Friday, December 31, 2010

Ode to Magnificat - Or how it made my son a theologian

My wife got a subscription to Magnificat about a year ago and it has been a great blessing to our family. We’ve developed a routine whereby we read the readings for the day and then I give a little reflection. Sometimes I’ve got something smart to say and sometimes I come up blank, and then we just read from Magnificat about the Saint of the day or read Magnificat’s reflection of the day.

My 10 year old son is hyper-competitive and he’s now gotten to the point that before I give my brilliant reflection on the readings, he has to tell the family what he thinks the readings are about. He’s hit and miss, but yesterday he was hit. The first reading was from the First Letter of John:

I am writing to you, children,
because your sins have been forgiven for his name’s sake.

I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.

I am writing to you, young men,
because you have conquered the Evil One.

I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.

I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.

I write to you, young men,
because you are strong and the word of God remains in you,
and you have conquered the Evil One.

Do not love the world or the things of the world.
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world,
sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life,
is not from the Father but is from the world.
Yet the world and its enticement are passing away.
But whoever does the will of God remains forever.

I was about to tell him that it’s interesting that John is addressing this letter to males – fathers and young men. But before I do, my ten year old says that John is saying to men that you cannot be like Adam who was weak and blamed his sin on others. Pretty good, kinda relevant.

Then I tell my son that John tells fathers twice, in the very same language, that he is writing to them because “you know him who is from the beginning” and therefore fathers should not fall for “sensual lust” and the enticements of the world which are “passing away,” but should rather look to the Father who remains forever.

I was a little worried that the sensual aspect of the reference would be too specific for a 10 year old to get a general lesson from the reading, but no. My son says to me, “Dad, I know what it means. It’s like if you get me a computer and then all I do is play with the computer and I don’t pay any attention to you. That’s wrong.”

Good lesson for sons and fathers.

I’m making this a New Year’s post. Subscribe to Magnificat and resolve to use it in the new year! It is a fantastic tool for keeping faith at the center of your family.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

What is the Worth of a Person? - Bishop Finn’s Christmas Message

Merry Christmas from The Catholic Key! Following is Kansas City – St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn’s Christmas message given at Masses on Dec. 24-25 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City and the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph:
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Dear friends in Christ,

In the birth of this Child, the promise of the ages was fulfilled. Since the sin of Adam, the world needed its Redeemer, and now the New Adam is born among us. “O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.” In Jesus, the New Adam, creation is in a sense re-started.

Mary, the woman promised in Genesis who would crush the head of the serpent, is the Mother of the Savior and the Mother of us all. Her “yes” to God’s mysterious plan catapulted the work of love forward powerfully, and changed human history. Her baby is “God With Us,” and, in Him, the down-payment has been made on the gift of salvation. “Long lay the world, in sin and sorrow pining, till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.”

When Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, took our flesh in the mystery of the Incarnation, He became flesh: True God and True Man. So what is the worth of a person? It is not primarily the sum of our actions. It is certainly not limited in any way to the status of our citizenship. Nor is it tied to the measure of our I.Q., the quantity of our material possessions, or our position in the community or the Church. Our lasting and irrevocable worth is grounded in the fact that we are a son or daughter of the heavenly Father. Our inestimable value is tied to the fact that Jesus Christ has united Himself in some fashion with each person. He has died for me and you. He has given our mortal nature, immortal value. Because of His Plan we are destined for eternity, and even now He has made it possible for us to live in His grace and life. Mankind has become new – newborn – in this mystery of Christmas. And while we adore the Christ-child, we must be ready to honor each person – all of whom share His image.

An important icon of Christmas is that of the Holy Family. Mary and Joseph chose to live in fidelity and love. It seems true that neither Mary nor Joseph could fully anticipate how God’s promise would unfold. And couples and families – indeed any of us - can never know all that God may ask of us. Nonetheless, they gave their full assent to this gift of life at Christmas. In the Gospels of the coming days we hear how Mary held all these things in her heart; how Joseph would awaken to carry out the next divine instruction. Their docility to God and their complete love for Jesus would hold them together as a family – through poverty, and exile, and the ordinary moments of home life.

Mary and Joseph, intercede for married couples and families. Jesus, bless our children. Keep them safe and close to you, whether they are young or old. Be our Savior at every moment of life. Protect this most unique gift which is marriage and family. Affirm and sustain it at the core of society and at the heart of the Church.

The angels announce peace, and the Prince of Peace is the Way, Truth, and Life of the world. Teach our world the Way to peace; the Truth that endures; and make us protectors and advocates for Life. Help us to know and revere the worth of each person.

In our prayers these days, dear friends, we have no more worthy image than that of the Crib scene: Mary and Joseph and Jesus huddled in simple surroundings, angels praising, shepherds and kings adoring. Don’t let Christmas melt away too quickly. Let us spend some time each day gazing on these pictures of Christmas, contemplating their meaning – then and now. We also can come simply before Jesus to adore him as Lord of our life. Ask Mary and Joseph to kneel next to you. Ask them to introduce you to their Son; to help you to know and love Jesus more truly and deeply. So that when we go out into the world that longs for its Savior, we will be able to give Him in love to others.

Dear friends, I wish you the lasting joy and peace of these holy days. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Revised Grail Psalms Ready For Publication and Pre-order

Last April, we reported that the Vatican had given its recognitio to the Revised Grail Psalter. The new translation was undertaken by Abbot Gregory Polan and his fellow Benedictines at Conception Abbey in the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph. We now receive word from Conception Abbey that the psalms are ready for publication and pre-order for delivery in January:

RGP photo_ad Conception, Mo – December 15, 2010 – We are happy to announce that final approval has been granted to The Revised Grail Psalms by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Printed copies may be preordered from The Printery House of Conception Abbey with shipping available in early January 2011.

The Revised Grail Psalms has been a decade-long project of the monks of Conception Abbey. Undertaken at the request of the Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops, these psalms will be used in all future liturgical books produced for our country under the auspices of the USCCB; it is expected that they will gain usage in many English-speaking countries beyond the U.S. as well.

“The monks of Conception have given much time, energy, and devotion to this project,” said Abbot Gregory. “It is our hope that this newly-revised and updated version of the Church’s preeminent prayer-book will lead many people to a deeper reflection on God’s mysterious presence in their own lives, and lead them to heartfelt expressions of petition, praise, and gratitude to our all-loving and provident Lord.”

The publication of the Grail Psalms from Conception Abbey includes a Preface by Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I. and introduction from Abbot Polan. For a detailed history on the project, see our earlier post. Visit the Printery House to order your copy. There is also a singing version available with pointed text.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Immaculate Conception of Guadalupe

December 8 is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It was not ever thus. In the fifth century, a celebration of the “Conception of the Most Holy and All Pure Mother of God,” was celebrated on December 9. The Eastern Orthodox today celebrate “The Conception by St. Anna of the Most Holy Theotokos (God-bearer)” on December 9. And in the calendar of the Spanish Empire operative in 1531, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception was celebrated on December 9.

On December 9, 1531, a lady who called herself “the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God” made her first appearance to Juan Diego on Tepeyac hill in Mexico. This Immaculate Conception day revelation of the Mother of the True God occurred 34 years before the first European settlement in what was to become the United States (Spanish in St. Augustine, FL), 76 years before the first successful English settlement at Jamestown and 245 years before the founding of our country.

Oddly enough, the Virgin who appeared to Juan Diego on the Spanish Feast of the Immaculate Conception, was quite popular among U.S Catholics in the 19th century – though not in her appearance as Our Lady of Guadalupe, but rather, simply as the Immaculate Conception.

I have worked for two dioceses with cathedrals named for the Immaculate Conception - Here in Kansas City and in San Francisco, where Old St. Mary’s, the first cathedral in California, was the first church in the world to be dedicated to the Immaculate Conception following the formal definition of the doctrine in 1854.

Just the first page of google results on the name shows Immaculate Conception Cathedrals in Denver, Albany, Springfield, Portland, Tyler, Syracuse and Memphis. The bishops of the United States chose the Immaculate Conception as Patroness of the United States eight years before the formal definition of the doctrine.
In an interesting column by Archbishop Richard Cushing of Boston, probably dating from the early 1950s before he was Cardinal, he notes (my emphases):
The patronage of the Blessed Virgin over American territory did not begin, however, with the reorganization of the Church which was made possible under the changed political conditions of the post-Revolution era. It did not begin in the new republic at all.
The first official proclamation of it was made in 1643 by the King of Spain, and to this we shall refer again, but her patronage was implicit in the bull of Alexander VI in which, in 1493, he ordered the Spanish Crown in virtue of holy obedience to send to the newly-discovered lands learned, God-fearing, experienced and skilled missionaries to instruct the inhabitants in the Catholic faith and imbue them with good morals. The Holy See endorsed Spain's claim to the whole western hemisphere with the exception of Brazil under these conditions. Our territory remained within this claim until other European nations successfully challenged it, and our history was Spanish colonial history for over a century in the East, for much longer in the West.
He then goes on to speak of Our Lady of Guadalupe as “the first of the native Madonnas” and says that “Tepeyac has been referred to as the Lourdes of America,” again with obvious reference to Our Lady of Guadalupe’s identification with the Immaculate Conception.

The claim of the Virgin of Guadalupe over the entire continent was confirmed by Pope Pius XII in 1945 when he named her “Empress of the Americas” and again in 1999 when Pope John Paul II declared her Patroness of All the Americas.

The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the traditional depiction of the Immaculate Conception make look different. But She is the same Lady. And she is the mother of all Catholics in all the Americas.

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To see where I pinched some of this stuff see this article by then-Archbishop Raymond Burke.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Republican Argument for the DREAM Act

Can you guess who made this straightforward and impassioned plea for the DREAM Act?

I rise today to introduce legislation that will help make the American dream a reality for many young people. ``The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act ,'' or ``The DREAM Act ,'' resolves immigration status problems that plague undocumented immigrants who came to our country as youths. It also removes barriers to education so that they are better equipped to succeed in our society.

   Each year, about fifty thousand young undocumented immigrants graduate from high school in the United States. Most of them came to this country with their parents as small children and have been raised here just like their U.S. citizen classmates. They view themselves as Americans, and are loyal to our country. Some may not even realize that they are here in violation of our immigration laws. They grow up to become honest and hardworking adolescents and young adults, and strive for academic as well as professional excellence.

   Many of these youngsters find themselves caught in a catch-22 situation. As illegal immigrants, they cannot work legally. Moreover, they are effectively barred from developing academically beyond high school because of the high cost of pursuing higher education. Private colleges and universities are very expensive, and under current federal law, state institutions cannot grant in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, regardless of how long they have resided in that state. To make matters worse, as illegal immigrants, these young people are ineligible for federal tuition assistance. Moreover, these young people have no independent way of becoming legal residents of the United States.

   In short, though these children have built their lives here, they have no possibility of achieving and living the American dream . What a tremendous loss to our society.

It is a tremendous loss to our society and so is the loss of any principled reasoning about immigration reform among Republicans in Congress. The man who made the above plea was Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah when he introduced the DREAM Act in the 108th Congress.

Senator Hatch’s argument for the DREAM Act is one that used to resonate with a number of Republican Senators, including John McCain (R-AZ), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and others. All of them sponsored the DREAM Act at one point or another. Now it is uncertain whether even Hatch still stands by his words. At this point, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) is the only Republican certain to vote for the DREAM Act, with Bob Bennett (R-UT) a possibility.

Nothing has changed about the moral argument for the DREAM Act since the 108th Congress. But today, instead of sponsoring the bill, the face of Republican thought on the subject is portrayed by the nativist demagoguery of Alabama Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. If that view holds sway, it will not only be a “tremendous loss to our society,” but a very likely demographic dead-end for the Republican party.