His Excellency Salvatore Matano, the new bishop for my home diocese of Rochester, has promulgated a new policy document on the sacraments to bring local practices in line with the norms of the universal Church. Highlights include lengthier preparation for Confirmation, reserving the homily to the ordained clergy, and ordering First Penance before First Communion. As is typical with Bishop Matano, he combines fidelity with pastoral care, taking the time to explain why each policy is necessary. God bless him.

In an effort “to assist diocesan parishes and institutions to fulfill their mandate to proclaim Jesus Christ in Word and to strengthen the faithful in Sacrament,” Bishop Salvatore R. Matano promulgated Policies for the Administration of the Sacraments in the Diocese of Rochester on Sept. 30.

The policies address the sacraments of baptism, holy Eucharist, confirmation and penance/reconciliation, replacing all previously issued diocesan guidelines on those sacraments. Also included are directives on such topics as sacramental preparation for children and young adults, liturgical practices and establishing a lifelong relationship with the church.

The document is the result of numerous meetings and discussions that began in 2012 among diocesan and parish leaders. Bishop Matano explained that updating the policies was less about making changes than serving to clarify pre-existing sacramental norms and compile them in a comprehensive document, so that diocesan parishes can refer to and implement the standards more uniformly.

Read the rest of the story at the Catholic Courier of Rochester.

The latest “urban hike” from the Pilgrimage of Faith team of the local Boy Scouts is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 4, in Dayton, Ohio.  What I especially like about this ongoing effort is its deliberate embrace of the history and tradition of the pilgrimage — they even liken scout troops to crusading “ancient armies of old, knights in armor.”  Information is available on the website:

The Central Trail is a loop trail beginning and ending at Holy Angels Church in Dayton, Ohio  hhttp://holyangels.cc/   The Hike Direction sheet has the address and now includes map Coordinates

The Central Trail is in downtown Dayton. It visits eight parishes and the chapel at the University of Dayton. Part of the hike will be along the Great Miami River.  The Churches along the Central Trail are Holy Angels Church, Emmanuel Church, Sacred Heart Church, St Joseph Church, Holy Trinity Church, Holy Family, St. Anthony of Padua Church, St. Mary Church and the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at the University of Dayton.

So I went to the local Franciscan Media’s “Saint of the Day” site tonight to read to the kids about tomorrow’s St. Januarius (our usual books weren’t at hand).  Here’s what we got:

It is defined Catholic doctrine that miracles can happen and can be recognized—hardly a mind-boggling statement to anyone who believes in God. Problems arise, however, when we must decide whether an occurrence is unexplainable in natural terms, or only unexplained. We do well to avoid an excessive credulity, which may be a sign of insecurity. On the other hand, when even scientists speak about “probabilities” rather than “laws” of nature, it is something less than imaginative for Christians to think that God is too “scientific” to work extraordinary miracles to wake us up to the everyday miracles of sparrows and dandelions, raindrops and snowflakes.

I got furrowed brows from the little ones and chuckles from the middle schoolers.  (In fairness, the linked audio version is better.) In related news, they’ve launched a new site dedicated to channeling St. Francis through Pope Francis, the comment box for which is apparently for Ultramontanists only; they deleted my comment about Pope Francis’s “verbal incoherence.”

Fully consistent with the one step forward, two steps back nature of this episcopate, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is hosting a series of talks on the liturgy that’s a “Who’s Who” of official establishmentarians and partisans, including the grievance-peddling director of archdiocesan African American Ministries, Deacon Royce Winters, who once chastised a colleague for not rhapsodizing Obama in a post-election homily, and Catholic Social Action office chief Tony Stieritz, who has successfully turned his department into the local headquarters for “Catholics for Obama.”  (Are you sensing a theme? Meanwhile, their caudillo just announced his intention to force 400 Catholic institutions to comply with his HHS mandate.)  A notable exception is Sean Ater, the director of “new” New Evangelization office, but even he is teamed up with the long-tenured head of the Worship office.  But vocations are up, so there must be nothing to worry about.

We’ve all heard of “Cafeteria Catholicism,” whereby Catholics pick and choose which teachings they will obey. What if we took the same concept and applied it to the Sunday readings? We could call it … the lunch-line lectionary. Don’t like the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel reading? No problem! Do your best to ignore it, and zero-in on the Pauline epistle or the Old Testament reading. The odds are decent that at least one of them is palatable. That’s essentially what Ken Overberg, S.J., does in his homily this weekend for the students and baby boomers at Xavier University’s Bellarmine Chapel. He also rehashes some of the most thoroughly discredited assumptions of the historical-critical method, and, for good measure, likens the butchers of ISIS to the Samaritans.

For many years the Church has been teaching us to pay attention to the historical context of the Scriptures, reminding us that these writings are God’s word in human words.

Both the first reading from Ezekiel and the reading from Matthew’s gospel speak about community relations and correction. Recall that Ezekiel lived almost 600 years before Jesus. Ezekiel’s image of God, while still prominent today (perhaps in some of us), was NOT shared by Jesus. So, along with the prophetic call to faithfulness, we also hear today a rather harsh image of God.

Matthew’s gospel, written more than fifty years after Jesus, also addresses community conflicts and the possibility of reconciliation. Today’s passage clearly expresses issues of Matthew’s community, put back onto the lips of Jesus. The evangelist was convinced that the presence of the risen One was guiding the community’s life, even in its tensions.

Our continuing reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans happens to give a helpful emphasis for appreciating the other two readings and their theme of community interaction. Paul urges the Romans (and now us) to love one another. Everything is summed up in this simple yet profound command.

Let’s listen to God’s word.

The latest round of conflagrations in the Moslem Middle East has a number of Catholic commentators revisiting Pope Benedict’s 2006 Regensburg lecture for its prescience and for the points he made about the centrality of reason (and its relative absence in Islam).  Frs. De Souza and Rutler offer their reminiscences here and here.  For my money the best commentary on the importance of the address is found in the writings of Fr. James Schall, who, accurately in my view, called it “the most important address in modern times.”  EWTN compiled three short interviews Zenit conducted with Fr. Schall to promote his 2007 Regensburg-themed book.  Here’s a sample from part II:

Some philosophers, not just Muslim, think that God cannot be limited in any way, even by the principle of contradiction. He can make right wrong, or even make hatred of God his will. It sounds strange to hear this position at first. But once we grant its first principle, that will is higher than intellect, and governs it, everything follows.

This theory is why so-called Muslim terrorists claim and believe that they are in fact following Allah’s will. They might even be acting on a good, if erroneous, conscience. Allah wants the whole world to worship him in the order laid down in the Koran.

The world cannot be settled until this conversion to Islam happens, even if it takes centuries to accomplish. This submission to Allah is conceived to be a noble act of piety. There is in voluntarist principles nothing contradictory if Allah orders the extension of his kingdom by violence, since there is no objective order that would prevent the opposite of what is ordered from being ordered the next day.

Susan Vogt, a member of the Diocese of Covington’s Peace & Justice establishment, has hand-picked 97 “Prime Pope Francis Quotes” from his controversial apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium in the hope that parishes will include them in their bulletins.  (The exhortation is controversial because it’s the first modern papal document I’ve come across that stoops to the level of name-calling of fellow Catholics.)  In any event, it doesn’t get any better with the redaction; it’s amazing how many straw men the Holy Father can fit into one document.  Go see for yourself.

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