Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bingo as a Religious Experience

By Rick Howick
Principal of St. Catherine of Alexandria School, Riverside

I moved toward the office door with the cash boxes out. The knock told me my timing was good. Family Bingo was about to begin and the line for cards and daubers was already forming. Within a half hour, the parish hall was full of families sitting down with pre-paid pizza and one dollar hot dogs. Nothing yet had officially begun as I had not said the all important words, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” At that point, we had begun – our gathering of smiling children and chatting parents had transformed into a community event for our parish school.

The real strength in being Catholic is clear to Catholic school principals. Our faith is not so much a belief system as it is a life-system. Take Catholic education, one of the most intense of parish ministries. Our parents are thrust into small faith communities called “classroom parents” when their children start kindergarten. They spend the next nine years of their lives working with the other parents in their parent groups running their children to field trips, working soda booths at festival, and daubing bingo cards on family nights. All of it is done in the context of Catholic ministry, and all done for others – their children, and the children of their fellow parents. After nine years of this (assuming just one child – we have parents who have been with us more than two decades), the parents have formed close relationships with people they never would have hoped to know ten years previously, relationships which will last a lifetime.

That is real Catholic ministry, building strong Catholic families. A study by CARA (a Catholic research group from Georgetown University: Catholic Schooling and Disaffiliation from Catholicism, by Paul Perl and Mark M. Gray, 2006) showed that our children are most likely to remain actively Catholic if they form strong and lasting Catholic relationships such as those in Catholic elementary and High Schools, and in parish youth groups. That doesn’t mean going to Mass isn’t important – on the contrary, encountering the body of Christ is the whole point of Catholicism. And that is found not only in the Eucharist, but in the Body of Christ known as the people of God. The stronger we build those relationships, the closer to Christ we grow.

Toward the end of the evening as the six-year-old passed me with a huge slice of chocolate pie, she looked up and smiled. “Thank you, Mr. Howick.” And I could only smile back while I thought the word, Bingo!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Not your father’s Missal

By John Andrews
Director, Department of Communications

Our response is instinctive. When the priest says to us, “the Lord be with you.”

“And also with you…”

Get ready to forget what you know. Some of these familiar responses are gone in favor of new ones.

Beginning some time in the next 12-18 months, Catholics in the United States will start using a new English translation of the Roman Missal, which sets forth the prayers and recitations said at Mass. The U.S. Bishops gave their final stamp of approval to the English translation at their Fall Meeting in Baltimore on Tuesday.

Now comes the arduous unlearning and relearning at the diocesan and parish levels. For some the changes will feel akin to learning a new version of the pledge of allegiance. A few examples:

  • “And also with you” becomes “and with your spirit.”

  • In the Nicene Creed – “one in being with the Father” becomes “consubstantial with the Father.”

  • “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you…” becomes “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.”

In their final discussion of the translation this week, the bishops seemed to acknowledge that changing the ingrained responses would not please everyone. “In an undertaking this large there’s bound to be something for everyone to dislike,” quipped Archbishop George Niederauer, who called the process “sincere and hard fought.” Indeed, some, led by Bishop Donald Trautman (Diocese of Erie, PA), wanted to keep debating the new verbiage.

But most of the bishops were ready to put the Missal to bed, evidenced in the vote that carried nearly 90% approval and the audible sighs of relief that followed the Tuesday afternoon general session when the new Missal was approved.

The English language version is intended to be a more literal translation of the latest Latin texts approved over a decade ago. Bishops also hailed the new Missal as an opportunity for Catholics to renew and deepen the experience of the Mass. While we’re learning these new words and phrases we might actually reflect more on their meaning, goes the thinking.

And while it might seem like the present version of the Missal was printed on stone tablets, it is probably worth noting that the Missal has been retranslated many times, most recently after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

So this linguistic journey we are about to take in our liturgy might be seen as the carrying on of Catholic tradition. “The words used in liturgy pass on the faith of one generation of the Church to the next,” said Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli, who presented the final changes to the Conference.

Besides, we’ll have our missalettes to get us through, right?

“And with your spirit…”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bishops sounding moral voice in the public square

By John Andrews
Director, Department of Communications

A number of major news outlets including CNN, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times have focused recently on what they call an aggressive campaign by the Catholic Church in America to shape health care reform legislation. The Church lobbied successfully into the 11th hour, they note, to prevent public funding of elective abortion in the House bill that eventually passed.

As the Bishops gather in Baltimore this week for their Fall meeting, the unapologetic presence of the Church in the public policy arena is, indeed, hanging in the air. The Bishops are again stepping into the fray on the subject of marriage with consideration of a new pastoral letter “Married Love and Life and the Divine Plan.” The letter was described Monday as part of the ongoing pastoral initiative on marriage that began five years ago. But it was also described as an invitation to Catholics and people of good will to defend and promote marriage as being between one man and one woman – a direct reference to the ongoing battle over same sex marriage.

Also on the agenda at this week’s meeting, the Church’s stance on reproductive technologies and a potential revision of policy on advanced directives for end-of-life care – both issues capable of fostering vigorous political discussion. _______________________________________story continues below

At their Fall meeting in Baltimore, U.S. bishops respond to questions about recent high profile advocacy by the Church in national public policy issues. From left to right, Bishop William Murphy (Rockville Centre, NY), Archbishop George Niederauer (San Francisco), Cardinal Francis George (Chicago) and Bishop John Wester (Salt Lake City).
Health care reform didn’t look to have a prominent place in the Bishops’ deliberations. That is until Cardinal Francis George raised the issue during the first hour of the first general session of the meeting. Cardinal George, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, struck a steadfast tone in reviewing the events of recent weeks and offering a response to charges that the Church overly involved itself in politics.

“Long before these issues became political, they were moral questions,” Cardinal George said.

By the end of the session, the Bishops had voted to make Cardinal George’s recent letter on health care reform an official statement of the Conference. Later, at a press conference following the general session, Cardinal George and other bishops involved in public policy issues, showed no signs of retreating from the recent strategy on health care reform legislation, saying they will lobby U.S. Senators with the same intensity. Reporters questioned the Bishops about the context of the Pastoral Letter on marriage within the context of recent same-sex marriage votes in Maine and Washington state. Again, they did not shy away from the public policy connection.

“The American people seem to resonate more with the idea that marriage is what it is,” Bishop William Murphy told reporters at the press conference. “No amount of public pressure can redefine it as something that it isn’t.”

Early Tuesday, Bishop John Wester raised another high profile public policy issue – immigration reform. He announced a new grassroots effort to spur the Catholic faithful to lobby their local legislators to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

At the same time, the Bishops put forth the idea that the Church is not interested in politics so much as it feels bound to voice the teachings of the Gospel – hardly a new development in the history of the Catholic Church, they note.

Said Bishop Murphy, “The issues are both moral and political. Our job is to be the moral voice.”

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Remember the Holy Souls

By Rev. Antonio Das Neves
Pastor, St. Vincent Ferrer, Sun City

This month of the Holy Souls (November), it is well for us to stop and think for a moment about our helpless members of the Church suffering – the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Perhaps many of our relatives, friends and acquaintances are numbered among them – souls who have died many years ago, but have been forgotten by us. This is not due to a lack of gratitude or love on our part, but often we are swallowed up with bills to be paid, families to be fed, a job that occupies our mind and taxes our physical resources all day. There are a million and one things to occupy our minds and so we tend to forget the Silent Sufferers.

Many times there are crosses in life – they are big and small – but if we take them as they come, realizing that God has sent them for a purpose, and offer them for the Holy Souls, again we can help them reach heaven. So, a headache borne in silence and for the love of God and the Holy Souls may perhaps save one soul centuries of suffering. Act of self-denial and small acts of penance are good works to help the Holy Souls. It can be giving an offering to the poor! Be assured that if you remember the poor souls they will never forget you.

As a priest, I remember those souls near and dear to me every day in the Mass and all those for whom I celebrated the funerals. This year I filled out the All Souls envelope and the list was larger than the spaces provided and included also in the Novena which is said in the parish. I realize that each year I lose a few friends. As I loved them in life, I promise again not to forget them in death, especially in these occasions through the Holy Mass.

During the month of November, the month of the Holy Souls, it might be well to take time to write to friends you write to only once a year, or tell the people closest to you how much you love them, or visit those who are sick to assure them that they are not forgotten. Recall that these people, the closest of your loved ones, can and will repay your debts one day by begging God to grant you the freedom you gained for them.

“We have loved them in life; let us not forget them in death.” – St. Ambrose