Francis and the Weeping Priests

Today the Holy Father met with the clergy of Rome.  I read the highlights in the Italian VIS and I am working my way through the video of the whole event. BELOW.

His Holiness said “preti ‘asettici’ non aiutano la Chiesa… Antiseptic/cold/indifferent” priests don’t help the Church.  We could say “sterile”, but not in the sense that he warned old liberal women religious about being, whom Francis calls “zitelle”, because they are bound up in female machismo and don’t bear fruit.   But I digress. No, Francis is talking about priests who are aloof, distant, cold.  Don’t fall into the trap of reading “asettici” as “ascettici… ascetic”.  That would have been a lot more fun.

The priest is called “to have a heart that is moved.  “Sterile” priests or those ‘of the laboratory’, all clean and well-groomed, don’t help the Church!”  I don’t think he is advocating that we dress like slobs. What pops into my mind is a concelebration with all those hideous flour sack albs… brrrr…. talk about sterile.  But I digress.

The Holy Father goes on to use the “field hospital” image again.  Field hospitals are a mess.  He makes a good point.  Priests cannot be emotionally detached, they must know what is going on in their parishes, they must care and they must pray for people.  He asked his priests whether they are moved by the sufferings of the people they encounter.  Do they weep for their sufferings?  I doubt Francis is suggesting that priests go about weeping and wringing their hands.   Well… maybe he is.  I’ll bet Jonah was a sight as he roamed about Ninevah.  But, wait… he was asking them to repent of and change their sinful ways or be slain by the Father of Mercy Himself.

Back to the Pope and his priests.

The Pope spoke about the importance of the Sacrament of Penance.

“… It is up to us, as ministers of the Church, to keep this message alive, above all in preaching and in our gestures, in signs and in pastoral choices, such as the decision to restore priority to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and at the same time to works of mercy.”

He followed up saying that priest confessors should not be either too rigid or too lax in the confessional.  Who will disagree?  At the same time, he doesn’t offer anything concrete about striking that balance.  I will point out that the confessional is a tribunal in which the penitent – not the confessor – is the prosecuting attorney.

Finally, I did like the fact that he quoted the older, traditional form of the Missale Romanum when he spoke about priests shedding tears for their people before the Blessed Sacrament.  He said, and this was a truly a poor choice of words which suggests that the Holy Father is out of touch with an important dimension of the lives of many of his flock.  This is in the Italian account, not the English… and you have to ask why:

To explain, I’ll put to you some questions that help me when a priest comes to me…. [He must be talking about the days when he was a provincial or diocesan bishop]  Tell me: Do you cry? Or have we lost tears? I remember that in the old Missals, those of another time [No… of our time, too, Your Holiness], that there is a very beautiful prayer to ask the gift of tears. The prayer started like this: “Lord, who commanded Moses to strike the stone in order that water would come, strike the stone so that tears…”: it was like that, more or less, that prayer. It was very beautiful. But, how many of us weep in the face of the suffering of a child, before the destruction of a family, before so many people who can’t find the path? The weeping of the priest… do you cry? Or in this presbyterate have we lost tears? Do you weep for your people? Tell me, do you pray a prayer of intercession before the Tabernacle? Do you struggle with the Lord for your people? Do you struggle with the Lord like Abraham struggled? And if there should be fewer? If there should be 25? And if there should be 20? That courageous prayer of intercession… But, let’s talk about parresia, of apostolic courage, and let’s think about pastoral plans… but that’s going alright: but the same parresia is also necessary in prayer. Struggle with the Lord, or discuss with the Lord how Moses did it, when the Lord was fed up, tired of his people and told him: “But you remain calm… I will destroy them all, and I will make you the head of another people”. No. No. If you destroy the people, destroy me too. But, these guys had chutzpah [to not write another thing – Ma, questi avevano i pantaloni!] Do we have the chutzpah [i pantaloni] to to struggle with God for our people?

A couple things.

First, one of the most powerful verses in the New Testaments is John 11:35:

ἐδάκρυσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς … Jesus wept.

Next, perhaps the Holy Father – who emphatically tells his priests to know their flocks and be with them in their sufferings – could also spare a little time for those who have in the past and still today suffered enormously at the hands of indifferent or domineering priests and bishops who dislike the traditional expression of our Catholic faith.  Perhaps a little time could be spared also for them?  Perhaps the Holy Father might encourage a shepherd who is supposed to know his flock also to open his heart to them and learn also the older form of Mass and sacraments and not to refer to them with opening statements like “Once upon a time…”.  But I digress.

Note the context of “struggling” or “dickering” with God: the imminent destruction of the people by God Himself.  This is not a fairy tale the Pope is addressing.  The example concern the obliteration of the whole people and a restart.  That adds a grim dimension to the Pope’s folksy points.

I recall the words of St. Augustine to his flock in Hippo.  In a sermon, he gave his people a real talking to and then explained why he was laying it on so hard. Explained that if he didn’t preach his tough message he could not be saved. If they listened or didn’t listen he was going to preach anyway and thus save his own soul. “But” he concluded, “Nolo salvus esse sine vobis! … I don’t want to be saved without you!” (s. 17.2)

Back to that point about the prayer in the older Missal.  I think his description of the older, traditional Missal is unfortunate and blinkered, but let that pass for now (cf. Summorum Pontificum).  The prayer to which the Holy Father refers is in the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal, but it doesn’t explicitly mention Moses.

It is in the section called “Orationes diversae… diverse prayers”, “diverse” in the sense of “various” not “contrasting”.   These are orations that could be added by the priest after the obligatory prayers for the particular Mass formulary being used.  For example, were I to say Mass (as I do) using the Votive Mass “for the remission of sins”, or “in time of war”, I might also add the prayer “ad petendam compunctionis cordis… for the petitioning compunction of heart”.

Here is the Collect:

Omnipotens et mitissime Deus, qui sitienti populo fontem viventis aquae de petra produxisti: educ de cordis nostri duritia lacrimas compunctionis; ut peccata nostra plangere valeamus, remissionemque eorum, te miserante, mereamur accipere.

I love that juxtaposition of perduco and educo. Subtle.  Rich.  Our Latin copia verborum never fails to satisfy.

Plango brings in a fantastic image.  In the first place, it means “to strike, beat”.  Waves plangent the rocks, palms drums, birds against snares with their wings.  The verb is especially associated with beating one’s breast or head.  St. Augustine mentions in a sermon how, when he spoke of God’s mercy, the congregation would strike their breasts with such force that it would rumble in the church.  Of course plango is also beweep, bewail, wring one’s hands (see above).

Compunctio is “a puncture” and, in Christian Latin, “the sting of conscience, remorse”.

So …

Almighty and most merciful God, who brought forth a font of living water from the rock for the sake of your thirsting people: draw forth tears of stinging remorse from the hardness of our heart; in order that we may be able to bewail our sins, and, you being merciful, merit to accept their remission.

Have you ever noticed that, after not shedding tears for a long time, those first tears really burn and sting?

This word compunctio shows up in the Latin 2002 Missale Romanum on Ash Wednesday, in the Post Communion: it is what Holy Church wants us to take with us out the door.  It is a key theme, stressed in our liturgical prayers – always starting points for everything – for Lent.

The prayer about tears doesn’t mention Moses, as the Holy Father quips, but the image is clearly that of Numbers 20.  And it is important that he struck the rock twice and it is important that the water is living water.  But I digress.

The themes of compunction of heart and of the gift of tears have a deep and nearly unfathomable wealth in the spiritual writings of the saints and in liturgical texts.

Allow me to digress.  Just a quick scan of the prayers yesterday, for Ash Wednesday during the blessing of ashes, at least in the traditional form I used yesterday – I didn’t bother to check the new form – offer the image of weeping prominently:

Almighty, everlasting God, spare those who are repentant, be merciful to those who pray to You, and graciously send Your holy angel from heaven to bless ? and hallow these ashes, that they may be a wholesome remedy for all who humbly implore Your holy Name; who accuse themselves by acknowledging their sins, who weep for their evil deeds in the sight of Your divine mercy;… Between the porch and the altar the priests the Lord’s ministers shall weep, and shall say: Spare, O Lord, spare thy people: and shut not the mouths of them that sing to thee, O Lord?

And in Joel:

Thus says the Lord: Return to Me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God.

Enough.

We have lost so much of our patrimony in the last few decades.  It’s enough to make a grown man weep.

Here is the video of the Holy Father’s time with the clergy of Rome.

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, WDTPRS and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Francis and the Weeping Priests

  1. Vincent says:

    Well at least the Pope is talking about those old Missals – even if we might object to them being referred to as “from a different time”. You never know, maybe now he’ll go looking for more beautiful prayers from them…

    In any case, his speech (and your post) are very beautiful – hardly surprising given the nature of the Catholic Faith. It never ceases to amaze me about just how much beauty and love there is in almost every reading of the Mass. We need to get to Heaven just to have long enough to contemplate the beauty of the physical manifestation of God’s presence on Earth – without the actual manifestation up there!

    Viva la Papa!

  2. frroberts says:

    The interesting thing about the Mass for the gift of tears is that it made it back in the Missal in 2003. I celebrate the Mass frequently on ferial weekdays.

  3. Gerard Plourde says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and reflections of both Francis’ homily and your own inauguration of the season. The images of weeping and of hearts rent to reveal their openness and tenderness are central to the call for repentance that we are called live for the next forty days so that we may joyfully receive and in turn spread the Gospel of the Risen Lord.

  4. Geoffrey says:

    What a beautiful prayer! Very useful for Lent.

    It is sad that so many seem to not realize that there are two forms of the one Roman Rite, ordinary and extraordinary. Not old, not new, not “from a different time”, etc. Both forms are alive today, side-by-side.

  5. APX says:

    *sigh*
    I hope this message gets out to the priest who flat out refused to hear my confession after I left the Church and wanted to come back simply because I asked outside of his randomly scheduled time and he doesn’t “do confession outside of scheduled time.”

    I have often read those extra prayers that can be added to the Mass and wondered if it were possible to use them during Masses I request to be said for certain intentions, often they match up to something in there.

  6. Magpie says:

    Pope Francis is an enigma. Even as he wonders why priests often don’t shed tears, he shows us the reason is because they’ve stopped praying for the gift of tears, just as the Old Mass provided. Time is running out for the New Mass. After years of reading this and other blogs, having given the reform of the reform a chance, I’m now convinced that there will only be true renewal when we get back our Mass. The New Mass isn’t doing it, it really isn’t. Perhaps Pope Francis can join the dots and see the value of the Old Mass and the necessity, not of its suppression, but of its wholesale return. Then maybe our priests and our people will have the gift of tears because they are once again praying.

  7. torch621 says:

    Magpie, it isn’t the pope who is the burden to me.

  8. Priam1184 says:

    That said Father, it was a nice post. I like the inclusion of three different languages, English aside. I wish as well that Francis would crack down on wayward bishops and priests who make people’s live miserable whose only offense is that they wish to live the Catholic Faith as it has been passed down to us from the apostles. But then again Benedict XVI and John Paul II didn’t do a whole lot in that regard either so I don’t hold him especially responsible for this problem.

  9. APX says:

    Just wondering, did anyone else mistake the statue of Jesus for a velociraptor with human arms at the beginning of that video??

  10. Pingback: Fulton Sheen, My Son, Miracle & Exciting News f/Rome - Big Pulpit

  11. OrthodoxChick says:

    APX,

    That’s enough to make one weep as well. What a horrible piece of “art” and an insult to Our Lord. It makes him look like neptune emerging from the sea instead of King of kings and Lord of lords resurrected. I hope they retire that thing to a basement archive somewhere and bring back the gorgeous renaissance art being stored away.

  12. BenYachov says:

    >Next, perhaps the Holy Father – who emphatically tells his priests to know their flocks and be with them in their sufferings – could also spare a little time for those who have in the past and still today suffered enormously at the hands of indifferent or domineering priests and bishops who dislike the traditional expression of our Catholic faith. Perhaps a little time could be spared also for them? Perhaps the Holy Father might encourage a shepherd who is supposed to know his flock also to open his heart to them and learn also the older form of Mass and sacraments and not to refer to them with opening statements like “Once upon a time…”.

    Or instead of being paranoid and assuming the Holy Father is out to get you you might cite the Holy Father’s words to a stern proverbial Bishop who goes out of his way to step on Traditional Forms of Catholic expression?

    Why is this hard Father?

    [HAH HAH HAH HAH! That was a really strange reading of what I wrote.]

  13. Magpie says:

    Ben, I am not sure what you mean here, but Father Z is not being paranoid. I think we’d all like the Pope to be a bit more sensitive to the real pastoral needs of Traditional Catholics. There’s been a lot of negativity coming from him as regards Traditional things like the Mass etc…. We need to be built up, not broken down. And right now, I feel pretty broken down and not edified by Pope Francis. I don’t feel at all fathered by him. It’s a real problem for me and a situation never before have I found myself in, having lived under 3 Popes.

  14. ChrisRawlings says:

    I understand the quibble with the Pope’s comment about the Old Mass, but the reality is that Traditional Latin Mass attenders are a tiny number globally, and even smaller in Latin America as a percentage, at least compared to the US or Britain. But the point is fair and he should have used a different way if speaking there.

    Still, I found the Holy Father’s reflection especially moving and beautiful. I do not think that his trademark emphasis on mercy is a cheapened sort at all. He clearly recognizes the fact that Christ has already done the hard part and the job of a priest is to help us all take what God has won and allow it to change our hearts, minds, and whole lives. If you see that in the Pope’s general motif, it makes his interviews and his whole papacy more scrutable

  15. McCall1981 says:

    @ magpie,
    Thats exactly how I feel too.

  16. BenYachov says:

    I think the Pope’s job is just to be Pope of a Universal Church and not be expected to pay attention to one group within it. [And here I thought the Pope was serious when he said that the shepherd is supposed to be out there, with his sheep, getting to know them and their concerns, their sufferings.]

    Anyway I understand you feel this way but I reject feelings as a basis of analyzing reality. I’d rather think(it’s the Thomist in me) then feel. I see no rational reason to believe Pope Francis is out to get Traditionalists anymore then I should believe he is out to get semi-Banezists like myself just because he is a Jesuit. [Where did this “out to get” BS come from? Your fevered imagination and desire to find fault and pick a fight, I’m figuring.]

    I find most of the “evidence” cited to be paranoid reading into him what is not there. [You need to learn what “paranoid” really means. I can help with that. First, start with Golda Meir to Henry Kissinger.]

    Feel what you want darling I am unconvinced. [“Darling”? I doubt you two have been introduced. Thus, I take this as being nasty and condescending. You shall now be in the moderation queue by default.]

  17. BenYachov says:

    >[HAH HAH HAH HAH! That was a really strange reading of what I wrote.]

    Ok then. If you say so I take you at your word.

  18. Filumene says:

    My mother always used to say when seeing a statue like that, or Jesus depictions that had him wearing more makeup than our blind Aunt Betty, ” Whoever made that must HATE Jesus.”

    Anyway, love your points here, Fr. Z. Especially the bit about sympathy for the Catholics dedicated to Tradition.

  19. Marc M says:

    Was it just me, or did anyone else read the headline and picture a statue of a priest with his hands over his face…

  20. Tominellay says:

    …a terrific post, Fr. Z; thanks…

  21. Thanks for this post Father.

    “Priests cannot be emotionally detached” Yes! Isn’t it true that unless the priest loves the Faithful, he can have little good effect on them? Isn’t this true of doctors too – when they love their patients, they are much more effective. And cooks? If you don’t cook with love, food tastes flat!

    Detachment from anything that is not God is necessary – but love in the service of others is another thing altogether.

  22. Geoffrey says:

    “I understand the quibble with the Pope’s comment about the Old Mass, but the reality is that Traditional Latin Mass attenders are a tiny number globally…”

    Indeed. Which is why the “reform of the reform” cannot and must not be abandoned. Let us make continue our work and make His Holiness the Pope Emeritus proud.

  23. Andkaras says:

    He may not be, the best Pope ev-ah, But he certainly is Clev -ah! Rending hearts is what is needed, or our faith lives are impeded.
    I like this Pope ,and I’ll be saying my rosary in Spanish tonight in honor of his loving solicitude for his flock and his priests.
    Gloria a te Christo Gesu . Solo in te pace e unita!

  24. Mike says:

    My pastor (ordained 1970, God bless him!) now and then makes references to the EF in this way, e.g., “In the old Church…” I grit my teeth, and pray for him. And for our dear Holy Father, too.

  25. benedetta says:

    I pantaloni!

  26. PA mom says:

    This is a very moving point he makes. It reminds me of Blessed John Paul II and how he was said to have been seen praying prostrate before the tabernacle possibly all night long at times.
    It must hurt to have half or more of your congregation leave you twice a year, every year, no matter what you have said, or what new acts of outreach you have tried. maybe leaves one at risk of becoming self protective and safely distant.

    And I understand what he means. My heart hurts for my students sometimes, as their parents maintain a distance from truly BELONGING to the Church. It has been good for me to expeience this discomfort, as it has moved me to prayer and to action.

  27. Franklinwasright says:

    Thank you Father, I found this post to be very edifying.

  28. jameeka says:

    Digress away, Father Z.
    You have surpassed yourself–what an amazing fugue.

  29. Mariana2 says:

    Thanks, Father, wonderful post!

    Love Ablativus Absolutus….

  30. mormormax says:

    Thank you for this post Father. One thing that kept popping into my head though was what a difference it would make if priests didn’t have to be moved around within a diocese ever few years. Wouldn’t it be easier to shed those tears if you really had time to get to know your flock and become a part of their everyday lives becoming a father to them? Am I just romanticizing the past? As a convert I really don’t know. I just know that it seems human nature not to get too close when you are certain it won’t last. Just a thought.

  31. Mike says:

    [Another] Mike says:

    My pastor (ordained 1970, God bless him!) now and then makes references to the EF in this way, e.g., “In the old Church…” I grit my teeth, and pray for him. And for our dear Holy Father, too.

    While I cannot remember ever hearing the exact words “In the old Church” (from a priest, anyhow), I’ve encountered no small amount of the attitude.

    Again at TLM last night I was struck by the timelessness of the Traditional Mass — and, by contrast, the datedness and increasing irrelevance of the Novus Ordo, as well as of the assumptions on which it was built. Valiant salvage efforts don’t seem yet to have made much of a dent in the Late 20th Century Anything-Goes Liturgy in too many parishes.

    I can never be thankful enough for Summorum Pontificum and for the invaluable privilege of uniting my worship with that of the ages.

  32. The Masked Chicken says:

    This topic is both subtle and widely misunderstood. I just spent an hour and a half writing a comment on this with citations both from Scripture and the Church Fathers and while looking for a reference, when I refreshed the page, everything was gone (someone should send a strongly worded letter to WordPress…Grrrrr). It takes a lot to think through this topic and I have done a lot of thinking about it over the years. Unfortunately, with misunderstandings of what tears are and the theology of tears, the term, gift of tears, has come to be mangled to the point where you cannot be a good priest if you don’t cry.

    I am sorry, but this notion deserves a response, but I don’t feel like spending another two hours to do it. The Pope is conflating too many things and they need to be untangled. For instance, I don’t care a holler for a priests who cries for his flock, but does nothing about it. I’d rather have a non-crying priest who preaches about sin from the pulpit than one who laments that his flock is going to Hell.

    Is a discussion of tears to late in the game or is anyone interested? The Hebrew notion of tears is not what the Pope thinks, exactly. It is related, but, as I say, I have not seen any sound theological study of either laughter or crying in print and the idea of the weeping priest deserves to be understood in the proper theological context.

    The Chicken

  33. mormormax says: One thing that kept popping into my head though was what a difference it would make if priests didn’t have to be moved around within a diocese ever few years. Wouldn’t it be easier to shed those tears if you really had time to get to know your flock and become a part of their everyday lives becoming a father to them? Am I just romanticizing the past? As a convert I really don’t know. I just know that it seems human nature not to get too close when you are certain it won’t last. Just a thought.

    YES. Secularism has pervaded the Church, until parishes and dioceses are run along secular business lines. The culture of divorce and the increasing marginalization of fathers and fatherhood in society at large is also having its effects on the priesthood. So these days, a pastor is just a guy who is there to do a job, a Sacrament dispenser, and any old pastor will do. We can always get a different one if this one doesn’t work out. And when a priest is too old or infirm or otherwise no longer fit for active ministry, he is on his own. Thus do we devalue both the priesthood and the Sacraments. How many men have left the priesthood because they think of it as just another job? And parishes are just like a family with an endless parade of stepfathers, with the lay secretaries and administrators of long standing as the real people in charge.

    Priests who know they are real fathers have plenty to weep for, and so do the rest of us.

  34. The Masked Chicken says:

    I have thought about it and, even if no one reads it, I think I have to do an analysis of this. The theology of tears has been pretty well mangled in modern use and deserves a better understanding. I’m typing on a laptop, now, so, hopefully, things won’t be as flakey as they were, earlier.

    First of all, there are really three different types of tears: tears of cleansing, tears caused by particulate irritation (these are called basal and reflex tears, respectively), and emotive tears (called psychic tears). Basal/reflex tears contain mostly saline (about 3% by mass) with some important secondary substances which act as lubricants or antibiotical. Psychic tears contain a larger portion of protein-derived compounds, such as adenocorticotropic hormone, prolactin, and enkephalins (the precursors to endorphins), which are markers of emotional stimulation. Emotive tears are triggered by the interaction of the pre-frontal cortex and the limbic system through the cortoco-thalmic tract. This interaction takes place in remarkably similar fashion for both crying and laughing, so much so that it is plausible that the same mechanism is involved in both. Emotive tearing is a marker both in laughing and in crying. They seem to result from the activate of the same regions of the brain.

    What that means is that tears are markers of exactly opposing emotions: laughing and crying, as well as their extended cousins, happiness and saddness. It is a great economy of Nature how that can happen. I have postulated in print, about twenty-five years ago, that there is an intermediate state where laughing and crying, happiness and sadness can co-exist as the so-called Bittersweet condition. This is most likely to happen if there is a single generalized mechanism for most emotive tearing.

    What we can conclude is that tears (for the rest of the comment, assumed to be emotive tears), in and of themselves, are not diagnostic of anything except an emotional response to something that just happens to trigger the correct pathways in the brain. Even anger, in the right circumstances, can trigger tears. Ultimately, without going into too much detail, tears are, theologically, related to the virtue of hope – tears of sadness means a hope denied and tears of happiness means a hope proposed (it would take too long to explain the mechanisms of laughing and crying and show how they correspond to hope, but it can be done).

    Pope Francis said,

    ” Tell me: Do you cry? Or have we lost tears? I remember that in the old Missals, those of another time, that there is a very beautiful prayer to ask the gift of tears. The prayer started like this: “Lord, who commanded Moses to strike the stone in order that water would come, strike the stone so that tears…”: it was like that, more or less, that prayer. It was very beautiful. But, how many of us weep in the face of the suffering of a child, before the destruction of a family, before so many people who can’t find the path? The weeping of the priest… do you cry? Or in this presbyterate have we lost tears? Do you weep for your people?”

    This is a tricky subject. What does it mean to, “rend your hearts and not your garments,” that we hear each Ash Wednesday? The exact quite is from Joel 2:11-17:

    “The LORD utters his voice before his army, for his host is exceedingly great; he that executes his word is powerful. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can endure it?

    “Yet even now,” says the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil.
    Who knows whether he will not turn and repent, and leave a blessing behind him, a cereal offering and a drink offering for the LORD, your God?

    Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.
    Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep and say, “Spare thy people, O LORD, and make not thy heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?'”

    The subject talks about the frightening power of the Lord and then it calls for the people to rend their hearts that the Lord might repent of the evil He intends. The word, rend, is derived from the Hebrew word, qara’, which means, not only to tear, but to tear away. What does it mean to tear ones heart? It does not mean, simply, to cry. It does not mean a broken heart as we understand it on the Valentine cards. The idea of the heart in ancient Jewish writings was not as the center of the emotions as we think about it in modern times (that was an idea derived from the Greeks), but, rather, the word, lev, heart to a Jew, meant the seat of the intellect and the will.

    Read in that context, Joel 2:11 – 17 is all about the intellect and the will. First, there is the intellectual realization of God’s supreme and terrifying power; then, there is the changing of the will to match God’s will (rending); resulting in a change both in the intellect and the will of God towards the evil He intended ( which matches with the idea of repentance, teshubah, which means returning or return in Hebrew). Thus, Joel speaks of the three Rs: recognition, rending, and repentance. When we rend our hearts, we tear away from it anything that is not according to the right reasoning of God (just as fasting is a tearing away of food from the body). When we rend our hearts, we tear our will. It is important to note that the heart contains two parts, a right and a left part. When we rend out hearts, we tears the two hearts apart. Those two hearts represent the idea that sin is a type of double-heartedness, what St. James will, eventually, call double-mindedness (see the connection between heart and mind?) and rending ones heart means to tear away the wrong heart, the conflicting thought. When we talk about the later Greek notion of metanoia as repentance, the idea of the turning around of the mind matches with the older Hebrew notion of teshubah as a return, because, if the heart is a metaphor for the mind, then turning around one side of the heart makes it resemble the form of the other side of the heart, so the thoughts and the hearts are now of the same form – they resemble each other. There are no longer two incomparable thoughts, two sides of the heart, but one thought in unison, a heart with two sides looking the same. God’s thought and your thoughts have become one. In joel 2, immediately after it says to rend your hearts, it says, return. This shows the intimate connection between rending and repentance, tearing and returning.

    What does this have to do with tears? Well, rending a garment is a physical process borne of strong emotion that requires work. Rending a heart is a metaphysical process that results in (but is not caused by) strong emotions and requires work. Tears are the physical expression of a metaphysical process, just as the sound of tearing fabric is the physical expression of a physical process. Both the tears and the sound are markers, one of a physical rend and the other of a metaphysical rend. As I mentioned, strong emotions, especially those involving hope, processed through the intellectual centers of the brain (the pre-frontal cortex) and proceeding down the cortico-thalmic tract trigger tears. If the sudden realization of the truth by the intellect (in this case, involving a hope of some sort either realized or denied) is strong enough, the fracturing of the intellect can result in tears, although it need not. It was never envisioned that rending ones heart had to lead to tears (weeping: B?kiy). In Joel 2, the weeping was supposed to be an outward sign, among the people, that they had repented. God, Himself, needs no such sign. This will be paralleled in the New Testament when John the Baptist tells the pharisees to give evidence of their repentance.

    Thus, tears, in themselves, are not proof of repentance. They are merely markers of extreme emotion. It is what follows after the tears that offers the proof. Asking priests if they weep for their flock is not enough, nor is it proof of anything. A priest may weep for any manner of things affecting his flock. This does not mean that the weeping is meritorious unless the thoughts behind the weeping are meritorious. It is the thoughts that count, not the affective display of tears. Love is, after all, an act of the will, not of the emotions. Mary loved her Son, very much, but, as St. Ambrose points out, “I read where she stood, not where she wept.” St, John Vianney would echo this thought centuries later (from, SACERDOTII NOSTRI PRIMORDIA (100th Anniversary of St. John M. Vianney’s Death),Pope John XXIII) :

    “72. Almost everyone knows his answer to the priest who complained to him that his apostolic zeal was bearing no fruit: “You have offered humble prayers to God, you have wept, you have groaned, you have sighed. Have you added fasts, vigils, sleeping on the floor, castigation of your body? Until you have done all of these, do not think that you have tried everything.”[78]”

    None of these thing are meant to bring about tears. They are meant to rend: stomach from food, eyes from sleep, body from comfort.

    A priest weeping for his flock is next to nothing unless it brings about a change in thought that leads to action. Among the Church Fathers, tears were a sign which led to actions. The famous prayer of St. Augustine, from the, Book of Meditations I, chapter 36 for the grace of tears, envisions the results of such tears.

    http://www.lectionarycentral.com/trinity10/Augustine2.html

    “Grant me a strengthening fountain, a clear fountain, in which this defiled holocaust may be continuously washed. For though by the help of lily grace I have offered myself wholly to Thee, yet in many things I daily offend Thee, because of my great weakness. Grant to me, therefore, this gift of tears, O blessed and Lovable God, especially because of the great sweetness of Thy love, and also for a remembrance of Thy mercies.”

    St. Gregory of Nazianzus calls tears, “a fifth baptism.” Baptisms aside from conferring grace, require a response.

    Weeping for the flock may be a sign of empathy. It may, also, be a sign of pride. The priest who weeps that the flock cannot match the notes of the guitar at a guitar Mass, is, obviously, emotional, but his tears betray a hidden disobedience.

    In the Interior Castle (Sixth Mansion), St. Teresa of Avila points out that the virtues are better than tears:

    “Let us not fancy that if we cry a great deal we have done all that is needed–rather we must work hard and practice the virtues; that is the essential–leaving tears to fall when God sends them, without trying to force ourselves to shed them.”

    There is a mystical gift called the Gift of Tears which is much understood, today, especially among Charismatics and it should not be thought that Pope Francis is referring to that. When St. Paul enumerated the gifts of the Spirit, tears was not on the list. The notion of the mystical Gift of Tears is a phenomenon noted in Charistmatic circles, which has been retrojected so as to be of Biblical origins. It, properly, comes out of the mystical experience of the Church as it works out its growth in holiness. Since the Charismatic origins is, properly speaking, an exercise in flawed mystical theology, it makes sense that this phenomenon would be seen here, but not in Scripture (except by extremely tortured interpretations).

    Loving ones flock means willing the good for them. That means that the priest must encourage the virtues both in himself and his flock. That is the sum and substance of what it means to love the flock, for, only by the virtues will one get to Heaven and that is what the priest must be primarily concerned with. Great emotion will not, necessarily, make a musical performance better. Indeed, sometimes it might make it worse. It is a loving technique, carefully prepared, combined with an understanding of what the music needs that leads to a great performance.

    Indeed, some parishioners need not tears, but a strong boot to the behind. I await that homily by Pope Francis, as well as the one about tears.

    There is an old Coptic legend that when God kicked Adam out of the Garden, he left him three consolations: his wife, the Sabbath, and tears. Make of that what you will. The Priest marries his Church, he prepares the Sabbath, and his tears, if and when they come, must diffuse the light of a New Jerusalem to everyone who sees them, if they are to be a consolation for all.

    The Chicken

  35. OrthodoxChick says:

    Masked Chicken,

    Wow! That was awesome! When I first read Pope Francis’ comments, the “gift of tears” in the charismatic sense is what popped into my mind. I’m hoping that’s not what the Holy Father was referring to. It seems he was using it in a colloquial sense, I think.

    Your analysis is so enlightening though. What you wrote about what it means to rend, as in the rending of garments and the tearing of two parts of the heart, brought to mind the moment of Jesus’ death when the curtain tore in two. Another clear sign that Our Lord had to rend for us everything which we are unable to rend for ourselves. So beautiful! Thank you for sharing that!

  36. majuscule says:

    Thank you Chicken.

    I’m glad you took the time to share that.