Category: Liturgy & The Sacraments

Discussions about the liturgy, rubrics, the Sacraments, etc..

Bringing the Church to Life: The Wisdom of Pope Benedict’s ‘Abdication’


In G.K. Cheston’s masterpiece, Manalive, the famous quote states:

“I am going to hold a pistol to the head of the Modern Man. But I shall not use it to kill him–only to bring him to life.”

Even out of context, this quote is powerful and more than likely elicits thoughts within readers of what Chesterton meant by the provocative text. In today’s modern world, it isn’t a hard argument to make that many souls wander aimlessly throughout the world more dead than alive, even as blood courses through their veins with little to know intent on ceasing.

Without spoiling the story for those that haven’t read it, Manalive is a masterpiece and becomes more, dare I say, relevant every day. Chesterton teaches us, in his “subtle as a brick over the head” kind of wa,y that we have chosen our own path of self-destruction and we only need admit this and pick another course. Instead though, modern man prefers the folly of modernity and self-destruction over that of a moral life because the former is more gratifying. ((This is true in a subjective sense, but usually involves insta- vs. long-term gratification, of course.))

What the quote does, is it teaches through opposite expectations.1 When we hear the phrase, “…pistol to the head,” death is instantly conjured. Instead though, Chesterton assures us that it is life that he seeks. Similarly, we find ourselves in that same situation in the waning days of Benedict’s Pontificate.

Pope Benedict is often credited with saying that he, or the Church itself, will in the future be a “smaller, purer Church.” While I, or anybody else for that matter, am hard-pressed to find that exact quote, I have found one that might be the genesis for it. In a book, Faith and Future published in 1969-70, Benedict wrote:

“The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes . . . she will lose many of her social privileges. . . As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members.”

So while this isn’t exactly “…smaller, purer…” it is fairly close. Without arguing if they are the same, this quote can stand on its own. Elizabeth Scalia has the rest of the quote, and puts it in better context. For our purposes though, he isn’t talking about a smaller Church because it is dying, or even a bad thing. It is a purification, even if it isn’t the same purer as is insinuated by the wrongly-attributed quote.

As we fast-forward over four decades to present-day, we see the Pope himself laying down his staff to some degree. The bigger demands that the Church is making on all of us, he seems to have said that he can no longer bear. So is Benedict then caving under these demands? Is he saying the Church is too much? Is he saying society is crushing the Church to the point that even he, the Holy Spirit inspired leader of the Church, can no longer bear its burdens?

In fact, I will argue the opposite. He is stepping aside not to signify, or accept, that the Church is losing… but in fact  – to bring it to life.

For many of us that are fans of Pope Benedict, his teachings, and his direction as Pope – the idea of losing Benedict was, and now is, frightening. From Summorum Pontificum, to the humble way he lead and taught, Pope Benedict was an answer to prayers as we found our way out of the darkness that came on the heels of the modernization in the Church.

But what we have gained in theology and liturgical “reform of the reform,” many of us have lost in the simplest of teachings – community. For so many of us we cared less how far we had to travel, or where we had to find purer Church, we were willing to make the sacrifice. What we lost in the process was the human connection to the Divine. We had forsaken Jesus’ direction to John and his Mother while on the Cross, to find the purity of the upper room.

So as we descend into some difficult days ahead, full of fear and unknowing, whom do we have to support us through the days ahead? Certainly we have not let go of the hand of Christ, but do we have those around us to walk unified through whatever may be ahead on this path? Have we driven so far as to leave behind any sort of support network should we face days of trial?

If the Pope’s decision can teach us anything, especially his most ardent and thankful supporters, it should be that He must increase, and we must decrease. If we truly believe that we are the Body of Christ, we must be that in such a way that isn’t synthetic but authentic. If we believe in that beauty will save the world, and therefore “Save the Liturgy, Save the World, then we must also believe that love can conquer the world. tumblr_m5mfm85Du41rxsshoo1_500

There is no greater love, than for a man to lay down his life for another. Yet, if the only life we have laid down is the person inside of us wanting something or desiring something, even if it is true, beautiful, or good… we still have forgotten our brothers and sisters beside us.

So let us come alive in these next few days, and weeks. Let us take this opportunity to become smaller – as people, as a Church, and as communities. Let us reduce down our daily lives to that which is important. If Christ is our center, than those whom He loves should also be our center.

Love can, and will, conquer the world. The Pope is stepping aside not to end his teachings, not to quit – but to begin their rebirth,  to bring them fully alive.

He must increase, we must decrease.

  1. I am sure this is a literary or rhetorical device of some type, but I didn’t feel confident to classify it correctly. []

St. Thomas Aquinas – visually portrayed & an update

For those that don’t realize it, this blog was re-done in very minimal theme, but intentionally done in the black and white of the Dominican Order. A lot of my connection to Dominican spiritually is rooted in my appreciation for Thomistic thought and the Angelic Doctor himself.

The shield/sigil/logo I have was created by R. León over at Errantem Animum. The same is true for the Aquinas clip art down on the bottom right portion of my blog.

Recently, he created another depiction of St. Aquinas that I just love and wanted to share it with you:



You really should go check out his blog.


Also, a little update on the blog. I was just starting to post more frequently when my life took another fork in the road. I took a new position and within a week of that decision my family and I moved to a new city and diocese. We are still in Michigan, but we are no longer in our “hometown” area or diocese.

The job itself is a great opportunity for me, and while it is a modest position for me in some aspects, in others it will be quite exciting and rewarding. I feel blessed for the opportunity and my family and I are quite excited about or new adventure. We dont know the area at all, and only know a few folks that live around here. We really want to find a parish to settle into, find a group of friends, and dive back into the Church head-first. With Lent approaching, I am praying that we can do just that. Most of all I want a support network for my wife, and a group of people like we had in Alaska that spiritually lift us up.

I don’t know how this will impact my blogging, but I hope that it energizes it in a new way and gives me material to write about that is efficacious and helpful. Hopefully I will be able to regularly update, and that blogging once again becomes an exercise that gives me spiritual vitality.

A note about Masses and parishes: There is a local parish that has a Sunday E.F. Mass. Our first weekend here we didn’t know the parishes or schedule and went to the closest Church to our vicinity. This week we had to attend the Vigil Mass because of a family event tomorrow. So hopefully in the next week or two we will be able to get to it.

There will definitely be challenges along the way, both in our spiritual journey as well as secular one. Please keep us in your prayers if you could.

‘My Beloved’

This past Sunday, my family went to a parish that we are sometimes… required to go to.1 We don’t do it often, and in all honesty a later Sunday Mass with young children is tough. But, we actually enjoy the parish and priests so much, that in a way, it is a nice treat, for the not so nice necessity of attending that particular Mass.

This Sunday, the parish’s pastor was the celebrant. Normally, there is another priest, whom we are quite fond of, that is the evening celebrant. Since he was on vacation this week, the pastor filled in. Both of these priests are polish, and the parish is a polish stronghold in a rather interesting part of the city. The priests are very holy and orthodox.


We have never had the pleasure of having this priest, and as Mass was celebrated he kept referring to the congregation as ‘my beloved.’ At first it was strange, solely because it was so foreign. After a few times, I chalked it up simply to his translation and the fact that english was not his native language. It began to grow on me and I quite liked it.

As Mass was ending and we got to the part where some parishes have a prolonged “Announcements” section, my family was ready to go. The priest began to speak of the parish mergers, realignments, et al that are occurring here in the Archdiocese of Detroit. I was starting to get annoyed, but then I was really drawn to what he was saying. He started talking about the evening Mass, the parishes, the merger, and the people that assist at Mass, especially the late evening Mass. He talked about how those people tirelessly give up their Sunday evenings to make sure the Mass is available to those who need an evening Mass – for whatever reason.

His sincerity and authenticity gushed and rang true in his words. It made me then recall what happened prior to Mass. One of my children needed to use the restroom just prior to Mass (of course!). As we were walking towards them, we saw the priest and he smiled and said something to my child which I recall as something to the effect of… “Well hello my beloved dear, so glad to see you!” I dont know if that is exactly what he said, because I was frustrated that we were heading out of Mass just as it started, and that the priest we liked so much wasn’t there. But I do know he said… “beloved.”

As I left Mass I realized that as a priest stands in the place of Christ so many times in our lives as Catholics, the term beloved, especially when pronounced in a thick polish accent Beh-love-ed, is awesome! It feels as if it is exactly how Christ sees us. It also made me think about how I need to act, towards my beloved.

  1. It is the local parish with the late Mass in the evening. []

The Altar Server [Video]

The following video is a must see. Every parish should show this to parents and to those wishing to serve at the Altar.


Also, there is an interesting discussion going on over at IgnitumToday regarding Altar servers and the vocational benefits to having only male Altar servers. It seems it is one of those topics like chapel veils, the extraordinary form, and other sensitive subjects that gets people into a commenting frenzy.

The Altar Rail: A Deacon’s Change of Heart

DSC_0091There are few topics in the Catholic blogosphere as “hot button” as the best or proper means/method to receive Holy Communion. The debate is often rekindled by some news item here or there, and the most recent article is no exception. Except this time it comes from a quite unexpected source.

Deacon Greg Kandra once famously defended and argued for the Standing/In-The-Hand posture. He said, “Standing and in-the-hand always seemed to me sensible, practical and—with proper catechesis—appropriate.” Since Deacon Kandra is no small player in the Catholic blog world, this post is oft-sighted by those on that side of the fence. Yet, the good Deacon’s most recent post: Communion Rails: Restoring a Sense of the Sacred might be a game changer.

The entire article is worth reading but I post for reference the heart of the post:

The fact is, we fumbling humans need external reminders—whether smells and bells, or postures and gestures—to reinforce what we are doing, direct our attention, and make us get over ourselves. Receiving communion is about something above us, and beyond us. It should transcend what we normally do. But what does it say about the state of our worship and our reception of the Eucharist that it has begun to resemble a trip to the DMV?

Our modern liturgy has become too depleted of reverence and awe, of wonder and mystery. The signs and symbols that underscored the mystery—the windows of stained glass, the chants of Latin, the swirls of incense at the altar—vanished and were replaced by . . . what? Fifty shades of beige? Increasingly churches now resemble warehouses, and the Body of Christ is just one more commodity we stockpile and give out.

Can kneeling to receive on the tongue help alleviate some of this? Well, it can’t hurt. And for this reason: to step up to a communion rail, and kneel, and receive on the tongue, is an act of utter and unabashed humility. In that posture to receive the Body of Christ, you become less so that you can then become more. It requires a submission of will and clear knowledge of what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what is about to happen to you.

These are the arguments that many of us have made for a while now, and is the reason that many more orthodox parishes are reinstalling the rails. Surely this will come as an afront to many that fear a “backwards” walk into a pre-Vatican II Church, but this has to due with the “Source and Summit” of our Christian life. As Kandra states, we have depleted our modern liturgy, and frankly our faith in general, of reverence and awe.

Pope Benedict XVI gives communion to a nYet, this isn’t about right and wrong, and those in the blogosphere ready to throw out an “I told you so…” should remember why they hold the belief they do. It isn’t that they are better, but they simply accept that they are so weak. It is precisely because we are so incapable of understanding, accepting, or remembering what it is that we are participating in at Mass that we need these external reminders. It is precisely because we are so broken that we needed God to send us His only Son.

Kneeling isn’t a sign of superiority, but a sing of humility and submission. Likewise, we should act as if this isn’t about enforcing supremacy on others, but instead about compelling ourselves to see the need for submission. Many of us in the the “traditional” wing of the Church forget that our battle isn’t to prove that “our way is better” but that we need what we call, and Deacon Kandra agrees, the “Sense of the Sacred.”

As Kandra concluded,

It demands a sense of the sacred. It challenges us to kneel before wonder, and bow before grace. It insists that we not only fully understand what is happening, but that we fully appreciate the breathtaking generosity behind it. It asks us to be mindful of what “Eucharist” really means: thanksgiving.

I don’t see that much today. It’s gone. We need to reclaim it. Pope Benedict XVI seems to agree. He has decided he will only give communion at papal Masses to those who kneel and receive on the tongue. He was gently making a liturgical point. Are we paying attention?

After what I’ve seen, I agree with him. We need to get off our feet, and on our knees.

Bring back the communion rail. It’s time.

It is time. Not because I say so, or even because the good Deacon says so. The Pope’s teaching though, that should be headed. He has been working his entire pontificate, and really during his entire life, to bring us closer to the truth and thereby closer to God. This isn’t about style or preference, this is about theology. This is about committing ourselves to Christ fully and completely. It is an affront to our autonomy, it is a reminder that Christ is our Savior and the first step to admitting that is physically positioning ourselves at the most important moment of our faith life in a way that reflects that.

Christ held high, therefore we position ourselves humbly.

He must increase, I must decrease.


What’s In A Name?

Defend Us In Battle… I am sure that name conjures up many images in the heads of the people that read this blog. The name of a blog certainly is the “first impression” people have of both a blog, and the person behind it. This blog is no different, but the name may not be what it seems, at least at first glance. Continue reading


Laudamus Te – Magazine for the Extraordinary Form

Thousands of Catholics are familiar with Magnificat, the magazine-missal resource for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is a wonderful tool for people to follow along with the prayers of the Mass, without the need for a large hand missal. Although I am a fan of full missals, I know that they aren’t convenient or practical for everyone, especially the elderly.This is a wonderful product that allows people to deepen their faith and come to more fully engage with the Sacrifice of the Mass.

For Catholics that attend the Mass in the usus antiquior or Extraordinary Form, resources are much more scarce. While recent promotion of the form has allowed for a few really excellent hand missals to ramp up production, a periodical publication has not been available, until now. Continue reading


Pope Benedict: “The liturgy is celebrated for God and not for ourselves.”

As many of my long time readers know, I am very big fan of Pope Benedict as both the Pope and as a theologian. His book, The Spirit of the Liturgy, is a key reason I have come to study the faith at a deeper academic and theological level.

The Pope has always championed the Church’s teaching onwhat the Mass is and what it is not. He speaks to this issue from a spiritual and theological perspective. When you read his words, it is clear that the Mass is not some performance or service, but something supernatural and supra-worldly. Continue reading


AK: Anchorage Dominicans to celebrate Rosary Sunday

As I still have a strong connection to Alaska, and intend to be back there soon enough, I will occasionally post updates on things there. Plus, a large contingent of my readers hail from there, so I have to keep them happy. Add to that the fact that the Cathedral there is served by the very devout Dominican Order, and you can bet I will be posting updates.

From the Catholic Anchor:

The Dominican religious order maintains an ancient practice to honor the rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the first Sunday in October. The Dominicans of Holy Family Cathedral will celebrate this custom on Sunday, Oct. 7 – feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. That day the 9:30 a.m. Mass will be celebrated as a sung high Mass according to the Dominican Rite. Dominican Father Michael Sweeney will deliver the homily. After the post-communion prayer, rosaries will be blessed. And fresh roses will be blessed as a sacramental and distributed to the congregation. The Mass will end with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Rosary Sunday will be preceded by a novena to Our Lady of the Rosary starting on Saturday, Sept. 29, at the 9 a.m. Mass. Throughout the novena, the rosary will be said a half-hour before all scheduled Masses.