December 2014


An examination of parental conscience from Pope St. John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio:

“Do you teach your children the Christian prayers? Do you prepare them, in conjunction with the priests, for the sacraments that they receive when they are young – Confession, Communion and Confirmation? Do you encourage them, when they are sick, to think of Christ suffering, to invoke the aid of the Blessed Virgin and the saints? Do you say the family Rosary together…? Do you pray with your children, with the whole domestic community, at least sometimes? Your example of honesty in thought and action, joined to some common prayer, is a lesson for life and an act of worship of singular value. In this way you bring peace to your homes: Pax huic domui. Remember, it is thus that you build up the Church.”

The New York Times ran an article yesterday on the impressive growth of vocations among the Dominicans in the UK, which the reporter attributes to the order’s self-conscious embrace of tradition, especially the familiar habit. This connection appears to be a revelation to the reporter and forms the thrust of his story, as though he wasn’t aware of forty years of evidence to prove the point. It got me thinking about two religious orders that to varying degrees are active locally: the Dominicans, famously at their priory in Madeira on the campus of St. Gertrude Catholic Church, and the Jesuits, who serve St. Xavier parish downtown and St. X high school in Finneytown.

Blessed Cardinal Newman supposedly quipped, “The surest sign of life is growth,” and by that measure applied locally the Dominicans are very much alive, as the priory hosts a growing number of novices and your priests. Their appeal is straightforward: traditional orthodoxy — visibly represented by the habit — and communal asceticism. It’s the appeal they’ve had for virtually all of their 800 years of existence (with some notable, temporary lapses in the confusion after Vatican II).

And the Jesuits? Not so much. They exist mainly in the imagination of alumni from the high school. It is rare to find young or new members of the Society of Jesus in Cincinnati. In the last decade, the parish downtown featured a dynamic pastor who was literally the “poster boy” for vocations, as photographs of him in very nonclerical running gear were featured in promotional material designed to attract new members. His parish experienced an initial burst of growth, but it always seemed anchored in his admittedly engaging personality. He left town for destinations unknown a couple of years ago, and I am told he abandoned the order to pursue a career as a fitness coach. The parish has resumed its sleepier existence.

Is there a moral to the story? It is abundantly clear that a deliberate, authentic, and visible embrace of orthodoxy and tradition are the keys to vocational growth, but what might be less so is the effect that has on the “recruits” themselves, irrespective of their numbers. Call it truth in advertising, but a vocational effort that shows a man in a habit — or a collar — is going to attract someone drawn to a life of service, subordination, and the pursuit of holiness. A vocations program featuring as its centerpiece a man in running gear — or civilian clothes in general — is probably going to attract a man drawn to something else.

My brief review of Msgr. Alfred N. Gibley’s We Believe: A Simple Commentary on the Catechism of Christian Doctrine, recently republished in a digital edition, for Amazon:

Msgr. Gibley’s gift for aphorism and analogy is striking, and one can only imagine what it was like to hear his explication of the faith as a student at Cambridge when the man was in his prime. He explains and elaborates on the simple text of the Catechism of Christian Doctrine, a.k.a., the venerable “Penny Catechism” of England & Wales, in much the same way that Baltimore Catechism 4 provides additional commentary for BC 1 and 2. Kudos to TAN and Amazon for releasing this modern classic in the Kindle format. Here’s a sample from his response to Q7 of Chapter 1 that stands the modernist interpretation of the Gospel on its head:

“[S]o much of our modern Christianity gives the impression that what we are here for is to put the world right. To make a true contribution to putting the world right, we must first establish the kingdom of God in our own hearts. This primary duty is ours all the time and any effect we have outside ourselves will be either an overflow, a consequence or an instrument of that. The primary province for each of us is not the Third World but our own hearts.”

And here he is later in the chapter on the advantages of memorization:

“Some people now deride the system of teaching by heart, saying that it is pure parrot-work without any value. That is nonsense. A child who learned the whole Catechism by heart often did not understand the exact or precise meaning of what he was learning at the time. But once he had got a definition clearly in his mind he had something to come back to and ponder again and again for the rest of his life. In the modern method of teaching, the child has nothing to come back to or ponder.”

I’m looking forward to devouring the rest of the book on my next trip.

For more on Msgr. Gibley’s fascinating life, see this post, this obituary, and this essay.

St. Joseph Church in Dayton, Ohio is the unofficially designated urban parish in the city offering confession 6 days a week, Mon-Fri 11:30-12 and also on Saturday afternoons. The confession line is always a steady stream of demographically diverse Catholics.

Having noticed a blurb online in the weekly bulletin that confession yesterday was instead going to be at 11, I figured it would be sparsely attended, given the deviation from its normal time, and the closeness of the holiday. To my surprise, not only was the confession line already full upon my arrival, but the never-before-seen-used confessional booth on the other side of the naive was also being used, it too had a full line. It was quite a beautiful and fitting end to Advent.

Also observed in line for confession was a local pro-abortion and pro-same sex marriage politician/elected public official. Usually such discussions involve said-individuals presenting themselves for Holy Communion, but this made me wonder about such individuals presenting themselves for absolution when no public renunciation of support for such causes had ever been issued. In this instance, while doubtful but still possible, the individual observed may have indeed been there yesterday to repent for those public positions involving non-negotiable matters of faith, and as part of the counsel he received in the booth was the necessity on his part to publicly retract his support, which is coming at any moment. But it all begs the question, of how do you receive absolution, if you don’t also confess your support for these immoral causes given the fact one is a publicly elected official?

The other night I picked up three classics for my Kindle from Msgr. Ronald Knox for under $3:

Placed on Sunday, December 21, 2014

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The venerable Catholic publisher Ligouri has been a hit-or-miss source of material these days, and one of its recent offerings, 2011’s Vatican II: Its Impact on You, a short book I picked up at a local parish, is a clear miss — the sort of thing you’d expect from, say, Paulist Press or St. Anthony Messenger Press twenty years ago. (Both Paulist and SAMP have been publishing much more reliable content in recent years.) Written by Peter A. Huff, Ph.D., who “holds the Besl Family Chair in Ethics/Religion and Society” at Cincinnati’s theologically troubled Xavier University, this latest book on Vatican II reflects the false “hermeneutic of rupture” that Pope Benedict XVI devoted much of his pontificate to correcting. Alas, that rupture is on display in these pages. Here’s a sample from the “Liturgy” section of Chapter 7: the Impact of Vatican II:

Paul’s revised rite opened a whole new horizon for the Catholic liturgical imagination. Contemporary music, simplified vestments and worship environments, and an air of informality have come to be standard features of the Catholic liturgical experience. Respect for local cultures is also a hallmark of post-Vatican II worship. Laypeople have especially flourished in their new vocations as cantors, lectors, eucharistic ministers, diocesan liturgical directors, and members of parish liturgy committees.

It’s worth noting that the man Huff so casually refers to as “Paul” is Pope Paul VI and that just about everything he describes in his “new horizon” either had little to do with the texts of the conciliar documents or has been the subject of a steady stream of corrections and clarifications by the Holy See to restore the reverence and formality envisioned by the council fathers.

Unsurprisingly, Pope Benedict XVI’s efforts at restoration are barely mentioned while the discredited and censured theologian Karl Rahner is lauded as “the dean of Catholic theology after the council.”

This book is clearly designed to cement an erroneous implementation of Vatican II and counter the much needed reform of the reform ushered in by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. As such it should be rejected categorically.

Msgr. Frank Lane of Cincinnati’s Athenaeum (and a frequent guest at Oakley’s St. Cecilia Church) offers audio-reflections on the Sunday readings, especially the Gospel, for Columbus’s St. Gabriel Radio. If you’ve never had the opportunity to hear him preach, you are in for a treat.

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