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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Divorce & Remarriage, a Witness from the Other Side

I want to share a response to my remarks about Catholic teaching from a man hurt and angry about his wife’s divorce and subsequent remarriage. While we only know his side of the case, I found myself very sympathetic toward his concerns. No annulment was granted and yet it appears that her pastor permitted her to return to the sacraments. This is problematical and, not privy to the situation, I am at a loss as to what the extenuating circumstances might be.  The reader should be warned that while I censored a couple of words, the language is sometimes harsh and crude.  Further, we have many good people who have suffered divorce, received proper annulments and have started to rebuild a life wounded by  an earlier bad and invalid marriage.  I praise the Lord for how the Church and divine grace has brought healing and hope to their lives.  But this post is about someone who is still hurting and who feels left out or abandoned.  We do not know the grounds for the divorce or why the annulment was denied.  What we see is a man angry that his wife divorced him; angry that she has married again and will not be coming home; and angry that a seemingly passive Church will not excommunicate and punish her.        

Here is what Karl wrote, please note that my response immediately follows:

As a victim of a destroyed marriage due to the Catholic Church’s acceptance and encouragement of divorce, adultery and remarriage without an annulment (which is exactly the situation I faced), your question of divorce is invalid and shows that you really do not know what is going on in the Catholic Church.

I speak from experience.

I have seen tremendous evil and have begged for intervention at every level in the Catholic Church and only am ignored in spite of the FACTS!

Father Joe, the Church is a whore and the clergy are her pimps and none of them care to really understand the evil they are about.

With a broken heart, I say this is absolutely true and if the Pope had the COURAGE to give me a private audience, along with my adulterous wife, her lover and all of our children, he would be heartbroken if he opened his mind, which I think is beyond him. He would see what I have seen and see how my pleas for justice and for healing a Sacramental marriage have been ridiculed and ignored, while the adultery of my wife and her lover, in the face of two Roman Rotal decisions in favor of OUR SACRAMENT have been encouraged and supported for now over sixteen years!

Show some guts and get me a Papal audience, at the Church’s expense and the Pope will never be the same about these issues if he could but open his mind and LISTEN.

For the record, such as this commentary, it is a scandal and should not be said, unless it IS true; before Jesus Christ I have stated herein what is the TRUTH and am very willing to be held accountable for it, but only by those capable of objective, truthful analysis and free from assailing by any legal entity or ecclesial entity. I know their blood thirst for vengeance.

You may be a nobody among priests, Father Joe, but what you have read here is the TRUTH. Ignore it or say it is the rant of a madman and your Savior will know what is in your heart.

You can also be assured that there are many others who have experienced what I have and know this but who are ignored by the Catholic Church.

We DO NOT NEED OR WANT kind words. We DO NOT WANT spiritual direction.

We want accountability among the priests and bishops for what has been done to us. And we want it done publicly since publicly our marriage has been violated.

We want JUSTICE, not VENGEANCE.

We want our SACRAMENTS RESPECTED AND SUPPORTED BY ACTIONS NOT WORDS AND FALSELY PIOUS WORDS!

We want our marriages healed, which in cases like this can only be accomplished with Canonical sanctions – EXCOMMUNICATION.

Excommunication is supposed to be used to restore a person to the state of grace but instead nothing is done while our spouses are completely accepted by the Church as a couple, albeit not married in the Church, but nevertheless functioning as a married couple, while usually deceiving all by saying the arrangements are “brother and sister.” All this is with Rotal decisions stating just the opposite.

When was the last time brothers and sisters dated or took a romantic vacation together?

I dare you to have the [deleted] to preach about this scandal from your pulpit. I would come to hear you and answer questions if you had the guts and were willing to openly challenge the Bishops and the Pope.

I would like to hear what you think, but do not waste my time with piety if you are moved to believe that there is some truth in what I have told you. (I have heard so much [deleted] empty words from priests!) But I am passed being patient/understanding unless the person is willing to go to the wall with me on this issue.

You have no idea of the rage that this injustice breeds or the guilt we feel for our rage and our desperate desire to get rid of all the anger, to heal our marriages to forgive and to be forgiven. But not a single Bishop, at least in the US, cares enough to make this a prominent issue for the press, since the rest of the Church will do NOTHING.

Karl

RESPONSE FROM FATHER JOE

Dear Karl,

I am sorry about what happened to you in your marriage. Even the Holy See has offered subtle warnings and guidance about the large number of annulments in the United States. The response is usually that we have the largest number of canon lawyers in the world or that Americans are generally immature and have difficulty making true commitments. Along with you, I think there is rampant abuse in the system. However, just because divorce and remarriage seems easy in this nation, and I have only had two annulment cases out of countless ones submitted that were turned down, still the truth remains that Jesus hates divorce and it is labeled “sin.” Admittedly, there are priests who would disagree with me, at least as to how this teaching is expressed. Certainly the Separated and Divorced Catholics groups might find such a verdict painful; however, I find disturbing that a number of sanctioned support groups often function as dating services for men and women who are not free to marry or even to have romantic relationships (adultery) . I must quickly add that this is NOT the case with all groups which focus on healing after these losses.

I know it is anger and frustration speaking when you label the Church “a whore” and all her clergy “pimps.” But remember, that no matter how sinful the membership (including the clergy), the Church is holy because Christ is holy. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. As for clergy, yes we have more than our share of rascals; but I would contend, from my own associations, that most of them are good men who love the Lord and sacrifice much in the service of his people. Good priests keep their promises, just as we want married couples to keep theirs.

It would seem that if the Roman Rota ruled in favor of the sacrament of marriage between you and your wife, then the Pope is actually already on your side. Unfortunately, it is a big Church and even papal universal jurisdiction has a hard time breeching the mechanizations of the local churches and the various bishops. One of the reasons that Rome insists that a second tribunal affirm or cancel the decision of the primary tribunal is to help insure justice.

I know a good man, and a devout Catholic, who suffers daily because his wife left him for another man. He fought the divorce and later he tried to stop the annulment. However, he failed. He still goes to Mass and often he weeps at prayer in loss for her and in distress about the Church. He is absolutely convinced, despite the verdict of the marriage tribunal, that she is still his wife. He spurns suggestions that he should date and marry again. That would be adultery, he tells everyone, and knowing him I would be inclined to agree with him. I never met his wife and cannot say what kind of person she is, but knowing her husband (or ex-husband) my impression of her is not good. I am not blind that such things are going on. But neither can I water down what has always been the official teaching of the Church, and a prohibition (against divorce) that comes from the very mouth of Jesus.

The difficulty is that there are some invalid and unlawful marriages.

If the groom sleeps with the maid of honor the night before the wedding, I would say there is something seriously wrong already with the necessary intention.

If the man is partially paralyzed and impotent, he cannot lawfully consummate the marriage.

If there is an absolute opposition to children and intercourse is always contraceptive, the marriage is negated by the rejection of its principal object or good.

If the girl’s “pappy” forced the boy to marry his daughter at the end of a shotgun, then coercion negates the authenticity of the bond.

I have even turned down weddings that other priests eventually witnessed, as when one or both of the parties is mentally deranged. I recall one lady who was a heavily medicated paranoid schizophrenic. The drugs that drowned out the invisible voices would deform any child conceived. I recommended that she keep a platonic friendship, but that God was not calling her to marriage. They went to another priest and he did the deed. She got pregnant and had to go off medication. As a screaming insane person, necessity required that she be tied to a bed for months. Her husband walked off, like I suspected he would. The child had all sorts of defects and was eventually taken away from her. It was a real mess. She was incapable of the responsibilities of marriage. And her spouse was a lazy bum.

Prenuptial agreements are the big topic these days. They imply a level of doubt that invalidates the vows. Such contracts are forbidden to Catholics, but couples sometimes lie to priests.

These are real if extreme cases, but they represent some of the genuine areas where tribunals are “supposed” to judicate.

I have even had guys who were married before who tried to hide their previous bonds! One girl had gotten married by a bogus priest!

Another fellow had a vasectomy and failed to tell the bride. She wanted a big family and found out afterwards that all he wanted was to violate her virginity.

I have seen it all. I am not the proverbial ostrich with its head buried in the sand. And yet, I sympathize with you and share your concern about laxity in the annulment system.

I have never met the current Pope myself and so I am the last one to ask in getting you an audience with him. However, he is no fool, and I think he is aware of the abuses that are happening. Much is going on behind the scenes to improve things, but I suspect it will move too slowly to assist you. I am sorry for the pain you feel. I do not know about any “blood thirst for vengeance” and do not know the particulars in the case your wife brought against you. However, I can promise you my prayers and personal good will.

Yes, I suppose you could say that I am a “nobody among priests,” but every priest can forgive sins and confect the Eucharist, and so in this light I always feel especially privileged and blessed.

I beg you not to reject the compassion, spiritual direction and formation that the Church and good priests have to offer. You may not want kind words, but I suspect that Jesus would want me to extend them to you, all the same. As for direction, I must encourage you to stay close to the Church and to Jesus. Our Lord’s sacred heart knew what it meant to be betrayed and abandoned. Find solidarity with him in prayer and hope to enrich and live your life. We really have little or no control over what other people do. We do have some say about what we, individually, do. We all have crosses of some sort or another. Join yours to Christ’s. Life is not fair. People we want to respect disappoint us. The “happy ever after” ending of fairytales often does not materialize…at least not in this world.

It is right to want “accountability” among our priests and bishops, but as the Scriptures tell us, “vengeance” belongs to the Lord. God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is that great Tribunal before which we will all one day stand.

People argue for the censure of excommunication these days as if its imposition would cure everything. It does not restore a person to a state of grace. Indeed, it often hardens hearts and people walk away from the faith entirely. It does the opposite from what we might expect. The person is cut off from the Church, the sacrament of salvation. What we should not forget is that which is most basic in regard to rebellion, and that is plain old mortal sin. It does not have to be imposed; the person incurs it immediately and directly by enmity with God and the violation of his commandments. Clergy and other Church officials who do not take their responsibilities seriously, or who are hypocritical, will be punished by God. People who “knowingly” commit adultery will be punished as well. St. Paul says that adulterers, fornicators, and homosexuals will have no part in the kingdom of God. It does not get more serious than that. Please do not forget, that while righteous indignation is permissible, violent anger and seeking revenge are also serious sins. Jesus gave us a response pattern; he forgave his murderers from the Cross.

Catholics not married in the Church are not truly married. You write, Karl, that your wife and her “new husband” are “…functioning as a married couple, while usually deceiving all by saying the arrangements are ‘brother and sister.’” There is a peculiar arrangement permitted by the Church where pastors can allow a couple not married in the Church to feign such a situation in the attempt to avoid scandal. It is called INTERNAL FORUM. However, the couple has to be elderly and the annulment has to be impossible to receive. They are forbidden to publicize the true nature of their relationship and they are forbidden to have any sexual congress. They must live as brother and sister. Is this what happened? [Rome and certain canonists, I learned recently, have become much more strict and hesitant to tolerate internal forum situations.]

The trouble here is that the companionship and affection owed to the lawful spouse is still withheld (or given the wrong party).

Almost everyone in my last parish was elderly. It was a small place. Over the years, however, I have spoken about the sacrament of marriage and the evil of divorce. A number of my priest friends have done the same. I am not sure this necessarily brings one into opposition with the Pope and every bishop, either. Archbishop Wuerl has said wonderful things about the indissolubility of marriage in his catechism and television program.

Let us avoid vulgarity. Dialogue must be respectful. I am a priest and I belong to the Church. The question is not whether I will stand with you, Karl, but whether or not we will both stand with Jesus.

You do not want to hear pious talk, but honestly, there are some wounds that cannot be healed in this world. Life is messy and we struggle in a society of sinners with too few saints. All God is asking of you and me is that we be faithful. We may never know success, but that is okay, as long as there is fidelity.

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Peace,
Father Joe

Questions & Answers About Indulgences

What exactly are the eternal punishments due to sins?

When we speak of eternal punishment, we are referring to the everlasting pains of hell.

What then are the temporal punishments due to sin?

Punishments, which take place in the temporal realm or in time, are basically the ills and struggles of mortal life. We all know sickness and dying. We experience loss and grieving. We face man’s inhumanity to man as well as natural disaster. The pains of purgatory would also be added to this list.

In what ways are the temporal punishments due to sin forgiven?

There are many ways, including penance, prayer, good works, and indulgences.

Can it really be shown that Jesus gave his apostles the power to grant indulgences or to remit the temporal punishment due to sin?

Yes, this power is found in the sacred charge given Peter by Jesus: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). The authority is given to Peter from Christ to remit whatever it is that hinders people from the gate of heaven.

Is it lawful for the Catholic Church to charge money for granting indulgences?

No, it is not. Such trafficking in indulgences is an abuse that has always been condemned by the Church.

But, did not the Pope charge money for the indulgences sold to help build St. Peter’s in Rome?

The charge behind this question is a gross distortion of the facts. The conditions placed upon those desiring such an indulgence were clearly enumerated: they were first to make a good confession, and only then as an act of penance, they might offer some money to the building of the great church. However, no one was obliged to make this payment, as there were many other ways to have temporal punishment forgiven.

Wait a minute, how can this be true? The Dominican monk, Tetzel, told the crowds that the payment of a dollar could gain an indulgence of past and even of future sins.

Well, if the monk really said this, then he was sorely mistaken. Such behavior would have been in contradiction to Church teaching. Reputable authorities give a different picture of Tetzel. Indeed, in 1517, he published a thesis upon the subject wherein he writes that to gain an indulgence there must be sorrow for sin, a good confession, Holy Communion, fasting, and church visitation. He also writes that the indulgence does not forgive sins, but only the temporal punishments of past sins, and not of future sins.

Why does God not forgive sins directly, without priestly and papal mediation?

Such is well within the prerogatives of God; however, he wisely created the ministry of priests. First, the priest functions in Christ’s name and corrects the sinner from his evil ways. Second, the priest imposes a penance upon the sinner, just as our Lord would do if he still visibly walked the earth. Third, the encounter with a minister of the Church amplifies the certainty of God’s friendship and mercy; one does not have to endure a life of uncertainty about the forgiveness of one’s sins.

Could it be that indulgences might forgive the temporal punishments imposed by the Church, but not those put into place by God?

No, the authority here is absolute. “Whatsoever you shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” This power granted the Church through Peter makes no distinctions.

What does the term “treasury of the merits of the Church” mean?

This has to do with the infinite merits of Christ, the “superabundant merits” of the Virgin Mary and those of the saints. Our Lord gave the Church the power to distribute these merits to penitent sinners and to remit to them the temporal punishments due to sin.

Will not people abandon a spirit of penance if they see that temporal punishments can be forgiven easily?

No, because to gain an indulgence, such a contrite heart, free from sin, and averse to evil inclinations, must be present. Such a disposition can quite easily shorten the time of penance.

For more such material, contact me about getting my book, CATHOLIC QUESTIONS & ANSWERS.

Marriage, Divorce & Condoms

Boy is she a cutie…NOT! Hey, I am a celibate priest, and most days that seems pretty good by me. Yes, it would be nice to have someone bring me soup when sick, and my slippers, and cook, and clean, and do the laundry and…well, as my dear mother used to say, “I am sure glad you are a priest, no woman in her right mind would have you!” Probably true, but house-keepers are soooo expensive!

Years ago I posted a Catholic Sex Morality Test on my old Blog. However, the quiz site deletes the quizzes after a certain period of time. Rather than make up a new test, I thought I would share my thoughts about the few questions that those answering often got wrong. Remember I am prudish, but I try to teach ONLY what the Church actually teaches.

One of the questions on the quiz was, “Marooned alone together on a desert island, can a Catholic man and woman marry?” The answer was, “Yes, they can pledge their vows before God privately.”

The laws of the Church regarding canonical form (requiring the presence of a priest and two witnesses) is only required if it is humanly possible. A couple on a desert island, cut off from the rest of the world, can still make their vows before God and if later rescued would be considered as husband and wife by the Church. If so desired, the ceremonials associated with the exchange of vows could be provided with a Mass at that time. Remember, the couple marry themselves. The priest witnesses it for the Church.

Another question was, “How does the Catholic Church judge divorce?” The answer was, “Sometimes tolerated, divorce is technically a sin.”

Actually, divorce is tolerated, especially in cases of abuse or where the true character of the marriage is in doubt. An annulment cannot be acquired in the United States unless there is a prior divorce. However, divorce of a true marriage is forbidden by Jesus and those guilty of breaking up a true marriage commit sin. I know this is a hard teaching for some and for that reason the Church struggles in maintaining this truth while showing pastoral consideration and compassion to persons.

A question that surprised many respondents was, “Can a condom be used to prevent spreading HIV to an uninfected spouse?” The correct answer was, “No, condom use is always intrinsically evil.”

Okay, upon this one I will grant some confusion because of news stories about a possible change in Church teaching; however, I do not consider dissenting theologians and liberal bishops to be credible authorities. There was some speculation recently that the Church might permit condom use in cases where a spouse was HIV positive and the other was uninfected. Even many conservative thinkers thought that it might be permitted if the couple were elderly or infertile. Obviously, there would be no contraceptive intent. However, given the papal teachings we do have, the danger of watering down Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, and the consensus of magisterial theologians like the late Msgr. Smith of Dunwoodie and Dr. William May now retired of the JPII Marriage Institute, it is my conviction that the current teaching of the Church will not be modified. Condom use is always intrinsically evil. There is no fecundity with condom use. It feigns the marital act but is objectively something else.

I always speak honestly about what I believe…and I only hold what the Church claims as true. When and if the Church corrects me, I will always be a faithful and obedient son.

Questions & Answers About Liturgical Matters

Why does the Catholic Church have so many ceremonies?

The ceremonies and rituals assist in our lifting up of our hearts to God. The instrumentation of visible symbols helps us to grasp the invisible mysteries of faith.

Does the Bible approve of such things?

The Old Law prescribed many Jewish ceremonials. Christ made use of numerous such rituals and introduced his own ceremonies.

What is the altar?

The altar stands for the table upon which Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Why is the altar often so imposing and made of marble or stone?

While other materials may also make up the altar, the traditional altar was fashioned in the likeness of the martyrs’ tombs upon which the Mass was often said in the early Church.

Why is the altar covered with linen cloths?

It serves as a decorative cover giving reverence to the holy sacrifice, to help insure that if spilt no precious blood shall fall to the ground, and as a vestment for Christ symbolized there.

Why is there a cross (usually a crucifix) near the altar?

It is a visible reminder that the sacrifice of the Mass is an unbloody re-presentation of the sacrifice of the cross.

What is the chalice?

This is the cup into which the priest pours wine that is to be transformed into the blood of Christ.

Why do priests wear particular vestments at the altar?

The vestments remind us that the priest is a living representative of Christ at the altar. He acts in the very “person of Christ,” head of the Church. God himself prescribed vesture to be worn in the divine services of the Old Covenant.

What is the amice and what is its meaning?

This is a shoulder cloth that serves the practical purposes of covering the priest’s ordinary clerical attire and keeping the neck of certain albs (the white gown) clean. At one time it was even worn over the head as a cover against the cold. It signifies “the helmet of salvation” (Ephesians 6:17), with which the priest arms himself against devilish assaults.

What is the significance of the alb (a long white garment)?

It signifies the purity of body and soul with which a priest should possess before approaching the altar.

What does the cincture (rope worn around his waist) symbolize?

It calls to mind his priestly chastity and continence.

What does the stole (looks like a scarf) signify?

It is a vesture of dignity, as with the ancient Roman senators, symbolizing his honor and power.

What is the purpose of the chasuble (garment worn over all the rest)?

Just like the altar, as a symbol for Christ, is dressed; so too is the priest. The chasuble reminds us that he puts on Christ in a singular fashion. He is Christ, the one high priest, at the altar. It signifies the yoke of the Lord and reminds us all that to follow Christ means to take up the cross.

Suppressed today, although still implemented in the traditional liturgy is the maniple (a band hanging from the left arm); what is it about?

It is a symbol of penance, as well as of the various cares and responsibilities of the priestly vocation.

What do the different colors of vestments mean?

WHITE implies innocence and is particularly festive; it is used on feasts of the Lord and of saints who were not martyrs.

RED signifies martyrdom and is used at commemorations of the Passion, Pentecost and on the feasts of martyrs.

GREEN is used during Ordinary Time and represents the hope of eternal life.

VIOLET signifies penance and to some degree royalty (Advent and Lent).

BLACK is rarely used these days; however, it can replace white or violet at funerals and may still be used on All Souls Day. It expresses sorrow and morning.

SILVER and GOLD are variations upon white and point to even greater festivity.

What do the candles beside the altar signify?

They are another symbol for Jesus who is the Light of the World. We are reminded that his charity should always burn in our hearts. They also call to mind the first Christians who offered up the sacrifice in the dark and cold catacombs.

What is the meaning of incense?

It is a symbol of prayer that rises up to heaven as a sweet odor before God (Psalm 141:2).

Why do the priest and people make the sign of the cross at Mass?

It reminds us of the suffering and death of Christ on the cross. It also dedicates that activity to the Lord and sanctifies it. Associated with grace and blessings, it is often made over people and things.

What is the bow, bending the knee (genuflection), the bent head, and the kissing of holy objects about?

They are signs of veneration, and when directed to God, of adoration, respect, and homage to the presence of Christ upon the altar and/or in the tabernacle.

What are the principal parts of Mass?

Traditionally they were catalogued as the Offertory, Consecration, and Communion. The revised liturgy has much reduced the Offertory and simply calls it the Preparation of the Gifts. In light of renewed interest in the Scriptures, post-Vatican II directives speak of the two main parts of the Mass: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Having said this, the center of gravity will always be upon the Eucharist. At the words of consecration the priest changes the bread and wine into the living body and blood of Christ. God makes himself present upon our altars. Holy Communion is our reception of the bread of life and the cup of salvation.

What ingredients compose the host that is to be consecrated?

It is unleavened bread made from pure wheaten flour and water.

What is the tabernacle?

This is the container, either upon its own altar table or in a wall, where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved.

What is the Introit?

Usually replaced by a musical piece on Sundays, it is the Entrance Antiphon of the Mass.

What is the Confiteor?

It is a confession of fault and sin; in other words, of our unworthiness as we begin the Mass.

What is the Gloria?

It is a solemn song of praise to the goodness and majesty of God.

What is the Liturgy of the Word?

It is composed of various readings and their application is a homily. The pattern on Sundays is as follows: Old Testament Reading, Responsorial Psalm, New Testament Reading, Alleluia and/or Verse, Gospel, Homily, Creed and Prayer of the Faithful (General Intercessions).

What do we understand by the Profession of Faith at Mass?

This is the Creed given to the universal Church at Nicea in 325 AD and again at the council of Constantinople in 381 AD. It is a formal confession of the Catholic faith.

What is the meaning of the priest pouring a drop of water into the wine?

It signifies the union of the divine and human natures in Christ, and it represents the water that flowed from the side of Christ.

What is the purpose of the Lavabo?

It is to clean the priest’s hands and prepare them to touch the Sacred Host. It signifies an inward purity of soul with which we should offer this holy sacrifice to God.

What is the Preface?

It is a solemn hymn of praise and thanksgiving just before the canon of the Mass proper.

What is the Sanctus?

It is the thrice-repeated salutation of the angels in heaven: Holy, Holy, Holy.

What does the word “Canon” mean?

It refers to the anaphora or Eucharistic prayer used at Mass. The oldest in the West is the first Eucharistic prayer, the Roman Canon. The word “canon” means rule and here points to the unchangeable rule or manner in which the holy sacrifice is daily commemorated. The Roman canon had remained unchanged for almost 1,300 years prior to the Second Vatican Council. The most essential part of the canon, as with those in the newer ones, finds its source in the words of our Lord, himself. Of course, the traditions of the apostles and church fathers, as well as the reverent regulations of popes, have played a part in the development of liturgy, too.

Why does the priest extend his hands over the gifts?

This action parallels a similar gesture in the old law where the priest was required to lay his hands upon the sacrificial offerings as a sign that the animal now bore their sins and had to expiate them by death. At Mass, the extension of the hands signifies that Christ is the Lamb of God who took upon himself all the sins of the world. It is also associated with the invocation of the Holy Spirit (epliclesis). The power of the Holy Spirit makes possible the sacrifice of the Mass and the transformation of the gifts.

What does the priest do at the consecration?

The priest says what Christ said at the Last Supper: “Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you. . . . Take this all of you, and drink from it: This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.”

What is the effect of these words?

When they are spoken, the bread and wine are changed into the true and living body and blood of Christ.

Why does the priest raise up the bread and chalice?

Not only does it better allow the people to see, he lifts up the host (not simply bread) and then the chalice with the precious blood, as an invitation to adore our Lord and Savior now present under the forms of bread and wine.

What are the two prayers, which immediately follow the consecration?

The first is a Vatican II interpolation of the words associated with the consecration, “Mysterium fidei,” or THE MYSTERY OF FAITH. The congregation offers one of several memorial acclamations, which affirm that our Eucharistic Lord and the historical Christ are one-and-the-same: “Dying [you] destroyed our death, rising [you] restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory.” The anamnesis or memorial prayer is next. By recalling Christ, we make present in the Eucharist both his person and saving activity. We affirm that this is a “holy and perfect sacrifice, the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation.”

How does the priest pray for the dead?

He prays that the faithful departed may also receive from the fruits of the Mass and be granted “Light, happiness, and peace” in God’s presence. Sometimes the priest will even mention the dead by name. This is called the “memento” of the dead. The congregation should pray also for their deceased relatives and friends at this stage of the liturgy.

Why do we offer the Lord’s Prayer after the Eucharistic prayer?

It is because as children of God we are entitled to call upon God as “Our Father.” The mediation of Christ brings our prayer to God in heaven. We are confident that God will hear our prayer and give us what we need for body and soul.

Why does the priest break the host?

The fracturing of the priest’s host reminds us of the passion and death of Christ when his soul parted from his body. A fragment of the consecrated host is mingled with the precious blood as a sign that Christ is here present as our Redeemer, risen from the dead.

What is the Agnus Dei?

This is the “Lamb of God” prayer that echoes Scripture in repeating three times that he is the lamb of sacrifice “who takes away the sins of the world.” It is a prayer for mercy and one which acknowledges what Christ has accomplished.

What is with the sign of peace?

It is a ritual gesture, not simply a handshake, where we extend Christ’s peace to one another. We are admonished not to come to the altar unless we are reconciled with one another. St. Paul tells us: “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16). That is why it is sometimes called the kiss of peace.

What does the response “Amen” mean at communion?

It is a faith profession and means “Truly” or “Surely.” It is an affirmation of the priest’s words, “The body of Christ,” or “The blood of Christ.” More than that, it also expresses acceptance and unity with the Church that offers the sacrament. In other words, a person is saying that I accept all that the Church holds as true, the Holy Father and all the bishops in union with him, etc. Not wanting to make hypocrites of people, we do not invite non-Catholics to receive. However, we do ask them to hunger with us for a more full unity and, if possible, to make a spiritual communion.

How is Mass concluded?

The priest does a post communion prayer, renders a Trinitarian blessing and then either the priest or deacon says the words of dismissal: “The Mass is ended, go in peace.”

How is the blessing offered?

Using his right hand he makes an outward sign of the cross, saying, “May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, + and the Holy Spirit.” The people answer, “Amen.”

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Pondering the Meaning

Cleaning up some files I found a single page of what must have been a longer text that I composed. It went back almost ten years, to when I first came to the Church of the Holy Spirit back in 2000. My father had just passed away. Although incomplete and definitely a rough draft, I am going to share it online.

The moon is bright and round in the sky tonight.

Is it blasphemy for the soul to genuflect to this luminous host in the sky, bordered by the monstrance of stars?

Rustling leaves and the occasional cry of some indiscriminate bird are the only sounds.

Cool is the breeze against the skin.

I am alone.

Perhaps that has always been the case?

Even as a boy with siblings falling over each other, there was still a keen sense of aloneness.

Was this where I heard a calling to live apart from other men, even if I must live among them?

This I cannot answer.

My kin is Thoreau this evening, as I delight in the cathedral of nature.

Too cool for mosquitoes, the air bites at the skin instead.

The prickling of the flesh is welcome; it reminds me that I am still alive and conscious.

That might sound absurdly obvious; but I have discovered that the contrary is always threatening us.

We fill our lives with noise and activity.

There is little time or opportunity for quiet reflection.

Philosophers define human beings as distinct from the animal kingdom because of our intense self-awareness.

However, there may be many who sedate themselves against such self-understanding.

Could that have been the primordial sin?

A man was summoned from the brute animals and discovering that knowledge is pain, sought to turn his back on his vocation?

It is easier to be mechanical.

Passions and potions can fill our time and help us to escape the truth.

There are those who would help us to maintain the illusion that everything is going to be okay.

A good meal, an entertaining movie or a piece of music might satiate, if only for a moment, a yearning for the joy that seems to escape us.

How many are running their televisions right now?

The counters of ratings will contend that millions are watching the tube hour after hour.

It is easier to watch the stories of others than to live our own stories. 

We live such dull lives.

After awhile every day seems like the last.

We fall into patterns.

Long before our technology invented robots to work in factories and to build cars, we made ourselves into robots. 

Even poor animals can suffer, but not machines.

It is no wonder that so many deny the existence of the immortal soul.

We have driven all awareness of it out of us.

How many countless people live around me?

They are all bundled in their homes or in their cars heading home or to the store.

Here I am, in the cold night, seeking nothing more productive than to ponder the meaning of it all.

My nursing home communicants know what it is about.

Except for myself and a handful of aging volunteers, few from outside come to visit them.

They are forgotten, no more than that, purposely avoided.

Fred had his right leg removed last week.

Timmy has a head three times larger than the rest of his shriveled body.

His brain is alive and well, and there is the hell of it.

He is my age and has never left a bed that is little more than a child’s crib.

Gladys holds a baby-doll and tries to feed it.

Her mind has left her.

It has gone back to the days when she was a young and happy mother. 

Who am I to break the illusion about her child, now a grown woman who rarely pays a visit?

Wheelchairs, walkers and respirators– these are the things of living and of dying.

The…

It is there that the text breaks off. Maybe I will find the rest later? Of course, it was likely thrown away. The infirmed mentioned at the end have all died. Certainly they are with the Lord and they remain in my memories. The reflection probably ended on a higher note, sorry if the remnant seems a bit meloncholy.

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