly feuded at a Vatican meeting over Pope Francis' more welcoming words and outreach to gay Catholics and their families.
I don't recall Pope Francis saying anything of this sort at the recent Synod, but many in the secular media and in the dissenting wing of the Church seem to know what he thinks.  As Robert Royal, who was in Rome covering the Synod, recently wrote at The Catholic Thing:

"The pope’s own views have been impossible to detect – though many reporters pressed – because he said nothing at all this week. Presumably, he does desire some pastoral developments. He did invite, after all, Cardinal Kasper to give the keynote at the February consistory that got that whole controversy going. But to identify him with the most radical language in some garbled documents does him an injustice."


I want to return to that word, "welcoming," used by Montemurri, which has become popular today. In a nutshell, it is ambiguous and that is what some like.  "Welcoming," in what way? Should people be welcomed in a way that acknowledges the SSA and supports them in living out their lives in harmony with God's ways; or, should they be welcomed in a way that affirms, or seems to affirm, people in behaviors that are objectively grave in their sinfulness?  It's hard to pin-point what people mean by "welcoming."  The latter lacks mercy in that it considers only the temporal without regard for eternal salvation.  I really hope the bishops will define what it means to be "welcoming" in the 2015 Synod, if that word has to be used at all, knowing how it is exploited.

This is probably one of the greatest misunderstandings people have today.  The world believes God wants us to be happy, even unto stretching the truth in ways that puts our eternal salvation at risk. Everything is interpreted through the lens of the "here and now" while disregarding the lens of eternity.  Jesus Himself would not be considered "welcoming" today by telling followers as he did:  "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Mt 7:13-14)  This conflicts with the gospel of comfort, which avoids any reflection on what it means to take up our crosses daily.

The Free Press report continues:

Joe Kohn, a spokesman for Archbishop Vigneron, said New Ways Ministry is not an approved organization to address Catholic teachings on homosexuality.

"It was brought to the archdiocese's attention a few weeks back that New Ways Ministry had been scheduled to speak at Christ the King Church," Kohn said in a statement. "Because New Ways Ministry had been identified as a group that might cause confusion in regards to Catholic church teaching, the archdiocese did clarify that a presentation by New Ways Ministry should not be hosted on church property."

And that's why the group hosting New Ways Ministry, moved the Saturday talk offsite.  No further statement is really needed by Archbishop Vigneron or the Archdiocese of Detroit.  Any time a bishop prohibits an event from happening on Church property, people need to act on prudence.  Such action speaks volumes.

Patricia Montemurri, discussing the thoughts of the the man who was to speak at Christ the King Parish, writes:

New Ways' DeBernardo, who was in Rome attending gay rights events during the bishops' meeting, said the Detroit archdiocese's actions run counter to Pope Francis' more sympathetic posture toward gay Catholics.

First, "gay rights" is synonymous these days with affirming the lifestyle now casually referred to as, "gay."  In Catholic circles where groups like New Ways Ministry is welcomed it is often code for affirming people in their sexual relations outside of sacramental marriage while making them feel it is okay to receive Communion.

Lets be clear: Someone with SSA is welcome to receive Holy Communion like any one else, if they are striving for chastity just like any heterosexual would strive for this. There are many single, heterosexual people, who desire marriage, but have not found a spouse.  They are not free to engage in sexual relations outside of Sacramental Marriage and receive Holy Communion.  Many do, but that's something our priests and bishops need to start addressing and maybe it would carry more weight when discussing homosexual relations.  Homosexual inclinations are not sinful; acting on them is (CCC 2357-2359).  People of either sexual orientation fall into sin and that is why there is Sacramental Confession, but this takes acknowledging a wrong and striving to, "go and sin no more." (Jn 8:11).   As the saying goes, "the Catholic Church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners."  But, we sinners have to want to live in a way that is faithful to God's Commandments.  Contrary to low-information belief, Jesus did not, "do away," with the 10 Commandments.

What kind of parent gives wheat to a child with celiac disease, just to avoid the appearance of being mean, or not wanting the child to feel different from other children, or to be happy?  Humans are not incapable of eating wheat gluten, but the bodies of some individuals react in a way that damages the colon. Eating wheat can eventually be deadly.  In a like manner, a pastor or bishop who permits people to believe they can have sexual relations outside of Sacramental Marriage, or turn marriage into something other than the joining of one man and one woman, engages in false mercy. Personally, I think heterosexual cohabitation is one of the most neglected topics in the Church today.

Perhaps Patricia Montemurri and other reporters would do a story on the Church approved apostolate, Courage and EnCourage.  Courage supports people with SSA to live out their lives in harmony with Church teaching.  EnCourage is a branch of the apostolate which provides support to family members of those with SSA.  Here in Detroit, Msgr. Michael Bugarin is heading up that apostolate.  I look forward to Montemurri's report on it.

The article continues…

The Rev. Victor Clore, pastor of Christ the King parish, said he was notified last week by an archdiocese official that the parish could not host the meeting. Clore said the archdiocese's position was discouraging.

"I'll give you a quote from one of my parishioners, who said: 'It amazes me how Pope Francis eagerly and happily engages those who openly deny the divinity of Christ, yet (New Ways) DeBernardo is deemed unworthy to enter our church,' " Clore stated.

"That's pretty much my feeling, too," said Clore. "It's treating people as if they were children."

Childlikeness is a virtue, especially when it comes to docility.  Also, when children want to touch a hot stove they get told, "no."  That is what Archbishop Vigneron is doing here and he would be guilty of omission if he did not do so.  And, where is Pope Francis giving a platform to a speaker who openly denies the Divinity of Christ?  It's a straw-man argument.  It's one thing to meet with people and talk to them; it's quite another to give them a platform on Church property to spread error, or to say it is okay for them to receive Holy Communion while freely placing themselves in a state of grave sin.

Here's something interesting. The Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) stated that one of three reasons for initiating the assessment was this:


Policies of Corporate Dissent. The Cardinal spoke of this issue in reference to letters the CDF received from “Leadership Teams” of various Congregations, among them LCWR Officers, protesting the Holy See’s actions regarding the question of women’s ordination and of a correct pastoral approach to ministry to homosexual persons, e.g. letters about New Ways Ministry’s conferences. The terms of the letters suggest that these sisters collectively take a position not in agreement with the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. It is a serious matter when these Leadership Teams are not providing effective leadership and example to their communities, but place themselves outside the Church’s teaching.

Lest there be any doubt, Pope Francis reaffirmed the Vatican's desire to reform the LCWR.  But there it is again, from the Vatican website, clearly showing New Ways Ministry might minister to people with SSA, but not in a Catholic way.


Karle-Nelson said she fears interested Catholics might be confused by the change of location. Last year's meeting drew about 40 participants, with some walk-ins. She said 22 people are registered for Saturday's gathering so far.

"It's really been a problem trying to get the information out to people who have registered and those who might want to walk in," said Karle-Nelson.

"The reason we invited Frank DeBernardo, is he just returned from Rome and the Synod on the family, and he was going to share his perspective and where do we go from here," said Karle-Nelson. "The pope has asked for reactions and to weigh in."

I'd be more concerned about the confusion DeBernardo will sow about what the Church teaches on human sexuality with regards to SSA than with confusion about a change in location.  Where do we go from here?  Look to the very good shepherd we have here in Detroit and follow through with the Church approved apostolates.

New Ways Ministry doesn't have any links to Courage and Encourage. I think we know why.

A final word on how groups like NWM use polls, and how media types tend to use that information, treating the Church as if it is a political class. Catholic understanding of Sacred Scripture is not based on opinion polls. Keep in mind, Jesus had a high unfavorable rating in the opinion poll that put him on the Cross (Mt 15:13-15).  Opinion ≠ Truth.  Here's a good summary from Cardinal Napier on Twitter.



Pray for all involved.




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- Diane M. Korzeniewski

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Feasts of All Carmelite Saints and All Carmelite Souls



It is ordinary time, but a special day for Carmelites. Today is the feast of All Carmelite Saints for those within the order and I wish all of my fellow Carmelites a blessed feast day.  

On the Church's feast of All Saints on November 1st, we remember most of all, those saints whom are not named. The Church elevates certain saints, giving them a place in liturgical celebrations, but there are many more who enter eternal life as saints whom we do not know of, from monks and religious in monasteries to ordinary homeless people we might have passed on the street every day.

Likewise, in the Carmelite order there are known saints with specified feast dates. But, there are also unknown saints  - men and women who lived and died holy lives, but who have no place in the liturgical calendar.  We remember them today and invoke their assistance in our pursuit of holiness.  We can also remember the many saints who already are acknowledged in the liturgical calendar today.

Not having but a few minutes, I looked around the web for posts made by others and found a beautiful one written at the blog, Salve Sancte Mater Dei about Carmelite saints.  It is from November 14 of 2012 and also covers the feast of All Carmelite Souls which is on November 15th, where we pray for all deceased Carmelites still in purgatory.  Go read: For all the Saints, who from their labor rest: Two Carmelite feasts.

Even if you are not a Carmelite, please offer a prayer today for their assistance, and offer a prayer tomorrow for all Carmelites in purgatory.





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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
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- Diane M. Korzeniewski

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The unimaginable life of man born and raised in a North Korean labor camp

Last night, channel flipping, I stumbled upon this stunning interview Anderson Cooper did with an escapee of a notorious labor camp in North Korea back in 2012. He was re-running it because of the recent news of two Americans recently freed from that country.

The interview took place in 2012, I believe and I found it on YouTube.  I can't begin to fathom what this man went through, and what others are still going through.  Imagine being born believing that the world around you in such a camp is all there is to life. Imagine a child who doesn't know what it means to be loved.  There are people being born and raised in these camps for generations.   You can see how easy that would happen in the situation he describes, and there are people still there.

Pray for him and for all who do not know liberty.  Pray also for our veterans today for the freedom we enjoy.




See more here.





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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
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- Diane M. Korzeniewski

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Bishop Schneider's Athanasian response to the Synod's mid-term report



Bishop Athanasius Schneider's patristics background shines in this latest interview which conveys his concerns over how the recent Synod went down, especially the interim report.  Like his namesake, he doesn't leave room for moral gymnastics.  Thanks to Polonia Christiana we have the interview in full translation from Polish.  It was a long read, but worthy of reading in it's entirety. I'm sure some on the left will exploit what he says in a way that is out of context, so don't limit yourself to excerpts. People are quoting those parts that make good soundbites, but when those are not balanced with the other things he says, they only feed the machine that will be all too quick to burn him at the cyber-stake.

As an aside, I'm glad to see so many of my original photographs of Bishop Schneider floating around the web.  I'm using several here from his visits to Detroit.  The one at top, and those similar to it you will find, was taken at Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak when he spoke at the Call to Holiness Conference in 2009.  Others were taken at Assumption Grotto in 2008.

Here is the first part, below this line.




The Church and the world do urgently need intrepid and candid witnesses of the whole truth of the commandment and of the will of God, of the whole truth of Christ’s words on marriage. Modern clerical Pharisees and Scribes, those bishops and cardinals who throw grains of incense to the neo-pagan idols of gender ideology and concubinage, will not convince anyone to either believe in Christ or to be ready to offer their lives for Christ - said + Athanasius Schneider Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan in interview with Izabella Parowicz.

Your Excellency, what is Your Excellency’s opinion about the Synod? What is its message to families?

During the Synod there had been moments of obvious manipulation on the part of some clerics who held key positions in the editorial and governing structure of the Synod. The interim report (Relatio post disceptationem) was clearly a prefabricated text with no reference to the actual statements of the Synod fathers. In the sections on homosexuality, sexuality and “divorced and remarried” with their admittance to the sacraments the text represents a radical neo-pagan ideology. This is the first time in Church history that such a heterodox text was actually published as a document of an official meeting of Catholic bishops under the guidance of a pope, even though the text only had a preliminary character. Thanks be to God and to the prayers of the faithful all over the world that a consistent number of Synod fathers resolutely rejected such an agenda; this agenda reflects the corrupt and pagan main stream morality of our time, which is being imposed globally by means of political pressure and through the almost all-powerful official mass media, which are loyal to the principles of the world gender ideology party. Such a synod document, even if only preliminary, is a real shame and an indication to the extent the spirit of the anti-Christian world has already penetrated such important levels of the life of the Church. This document will remain for the future generations and for the historians a black mark which has stained the honour of the Apostolic See. Fortunately the Message of the Synod Fathers is a real Catholic document which outlines the Divine truth on family without being silent about the deeper roots of the problems, i.e. about the reality of sin. It gives real courage and consolation to Catholic families. Some quotations: “We think of the burden imposed by life in the suffering that can arise with a child with special needs, with grave illness, in deterioration of old age, or in the death of a loved one. We admire the fidelity of so many families who endure these trials with courage, faith, and love. They see them not as a burden inflicted on them, but as something in which they themselves give, seeing the suffering Christ in the weakness of the flesh. … Conjugal love, which is unique and indissoluble, endures despite many difficulties. It is one of the most beautiful of all miracles and the most common. This love spreads through fertility and generativity, which involves not only the procreation of children but also the gift of divine life in baptism, their catechesis, and their education. … The presence of the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in their modest home hovers over you”.

Those groups of people who had been expecting a change in the Church’s teaching with regard to the moral issues (e.g. allowing divorced and remarried people to receive Holy Communion or granting any form of approval for homosexual unions) were probably disappointed by the content of the final Relatio. Isn’t there, however, a danger that questioning and discussing issues that are fundamental for the Church’s teaching may itself open doors for serious abuses and for similar attempts to revise this teaching in the future?

In fact a Divine commandment, in our case the sixth commandment, the absolute indissolubility of the sacramental marriage, a Divinely established rule, means those in a state of grave sin cannot be admitted to Holy Communion. This is taught by Saint Paul in his letter inspired by the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 11, 27-30, this cannot be put to the vote, just as the Divinity of Christ would never be put to a vote. A person who still has the indissoluble sacramental marriage bond and who in spite of this lives in a stable marital cohabitation with another person, by Divine law cannot be admitted to Holy Communion. To do so would be a public statement by the Church nefariously legitimizing a denial of the indissolubility of the Christian marriage and at the same time repealing the sixth commandment of God: “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. No human institution not even the Pope or an Ecumenical Council has the authority and the competency to invalidate even in the slightest or indirect manner one of the ten Divine commandments or the Divine words of Christ: “What therefore God has joined together, let man not separate (Math 19:6)”. Regardless of this lucid truth which was taught constantly and unchangingly - because unchangeable - through all the ages by the Magisterium of the Church up to our days as for instance in “Familiaris consortio” of Saint John Paul II, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and by Pope Benedict XVI, the issue of the admissibility to Holy Communion of the so called “divorced and remarried” has been put to the vote in the Synod. This fact is in itself grievous and represents an attitude of clerical arrogance towards the Divine truth of the Word of God. The attempt to put the Divine truth and the Divine Word to a vote is unworthy of those who as representatives of the Magisterium have to hand over zealously as good and faithful rules (cf. Math 24, 45) the Divine deposit. By admitting the “divorced and remarried” to Holy Communion those bishops establish a new tradition on their own volition and transgressing thereby the commandment of God, as Christ once rebuked the Pharisees and Scribes (cf. Math 15: 3). And what is still aggravating, is the fact that such bishops try to legitimize their infidelity to Christ’s word by means of arguments such as “pastoral need”, “mercy”, “openness to the Holy Spirit”. Moreover they have no fear and no scruples to pervert in a Gnostic manner the real meaning of these words labeling at the same time those who oppose them and defend the immutable Divine commandment and the true non-human tradition as rigid, scrupulous or traditionalist. During the great Arian crisis in the IV century the defenders of the Divinity of the Son of God were labeled “intransigent” and “traditionalist” as well. Saint Athanasius was even excommunicated by Pope Liberius and the Pope justified this with the argument that Athanasius was not in communion with the Oriental bishops who were mostly heretics or semi-heretics. Saint Basil the Great stated in that situation the following: “Only one sin is nowadays severely punished: the attentive observance of the traditions of our Fathers. For that reason the good ones are thrown out of their places and brought to the desert” (Ep. 243).

In fact the bishops who support Holy Communion for “divorced remarried” are the new Pharisees and Scribes because they neglect the commandment of God, contributing to the fact that out of the body and of the heart of the “divorced remarried” continue to “proceed adulteries” (Math 15: 19), because they want an exteriorly “clean” solution and to appear “clean” as well in the eyes of those who have power (the social media, public opinion). However when they eventually appear at the tribunal of Christ, they will surely hear to their dismay these words of Christ: “Why are you declaring my statutes and taking my covenant in your mouth? Seeing you hate instruction, and cast my words behind you, … when you have been partaker with adulterers” (Ps 50 (49): 16-18).

The final Relatio of the Synod also unfortunately contains the paragraph with the vote on the issue of Holy Communion for “divorced remarried”. Even though it has not achieved the required two third of the votes, there remains nevertheless the worrying and astonishing fact that the absolute majority of the present bishops voted in favor of Holy Communion for the “divorced and remarried”, a sad reflection on the spiritual quality of the catholic episcopacy in our days. It is moreover sad, that this paragraph which hasn’t got the required approval of the qualitative majority, remains nevertheless in the final text of the Relatio and will be sent to all dioceses for further discussion. It will surely only increase the doctrinal confusion among the priests and the faithful, being in the air, that Divine commandments and Divine words of Christ and those of the apostle Paul are put at the disposal of human decision making groups. One Cardinal who openly and strongly supported the issue of Holy Communion for “divorced and remarried” and even the shameful statements on homosexual “couples” in the preliminary Relatio, was dissatisfied with the final Relatio, and declared impudently: “The glass is half-full”, and analogously he said that one has to work that next year at the Synod it will be full. We must believe firmly that God will dissipate the plans of dishonesty, infidelity and betrayal. Christ holds infallibly the rudder of the boat of His Church in midst of such a big storm. We believe and trust in the very ruler of the Church, in Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the truth.

Go read the rest at Polonia Christiana.  He was just getting warmed up.

Parting shot: Bishop Schneider's daily ring - the Miraculous Medal.





Books in English by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, ORC can be found online here.



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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
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- Diane M. Korzeniewski

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

40 Hours Devotion at Assumption Grotto this weekend




This Friday, after the 7:30 a.m. TLM Mass, 40 Hours Devotion opens at Assumption Grotto.  This devotion was popular in the pre-Vatican II days, with historical roots going back to the 1500's when it began in Milan. Older people tell me how it would roll to different parishes. Other priests and lay people would visit and especially participate in closing ceremonies.

Yes, the Lions are playing at 1:00.  Record it if you can, or just skip one week and offer it up - a Catholic thing to do. Offer it up for the poor souls in Purgatory, as this is the month dedicated to praying for the dead. Offer it up for Christians suffering persecution across the world. Offer it up for mothers considering abortion. Offer it up for the conversion of sinners. Offer it up for family and friends who have fallen away from the Church, etc.)

Fr. Perrone discusses the schedule for this weekend…

Our parish Forty Hours Devotion opens this FridayIt begins with the opening Mass and procession of the Blessed Sacrament at 7:30 a.m. Exposition of the Sacrament takes place throughout the day until the 9:00 p.m. Benediction. On Saturday November 8, there will be a side altar Mass at 7:30 a.m. and a Carmelite Third Order Communion Mass at 8:30 a.m. with Exposition on the main altar until 9:00 p.m. (Note that the Exposition is suspended during the 4:00 p.m. Mass). Next Sunday will have Exposition beginning at 6:00 a.m. (interrupted during the Sunday Masses, except for the solemn Mass at noon when Mass is celebrated in the presence of the exposed Sacrament). Our special homilist for this noon Mass will be Monsignor Robert McClory, the Moderator of the Curia for the Archdiocese of Detroit….The Procession and Litany of Saints follows and will conclude the ceremonies.
He went on to say he was counting on many people being there for this ceremonial closing.  This is one Sunday out of the year where we have an opportunity to honor the Blessed Sacrament in a way that most do not. It is making a comeback though as I noted this past spring, and as reported for this weekend at Holy Innocence in Manhattan.  

For those wondering, the 9:30 a.m. Mass, which is the usual time slot for the Traditional Latin Mass will end up being a Latin Novus Ordo if it goes like past years.  Many of the Liturgical things Fr. Perrone discusses either require the use of the 1962 Missal, or just are more fitting with it.  

The Knights of Columbus are holding a pancake breakfast that runs from 9:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. 


For more info, see this article by Fr. William Saunders, 40 Hours with Jesus Christ,  explaining the historical, spiritual, and biblical aspects of 40 Hours.

For photos and video from last year, see this post and this one.


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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!

- Diane M. Korzeniewski

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Classic: Fr. George Rutler on church closings and my commentary



As many of you have probably heard by now, Holy Innocence in Manhattan, New York, has been spared a painful closure.  The parish is the only place in that area where people had daily access to the Traditional Latin Mass, more formally known as the Extraordinary Form.  I think the uproar in the wake of an advisory might be useful to bishops.  They need to treat parishes like Holy Innocence as one of the necessary components of any diversity plan.  I don't know about that area of New York, but here in the Archdiocese of Detroit, there are some five SSPX chapels in Michigan with two that are under an hour from where I sit right now.  This says nothing of other churches in the area like the Polish National Church, the Old Catholic Church, and some fully schismatic traditionalist places, one of which is just 15 minutes from my home.  When a diocese creates a vacuum on the liturgically traditional end, some take refuge in those sources.  Some want it to be made a personal parish for the usus antiquior, which would be fine, but I think it is better for a parish like that to continue offering both forms of the Mass.  This makes it useful to the archdiocese in more than one way and can help with long term viability.  But that's just my opinion.

This morning I read an interview at Aleteia with Fr. George Rutler, who was the pastor of Holy Innocence for many years and continues to be the administrator of that parish and another.  For those who are familiar with Fr. Rutler, this is classic.  For those who are not familiar with him, be prepared for frankness.   Here is an excerpt (emphasis mine in bold).

Obviously, church/parish closings/mergers are not a new phenomenon, but in your view, what are some of the factors that lead to situations like this? 

[Fr. Rutler] Among the factors is a decline in Catholic life. One statistic I was given recently is the Catholic population of New York City is just about the same as it was 70 years ago. There’s not a decline in Catholic population; there’s a decline in Catholic life, and there are all kinds of reasons for that.  

I think there’s a great deal of dishonesty and denial on the part of some people who engaged in the fantasy that we were entering a new springtime of the faith. The aggiornamento of Vatican II was supposed to bring in tons more people; it did just the opposite. So long as people refuse to admit there were mistakes made a generation ago — in catechesis, liturgy, addressing the real problems of secularism — they’re never going to make any real reform. 
Having grown up in the 60's and 70's, I agree entirely.  From my youngest, most tender years, I interiorly lamented the way secularism encroached on the sacred. The devout life became a target of derision and today we see vice elevated as virtue, and virtue seen as, "vice;" the Blessed Virgin Mary was mocked (her purity clashed with the sexual revolution and a corrosive form of feminism); Eucharistic reverence was lost, presumably to not offend Protestants, etc., etc.,

We’ve also had a lot of white flight from the city out to the suburbs, and in the northern counties there is a need for new parishes. At the same time, down here, we do have…redundant parishes. Another reason for these closures is that the churches were organized very much for ethnic purposes rather than evangelical purposes. There was a cultural assumption that the Church was a home for immigrants, and that they would belong to parishes not just for the faith but also for, legitimately, social reasons, for community, schools and the like. So in Manhattan we have an old German parish, an Italian parish, [etc.], and they’re in close proximity with each other. And, and that’s no longer needed.
This is true too. We see parishes in Detroit that are mere blocks from one another and many were ethnic parishes.  But, I'll bet they were all filled back in the day.  Of course, it's not simply a loss of those ethnic peoples, now several generations in, fully entering the melting pot without attachment to personal parish based on ethnicity.  I see these in my area where there is an abundance of first generation immigrants.  So, this is just an unfortunate consequence of time and space.

The primary fact is that most Catholics aren’t practicing the faith. Mass attendance in New York is about 12%. You’ve had about a 50% drop since the Second Vatican Council. Nobody will address that. They’ll acknowledge the fact, but they will not address the fact that there were some serious mistakes made in the last generation.
It would make a good study on why New York City, which is so culturally vibrant — sort of tormented and perverse in many ways, but vibran t— has such spiritual lethargy.

The other factor, of course, is the priest shortage. It’s a curiosity that here we are in New York City, the heart of the universe — I say that as a New Yorker — we have such a low number of priestly vocations. In my last parish, where I was for 12 years, I had nine fellows go on to the seminary.  When asked "How is it done?" I tell them, and some don’t want to hear it. I think it’s significant now that more young men are going into religious orders rather than the diocesan priesthood. Of course they are distinct kinds of ministries but I think some of them go into religious orders who might have gone into the secular priesthood, because the local scene often seems banal. The religious orders often are more challenging.
Bingo.  I'll take it a step further with an observation I've made over the past few years. That is, more vocations are clearly coming from parishes where there is strong Eucharistic and Marian devotion, and where frequent Sacramental Confession is encouraged and valued. The bottom line is that when you see priests emphasizing the pursuit of personal holiness through time-tested means which belong to the patrimony of the Church, you have vocations.  Locally, I look at parishes like Ss Cyril & Methodius in Sterling Heights, Michigan with more seminarians, priests and religious than I can count. It has all of these elements.  Assumption Grotto, which has fewer parishioners than Ss Cyril & Methodius, has a high percentage of parishioners who have entered priestly and religious life - men and women.  In the Lansing diocese, Christ the King in Ann Arbor has numerous vocations. That has a large charismatic presence, but like with many such parishes, these days, you will find a great Eucharistic and Marian devotion, love of Sacramental Confession and pursuit of personal holiness.  There are other parishes where not a single vocation has been seen over decades.

A number of people have called the priest shortage contrived because through the past several decades, young men who showed pious tendencies had their vocations thwarted by people in powerful places who exploited Vatican II for an agenda that was not in harmony with God's.  There are still remnants of that, but nothing as bad as it was just a decade or two ago.  Some dioceses are still living the full nightmare and are stuck in the 70's.  I think this is also the case in Germany and Austria. We see the results there - a full blown exodus and secularization of baptized Catholics.

All around us we see people who, as children, went to Mass with families.  Now, even if they go to Mass, their children have become "post-Catholic" and even "post-Christian."

It's time for me to go vote and run some errands.  I encourage you to read the entire interview with Fr. Rutler at Aleteia.  There are some other, great, quotable quotes.




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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Musings and links on this All Souls Day…



First, if you are looking for Assumption Grotto's All Souls schedule for Sunday and Monday (in the 1962 Missal, it is transferred to Monday), see my post from yesterday with some important notes about this complex arrangement. It also includes discussion of next week's 40 Hours Devotion and closing Mass, which will be at Noon.


The Archdiocese of Washington website has been down and Monsignor Charles Pope's great blogposts are not accessible there at this time.  He has posted a couple to his parish blog.  Here is a link to his homily for All Souls Day, "99 and-a-half won't do…"   Monsignor Pope, I believe, is one of the best blogging clerics out there.  His posts are filled with scriptural references and catechesis. Noteworthy is that he works hard to stay on the high road, delivering lessons for the day in a way that does not cut others down.  It's obvious that he is fully aware of hot discussions on the web, by his choice of topics at time.   He celebrates both forms of the Mass and his thoughts on liturgy are wholesome.  I recommend checking his blog daily, which is normally at blog.adw.org.  Eventually, that site will come back, hopefully, with all of his historical content.  One day, I'll have to raid his "Pastor's Corner" page where he has more goodies.


*******



The Dignitatis Humanae Institute has released full text of what Cardinal Burke really said about Pope Francis after a misleading headline and some unfortunate splicing of sentences by Buzzfeed that made it appear he was slamming the Holy Father.


*******

I am no longer a fan of the Rorate Caeli blog as I once was because of how polemical it has turned since Pope Francis was elected (some traditionalist friends have likewise defected from regularly following the site with one referring to it as, "Rorate Rudos".  Some bitter traditionalists have referred to me as a "neo-con" or "neo-trad."  Whatever.  I have no objections to respectful critique of the Holy Father's words, actions, or prudential judgments, but conclusions are sometimes drawn there when there is one piece of information and an absence of a lot of other information required for more authentic conclusion.

It's not the only online source that does that, but since I am going to link to something there, I want to state that caveat.  Consuming commentaries daily at a site like Rorate Caeli can lead to outrage addiction.   This does not mean there are not some excellent pieces there, but people need to have good tools for discernment over how things are interpreted there and err on the side of caution with regards to any judgments about members of the hierarchy. Our salvation is not dependent on being angry over what any member of the hierarchy is saying or doing; rather it is dependent on what we do daily in showing love for God and neighbor.  If you go to Assumption Grotto, ask a priest about a particular situation that might cause you concern.  They are often very aware of what is going on and will give you good counsel to follow.

So, the piece I am linking to at Rorate Caeli is the full text of Cardinal Pell's homily at a Traditional Latin Mass in Rome for Juventutem following the recent Synod.  His Eminence was ill with mild bronchitis at the time so he had someone read the prepared homily.  In it, he discusses the Petrine Ministry.  I think Cardinal Pell's words stand on their own without commentary.


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Catholic World Report is one of many sources that has had some very good coverage of the Synod.  The Relatio Synodi is finally available in official English translation.  See their report here, with link to original. 

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There are two posts out there, among others, that take on the media for their spin on what Pope Francis said about evolution.  One is by Elizabeth Diaz appearing in a Time Magazine blog referring to media coverage of the subject as "Papal Bull."  

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
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- Diane M. Korzeniewski

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

All Saints, All Souls, and 40 Hours Devotion Schedule at Assumption Grotto






Fr. Perrone details the schedule for today's All Saints Masses in the Grotto News which just came online yesterday.   As he points out in his column, November is a very rich liturgical period.  He explains the intricacies of the schedule given that All Souls falls on Sunday this year, coupled with the fact that the parish offers both forms of the Mass and the calendars vary slightly.

It's best to direct you to his column in the Grotto News, which will be online for about 10 weeks.  You can do a "save as" on these bulletins to preserve them.

I don't want to explain any of it here as I think you need to read all that he says.





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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
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- Diane M. Korzeniewski

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Link referenced in Church History Class at Assumption Grotto



During week two of the Church History class being taught at Assumption Grotto on Wednesday evenings, instructor Harry Wisniewski mentioned a post at the blog of Monsignor Charles Pope.

The post he was referring to was, "Jesus Was was no 'Girlie-man.' On Restoring a Truer Vision of the Biblical Jesus from the 20th Century Remake"

Here is the homepage where Monsignor Pope's blogposts appear, just about daily. I've followed his writings for many years now and share them frequently in social media.  I heartily recommend bookmarking his site or adding it to an RSS reader like Feedly for daily reading.

I took the photo above with my iPhone sans flash (hence, the darkness) this past Wednesday.  You can read a previous post I made with more detail about the class here.




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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
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- Diane M. Korzeniewski

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Synod 2014: The Pope's Speech



Here is the Holy Father's address at the close of the 2014 Synod.   Below it, I'll add other links about the final report and related.

This text is all over the web now, but here it is from Catholic News Agency, which says Pope Francis received a 5 minute standing ovation from the bishops.  This is quite good.


Dear Eminences, Beatitudes, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters, 

With a heart full of appreciation and gratitude I want to thank, along with you, the Lord who has accompanied and guided us in the past days, with the light of the Holy Spirit. 

From the heart I thank Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, under-secretary, and with them I thank the Relators, Cardinal Peter Erdo, who has worked so much in these days of family mourning, and the Special Secretary Bishop Bruno Forte, the three President delegates, the transcribers, the consultors, the translators and the unknown workers, all those who have worked with true fidelity and total dedication behind the scenes and without rest. Thank you so much from the heart. 

I thank all of you as well, dear Synod fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors, and Assessors, for your active and fruitful participation. I will keep you in prayer asking the Lord to reward you with the abundance of His gifts of grace! 

I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,” a path of solidarity, a “journey together.” 

And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned: 

- One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility [trans:rigidity], that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals. 
- The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.” 
- The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46). 
- The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God. 
- The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things… 

Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment. 

Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48). 

And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem. 

The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord. 

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.
And, as I have dared to tell you, [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all. 

We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them. 

His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God's People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it... that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).” 

So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334). 

Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families. 

One year to work on the “Synodal Relatio” which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as “lineamenta” [guidelines]. 

May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you!


Now, the final report is out in Italian and according to Edward Pentin at the National Catholic Register, we should see the official English translation early next week.  You can read Edward's report, where he breaks down some voting members where the 2/3 majority was not reached.

Here's the Associated Press version on Yahoo from Nicole Winfield.  Some of the press headlines are rather interesting.  "Pope suffers setback…" (on the controversial issues).  In reality, it wasn't the Pope who suffered a setback; rather, the media suffered a setback in what in believed was happening, that Church teaching was going to conform itself to the world.  In the end, their setback consisted of learning the Catholic Church is still Catholic, and so is the Pope!

I've been sharing most things on social media the last few days. It's far less time and effort to share a link to Twitter, Facebook or Google+ (I use the latter far less than the previous two).  Those following me there, will have seen things I was sharing.  But here are a few items from today.

Robert Royal has been doing a great job at The Catholic Thing in his coverage of each day of the Synod.  Here is Day 12, probably written before the vote.  If I see Day 13, I'll edit it in here.

Cardinal Raymond Burke discusses with Catholic World Report, the Synod, and rumors of his expected transfer from the position he holds as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura to the Knights of Malta (shortened name).

Yesterday, a report with a wild headline came out from Buzzfeed on Cardinal Burke's expected transfer  and so many wanted to see the transcript, they first released a partial, then early this morning, the complete transcript.   I recommend sticking with the latter.

There were some bumps along the way.  I may have more to say about that in a separate post.




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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
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- Diane M. Korzeniewski

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

St. Teresa of Avila




“The truly humble person will have a genuine desire to be thought little of, and persecuted, and condemned unjustly, even in serious matters. For, if she desires to imitate the Lord, how can she do so better than in this? And no bodily strength is necessary here, nor the aid of anyone save God.”  
― Teresa of ÁvilaThe Way of Perfection



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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
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- Diane M. Korzeniewski

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Don't socialize with others in church; socialize with God



One of the most beautiful experiences I have every time I go to Assumption Grotto is the sweetness of the silence inside the parish church.  It is more than sweet; this silence is a necessary part of the spiritual life.  It is also hard to find in many parishes today, and even entire dioceses can be devoid of such opportunities in churches.

Noise


Our fast-paced, news-now, instant-message-filled world has led us to find silence difficult to bear. We avoid it at all costs.  Life has become an endless chat session, if not with others in social media, then with ourselves as we look for ways to not be in silence. Many of us can't even fall asleep without a TV running.  We not only cheat others of our time; we cheat God, and we owe every breath we take to Him.

Multi-media enables us to watch sports, movies, and listen to music and discussions, and to interact on topics of interest, including Catholicism. I think it would be hard to argue against the thought that noise - both audible and non-audible has risen in the information and technology age.

Noise isn't just what we hear; it's what has our attention.  Workers have the necessary noise that goes with concentrating on the job; and parents with watching over children.  Many today are tending to an aging or sickly parent.  Students must read and write what is required of them.  These are necessary noises in life that we must put up with. Some tasks are mundane enough that they allow us to connect with God silently, but it is not always the case.  Peeling potatoes or fixing something in a tool shop might lend itself well to giving God our ear, unless we turn on one of the many gadgets to kill the quiet.

Silence, the language of God


If our work, school, caregiving - and the like - all require mental attention, then how do we give to God our attention?  There's no doubt when we are doing those things required of our state in life, we give glory to God.  However, we still need to provide opportunities to hear Him if we are to grow spiritually.  St. John of the Cross says, "God works His Divine operations in silence."

Luke 17:21 tells us that the Kingdom of God is within.

St. Augustine, in his Confessions wrote:

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.

If God is within, then finding Him involves making time for silence in our lives.  Some are blessed with the ability to go to an Adoration chapel weekly, or even, daily.  We can choose to ride to work without any music or radio; or do the laundry and cut the grass, likewise, in silence.  This is all good.  But many are missing something very precious - that silent time before and after Mass.

Looking for silence in church…


There's been a public debate over silence in parishes before and/or after Mass, and lack thereof, for as long as I've been discussing Catholicism online (almost 10 years now).

I never experienced silence before and after Mass until I got to Assumption Grotto in Detroit.  The silence was deafening.  It shocks the casual visitor who comes, leaving them with the mistaken impression that people there are anti-social, unfriendly, and downright cold.  I somewhat felt that when I got there in 2005, but something inside peacefully nudged me to suspend judgment and just observe for a time.  I'm glad I did because God taught me something: When in God's house, give Him an ear.

People coming to any weekday or weekend Mass at Assumption Grotto can come an hour early and right up until Mass starts, might hear a cough, or footsteps, or a kneeler folding down, or a confessional door opening an closing.  What they won't hear, in most cases, is casual conversations. (Weddings, baptisms, and funerals are usually the exception, but often involve people who are not regulars, and some who are not even Catholic, so I am talking mainly of regular Masses).

I often take for granted this precious nugget we have there, and I am reminded of it any time I go to Mass outside of Grotto, with the exception of a select few other parishes in the area.  The noise levels in some places before and after Mass can rival that of a mall on Saturday morning, measured in decibels.

But, it's uncharitable not to socialize in church...


This is a common argument against silence before and after Mass.  People have not seen one another in a week and it is charitable to let them catch up with one another, especially the poor elderly person who lives alone and is finally able to connect with others at Mass.

My response to this is quite simple.  If we really cared that much about our neighbor - the one for whom church has become their primary social outlet - we wouldn't wait for Sunday to socialize with them.  We would pick up the phone during the week and call them. We would visit them or invite them out to dinner.   We might even ask them to join us for a meal after Mass.  Now that's charity in action.  That is how we go forth into the world and put on Christ!

But, most churches don't have a place to socialize after Mass…


This is another common argument - that there is no place but in church for people to greet and meet.

Well, my thinking changed on this after spending time at Assumption Grotto, which is a commuter parish.  There are very few Catholics left in the neighborhood (but the Legion of Mary is working on that).  It's an old church building so there is no parish center connected to it.  This is not uncommon for older parishes, and even newer ones.  It has a small vestibule in the back with two restrooms - hardly a place for conversations. There are two smaller vestibules at the side doors, also unsuitable talking.

Seeing a need to allow people to socialize outside of the parish church, some parishioners began a weekly social some nine years ago that has been very successful. It happens in an old school building on the property, and is a short walk from the church.  It's run mainly by one family, but the local Knights of Columbus step in and has a monthly pancake breakfast (after 9:30 and before the Noon).  There are 52 weeks out of the year, and I can count on one hand how many times we do not have some kind of social in connection with the two biggest Masses. Each Sunday we hot dogs, hamburgers, and sausages in addition to the usual coffee and donuts.  Even after the 6:30 a.m. Mass, there is a small group that gets together in the school for coffee and donuts just inside the gift shop. It does taking walking across that parking lot, but no one seems to mind.

Bottom line: We don't socialize in the church because that is where we pray. It is also where we let others pray, by taking our conversations elsewhere. People visiting may think it is one of the most anti-social churches, yet what I learned there is that people don't socialize with one another in church because they are busy socializing with God. Charity means enabling one another to have that conversation with Him.

Those who want to defend the practice of the pre-Mass social in the church could perhaps do a real service in getting others together and finding a way to help people connect around weekend Masses. What works at Grotto won't work in other places, but there are lots of solutions.

Unintended consequences of chit-chat in church...


Band-aids aren't cures; they cover wounds. The real problem is people not seeing to one another's social needs outside of our Sunday obligations.  When we make people who socialize with others in church the sole object of our charitable thinking, who gets cheated?

God

When we get into church 15-30 minutes early and use the time to chat with our neighbor, we have lost an opportunity to give to God that precious time.  Maybe we have nothing to say to Him; but he might have something to say to us. The greatest hindrance is not giving Him our ear in silence.  Sometimes all that God wants is for us to rest quietly in Him as a small child rests under the arm of a loving parent. We deny God that when we won't sit quietly with Him.  We are always asking something of him in prayers of petition, but how often do we spend time thanking him?  There is so much sin in the world, we could use the time to make acts of reparation (an that probably requires catechesis for people to understand).

Our fellow parishioners

For some people, that 15 or 30 minutes before Mass might be the only opportunity they have to be silent so they can hear God's voice above all others.  Among those looking for silence might be a mother with a terminally ill child who knows no human touch or words can help her the way God's love can. Perhaps it is a man who has just lost his wife of several decades and who is reconciling with his loss; or the family breadwinner dealing with the inability to find employment; or a couple having marital problems.  There are those who are discerning a vocation and those who are in secular orders fulfilling their obligations for mental prayer.  The list could go on.  Each time we talk in Church we hinder people like these in the only place they may have for a moment of silence. 

Ourselves 

Yes. We cheat ourselves when we socialize with others in church.  Being still and silent is one of the greatest ways to predispose ourselves to worship and prayer.  It is the most efficacious way to enter holy Mass.  It's not a celebration; it's a Sacrifice.  It's only fitting that we make a small sacrifice of fixing our eyes entirely on Christ so that when we leave, we can be authentic witnesses to the Gospel.  

I should mention that in some places, including Assumption Grotto, there is a public Rosary recited after the Mass. In our case, it is led by the priest after he removes his chasuble.  People are free to stay or leave.  Most remain.  But, it's over in 15 minutes.  From there, some continue with other prayers. The 9:30 a.m. Mass, and Rosary, are done about 10:50 and until the Noon Mass begins, it's the kind of silence I described earlier.  People truly cherish and respect that holy silence.  Where I struggle with public prayers in church is when they are before AND after Mass, leaving no opportunity for silent prayer.

How do we fix it?


Let's start by addressing how we can't fix it.  I've witnessed, over the years, many frustrated priests trying to correct a congregation from talking in church, to no avail, then giving up and literally joining them.  We can't fix the problem of chit-chat in church by telling people to knock if off, telling them off, or simply telling them it's inappropriate to talk in church.   That is because people, including priests and bishops, have been conditioned for decades to accept this as being "charitable."  I hope I've provided enough considerations in this post to show that this is false charity. I've summed things up below.

It's not just a behavior we need to change, it's a mind-set.  In other words, we need to make use of reason and not make demands. I'm convinced it's the only way it will ever change, but it has to start with the parish priest praying about these things.  If the parish priest understands it, and prays to God for assistance, he will be blessed with the necessary words of reason. God will then grace his people with understanding.

Here are some main points summed up:


  • Parishioners should desire to be silent before God, whether they have anything to say to Him or not; He might have something to say to them.  

  • Parishioners need help in empathizing with the kinds of situations people might be in where silence might help them (parents dealing with terminally ill child; unemployed; those with marital issues, people discerning vocations, etc). They can't get silence at home, school, or work and there is no better place than near the Blessed Sacrament.  Not everyone has access to an Adoration chapel, or the time to be there even if that access is there.

  • Parishioners need help seeing how holy silence should be part of their spiritual development. What do we learn from the Church, from Mary, the angels, and saints about silence and the spiritual life? 

  • Help parishioners to see that real charity for lonely people comes not in defending their right to chat in church; it comes from giving them time outside of church:  Ite Missa est!  Invite them out to dinner; call them during the week to see how they are doing and catch up on what is happening in their life.  What kind of charity waits for 15 minutes before Mass on Sunday, and  limits it to that?





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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
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