Wednesday, October 30, 2013


The Vox Clara Committee met from October 29-30, 2013 in Rome. This Committee of senior Bishops from Episcopal Conferences throughout the English-speaking world was formed by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on July 19, 2001 in order to provide advice to the Holy See concerning English-language liturgical books and to strengthen effective cooperation with the Conferences of Bishops in this regard.

The Vox Clara Committee is chaired by Cardinal George Pell (Sydney). The participants in the meeting were Bishop Thomas Olmsted, First Vice-Chairman (Phoenix), Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Second Vice-Chairman (Bombay), Cardinal Justin Rigali, Treasurer (Philadelphia, Emeritus), Archbishop Alfred Hughes (New Orleans, Emeritus), Archbishop Michael Neary (Tuam), Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J. (Ottawa), and Bishop David McGough (Birmingham, Auxiliary). Bishop Arthur Serratelli, Secretary (Paterson), Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I. (Chicago) and Cardinal John Tong Hon (Hong Kong) were unable to be present for this meeting.

Also assisting the meeting were Monsignor James P. Moroney (Executive Secretary), Reverend Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B (expert), Reverend Dennis McManus (expert), Abbot Cuthbert Johnson, O.S.B. (advisor), Reverend Joseph Briody (special assistant) and Reverend Gerard Byrne (special assistant).  Monsignor Gerard McKay (advisor) was unable to be present.

The representatives of the Holy See included the Delegate to the Vox Clara Committee, Reverend Anthony Ward, S.M., Undersecretary of the Congregation, accompanied by officials of the Congregation.

The Committee heard reports on the reception of the Roman Missal in the English-speaking world, the recent celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy and a variety of practical matters.

The Committee spent the greatest amount of time on a review of the translation of the ICEL Green Book Translations of Exorcisms and Certain Supplications, the Order of the Dedication of a Church and an Altar and a supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours.  The Committee was grateful for the quality of these translations and developed a limited list of recommendations concerning their refinement which it submitted to the Congregation.

Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments was welcomed on the first day of the meeting along with Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary to the Congregation.  The Prefect expressed his gratitude to the Committee for its continuing contribution to the translation of English language liturgical texts, recalling the discourse of the Holy Father to the International Committee on English in the Liturgy on its fiftieth anniversary that this work has “helped to foster the Church’s unity in faith and sacramental communion.” (Pope Francis, To the Members of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, 17 October 2013)

This was the twenty-second meeting of the Vox Clara Committee which will continue its work in early 2014 with a review of the ICEL Gray Book translations of  the Ordo Celebrandi Matrimonium and De Confirmationis.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Vox Clara at work...

On this first day of the Vox Clara meeting we spent the morning with reports and a visit from the Prefect of the Congregation and the Secretary.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Vox Clara in Rome...

I'm in Rome for about a week for a meeting of the Vox Clara Committee.  I was delighted to have lunch on this first day with Mike Zimmerman, Kevin Leaver, Kevin Staley-Joyce and Donato Infante.  We've planned a Boston dinner as well as a dinner with the seminarians of Massachusetts for later in the week.  The scene to the left is from my window at North American College.  Please keep the work of the Vox Clara Committee in your prayers as we work through the ICEL Green books for the rites of Dedication of a Church and Altar, Exorcism, and supplemental texts from the Liturgy of the Hours.

Tabernacle prepares to ship

Here's a photo I just received this morning of the cosmatesque insert on the top part of the tabernacle throne.  It was taken in Carrara, Italy, where the entire tabernacle is being crated and prepared for shipment to SJS!

The mosaic pattern was inspired by the Cosmati work in the closet at Saint John Lateran basilica in Rome.

Alumni Come Home to SJS

Close to one hundred alumni returned to their Alma Mater last week.  Here are the remarks I offered at the beginning of the evening and some pictures from the event.  A great time was had by all!

Welcome home! Welcome home to St. John's.

Welcome home to a seminary experiencing an unprecedented period of growth as evidenced by the 26 new man and the fact that we have just this year become the sixth largest theologate serving the church in the United States!

Welcome home to the oldest and largest seminary in New England the place where 130 men today bear a striking resemblance to you when you walked these halls, not too many years ago.

Welcome to a seminary now existing on three campuses with the recent addition of Our Lady of the Presentation Lecture Hall and Library. Welcome to an institution which in its first year of development and fundraising has brought us nearly three quarters of a million dollars closer to meeting our needs and fulfilling our dreams.

Welcome to a seminary with lecturers this year like Cardinals Rigali and George and an outstanding faculty including the newest master of the Dominican Order.

And welcome to the home of the reigning champions in the St. John's versus Pope John's annual softball tournament. Victors against the relics for two years in a row!

Welcome home to the place where you learned how to pray, how to preach a word that will rouse them, and how to love those whom everyone else would forget.

For therein is the meaning of this holy house. It's a place to discern and to be prepared. Prepared to anoint the old woman who will die at 2 o'clock in the morning. Prepared to give sage counsel to the family of the kid who strung out on drugs. Prepared to strengthen with sacramental grace the sinner who has fallen for the third the fourth and the fifth time. Prepared to bring the bread of life and the cup of salvation to a people hungry for God.

This is where God prepared you and this is where He prepares them still. Prepares them to decrease that He might increase, to so die to themselves that He might shine forth through them as a light to the nations and the glory of the church.

So welcome home! Enjoy the evening! And know that every day we work to help these good young men to follow in your footsteps, the way of the Good Shepherd, the path that leads to God.

Let us pray
Bless these good and holy man, Lord God, s
ource of all holiness and life. Make them good and holy priests, in the model of Christ Jesus your only son. Bless the food we are about to eat and the stories we are about to tell. Make us one in your love.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ your son, lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

SJS Welcomes the Knights of Malta!

This past week, Saint John's Seminary had the privilege of hosting the Annual Mass and Dinner for the Boston Area Order of Malta (Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta American Association). The Order of Malta is a worldwide, lay, religious order of the Roman Catholic Church, which seeks to glorify God by promoting the sanctification of each member through his or her work with the sick and the poor and defense of the Catholic faith.

His Eminence Seán Patrick  Cardinal O'Malley presided for the Mass.  I was the guest speaker.  They asked me to talk about the importance of good homilies.  The title of  my presentation was "Preaching an Engaging Proclamation: or, How to Get Rid of the Boring Homily"

The evening concluded with the Presentation of the Bishop John B. Fitzpatrick Award to Sheila and Joseph Feitelberg. This award was established in 2005 as an award for extraordinary service by members of the Order of Malta in the Boston area paralleling the extraordinary service of Bishop Fitzpatrick as the third Bishop of Boston did for the Church.  Congratulations to Sheila and Joe on receiving this award and to all of the members of the Order of Malta for the work that you do. 

Below are some pictures from this wonderful event!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Busy Fall Weekend...

The men of pre-Theology spent yesterday with Jim Orcutt at Our Brother’s Keeper, delivering furniture to a number of families in the Brockton area

On Sunday some of our seminarians and members of the community enjoyed listening to the Zamir Chorale of Boston under the direction of Joshua Jacobson. 

The concert was entitled Sacred Bridges and we are very grateful for this opportunity to participate in this magnificent sacred music!
The weekend was also spent getting the new Bishop John D'Arcy Conference Room at Our Lady of the Presentation Lecture Hall and Library ready for meetings tomorrow with the Pro-life Directors of New England and a Tuesday meeting with our Board of Trustees.

Tabernacle is Ready to Ship

The new Tabernacle for the Chapel of Saint John's is ready to ship from Carrara, Italy and should be in place in time for Christmas.  Here are some of the last pictures....It takes about 4 weeks to get here and just under a week to install.

These are the steps leading up to the tabernacle, made of the same marble as our sanctuary floor.

The tabernacle itself is mounted on a platform with four columns.  Still awaiting its gold leafed door, this replica of the Tempietto is now complete with rails, niches and other architectural elements.

Here's the mosaic trim for the  lower portion of the tabernacle shelf.  It is a reproduction of a Cosmatesque mosaic pattern found in Saint John Lateran in Rome.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

An Evening at Our Lady of Providence Seminary

I was privileged to spend an hour with the seminarians of Our Lady of Providence Seminary on Friday evening.  Here is some of what I shared with them.

What is Saint John’s Seminary?

It is a holy house, founded by the Archdiocese of Boston, which has formed more than 3,000 men to serve as priests throughout New England.

Its’ work is guided by our Holy Father, through Pastores Dabo Vobis and Optatum Totius and by the Bishops of the United States of America through the Program of Priestly Formation.

But most of all it is priests, each having discerned the quiet call of God deep within their hearts.  Men like our faculty, about a dozen full-time and another dozen adjunct, who have dedicated their lives to helping men like you to die to themselves that Christ might increase and we might decrease.  They are Priests who know they teach more by who they are than what they say, and so their first work is to seek after holiness in all the little things, that Christ might be praised in all the big things.

Saint John’s Seminary is people...85 resident seminarians and another thirty or so from the Oblates of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Redemptoris Mater Seminary, Redemptorists (C.Ss.R.), Franciscans (O.F.M.), and Franciscans (O.F.M., Cap.).

A quarter of them are from Boston and the rest mainly from Dioceses all around New England, although we have a few seminarians who will return to Vietnam and even one who will serve, God willing, as a Priest in the Apostolic Vic. of Southern Arabia for the rest of his life.

They are Engineers, oceanographers, craftsmen and scholars.  Several had doctorates when they arrived and each have the same eagerness and purity of heart I see in your eyes.

Saint John’s is the sixth largest Theologate serving the United States and the oldest and largest Seminary in New England.  Many of your brothers now live there, and they will describe Saint John’s with a different set of eyes than mine, but hopefully, with the same Shepherd’s heart.

The best part of this hour we have together is our opportunity for dialogue, that I might answer some of your questions about Saint John’s or anything else you would like to discuss, but let me do two more things before we get to that.

First, I would like to say something about how much I admire you.  Then I'd like to share an excerpt on the new Documentary on Saint John’s entitled A Seminary Life, which is playing on Catholic TV and will soon be available for massive distribution.

First, you.  You are a seminarian, and as a pastor of seminarians, a Rector, my heart grows bigger whenever I see you.  You are good for me.  You make me a better priest by your example, your fortitude and your faith.

I will never forget the seminarian I met with just a short time after becoming rector last year who was going through a tough patch.  With his whole heart and soul all he wanted to do was the right thing and he looked at me through the tears and said, “Monsignor, all I want to do is give my life to Jesus and to his Church.  And he meant it with every fiber of his being.

That seminarian is you on your better days, and I pray God, still sometimes me as well.  All we want to do is God’s will.  

But priestly formation is no easy task, and priestly ministry is no simple life in the first decades of the twenty-first century.  For, as the Lord himself assured us, the world will often treat the Priest as it treated him, the One whom they hung upon the cross for our salvation.  This Seminary must prepare men like you for ministry in a world of too many wolves who too often enjoy devouring shepherds.

When you preach the Lord Jesus, and not the latest self-indulgent fantasies of the world, you will be reviled and obnoxious to those who would deny the Truth who is Christ;

When you proclaim fearlessly that the life of every human being, no matter how young or how old, rich or poor, well or ill enjoys a dignity that comes from the Creator, you will be deemed foolish, old fashioned, or insensitive to technological advances;

When you live and preach fidelity and purity, you will be considered quaint or prudish and out of touch with the real world;

When you are peaceable, gentle and merciful, many will smirk with innuendo, spitefulness and cruelty;

When you live as servants and defenders of the poor, always seeking the last place, the world will call you naïve, and will tempt you with the pleasures of prestige and worldly treasure.

But rest assured, my dear brothers, that you have been called to be nothing less than living images of Christ, Head, Shepherd, and Bridegroom.  The Christ who corrects his ambitious and self-righteous disciples...Jesus, the Son of the Living God through whom all things were made, stooping down before arrogant men, embracing a child, and declaring that, unless you become like a little child, small and innocent, and pure, you shall not enter the Kingdom of God.

Such is the Priesthood which you are discerning and forming and grasping for.  And as such, you are the most blessed among men.

So sow, let me share with you A Seminary Life: Saint John’s Seminary.

Coming Home...

On Thursday night, the Seminary community welcomed home those who were ordained from Saint John's Seminary this past spring. Father John Cassani celebrated the Mass and Father Carlos Piedrahita preached the homily. Here are my words of welcome and Father Piedrahita's homily for the feast of Saint Ignatius of Antioch.

Welcome home, Fathers! Welcome home. Six months ago you were kneeling before your Bishop, as he, “relying on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ,” chose you, our brothers, for the Order of the priesthood.”  And now you have become what you for so long prepared to be. You have baptized babies, anointed old people in the middle of the night, heard the confessions of sinners on a busy Saturday afternoon and consecrated the gifts of the people of God, offering them for their salvation.

You return as an encouragement to each one of us. To the faculty, you are the fulfillment of our prayers and a reminder of how privileged we are to witness God’s grace at work in the lives of men just like you. To your younger brothers you are a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel, an encouragement and an example.

So welcome home. Unfortunately I cannot join you for this entire homecoming as I have a long scheduled commitment at Our Lady of Providence Seminary. But know that you are always welcome in this holy house which you once called home and you now know as alma mater. God bless you.

Homily on the Memorial of St Ignatius of Antioch
St John’s Seminary 

"I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire."

These profound words from St Ignatius of Antioch are an invitation to all of us to be faithful disciples of the Gospel, and an invitation to make Christ the center of our lives.

Ignatius, disciple of John, was consecrated Bishop by Peter the Apostle, around the year 69. Nearly 40 years later, in the year 107, during the reign of Emperor Trajan, he was condemned to death because he refused to renounce his faith. He chose to remain faithful to Christ until the end, even when he knew that it would cost him his own life.

St Ignatius’ courageous life, and fidelity to the word of God, reminds us of our own call to discipleship and true service to the Gospel. His willingness to die for the truth serves as inspiration to all men and women who wish to make Christ known to the world. It also reminds us that true power does not come from attaining the first places of recognition – either within the Church or outside of it – but from a true detachment from our own self, wants and needs.

In other words, when we make Christ the center of our lives we become empty vessels through which God transmits His graces, and at the same time find the freedom to respond to God’s call to discipleship.

This power given to us, which comes from above, and not from our own skills and talents, must be put to the service of the Gospel, the people of God and the work of evangelization, especially in a world were many cling to and thirst for earthly powers. But before we can use this power to serve the Kingdom of God, we must allow the word of God to take root in our hearts. And we must also be vigilant to ensure that things like selfishness, arrogance, clericalism and thirst for power don’t get in the way of the mission that the Son of God has for us.

Christ himself makes us aware of this danger especially when he asks the question; “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” He also teaches that he is the way, the truth and the life; that He is our perfect model to follow; and that our own mission in life must be about service and putting others first - before our own needs, wants and desires. For Christ says in the Gospel of Mark: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”

St Ignatius’ great fidelity and love for the Gospel became a great example to his community and to the entire early Church of what discipleship is all about. He also became an inspiration to many men and women to make the ultimate offering to God by becoming martyrs for their faith.

In one of his letters, on his way to martyrdom, he wrote to the Christian community: "I know what is to my advantage. At last I am becoming his disciple. May nothing entice me till I happily make my way to Jesus Christ! Fire, cross, struggles with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs-let them come to me, provided only I make my way to Jesus Christ."

For many of us, St. Ignatius’ words, which are filled with zeal for the Gospel, continue, throughout the centuries, to be a source of inspiration to remain faithful to the gospel and to our mission of evangelization. Though our journey toward heaven, which is our ultimate goal and destiny, may be filled with thorns and challenges, we must never forget that what matters most in this journey of faith is our fidelity to Christ and not to the passing things of this world. Once we make Him the center of our lives, nothing – not even death itself – can take him away from us.

Like St. Ignatius of Antioch, we must remain courageous and vigilant at all times, so that one day, like him, we can say with great conviction in our hearts that we “prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth.”

St Ignatius of Antioch, pray for us!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cardinal George at OLP Lecture Hall

Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago, presented a lecture this evening at Our Lady of the Presentation Lecture Hall entitled Lumen Gentium and Episcopal Governance.  Father Romanus Cessario, O.P. gave the following introduction to His Eminence's talk:

His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George received the red hat from Pope John Paul II in the consistory of 21 February 1998. The same Pope assigned the Archbishop of Chicago the title of Saint Bartholomew-on-the-Island, an ancient Roman Church that houses the relics of the holy apostle. As its name suggests, the Cardinal’s titular church stands on an island in the middle of Rome’s Tiber River. I find a significance in the placement of Saint Bartholomew’s--its being neither on the left bank nor the right bank of the Eternal City. For Cardinal George has distinguished himself as a mediator among the competing forces of cultural and religious outlooks that dominate our horizon. The title of his most recent book captures the Cardinal’s approach: God in Action: How Faith in God Can Address the Challenges of the World; it was published in May 2011 by Doubleday Religion.

When he took over the governance of one of the largest dioceses in our country, Cardinal George displayed his profound, and I would add, characteristically Midwestern, sense of the human. His predecessor, whose first name was Joseph, had introduced himself, “Hello! I am Joseph, your brother.” When he first met the clergy and people of Chicago, Cardinal George said, “Good morning, I am Francis, your neighbor.” Neighbor indeed he is. Born on Chicago’s Northwest Side, Francis George joined the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a French society founded in the early nineteenth century by Saint Eugene de Mazenod (+1861). As Cardinal George himself once remarked to me, the Founder of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate was accustomed to tell his ecclesiastical superiors, “Send my priests to the poorest and most desolate places in need of evangelization.” The Roman authorities knew a good deal when they saw one, and within a short time, the Oblates found themselves laboring in mission fields on every continent. They were among the first missionaries sent to preach to the Native Americans in what is now Alaska.

The challenges that Cardinal George’s religious family has faced throughout their illustrious history of making nations Catholic, he today faces under new guises: not so much to convert but to restore. We find a key to the Cardinal’s plan in the title of his doctoral dissertation, “Inculturation and communion.” It would take too long to list the Cardinal’s accomplishments as a missionary, a professor, an author and scholar, and as a Bishop of the Catholic Church. Suffice it to remark that today he continues to engage all of the above. Thankfully. We find ourselves living in period of the Church’s history that requires men of Cardinal George’s intelligence to help us all to discover how we should think about things, especially about the many challenges that face the Catholic Church in the United States.

So I would ask you to stand and to greet one of the truly eminent Churchmen of our period, His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Columbus Day Weekend on Retreat

A group of our seminarians went on a retreat to Lourdes Shrine run by the Montfort Missionaries in Litchfield, Connecticut  this weekend.  "It was a wonderful time -- very prayerful, as well as a great place to relax!"  Here are some photos of this great weekend with Jim Davila, John Gancarz, Jerwin Penido, Michael Rora, Brendan Rowley, Joseph Sanderson and Josh Wilbur!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Join us for an afternoon of Jewish choral music.

Sacred Bridges
The Zamir Chorale of Boston
Joshua Jacobson, Artistic Director

Sunday, October 20th
at 3:00pm
Saint John’s Seminary Chapel

Free Admission.
freewill donations gratefully accepted

Friday, October 11, 2013

Vigor, Unity, Adaptation and Strength

Last night I was privileged to address several hundred folks in the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois, at the invitation of Bishop David Malloy. 


Eight weeks from today will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of the first document of the Second Vatican Council: The Constitution on the Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium.  

And whenever I think of that document, I think of the Council Father who laid hands on me and ordained me as a Priest 33 years ago, Bishop Bernard Flanagan, a solid piece of Vermont granite.  I can picture him sitting in the nave of Saint Peter's basilica as the Council began. 

I once asked him about his experience at the Council and what, in those opening days, most of the Bishops thought it was all about.  He smiled at me, reached behind his desk and opened a worn paperback copy of Flannery. Flipping through the opening pages he opened to the Constitution on the Liturgy, that same first document which was promulgated a half century ago, and pointed to the opening words of the Sacrosanctum Concilium which stated a fourfold purpose:

to impart an ever-increasing vigor to the Christian life;

to adapt more closely to the needs of our age ;

to foster whatever can promote union among Christians;

to strengthen whatever needs to be fortified to bring all men and women to Christ's Church.

Vigor, Strength, Change, and Unity. An ambitious agenda, which I will suggest to you, my friends, as we approach the fiftieth anniversary of this document, we have just begun to understand.

1. Vigor

I remember where first I heard the word vigor. It was in those innocent pre-tabloidian days of my Massachusetts youth, when the word was pronounced vi-gah, and was used to describe all the bright-eyed hopes of the first Catholic president. I remember my grandmother, putting a Kennedy for President bumper sticker on my bicycle, and one thing I knew about it was that this name in blue letters: KENNEDY stood for hope, for growth, for newness and for all things bright and beautiful.

The Council calls for "a new vigor to meet present-day circumstances and needs" and that we are to "undertake with vigor the task of renewal and reform.” They call for synods and councils, gatherings of Bishops to coordinate this reform, in order that the renewal of Church life might “flourish with renewed vigor." The soul of every Christian can know this renewed vigor through silence and meditation, for the Word of God, the Sacred Scriptures are the "support and vigor" of the Church through which men and women are called to live a life of Christian witness and "a leaven in the world." (cf. SC 106)

Vigor is something which belongs to youth. Like the Psalmist's words I learned to pray as an altar boy at the foot of the altar: ad Deum qui laetificat iuvetentum meum.

And for all the criticism to which we may be liable, my friends, we set out in those postconciliar years sowing vigor with abandon. With a joy that's like the rain we sought to envigorate the liturgy like nobody's business. Not even a funeral was allowed to be sad—for we took Augustine at his word—there is no room for sadness here!!

Examples of joy
All this was rooted, albeit somewhat precariously at times, in the words of the Council Father, who told us that the Lord’s Day was do be observed as “a day of joy.' Religious were to advance in a life of holiness "with the joy of a hope that does not deceive,"  and what drives every Christian life should be an openness to "divine joy,"...the joy of always belonging to God...Filled with the joy which Christ will preserve in you even in the midst of trial, learn to face the future with confidence.” 

But listen more closely to these texts for just a moment if you will. Joy, vigor and unmitigated exaltation—they're all there. But what is their aim and what is their cause? Their source and summit, like the liturgy they characterize, is Christ. Without Christ there is no joy. Without Christ there is no center.  Article 9 of the Constitution on the Liturgy:

For the goal of apostolic endeavor is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of his Church, to take part in the Sacrifice and to eat the Lord's Supper.

Yet the joy we so often pursued in those post-conciliar years was, like the rain, here for a moment and then gone...a momentary pleasure, born of self-actualization and liturgy planning.  The joy of the well staged liturgy that moved people to tears. The vigorous joy of a choir on key or a reading well proclaimed or (even more rarely) a homily well preached!

All these things are very good—but dangerous. For the vigorous joys of youth are seductive. And absent a clear centeredness on Christ can lead us to strange places. 

It is not I who live, Saint Paul says, but Christ who lives in me. It is not I who accomplish all these things because I'm such a wonder, but Christ who does them because I have gotten out of his way. It is he who has (as the preface for the Saints says) "chosen the weak and made them strong" once again in me.

For what does it benefit a liturgy committee that the whole Easter Vigil go well, but I never get to pray in the process? What does it benefit an usher, that the place was hoppin but I was more concerned with finding the missing program than finding Christ. What does it benefit the priest if my whole parish is experiencing exemplary liturgies, but I have forgotten what it is like to pray.

So concerned can I become with imparting vigor and joy in other peoples' lives, that I fail to cultivate a deep and lasting joy it in my own. So concerned can I be at propagating a vigorous joy in my work, that I no longer find it in my life.

For how can I really give what I no longer possess?

Thus the vision which the Council invites us to embrace is one of vigor–but not the adolescent vigor which takes its joy where it can find it—but the fully formed vigor of the Christifideles laici who have come to know in their very depths that he in whom we live and move and have our being is the only place we can turn for the truly vigorous life.4

And thus the unfinished agenda of this new and very old vision of vigor in the life of the Church begins with an understanding that all worship is directed at and through Christ and that only by growing in relationship with him can we be enlivened and prepared for liturgical celebration and centering on Christ takes place not only on the outside, but most profoundly within.

2. Strength through Participation in the Liturgy

Have you ever heard a liturgist give a talk without mentioning full, conscious and active participation in the Liturgy.

But a vision of participation in the Divine liturgy requires an understanding of who is participating.

Well, it's me, of course–but who am I? I am a mind which must comprehend the prayers and scriptures and rites, a postured body which speaks on a deep and unarticulatable level through smell and movement and sound and sight. I am a heart which aches, rejoices and knows peace unlike the world can ever give. But the whole of me is greater than the sum of these parts. The whole of me is an animus, a soul, a being whom God knew in my mother's womb and who will be seen by him at the end of time. 

And when I bring my gift to the altar, it is always that gift of me, the totality of me, which I must bear. And when I prepare to ascend the mountain of the liturgy, it is me that I must make ready.

This is one boat I fear we have missed in the postconciliar reform of the Liturgy. For while we have spent much time arranging furniture and books and tell people where to stand and what to do—we have seldom spent much time or energy moving souls and hearts and people to be more like Christ, so that they might be joined with him  in the great sacrifice of praise which is the liturgy.

Nor is this an empty pious reflection, for I would suggest it is a vision largely unmet in the postconciliar reform as we have lived it. We have spent so much time on rewriting books and rearranging furniture that we have often forgotten that the business of liturgy is changing human hearts. Yet, it is interesting to note that the shortest article in the entire Constitution on the liturgy is the one dealing with texts. Most of the Constitution deals with the reform of people's hearts!

This is the kind of reform to which the great spiritual writers have called in the Church in various ages. It is the kind of reform described by Saint John of the Cross:

Within my flowering breast
which only for himself entire I save
He sank into his rest
and all my gifts I gave
lulled by the aims with which the cedars wave  

(Saint John of the Cross, translation by Roy Campbell, 1974)

I call you to a vision to make your heart, the heart of every Catholic, resplendent with the love of Christ. I call you to grow in him, to pray, to sacrifice, to become so like him that it is no longer you whom people see, but Christ who lives in you.

Hear article 14:

Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people, "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people" (1 Pet. 2:9, 4—5) have a right and obligation by reason of their baptism.

It goes on:

In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy to full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else, for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit. Therefore, in all their apostolic activity, pastors of souls should energetically set about achieving it through the requisite pedagogy.

What have we done concretely to assure that the average person in the pew is "deeply imbued with the spirit of the liturgy, each in his own measure, and they must be trained to perform their functions in a correct and orderly manner."? Have we even given lip service to the one factor the Council fathers rightly indicated could scuttle full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy?

And yet I have hope.  A hope born not of naiveté, but of faith in you who have given your life to the Church and her sacred Liturgy;

I call you to strength—a strength that is born at the heart of things and not on their surface: A vision that knows that for us "the human is directed toward and subordinated to the divine, the visible to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, the object of our quest." SC 2

3. Adaptation and Change

The third purpose the Council set for itself was to adapt to the needs of our age. 

And we set about adapting with an abandon. With full, conscious and active participation as the goal to be considered before all else, we have vernacularized and accessorized the liturgy at every turn.

We accomplished not only the first systematic reform of the liturgical books in four hundred years, we accomplished the very first reform based upon texts critiqued and contextualized by modern scientific methods. This enterprise met with uneven success (in terms both of the Latin editiones typicae and their vernacularization), yet it has provided us with a liturgy reformed by conscious criteria and not historical accident.

And now, as we near the end of the reform of the Latin typical editions, we take a second look at inculturation, adaptation and change.

How welcome such a mandate has been to us as Americans! We who embrace accessibility as a birthright! How dare they not let me in! It's my right! How dare he not tell me all bout the intern! It's my right to know!

But liturgical adaptation is not like customizing a car. No car is designed to change me—but the liturgy is destined for just such a purpose.

What's more, liturgical adaptation must be different in different cultures. Liturgical adaptation, as the Council fathers told us, must be more radical in non-Western cultures which do not share a "Roman" western European base. Joseph Jungmann understood this more than fifty years ago when he wrote:

The Liturgy itself must be adapted and suited to the people. For divine worship is the Liturgy of the Church, of the Church understood as the Christian people organized under the ecclesiastical hierarchy. 

But we must note well: the people who carry out the Liturgy are not in the first place this or that particular people with its peculiarities, its characteristic social tendencies and its national traits. Before anything else, they are the People of God. They are the plebs sancta, a holy people who have emerged form the baptismal waters...Hence the body of people who have been incorporated into the Liturgy is of supra-temporal and supra-national structure. And so the community prayer and the community chant found in the Liturgy contain, as is to be expected, a number of traits which have preference over all specifically national characteristics....In this sense and to this extent the contour of the liturgical forms, by which the Christian community is to live and pray and sing, is predetermined by the very nature of the Church considered in her totality, not of the Church as she appears in a particular time or place...”
Josef A. Jungmann, S.J. Liturgical Worship (Collegeville, 1941) 58-60.

So the second vision I propose embraces inculturation—first, the inculturation of us and our culture into the unique and inspired tradition of the Roman Rite and then, after a period of study and refection, an incorporation of the unique American Cultural forms (whatever they may turn out to be) into Roman liturgical expression as celebrated in our country.

4. Unity

The final purpose of the Council was unity among all Christians.

The disunity we have witnessed even in our Church today. Look at those Christians, see the awful things they write about one another.

And so I call you to a vision of unity. A vision which says that nothing is important save Christ. 

A vision which is humble.

A vision which kneels before the Church and promises true obedience and respect, not just to the bishop, but to every person whom we shall meet.

A vision which sees the bishop and the priesthood as the locus for all unity.`'

A vision which hears Christ's words on the dying lips of one pope and from the pen of another: ut unum sint! That they all might be one!

A vision which sees the bishop as the center of that unity. A vision like that of Ignatius of Antioch: should undertake nothing without the bishop and the presbyters. Do not attempt to persuade yourselves that what you do on your own account is right and proper, but when you meet together there must be one petition, one prayer, one mind, one hope in love and in holy joy, for Jesus Christ is one and perfect before all else.10

At worship, he says. you must be like the string of a lyre, each in harmony with the bishops. Hence it is that in the harmony of your minds and hearts Jesus Christ is hymned. Make of yourselves a choir, so that with one voice and one mind,

That's the vision of the Second Vatican Council in article 31:

The bishop is to be considered as the High Priest of his flock from whom the life in Christ of his faithful is in some way derived and upon whom it in some way depends. Therefore all should hold in the greatest esteem the liturgical life of the diocese centered around the bishop, especially in his cathedral church. They must be convinced that the principal manifestation of the Church consists in the full, active participation of all God's holy people in the same liturgical celebrations, especially in the same Eucharist, in one prayer, at one altar, at which the bishop presides, surrounded by his college of priests and by his ministers.

So I call you to a vision of unity. But a unity which, like the Roman rite itself, in every age and placed, embraces a certain people in a certain place with a certain hope and eternal tradition enshrined in her rites and prayers.

What does it mean to pray with the words of the Fathers?????

It means that the same Church which evangelized the Gauls and converted the Franks, which spoke the inmost hopes of Iberian pilgrims and Irish monks–this same rite is our heritage and our joy–a rite which we must proudly live and celebrate and treasure.


Vigor, Strength, Change and Unity.

That's a tall order. For it calls us to empty ourselves of all our own solutions and embrace only Christ and the perfect praise he gives to the Father from the wood of the cross. It means we must admit that none of our solutions and little of our work will be the definitive solution for the next generation.

And yet it is just such a faith that God who has chosen the weak and makes them strong will take care of his Church that first called us to be liturgists.

It's hard to be strong enough to be weak. It's doubly hard to admit our mistakes.

Never, ever, be afraid to admit your stupid mistakes. Your excesses, your insensitivity, your selfishness, your sin.

The vision I offer you is one of a church which could only be redeemed by the blood of the lamb. And of a people utterly dependent on his gratuitous mercy.

A vision of Conciliar Catholics—quick to repent and slow to judge, with whom negotiation is an instinct and compassion and hospitality a way of life.

A vision of a people

A people who gather and sing as one, but who sing their hearts out!

A people who gather to pray,
but to pray their deepest fears, hopes and desires.

A people who gather to hear the gospel, but then to live it in their lives.

A people gathered in the strength of the Church fully conscious of their need of God's mercy.

A people ready to change
but proud conservators of their rich heritage.

So, I call you to the vision of the Council Fathers.  It is the vision of innumerable Roman mosaics. It is the vision of Mrs. O'Leary who last month buried her husband. It is the vision of the Council Fathers who defined our vision in article eight of Sacrosanctum Concilium.

In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, Minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle. With all the warriors of the heavenly army we sing a hymn of glory to the Lord; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Savior, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until he our life shall appear and we too will appear with him in glory.  (Sacrosanctum concilium, no. 8)