In Part I of this post, we left the Holy Father’s homily at the point where he touched upon the elements of the sacraments as being elements of creation. For the rest of the homily, then, the Pope focuses primarily on olives and olive oil, for indeed the Chrism Mass is about the blessing of the oils for the sacraments. First, the Pontiff explains the early Christian meaning assocaited with olives. The olive tree and oil itself were recognized as symbols of peace; early Christians often decorated tombs with olive branches, knowing that the “Christ conquered death and that their dead were resting in the peace of Christ. They knew that they themselves were awaited by Christ, that he had promised them the peace which the world cannot give”.
Living in the Eternal City for a semester of studies has been and continues to be an incredible opportunity. Particularly, experiencing Holy Week here will always be a memory. While every event of the week—especially within Easter Triduum—is worth reflecting over in words, Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday touched me in a special way: to be precise, I was touched anew by, in the first place, Pope Benedict XVI’s love and wisdom, and secondly, by the reverence, simplicity, and power of the Catholic Liturgy.
This will be the first of a two-part post. Both posts will incorporate parts of the Mass, but their overall focus will be on the theology of Benedict XVI, in his Chrism Mass homily. Thus, the content of this post is a synthesis of reflection and theological analysis.
As I sat in my seat in the grand basilica of Saint Peter’s, I awaited the entrance of the Supreme Pontiff and the beginning of the Divine Liturgy. The music began, the choir of–what sounded like–angels filled the cosmic space of the temple with heavenly sound. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI began to walk down the nave of the basilica to approach the sacred altar, the place of the feast of feasts. Before him were seminarians, some priests, and the initial object that began the procession: Christ on the Cross, the center of the Mass. As he walked down the aisle, the whole congregation experienced a sort of joyful anticipation, as they were about to experience the synthesis of the local church and the universal church headed by the Bishop of Rome.
My background is in theology and in nonprofit business/administration. As such, I have sought ways to combine the best business practices within ministry. And, with that in mind, I have wanted to “measure” what makes a successful parish. What can we examine and evaulate to deem that a parish is doing well and another is not. Or are we just to throw everything up to, “We will see the fruits in heaven?” There are many things we can analyze: offertory, mass attendance, number of baptisms and weddings, etc. While these would give us some perspective into the success of the parish, I think that they can be attributed (good or bad) to other factors outside of the parishes control. And, in some cases, I think these are additional by-products or secondary measurements caused by good catechesis and evangelization.
The two measurable areas that I think one could use to gauge a successful parish are the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life and the size of ones Rite of Christian Initiation Program (R.C.I.A.).
Life Rosary – Meditations and Prayers is a meditation and instructive aid for those praying the Rosary. It does NOT replace your Rosary beads, but rather helps you focus on the mysteries of the Rosary.
Fr. Frank Pavone from Priests for Life has shared additional prayers and meditations to compliment and focus your attention on life and human dignity. Each day of the week includes special prayers for mothers, the unborn, for forgiveness, governments, and the world.
Our Pro-Life Rosary app is priced at $1 to help raise money for pro-life causes. All of the proceeds go to support pro-life initiatives and organizations, including Priests for Life. Our first iPhone app is free and was downloaded 25,000 times in 6 months. With your help in promoting this latest app, we could raise $25,000 or more for pro-life initiatives this year!
Screenshots from Life Rosary – Meditations and Prayers
Each image is linked to a higher resolution version for press and sharing with friends.
Next up in the Lent for Life series is Prayer.
The USCCB’s Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities encourages us, alongside the Scriptures, to petition the Lord for mercy and justice.
Prayer is the foundation of all that we do in defense of human life. Our efforts—whether educational, pastoral, or legislative—will be less than fully fruitful if we do not change hearts and if we do not ourselves overcome our own spiritual blindness. Only with prayer—prayer that storms the heavens for justice and mercy, prayer that cleanses our hearts and our souls—will the culture of death that surrounds us today be replaced with a culture of life.1
I’d like to focus on three points in the pastoral plan that every one of us can take action.
Pray for life at every Mass
Parishes should include in the petitions at every Mass a prayer that ours will become a nation that respects and protects all human life, born and unborn, reflecting a true culture of life.2
As a new Catholic I was impressed by the prayers for life offered daily at Mass. If your parish does not participate in this request from the USCCB, please consider adding it to the book of petitions or speak with your pastor about including prayers for life at every Mass.
Lent is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting to prepare us for the hope-filled death and Resurrection of our Lord. This can include giving something up (think chocolate and television, not exercise and vegetables), or focusing more intently on a particular spiritual discipline (i.e. Lectio Divina or the Rosary). Lent (like Advent) can be a great time to build a habit that continues throughout the rest of the year.
For me, as I received the mark of ashes today, I’m particularly filled with a deep repentance for my apathy for the unborn. It’s not for lack of belief, but rather my belief has come with little action. But as St. John tells us in his first epistle, we ought to be concerned when our belief does not love with actions and truth.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-18)
In my last post, I discussed that evangelization goes to the essence of who the Church is as Church. The missionary mandate that Christ gives is not something added to the nature of the Church; the Church is missionary in its very nature. It is intrinsic to who we are and thus evangelization has an ontological focus. It is, in the words of Ad Gentes, a “universal sacrament of salvation.” And, as a Church we need to constantly be of renewal and a visible witness to the salvific love of Christ. We also need to proclaim the “good news” of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection.
I wanted to emphasis our need to “share” our faith because I do believe that for many within the Catholic Church, this is a foreign concept. We have come to view evangelization as simply doing good and being good. The sense that we need to articulate and express our faith is a stretch for many within the Church. There are many reasons for this due to confusions regarding questions of salvation, Rahner’s “anonymous Christian,” grace versus nature, the necessity of the Church for salvation, and what about those people who never hear or come to know Jesus. These questions are just a sampling of some of the underpinnings that need to be explained for the Catholic faithful to again capture the evangelization fervor of Pentecost.
Do you know what is the nature of the Church? You might come up with various answers, but when the Church asks who are we at our very nature, it responds–missionary.1 Evangelization is at the core of who we are as Church–to go out!
Orthodoxy is necessary for evangelization to occur. Without it, one hasn’t anything to share, but their own conjecture and opinion. Without orthodoxy, there is nothing to share, and no need to share it. For evangelization to have meaning there is a necessary precursor of catholicity (right thinking-truth, fullness of faith and universal mission). Evangelization is about conversion of hearts, leading others to Christ through word and proclamation, into his visible body, the Church.
My dear friend Taylor Marshall has recently published a fantastic new book entitled: The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity. This is a book for anyone interested in understanding Catholic teachings and practices more, and particularly their biblical and Jewish roots. The book is clear and accessible to a wide range of readers, and it is beautifully written. Its orientation is certainly popular, but the scholarship that went into producing this text is apparent in the text itself as well as in the endnotes which conclude each chapter. I would recommend this book to both Catholics and non-Catholics. It is a quick and enjoyable read (I had difficulty putting it down when I first began reading it—I’ve read it twice already and am looking forward to reading it a third time when I am able).
The Crucified Rabbi is available for only $14.95 from Amazon.com. Marshall’s book encompasses a wide-range of topics exploring their OT and Jewish roots: Jesus’ messiahship; Mary as Queen mother of the fulfilled Davidic kingdom (the Church); the papacy; Catholic view of baptism; the Mass and the Eucharist; Catholic priesthood; priestly vestments; cathedrals; parishes; monasticism; Catholic views on marriage; holy days and the liturgical calendar; Saints; and the afterlife. His book also includes a very helpful appendix which lists over 300 OT passages Marshall believes Jesus fulfilled in His NT life and mission. His bibliography includes both useful scholarly and popular works for further reading. This book is a must read.
In the Catholic Church, Masses are celebrated every day of the year (except Good Friday when only Communion Services are held), and from the Lectionary, Bible passages are read, on a liturgical cycle, every day at these liturgical celebrations [the readings for the day may be found here. My wife and I used to be members of an adult education group at our old parish in Dayton, Ohio, which hosts short reflections on each of the day’s readings [available here]. My wife and I each still usually write two reflections a week for their website. I try to provide points of application at the end of my reflections. Often, I’ve had people come up to me and ask how we lay people are supposed to put some of these applications into practice: how are we to pray continually? How are we to share our faith? How can we devote our lives to serving others day-to-day? I’ve often encountered objections like the following: sure, I could pray continually if I were a monk or nun in a monastery. Sure, I could share my faith with others if I were a full-time missionary, like a religious brother or sister in some foreign country. Sure, I could devote my life to service if I were a Franciscan. But what about those of us who stay at home all day with children? What about those of us who work long hours in our various occupations, with computers or in manual labor or in other professions?