Merry Christmas to All

Receive my prayers and wishes for a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year!

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In Time for Christmas

My saturno arrived today — much quicker than expected. This will do nicely. 

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Weddings and the Sunday Obligation

It’s very common nowadays for couples to hold their wedding on a Saturday afternoon – in my current parish, 1:30pm is the standard time.

A question that I often pose to couples when I am doing marriage preparation is: How will you make provision for your Sunday obligation? You will have your wedding, party into the wee hours, get some rest, and then (usually) depart for your honeymoon sometime the next day. Will you also go to Sunday Mass?

It appears that, in spite of the months of planning that go into every aspect of the weekend, few couples prepare also to include Sunday Mass. And it is a pity. Are they ultimately starting off their marriage on the wrong foot?

In my diocese, priests are given the faculty to dispense from the Sunday obligation in individual cases. If a couple were to request this from me, I would very likely grant it – if for no other reason than the fact that they actually included it in their planning! But I cannot recall any case where a couple requested to be dispensed.

I suppose that Saturday has long been the preferred day for weddings. Are there any “old-timers” out there who got married on a Saturday and then went to Mass the next day? I wonder if this problem is not really all that new. In any case, I would encourage brother priests, wedding planners, marriage preparation couples/mentors, and any others to address it in their respective areas of work.

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Saturno – Another Priest Christmas Gift Idea

I’ve never really been much of a hat-wearer, but I do enjoy the wonderful variety of hats in the Church. Recently, it seems, a particular style of hat has been in the news: the Saturno (so-called because it resembles the planet Saturn with its rings).

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There are a number of sellers of this type of hat online, with a wide range of prices. However, this seller out of Milan, Italy, seems to be very reputable and also has quite reasonable prices:

Cappelleria Melegari (Click for the Saturno page)

As you can see, they have options in simple wool felt, (fake) fur, “melousine” (a synthetic beaver pelt-like material – traditionally these hates were made of beaver pelt, at least for winter use), and then straw (for summer). The simple wool felt one, with shipping to the US added (and IVA – sales tax – subtracted off), comes out to about $130 after converting to Dollars from Euros. That’s not a bad price.

Maybe see if your priest wants one? “Father, what’s your hat size?”…

(It does say that it takes them 20 days to fulfill the order. And I would guess that with the holidays coming up they will have a longer delay.)

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Now Available – Bilingual Catechism

I am pleased to announce the release of a resource I developed several years ago, now to a wider market. It is a basic bilingual catechism (Spanish/English). This resource meets a pastoral need that I have encountered over and over again: in working with Latino immigrants, I have found that a very large number of them have little formal education in the Catholic faith. Many come to the Church as adults to make their first communion — some, even, to be baptized! When faced with pastoral situations such as this, it is helpful for the pastor or catechist to have a basic resource to put in their hands: something that can be a sort of “springboard” for learning what is needed for sacramental preparation and personal spiritual growth. I have also found that many individuals who already have their sacraments enjoy this resource for “brushing up on the basics” of their faith.

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Click image to go to the sale page

This slim volume, at 98 pages, entitled Our Wonderful Catholic Faith, has a number of features that I think are quite useful:

  • It is in large print (helpful for the many immigrants who have poor eyesight and have never been able to remedy that due to their financial situation)
  • It is completely bilingual (helpful especially for the second generation – those born here – who live in “both worlds” and who need to know their faith in both languages; also helpful for those who still only speak Spanish but need to learn English in order to integrate better into American society)
  • It is attractively priced (at just under $5.00 per volume – notwithstanding coupons that you might find on sites like Retailmenot.com – making it affordable for pastors and catechists to buy multiple copies and even re-sell them at a modest profit; also making it affordable for those of modest financial means, like many immigrants)
  • A complete preview is available online (on the sale page, there is a small “Preview” link that you can click on to thumb through every page of the book on your web browser and so know what you are buying in advance)

As you will see from the online preview (accessible via a small link under the cover image on the sale page), this book has several sections: Basic Prayers (including the beautiful rhyming prayers often used in Spanish), Formulas of Catholic Doctrine (often in list format, either for memorization or reference), Questions and Answers (101 total, touching upon the main tenets of the faith in a non-exhaustive manner), How to Confess Well (including a basic examination of conscience suitable for children – when this book will be used by adults, a more complete examen should be inserted), and a section on Indulgences (this may seem somewhat esoteric to some, but I am convinced that by teaching the spirituality of indulgences we can be most effective at encouraging regular worthy reception of the sacraments).

A pastor faced with helping an adult immigrant prepare to complete his Christian initiation could give him a copy of this book, encourage him to study it, and then meet with him on several occasions to “flesh out” the relevant sections and understand them better. An Hispanic family (with bilingual children) that wants to practice daily family prayer could use the prayer section of this book as a guide, ensuring that their children not only learn their prayers in Spanish but can see them in English also. A seminarian charged with learning Spanish could find in this book a good reference for things not easily found elsewhere.

This book does not pretend to be exhaustive: there is much more that I could have included in it, such as “How to pray the Rosary”, the Stations of the Cross, more Q&A, the Liturgical Year, etc. But I saw the need for something more basic. Perhaps in the future I will be able to develop a more comprehensive resource. This book is not meant to replace official Church catechisms, such as the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”, but rather is to serve as an introduction to such official resources.

To learn more and/or to place an order, GO HERE (click). Remember to check the web site Retailmenot.com, typing “Lulu.com” in the search box — often there are great coupons available. (As of this posting on 11/26/16 there is a 35% off coupon available!)

Please share this resource with your pastor, DRE, other parish staff, seminarians, and other possibly interested parties!

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Christmas Gift Ideas for Priests

nativity-initial

Several visitors to the blog have arrived via Google search on “Christmas gift ideas for priests” or the like in the last week or so. I have posted on this in the past, but figured I should post an update with some additional thoughts – since several kind folks are apparently wanting them! In addition, if you search the web, you will find other sites that provide suggestions.

1. A Prayer Commitment – Priests are used to signing Mass cards for others, but rarely receive the gift of a Mass card for their intentions (if you request one, maybe go to another parish, so another priest fulfills the intention). Spiritual bouquets and other prayer commitments, also, are always appreciated. Priests need prayer in a particular way, since the devil is like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8) and especially targets priests; also, it is always a consolation to know that people are praying for you in a special way.

2. Cash (for a diocesan priest – religious orders have different policies about whether their priests may accept cash, or indeed, any gift) – Most priests have certain things they would buy if they had the extra money: perhaps a special vestment, a plane ticket, a new cassock, or any number of other things. Cash (or check) is always appreciated.

3. Booze – Usually the priest’s secretary knows what kind of whisky/bourbon he likes, wine, etc. It’s well known that there are some priests with drinking problems (priests are people too…) – also, if you get the sense that your priest struggles with loneliness, this gift may not be a good idea in his case. But if he is well-adjusted and tends to stay busy, then this should be a safe and much-appreciated gift.

4. Gift Cards – Again, the parish secretary may know which restaurants Father likes or which store he buys his black socks at. Car wash gift cards are a great idea as well! Is there a full-service car wash in town where they will also do the vacuuming and waxing for you? Even better.

5. Books – This can get a little tricky, since many priests, on the one hand, do not have a whole lot of time to read nowadays (definitely not a good thing), and on the other hand, tend to have their own interests with regard to which authors/subjects/genres to read. But I will recommend two books that Father might be less likely to have and that would be edifying for him: A Man Approved (see my post about it here) and In Sinu Iesu (recently published – see here). (If you’re not sure, Amazon gift cards always work great.)

These are the items that immediately come to mind… if anyone recommends anything else, feel free to leave a comment and I may add it to the list. Thank you for your kindness and generosity to your priest(s)!

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Christmas Greetings to Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict

It’s time once again for many to start thinking about their Christmas cards. My post last year about sending cards to Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict was very popular. I again want to share their addresses, for those who might want to include them on their list. Here is that post, with a new image (click to go to an interesting online shop):

martlet-xmas-card

If you’d like to send Christmas greetings to Pope Francis and/or Pope Emeritus Benedict, these are the addresses that you may use:

His Holiness, Pope Francis
Domus Sanctae Marthae
00120 Vatican City-State
Europe

His Holiness, Pope Emeritus
Benedict XVI
Mater Ecclesiae Monastery
00120 Vatican City-State
Europe

Traditionally, the Vatican Secretariat of State (which handles a lot of the incoming mail) will send a Christmas holy card in gratitude for the greetings sent to the Holy Father. I can’t guarantee that you will get one, but this is what happened in the past. And of course, it’s not known for certain if the Pope will ever get to see your card, but it is the thought that counts and there is the chance that he will!

It’s nice also to send a Christmas card to your local bishop and your parish priest (and to anyone else whose “family” is the Church – so, local convents/monasteries as well)!

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Pastoral Care of Gravely Ill Children

One of the sadder tasks that priests have is that of assisting families with a child who is gravely ill. It happens every so often that I will be called to a hospital or home by such a family. Often they request the Anointing of the Sick. But that is not always the sacrament that is really needed. I have written here before about how there is a lot of confusion surrounding this sacrament.

When a child has not yet attained the use of reason (usually attained by the age of 7),  then the Anointing of the Sick is not the proper sacrament to strengthen him or her in the face of serious illness. What he/she needs, instead, is Confirmation. Following, then, is a write-up I have done on this topic:

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About Confirming Younger Children Who Are In Danger Of Death

Anointing of the Sick – for those who have reached the use of reason

From the General Introduction to the Pastoral Care of the Sick (the ritual book that has the rites for Anointing in it):

“12. Sick children are to be anointed if they have sufficient use of reason to be strengthened by this sacrament. In case of doubt whether a child has reached the use of reason, the sacrament is to be conferred.”

(The age of reason is traditionally held to be around about the age of 7 for children who have normal development.)

From the Code of Canon Law:

“Can.  1004 §1. The anointing of the sick can be administered to a member of the faithful who, having reached the use of reason, begins to be in danger due to sickness or old age.”

Confirmation – the Sacrament for Children in Danger of Death

Since those who are baptized but have not yet reached the use of reason are not to be anointed, Confirmation is the sacrament which they are to receive when they are in danger of death. They have not sinned, so there is no need to have the forgiveness of their sins (which anointing can provide); not having the use of reason, they do not yet have subjective faith (which anointing strengthens). Therefore, what they need, in order to be strengthened in soul and body, is the Sacrament of Confirmation, which gives them the fullness of the Holy Spirit and configures them more fully to Christ.

“Can.  891 The sacrament of confirmation is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion unless the conference of bishops has determined another age, or there is danger of death, or in the judgment of the minister a grave cause suggests otherwise.”

Confirmation, as we know, strengthens us also to preserve and live out our faith. If (as we pray) the child recovers, then, he will have an advantage over his peers who will not be confirmed until the age of 12 or 13: he will have the gift of the Holy Spirit to accompany him and remind him of God’s healing, helping him to live out his faith and resist the many temptations of the world.

Ordinarily a Bishop is the one who confers the Sacrament of Confirmation; under ordinary circumstances, a priest must be delegated by the Bishop to confirm. However, in situations of danger of death, every priest may confer the Sacrament of Confirmation by the law itself:

“Can.  883 The following possess the faculty of administering confirmation by the law itself: […] 3/ as regards those who are in danger of death, the pastor or indeed any presbyter [priest].”

May the Holy Spirit heal our dear sick younger brothers and sisters in Christ and console their families and friends during their time of sorrow and distress!

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Norcia

No doubt, by now, you have heard the news about the damage done in the idyllic central Italian town of Norcia by the recent earthquakes. At first there was only damage but not total destruction… but then there were more quakes and now there is great destruction. A largely-American group of Benedictine Monks had been rebuilding an ancient monastery there and contributing greatly to the life of the town and the life of the Church. They need our support, as now their Basilica – which sat on the place where St. Benedict was born – as well as every other church in the town has been flattened.

Be sure to take a look at their web site, which includes a blog with regular updates, information about their popular beer, details about the earthquake, and how to donate. You can also find them on Facebook and get their emails. Perhaps you can include them in your year-end giving. Click the image below to go to their site.

Click image to visit the Benedictine Monks of Norcia

Click image to visit the Benedictine Monks of Norcia

And let us say a prayer for all those who have died in this time of unspeakable natural disasters, from Italy to Haiti and in so many other places.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord…

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Pastors Should Take A Pyx “Collection”

collection-basket

A post on this blog that has received a lot of traffic and generated a lot of contacts from readers is the one I wrote on PYX PROBLEMS a little over a year ago. Many good people had already noticed some of the problems I highlighted and shared my concerns; others have been enlightened by what I shared and have updated their own practices.

In this regard, I want to encourage pastors to take up a collection of pyxes in their parishes. Given the ease of acquiring pyxes nowadays from any religious catalog or store, as well as the way that many parishes hand them out to anyone who wants to bring Holy Communion to the sick (often with little to no instruction on how to do it), it is certain that in many if not most parishes, several people have pyxes at home.

This means that many people have pyxes at home which have not been purified. Those visible particles that remain are the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ! Thus, these people are effectively reserving the Blessed Sacrament in their home unawares! And this, of course, is not permitted.

Pastors can try to address this problem and improve the general situation by making an appeal to parishioners to bring any and all pyxes that they have at home back to church as soon as possible to be purified. (Be sure to say: Do not open the pyx, simply bring it closed and as-is and Father will take care of it!)

In the case of pyxes that have push buttons, spring actions, and other little crevices where particles can become lodged (see my prior post), I recommend soaking them in a container of water for at least a week, carefully pouring that water down the sacrarium, giving everything (including the container) another rinse into the sacrarium, then letting everything air dry. This will likely render those pyxes unusable (which is fine – they shouldn’t have been used to begin with, being of inferior design) and then they can be buried. The same fate should await those with plastic linings (be sure to soak etc. then bury). In short, this is a good opportunity to take some problematic pyxes out of circulation. It is also a good opportunity to educate people about this important topic, since the integrity of the Holy Eucharist (and therefore, of souls!) is at stake.

Those who have a well-designed pyx and who are not willing to surrender it can then at least have it purified and receive instruction about the proper use of it in the future.

Fathers, if you have people who regularly help you bring communion to the sick, you should instruct them to bring their pyx regularly for purification. It says right in the ritual for visiting the sick that the purification is done after Holy Communion is given. Yet so many never have their pyxes purified. When I can’t purify my pyx right away, I put it in the tabernacle.

We really have a catch-22 situation right now: lay people can use pyxes and bring holy communion to people who need it, but lay people are not permitted to purify sacred vessels; meanwhile, many priests have not thought this through and taken concrete steps to remedy it. One hopes that some day, something will be done to address all of this… Until then, hopefully we can at least improve the situation somewhat.

O Sacrament most holy! O Sacrament divine! All praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!

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A New Postulant!

I’ve posted here a number of times about the excellent Dominican Nuns in Marbury, Alabama. Recently I sent them a prayer request – as I occasionally do – and they responded not only saying that they would pray for it, but with a request of their own: to pray for their new postulant. This is exciting news for their community, and I will be sure to pray for that intention – I hope you will as well.

On this vigil of the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary – a very special feast day for the nuns – let’s be sure to say some special prayers for them.

Here is the news on their blog:

Welcoming our new Postulant, Sister Anna

new-postulant-2016The Dominican Nuns joyfully announce the entrance of our new postulant, Sister Anna, on October 1.

Sister Anna comes to us from Bethel, Ohio, a small town east of Cincinnati.  She first learned of our community in 2006 when another young woman from her local homeschool group entered our monastery.  Would she herself become a nun?  “I could never pray that much!” she thought. […]

Read the full story on their blog!

Don’t forget to SUPPORT THE SISTERS – they need our help!

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Cardinal Sarah Again Addresses Ad Orientem Worship

I would like to call your attention to Sandro Magister’s latest column, in which he presents the upcoming book of Cardinal Robert Sarah. In particular, the excellent Cardinal again speaks about “ad orientem” worship. I quote:

“FACING EAST” (par. 254)

It is not enough simply to prescribe more silence. In order for everyone to understand that the liturgy turns us interiorly toward the Lord, it would be helpful during the celebration for us all together, priests and faithful, to face the east, symbolized by the apse.

This practice remains absolutely legitimate. It is in keeping with the letter and the spirit of the Council. There is no lack of testimonies from the first centuries of the Church. “When we stand up to pray, we face the east,” says Saint Augustine, echoing a tradition that dates back, according to Saint Basil, to the Apostles themselves. Churches having been designed for the prayer of the first Christian communities, the apostolic constitutions of the 4th century recommended that they be turned to the east. And when the altar is facing west, as at Saint Peter’s in Rome, the celebrant must turn toward the orient and face the people.

This bodily orientation of prayer is nothing other than the sign of an interior orientation. [. . .] Does the priest not invite the people of God to follow him at the beginning of the great Eucharistic prayer when he says” “Let us lift up our heart,” to which the people respond: “We turn it toward the Lord”?

As prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, I am intent upon recalling once again that celebration “versus orientem” is authorized by the rubrics of the Missal because it is of apostolic tradition. There is no need for particular authorization to celebrate in this way, people and priest, facing the Lord. If it is physically not possible to celebrate “ad orientem,” a cross must necessarily be placed on the altar, in plain sight, as a point of reference for all. Christ on the cross is the Christian East.

Read the whole article to see more of what the good cardinal has to say. I look forward to this book.

HERE: My previous post on this topic as it relates to Cardinal Sarah.

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