A Word from Father
Słowo od Pastora
MARCH 28, 2021
Dear Friends in Christ,
We have reached the final part of our Lenten pilgrimage and made it to Holy Week. In 2011, I spent most of Holy Week in London, England at the Parish of Our Lady and St. George where I had spent the summer before on assignment as a seminarian. On that Palm Sunday 2011, Pope Benedict XVI gave a remarkable homily. I provide part of it below:
«It is a moving experience each year on Palm Sunday as we go up the mountain with Jesus, towards the Temple, accompanying him on his ascent. On this day, throughout the world and across the centuries, young people and people of every age acclaim him, crying out: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
But what are we really doing when we join this procession as part of the throng which went up with Jesus to Jerusalem and hailed him as King of Israel? Is this anything more than a ritual, a quaint custom? Does it have anything to do with the reality of our life and our world? To answer this, we must first be clear about what Jesus himself wished to do and actually did. After Peter’s confession of faith in Caesarea Philippi, in the northernmost part of the Holy Land, Jesus set out as a pilgrim towards Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. He was journeying towards the Temple in the Holy City, towards that place which for Israel ensured in a particular way God’s closeness to his people. He was making his way towards the common feast of Passover, the memorial of Israel’s liberation from Egypt and the sign of its hope of definitive liberation. He knew that what awaited him was a new Passover and that he himself would take the place of the sacrificial lambs by offering himself on the cross. He knew that in the mysterious gifts of bread and wine he would give himself for ever to his own, and that he would open to them the door to a new path of liberation, to fellowship with the living God. He was making his way to the heights of the Cross, to the moment of self-giving love. The ultimate goal of his pilgrimage was the heights of God himself; to those heights he wanted to lift every human being.
Our procession today is meant, then, to be an image of something deeper, to reflect the fact that, together with Jesus, we are setting out on pilgrimage along the high road that leads to the living God. This is the ascent that matters. This is the journey which Jesus invites us to make. But how can we keep pace with this ascent? Isn’t it beyond our ability? Certainly, it is beyond our own possibilities. From the beginning men and women have been filled and this is as true today as ever with a desire to “be like God”, to attain the heights of God by their own powers. All the inventions of the human spirit are ultimately an effort to gain wings so as to rise to the heights of Being and to become independent, completely free, as God is free. Mankind has managed to accomplish so many things: we can fly! We can see, hear and speak to one another from the farthest ends of the earth. And yet the force of gravity which draws us down is powerful. With the increase of our abilities there has been an increase not only of good. Our possibilities for evil have increased and appear like menacing storms above history. Our limitations have also remained: we need but think of the disasters which have caused so much suffering for humanity in recent months.
Following the Liturgy of the Word, at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer where the Lord comes into our midst, the Church invites us to lift up our hearts. In the language of the Bible and the thinking of the Fathers, the heart is the center of man, where understanding, will and feeling, body and soul, all come together. The center where spirit becomes body and body becomes spirit, where will, feeling and understanding become one in the knowledge and love of God. This is the “heart” which must be lifted up. But to repeat: of ourselves, we are too weak to lift up our hearts to the heights of God. We cannot do it. The very pride of thinking that we are able to do it on our own drags us down and estranges us from God. God himself must draw us up, and this is what Christ began to do on the cross. He descended to the depths of our human existence in order to draw us up to himself, to the living God. He humbled himself, as today’s second reading says. Only in this way could our pride be vanquished: God’s humility is the extreme form of his love, and this humble love draws us upwards.
We are on pilgrimage with the Lord to the heights. We are striving for pure hearts and clean hands, we are seeking truth, we are seeking the face of God. Let us show the Lord that we desire to be righteous, and let us ask him: Draw us upwards! Make us pure! Grant that the words which we sang in the processional psalm may also hold true for us; grant that we may be part of the generation which seeks God, “which seeks your face, O God of Jacob” (cf. Ps. 24:6). Amen. »
Fr. Alan Guanella
MARCH 21, 2021
Dear Friends in Christ,
The Fifth Sunday of Lent, where we find ourselves today, is traditionally known as “Passion Sunday.” This did get a little confusing with the reforms of the liturgical calendar after the Second Vatican Council as the name for next Sunday, Palm Sunday, is known officially as “Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion” and so sometimes after Vatican II, Palm Sunday has also been called Passion Sunday.
Modern confusion notwithstanding, this Sunday begins the time of Lent known as Passiontide. Author Philip Kosloski notes that, “Traditionally the final two weeks of Lent in the Roman Rite are used as an immediate preparation for the sorrowful events of the Easter drama. It is a period of time to focus more and more on the Passion and death of Jesus and so accompany him on his way to Calvary.”
So what is different about Passiontide? The preface at Mass (the prayer that begins the Eucharistic Prayer), is now the Preface of the Passion, rather than of Lent. We hear: “For through the saving Passion of your Son the whole world has received a heart to confess the infinite power of your majesty, since by the wondrous power of the Cross your judgment on the world is now revealed and the authority of Christ crucified.” It is also tradition in many churches to cover (or veil) statues and images with purple cloths on this Sunday. Crosses remain covered until the end of the celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, but images remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil. Why do we cover statutes? Just as we fast throughout all of Lent, during this more directed time of Passiontide, we even fast from the beauty of statues and images until the glory of Easter. The veiling is also associated with John 8:46–59, in which Jesus “hid himself” from the people.
Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent used to be the feast of the Seven Sorrows of Mary. The hymn Stabat Mater, which is traditionally sung at Stations of the Cross, is actually the sequence for that feast day. In 1969, the feast was removed from the calendar since there was another feast of Our Lady of Sorrows in September. Nonetheless, there is an alternate collect (opening prayer) on the Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent that remembers the sorrows of Mary.
As Philip Kosloski continues, “In the end, Passiontide is meant to be a special penitential period where we focus on Jesus’ bitter passion and foster within ourselves sorrow for our sins. The good news is that Passiontide does not have the last say, and this somber period of preparation ends quickly so that our hearts can rejoice in the beauty of Christ’s resurrection.” I wish you all God’s blessings during these weeks before Easter as we prepare our hearts through prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and the reception of the sacraments to celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death!
MARCH 7, 2021
Dear Friends in Christ,
You may have noticed that during Lent, the cantors and choir are singing some of the Mass parts in Latin. I wanted to take a moment to explain why we are doing this and what the Church teaches about Latin in the liturgy. It may come as some surprise to you as there is a lot of misinformation out there about the place Latin has in our Church’s liturgy.
You may have heard that the Second Vatican Council “did away” with Latin in the liturgy. This is not so. In fact, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy notes that “the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.” Vatican II did permit the vernacular to be used in the liturgy, “in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants.” The Council Fathers also taught that “steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.”
In response to the Council Fathers’ wish, a 1974 letter was sent from the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship to all bishops on the minimum repertoire of plainchant that every Catholic should know and be familiar with. A booklet of these Latin chants was included. One of the reasons expressed as to why every Catholic should know these chants is to make it easier for Christians to achieve unity and spiritual harmony with their brothers and sisters and with the living traditions of the past, since when the faithful gather together for prayer they manifest at once the diversity of a people drawn ‘from every tribe, language and nation’ and its unity in faith and charity.
The booklet, called Jubilate Deo, includes the Kyrie (which is Greek, not Latin), the Gloria, the Creed, the Holy, Holy, the Our Father, the Lamb of God, and some various hymns like O Salutaris Hostia and Ubi Caritas. Here at Sacred Heart, we already chant the Kyrie often and so we have implemented chanting the Holy, Holy (Sanctus) and the Lamb of God (Agnus Dei) in Latin during Lent. In Advent we chanted these prayers in English with the same melody as the Latin text.
Why does the Church care about Latin? Latin is our liturgical language as Catholics. It is still the official language of the Church. Even though most people are no longer conversant in Latin, the use of Latin conveys to the mind of the people that something is going on upon the altar which is beyond their comprehension; that a mystery is being enacted. Furthermore, the use of Latin in the Mass is a means of maintaining unity in the Church, for the use of one and the same language in Roman Rite churches all over the world is a connecting link to Rome, our Mother.
Some people will object that they are not able to fully participate in the Mass if parts of the Mass are not in their own language. Liturgical participation, as the Church understands it, has little to do with physical activity and the pronunciation of words: it has to do with prayer. To maintain that one cannot participate in the Mass unless one understands every word is to reduce the notion of participation to a mere function. The celebration of Mass consists more in action than in words. This reason cannot be overstated. The Catholic Mass, however, is a holy sacrifice offered to God the Father by an ordained priest. The action of the Mass, and the mystery of it, is reinforced by the use of Latin.
FEBRUARY 21, 2021
Dear Friends in Christ,
If you were very astute during Mass on Ash Wednesday, you might have noticed a change in the Mass. Perhaps you thought it was a mistake on the priest’s part—but it was not. On February 17, 2021, a change in the English translation of the official Latin text of the Mass became effective. What was this change? In the concluding doxology of the collect (or opening prayer), the new English translation is now: “[...] in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever” whereas the old translation was: “[...] in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.” Yes, it was a change of just one word: one.
You might think that removing the word “one” is not important. Why does the Church worry about just one word in her prayer? At the outset, our English translation of the Mass is a translation of the official Latin text. The current instructions on translating the Latin ask that the original text, insofar as possible, be translated integrally and in the most exact manner. In the Latin doxology of the collect, the word “one” is not present. When our current Roman Missal was being translated, this discrepancy was pointed out but the Congregation in Rome told the translators to keep the word “one” in the text. In 2020, the bishops of England and Wales, Ireland, and Canada all decreed this change and now the bishops of the United States have implemented it. It is also interesting to note that only the English translation of the Latin contained the “one”—the French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese translations did not contain it.
Perhaps the most important reason for the change of the text is the theological meaning. The new translation of the doxology now reads: “Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.” What is “God” referring to in the doxology? The word “God” here refers to “Jesus Christ.” While the prayer is addressed to God the Father, the words that follow “our Lord Jesus Christ” all describe who Jesus is. By having the word “one” before God, it could be problematic. Jesus is not “one God (among many)” nor is the Son himself “one God” but he is rather God, the second person of the Trinity. The word “God” in the doxology is Christological rather than Trinitarian. In fact, history suggests that “God” was added to the doxology in the fourth century to combat the Arian heresy which stated that the Son is not of the same substance as the Father. Jesus Christ, who is God, did not become God (as the Arian heresy stated).
In the end, you might not think that this textual change is of much value. There is an adage in the Church, however, that states lex orandi, lex credendi—the law of prayer is the law of belief. How we pray, especially in the liturgy, in important. Our belief and our prayer go together. What we pray needs to express what the Church believes And we believe, in the words of the Athanasian Creed, that: we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.
FEBRUARY 14, 2021
Dear Friends in Christ,
On Wednesday, February 17th, the Church will celebrate Ash Wednesday and we will begin the Lenten Season. During Lent, our lives as Christians will be punctuated by the three great pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The Season of Lent is a penitential season: a season in which we show sorrow and repentance for our sins. We prepare through self-denial and devotion for the coming Easter celebration in when we celebrate the fact that Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld.
In the United States, we are accustomed to receiving ashes on our foreheads in the shape of a cross. This method of receiving ashes is a custom of North America. The official instructions for Mass (called rubrics) simply state that “the priest places ashes on the head of all those present who come to him.” Throughout much of Europe, the distribution of ashes takes place with the priest sprinkling a little bit of ash on the crown of each person’s head. If you watch the pope’s Mass on Ash Wednesday, you will see the pope distribute (and receive) ashes in this way. Receiving ashes on the forehead in the shape of the cross is not the usual way to receive ashes in much of Europe.
This year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Vatican has released special instructions about the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday for this year. The notable change is that the exhortation normally said to each person (either “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”) will be said only once to everyone in attendance. Then, after cleansing his hands and putting on a face mask, the priest will distribute ashes to each person in silence, using the “European method”—that is, the priest will take the ashes and sprinkle them on the head of each person, not the forehead. Each person should come forward and bow the head to receive a small amount of ash on the crown of the head.
Some people have asked me why the Vatican has mandated this change. The primary reason is that this method of distribution does not entail touching each person and possibly spreading disease. Since it is not practical for the priest to his wash hands or use hand sanitizer between each person, this method solves that issue. Placing ashes on one’s head is also biblical: Daniel begged God for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes; when tempted, Job sat in the ashes rather than sin; in the Book of Esther, we read that Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes in mourning; finally, our Lord cries woe to the unrepentant cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida who should have repented by sitting in sackcloth and ashes. In fact, we will all be following our Lord’s command closer this year: “When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden.”
The late 10th century English abbot and writer, Ælfric of Eynsham, tells us: “in both the Old Testament and the New, men who repented of their sins bestrewed themselves with ashes and clothed their bodies with sackcloth. Now let us do this little [thing] at the beginning of our Lent—that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during the Lenten fast.” Regardless of how we receive ashes, the purpose of the ashes is to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during Lent. That is what we should be concerned about this year, not where those ashes are placed on our heads. A blessed Lent to you all!
Dear Friends in Christ,
Happy Easter! The collect prayer for Easter Sunday Mass states that Jesus has conquered death and unlocked for us the path to eternity. We ask God today that we who keep the solemnity of the Lord’s Resurrection may, through the renewal brought by the Holy Spirit, rise up in the light of life. Please know that I continue to pray for all of you during this Easter Season. Remember that the Season of Easter, also known as Eastertide or Paschaltide, begins on Easter and continues for fifty days. Saint Athanasius, the great fourth century bishop of Alexandria, calls the Easter Season “the great Lord’s Day” and thus the season is celebrated as a single joyful feast of the Lord’s Resurrection. We can now joyfully say, “Alleluia. The Lord is Risen. He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia.”
Next Sunday we will celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. There are two fountains of grace available on Divine Mercy Sunday. The first is to receive the special graces of Divine Mercy Sunday promised directly by our Lord through St. Faustina. The theologian who examined St. Faustina’s writings for the Holy See, Rev. Ignacy Rozycki, explained that this is the promise of a complete renewal of baptismal grace, and in that sense like a “second baptism.” To receive these graces, the only condition is to receive Holy Communion worthily on Divine Mercy Sunday (or the vigil celebration), by making a good confession beforehand, and staying in the state of grace and trusting in His Divine Mercy. Remember that you do not have to go to confession on Divine Mercy Sunday itself. We know from her Diary that St. Faustina made her confession in preparation for Divine Mercy Sunday on the day before (Diary, 1072).
The other fountain of grace is a plenary indulgence, that is, the complete remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, which may be obtained on Divine Mercy Sunday. This indulgence differs from the special graces promised by our Lord through St. Faustina. This indulgence is granted under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion, and prayer for the intentions of Supreme Pontiff) to the faithful who, on Divine Mercy Sunday, in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honor of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in You!). A partial indulgence is granted to those who, at least with a contrite heart, pray to the merciful Lord Jesus with a legitimately approved invocation. The indulgences can be obtained for oneself, or for the poor souls suffering in purgatory, whereas the special grace promised by our Lord for Divine Mercy Sunday can only be received for oneself.
In her Diary, St. Faustina records a special promise given to her by Jesus. He told her to communicate it to the whole world: My daughter, tell the whole world about my inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of my mercy (Diary, 699). Happy Feast of Divine Mercy to you all!
APRIL 4, 2021