30 March 2015

What Age for the Sacrament of Confirmation

 In 2002 Bishop Aquila of Fargo, now the Archbishop of Denver, changed the age for receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation from students usually in high school to second graders, prior to their reception of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. This follows the historical tradition for administering the Sacrament at a younger age in the Latin Rite as well as being closer to the Eastern rite Churches which administer Baptism and Confirmation in the same ceremony. Below is an excerpt from an article from 2011 in which he explains his rationale for making the change, the full article which should be read in its entirety. http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/bishop-aquila-urges-sacrament-of-confirmation-before-first-eucharist/
“Turning to the present administration of the sacrament, Bishop Aquila questioned whether the common placement of confirmation in late adolescence treats it as “a reward, or worse, as something earned or deserved for attendance and work in a parish catechetical program.”
“Should the fear of not receiving a sacrament ever be used as a means to keep a young person involved in the life of the Church? Should the gift and strengthening of the Holy Spirit be denied young persons in their most formative years?” he asked.

Bishop Aquila also wondered whether the special attention and length of preparation given to confirmation makes many perceive it to be more important than Baptism and the Eucharist.
The view that confirmation is a way for young people to make a personal commitment to their faith “distorts” the sacrament, he said.
“Confirmation is not marked by a choice to believe or not believe in the Catholic faith.
Rather as disciples we are chosen by God to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit, to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit generously bestowed by God, and we are called to cooperate with that grace,” he explained.
Pope Benedict endorsed the move in comments he made to Bishop Aquila during his visit to Rome,
“I was very surprised in what the Pope said to me, in terms of how happy he was that the sacraments of initiation have been restored to their proper order of baptism, confirmation then first Eucharist,” said Bishop Aquila, after meeting Pope Benedict on March 8. 
It is precisely the attitude of the Sacrament as a ‘personal commitment of the Faith’ that is so prevalent in many of the Confirmation prep/Faith Formation programs today and one which needs to be corrected. Notice how crucial this Sacrament is to one’s salvation as stated by St. Thomas and then consider the number of students today who refuse this Sacrament as they have fallen victim to the secular age around them. Retooling the current programs is nothing short of rearranging the proverbial chairs on the deck of the Titanic. What is needed is full restoration of the traditional ordering of the Sacrament to adolescent children. The Sacrament is not merely for students to make an affirmation of their Faith, or lack thereof, but the necessary grace to engage in spiritual combat. “whereas in Confirmation he receives power to do those things which pertain to the spiritual combat with the enemies of the Faith.” From the Summa Theologica, Article 5 on Confirmation.

This decision will ultimately have to come from the Bishops as they are the ones who set the overall policy in their Dioceses for the faith formation coordinators to follow. But it is the pastors and coordinators who can encourage this change as they are the ones with firsthand knowledge of the crisis.

Here is more teaching from St. Thomas Aquinas on the Sacrament of Confirmation

     Article 1: Whether Confirmation is a Sacrament

            Reply to Objection 3. As stated above (Question 65, Article 4), all the sacraments are in some way necessary for salvation: but some, so that there is no salvation without them; some as conducing to the perfection of salvation; and thus it is that Confirmation is necessary for salvation: although salvation is possible without it, provided it be not omitted out of contempt.       

Article 8. Whether this sacrament should be given to all?

Reply to Objection 2. As stated above, the age of the body does not affect the soul. Consequently even in childhood man can attain to the perfection of spiritual age, of which it is written (Wisdom 4:8): "Venerable old age is not that of long time, nor counted by the number of years." And hence it is that many children, by reason of the strength of the Holy Ghost which they had received, fought bravely for Christ even to the shedding of their blood.

24 March 2015

Blessed Jordan of Saxony: Tips on Vocations

In preparing for a talk I need to make for our Serra District Conference this weekend I came across this article Blessed Jordan of Saxony: 5 Tips on Vocations.

Blessed Jordan of Saxony was the first successor of St. Dominic as Master of the Order of Preachers. He wrote the first work about the Order, his Libellus on the Beginnings of the Order of Preachers. He was renowned for his prudence in administration, as well as his ability to attract and receive vocations to the Dominicans. As a result, he is the patron of vocations for the Dominican Order. Here are five examples from Bl. Jordan on finding one’s vocation and leading others to theirs.
1.      Bring a friend.

Bl. Jordan recounts in his Libellus how the preaching of Bl. Reginald of Orleans inspired him and many men to join the Order of Preachers. Although little known in our time, Reginald was a well-known and well-educated cleric who joined the Dominican friars—our first “big catch.” His dynamic and fiery preaching brought the first great wave of vocations into Dominic’s fledging Order. Jordan, and his dear friend Henry, were among these.
Jordan recounts how Reginald’s preaching moved him to recognize the Dominican Order as a “sure road to salvation.” His friend Henry, though, was dragging his feet. Jordan remained determined to enter with his best friend and companion in holiness. But Henry resisted. Then one night, they searched out a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and as he and Henry were praying there after Matins, Henry received a vision and the grace to enter the Order. Finally, on Ash Wednesday, they went together to the Dominican priory in Paris, and entered the Order. They may have been the first pair of friends to enter the Order together, but they certainly were not the last.

There is much talk about "discerning one's vocation" these days, particularly as it relates to the priestly or religious life. But this story told by Bl. Jordan reminds me of how the Apostles responded when Christ called them.

On one feast day, when he was receiving a student after the sermon and many students were present, he said to the assembly, "If one of you were going to a great feast and banquet alone, would your companions be so indifferent that none of them would want to accompany you? You see that this young man has been called to a great feast thrown by God; are you going to let him go off alone?" These words had such an impact that one student who had no previous intention of entering the Order came out in the middle and said, "Master, at your word, I join him in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." And he was received together with him.
Pray for many more young men willing to accept such a call. Here is the link to the original article for the remaining ideas.

18 March 2015

Is the Parish Faith Formation Program a Spiritual Orphanage?

Having taught catechism before I have seen both sides of the problem as the writer describes. I think her comparison of  parish faith formation programs to "spiritual orphanages" is spot on.

The norm is to assume that Catholic parents simply cannot be trusted to teach their children the Catholic faith.
If you spend much time around Catholics, you know this fear has its basis in sordid reality.

The Solution that Is No Solution

So what do you do when the parents in your parish are not living up to their responsibilities? Our current solution is to swoop up all the children and put them in a classroom an hour a week with a spiritual orphanage worker. Since the parents are unable to teach, we’ll teach for them.
There’s fallout, of course. It’s exhausting trying to parent twenty children, many of whom have been spiritually neglected for years. It’s difficult finding qualified volunteers, because the work is frustrating and so many adults in the parish don’t know their faith. Because new families are constantly trickling in with their never-catechized children, we end up having to re-teach the same basic facts year after year. We’re nowhere near hitting diocesan standards — if our ninth graders have never opened a Bible, they certainly haven’t read whole books of it.
The staff and the parish resources are stretched so thin there simply isn’t room for adult faith formation. We’re too busy taking care of the orphans — whose parents are sitting in the parking lot waiting for class to get out.
Meanwhile, the kids age out of our programs and leave the faith, because they lack the the factor that has the most bearing on whether an adult continues to practice the faith: Having been raised in a home where the parents were disciples.
Parents Have Immortal Souls, Too
When you monkey around with Church teaching, bad things happen. We’ve identified a problem — kids whose parents aren’t disciples — and we’re so busy “solving” the crisis by heroically stepping in to replace the parents, that we’ve overlooked a small detail: Doing so is contrary to the Catholic faith.

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jenniferfitz/2015/03/the-hero-complex-that-is-destroying-the-catholic-faith/#ixzz3UkHItAKP

12 March 2015

Pope Francis Again Accuses Followers of Doctrine as Being Pharisees

Pope Francis on Thursday underlined the role of saints in the Church, saying it is they and not hypocrites who bear witness to the love of God. He cited as examples St. Joan of Arc who was burned at the stake for heresy in 1431 and later canonized in 1920; and of the Italian priest and philosopher Antonio Rosmini who had some of his works placed on the Index of books as they were deemed as heretical.
"This also happened in the history of the Church," Francis told faithful gathered for Mass at the Vatican guesthouse where he resides.
 "But think of the poor Joan of Arc: today she is a saint! Poor girl: these learned people burned her alive because they said she was a heretic... But these learned people, the ones who knew the sure doctrine, were the Pharisees: removed from the love of God," he continued.
 "Close to our time, think of the Blessed Rosmini: all his books on the Index. You couldn't read them, it was a sin to read them. Today he is beatified," Francis said.

St Joan of Arc was condemned to death under the false pretense of being a heretic for purely political reasons by a worldly Bishop who himself died shortly after St. Joan. These "learned people, who knew the sure doctrine" abused that doctrine for personal gain, not in the interest of truth. To accuse followers of doctrine as being Pharisees is disingenuous at best. Her trial and death were immediately recognized as a sham by the Church and indeed it was the Inquisitor-General who reversed the decision from the trial. Her accusers were like the Gospel pharisees in the sense that they twisted the law to suit their own immoral purposes, not because they followed the laws of the Church. It is wrong to suggest that those who follow the laws and teachings of the Church are themselves pharisees and hypocrites simply because they follow those teachings.
Regarding the statement "Close to our time, think of the Blessed Rosmini: all his books are on the Index. You couldn't read them, it was a sin to read them. Today he is beatified," Francis said.
With due respect to the Holy Father the statment regarding "all his books being on the Index" is false. Only two of Blessed Rosmini's books were placed on the Index. That was in 1849 and they were removed in 1854. In 1887 the Holy Office condemned "40 Propositions" that were taken primarily from posthumous works and works edited during his lifetime.

In 2001 Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, "The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, following an in-depth examination of the two doctrinal Decrees, promulgated in the 19th century, and taking into account the results emerging from historiography and from the scientific and theoretical research of the last ten years has reached the following conclusion:
The motives for doctrinal and prudential concern and difficulty that determined the promulgation of the Decree Post obitum with the condemnation of the "40 Propositions" taken from the works of Anthony Rosmini can now be considered superseded. This is so because the meaning of the propositions, as understood and condemned by the Decree, does not belong to the authentic position of Rosmini, but to conclusions that may possibly have been drawn from the reading of his works. The questions of the plausibility of the Rosminian system, of its speculative consistency and of the philosophical and theological theories and hypotheses expressed in it remain entrusted to the theoretical debate.
At the same time the objective validity of the Decree Post obitum referring to the previously condemned propositions, remains for whoever reads them, outside of the Rosminian system, in an idealist, ontologist point of view and with a meaning contrary to Catholic faith and doctrine.
In fact, the Encyclical Letter of John Paul II Fides et Ratio, named Rosmini among the recent thinkers who achieved a fruitful exchange between philosophy and the Word of God. At the same time it adds that the fact of naming persons does not intend "to endorse every aspect of their thought, but simply to offer significant examples of a process of philosophical enquiry which was enriched by engaging the data of faith" (Fides et ratio, n. 74). http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/cdfserba.htm Another worthy analysis of the Rosmini case was done and should be read to realize that this was not an abuse of power by zealous pharisitical followers of the law.  http://www.ewtn.com/library/Theology/ROSMINI.HTM

10 March 2015

Dear Pope Francis, Going "Back" is Not a Mistake

"It was in fact a courageous gesture of the Church to draw close to the People of God, so that they could understand well what she does, and this is important for us, to follow the Mass in this way. And we cannot go back; we must always go forward, always forward and whoever goes back is mistaken. We go forward on this way." Pope Francis

It would be wise for the Holy Father to study the epic blunder that the Coca Cola company made with its decision to introduce New Coke, thinking that the new sweeter product would be more appealing to its drinkers and help the company recover lost market share. Of course New Coke was a colossal failure and subsequently Coca Cola Co. went back to its original formula and paradoxically accomplished what it originally had hoped to do when it designed New Coke. Similarly, if we are to believe the liturgical innovators who produced the New Mass, it was designed in part to be more appealing to non-Catholics by removing the parts they found offensive in hopes that it would help them convert. Of course it didn't succeed. Certainly it did attract some converts but it lost considerably more. Like New Coke it may have attracted some Pepsi drinkers and kept a few Coke drinkers from switching to Pepsi but it lost substantially more than it attracted. Fortunately for the Coca Cola Co. it realized that going back to its original formula was not a mistake but the wise and prudent decision.

The decision to engage the Catholic in the pews and get them to "actively participate" by introducing the vernacular has been a failure. Nor was having the Mass entirely in the vernacular one of the desires of the Vatican II fathers. His holiness can continue to offend those of us who have a love of the Usus Antiquior but we are not mistaken in our efforts to bring back this Mass. It should be clear that bringing back the traditional liturgy is not a matter of simply turning back time to 1962 and calling it good but looking at the true organic development of the liturgy that was called for at Vatican II. For a good analysis of what this implies I encourage you to read this post written by Dom Alcuin Reid on the 50th Anniversary of Mass in the Vernacular. Here's an excerpt.
Indeed, as the Christian East has never forgotten, the Sacred Liturgy is not in the first place a comprehension exercise. It is the ritual worship of Almighty God employing multivalent symbols which thus become privileged sacramentals—sacred language included. Certainly, penetrating the meaning of the rites and prayers is fundamental, but this is facilitated by the work of liturgical formation (or more effectively, by liturgical habituation over a lifetime)—no short cuts, such as the quick rendering of the liturgy in the vernacular, are viable here. Even the liturgical proclamation of the texts of Sacred Scripture is not simply a didactic exercise, although certainly, the vernacular can be of immense help with participation, as indeed in some other parts of the liturgy (such as the prayers of the faithful). The Second Vatican Council knew this. But the wholesale removal of Latin from the liturgy and liturgical celebrations completely in the vernacular are contrary to what the Second Vatican Council desired and approved.


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