Friday, May 31, 2019

Novena Day 1: The Holy Ghost

Veni Sancte Spiritus
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.


Come, thou Holy Spirit, come,
and from thy celestial home
shed a ray of light divine!


Meditation

Only one thing is important -- eternal salvation. Only one thing, therefore, is to be feared -- sin. Sin is the result of ignorance, weakness, and indifference. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Light, of Strength, and of Love. With His sevenfold gifts, He enlightens the mind, strengthens the will, and inflames the heart with love of God. To ensure our salvation, we ought to invoke the Divine Spirit daily, for “The Spirit helpeth our infirmity. We know not what we should pray for as we ought. But the Spirit Himself asketh for us.”

Prayer

Almighty and eternal God, Who hast vouchsafed to regenerate us by water and the Holy Ghost, and hast given us forgiveness of all our sins, vouchsafe to send forth from heaven upon us Thy sevenfold Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, the Spirit of Counsel and Fortitude, the Spirit of Knowledge and Piety, and fill us with the Spirit of Holy Fear. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

As a final note for today, we here at man with black hat just found this precious little gem. In this 1999 recording on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), the late great Mother Angelica explains (among other things) these gifts for us, as only she can, before a live studio audience. Her cause for sainthood is in its very early stages, and she is missed by so many here on Earth below, including yours truly.

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are to appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Novena: Prelude

Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who is to be taken up from you into heaven had to re-schedule his departure to the following Sunday in order to accomodate the busy schedules of the faithful. Now, get back to work.

(Acts 1:11, dynamic equivalent translation)


Today the Church, both in the East and the West, celebrates the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord. It is when Christ ascended into Heaven forty days after He rose from the dead.

Then again ...

In most provinces of the United States, and in some countries throughout the world, the Feast has been moved to the following Sunday. We could just leave well enough alone, and transfer the obligation itself to the Sunday within the octave of the Feast (traditionally known as an "external solemnity"), but the Western church got rid of many of its octaves in the mid-1950s, and a few more since then. You'd have to explain to people what an octave is, and that is such a pain. So unless you attend the Traditional Mass or an Eastern Rite Divine Liturgy today, in which case the aforementioned silliness does not apply, today will be remembered as just another Easter weekday.

If only they put the right spin on it, in which case it would go something like this:

“Most biblical scholars agree that Jesus ascended into Heaven forty-three days after He rose from the dead, not forty days as previously believed. The number of forty was arrived at by the end of the third century, to make it easier for the early Christians to count the days after Easter on their fingers and toes and double the total. But we’re so much more sophisticated now, and we can use calculators to count that high, or have our smartphones remind us.”

Whether or not we would fall for that, moving a Feast Day to a Sunday because we're all too damn lazy to go to Mass on a weekday (or a weeknight) makes about as much sense.

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But suppose that sacred time actually mattered, in which case it would go something like this:

The Church was born on the Jewish feast of the Pentecost. After the ascension of Christ into heaven, a group which, according to tradition, numbered about 120, remained sequestered in the Upper Room for nine days, awaiting the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

They returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away; and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. (Acts 1:12-14)

Thus the birth of our Holy Mother the Church was preceded by a novena.

From the Latin word "novem," meaning "nine," a novena is a prayer that is repeated for nine days, after which, according to pious belief, special graces are obtained. Fisheaters elaborates on the devotion, and gives a complete listing of popular novenas for any and all occasions.

The novena to Saint Jude may be the most popular, as he is the patron saint of hopeless causes. Many a Catholic has found a holy card or slip of paper in the pew with the prayer written on it, left by a pious soul whose intention was granted. One of them was the late entertainer Danny Thomas, whose devotion to the saint moved him to establish the children's hospital that bears the saint's name.

In 1897, Pope Leo XIII mandated a codified edition of the first novena, in his decree Divinum Illud Munus:

"Wherefore, We decree and command that throughout the whole Catholic Church, this year and in every subsequent year, a Novena shall take place before Whit-Sunday [Pentecost], in all parish churches, and also, if the local Ordinaries think fit, in other churches and oratories."

And so, we here at man with black hat will present this special edition of the Mother Of All Novenas, that which is devoted to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, over the next nine days. Stay tuned...
 

Sunday, May 05, 2019

On Being “Pastoral”

The gospel account of Christ as the "good shepherd" is proclaimed in the Traditional Roman Mass on the Second Sunday After Easter, which occurs today this year. Most Catholics of the Roman Rite who celebrate the "ordinary form" of the Mass will hear it next Sunday, where it occurs on the Fourth Sunday of (or Third Sunday After) Easter. Don't ask me why.

At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father." (John 10:11-18)

We use the term “pastor” for our parish priest. The term itself is derived from the Latin word for "shepherd." Most Catholics use the term "pastoral" to describe the priest's degree of accommodation. To give an example: “Father Billy Bob takes a pastoral approach with couples wanting to marry, which is why they can live together before exchanging vows, and let their conscience (unguided, we are led to believe) determine whether to use birth control.”

But does that reflect what the word means?

The French writer Fran├žois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, himself no friend of Mother Church, nonetheless attached some significance to an objective idea of Truth: “If you would converse with me, you must first define your terms.” Radical progressives do not understand this, and so use words to mean whatever they want.

For example, if there being only two genders does not satisfy one's requirements (that would be "male" and "female"), then one is compelled to appease the socially enlightened, by dismissing the limitations of biology and adding more "genders" to the list, which is confusing in a society where not everybody is sufficiently acclimated to progressive lines of thought. If we are to explain ourselves to one another, short of drawing a picture for someone, words are all we have, and their meaning must stand on its own. If we understand the word "pastor" by its original, objective meaning, to be "pastoral" is to act in the manner of a shepherd. What does a good shepherd do that a bad one does not?

Let's see that quotation again, the part given emphasis above.

“The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep.”

So then, a good shepherd risks his life to save his sheep from harm, while a bad shepherd leaves them to fend for themselves in the face of harm.

What kind of harm do we mean? Obviously, spiritual harm. An engaged couple is not being done any favors, if Father Billy Bob winks at their living arrangement. Marriage is what we call a "sacrament of the living," which means it must be entered into while in a state of grace, or we defile it. If all Father wants is to be a nice guy, he will be like the mercenary and leave Dick and Jane to their own devices. But if his goal is to keep them from spiritual harm, he will beg to differ.

To be honest, some priests can be real jerks about this. Many of them know this, and are afraid to be perceived that way. Why do they have to be? A 2014 article in Homiletic and Pastoral Review discusses how to help couples who cohabitate before marriage. While the author has good intentions, he doesn't go far enough, and actually falls short of a genuine remedy, which makes it harder for the parish priest not to come off as a jerk.

In a city like Washington, where many couples do not have the support of family within their locality, one party or the other would be hard pressed to break a lease on a rented apartment, just to satisfy what could be dismissed as a procedural requirement. This is one of the casualties of our uprootedness, where we lack any sense of a familial home, and a parish is less a spiritual home than it is the setting for a personality cult (a problem made worse by the wave of closings and mergers of otherwise viable parishes to replenish the bishop's legal slush fund, to say nothing of "Mass facing the people" -- but that's another story). If we were who we pretended to be, none of the more vulnerable among us would be left to the wolves. Can one party or the other in an impending marriage rent a room for a few lousy months from an "empty nester," a couple whose children are gone, but who are known by the pastor to be of good character, and can even serve as mentors?

It is at times like this, where all the yakkity-yak about "ministering" to people is put to the test, and is one of many reasons why we fail.

Our conclusion, then, is that to be "pastoral" has less to do with appeasement and keeping the peace, and more to do with protecting others from danger, to the point of giving one's life. And yet, it also means that no man charged with knowing his sheep can really stand alone.

After all, even a good shepherd needs a well-bred pair of Border Collies to help keep the flock together, don't you think?

Or don't you?