Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Tag Archives: Priest

Encourage & Teach: The Service of Permanent Deacons

ordinationBy: Deacon Marques Silva

From a young age, my parents taught us that service is the duty of every Christian. It was not merely words, but lived out in their daily experience. In fact, I cannot say that we only served on certain holy days or for particular events for the reason that it was a way of life for our family. This love to assist behind the scenes stayed with me as I went off to college, married, and started our family.

Then I was invited by my wife and kids (I did not see it coming) to apply for the permanent diaconate here in the Diocese of Arlington. My question was, “Why?” when I could serve just as well as a lay person. (Read more…)

St. Gilbert of Sempringham, Founder (RM)

Thanks to St. Patrick’s in Washington, DC and For All the Saint:

Born at Sempringham, Lincolnshire, England, c. 1083-85; died there, February 4, 1189; canonized 1202 by Pope Innocent III at Anagni; feast day formerly on February 4.

Saint Gilbert, son of Jocelin, a wealthy Norman knight, and his Anglo-Saxon wife, was regarded as unfit for ordinary feudal life because of some kind of physical deformity. For this reason, he was sent to France to study and took a master’s degree.

Upon his return to England, Gilbert started a school for both boys and girls. From his father, he received the hereditary benefices of Sempringham and Torrington in Lincolnshire, but he gave all the revenues from them to the poor, except a small sum for bare necessities. As he was not yet ordained, he appointed a vicar for the liturgies and lived in poverty in the vicarage.

In 1122, Gilbert became a clerk in the household of Bishop Robert Bloet of Lincoln and was ordained by Robert’s successor Alexander, and was offered, but refused, a rich archdeaconry. Instead, upon the death of his father in 1131, Gilbert returned to Sempringham as lord of the manor and parson. By his care his parishioners seemed to lead the lives of religious men and, wherever they went, were known to be of his flock by their conversation.

That same year of 1131, he organized a group of seven young women of the parish into a community under the Benedictine rule. They lived in strict enclosure in a house adjoining Sempringham’s parish church of Saint Andrew. As the foundation grew, Gilbert added laysisters and, on the advice of the Cistercian Abbot William of Rievaulx, lay brothers to work the land. A second house was soon founded.

In 1148, Gilbert went to the general chapter at Cîteaux to ask the Cistercians to take on the governance of the community. When the Cistercians declined because women were included, Gilbert provided chaplains for his nuns by establishing a body of canons following the Augustinian rule with the approval of Pope Eugene III, who was present at the chapter. Saint Bernard helped Gilbert draw up the Institutes of the Order of Sempringham, of which Eugenius made him the master. Thus, the canons followed the Augustinian Rule and the lay brothers and sisters that of Cîteaux. Women formed the majority of the order; the men both governed them and ministered to their needs, temporal and spiritual. The Gilbertines are the only specifically English order, and except for one foundation in Scotland, never spread beyond its border.

This order grew rapidly to 13 foundations, including men’s and women’s houses side by side and also monasteries solely for canons. They also ran leper hospitals and orphanages. Gilbert imposed a strict rule on his order. An illustration of the enforced simplicity of life was the fact that the choir office was celebrated without fanfare.

As master general of the order, Saint Gilbert set an admirable example of abstemious and devoted living and concern for the poor. Gilbert’s diet consisted primarily of roots and pulse in small amounts. He always set a place at the table for Jesus, in which he put all the best of what was served up, and this was for the poor. He wore a hair-shirt, took his short rest in a sitting position, and spent most of each night in prayer.

And, he was never idle. He travelled frequently from house to house (primarily in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire), forever active in copying manuscripts, making furniture, and building.

The later years of his long life were seriously disturbed. When he was about 80, he was arrested and charged with assisting Saint Thomas á Becket, who had taken refuge abroad from King Henry II after the council at Northampton (1163). (Thomas, dressed as a Sempringham lay brother, was said to have fled north to their houses in the Lincolnshire Fens before doubling back on his tracks south to Kent.) Though he was not guilty of this kindness, the saint chose to suffer rather than seem to condemn that which would have been good and just. Eventually the charge was dropped, although Gilbert still refused to deny it on oath.

Later still there was a revolt among his laybrothers, who grievously slandered the 90-year-old man, saying that there was too much work and not enough food. The rebellion was led by two skilled craftsmen who slandered Gilbert, obtained funds and support from magnates in the church and state, and took the case to Rome. There Pope Alexander III decided in Gilbert’s favor, but the living conditions were improved.

Saint Gilbert lived to be 106 and passed his last years nearly blind, as a simple member of the order he had founded and governed. He had built 13 monasteries (of which nine were double) and four dedicated solely to canons encompassing about 1,500 religious. Contemporary chroniclers highly praised both Gilbert and his nuns. His cultus was spontaneous and immediate. Miracles wrought at his tomb were examined and approved by Archbishop Hubert Walter of Canterbury (who ordered the English bishops to celebrate Gilbert’s feast) and the commissioners of Pope Innocent III in 1201, leading to his canonization the following year. His name was added to the calendar on the wall of the Roman church of the Four Crowned Martyrs soon after his canonization. His relics are said to have been taken by King Louis VIII to Toulouse, France, where they are kept in the Church of Saint Sernin.

Because the Gilbertine Order was contained within the borders of England, it came to an end when its 26 houses were suppressed by King Henry VIII (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Graham, Husenbeth, Walsh, White).

In Defence of the New Missal

By Father Owen Gorman (Published: Wednesday, 20th April 2011)

Every once and a while an issue surfaces in the Church that challenges Catholics in their acceptance of her teaching authority. The year 1967 brought one such challenge, when Pope Paul VI in his encyclical, Humanae Vitae, taught that the use of the contraceptive pill within marriage was morally wrong. Another challenge came during the pontificate of Venerable John Paul II, when in his apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, he taught that the Church did not have the authority to ordain women to the priesthood – a teaching that was to be held ‘definitively’, he said, by all the faithful. Now under the Pontificate of Benedict XVI a new issue has emerged; a decidedly liturgical one that is eliciting strong reactions both for and against from Catholic clergy and laity. The issue in question is the planned introduction on the first Sunday of Advent this year of the English translation of the third ‘typical edition’ of the Missale Romanum or Roman Missal. Already the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) here in Ireland has indicated that they find this new translation ‘unacceptable’ and have called on our Bishops to defer its introduction for at least five years. Their concerns about the new texts for the Mass have already received a broad and sympathetic hearing from a media who are only too happy to give air-time and column inches to those groups whose views put them at variance with the Vatican. And with one priest already indicating that he couldn’t ‘in conscience’ use the new translation, this looks set to be an issue that will run and run. But of course we shouldn’t expect otherwise – the path of authentic liturgical renewal never runs smooth.

Liturgical Respiration!

Much has been made by the ACP at their recent press conference about the language of the new translation. The more accurate rendering of the Mass prayers from the Latin into English is something that has clearly irked them. So too has the retention of words such as ‘mankind’ and ‘men’ which they regard as sexist and non-inclusive. Then there is the issue of the length of some of the sentences which apparently are a minefield of clauses and sub-clauses with not a full-stop in sight for seventy or eighty words! This prompts the question: should the laity be concerned about their priests dropping dead on the sanctuary due to the lack of the intake of oxygen during the recitation of these sentences? The possibility of this happening is causing me great anxiety. Much as I would love to be a martyr for the liturgy, I just would prefer not to ruin the Mass for my congregation by, like, dying on them in the middle of it. Imagine what a liturgical downer that would be for people, especially if it happened before Communion time and they didn’t get to receive.  I have already started a novena to St. Bernadine of Siena who is the patron saint of lungs. I recommend all priests to do likewise. May his heavenly assistance promote respiratory health and strength in all of the clergy (especially asthmatics) as we prepare for the (apparently) oxygen-draining, heart attack inducing, alveoli obliterating new translation of the Missal.

ICEL and the Linguistic Gaps.

The issue of language, and specifically, the liturgical translation of texts from Latin into the vernacular and the principles that should guide this endeavour, is always a process fraught with difficulties. No translation can ever capture the depth, richness, nuances and often layers of meaning to be found in the text of another language. There is always some falling short of what is expressed in the original; an uncomfortable discrepancy, a linguistic gap that we are forever trying to bridge. This awareness of the ‘falling short’ in the work of liturgical translation has been most keenly felt by many orthodox Catholics in this part of the English speaking world since 1975. This was the year when the first edition of the Roman Missal in English was introduced into parishes here in Ireland. The group responsible for producing this translation was the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), a body constituted by a number of Episcopal conferences in the English speaking world in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. Its remit was to provide English translations of the liturgical books of the Roman Rite. In approaching this important work, ICEL favoured what is called a ‘dynamic equivalence’ approach to translation whereby instead of producing a literal and accurate translation from Latin to English, they sought instead to capture the overall meaning of the Latin, often through simply paraphrasing the source text. The result, needless to say, was a translation that was unfaithful to the original Latin and in the opinion of many commentators, quite simply banal.

Liturgicam authenticam

While many liturgists still favour the ‘dynamic equivalence’ theory of translation and are content to sacrifice fidelity to the Latin on the altar of ‘creative’ translations that favour inclusive language, this is not the approach advocated by Rome. The awareness there (and indeed shared by orthodox Catholics) is that the renewal of the liturgy in the English speaking world and elsewhere, has not been well served by the translations we have been given. It was with a view to improving matters in liturgical translation, that the Venerable Pope John Paul II promulgated the document Liturgicam authenticam on April 25, 2001. As the fifth Instruction on the implementation of the Second Vatican Council’s liturgical reform, this document established new guidelines for the use of vernacular languages in the books of the Roman Liturgy. It mandated that from now on liturgical translation is to be ‘exact in wording and free from all ideological influence’ and ‘creative innovation’. The fundamental purpose of translation, it said, is to render ‘the original texts faithfully and accurately into the vernacular language . . . without paraphrases or glosses’. In other words, ‘dynamic equivalence’ has had its day.

The Re-Sacralisation of the Liturgy.

The promulgation of Liturgicam authenticam was clearly a watershed moment and the norms of translation it mandated have guided the work on the new missal. Behind these norms is the desire to recover what has been lost in our liturgical celebrations over recent decades: solemnity in our worship; a sense of the sacred; awe and respect before God; a sacral vocabulary; beauty and richness in linguistic expression, and yes, greater formality of style, syntax and grammar. For far too long the liturgy has been subject to a programme of ‘de-sacralisation’ whereby under the misnomer of ‘renewal’, liturgical celebrations and places of worship were stripped of their sacral character. Even the focus of liturgy became distorted: from honouring and worshipping God, we were encouraged to honour and celebrate ourselves.

But this era is clearly drawing to a close. A ‘re-sacralisation’ of liturgical celebrations is already well under way and the new missal will certainly become a lynchpin underpinning and promoting this development. Many of the keenest implementers of this ‘programme of re-sacralisation’ are the younger clergy, whose love and respect for the liturgy and commitment to the liturgical vision of Pope Benedict XVI stands at the core of their priesthood. They value the liturgy highly because growing up they witnessed its ritual abuse. They do not regard themselves as its master but only as its servant. They are keen to celebrate the Mass according to the established norms and do not experience the freedom, as some do, in discarding these norms. As a result, some accuse them of narrow-mindedness and liturgical fundamentalism. They prefer to see it as fidelity.


There is a time when issues emerge within the Church for raising one’s concerns and enunciating objections. The ACP has used this recent time well in this regard. They have articulated their objections and spelt out their position on the new Missal. But a time also comes when nothing less than a response of fidelity and obedience will do. Many Catholic priests in 1973 had serious misgivings about the new missal they were given, but despite these misgivings, in a spirit of fidelity and obedience, they implemented that missal in their parishes. Let us hope that the ACP in the coming months will follow their example and do likewise.

Litany of the Saints: Order & Beauty Revealed

One of the most moving points during an ordination is when the ordinandi lay prostrate at the foot of the altar offering their lives in service to the People of God. During this period, the Bishop, priests, deacons, seminarians, religious and lay faithful, pray to God  for the ordinandi by chanting the Litany of the Saints. The reasoning is so they might be strengthened by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the task(s) that is(are) being set before them.

The moment (which lasted a little over eight minutes for mine) is solemn. It is a profound sung silence. It is a moment, when through prayer, it would seem that eternity and time both are in snych with each other. For the wives, it is here where the impact of the commitment and the reality of ordination suddenly rushes in upon them.

It is the moment most people remember. It is also the moment that brings about the most questions. The most frequent question afterward is, “How do you decide the organization of the Litany.” And, is there a definite organization. So, I thought we would examine the deep beauty and organization of the Litany of the Saints.

Introduction to a Litany

Fr. John Hardon, S.J. in his Modern Catholic Dictionary proposes a very helpful description and definition of the Litany of the Saints:

Believed to be the most ancient of the litanies used in the Church. Already prescribed by Pope Gregory the Great in 590 for a public procession of thanksgiving at the end of a plague that had devastated Rome. In a somewhat different form, it was mentioned by St. Basil in the fourth century. Called the Litany of the Saints because it is made up of petitions addressed to various saints of different classes, and to Mary, the Queen of the Saints. In its present form, after invoking forty-eight individual saints and thirteen groups of saints, the litany begs for deliverance from a dozen evils and makes some thirty intercessions, including “that you would deign to humble the enemies of Holy Church” and “grant peace and unity to all Christian people.

Litany of the Saints: General Organization

Immediately in the description, one can see that in general, there is a definite organization:

  • Invocation of the Blessed Trinity
  • Invocation of Mary, Queen of Saints
  • Invocation of forty-eight individual saints organized into thirteen groups
  • Intercession against about twelve human deprivations or evils
  • Intercession for thirty needs or areas that require grace
  • Intercession for unity of mind and heart manifested through peace among the People of God

Litany of the Saints: Particular Organization

Litanies always open with the Kyrie Eleison formula directly addressed to the Blessed Trinity. The invocation is for the Godhead to grant grace and mercy to those praying the litany. Immediately following is the invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary with a highlight upon the title, Queen of All Saints. Sometimes in the abbreviated form we only hear Mary, Mother of God. Naturally, her angelic court is addressed prior to the company of saints.

Hierarchy of the Saints of God

The organization is done by categories with internal ecclesial hierarchical rankings:

  1. Apostles
  2. Evangelists
  3. Disciples
  4. Commemoration of the Holy Innocents
  5. Martyrs (St. Stephan the proto-martyr is first)
  6. Confessors arranged by their rank in life
    1. Popes
    2. Doctors
    3. Bishops
    4. Abbots
    5. Priests
    6. Monks
  7. Virgins

The most interesting section of the litany is the Confessors. This section typically includes the patron(s) of the diocesan and local Church, founders of orders, local saints and even former bishops of the diocese who are unknown outside the immediate area. St. Sylvester is usually the first saint named within the Confessors, except when the local patron is placed on top. During the Diocese of Arlington Diaconate ordination, all the patron parish saints were included in this section for the ordiandi. Unfortunately, the hierarchy is not strictly followed, not to mention abbreviated forms for the sake of time, which contributes to confusion.

Following the patrons come the Fathers of the Church (Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory, Jerome), then bishops and so forth. In some litanies the confessors section is divided into two sections in accordance to their rank:

  1. Bishops and priests (top section)
  2. Monks and hermits (bottom section)

Last but not least are the Virgins. Of interest, are the virtues who later began saints: Faith, Hope and Charity – daughters of St. Sophia.

If you attend enough liturgies where the litany is chanted or recited you will notice the great variety. Even with the variety there is always an intrinsic unity found in the structure. If you are looking for absolute lack of deviation you will have to go to parishes run by the Order of Preachers (Dominicans). They have mandated and regularized the Litany of Saints within their own territories and order.

The Litany of the Saints is a beautiful prayer to remind us of the unity with the family of God who have gone before us. We should every once in a while break in out and pray it with our families and friends. It is a good reminder that not only are we not alone but,

since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us cast aside every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us (Hebrews 12:1)

All holy men and women of God…ora pro nobis!

The Scandal of Amazing Grace

This week at my parish, Fr. Larry Richards is leading our mission. The week has been filled with so many graces it has been overwhelming. For all of his missions, Wednesday is dedicated to the Passion of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ…Blessed be His Name! In tandem with the evening’s presentation, confession is offered to all those present.

Last night I watched a scandalous event take place. Before you panic, no worries, Fr. Larry was fantastic and there was nothing improper. So, the question is, “What was so scandalous?” I am so glad you asked!

I watched a teen non-Catholic young lady  stand in a long confession line for an hour and a half to confess her sins. All the while, knowing full well that absolution was not likely to be offered since she is not Catholic. Watching her was amazing. She approached with a yearning confidence somehow recognizing that our Lord had empowered the priest to absolve her of her sins.

I have no idea what she was thinking. I have no clue whether a grace-filled indult was granted and absolution extended. I have no idea whether the heroic exterior was a mask for a trembling conscience. I do not even know if she smiled afterward with some consolation. What I do know is that she did what many Catholics take for granted or refuse to do. And here my friends is the scandal.

The scandal is not that the confession lines are short while a non-Catholic is willing to stand waiting for an hour for her confession to be heard. It is not even the fact that many of us trust in the ritual instead of the Father’s love, mercy and grace that our Lord wants to give. The scandal is she had the courage to look directly into the face of the redeemer, face her faults and sins with a maturity that few adults dare to dream of. The scandal is that we are comfortable where we are in our spiritual life while she who is uncatechized said to our Lord, “I thirst.”

How do we ante up? We first commit to scrutiny. Most think that it is the job of the priest or preacher to address the sin in our lives. But this is not true. It is actually more the responsibility of the family and community. Now, the natural response is that we tell our family or friends to stop judging us or to look at themselves. St. John of the Cross says that the rebuttal against judging is the primary sign of pride. St. Thomas explains that telling the other to look at themselves is sure evidence of vanity. We need repent for rejecting the grace of repentance poured out by the Holy Spirit for our salvation and holiness.

Secondly, we need to stop looking at just the top ten. Many of us think we are doing great by avoiding the top ten while embracing the culture lock, stock and barrel. Yep, that’s right. We need to judge (which means to decide by the way God measures) what we listen to, the activities we choose to partake in and our integrity at work. EVERYTHING is free game before the Lord.

This should not overwhelm us but cause us to give thanks to God for His gracious mercy while desiring to fill ALL of our life with His holiness. Tonight my family and I are back at the mission. My prayer for myself and my family is that the Holy Spirit has its way with us and to not allow us to get away with just listening to a mission. We want to be a scandelon too but for the glory of His Name and mercy.

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and faithfulness! Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases. (Psalm 115:1-3)

Saint Maximillian Mary Kolbe

This is a beautiful post by Paul Zalonski brought to you by the Communio web blog. Thought everyone should have a chance to enjoy it.

August is truly a Marian month with the recollection and liturgical observances of such feasts Our Lady of the Angels (Aug. 2), the Assumption (Aug. 15) and Our Lady of Czestochowa (Aug. 26). Why does this matter today? Because Saint Maximillian Mary Kolbe was devoted to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and he tirelessly worked to make the Mother of God known to the world. Two of Kolbe’s sentiment are important for us today:

1. Let us totally consecrate ourselves to the Immaculate, in order that she may deign to use us as instruments to save and sanctify souls. Let us conquer hearts for her, because wherever she enters, there also penetrates divine grace and from this follows salvation and sanctification (SK, 164).

2. Be calm, love one another, bearing with one another’s defects, so that your interior serenity may draw the souls of the pagans [unbelievers] to the Immaculate. In fact, with the help of the Immaculate, not only can we do all things, but we can also endure all things (SK, 678).
No Christian can claim to be such without following Mary’s lead to Christ!
Saint Maximillian learned from the school of Mary how to be integrated human being, a better priest and to be as Pope John Paul said of him, a martyr of charity.
Raymond Kolbe was born January 8, 1894. In 1910, called by the Holy Spirit, he gained entrance to the Conventual Franciscans where he took the religious name “Maximillian”; besides formation in Poland, he studied in Rome and was ordained priest in 1918. Under the Nazi ideology Kolbe was sent to Auschwitz where he eventually gave up his life for a fellow prisoner on August 14, 1941.
Father Maxmillian’s advanced the Kingdom of God by centering his work around a devotion to the Virgin Mother of God and evangelization projects. In 1917, a year prior to his ordination, he established a Marian movement whose members consecrate themselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The movement continues today known as the Militia of the Immaculate. By 1927, Kolbe founded the City of the Immaculata, a center of evangelization near Warsaw, where contemporary instruments of communication were utilized to produce and distribute catechetical and devotional materials; the friars had a daily newspaper with a circulation of 230,000 and a radio program. Records show that in 1939 center numbered 650 friars working to share the gospel with the world.
Historians of theology say that Saint Maximillian Kolbe’s Marian theology pre-dated the Vatican II teachings on the Blessed Virgin, namely, he spoke of Mary as a mediatrix and advocate of all the graces that the Most Holy Trinity uses for our salvation.

Coronation Mass of Pope John XXIII

Tell me that this isn’t cool….

Last “Thursday” Chance for a Plenary Indulgence Related to the Year of the Priest

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf reminds us on his blog, What Does the Prayer Really Say?, that this Thursday, June 3, is the last day for the laity to take advantage of the special plenary indulgence on the first Thursday of the month established to celebrate the Year of the Priest.  He writes:

In this year dedicated to priests and prayer for priests, Holy Church has provided lay people with a special plenary indulgence on first Thursdays of each month.

For the faithful, a plenary indulgence can be obtained on the opening and closing days of the Year for Priests, on the 150th anniversary of the death of St. Jean-Marie Vianney, on the first Thursday of the month, or on any other day established by the ordinaries of particular places for the good of the faithful.

To obtain the indulgence the faithful must attend Mass in an oratory or Church and offer prayers to “Jesus Christ, supreme and eternal Priest, for the priests of the Church, or perform any good work to sanctify and mould them to his heart.”

The conditions for the faithful for earning a plenary indulgence are to have gone to confession and prayed for the intentions designated by the Pope.

This is the last 1st Thursday in the Year for Priests.  The last opportunity for this indulgence with be the final day of the Year for Priests.

Beauty Unveiled 2.0: Video Clips

Here are some more video clips from the Pontifical Mass of the extraordinary rite at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  Enjoy!!

Cappa Magna


Processional continued: With Celebrants, Bishop Slattery and Priests

Bishop Slattery’s Homily Part 1

Bishop Slattery’s Homily Part 2


Beauty Frozen in Time

Beauty was unveiled once again yesterday at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception with the Pontifical Liturgy of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.  Below is the link to hear Bishop Slattery’s  homily in a podcast:

Bishop Slattery’s Homily

Additionally, Jeff Stevens of Northern Virginia was gracious enough to share his pictures with us.  Here are a few:

Archbishop Slattery arriving

Notice the cappa magna (literally, “great cape”) or train that Archbishop Slattery wears as processes toward the sanctuary.  The Cappa Magna is a voluminous ecclesiastical garment with a long train, proper to cardinals, bishops, and certain other honorary prelates. It is not mandatory but is certainly not seen very much anymore. Sometimes it is seen used in the Ceremonial of Bishops. Cardinals wear scarlet and purple for bishops.  This vestment is found in use during the first 1000 years.  The train has varied in length over over the past millennium.

Archbishop Slattery Arriving in the Sanctuary


Singing of the Epistle

Incensing the Book of the Gospels

More to come…