In parish lectures I am frequently confronted by parents distraught over their children’s experiences in their Bible courses at colleges and universities across the country…..Read More here.
A few days ago we celebrated the optional memorial of St. John of God. Our pastor gave a marvelous homily that day, which inspired this post. One of the key connection points the pastor made was the connection St. John of God had with other Saints with whom I was more familiar. To be quite honest, I knew next to nothing about St. John of God. So I began to investigate his life, and what an amazing man of God, St. John of God was! I thought his life–as well as his spiritual connection to other Saints–made this a very appropriate topic for a post during Lent….especially as we approach the end of Lent.
St. John of God is best known for his many followers who eventually founded the Hospitallers, a religious institution focused on aiding the sick, suffering, and dying, among other services they now provide. They are still in existence today.
What I didn’t know was St. John of God’s late conversion in life. In many ways he was a prodigal of the Church. A baptized Catholic, like virtually all his family and friends, he was a public sinner, who sinned in countless ways. He wasn’t just known for one particular sin, but many. He was a soldier, but was particularly known for leading a life best described as completely “wild.” He was around 40 years old, or so, when he had his conversion. He found mercy rather late in life.
One of the most important but neglected spiritual practices is the daily general examination of conscience. No business would last very long without taking stock daily, calculating how much profit was made, etc., and there is no business more important than our soul. Socrates famously said that, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” We could say that an unexamined life is dangerous. It’s important to examine how we are doing fairly regularly in order to improve. When our goal is off in the distance, a little misdirection early in the journey–if it is not corrected–can spell disaster, landing us far off the mark.
The morning offering is a very traditional Catholic practice that seems to be neglected by so many Catholics I run into. Many have never heard of a morning offering. We’re already well into Lent, 2016, but I thought I’d post on this wonderful Catholic traditional prayer. There are numerous prayers that can be said as a morning offering, and you can google them, or find many different versions in Catholic prayer books. The specific form or words of the morning offering, is less important I think than the actual practice of praying the morning offering. The basic idea is simple. When you get up in the morning, you start your day by offering the entire day to God. You offer all of the joys and sufferings that will come that day, as well as all of your work and prayers, for God. Of course you can include other intentions, like for the Pope, your local bishop, etc. Offering your day to God first things is a great way to begin to sanctify your ordinary life. What better time than Lent to begin taking up this traditional Catholic practice. It’s a great way to start the day off right, and it only need take a few seconds. You can always renew the offering throughout the day as you offer specific tasks, or instances of suffering, to God. One of the best resources out there on the morning offering is Michael J. Ortiz’s fine book, Like the First Morning: The Morning Offering as a Daily Renewal. His book cover is the image I used at the top of this post. So let’s start our days off right this Lent, offering what lies ahead to God in advance as we get up to begin the day, facing all the challenges and joys and whatever else lies ahead.
My latest book just came out, Three Skeptics and the Bible: La Peyrère, Hobbes, Spinoza, and the Reception of Modern Biblical Criticism, and is now available from Amazon.com for those interested. It details an important part of the history of modern biblical criticism, showing the political and historical developments that began to lead to a more skeptical treatment of biblical interpretation, like that found so often on t.v. today and in university classrooms across the globe. I’m currently working on a much broader work of the same topic, bringing it into the 20th century.
I once spoke to a teen that wanted to convert to Catholicism. I began by asking her a question, “What does it mean to be Catholic?” Thinking I was the wise teacher and eager to guide her in the faith, I was surprised that her answer would ultimately be a source of learning for myself. She responded, “What it means to be Catholic means to be more and more who we are, who we are called to be, and to be more human.” I wonder what it would mean to the girl if I asked what it means to be married? I surmise her answer might be, “To be married means to become more and more who they were created to be, namely, to be love.”
This is the mission of the married couple. Their mission is rooted and grounded in love, the love of God for them ultimately expressed through the sacrifice of Christ. This love that is given to them through their mere creation is expressed to the world through their mutual, total, life-giving love. They are to be a reflection of Christ’s love for His Church. “And since in God’s plan it has been established as an ‘intimate community of life and love,’ the family has the mission to become more and more what it is, that is to say, a community of life and love in an effort that will find fulfillment, as will everything created and redeemed, in the kingdom of God.”
Debates over music in the Mass dig deep in the dirt of our deepest feelings. So often such disagreements are not grounded in the Church’s doctrine about what liturgical music is and what its purpose is. Here are just a few reflections on the necessity of connecting what is sung with the liturgical text. I often think that if we at least could agree that the liturgical text itself should be sung our disagreements could at least begin at the same point.
Primacy of the Text
Sacred music unites “sacred song…to the words” (SC 112) of Christ’s divine liturgy wherein “God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified” (SC 7). Sacred music, by its nature, is music that has been “created for the celebration of divine worship,” (MS 4) and therefore not just with the sacred text in mind, but primarily for the sacred text. Though singing is itself important (as in the adage about the one who sings well praying twice), the main place is to be given to “singing the liturgical text” (VL 40). Truly, many liturgical texts were “composed with the intention of their being sung” (LA 60). Sacred music is the servant of the liturgy, not vice versa (see TLS 22–23). Tra le Sollecitudini makes clear that the “principal office” of sacred music is to