If you are actively discerning a vocation to the Priesthood, Diaconate, Consecrated Life, or Marriage and you are looking for information to help in your discernment, BE SURE TO CHECK the section at the bottom of the right sidebar for the "labels" on all posts. By clicking on one of these labels it will take you to a page with all posts containing that subject. You will also find many links for suggested reading near the bottom of the right sidebar. Best wishes and be assured of my daily prayers for your discernment.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

***VIDEO*** Interview with Sr. Mary Jordan Hoover, OP, Principal of the New High School in Virginia

Foxnews interviewed Sr. Mary Jordan Hoover, OP of the Nashville Dominicans about the opening of the new John Paul the Great High School in the Diocese of Arlington. Despite the strange intro conversation between the cohosts to start the segment, the interview is decent. You can watch the video here.

For more information on this story see my previous post below.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More on "Traditional" Vocations

From The Catholic Herald

The return of the tonsure, wimple and soutane

With the quiet support of the Pope, France is seeing an explosion of traditional religious communities, says Elisabeth von Thurn und Taxis

We are often told that the Church has to modernise, because the young, especially, can no longer relate to its teachings. It is sometimes even suggested that we should be grateful for a decline in vocations to priesthood: could this not be a sign from the Holy Spirit that the age of the laity is finally dawning?

This eagerness to make a virtue out of a necessity finds its most radical conclusion in a booklet entitled Church and Ministry published in the Netherlands by a group of Dominican academics. One of them, Fr André Lascaris, recently explained his thesis in the Tablet.

Numbers of vocations to the priesthood in Holland are plummeting, and according to Fr Lascaris there is “no hope of a remedy for this situation”. Apart from his own remedy, of course. His proposal is clear and simple: “In the absence of ordained priests, lay persons should be allowed to celebrate the Eucharist.” He adds: “Whether they be men or women, homo or heterosexual, married or unmarried, is irrelevant.”

The beauty of all this, according to Fr Lascaris, is that it is “based on the statements of the Second Vatican Council, and on publications of professional theologians and pastoral experts”.
Did the Second Vatican Council really say that? Are we really supposed to believe that the Holy Spirit deliberately manufactured a crisis in vocations, just to make way for the establishment of a new age of laity?

Of course, we laity have an essential role in the Church’s evangelisation. We have the awesome responsibility of carrying the message of Jesus Christ to our contemporaries who are searching. If falling vocations force us to acknowledge this, and to act on it, then the Holy Spirit will indeed have brought much fruit from any current crisis.

But perhaps Fr Lascaris’s Brave New Church of feminists concelebrating Mass in rainbow-coloured jilabas is not the only remedy to declining numbers of priests. A beautifully illustrated new book on the religious life in France suggests that there might be another solution. Reading the two books side by side you might be forgiven for assuming that the authors belong to two completely different religions.

If the photographs in Les communautés traditionnelles en France are anything to go by, then just across the Channel there lies a whole rich seam of Catholic religious life that is young, vibrant and growing.

In addition to youthfulness and success, there are two other common features that unite the communities featured in this book. One is that they all have the extraordinary form of the Roman liturgy – the “traditional” rites liberated by Pope Benedict XVI’s recent Motu Proprio – as the heart and foundation of their spirituality. The other is that many of them long enjoyed the steadfast, if unofficial support, of a certain well-placed cardinal in Rome. His name was Joseph Ratzinger.

There is no gain without pain and most of these 18 communities have at some stage suffered from misunderstanding and prejudice. Before the Motu Proprio there was often intense pressure from unsympathetic ecclesiastical authorities to abandon all adherence to the “old rite”. But when the going was particularly rough, the abbots, prioresses and rectors of these institutes were sustained by the knowledge that they had an influential friend in Rome – a friend who is now reigning as Pope Benedict XVI.

Every pope has to be father to the whole Church. But looking through this book it does appear that the current incumbent of the See of Peter has a particular affection for his children of the traditionalist movement. On one page there is Cardinal Ratzinger swathed in full Tridentine pontificals, processing into a traditionalist seminary in Bavaria; on another he poses with tonsured monks in their cloister in Provence; elsewhere, we find him presiding at a conference promoting the traditional liturgy at the Benedictine Abbey of Fontgombault.

Another indication of papal approval can be found in this book’s enthusiastic preface by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, one of the Pope’s most loyal collaborators and head of the Vatican’s Ecclesia Dei commission, which is charged with looking after traditionalist communities in communion with Rome. Cardinal Castrillon makes no excuse for this book’s coffee-table format. “Go and teach all people,” Jesus said to his disciples; in order to do this effectively in the modern world, says the cardinal, we need to make good use of images.

Looking at these particular images it is not difficult to understand just why the Pope and his right-hand cardinal have invested so much hope in these communities. Whether it is Solemn Vespers in a great baroque abbey, or low Mass celebrated on a rock in a clearing for scouts, the liturgical celebrations depicted in this book are all beautiful and dignified. The average age of the monks, nuns, friars and priests and seminarians is also remarkably young. According to Cardinal Castrillon, this should not surprise us. The message that these communities pursue is the message of Jesus Christ. This message is eternal, and therefore forever young.

These intriguing photographs invite us to enter into another world. Despite the obvious challenges implicit in a daily life circumscribed by rules and traditions, the subjects of these communities look remarkably happy. The text often talks of sacrifice and self-surrender, but the pictures show young faces that are smiling and

It would be foolish to allow glossy photographs to carry us into the realm of romanticism. No doubt the world, the flesh and the devil pose as many challenges to the religious life as they ever did. But there are no signs in this book of any of those particularly modern crises that seem to have dogged Catholic religious life in recent decades.

There is certainly no hint of any crisis of clerical identity. These young clerics do not rely on jeans or Che Guevara T-shirts to make them feel connected to the youth; rather, it is the authenticity of their life that seems to make that connection. We see seminarians effortlessly skiing through the alps in long black soutanes, while nuns in crisply starched wimples gather hay in the fields outside Marseilles. At the high point of the traditionalist calendar – the annual Pentecost pilgrimage to Chartres – thousands of young pilgrims walk behind priests, monks and friars on the three-day march from Paris. Carrying crosses and banners, they all look very glad, and proud, to be Catholic.

Neither is there any evidence of a decline in vocations. The story of the Benedictine convent of Jouques is typical. Since its foundation near Aix en Provence in 1967 this community has attracted so many vocations to its novitiate that it has been necessary to open daughter houses elsewhere in France and in Africa to house the overspill.

Two of the Jouques nuns have also been commandeered to live in a convent in the grounds of the Vatican, as a result of a request made by Cardinal Ratzinger before his election to the papacy. The 55 young nuns who remain in the mother house in Provence have become famous for their angelic singing of the daily office in Latin. At harvest time they can be found negotiating combines around the stony fields of their farm.

The monks of Le Barroux, north of Avignon, still wear the corona – the full monastic tonsure depicted in medieval woodcuts and books of hours. After humble beginnings in a caravan in 1970 this community now worships in a mighty abbey church which the monks built themselves in the form of a Romanesque basilica. In the early hours of the morning, this building hums like a holy beehive as the many priest-monks celebrate their private Mass at side altars, served by novices and lay brothers. The extensive choirstalls here are now so full that this monastery has been able to spare a detachment of young monks to found a daughter house not far from Toulouse.

All of the institutes featured in the book are run on strictly traditional principles. But this does not make them old-fashioned. Rather, it gives them a timelessness that many young people are finding increasingly attractive. Some of the communities are contemplative, but many are active. A good example is the Institute of Christ the King. From its picturesque Renaissance villa outside Florence “The Institute” has gradually grown into a global conglomerate. In addition to serving parishes in France and America, it also runs several missionary stations in Africa.

The Regular Cannonesses of the Mother of God, meanwhile, maintain a fine balance between the vocations of Mary and Martha. It is through contemplative adoration of the Blessed Sacrament that they gain the spiritual energy required in their work of educating young girls and tending the old and the sick. Their convent at Gap has grown rapidly in numbers in the last couple of years, attracting young girls from all over France.

The recent Motu Proprio confirms what these communities have known all along: that the traditional Mass never was, and never really could be, abrogated. In his explanatory letter accompanying this decree the Holy Father stated that the extraordinary form of the liturgy is not just for an older generation that found innovation difficult to cope with. He wrote: “It has been clearly demonstrated that young persons, too, have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mysteries of the Most Holy Eucharist particularly suited to them.”

Perhaps Pope Benedict had a copy of this book open on his desk while he composed this letter. A huge percentage of those in these pictures look as if they would be far too young to remember anything of the liturgical upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s. Most of them look as if they were born after the introduction of the Missal of Pope Paul VI in 1970.

Venez et voyez says the cover of this fascinating book, quoting the words of Our Lord: “Come and see.” It is an invitation not to be declined. If there is really a crisis in vocations, Les communautés traditionelles en France might contain the seeds of a solution that is challenging, attractive and, in its own way, really rather radical.

Elisabeth von Thurn und Taxis is a writer and

La Nef, Hors-série N° 20, Av: Les communautés
traditionnelles en France is available from www.Amazon.fr

Hat tip to Good Jesuit, Bad Jesuit for finding this article

Monday, November 26, 2007

Discernment Meditation from the Sisters of Life

Anyone who desires to and has not yet visited the Sisters of Life, their next Come & See retreat will be March 13-16, 2008. If you are interested, please call Sr. Mary Gabriel or Sr. Kathrine Marie at 718.863.2264 to get more information.


“Blessed by your sacrifice, strong in your love, O Christ, our grateful voices to you we raise…” So began, in glorious harmony, the recessional song of our community’s Thanksgiving Day Mass.

On this weekend, most people take time to acknowledge the many ways in which they are blessed; they recognize what they have been given and offer thanks through prayer, leisure with family and friends, and by helping the needy.

What does it mean to be blessed? To consider oneself “blessed” still connects to the holy for most people. It means receiving Divine favor, it means receiving good things. But the original meaning of the word “blessing” meant to be sprinkled with blood, as in the Old Testament, and therefore sanctified and brought into a sacred covenant with God (cf. Exodus 24:8). Like all things of God, a blessing is relational. To be blessed by God - to be given something by Him - is to be brought into relationship with Him. And that is the greatest reason to give thanks.

Thanksgiving for the Christian, the Catholic, is an everyday event, a crucial event. “Thanksgiving” is what the word “Eucharist” means. The Lord Jesus has made Himself for us a perpetual “thanksgiving” to the Father. It is He who has brought us reconciliation - a relationship of peace- with our Father in heaven. It is He who has made it possible for us to not only receive the love of the Father into eternity, but for us to respond to such abundant love with the gift of ourselves. It is He who makes our thanks to God meaningful.

This is so stunning a reality that it requires a certain drawing back in the midst of the recognition of our many blessings to contemplate the means through which they were made possible: through the Blood of Jesus. Our blessings are true because there is still a sprinkling of blood. We are blessed by His sacrifice. Jesus’ self-offering in love is for each of us the fulfillment of all God’s promises; the gateway to His and, through Him, our, resurrection. And thus we memorialize His Paschal mystery and offer Him to the Father at each Mass. Having received the blessing of God in Jesus, we are free to offer ourselves, in blessing, to the Father. The Catechism tells us that “when applied to man, the word "blessing" means adoration and surrender to his Creator in thanksgiving” (# 1078).

Only in the context of a loving relationship, a blessed relationship, with our Lord, are we able to surrender our very lives, our natural desires, our plans into His hands in following a vocation. Only in such a context are we able to become truly Eucharistic, saying to the Lord and to the Church: “This is my body, given for you…”

It’s easy to surrender to God, to give Him our “all” in the midst of consolation. But these moments pass. Each of us also knows moments when it’s not so easy; when we’re inclined to sorrow, distrust, or rebellion, even if hidden in one’s mind and heart. These dark times can cause us to distrust our own desires to love and serve the Lord. They can cause us to suffer spiritual memory loss of the many ways Jesus has revealed His amazing love to us. They can cause us to retreat from previous and authentic resolutions to surrender all into His loving hands.

But these moments of poverty are powerful opportunities for growth! When we choose to offer ourselves in love to the Lord during these times, we can be sure that it is truly ourselves we offer Him, and even the littlest gift made in darkness becomes most genuine, most meaningful. Our relationship with the Lord, our blessing, is still true, even if we don’t feel its reality. So what do we do? When discouraged, don’t run from your prayer life, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Be faithful and even more diligent in generosity. Take the time to be attentive to how much you have received, and make a litany of thanksgiving (for everything from family and friends to education and housing to your favorite Chinese food) to God. Recognize that even the difficult times are part of His blessing. Our Lord knows how much you have to give, and He praised the widow’s mite. Don’t be afraid to offer Him your own two pennies.

We have been blessed by the sacrifice of Christ, our King. As we began this weekend conscious of His gifts, we end it conscious of His Lordship. The sovereign One has handed Himself over to be emptied and broken for us that we might be blessed, healed. He has entered our lives, He walks with us, He makes our offering worthy. As we ponder the majesty of His Kingship, as we prepare for the humility of His Advent, let us surrender everything to Him without fear. He leads the way. May Jesus Christ be praised.

Seminarians Begin Learning Gregorian Chant

MARGUERITE MULLEE DUNCAN, music director at Holy Apostles College and Seminary, guides seminarian Scott McKee through a Gregorian chant lesson recently. McKee, from Albuquerque, N.M., is studying for the priesthood at Holy Apostles in Cromwell. "It's deeply spiritual," McKee said of Gregorian chant. "There are people who listen to chant and are not Catholic, but they feel something in it that touches them." (MARK MIRKO / November 15, 2007)

And The Chant Goes On
By Charles Proctor
Staff Writer - The Hartford Courant
November 24, 2007

On Thursday nights they gather here, in this basement classroom with whitewashed walls, a banged-up piano and a wooden crucifix perched above the chalkboard.

They are five men, four in black suit jackets and white collared shirts and one in the slate gray habit of a friar. They come from places like South Dakota, Kansas City and California. All want to be priests.

With their teacher and the rows of empty chairs as their audience, they fill their lungs with air and sing the sonorous chants that are centuries upon centuries old.

Or try to sing them. Tongues trip over lyrics crafted in a dead language. Their lungs give out under syllables meant to be held for seven, sometimes 10 seconds.

But the men, all seminarians at Holy Apostles College and Seminary, are devoted to it. This is a class in Gregorian chant, one of the world's oldest musical traditions.

And, as any of its disciples would tell you, there's nothing quite like it in the world.

"It's supremely beautiful. It's deeply spiritual," said Scott McKee, 46, a member of the class who is from Albuquerque, N.M. "There are people who listen to chant and are not Catholic, but they feel something in it that touches them."

Gregorian chant has been a part of the Catholic Church's heritage for over a millennium, written in a Latin text with tones that rise and fall to a cadence formed before the ninth century. There are enclaves in Connecticut where it is still practiced regularly.

But classes in the ancient art are rare. Yale has held them and plans to again next year. Specialists traveling in the state sometimes host chant seminars.

The class at Holy Apostles is unique in that it trains future priests both how to chant and how to teach it to the laity. Students learn to conduct and compose. This year's midterm, for instance, asked students to write their own chants.

The goal is to graduate seminarians who will safeguard and spread an age-old church tradition, one that scholars say was, until the 1980s, in serious danger of tumbling into irrelevance.

"We are the Latin rite Roman Catholic Church," said the Very Rev. Douglas Mosey, president and rector of Holy Apostles. "We don't want the parishes to lose their rich Latin heritage. We don't want our language and our music to just drop out of consciousness."

The most recent threat to chant came, inadvertently, from the church itself, experts said. In the early 1960s, the Second Vatican Council decreed that priests could incorporate the vernacular, or native language, into the liturgy.

Suddenly, pastors in Latin America could lead prayers in Spanish. Priests in Uganda could celebrate the Mass in Swahili. Meanwhile, ceremonies performed in the traditional Latin declined in popularity. And Gregorian chant went with it.

In addition, groups that wanted the church to adopt more progressive ideas encouraged it to shed some of its orthodox roots. Latin became synonymous with everything that was inaccessible and outdated about the church.

"The Latin liturgy and the chant unfortunately become a game of political football," said Margot Fassler, professor of music history and liturgy at the Yale Divinity School.

The trend began to turn around in the last two decades, when traditionalists rallied to reintroduce the Latin Mass and chant.

They found an unexpected ally in the New Age movement. People interested in spirituality and meditation sent the album "Chant," recorded by the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos in Spain, to the No. 3 spot on the Billboard charts in the 1990s. Suddenly, Gregorian chant had rock-star status.

Most recently, Pope Benedict XVI in July gave parishes the autonomy to decide whether to celebrate the Mass in Latin. The announcement paved the way for more priests to bring Latin back into the church.

The upshot has been an increased interest in chant today among the laity, especially youths, said Marguerite Mullée Duncan, Holy Apostles' music director and professor of liturgical music who teaches the chant class.

"There is a hunger for it," she said. "People realize that this is not a museum piece. This is a living art form."

Mullée Duncan has taught chant at Holy Apostles for nine years now. She also leads chant seminars around the state, and this summer plans to take a small group to a chant workshop in Barga, Italy.

Given the amount of ground she has to cover, her chant classes at Holy Apostles tend to evolve into part vocal coaching, part music theory and part language.

At a recent session, for instance, the students spent several minutes debating whether the "h" in Latin is pronounced. (Consensus: It isn't.)

Of course, the class's emphasis is still mostly on singing. Mullée Duncan opens every class by singing a simple Latin invocation: "Benedicamus domino." Let us bless the Lord.

To which the students sing back: "Deo gratias." Thanks be to God.

What happens next varies from class to class. The students sometimes sing as a group with either Mullée Duncan or another student leading them. Other times, students troop to the front of the room one by one and sing individually.

Occasionally, Mullée Duncan will accompany a singer on piano to help him find the right tune. More often, she watches from a corner and praises, cajoles and critiques. But she doesn't hesitate to take more hands-on measures.

At a recent class, when one of her students struggled to get the right rhythm, she stood behind him, gripped his right arm and swept it up and down as he sang.

"I know it's odd to be singing and have someone grab your arm," Mullée Duncan apologized to the student afterward. But it seemed to work.

The students, who range in age from late 20s to late 40s, cheerfully plunge into the unfamiliar music. They know that when they become priests, singing will be a necessary part of their duties.

Not that that makes it easier. Especially because many of Mullée Duncan's students readily admit they have had almost no musical training.

"It's hard," said Steve Jones, 48, from Thousand Oaks, Calif. "This is an older modality of music, and you have to first learn how to hear that. It's very different from the music I grew up with."

To make the ancient and alien familiar, Mullée Duncan draws analogies to the everyday. When conducting chant, she tells her students, their arm should move like pulling taffy. When singing it, the words and tones should flow like maple syrup, she says.

Her students race to digest that before their final exam on Dec. 6, which will be a public performance by the class of the "O Antiphons," a traditional chant usually sung the week before Christmas.

They also try to cram chant into whatever time their schedules allow. Some meet daily before 6 a.m. to practice. In the evening, they will often seek out spots on campus to stretch their vocal cords, not always an easy task given Holy Apostles' relatively small size.

"The stairwell in the dorms is pretty good," offered Brother Daniel Williamson, 35, a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, during one class. "The acoustics are great."

But, added McKee, "We don't really have a place we can go and just belt it out."

Except for this classroom on Thursday nights, where the five men sing chant to the empty chairs and the cross-bound Christ figure on the wall.

To see video of Holy Apostles College and Seminary's Gregorian chant class, visit www.courant.com/gregorian

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Nashville Dominicans to Run New High School in Virginia

Buzzworthy Sisters in Habits Headed to Va. School
Nashville Dominicans Known for Youth, Adherence to Traditions

By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 25, 2007; A01

People wait an hour in line to talk with her, pack standing room only into a bar to hear her, and some even squeal when they see her, this woman in a sister's habit.

She is Sister Mary Jordan Hoover, principal of Northern Virginia's first new Catholic high school in two decades, a $60 million state-of-the-art project that will open in Dumfries next fall. At a time when it's possible to count on one hand the number of Catholic secondary schools that open each year in the nation, her arrival in Virginia represents good news for supporters of Catholic schools.

But the cheery 42-year-old brings another major layer of buzz to the Arlington Diocese because she is a member of the Nashville Dominicans, rock stars in the world of Catholic religious orders. Although the number of religious sisters in the United States has plunged since the 1960s, resulting in an average age of about 70, there has been an increase in recent years among traditional, habit-wearing orders, including the Nashville-based Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, which has 226 members and a median age of 35. It recently raised $46 million to expand its chapel because the sisters were spilling into the hall.

In her floor-length white habit with black veil and a rosary around her waist, Hoover is the picture of affirmation for traditional dioceses, including Arlington's.

And that makes her a hot property. With a stated mission of teaching, the Nashville Dominicans get letters and phone calls almost daily from dioceses across the country, asking that they send their youthful -- and overtly devout -- vibe to one school or another.

"The bishops are circling Nashville," said Timothy McNiff, schools superintendent in the Arlington Diocese, who introduced Hoover at an open house in Woodbridge this month for the new school, which will be called Pope John Paul the Great Catholic High School. Officials have a target enrollment of 475 next fall for the four-year school.

More than 150 people came to what was about the 20th such event in the past couple of months, including one in a packed Irish pub in Alexandria. McNiff himself has been to Nashville six times.

There is little detailed research on women who join Catholic religious orders -- called "women religious," "sisters" or often "nuns," although technically that means a woman who is cloistered. Although traditional orders make up a small slice of the pie, they are where the growth is.

"This generation is more conventional in their outlook and more traditional in values," said Brother Paul Bednarczyk, executive director of the National Religious Vocations Conference. "Given the relativity of our culture, they really want to know what it means to be Catholic, and symbols -- like habits -- speak to them deeply. They want people to know they have made this radical choice."

Some experts say the growth of traditional groups is because their work goals of teaching and nursing, for example, have remained clear; they haven't strayed as much as more progressive orders into a broader array of careers where they often live and work alone, apart from their sisters. Others say they are the natural result of Pope John Paul II's papacy, during which the church refocused on its orthodox roots after the social turbulence of the 1960s and '70s. Some think their meditative lifestyles are simply more attractive in an era of nonstop communication.

Regardless, a sister in a habit makes clear what is unique about Catholic schools at a time when there are hundreds of thousands fewer students there than a decade ago.

"If Catholic schools don't look any different and use the same textbooks and have the same teachers and the same standards, why have them?" asked Sister Patricia Wittberg, a sociologist at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis who studies religious orders. One way to distinguish yourself is "to get a bunch of women in habits in there. They are icons of Catholicity in a diocese that wants Catholicity."

The Nashville Dominicans stick out even within the traditional group because their identity has been so solid, said Michael Wick, executive director of the Institute on Religious Life, which is affiliated with the conservative Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. They have never veered from teaching, and they move to new cities in groups so they can stick to their schedule: wake at the same time, pray and chant together three times a day, meditate together, eat together in silence. Their reputation is of being upbeat and young; promotional material shows them playing soccer and walking on the beach.

"They have always been clear as to what their identity is as a community and how it's expressed. If you diversify your ministry so much, it's hard to say what your community does," Wick said. "And young attracts young. I think other [traditional orders] are learning from them."

The Nashville Dominicans' growth started about 15 years ago. At the time, about three or four women would join each year. Since then, the number has jumped to about 10 to 15. From 1965 to 2000, the most recent year for which data are available, the number of women religious in the country dropped 54 percent to about 80,000.

The audience at the recent high school open house was stirred to applaud after McNiff rattled off some of the features of the new school: a glass-walled cafeteria with "bistro-style seating" overlooking the woods, 11 life-size statues of saints, three athletic fields, a 500-seat auditorium. "But all of this would be for naught if we didn't have adults who are willing to wear their faith on their sleeves," he said in introducing Hoover to loud applause.

The school will be the single largest expenditure of Bishop Paul S. Loverde's eight-year tenure. The money will come from bonds, a capital campaign that has raised $12.5 million so far and fundraising. The land, worth $14.5 million, was given to the diocese and isn't included in the $60 million cost. Construction is expected to continue into next summer.

Arlington is an exception to the national norm, with its school enrollment increasing 15 percent over the past decade to 18,500 students, due in part to population growth in the region. Diocesan officials say this helped them attract Hoover, a trumpet-playing sports fan who was once a resident assistant in a college dorm, and two other sisters from Nashville.

Arlington also has what is considered one of the nation's more conservative dioceses and was one of only two -- along with Lincoln, Neb. -- to ban female altar servers until Loverde lifted the ban last year.

Religious sisters and brothers and priests haven't vanished from Catholic schools: There are 42 out of 1,200 full-time professional staffers in the Arlington Diocese's school system. Nationally, the percentage is about 4.4 percent, according to the National Catholic Education Association.

But the religious life is remote to most American Catholics. When Hoover gave a lecture in August at Pat Troy's Ireland's Own pub in Old Town Alexandria to a group of young Catholics, she went through the basics of how sisters differ from nuns, what a habit is, what it means to be chaste. "It means to give our entire being to the Lord. We don't become neutered; we're still real women," she said in her upbeat, teacherly cadence.

Only four Catholic secondary schools opened nationally last year, so the opening of a high school is rare. And this school is even more so: Pope John Paul will have an extensive bioethics curriculum required for all four years, a first for a U.S. Catholic high school, according to the National Catholic Bioethics Center, the country's largest Catholic think tank. This was a major draw for the Nashville Dominicans, who are writing the curriculum as well as running the school.

At the open house at St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School in Woodbridge, Marie Meyer and Stephanie DeRaymond beamed as a 50-person line waited to talk to Hoover.

"I'd love my children to be taught by a nun! It's just unheard of, especially in this day and age," said DeRaymond, a 41-year-old mother of two, practically squealing. "They're going to say 'No' to a nun? Not do their homework?"

Meyer, 39, a mother of three, nodded in agreement: "To have them be taught by nuns in a habit -- that alone will make a major difference."

Across the room, Maria Moghtadaie and Tania Kestermann, both parents from Woodbridge, reminisced about sisters who taught them when they were growing up. Moghtadaie remembered being ordered to kneel for hours in a public hallway; Kestermann remembered being told to slap her own face.

"There weren't nuns like the Dominicans. They're happy, open," said Moghtadaie, 44, who works in sales.

Kestermann, 38, who does clerical work part time, agreed. "I looked at them as distant," she recalled about the sisters of her childhood. But today, sisters know music and the Internet, she said. "You see them dancing, interacting with the kids. That's the Dominicans."

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Latin Makes a Comeback

Article from the Washington Post [comments by Fr. Zuhlsdorf from WDTPRS] Emphases mine - as I've said repeatedly, younger people ARE attracted to the Traditional Latin Mass, and more priestly vocations will come from those have become increasingly devoted to the reverence and beauty of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

Latin Makes a Comeback
Young Catholics Are Leading a Resurgence of the Traditional Mass

By Jacqueline L. Salmon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 24, 2007; B09

Parts of it are 1,500 years old, it’s difficult to understand, and it’s even more challenging to watch. And it’s catching on among young Catholics. [What does this opening remark say to you WDTPRSer in light of the entry I posted about the Novus Ordo as "easier" than the older Mass?]

It’s the traditional Latin Mass, [More journalists are beginning to make distinctions. Could they be reading?] a formal worship service that is making a comeback after more than 40 years of moldering in the Vatican basement.

In September, Pope Benedict XVI relaxed restrictions [called a "derestiction"] on celebrating Latin Mass, frequently called the Tridentine Mass, citing "a new and renewed" interest in the ancient Latin liturgy, especially among younger Catholics.

Spoken or sung entirely in sometimes inaudible Latin [How do you sing inaudibly?] by priests who face the altar instead of the congregation, [Thanks for avoiding the cliche!] it is a radical departure for most Catholics, who grew up attending a more informal Mass celebrated in their native tongue.

"It’s the opposite of the cacophony that comes with the [modern] Mass," said Ken Wolfe, 34, a federal government worker who goes to up to four Latin Masses a week in the Washington area. "There’s no guitars and handshaking and breaks in the Mass where people talk to each other. It’s a very serious liturgy." [Didn’t Archbp. Ranjith recently talk about a return to "seriousness"?]

And it is a hit with younger priests and their parishioners. [YES!]

Attendance at the Sunday noon Mass at St. John the Beloved in McLean has doubled to 400 people since it began celebrating in Latin. Most of the worshipers are under 40, said the Rev. Franklyn McAfee. [Famous as a frequent commentor of WDTPRS!]

Younger parishioners "are more reflective," McAfee said. "They want something uplifting when they go to church. They don’t want something they can get outside." [Yes… and encounter with something that is not ordinary.]

For some, the popularity of the service represents the gap between older Catholics, who grew up in the more liberal, post-Vatican II era, and their younger counterparts, who say they feel like they missed out on the tradition that was jettisoned in the move to modernize.

Although Chris Paulitz’s parents never questioned the switch to the "new" Mass, Paulitz and his wife, Diane, only attend Latin Masses.

After each such service, "you feel like you’ve learned something and you’ve grown a bit," said Chris, 32, in an interview after a recent Mass at St. Rita’s Church in Alexandria. [I return to the premises of the entry I posted about the Novus Ordo as "easier" than the older Mass! Nota bene "grown".]

Priests, musicians and laypeople are snapping up how-to videos and books, signing up for workshops and viewing online tutorials with step-by-step instructions on the elaborately choreographed liturgy. For example, the rubrics dictate that a priest must hold together the thumb and index finger of each hand for much of the Canon of the Mass, the central part of the liturgy that culminates with the consecration of bread and wine.

"I knew there would be some interest, but I didn’t know how quickly it would spread and how really deep the interest was," said the Rev. Scott Haynes, a priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago who started a Web site in August offering instructions in celebrating the Mass.

So far, the Web site, http://www.sanctamissa.org/EN/index.html, has received 1 million hits, [Lagging behind but doing well! o{];¬) ] Haynes said, adding that he receives several hundred e-mails a day from fans of the service. "I was surprised by how many people have latched on to this," he said.

Portions of the Tridentine Mass date back to the sixth century, but it was standardized at the Council of Trent in 1570—hence the name Tridentine. It was largely supplanted by the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, which modernized the Mass liturgy and translated it into modern languages.

The modern Mass, or Novus Ordo, can be said in Latin, [Again I return to the premises of the entry I posted.] but it is a radically different service from the Tridentine Mass. Until September, when the pope issued his Motu Proprio allowing greater freedom in celebrating the Tridentine Mass, priests who wanted to celebrate it needed special permission from their bishop, and it was celebrated at only a few churches in the Washington area.

In the Diocese of Arlington, where the bishop and priests are considered more conservative than in Washington, the number of churches where the service is celebrated has increased from two to seven since the Motu Proprio. The Arlington diocese, which stretches from Northern Virginia south to Lancaster and west to the Shenandoah, has sent six priests to a training center in Nebraska, at the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter seminary, for an intensive seminar. [Excellent!]
In the Archdiocese of Washington, no more churches have added the Mass. Monsignor Charles Pope, who celebrates the Mass at St. Mary’s in Chinatown, thinks that it’s because of the number of parishioners demanding the Tridentine Mass is small. But those who want it "are very interested and very passionate about it," he said.

Priests who know the ritual are training other priests, and the diocese plans to offer training next year, said archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Gibbs.

But the service is not without controversy. Jewish groups have protested a Good Friday [How tiresome this all is.] prayer in the Mass that refers to the "blindness" of the Jews and calls for their conversion. Vatican officials have suggested that the prayer could be removed but have not done so.

For those who have fallen in love with the Mass, though, it is a part of what marks Catholics as unique among Christians. [YES! As I have been saying, Pope Benedict’s vision aims at reinvigorating Catholic identity!]

"Before Vatican II, there were a lot of things that marked Catholics as Catholic: the Tridentine Mass in Latin, fish on Fridays, those kinds of things," said Monsignor Kevin Irwin, dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at Catholic University. "And I think that 40 years after the [Second Vatican] Council, there is a revival of questions asking what is Catholic identity, and for some, this is an external manifestation of saying, ‘We’re Catholic.’ " [This guy gets it.]

At St. Rita’s Church, more than 150 worshipers listened and watched in silence as four black-and-gold-robed priests, accompanied by a half-dozen servers and a five-person choir, spoke and sang the hour-long liturgy. There was no homily, no English and no lay participation. [I protest! There certainly was lay participation! Every one of those people were participating, I’ll bet, though "active receptivity" to what the true ACTOR, the High Priest Jesus Christ, was doing in the words and gestures of the liturgy. Then those who were properly disposed, participated in the supreme manner of active participation by going forward actively to receive Holy Comunion.] In a throwback to the past, [Or a preview of the future.] some women wore lace head coverings.

In a crystalline tenor, the celebrant, the Rev. Paul D. Scalia, recited the Lord’s Prayer :

Pater noster, qui es in caelis: sanctificetur nomen tuum . . .

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name . . .

Scalia, St. Rita’s parochial vicar, added the Mass within days of the pope lifting the restrictions.

Scalia, 36, said he loves "the beauty of it, the silence . . . the antiquity. . . . It has a much more a contemplative feel to it. . . . This is the Mass that so many saints were raised on and themselves offered and prayed."

The Human Experience - Update

Back in May I posted about this film, but I haven't had an opportunity to let you know that it is out - in a very limited release. If you go to the Grassroots Films website you can find the theatres where it is playing. The updated trailer looks even better than the original.

Should you be lucky enough to have this movie playing anywhere near you - I would strongly encourage you to go see it. I have yet to be disappointed with anything the folks at Grassroots Films have done.

In regards to seeing the movie if it's playing near you, this morning I received this comment on my earlier post about this film from Br. Pius, OP:

"If you know anyone in the Washington, DC, area, the Dominican House of Studies is sponsoring a pre-screening of the film on Fridat Nov. 30 and Saturday Dec 1. Most of the showings have filled up, but there are still seats that can be reserved for the Saturday 2:00pm screening. For more information or to reserve seats, visit our website here."

Live in the DC area? Haven't been to the Dominican House of Studies? Then you should definitely see this film there! DHS is worth the visit alone, especially their chapel, and when you finish visiting there you can just cross the street to visit the Basilica! If I wasn't five hours away, I would most certainly be there for this.

CORRECTION: Br. Pius let me know that the film is actually showing up the street from DHS at the JPII Cultural Center.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bishop Serratelli's Letter to the Priests of the Diocese Concerning the Liturgy

Hat tip to Argent for finding this letter.

October 18, 2007
Feast of St. Luke, the Evangelist

My dear brothers in the priesthood,

Today the Church celebrates the life and work of the third evangelist. In his work, St. Luke paints for us the portrait of Christ the compassionate Savior whose life is the climax of Israel’s redemptive history that continues in the Church. Today’s feast glorifies the Holy Spirit who, in every age, raises up individuals and gifts them with the grace and charisms needed to continue the work of Christ.

With St. Luke, we priests share the privilege of spreading the Gospel. The Holy Spirit has graced us in a special way for this work. Through our ordination, we have been configured to Christ the High Priest who uses weak instruments such as us to accomplish His saving work.

On this feast day, I want to take the opportunity to thank you for accepting the vocation to be a priest. I am grateful for your apostolic zeal in serving God’s people with dedication and self-giving and for your love of the Church whose ministers we are. I would also like to address with you what is so central to our priesthood and so vital for the life of the Church.

St. Luke ends his gospel with the Emmaus story in which the two disciples recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread (Lk 24:30-32). He begins Acts of the Apostles with this picture of the infant Church: “These remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42). Clearly for the evangelist, the Eucharist is the Presence of the Risen Lord building up the Church in the unity of faith and love.

The Eucharist is the Crucified Jesus uniting us to Himself, sharing with us His divine life and making the Church truly one so that she can be the effective Sacrament of salvation in every age and in every place. The Eucharist is at the heart of the mystery of the Church. This great sacrifice of the Lord’s Body and Blood is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, 11). The Eucharist contains the entire wealth of the Church. Each day the Church draws her life from this gift given to her by the Lord at the Last Supper.

To every priest is given the great privilege of celebrating the Eucharist by virtue of his ordination. The priest presides at the Eucharist in persona Christi. The priest is the servant of the Liturgy. He is the steward entrusted with a gift that is not his own.

Therefore, every priest has the obligation to celebrate the Liturgy in such a way that he provides a witness of faith to the sacredness of the gift given to the Church by her Lord. He is to be faithful to the Church’s norms for the Liturgy so as to be at the service of communion, not only for the community directly taking part in the celebration, but also for the whole Church. The Mystery of the Eucharist “is too great for anyone to permit himself to treat it according to his own whim, so that its sacredness and its universal ordering would be obscured” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 52).

In each particular Church, the diocesan bishop has a most serious responsibility before God for the faithful celebration of the liturgy. He is the first steward of the mysteries of God in the particular Church entrusted to him. He is the moderator, promoter and guardian of her whole liturgical life (Christus Dominus, 28; Sacrosanctum Concilium, 41; Code of Canon Law, can. 387 and can. 835.1). Recognizing this serious duty placed upon me, I ask every priest in this diocese to follow The General Instruction of the Roman Missal as well as Redemptionis Sacramentum, issued in 2004 by the mandate of Pope John Paul II. A careful reading and attention to these instructions can only increase the individual priest’s appreciation of the Eucharist and his own special role within the Church. The Eucharist “is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity or depreciation” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 10).

Since the people of God have the right to the Liturgy as the Church has established, both instructions are to be followed in their entirety. Priests, as well as deacons, are not free to change the rubrics or substitute their own words for the prescribed texts. Such fidelity expresses true love for the people we serve. I call your special attention to the items that follow. The Church’s instructions use strong language to indicate the seriousness with which the Church safeguards reverence for the Eucharist.

Concerning the altar.

Out of reverence for the celebration of the memorial of the Lord and for the banquet in which the Body and Blood of the Lord are offered on an altar where this memorial is celebrated, there should be at least one white cloth, its shape, size, and decoration in keeping with the altar’s design (GIRM, 304).

Concerning the proclamation of the gospel and preaching.

Within the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, the reading of the Gospel, which is “the high point of the Liturgy of the Word,” is reserved by the Church’s tradition to an ordained minister. Thus it is not permitted for a layperson, even a religious, to proclaim the Gospel reading in the celebration of Holy Mass, nor in other cases in which the norms do not explicitly permit it (SR, 63).

The homily, which is given in the course of the celebration of Holy Mass and is a part of the Liturgy itself “should ordinarily be given by the Priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating Priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to a Deacon, but never to a layperson.” (SR, 64)

The prohibition of the admission of laypersons to preach within the Mass applies also to seminarians, students of theological disciplines, and those who have assumed the function of those known as “pastoral assistants;” nor is there to be any exception for any other kind of layperson, or group, or community, or association (SR, 66).
(To safeguard the primacy of the homily and the connection of Word and Sacrifice in the celebration of the Eucharist, any reflection offered by laypeople should be given after the Prayer after Communion.)

Concerning the distribution of Holy Communion.

It is the Priest celebrant’s responsibility to minister Communion, perhaps assisted by other Priests or Deacons; and he should not resume the Mass until after the Communion of the faithful is concluded. Only when there is a necessity may extraordinary ministers assist the Priest celebrant in accordance with the norm of law (SR, 88).

If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. The practice of those Priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons (SR, 157)

It is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing (SR, 91).

Concerning the use of vestments.

“The vestment proper to the Priest celebrant at Mass, and in other sacred actions directly connected with Mass unless otherwise indicated, is the chasuble, worn over the alb and stole” (GIRM, 299).

The abuse is reprobated whereby the sacred ministers celebrate Holy Mass or other rites without sacred vestments or with only a stole over the monastic cowl or the common habit of religious or ordinary clothes (SR, 126).

Concerning the proper vessels for the Eucharist.

Sacred vessels for containing the Body and Blood of the Lord must be made in strict conformity with the norms of tradition and of the liturgical books. It is strictly required, however, that [they] be truly noble in the common estimation within a given region, so that honor will be given to the Lord by their use, and all risk of diminishing the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in the eyes of the faithful will be avoided. Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily. This norm is to be applied even as regards metals and other materials that easily rust or deteriorate. (SR, 117)

The sacred vessels are purified by the priest, the deacon, or an instituted acolyte after Communion or after Mass, insofar as possible at the credence table. The purification of the chalice is done with water alone or with wine and water, which is then drunk by whoever does the purification. The paten is usually wiped clean with the purificator (GIRM, 279).

Following the instructions that the Church lays down for the proper celebration of the Eucharist is not a burden, but a joy. For it enables us to enter into the spirit of the Liturgy with greater freedom and less distraction. It may take a child-like humility to do as the Church asks in the celebration of the Liturgy. However, true love is never proud. “Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to these norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 52).

I thank all of you for your love of God’s people and your desire to be good and faithful “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor 1:4).

May the Eucharist, daily and faithfully celebrated, truly be a gift of life and growth for the Church of Paterson.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Arthur J. Serratelli, S.T.D., S.S.L., D.D.
Bishop of Paterson

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ecclesia Dei to Ask Seminaries to Teach Traditional Mass

From Rorate Caeli:

Important: Ecclesia Dei to ask seminaries to teach Traditional Mass

According to Italian news agency Adnkronos, the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" will soon publish an order addressed to seminaries "in which it is required that the celebration of the Latin Mass be taught to future priests":

"According to what has been learned from authoritative sources, the dicastery presided by Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos (among the main supporters of the return of the Mass according to the pre-Conciliar rite) would be considering a circular addressed to seminarians which, in practice, is aimed directly to those bishops who [are] 'disobbeying' the Pope's motu proprio (...)."

It is not entirely clear from the report if the order will be an exclusive document or if it will be part of the general document of clarification of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum which will be published shortly (according to several news agencies and sources).

Friday, November 16, 2007

Vocations Increase in the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph

Originally published in The Catholic Key, Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph

Investment in Vocations Pays Off Big
By Jack Smith Catholic Key Editor

In recent years, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has poured considerable financial, human and spiritual resources into efforts to encourage priestly vocations. And it hasn't been money down the drain.

In the 2003/2004 seminary school year, the diocese had nine seminarians. For 2007/2008, already 24 men are studying for the diocesan priesthood and there are good indications another three will join that number in January, according to Keith Jiron, director of the Office of Vocations.

Money and effort alone can't effect vocations to the priesthood, Jiron explained, "God calls men interiorly." But in 15 years of working in vocation discernment, including some time in the seminary himself, Jiron said, "Every single vocation I know of has always been invited - by a priest, religious or other lay person ... so God's call also speaks through others."

Sending out lots of little calls and building up a "culture of vocations" required beefing up the Vocations Office. While traditionally headed by a priest who also had parish responsibilities, in 2005 Bishop Robert Finn made part-time associate director Father Steve Cook a full-time vocations director without other pastoral responsibilities. Father Cook, who was originally appointed to the office by Bishop Raymond J. Boland, is described by Jiron as "a young dynamic priest on fire for vocations." Several seminarians who spoke with The Key also credit Father Cook's dynamism and openness with encouraging their entry into seminary.

Openness and being approachable are essential attitudes for a modern vocations office, Jiron said, especially as the demographic of aspirants is changing. "Ten years ago a lot more men were entering older," Jiron said, "Today the trend has swung largely to guys right out of high school or who've had some college.

"Young guys are ready to step up sooner," Jiron said, "They're a different breed. They're the JPII generation." In an increasingly relativistic and secular culture, young men inspired by the likes of Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa are "wanting to do something great. Wanting to do something better than their role models in society are showing," Jiron said.

While striving for quality candidates, the vocations office still has "wide open arms" to young men on fire for Christ who believe they may have a vocation to the priesthood, but given their age, may not be as certain as older candidates often are, Jiron explained. "The place to test a vocation is in the seminary," Jiron said, "not in a culture where you're not supported. If there are seeds of a vocation, it's going to be stifled in the world."

Planting seeds must start young and involve the whole community, including the bishop, priests, parents, schools and other church ministries, Jiron said. In dioceses where there is a strong culture of vocations, Jiron said, "it's a totally normal part of the culture that if you're a Catholic man you should seriously consider priesthood at some point."

Other ministries involved in building up that culture include ministry to young adults. "The diocese has invested heavily in young adult ministry," Jiron said, "We wanted to build up a lot of places where we could go fishing for these guys."

Having young priests and seminarians involved in activities like the Young Adult Mass, Catholic Challenge Sport and Theology on Tap. Young men can see that "they talk, they breathe, just like me. But they're in the seminary," Jiron said. "Success builds on success," he said, "The more seminarians we have and the more visible they are, the more other young men can see themselves doing it.

"If these guys are longing to do something great, the more models they have the better." And according to Jiron, "The number one best example to get vocations is the bishop. Bishop Finn makes vocations a super-priority. He preaches it. He's very relational. He knows the men who are discerning whether they have a vocation and he treats a potential vocation with respect. He's very personal and sincere." Bishop Finn spends time with each of the young men who attend the numerous vocation events held throughout the year.

The pastors have also been extremely instrumental in increasing vocations to the diocesan priesthood, Jiron said. One example is through their participation in Project Andrew which began in 2004. The program is named for the Apostle Andrew, who brought Peter to Jesus.
Pastors in 2004 and in years since have been asked to bring men who may have the seeds of a vocation to the Project Andrew event. The pastors collectively have been successful in bringing up to 40 men to these events, where a priest and a seminarian give their vocation stories followed by Mass celebrated by Bishop Finn. The event ends with other seminarians, priests and Bishop Finn enjoying fellowship and pizza.

At these events, Bishop Finn encourages the men to be open to a possible vocation and follows up with an invitation to a "Come and See" weekend at the seminary or a priesthood discernment retreat, Jiron explained.

The diocese also sponsors a number of events aimed at fostering a culture of vocations among the youth as well. These events include a 5th Grade Vocation Day and 6th to 8th grade boys camp that's "just a totally fun day of competitive team sports, but the team leaders are seminarians and the day includes Mass," Jiron said.

The 5th Grade Vocation Day includes small group discussions with a priest or sister and a talk with Bishop Finn, followed by Mass, vocation games and lunch. At the end of the day Bishop Finn hands out cards for the children to bring home and discuss with their parents. Any child who thinks they may have a vocation is asked to send the cards back to Bishop Finn who promises to personally pray for each of them.

"Hit them at 11 and 11," is a motto for such an approach, Jiron said. "You plant a seed when they're 11 and pray that seed takes hold when it's time to start thinking in 11th Grade about what to do after high school."

It's very rewarding to be benefiting now with the fruit of many vocations, Jiron explained, "But you have to plant new tree."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

***VIDEO*** A Day in the Life of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

It's in German, but you'll get the point. A rare glimpse behind the scenes at the Vatican and a day in the life of His Holiness.

Hat tip: American Papist

Monday, November 12, 2007

*** VIDEO*** Abbaye Notre Dame de Fontgombault

Hat tip to Fr. Blake for this video. As he said on his blog - "Enjoy this video, it is French. The images are are quite beautiful, especially the procession of the 70/80 of monks and individual Masses in the early morning. See their webpage."

Fr. Dwight Longenecker on "Asceticism in America"

Among other problems in our culture that contribute to our current vocations "crisis", the lack of asceticism would certainly be one. In an American culture of super-sized fast food meals, on demand everything, and instant gratification - the idea of intentional asceticism is a foreign one. It doesn't take much imagination to see how this could be an issue for young vocations.

Asceticism in America
The following was posted by Fr Dwight Longenecker on his blog Standing on My Head

A friend of mine has been reading about the Cure d'Ars and commented that he didn't think the Cure's asceticism would be understood in our society.

Strange isn't it, that people in or society are willing to work, sweat, fast and put themselves through considerable pain and embarrassment-- (you think the clothes people wear to the gym are flattering?) in order to get a firmer tummy, nice butt or better pecs, but they would consider celibacy, fasting and prayer to be weird religious fanaticism.

Others in our society are willing to endure rounds of expensive and painful surgery to get a better set of breasts, plumper lips, or a youthful looking face, but they'd consider an hour's silence, giving up meat once a week or abstaining from sexual relations because you're practicing natural birth control to be strange and dangerous religious extremism.

This is not to mention the athletes in sports-crazy America. They put themselves on strict diets, do physical training to get into shape, establish practice regimes that test their limits of endurance and regularly risk their careers, family lives and serious physical injury for what? A few moments of glory and a plastic trophy? And they think religious people are insane?

The idea that one should make any sacrifice at all for one's religion is almost dead within American Christianity. Religion is there, isn't it, to make you happy, to make you feel better about yourself, to provide warm fellowship for you and your Christian chums, to reassure you that after a pain free victorious life in Jesus you will be on the express train to heaven and even more unimaginable happiness. Yes, American Christians do expect to make financial sacrifices as they tithe, but even then it is often seen as a form of investment. After all, "You can't out give God. If you tithe regularly you will receive much more back in return and be even more prosperous. "Right?"

The idea that asceticism in any form should be part of one's faith is lost on Protestants. This is because, once you are saved anything you do physically doesn't matter anyway. You can't earn your salvation, so why would you want to engage in asceticism? It's true, that some non-Catholic forms of spirituality do put some premium on a mild form of asceticism. Some Protestants would endorse some low level fasting, but this is purely for utilitarian reasons. "Fasting," the argument goes, "helps you concentrate when you are praying. It helps you to discipline the body and get focussed away from yourself and your stomach to God."

All well and good, but the Catholic theology of asceticism is far more profound and mysterious. Why should we fast or engage in asceticism? Because by any suffering that we endure we are sharing in the cross of Christ and the glorious sacrifice of the martyrs. When we participate in asceticism we are not only disciplining our appetites and our bodies, we are cooperating with the grace of God to 'complete the sufferings of Christ' in the world. This is nothing we do of our own, and through our own power. Instead it is an application of God's grace. It is a practical action in which what we do applies and ministers Christ's ultimate sacrifice in the world for the redemption and salvation of the world.

This motivates and inspires me more and more as I come to understand and ponder more deeply the mystery of what I am doing in Christ as I celebrate the Mass each day. That sacrifice I offer brings Christ's one full final sacrifice into the present moment. That sacrifice is linked with whatever small sacrifices of asceticism I might make in the world. That sacrifice fills and empowers whatever I might try in my halting way to do and say to complete Christ's action of redemption in the world.This sharing through sacrifice is not only active in and through asceticism. It is active in and through every action of love and sacrifice for the others with whom I live. For a Catholic who wants to be alive in the faith, every action. Every thought. Every choice becomes full of the grandeur of God.

Or else it becomes a dark, empty hole of everlasting darkness.

For the Catholic everything matters. Each action has an eternal consequence in a way that no other creed or belief can match.

A French Cardinal Agrees!

A timely piece from Catholic World News in light of recent posts about married priests - emphases mine.

Married Priests Not a Solution to Shortage, Cardinal Says
Paris, Nov. 12, 2007 (CWNews.com)

An influential French cardinal has said that the ordination of married men is a possibility that could be discussed, but "it is not a solution to the vocations crisis."

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray (bio - news), the former president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, explained to the newspaper Le Parisen that priestly celibacy is a discipline rather than a matter of doctrine. "It can be discussed," he said.
However, the cardinal voiced his extreme skepticism about suggestions that a provision for married priests would end the shortage of clergy in Europe. The fundamental response to that crisis, he said, must involve a renewed appreciation for service to the Church.

More On The Idea of a Married Priesthood

My recent post on an article from LA Daily stated "But the Byzantine rite Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, which allow their priests to be married before ordination, get plenty of vocations." A Simple Sinner left a comment on that post questioning the veracity of that statement and pointed me to this article. Once again it is clear - Celibacy it NOT the issue. Emphases below is mine.

Orthodox Leaders Cite Shortage of Priests
Thursday, July 29, 1999
By Ann Rodgers-Melnick, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Staff Writer

While the Orthodox Church in America is attracting converts, it suffers from a priest shortage and a clergy morale problem, its leaders said yesterday during an open discussion at the church's All-American Council.

The Orthodox tradition allows married men to become priests, but few American men born and raised in the tradition are seeking holy orders. Of 100 students enrolled at St. Vladimir's Seminary in Crestwood, N.Y., just one-third were born into American Orthodox homes. Others are former Protestants, Catholics and even New Age devotees. Still others are immigrants.

While more than half of the church's 13 bishops are converts, they acknowledged a problem and joined in yesterday's discussion at the weeklong meeting in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Some dioceses have salary requirements for priests, but many parishes refuse to abide by them, said the Rev. Alexander Garklavs, chairman of the church's pastoral care unit. He cited lay leaders who refused to pay the minimum because the priest's children were grown or because his wife worked.

Partly as a result, Garklavs said, an increasing number of priests prefer to work a secular day job and only moonlight in ministry. Or, if the priest's wife supports the family, he must follow her career from city to city rather than remain in the same parish for years.

It is not uncommon for parishes that lose a priest to wait years for a new one. The million-member church has ordained just 172 priests in the past 10 years and many of its priests are near retirement.

However, in a national survey of Orthodox Church in America clergy last year, low pay ranked only fourth on a list of frustrations. The first three were the laity's lack of participation in the liturgical life of the church, lack of spirituality, and failure to participate in adult religious education.

When priests feel that their ministry is unappreciated they "become stagnant and lose motivation and zeal," Garklavs said.

But he also called on the clergy to consider their own personal failings as a cause of the laity's alienation. In a profession where people regularly bow to kiss your hand it is easy to think yourself better than those you serve, he said.

In an effort to encourage older men to enter the priesthood, the Orthodox Church in America established a program with stripped-down educational requirements. Although this late-vocations program is popular, there are difficulties, said the Rev. Gregory Safchuk, its interim director.

Depending on the candidate's background and previous education, he is either required to spend two years under the tutelage of a local pastor or to write six seminary-level research papers under the direction of the late vocations office. Both types of candidates must pass a final exam. Further oral examinations are required if they choose to pursue ordination.

Candidates for this program need to be better screened, because too many of them are not suited for ministry, Safchuk said. The program has also been abused by younger men, or men without overwhelming family and job commitments, who see it as the easy route to ordination, he said.

Several delegates suggested that candidates who could not survive the financial rigors of the seminary would be unable to survive the financial rigors of parish priesthood. Currently, St. Vladimir's has about 20 married students with one to six children, said Constance Tarasar, a faculty member at the seminary.

"They are dedicated and they are under great hardship. If they can go through that fire, they will certainly be more understanding of their parishioners when they become the pastor of a parish," she said.

Archbishop Herman of Philadelphia, who is also dean of St. Tikhon's seminary in South Canaan, Wayne County, said parishes should financially support qualified candidates for priesthood.

"The church needs to look seriously at taking care of those who really want to serve," he said.

But many of those who enroll in the seminary don't come from an Orthodox parish, said the Rev. Thomas Hopko, dean of St. Vladimir's. In fact, some don't become Orthodox until after they are already enrolled.

For instance, two evangelical Protestants who were preparing for a missionary stint in Russia enrolled to learn more about Orthodoxy and ended up converting, he said in an interview.

Such problems are not insurmountable, and they are not unique to Orthodoxy, he said. Students at many Protestant seminaries enroll without knowing which denomination they want to serve, he said.

St. Valdimir's provides some field education for such students. But many learn the finer points of Orthodox liturgical traditions on the job, he said.

"The people help the priest learn the local customs or how to hold the candle at Epiphany. If the priest is humble, he will learn," Hopko said.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

***VIDEO*** Our Lady of the Annunciation Monastery of Clear Creek

Frustratingly I can not get this video to embed AND play, so here is a link to a very well done mini-documentary about the beautiful foundation at Clear Creek.


I'm really not a fan of this "JesusTV" image, but if it works I guess I have to live with it.

The Nature of Priestly Ordination: Theological Background and Some Present Concerns

The Nature of Priestly Ordination: Theological Background and Some Present Concerns
Dr. Lawrence J. Welch, Ph.D

This article was posted on CatholicExchange.com

November 10, 2007

It has been the universal and consistent practice of the Church to ordain only men to the priesthood. This practice is based upon Christ's manner of acting in choosing only men as his apostles. The Church believes that Christ's way of acting was not an arbitrary one and did not proceed from sociological or cultural motives peculiar to his time but was in keeping with the divine plan for the Church. The constant teaching and practice down through the centuries has always maintained that the reservation of the priesthood to men is part of the fundamental structure Christ gave to the priesthood and, in turn, is in accordance with His plan for the Church.

As Pope John Paul II pointed out on a number of occasions, the Holy Scriptures proclaim that Christ's plan for the Church is spousal and marital. This plan was foreshadowed in the Old Testament, as we see in the prophet Isaiah (54:4-8, 10), who portrayed the Covenant between the Chosen People and God as a "marriage" whereby God himself was understood to be a husband steadfast in his love for his wife.

In the Gospel According to Saint John, John the Baptist announces that "he who has the bride is the bridegroom [Jesus]" (John 3:27-29). John the Baptist is not the Messiah, the Christ, but is only "friend of the bridegroom." In the Gospel According to Saint Mark (2:19-20), Jesus attributes the title of "bridegroom" to himself when he explains that his disciples do not fast because "they have the bridegroom with them."

In his Second Letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul uses the same spousal imagery of the Church and Christ when he admonishes the readers that he feels a "divine jealously" with regard to them, "for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband" (2 Corinthians 11:2). In the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians (5:21-32), the relationship of Christ and the Church is said to be a great mystery in the likeness between a man's love for a woman and Christ's love for the Church. Christ is the Head and Bridegroom of the Church who "loved the Church and gave himself up for her that he might sanctify her" (5:25). Loved by Christ, the Church is joined to him as a wife is to her husband: "the two shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).

The sacrament of ordination to the priesthood of Jesus Christ participates in Christ's spousal relationship to the Church. When a man is ordained to the priesthood, he is changed and configured to Christ, the Head and Bridegroom of the Church. In his ordination, a man is taken up into a new relationship with the rest of the baptized, Christ's Body and his Bride. The priest is sacramentally empowered to represent Christ in a specific way as Bridegroom of the Church. In other words, when a man is ordained to the priesthood he becomes a sacramental sign of Christ in relation to the Church.

It is helpful to recall what is written in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 875:
"How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?" (Romans 10:14-15). No one — no individual and no community — can proclaim the Gospel to himself: "Faith comes from what is heard" (Romans 10:17). No one can give himself the mandate and the mission to proclaim the Gospel. The one sent by the Lord does not speak and act on his own authority, but by virtue of Christ's authority; not as a member of the community, but speaking to it in the name of Christ. No one can bestow grace on himself; it must be given and offered. This fact presupposes ministers of grace, authorized and empowered by Christ. From him, bishops and priests receive the mission and faculty ("the sacred power") to act in persona Christi Capitis; deacons receive the strength to serve the people of God in the diaconia of liturgy, word and charity, in communion with the bishop and his presbyterate. The ministry in which Christ's emissaries do and give by God's grace what they cannot do and give by their own powers, is called a "sacrament" by the Church's tradition. Indeed, the ministry of the Church is conferred by a special sacrament.

As Pope John Paul II observed, it is the Eucharist above all that expresses the redemptive act of Christ, the Bridegroom, toward the Church, the Bride. This is clear and unambiguous when the sacramental ministry of the Eucharist is performed by an ordained man who acts in the person of Christ. The priest is the living image of Jesus Christ, the spouse of the Church. Understood against this background, we can better see why Christ called only men to be apostles who speak and act in his name for the Church.

There is another perspective that is helpful for understanding the Church's practice of ordaining only men. The sacraments of priesthood and marriage stand together. Marriage is a sacrament because it is a sign of, and a participation in, the spousal covenant of Christ and the Church. If the manhood of Christ is theologically insignificant for the priesthood, then sexual differentiation must be immaterial to the sacrament of marriage as well. It cannot become irrelevant for one without becoming irrelevant for the other.

On the contrary, what the Church teaches and what she proclaims in the sacraments is the truth that sexuality is not only part of God's good creation but that in Christ it holds a meaning more profound than we ever could have imagined. In other words, masculinity and femininity in the human order complete and explain one other. In Christ, we have the one who enters our history and remains as the Bridegroom, as the one who has given himself in the most complete and radical way, laying down his life for his Bride, the Church. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ enables us to participate in his love, in his sincere gift of self, and so enables us to live the full truth of our sexuality as men and women.

For more information regarding the Roman Catholic Church's teaching on priestly ordination, please see the following resources:

Dr. Lawrence J. Welch, Ph.D., professor of systematic theology, Kenrick School of Theology, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis.

This article courtesy of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis.

Article in Los Angeles Paper about Shortage of Priests

This is a decent article with some interesting points, but with skewed views toward a married priesthood. As I've said before a married priesthood would not be the long term answer to the shortage of priests. The reality is it would cause many problems and "solve" only one proposed "problem". Yes, there have been, and continue to be married priests in the Church, but they are the extreme minority compared to scores of holy celibate priests in the history of the Church. Priests model the purity of Christ in a fallen world and a culture that is seemingly obsessed with sex. We don't need a married priesthood - we need heroic, virtuous, counter cultural men to be Alter Christus in societies that desperately need their witness (even if they don't realize it). We have a shortage of vocations for any number of reasons: contracepting culture, abortion, priests that fail to encourage more men to follow them, families that fail to encourage their boys to consider the priesthood, the relentless effort by many to elevate the laity and diminish the significance of the priesthood, terrible catechesis, watered down theology, vocations directors with agendas, Bishops that do not lead the way in promoting vocations, BAD liturgies, etc, etc, etc. If, by the grace of God, a young man manages to run the spiritual gauntlet of those problems and still think he might be called to the priesthood - it would be little wonder that celibacy (in a disordered and sex obsessed culture) could be the straw that breaks the back of his vocation.

When was the last time you asked a young man if they had considered a vocation to the priesthood, or told them they woud be a great priest?

My emphasis and comments below.

Catholic Church Faces Priest Shortage
By Tony Castro, Staff Writer
Article Last Updated: 11/10/2007
From: LA Daily News

On a recent Sunday, the Rev. Robert J. McNamara of St. Bernardine of Siena Parish in Woodland Hills found himself baptizing four babies - all boys - and quipped that perhaps they would all grow up to be priests.

"The joke bombed," McNamara recalls. "The parents looked at me stone-faced. I even tried the joke a second time. It bombed a second time."

But it is no laughing matter in the Roman Catholic Church, which today finds itself with an all-time shortage of priests - so much so that many dioceses in the country are looking to Latin America to recruit seminarians.

"We, unfortunately, are typical of the trouble the church is having in recruiting men for the priesthood," said the Rev. Jim Forsen, who was ordained 28 years ago and is now vocations director for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Forsen makes the rounds of parishes, speaking during the homily about the joys of a religious vocation with the charisma befitting a college football recruiter.

At St. John Eudes Church in Chatsworth, for instance, he summoned all the children at the Mass to the altar and asked who among them wanted to be a lawyer, a dentist, a firefighter, a teacher, a doctor or a veterinarian.

Children eagerly raised their hands at each profession.

"How many of you want to be a priest?" Forsen finally asked.

He was greeted with a round of nervous giggles and laughter - but no hands.
He then prodded the altar boys. Still no takers. (I have to wonder how many altar girls were sitting next to them? Though I may irritate people with this question, the reality is that it is a problem - like it or not. Adolescent and teenage boy psychology is simple - they don't like doing things like serving Mass with girls. Our parish has twelve altar boys at each Mass, and they show up early to get one of those slots. If girls served with them, that number we drop immediately. Sad, but true.)

"Don't you want to be a priest?" he asked one of the boys who shrugged. "Sure? Maybe? No way?"

Los Angeles, the largest archdiocese in the country, has fewer than 400 diocesan priests to minister to more than 4.3million Catholics, according to its Web site.

In the next five years, the San Fernando Region of the diocese, much of which is made up of the San Fernando Valley, will have an estimated 40percent fewer pastors than it does today.

At St. John's Seminary in Camarillo, the seminary for the Los Angeles Archdiocese, only 45 of the 92 seminarians are earmarked as future priests for this archdiocese, which encompasses L.A., Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

"For almost all men who are considering the priesthood," Forsen is quick to acknowledge, "the main difficulty is celibacy."

But that's only one of the issues for the priest shortage. Across the country, religions that don't require celibacy are experiencing a shortage, as well.

Jewish synagogues and Protestant churches are reporting similar problems in recruiting rabbis and ministers. Some Episcopal and Presbyterian churches have a clergy shortage, and some congregations of Reform Judaism and the modern Orthodox wing of Judaism are without full-time rabbis.

For Protestant denominations, the declining clergy population has been blamed on the attraction of more lucrative careers in the private economy as well as retirements. For Jews, until a few years ago there were more rabbis than congregations, and officials say recruitment was not emphasized, causing their shortage.

But the Byzantine rite Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, which allow their priests to be married before ordination, get plenty of vocations.

For the Roman Catholic Church, however, the clergy number across the country has been falling some 26percent since 1980, according to reports.

The archdioceses of Omaha and Atlanta, each of which serves about 250,000 Catholics, average around seven vocations a year each. In 1999, the Los Angeles Archdiocese recruited three men for the priesthood . Since then, the number has varied from none in 2001 to six in 2000 and 2004 (from 4,349,267 Catholics in the Archdiocese! Meanwhile the Diocese of Lincoln has only 89,000 Catholics, yet they sent 19 men to the seminary this fall! Could it be possible that the orthodoxy of the Diocese has something to do with the number of vocations, rather than saying that celibacy is the problem?).

St. John's ordained nine seminarians in September, five of whom were assigned to Los Angeles.
According to a study by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, celibacy ranks as the main reason for the dwindling numbers of priests, along with the attraction of successful, private lives.

"Our culture also places an emphasis on living a full, active sexual life; the priesthood calls one to chaste celibacy," Forsen said.

"The priesthood is, as it always has been, countercultural - not anti-cultural but clearly countercultural. The more countercultural our parishes and families become, the more likely it is that young people will want to live committed countercultural lives as priests and religious."
Lost in concerns over the priest shortage and the reasons behind it is the belief that the priesthood is a calling from God.

"Let us at least begin to see it as a possibility that God may be calling some of the young people we know to serve him as a priest or sister," McNamara wrote in his church's Sunday bulletin about his recent experience with parents who didn't want their infants growing up to become priests.

But Forsen says the challenge the church faces is connecting with youngsters. He tells the story about a high school principal who cautioned him about reaching out to her students for vocations.

"Good luck, Father. You priests do not live in the imagination of the young," the principal told Forsen. "They dream about being astronauts, or professional ballplayers, or rock stars, or even video-game designers.

"But they don't dream about being priests. You're not even on their radar."

Possible solutions, Forsen says, include taking steps to make Catholic life in general, and priestly and religious life in particular, attractive and spotlighting vocations as priorities - undoubtedly made more difficult in the wake of the clergy sex-abuse scandal that has rocked the church.

"A lot of people see only the sacrifices that go into the priesthood - the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience," he said. "There are people who ask, `How can you be a priest?' And to them I say, `How can you be married?' My point is that when you love, there is no sacrifice at all. (I wholeheartedly disagree with this statement. I love my wife and children, but we sacrifice constantly. Oh, and I think there was something about Christ loving us and making some kind of sacrifice. EVERY vocation has sacrifices and suffering, it can not be avoided, but if you are living the vocation God called you to, He will give you the grace to bear them couragously. This flawed idea that the priesthood is all sacrifice and marriage has none is another promblem with vocations today, both the shortage of priests and the incredibly high divorce rate.)

"It's the same with a priest. I feel that as a priest, I am trying to change the world for the good, and I am doing it for the same reason as people who are married. You are doing it for your kids."