Two encouraging stories involving BISHOPS! Yes, you read that right! @ShrewsRCnew @NTCatholic

First, there is story at CNA about the 4th Bishop of Fort Worth, Most Rev. Michael Olson.

At the Chrism Mass during Holy Week, the bishop spoke about LITURGY!   I’ve been whining for a while now that bishops rarely speak about matters liturgical in any meaningful way.   Here is some of the story:

.- At the Chrism Mass celebrated during Holy Week, a Texas bishop offered reflections on the Church’s liturgical life, telling priests the straying from liturgical texts can be detrimental to the unity of Catholicism[YAY!]

“The importance of Christ-centered and shared repetition in our collaborative mission as the Church requires that we avoid the addition of words or gestures that are alien to the rites and liturgical texts provided us by the Church,” said Bishop Michael Olson of Ft. Worth, Texas.

“Even though such liturgical abuses might at first glance appear to begin as good willed efforts to avoid redundancy and tedium for a people with attention spans made numb by contemporary modes of communication, such efforts remain destructive because they take us away from the repetition that bears fruit in Catholic unity,” he continued.

The bishop’s words came during the Chrism Mass celebrated at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Ft. Worth, TX on March 27.

Olson described the difference between redundancy and repetition, saying “redundancy can enslave us; repetition can liberate us.”

Redundancy, Olson said, is the practice of doing the same thing over and over again with the expectation of a different outcome. On the other hand, he said that repetition fosters the formation of character and “develops our incorporation into the mystery of God.

“Redundancy has to do with vicious circularity (doing the same thing again and again without making progress or accomplishing anything except narcissistic absorption);” he explained. “Repetition has to do with the spiral: there is always forward growth and momentum in a spiral even as it circles again and again over similar words, patterns, ideas, and themes.”  [I like this image: spiral, or maybe better a helix.  I reminds me of what I suppose to be the dynamic of the Beatific Vision.  A spiral is a curve that gets ever farther on the same plane from the point of emanation.  A helix does the same, but through different planes.  I imagine one force directing the spiral as being our longing for God in the eternally fascinating and alluring Beatific Vision.  At the same time, contemplation of the Beatific Vision will cause us also to contemplate ourselves as images of God and consider the beauty of the rest of the cosmos.  Thus these different forces working us on will result in a glorious spiral of movement toward God who, being God, will never be exhaustible, all the while revolving around ourselves as images constantly offering ourselves to God and receiving the transforming glory that comes from the relationship of the Trinity.   This must be captured in our sacred liturgical worship, by the way.  But I digress.]

“The bitter fruits of redundancy are isolation, complacency, and entitlement; the sweet fruits of repetition are gratitude, humility, and joy,” Olson continued. [Sounds “heavenly”.]

The practice of faithful repetition in the liturgy is crucial to the integrity of all Masses since it unifies the universal church, Olson said.  [Do I hear an “Amen!”?  I will add that this repetition is “faithful” also insofar as it is in continuity with tradition.  We must unify the Church today with our forebears as well.]

The Texas bishop also noted that straying from liturgical norms will produce “a greater sense of isolation and entitlement to our own individual preferences and opinions,” and will lead to the dangers of redundancy, causing “a sense of confusion of Catholic identity.”  [And what are we seeing nearly everywhere in the Church today?  CONFUSION OF CATHOLIC IDENTITY!]

“This can destructively differentiate our parish from other parishes to the point of exclusion by maintaining unique and aberrant liturgical practices,” Olson continued. [When I visit some churches and see what is done in them, I sadly but honestly think that they belong to a different religion.]

While fidelity to the liturgy may not always be received with “a favorable response” and may lead to rejection, Olson said that fidelity to the Church’s liturgical texts “grounds us effectively in Christ.”  [There it is!]

Olson additionally encouraged growth in pastoral leadership, which he said involves the “protection of the sheep both from the cunning of the wolf and the complacency of the hired hand who complains about the perceived redundancy of his ministry.”

“Redundancy in the spiritual life of a priest leads him to functional minimalism; [Reeeeally dangerous for worship and identity: “As long as it’s ‘valid’, we can change a whole bunch of stuff around.”] repetition in the spiritual life of a priest leads him into deeper waters of conversion and configuration with the life of Jesus Christ, Head and Shepherd of the Church,” Olson explained.  [Kenosis paradoxically produces fullness, theosis.]

“The essential difference in the life of the baptized Catholic between redundancy and repetition is the centrality of Jesus Christ, true God and true man,” he added.

Liturgical repetition, he said, is an antidote to the danger of redundancy.

“If we are to remain faithful to the mission of Christ, the mission of redemption entrusted to us through our anointings, we must repeat together the prayers of the liturgy in solidarity with every Catholic liturgical assembly in the Diocese and throughout the world in order to be saved from the slavery of redundancy.”

Fr. Z kudos.   This is good stuff.

Remember, dear readers, that no initiative we undertake in the Church will succeed and bear real fruit unless it is rooted in and returned to our sacred liturgical worship of God.  This is why a revitalization of our worship is absolutely necessary.  This is why Summorum Pontificum was so very important for the future of the Church: it is a major tool of that revitalization.  

Next, again at the UK’s best Catholic weekly, the Catholic Herald we read of the great 11th Bishop of Shrewsbury, Most Rev. Mark Davies, who has written a pastoral letter to be released soon.  He wrote about receiving the Eucharist.

This is really important for people like the Jesuit-led homosexualists out there.  This is really important for people who think that the divorced and civilly remarried who having adulterous sexual relations can be admitted to Communion.

Bishop Davies: Don’t receive Communion if your lifestyle contradicts the Gospel

Bishop Davies said that mortal sin, or ‘a lifestyle in contradiction with our Christian calling‘, must be confessed and repented before receiving the Eucharist

Receiving Holy Communion is “the most radical call to holiness” that any person can encounter, the Bishop of Shrewsbury will say in a pastoral letter this coming weekend[During his Chrism Mass he made a connection of Communion and the Sacrament of Penance.]

Bishop Mark Davies will warn them against viewing the Blessed Sacrament in terms of “secular inclusiveness” as this diminishes its true significance to little more than a “token of our hospitality”.  [RIGHT!  Haven’t I written many times that, for many today, receiving Communion has become a token of acceptance and affirmation?  That for many, Communion is the moment when they put the white thing in your hand and then they sing of the song together?]

Catholics must realise instead that through the Real Presence, the gift of Christ’s Body and Blood is the means to become the saint each of us is called to be.

Holy Communion restores strength to the faithful, breaks disordered attachments, separates Catholics from sin and helps them root their whole lives in Christ, the bishop will say.

Catholics must also repent of any mortal sin or lifestyle which contradicts their calling as Christians before they can receive Communion, Bishop Davies will remind his diocese.

“We see why we can never approach Holy Communion casually, still less if we have not confessed and repented of any mortal sin or of a lifestyle in contradiction with our Christian calling,” the bishop will say. [Confessed and repented … that is, confessed with a firm purpose of amendment.   And don’t forget absolution.  You can sincerely confess to a bartender, but you can’t absolution from him.]

“The Apostle Paul urged the first Christians to examine themselves carefully before receiving Holy Communion because anyone who did so in an unworthy state would, he said, be ‘guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord’.

“The Church calls us to frequent Holy Communion, prepared by the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation so that we might become holy, might become saints. The Second Vatican Council urged us to ‘frequent’ both these two Sacraments eagerly and devoutly as the path to holiness.”

“Let us ask ourselves how we seek to receive Him with the deepest reverence and love, and how we spend the precious moments after receiving Holy Communion,” he will add.  [Would, perhaps, involve silence and prayer?]

Yes, and yes again.  Fr. Z kudos to Bp. Davies.

There you have it, folks.  There is some sanity in the Church today!

We need a lot more of this.  A lot more.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Charles E Flynn says:

    Not only should we “avoid the addition of words or gestures that are alien to the rites and liturgical texts provided us by the Church,” we should avoid the removal of words. I now hear a consecration in which the words “For you and for all” or “For you and for many” have been replaced by the issue-skirting “For you”.

  2. Benedict Joseph says:

    Some body call 911. I’ve collapsed and I can’t get up.

  3. Elizabeth D says:

    Bishop Morlino’s Chrism Mass homily was an exhortation to priests to preach and teach about marriage. He said that nowadays people see sex as having two side effects, children and disease, and see the purpose of sex being pleasure. In truth, he said, the purpose of sex is not pleasure but has to do with the fact we’re going to die, so it is about the next generation, and raising and educating them, and thus sex is very good and it belongs within marriage only. People need to hear that from priests.

    He followed through by including an exhortation about marriage in his Easter Vigil Mass homily, that nowadays there is a precipitous drop in weddings at Catholic parishes, and not because people are living in chastity and celibacy; people must marry and not just live together.

    I was very happy with what the bishop said, but I also think there’s a continued need of developing the message about this, not least because so very many pairs who have imprudently become sexually active in “de-facto unions” DO NOT have a vocation to marry each other. Sometimes they might marry happily, other times they need to separate and begin to live chastely and grow as a person then find the person they’re really meant to marry, other times they will be given the even better grace (according to Jesus) of chaste celibacy.

  4. Eugene says:

    God bless guide and protect these true shepherds.
    Sadly 2 more shepherds that will never be given an archbishopric or the unthinkable a red hat.

  5. Deacon Ed Peitler says:

    Wouldn’t it be wise for every pastor to make a copy of Bishop Davies Pastoral Letter and, with proper attribution, insert it into the parish bulletin for all to read? After all, we’re all Catholics and we are One in character, so why not spread the wealth?

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  7. MichaelDowd says:

    Thanks Father Z. We could use more of this positive news about Bishops who are doing their jobs the way they should.

  8. cpt-tom says:

    Bishop Salvatore Matano of Rochester Chrism Mass Homily was an exhortation on Priests not looking upon the priesthood as a job or a career, but a vocation. He used a Sermon by Joseph Ratzinger, from his Chrism Mass in 1979, as his basis for his sermon. [Excellent.] Talking about priests who live a double life, who do not really believe, who do not profess the faith. He went on to talk about the need for renewal and to remember the zeal and fervor of their ordination day. It is below and starts at his homily

    [There is now a book of collected sermons and writings on the priesthood over the many years of Ratzinger/Benedict’s long service available from Ignatius Press. US HERE – UK HERE]

  9. Kevin says:

    I watched the Vigil Mass at St. Peter’s and Cardinal Sarah was in attendance. He knelt when he was presented The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist!!! It was a beautiful site to see…I remain prayerful and hopeful!

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  11. Bishop Olson has it right. Priests have got to stop projecting onto the faithful in the pews — and still more, stop brainwashing the faithful into adopting — their own restlessness and yearning for change for its own sake. We, the Great Unwashed in the Pews, are really quite conservative at heart and do not want you tinkering with the liturgy. Reverend Fathers, we really just want The Mass, and only The Mass. Cut it out with the ad-libs, the omissions, the tweakings, the running commentaries, the interruptions, and all the other manifestations of your ego that get in God’s way. This stuff is anything but “pastoral.” We do not want to have to try to discern the August Sacrifice through the kaleidescope of your stinky personalities. We neither want nor need to be “shaken up” merely for the sake of being shaken up: the secular world, which we have to engage in ways you do not have to engage it, does that to us quite enough. We need shepherds who are not bored with the still waters beside which they are to lead us, and we need, unchanged, the Mass, which is not the work of mere men and which cannot be improved upon by people with a thirst for novelties.

  12. Ultrarunner says:

    The address concerning fidelity to liturgical norms by Bishop Olson stressed the importance of doing so in order to maintain Catholic unity.

    In late February of this year, Bishop Olson banned the oldest and largest Pro-Life organization in the state of Texas from all diocesan property because, among other things, he took issue with the organizations voter recommendations going into the election cycle. Bishop Olson required every church in the diocese to read a parish advisory issued by the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops which informed Catholics to completely disavow themselves of the Texas Right to Life. “The organization Texas Right to Life at times seeks volunteers from parishes and Catholic schools to participate in their efforts. We write to inform you of our concerns with Texas Right to Life and we urge parishes not to participate in their activities or allow the organization to use parish sites.”

    Bishop Olson then took the additional step of asking parishoners on Twitter to report to back to him if the bulletin wasn’t read at every Sunday church service in the diocese per his mandate. “At the risk of asking you ‘to spy’ please let me know of these abuses and where they are occurring that I might address them appropriately.”

    One is naturally left to wonder if Texas Catholics should adopt the Bishops standards as applied to the Texas Right to Life in order to route out liturgical abuse in the Church by reporting it to Bishop Olson on his Twitter page and boycotting parishes that don’t respond accordingly.

    Unity indeed.

  13. Absit invidia says:

    That’s two. Now, for the remaining 5,100 …

  14. James in Perth says:

    I was deeply moved by the repetition on Sunday of our Easter antiphon:

    “Christ is risen from the dead! By death he trampled Death; and to those in the tombs, he granted life.”

    I was singing in the loft. The antiphon is sung perhaps a hundred times or more first for the procession outside the church and then inside as each member of the congregation reverenced the Cross, the Gospel book, and the icon of the Resurrection. It wasn’t until I came downstairs to kiss those objects that I could viscerally sense how every person in the congregation was singing together for me and every person there. I was moved to tears.

  15. Simon_GNR says:

    The Bishop of Shrewsbury, the *Right* Rev. Mark Davies [not “Most” Rev., by the way],[Around this blog he is whatever I say he is. And since we are in these USA, he is MOST Reverend.] is one of the best younger bishops we have in England. Unlike many of his fellow English bishops, he is prepared to speak plainly about sin, repentance and absolution. Most of his colleagues seem to be afraid of “saying boo to a goose” in case it upsets the secular, liberal media, and seem always to be bending over backwards to be politically correct. I live in a neighbouring diocese and I’m afraid our bishop is not nearly as forthright as Bishop Davies. I can’t recall anything memorable from any of my bishop’s pastoral letters.

    [I always look forward to MOST Rev. Davies’ letters.]

  16. Elizabeth D says:

    Regarding authority “around this blog” to determine ecclesiastical stylings, this came to mind and maybe others will enjoy it: my bishop, Most Rev. Morlino, said in a homily there is this one priest (he didn’t mention a name) who “is a bit of a character” and on an occasion when the bishop was teaching and advising priests about the phenomenon of people “identifying” as whatever gender they prefer, regardless of the reality, and expecting you to cooperate whether you like it or not, this one priest said, according to Most Rev. Morlino: “Well, bishop, I identify as a Monsignor. What are you going to do about that?”

    [Indeed, Bp. Morlino is not merely “Most Reverend”, he is the Extraordinary Ordinary™]

  17. Ben Kenobi says:

    “that nowadays there is a precipitous drop in weddings at Catholic parishes, and not because people are living in chastity and celibacy; people must marry and not just live together.”

    @ Elizabeth.

    Even many of those who are willing to bear in patient equinamity the challenges of our lives are being left to wonder if marriage is still possible in this day and age. I wish that I could say that it was so simple, but Satan has many servants and they are not always those whom one expects.

  18. lonniemassey says:

    I was singing in the choir at St Patrick’s in Fort Worth for the Chrism Mass, and I was greatly encouraged by Bishop Olson’s homily, especially since that Mass is the annual occasion of priests recalling their ordination vows. His Excellency was expanding on a prior homily wherein he had contrasted between redundancy and repetition. The talk about repetition reminded me of a passage from Orthodoxy by Chesterton – “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

  19. Semper Gumby says:

    Fr. Z wrote: “There you have it, folks. There is some sanity in the Church today!”

    Great post and comments, thanks for that Kevin.

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