Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Blessed Christmas to All

   Greetings from my home city of Boston where I'm spending the week with my brother friars at St. Anthony Shrine and visiting with family and friends.  Earlier this morning I read a meditation from Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, who by the way offers wonderful daily meditations.  Fr. Richard commented on the popular hymn, O Holy Night, compsed in 1847 by Frenchman Placide Cappeau.  He is especially taken by the phrase "and the soul felt its worth."

   His thought is that because the Son of God chose to become human, to become one of us, that we see the true source of our worth, a worthiness that is based on a gift given to us, the Incarnation, and not on our successes and accomplishments.   Another spiritual writer, Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, like to point out that the Incarnation was not meant to be a 33 year experiment that ended with the Ascension, but rather a great mystery that began in Jesus and continues in us.  If we can but allow our souls to feel their worth because Christ continues to act in through and with us, both we and the world would be transformed and we would indeed have Peace on Earth.

   I will end by sharing with you a poem, called Sharon's Prayer, composed by John Shea in his 1977 book, The Hour of the Unexpected:

Sharon’s Prayer 

She was five,
      sure of the facts,
      and recited them
      with slow solemnity
      convinced every word
   was revelation.
      She said

they were so poor
they had only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
to eat
and they went a long way from home
without getting lost. The lady rode
a donkey, the man walked, and the baby
was inside the lady.
They had to stay in a stable
with an ox and an ass (hee-hee)
but the Three Rich Men found them
because a star lited the roof
Shepherds came and you could
pet the sheep but not feed them.
Then the baby was borned.
And do you know who he was?

      Her quarter eyes inflated
      to silver dollars,
The baby was God.

      And she jumped in the air
      whirled round, dove into the sofa
      and buried her head under the cushion
      which is the only proper response
      to the Good News of the Incarnation.
by John Shea, The Hour of the Unexpected, Allan, Texas, Argus Communications, 1977

Merry Christmas to All

To enjoy Cappeau's beautiful hymn just click on below

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Gift of Brothers

   In St. Francis Testament written at the end of his life he writes, "....and the Lord gave me brothers."  You see Francis did not set out to found an order and recruit people to join it.  He set out to do the Lord's work and people found there way to him.  He received them as gifts from the Lord. His words challenge us friars to see one another as gifts, and given that we are all so very human that is not always easy.

   Here at St. Anthony Friary we just had the funeral of one of our brothers, Fr. Jim Jones, OFM. Jimmy, as he was known to us, was only 68 years old and had been ill with a heart condition for the past few years. That condition was worsened when he was mugged five years ago while taking a walk here in our generally safe neighborhood.   He was also the seventh member of our community to die in the past 13 months. Ever since I came here Jim has been a positive presence in our community.   He was not able to engage in much public ministry, though I did notice that priests, and other people as well, often came by and said they had an appointment with him.

  It was, I believe,  the spiritual writer, Ronald Rolheiser, OMI,   in one of his recent books  who talked about the grieving process and about the fact that only after death is the totality of the gift that the person was in life able to be fully appreciated.   I have found that to be true with all seven of my brother friars who have died this year, but today especially in the case of Jimmy.

   Our local bishop, Robert Lynch, came to the funeral.  His reason for coming was to thank us Franciscans for the contribution that Jim Jones made to the diocese because of what he did for the priests here through spiritual direction.  The homilist, Fr. John Tapp, from one of the local parishes, eloquently made the same point when he shared how Jim had been his spiritual director for 14 years.  All of us in the community knew that Jim had done spiritual direction but never realized the extent of and the impact of his ministry.  I mentioned above the fact that Jim was mugged a few years ago.  Both the bishop and Fr. Tapp talked of Jim's journey towards forgiveness of his attackers, something that gives a challenging witness to all of us.

    As Christmas draws near and we think of giving and receiving gifts I am thankful for the gift of Jimmy Jones and all of my brothers who have died in the past year.  I also pray to be able to better appreciate gift of those now living--in my Franciscan community, in my family, and in the great and growing circle of friends with whom the Lord has blessed me.  That is a real Christmas gift.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

And with Your Spirit::Thoughts on the New Translation of Mass Texts

   A few weeks ago several readers of this blog asked my opinion on the new translation of the prayers for the Mass. I hesitated to respond because I wanted to wait and see.  We are now into the second week of Advent and are getting used to (or not so used to) the new prayers at Mass so  I thought that I might offer a few thoughts on the matter which I hope are helpful.
   Some explanations are in order.  There is not a new Mass.  The ritual of the Mass has not changed. What has changed is the wording of the prayers used.  What many don't know is that in Rome there is an official Latin text from which all the languages of the world translate.  In years gone by the criterion used for translation was what is called "dynamic equivalency". meaning that the basic meaning of the Latin was translated into English (in our case) or whatever other language.  The Vatican in recent years has called for a more literal translation.   Both have their advantages and disadvantages.  Also, the English used until recently was a more colloquial or popular style.  Some wanted a more rich or elevated language for worship. Again there are advantages to both approaches.  My opinion on what has been presented to us is mixed.  Indeed there is a certain eloquence to some of the newer expressions used and there are more biblical references because some were unfortunately removed from the earlier translation.  At the same time I think that some of the texts are awkward and stilted and that there are words used which the ordinary person in the pew cannot understand.  I know that we have a more educated laity and that they can fairly quickly understand that the word "consubstantial" in the Creed means "one in being". Today. however, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception there was a reference to" prevenient" grace. Even I who am trained in theology had to stop and think about that one.  I also think that the prayers that the priest uses could have been smoothed off a bit and still have been faithful to the Latin.   What I do like is that there is more theological precision in a few places that never should have been missing.
   Before getting to those points I want to challenge people on both the left and the right who refer to this work as "going back."  I have heard some say that they are finally getting back to the way that things should be and other lamenting that we are retrenching to the old days. Neither is true.  I say Mass often in Spanish and occasionally in Italian and those languages have always had things like the triple "through my fault" in the Confiteor and have said "And with your "spirt", and not "and also with you."  In that sense we are not retrenching but just doing what everyone else is doing.
   Some of the theological points that I like are:

   1.  In the offertory prayers we refer to the bread, and later the wine, that we have received and which we now offer.  This detail exists in the other languages but has not been used in English.  The idea is that we offer back to God what God has given to us.

   2.  At the consecration we are invited to "take this all of you and eat of it" (the bread) rahter than just " it.  This subtlety suggest that we are not possessing the Body of Christ, but simply partaking of it.  It also suggests a communal sharing.

   3.  Several of the new forms for the dismissal rite make a clear link between the Eucharist and everyday life, eg.,  " Go in Peace and live the Gospel in your Life."

   One point that requires explanation is in the consecration of the wine into the precious Blood which is "poured out for you and for the many."  This does not mean that Christ did not die for all, but rather suggests the masses or the multitudes who would accept Christ.  He still died even for those who did not accept Him even if they have not taken Him up on it.
   In short I think we could have done better with this and hopefully some of the shortcomings can be corrected soon while still being faithful to the desired principle of a more faithful or authentic translation. A wise person once said that a translation is either faithful or beautiful, but rarely both.  I still think that we need to strive for both.

Moving Out and Moving Ahead Cautiosly