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Were You There?

It is now Holy Week. Each day of Lent has been a step along the way to Calvary. If our Lenten resolve has been maintained, we are beginning to share in a very small way in the Passion. This week the reflection on the deep suffering of Jesus and the weakness of the Apostles intensifies.

In a matter of minutes we witness the dramatic turn of events and emotions. We begin with the triumphant entry into Jerusalem – “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Soon, however, all turns to betrayal, darkness, agony and death. Since I was a child, I have often wondered: Would I betray? Would I fall asleep? Would I run away? Would I deny? Would I say, “Crucify him!” One song captures some of that questioning feeling:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh were you there when they crucified my Lord?
(Ohh, sometimes it causes me to tremble) Tremble
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

On Palm Sunday and on Good Friday the Church does its best to put us there – there at the triumphant entry, there at the betrayal, there in moment of weakness, there in the panic and fear, there in an act of cowardice, and there in murderous rage. There, assembled together at Mass, the priests, deacons, lectors read the Passion. But the Church does not leave it to them alone. The Church in Her wisdom writes us into the script as if we were the crowds, traitors, and cowards of the Passion. Those are the parts we play. In my life I have played every one of them – my sinful thoughts and deeds were among the wounds suffered at Calvary.

I hesitate before what I say next. It is important that I not make this an opportunity for criticism. My sole intent is to share an emotion that is difficult to describe, yet it is an emotion the led to a momentary feeling of loss and emptiness. As noted earlier, the Church has written people like you and me into the role of the “crowd” at the Passion. Although I don’t like being identified with the role, I know that the role was written for me because I play it so well.

This evening at St. Peter’s I was written out of the script. Only one person read the lines of what used to be my part. I suppose the reason was because we no longer have missalettes at St. Peter’s. Without the script how could the crowd know when to say their lines?

And so it was. The Passion was read at St. Peter’s, but, in a very real sense, I was not there when they crucified my Lord.


For the Sheep in Exile – Bulletin 2015-03-29

Here is Bulletin_2015-03-29. This would have been posted earlier, but installation of a new Internet/telephone modem and an entirely new phone system this week required time and patience. Also, we had been working on some other posts, however a birthday and a wedding anniversary also required time – patience was not needed because birthdays and anniversaries are great gifts from God

1. Count Your Blessings: This blog is about assent and it is important that credit should go where credit is due. At least one person benefited from the Wednesday Lenten ecumenical dinners. Richard Brady, in the Clark Hollow Ramblings column of the Rappahannock News this week shared the feelings he took away from the dinner in an article entitled Count your blessings:

Some things just warm the cockles of your heart and make you smile. And even though I’m not too sure just what the cockles of my heart are, I’m going to take a chance that you know what I’m talking about. Anyway, such a thing happened for me last Wednesday night. Some of the community churches have been having their regular Lenten services at the Washington Baptist Church. (Please notice I didn’t say Little Washington Baptist Church.) I think when a bunch of different churches get together they call it an ecumenical service. …..

One of the leaders of a local Catholic church, Father Tuck Grinnell, talked about the apostle Paul, and how we need to remember to count our blessings, even in hard times. I took that message to heart and have been thinking, once again, how lucky we all are to be living in this wonderful, magical place, and how I hope we remember to always count that as one of our special blessings.

2. A Steady Diet: St. Peter’s no longer has missalettes. Although a reason for that has been provided by our Pastor, it really didn’t provide an adequate explanation. What St. Peter’s does have is a steady diet of The Little Book series, inspired by Bishop Ken Untener. On this week’s menu of our special, Pastor-prepared diet is The Little White Book (six-minute reflections on the Resurrection Narrative according to John). (For background see: For the Sheep in Exile – Bulletin 2014-11-30, Rules for Radical Pastors #4 and Rules and Tools for Radical Pastors #4 – Update)

Once again, the diet offering appears to be rather benign and non-threatening. So, what’s the problem? The background references listed above tell part of the story. This time, however, the centerfold (so to speak) of The Little White Book offers all of us at St. Peter’s a tasty dessert. Under a picture of a man, presumably Bishop Untener, dressed in a regular shirt with a button down collar.  Why wear clerical garb if you are a well-known dissenter? Under the picture it says:

‘My name is Ken and I will be your waiter for a long, long time …’

The life and faith of Ken Untener bishop of the Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan, told in his own words.

Yes, that’s right, The Little White Book is offering the Sheep at St. Peter’s a more highly enriched diet of dissent, directly from the mouth or pen of the dissenter. Now the Sheep can fill out the form in The Little White Book and have our waiter (Ken Untener), through his proxy (our Pastor), serve up a really good meal. For just $18 + shipping, a poor, unsuspecting lamb can buy this wonderful autobiography of a dissenter.

If our Pastor remains at St. Peter’s for a long, long time, you can be sure that the Sheep of St. Peter’s will continue to be fed in a way that that may be dangerous to their spiritual health. When you pick up The Little White Book this weekend, read between the lines and read the centerfold – there are more toxins in the vestibule.

For the Sheep in Exile – Bulletin 2015-03-22

Here is Bulletin_2015-03-22.

This week’s bulletin has an interesting four-page insert, which is A Spotlight on Parishioners of Saint Peter’s Church. The St. Peter’s Spotlight says this about itself:

This is the inaugural edition of The Spotlight and it is hoped this effort brings discovery, possibilities, and recognition of gifts and talents of many people in our parish who reach outside of themselves to find their own answers to a calling of ministry to others.

The Spotlight then goes on to remind us of the seven facets of Catholic Social Teaching:

There are seven facets to Catholic Social Teaching.
1. Dignity of the Human Person: God loves us. Look at all others “through the eyes of God”.
2. Community and the Common Good: “It is out of community that we are sent to love and serve the world.”
3. Rights and Responsibilities: “We must respect the rights of others and care for others according to God’s commandments and example.”
4. The Poor: “The gospel calls us to radical and self-giving love-to meet the needs of the poor and_vulnerable …”
5. Dignity of Work: “Our faith calls us to demand justice for all workers.”
6. Solidarity: “The gospel calls us to be peacemakers: that we live in right relationship with others, ourselves, and God.”
7. Care for God’s Creation: “We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation.”

Nope, no argument from my wife or me. You just have to go the Seven themes of Catholic Social Teaching to see that this is authentic. The fact that there are good and dedicated people in our Parish doing good works in the community should be recognized in The Spotlight. The fact that one of our own is working toward alleviating physical suffering for the poor and hungry is a great blessing.

In the fifties the good nuns taught me that there is a balance to the Christian life – it is both physical or temporal and it is spiritual and eternal. The expression “social justice” was never used. Instead, Sr. Rosaria or Sr. Madonna would teach us that there should be a balance between the Corporal Works of Mercy and the Spiritual Works of Mercy. And —- the salvation of souls always, always takes precedence. Additionally, we were taught about the four last things: death, judgement, heaven or hell. If I am well fed when I die, will that make a difference should I go to hell? Would I want anyone else to be in that position?

We would sincerely hope, that future editions of the St. Peter’s Spotlight focus on those in our Parish who are performing Spiritual Works of Mercy.

There is more that can be said about The Spotlight, but we shall save that for another time.

Dead Horse #2

dead-horseIt is important to note that, when my wife and I say that we are beating a dead horse, we are referring to the expectation of fulfillment of the requests made in the Petition signed by a third of the families in St. Peter’s. Although the expectations remain, the hope of fulfillment has diminished. So, speaking of the Petition, with the hope of a return to the “status quo ante,” is like beating a dead horse. The dead horse will continue to be beaten and, at the same time, we continue to respect our Pastor and his priesthood and we pray for blessings in his life and his vocation.

In the post Dead Horse #1, I rightfully stated that I have no special qualifications in the study or practice of liturgy. My wife and I have served on the Liturgy Committee of a parish in Hawaii in 1980-1981, but our role was confined to decorating the Church to coincide with the liturgical seasons and organizing some events. I have also assisted in organizing a Confirmation in a military chapel and acting as Master of Ceremony. I have even been in charge of training altar servers. So, we are not unfamiliar with what can go right in the Sanctuary and what can go wrong. (We have seen many things go very wrong.) But we never, ever attempted to counsel a priest on his reading of the Mass.

Thus, it is with great reluctance and trepidation that we have discussed anything to do with liturgy in this blog. Nevertheless, for many reasons we have stated in the past we have offered our opinions. For example, we have noted how our pastor frequently and deliberately changes words in both the Ordinary and Proper of the Mass. Anything that we might say, however, lacks in authority. So, it was a great relief to find that Father John Zuhlsdorf recently wrote on that very topic. Fr. Z has served on the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. The Commission was established by Pope John Paul II’s motu proprio Ecclesia Dei of 2 July 1988. When Fr. Z speaks about liturgy he has experience and has held a position of authority. Here is some of what he had to say in his post ASK FATHER: Can priests change the wording given in the Missal? (All emphasis was Fr. Z’s.)

The 2004 Instruction from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Redemptionis Sacramentum 31 states clearly,

[Priests] ought not to detract from the profound meaning of their own ministry by corrupting the liturgical celebration either through alteration or omission, or through arbitrary additions. For as St. Ambrose said, ‘It is not in herself…but in us that the Church in injured. Let us take care so that our own failure may not cause injury to the Church.’

There are a few places in the Missal itself where the priest is given an option, such as choosing between different penitential rites.

Nothing in the Missal permits the priest to, on his own authority, alter the texts that are given to him.

Sacrosanctum Concilium 22,3, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, establishes the principle that

“no person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.”

Fr. Z made also made a statement that was very helpful in illustrating what is happening at St. Peter’s.

Father may not regularly use the word beseech in his day-to-day language, but the Church does in hers.

Let us paraphrase that in the following way:

Father may not regularly use the word “graciously” in his day-to-day language, but the Church does in hers.

We now carry the poor, deceased horse back to the barn – until next time.

For the Sheep in Exile – Bulletin 2015-03-15

Here is Bulletin_2015-03-15.

Catholic Relief Services: Our Pastor is asking us to give generously to the Catholic Relief Services Collection:

“TODAY we take up the Catholic Relief Services Collection. This collection supports six Catholic agencies that
touch more than 100 million lives around the world. The funds from this collection help provide food to the
hungry, support to displaced refugees, and Christ’s love and respect to all people. Please give generously to the
Catholic Relief Services Collection and HELP JESUS IN DISGUISE!!

I received an email from the Lepanto Institute today entitled CRS Admits Implementation of Condom-Promoting Video. Because of the subject matter, I will refrain from into going into detail. Consider, however, the odd juxtaposition of the highlighted statement and the title of the Lepanto Institute report. To read the Institute’s full analysis of CRS’s admission and explanation for the implementation of Shuga, click the link here. Also, see item No. 3 in For the Sheep in Exile – Bulletin 2015-03-08.

It’s a simple kind of logic. “If I am Catholic and I give my money to a Catholic organization, I expect that money to go to a Catholic cause.” There was a time in my life when I didn’t have doubts that was the way things worked. Now with CCHD and CRS I have doubts.

My soul asks, “What happens to my faith when I can no longer trust?” My guardian angel responds, “You must always trust, but your trust must be in God and not in the works of men.” And so it shall be.

Dead Horse #1 – Correction

To the readers of the Sheep of Kephas, please excuse this momentary departure from our normal serious approach to writing.

It is unfortunate that this blog does not have a full time editing staff, or any editing staff at all. However, several family members have performed quite admirably as “post facto” editors. I applaud them in their pursuit of my excellence. One family member had the following questions for me concerning the post Dead Horse #1. That family member did not send the comment to me. Instead, it was sent to my wife, knowing that there would be a more rapid response. So, at 6:00 AM, I am confronted with the task of responding to the following:

Isn’t it correct to say “bore you” and not “boar you”? Unless there was a pun I’m missing.
Also, I don’t think Sheen has been beatified yet?

Dear beloved family member,

You know quite well that I often resort to the use of a pun when it suits me. If you consult the Urban Dictionary, you will find the following:

“Boar – To exhibit actions and/or behaviors of ignorance, self-centeredness, selfishness and a belief of superiority to others. Those who exhibit this type of behavior are often spoiled and embellish their own worth to gain attention, as well as suppress their own internal self consciousness of being substandard or worthless.”

Upon examination of my discourse about Greek and Latin terms that preceded my use of the term “to boar” it is obvious that I was guilty of both “to bore” and “to boar”.

With regard to Venerable Bishop Sheen you are absolutely correct. Good catch. During Lent, I’ve been listening to his talks every day. Perhaps my spirit felt he was in need of a promotion. Thank you for keeping me honest.


Dead Horse #1

In Petition Update #8 and Final, we said that we will continue to speak about the minimalism that has infected St. Peter’s, but no longer in the context of the Petition. That would be like beating a dead horse.

dead-horseSo, here we are, no longer pinning our hopes on the Petition, yet we are ever ready to give the proverbial dead horse a jolly good thrashing.

One of our followers requested that we continue to pursue some liturgical items that we had hoped would be addressed as anticipated outcomes to the Petition. His (slightly edited) request was:

“One item that you may wish to touch upon is the lack of precision and disregard for the rubrics our pastor has in the Mass. The constant “sisters and brothers”, his gestures (hands not held in prayer but down low as is if waiting for a bus) and the myriad Eucharistic Prayers (not the typical 1-4 as prescribed), “may God bless you (note the dropping of “almighty”)”… No genuflections or acknowledgement of the tabernacle after the homily….the list goes on!”

Yes, many of the flock at St. Peter’s have noted those items. There are other things we have observed that grate on the senses and cause a distraction. For example, Father really has a tremendous distaste for the word “graciously.” Whenever it appears in the Ordinary or the Proper, you can be sure that Father will omit it. It is a deliberate and conscious act on his part.

Likewise, you seldom here the word “charity” spoken at Mass. Whenever it appears in the text, it is deliberately changed to “love.” Why? – We don’t know. It is my understanding that Greek has many words that are rendered in English as “love.” One of those words is also rendered as “charity.” The same is true when we get to Latin.

But what do I know about Greek or Latin? All I learned of Greek while in the minor seminary was something along the lines of “Εδώ έρχεται η χήνα,” which meant “Here comes the Goose.” That was a reference to our English teacher Father N, who often honked like goose.

If I’m beginning to boar you – good. Picking at individual things that Father does in his minimalistic way is a fruitless endeavor. There is a counter argument for every point we might raise. It is not the individual acts that are distracting and offensive, it is the totality of Father’s approach to reading the Mass. By the way, the term “reading” was the preferred term of Blessed Fulton Sheen. The term makes the point that, if you “read” what is on the page of the Roman Missal, the words will always be correct and the congregation will not be subjected to distractions. The Mass belongs to the Church, not to the priest.

I responded to our follower by saying, “Since I’m not a degreed liturgist or have any special credentials, my approach will be made through some analogies.” (Actually I meant to say “similes”.) And that is what we shall do here. Just as Jesus would say, The kingdom of God is like…”, we will say:

1. The Mass of St. Gregory the Great and the Tridentine Mass are like a 1932 Rolls Royce Phantom.


2. The Mass in the Extraordinary Form is like a 1932 Rolls Royce Phantom.


3. The Mass of the Roman Missal, Third Edition is like an Audio RS4 quattro.


4. The Mass of a minimalist priest is like ….


Mass No. 4 is what we have been seeing from the pews of St. Peter’s. This is why there was a petition. There, our dead horse has been thrashed enough for this day.