The new translation of the Mass: kudos for a good transition underway

Lex orandi, lex credendiWe Catholics tend to feel passionately about the way we pray for many reasons, including the meaning the words convey, the love of the familiar, the rote prayers, and the ability to meditate on the memorized when we pray. (We also acknowledge the truth in the saying that the way we pray is the way we believe – the law of prayer is the law of belief – “lex orandi, lex credendi”.)  This is especially true at a time of crisis; in my own extended family, I’ve often recognized that the funeral Mass, with all its expected prayers and pattern, “carries us” when we are in a difficult emotion state.  A book could be written on why we prefer liturgy and standardized prayers in many cases.

Every few decades, changes are made to the Mass and to the exact way in which we participate and pray.  On the first Sunday of Advent this year, it was not the Mass itself which changed but the wording for the English translation which did.  The intention is to make the English version closer and more true to the Latin. But it was not anticipated with much joy by the majority of Roman Catholics in America.

Some of it feels like a reversion to the 60s: “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault” or “it is right and just”.  Some of it really is an improvement (the Nicene Creed  begins with “I believe” or Credo in Latin – so it is appropriate that when we say it, it’s in the first person singular, not plural, or “we believe”).  Some of it is awkward, if more theologically precise.

Given how emotionally charged the issue has been, I have to congratulate the faithful and its leaders in the U.S. – or at least in my area, the Diocese of San Jose – for handling the transition very well.  Many parishes began to warm up their communities ahead of time by introducing elements, especially songs, well in advance. On the day of the beginning of the use of the new translation, it seems that presiders and people were both ready.  There were tools available to make it easier for us who are so used to rote responses to adapt to the ones we didn’t yet know by heart.

Perhaps most helpful was the warm hearted understanding that it is going to take time for us to get it down.  As we get to the response “and with your spirit”, it’s going to take some time for all of us to be on the same page and not revert to “and also with you”. We are an imperfect lot and it’s going to take some getting used to, some time.

Many thanks to those who encourage us and soften the transition, and kudos to the Catholic community in every area of the church for working hard to make this a gentle and easier change. Given how attached we are to what we are used to, this could have been much more difficult had it not been for great effort on many levels.

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When pets die, do they go to heaven?

Do dogs, cats and others pets go to heaven when they die? This is a question that children (as well as some adults) ask when a beloved non-human family member passes away.

The Catholic Church doesn’t actually pronounce whether pets go to heaven or not. Sometimes, though, in a moment of pastoral insensitivity or because of a lack of proper grounding, an adult – and sometimes even an authority such as a priest or a parent – incorrectly states that according to the Church, animals do not go to heaven.

Lancer (our former Black Lab) and Pookie (our former rat) got along well as friends

Lancer and Pookie, pets of ours from years ago

My family ran into this at our parish when the associate pastor announced to a full church of families with children that his cat had died and that “we all know that pets don’t go to heaven”.  I can’t imagine how much harm he did that day from the pulpit, pretending to be authoritative on an area out of his depth. If nothing else, even had he mistakenly believed this to be Catholic teaching, there was no pastoral benefit to his statement – only harm.  What was he thinking? Continue reading

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Introduction of new liturgical changes

kudosAlthough the changes to prayers and songs at Mass aren’t officially required until the beginning of Advent this year, many parishes and other Catholic communities (such as at Mission Santa Clara) in the Diocese of San Jose have already begun introducing some of the new music or wording to help Catholics adjust more easily.

I think this is a very good idea.  While the history of the Church includes a good deal of “history of change”, it’s almost always a challenge for Catholics when they are in the midst of it.  With the massive changes after Vatican II, some Catholics never accepted the modifications and sought solace in breakaway or schismatic groups where the Latin Mass was still the norm.  Changes can cause alienation and I think we have learned that we need to be sensitive to the upset and introduce any alterations carefully.

Kudos to our bishop, and others, who wisely understand the need for the gradual adaption by the faithful.

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Minister of Parish Life – When a Lay Person Acts As Pastor

changes in the churchAs one consequence of the ongoing shortage of priests, we are seeing the emergency of more lay leadership at the parish level.  When the role of pastor cannot be held by a priest, the job title is changed to “Minster of Parish Life” and may be filled by a lay person, male or female, a deacon or member of a religious order .  We are certain to see this as an increasing trend while the continuing decline in numbers of priests (both religious and diocesan) continues.   (Another consequence is increased use of priests from abroad.)

In late July, the newest Minister of Parish life was appointed: Dorothy Carlson, who will serve in that role at St. Justin parish in Santa Clara.  Read the full story on the Diocese of San Jose’s website.

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Ordination in the Diocese of San Jose – Streaming Live

Have you ever wondered what happens at the ordination to the priesthood? If you haven’t been to one of these beautiful services, this weekend you’ll have the chance to see it (and you won’t even need to go out into the rain).

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose is going to live stream the ordination of three men to the priesthood today at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph:

http://www.dsj.org/vocations/vocation-office/previous-posts/live-video-of-priesthood-ordination-online-saturday-june-4

You can also view the music which will be used in the multi-lingual Mass here:

http://dsjliturgy.org/uploads/ordination/2011priest/Presbyterate2011-worshipaid.pdf

Congratulations to Angelo De Leon David, Steve Ji Hoon Kim and Andrew Chithong Nguyen!

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Silicon Valley Catholic Retirement & Care Center

Have you ever thought about how you might like to spend your elderly years, should you want or need to be in a seniors facility?  I have been blessed to have many, many relatives live long lives and most of them lived in independent living, assisted living, or skilled nursing at some point.  Some of the very best places were Catholic; it is a real blessing when there is excellent care for seniors and those needing long term care and it’s also a Catholic community.

My grandparents enjoyed living at Dominican Oaks in Santa Cruz for a number of years, close to a decade. It’s a Catholic retirement community for independent seniors (not those needing assisted living or nursing care). Close to Dominican Hospital, and thus also to good medical care, this community also offered daily Mass and was a magnet for Catholics retiring in the Santa Cruz area. I recall seeing many older sisters, brothers, priests, and even a bishop back in the 1990s there. It was my first exposure to Catholic retirement residences, and I thought it did a good job.  The only shortcoming, that I could see, is that there was no advanced care available, so many seniors could not move there and simply stay put.

Unfortunately I saw this downside upfront.  Since it didn’t offer multiple levels of care, when my grandmother became very ill, Dominican Oaks essentially kicked them out.  That was a sad day for my dying grandmother as well as for the rest of the clan. How much easier it would have been had Dominican Oaks had a license for more advanced care (or applied to the state for a waiver, which we later learned was an option).  My grandparents moved to Aegis of Aptos for a few weeks.   That was heartbreaking as my grandmother kept asking to “go home”. Continue reading

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A little Catholic humor

It’s Friday and time for a little Catholic humor.  You can’t be Catholic (or, for that matter, be a “former Catholic”) without having to chuckle once in awhile at some of what passes for well-intentioned piety.

Today a cousin of mine introduced me to a blog, Saint Kitsch.  If you’ve ever seen photos of kitschy nativity sets and smirked, you will enjoy it.

http://saintkitsch.blogspot.com/

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Mission San Juan Bautista in Hollister – Mother’s Day is a Perfect Day to Visit!

Mission San Juan Bautista is one of the most beautifully authentic California Missions in the Silicon Valley area.  It is so much the case that Mission San Juan Bautista is often the destination of fourth grade field trips as students in the Golden State are required to do a Mission Project during that academic year and a better, more lovely example of a Roman Catholic Mission can’t be found so close in.

While any time is a good time to visit this historic and scenic church, Mother’s Day is an especially ideal one as the South Valley Symphony will be performing there too.  Perfect day for mom: Mass, self guided tour of the mission, brunch and music!  Maybe squeeze a little shopping in too.

For more information on Mission San Juan Bautista:

History of this mission
Schedule of Masses
Mission brochure in English
Mission Brochure in Spanish

You can read about the concert in the Morgan Hill Times.  Happy Mother’s Day!

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Why Go To Mass?

Why should we go to Mass? That’s an age-old question that Catholic parents face year in and year out.  But it’s not just something that people must discuss with their kids; for many of us, the issue of whether or not to attend Mass is one we may ponder weekly for ourselves.

Am I too busy?
Will Mass be boring?
Will I “get anything out of it“?
I’m so tired…do I have the energy to go?

Continue reading

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When Bad Homilies Happen (to Good Catholics)

Everyone’s a critic.  When it comes to preaching and to homilies, it has got to be tough to get up in front of the community and be inspiring and insightful if you’re under-slept, overworked, rushed or maybe even going through a rough time yourself.  But this aspect of a priest or deacon’s life is so very important that it can seriously help or hinder the faith life of those present to hear it.

You can’t say that about committee meetings.

We expect so much of our clergy, whether diocesan or religious.  There are a thousand important things to do.  I would assert, though, that preaching (which comes with its own requirements such as preparing ahead of time and prayer) probably should go pretty high up on the priorities list.

I have been very fortunate to hear some truly exceptionally wonderful homilies.  There are some priests who are extremely gifted (and probably work hard at it too) and who manage to crowd the church with people who just want to hear them expound on the readings of the day.  At my parish we had a visiting priest, a Jesuit named Fr. John Murphy, SJ, who used to come out to say Mass sometimes.  His preaching was so profound and remarkable that you could hear people in church whisper that what they were hearing was amazing. One relative of mine would bring a tape recorder to the church so she could play the homily back later.   (How many people in the pews want to hear the same homily a second time?)

Unfortunately, sometimes – albeit very rarely – homilies are not just bad, but they are destructive.  Luckily this is very very seldom the case, but if it happens to you it’s not a small deal.  It can be a very big deal and it can risk alienating one from the faith. Continue reading

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