Sunday, January 18, 2009

Strangers and Sojourners

Be not silent: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner as all my fathers were. Psalm 38:12

Today I definitely felt more like a stranger than a sojourner in our chapel.

We walked in to be greeted by both our priest and a minister from a Protestant denomination. As it was Christian Unity Week, the minister was to give the Homily.

We could not stay. It is bad enough when Catholic lay-people are called on to give "homilies" but to have clergy from a denomination preach lays us wide open to difficulty. In the past we have had "homilies" which were historically incorrect and insulting. Today's apparently had the congregation learning about three Jesuses (is that how you pluralize God's only son?).

Because of a break in apostolic succession, even ordained ministers of non-Catholic communities are lay-people, as the Church teaches.
What is the big deal about a non-priest giving a "homily"? First, understand that there is a legitimate place for a lay-person to speak at Mass. It is after Communion but before the Final Blessing. THAT is not the problem.

I think people do not understand that being a priest is not just a 'job'...something someone else can pinch hit for. An ordained priest is changed in his essence. His unique tasks are "to teach, to govern, and to sanctify" Homilies are liturgical teaching, just the sacrament of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick (both of which are also to be performed only by a priest) sanctify.

We are increasingly feeling like strangers in the chapel to which we have belonged for over ten years.

Fortunately, we can always sojourn in the Catholic Church. Even in our imperfect little corner, we can pray and work for change. As long as the Mass remains valid, and that has not been a problem, despite these liturgical shenanigans, Jesus is there: In the Word, in the people, in the priest, and most emminently, in the Eucharist.

If a parish existed, and I don't think it does, which had perfect liturgy, we would still be strangers to an extent. We cannot fully know God when we are on earth. Mass is however, our chance to 'play heaven', according to Pope Benedict XVI in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy. It is there to help us get as close to heaven as we can ever be while on earth. It is, I think, a 'thin place' as is referred to in Celtic lore.

I hope to continue to work (pester?) for change, but sometimes, one gets weary...

Friday, January 09, 2009

Happy New Year!

I am reflecting on a few things in the early days of 2009.

In Canada, we have only Two Holy days of Obligation. These are non-Sundays (not always the case depending on the holy day) on which Catholics are obligated to attend Mass. Catholics are obliged, under normal circumstances, to attend Mass (where Mass is available to them) on any Sunday as well.

Our two holy days are Christmas Day (or the vigil Midnight Mass or even the anticipated Mass which may happen earlier in the evening of Christmas Eve.) and the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, which falls on January 1st.

An aside here is that Good Friday is not a Holy Day of obligation because no Mass is celebrated. Easter Sunday is automatically an obligation as it is on a Sunday. As with Christmas, the Vigil Mass fulfills the obligation.

Our January 1st Mass was surprisingly well attended. For very predictable reasons, namely New Year's Eve parties, people often choose to ignore the January 1st obligation.

Perhaps less surprising was that this congregation contained a great number of children. Our chapel tends to be a younger than average congregation due to our military nature, but even for us, this was rather remarkable.

What a joy it was to see these little people bouncing around. I found it reminded me that as they have most of their lives to look forward too, I have a new year to look forward to. Oh, that I should have half their enthusiasm!

One of the not-joyful notes was that one of our parishioners had recently been killed in a military 'situation'. I was very impressed to see his widow and their children at Mass with us that day. To me, this spoke volumes about her faith. So many would hide at a time like this.

It became evident that this remarkable woman was relying on her faith and on the prayers of those around her for strength during what could only be a horrific least from an earthly perspective.

I saw a lot of people looking life, to the new year, to a radically changed life. All here were looking to (or were being guided to) Christ as their beacon.

Although in our case I regret that the role of Mary was not really commented on at all, I do think that the Church is wise in declaring January 1 as a day of obligation. What a grand way to start off the New Year!

God Bless