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The latest homily from Ken Overberg, S.J., delivered to the faculty, staff, students, and baby-boomers of Xavier University’s Bellarmine Chapel community provides us with an opportunity to discuss the meaning of “authorship” in Scripture. Overberg breathlessly asserts, “The second letter of Peter, the second reading, has an unknown author.” Yet authorship in ancient times didn’t mean the same thing it does today. When we hear “author,” we usually imagine someone picking up a pen or putting his hands on a keyboard and writing an original thought or idea. In ancient times, authorship had a different meaning. Yes, (1) it could mean the sort of direct form familiar to modern readers, but (2) it also could mean the originator of the idea or story dictated his words to a scribe or group of scribes. Additionally, (3) it could mean that a school of disciples or followers formed around the originator to preserve and propagate his ideas, thoughts, words, and stories. Members of this school would have understood themselves as preservationists, not innovators, duty-bound to hand-on those ideas without altering them. Given St. Peter’s stature in the early Church, it isn’t difficult to imagine such a school forming around him. So Overberg is at the very least imprecise when he baldly states that the author of Second Peter is “unknown.” Which is why homilies aren’t the best outlets for historical-critical speculation.

Cincinnati’s Old St. Mary church in the historic and “urban cool” Over-the-Rhine neighborhood has a spiffy new website under its new(ish) pastor* Fr. Jon-Paul Bevak. Go check it out. It features his weekly column to catechize the faithful and inform parishioners of the many “goings on” at OSM. Last week’s entry includes interesting historical details about the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and this week’s is on Gaudete Sunday.

* Actually, Fr. Bevak is the “parochial administrator,” which means that while he’s the priest in charge, he can be removed at any time by Archbishop Schnurr. (Pastors typically serve a term of, I believe, six years.) This transient status for priests seems to be a particular favorite of +Schnurr’s. I wish it weren’t. It’s hard enough to introduce orthodox renewal at a parish without the pastor and his flock knowing that Father can be sent packing at a moment’s notice.

In an insightful review for Peter Kwasniewski’s new book, Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis: Sacred Liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, and Renewal in the Church, Dom Alcuin Read explains that the liturgy is not a means to an end, e.g., for social action or community-building, but an end itself. (Pope Benedict, writing as Cardinal Ratzinger, makes precisely the same point in the opening chapter of his modern classic The Spirit of the Liturgy.) Here’s an excerpt:

[O]ur first duty, in justice, is the worship of Almighty God. The first commandment of the Decalogue, the Rule of St Benedict, the teaching of St Thomas Aquinas and the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, amongst others, make this perfectly clear. So does the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “God’s first call and just demand is that man accept him and worship him” (n. 2084).

Certainly, the Council teaches that the Sacred Liturgy is the source and summit of the Church’s life and mission (SC 10), and that the “liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church” (SC 9). Nevertheless, the Sacred Liturgy enjoys priority. It has a literally fundamental place in Christian life. As the Council states: “no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree” (SC 7). Indeed, the Council teaches that the “the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper” (SC 10).

Let us be clear: according to the Second Vatican Council (and two millennia of Catholic tradition leading up to it) apostolic works are not ends in themselves, but are a means to bring people to the optimal worship of Almighty God in His Church. The worship of God is the end of Christian life, and we realise this ecclesially, liturgically. Christian faith is not a form of social activism; it is an essentially cultic relationship with the person of Jesus Christ living and acting in His Church today in and through the Sacred Liturgy. To be a Christian is to be called to full participation in the Sacred Liturgy in this life and to rejoice in the heavenly liturgy in the next. To obscure or to forget this is to reduce Christianity to a mere proponent of humanitarian welfare—an NGO. Indeed, to deny the fundamental primacy of the Sacred Liturgy for all Christian life—to regard it as a mere means to an end—is, perhaps, to give life to what may well be called the anti-liturgical heresy of the early 21st century.

If you’re looking for a Christmas gift idea for your parish priest, you could do worse than give him Kwasniewski’s intriguing new book. Or send him Alcuin Reid’s review as a stocking stuffer.

If you can’t picture someone doing it at Mass (or before Mass), say, 100 years ago or 100 years hence, it probably isn’t something you should impose now.

If that isn’t persuasive, what’s below is binding. From paragraph 45 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM):

Even before the celebration itself, it is commendable that silence to be observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner.

More persuasion and binding here.

Enjoy a smile today when you read about two Renaissance-era depictions of Mary tickling the child Jesus, courtesy of the wonderfully “random” Dominicana blog.

George Weigel famously said that Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, based on a series of Wednesday General Audience talks, would be a theological “time bomb” in the 21st century. Well, it increasingly appears that Pope Benedict XVI detonated a spiritual bombshell with his “School of Prayer” catechesis delivered during General Audience talks in 2011 and 2012. You can read them online here and in a handsome edition from Ignatius Press here. Deacon James Keating of the Institute for Priestly Formation has created a series of popular and theologically rich talks on the “school” and now Fr. Andreas Schmidt has written a useful and attractively produced booklet for the Knights of Columbus, “We Have Come to Adore Him”: An Introduction to Prayer at the School of Benedict XVI. Until recently, I shamefully neglected my prayer life, and Pope Benedict has been showing me the way forward. Long may he reign in our hearts.

I had the good fortune this weekend to attend the St. Gertrude men’s Advent retreat led by Fr. Giles Dimock, O.P. The theme was “Go to St. Joseph,” and Fr. Dimock stressed the importance of an authentic and healthy Catholic masculinity. During his homily at Mass Saturday morning, he referred to an article from the Dominicana blog on the Rosary as the “best prayer for men.” He happened to have an extra copy with him, which he generously gave me, and which I now pass along to you. Here’s a key ‘graf:

2. The Rosary arms us for spiritual warfare. The fact of the matter is that spiritual life is war (cf. CCC 2725). St. Paul puts it this way, “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). To contend in the battle, we must put on the armor of Light (Rom. 13:12)! Dominican friars wear the Rosary on the left side, the side which bore the sword for knights of old. In the battle of the spiritual life, prayer is the only weapon, and it must be used. Frequently. Unceasingly. Devotion to the Rosary reclaimed the life of the 19th-century Italian lawyer Bartolo Longo (who had become entrapped in the world of the occult and often dreamt of taking his own life), and without a doubt, devotion to the Rosary will help us overcome the evils which plague us. The temptations and cycles of sin of the 21st century do not own us, for the Rosary narrates the greatest conquest of all time: the victory of life and light over sin and death.

My thanks to the leadership team for the St. Gertrude Men’s Group for organizing the retreat.

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