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Today’s news dispatch: Nov. 10, 2015

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Stay Rooted in Reality, Pope Urges Disciples

Says That We Have to Speak to People’s Hearts, Experience Their Tears and Joys, Just as Jesus Did

Does Jesus care about the traffic? Drawing from the Pope’s homily today in Florence, we could say that indeed he does, since he cares about our daily, concrete lives, so much so that he became one of us.

A follower of Jesus, just as the pastors of Christ’s flock, must be ready to “touch” people’s daily experiences: work, family, traffic, school — the daily reality we live — because this is the way to speak to people’s hearts and it brings us the joy of sharing the faith.

The Pope said this today during his homily at a Mass he celebrated in Florence, Italy, where he went for a one-day trip to participate in the National Congress of the Church in Italy.

The homily drew from the Gospel passage wherein Christ asks “Who do people say I am?” and “Who do you say that I am?”

The first question shows “how much Jesus’ heart and look are open to all,” Francis said. “Jesus wants to know what the people think, not to content them but to communicate with them.”

In the same vein as his famous exhortation that a pastor must have the “odor of his sheep,” today the Pope said that “without knowing what people think, a disciple is isolated and begins to judge the people according to his own thoughts and his own convictions.”

“The only way to be able to help, form and communicate with them is to maintain a healthy contact with the reality, with what the people live, with their tears and their joys. It is the only way to speak to people’s hearts, touching their daily experiences: work, family, health problems, traffic, school, health services. It is the only way to open their hearts to listen to God. 

“In reality, when God wanted to speak with us He incarnated Himself. Jesus’ disciples must never forget from where they were chosen, that is, from among the people, and they must never fall into the temptation to assume detached attitudes, as if what the people think and live does not concern them and is not important for them.”


The Holy Father said that the fact of being gathered to celebrate Mass in a sports stadium reminds us of this lesson: “Like Jesus, the Church lives in the midst of the people and for the people,” he said. 

“Therefore, in her whole history the Church has always borne in herself the same question: who is Jesus for the men and women of today?”

Drawing from the example of Pope St. Leo, whose feast is today, Pope Francis said that “our joy is to share this faith and to respond together to the Lord Jesus [as Peter did]: ‘For us you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”

“Our joy is also to go against the current and to surmount the current opinion that today, as then, is unable to see in Jesus more than a prophet or a teacher. Our joy is to recognize in him the presence of God, the One sent by the Father, the Son who came to make Himself instrument of salvation for humanity. This profession of faith that Simon Peter proclaimed remains also for us. It does not only represent the foundation of our salvation, but also the way through which it is accomplished and the end to which it tends.”

On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-homily-in-florence

Local Customs vs. Liturgical Law

“Each one should always remember that he is a servant of the Sacred Liturgy”

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: I train altar servers in a parish. I was trained under the “old” Mass. Due to this I always refer to the missal, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), and Bishop Elliott’s Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite, Revised before training or correcting the servers. There is increasing guidance to follow local “traditions” rather than making corrections. How much flexibility is there in the GIRM? May a pastor change or “interpret” the GIRM? — K.R., Virginia Beach, Virginia 

A: In this case it depends on the kind of local traditions we are talking about.

One form of local tradition might actually be national liturgical local law which has been duly approved by the Holy See. In this case it is not a violation of the law but a specific application of it to local circumstances. For example, the Latin text of the GIRM says that priests should not leave the sanctuary during the sign of peace. The U.S. bishops sought and were granted specific exceptions to this rule which were incorporated into the English translation published in the United States.

Other local traditions may acquire the force of law through legitimate custom. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “A custom is an unwritten law introduced by the continuous acts of the faithful with the consent of the legitimate legislator. Custom may be considered as a fact and as a law. As a fact, it is simply the frequent and free repetition of acts concerning the same thing; as a law, it is the result and consequence of that fact. Hence its name, which is derived from consuesco or consuefacio and denotes the frequency of the action. (Cap. Consuetudo v, Dist. i.)”

The overall rule regarding customs is found in canon law. To wit:

“No. 23. Only that custom introduced by a community of the faithful and approved by the legislator according to the norm of the following canons has the force of law. 

“No. 24 §1. No custom which is contrary to divine law can obtain the force of law.

Ҥ2. A custom contrary to or beyond canon law (praeter ius canonicum) cannot obtain the force of law unless it is reasonable; a custom which is expressly reprobated in the law, however, is not reasonable.

“No. 25. No custom obtains the force of law unless it has been observed with the intention of introducing a law by a community capable at least of receiving law.

“No. 26. Unless the competent legislator has specifically approved it, a custom contrary to the canon law now in force or one beyond a canonical law (praeter legem canonicam) obtains the force of law only if it has been legitimately observed for thirty continuous and complete years. Only a centenary or immemorial custom, however, can prevail against a canonical law which contains a clause prohibiting future customs. 

“No. 27. Custom is the best interpreter of laws.

“No. 28. Without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 5, a contrary custom or law revokes a custom which is contrary to or beyond the law (praeter legem). Unless it makes express mention of them, however, a law does not revoke centenary or immemorial customs, nor does a universal law revoke particular customs.”

The text of Canon 5 mentioned above says:

“No. 5 §1. Universal or particular customs presently in force which are contrary to the prescripts of these canons and are reprobated by the canons of this Code are absolutely suppressed and are not permitted to revive in the future. Other contrary customs are also considered suppressed unless the Code expressly provides otherwise or unless they are centenary or immemorial customs which can be tolerated if, in the judgment of the ordinary, they cannot be removed due to the circumstances of places and persons.

“§2. Universal or particular customs beyond the law (praeter ius) which are in force until now are preserved.”

As can be seen above, the canons distinguish between different kinds of custom. First, there are customs “against the law”; that is, they go against the word of the law itself or are illegal.

Second, there are customs “beyond the law”; these are customs which regulate p
ractice in areas where the law itself is silent. In legal Latin, the phrase praeter legem (“outside of the law”) refers to an item that is not regulated by law and therefore is not illegal. 

Some liturgical experts argue that it is almost impossible to establish a custom contrary to law with respect to the liturgy since the legislator, in this case the Holy See, has reserved all essential elements regarding the liturgy to its definitive approval. Therefore, it is argued, it is impossible to fulfill the conditions of Canon 23 regarding the approval of the legislator except in the case of centenary or immemorial customs.

On the other hand, the 2004 instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum described a series of abuses in the celebration of the Mass. On eight occasions it reprobates certain grave abuses, occasionally using the formula: “This practice is reprobated, so that it cannot be permitted to attain the force of custom.”

This would seem to at least imply that the Congregation for Divine Worship considers the possibility that some liturgical abuses might be able to attain the force of custom. It would appear to be an open question among canonists, and as this is not my field I can only acknowledge the existence of a debate.

If it is true than only centenary and immemorial customs can prevail, then, since the decree approving the first edition of the new missal is from 1970, that of the third typical edition in Latin in 2000 and the approval of the English translation is from 2011, one cannot usually speak of such long-term customs. Also, these decrees usually contain the phrase “anything to the contrary notwithstanding” which some canonists consider as an implicit revocation of the earlier law and its replacement with the new, even though, as a universal law, it would not revoke legitimate customs if there are any.

Even if a diocese or parish could develop a legitimate liturgical custom contrary to liturgical law, it is difficult to determine if a community intended to introduce a law as required by Canon 25. It is also difficult to prove the continued use of the practice as per Canon 26.

For example, Canon 528.2 says the following about the duties of the parish priest: “The parish priest is to take care that the blessed Eucharist is the center of the parish assembly of the faithful. He is to strive to ensure that the faithful are nourished by the devout celebration of the sacraments, and in particular that they frequently approach the sacraments of the blessed Eucharist and penance. He is to strive to lead them to prayer, including prayer in their families, and to take a live and active part in the sacred liturgy. Under the authority of the diocesan Bishop, the parish priest must direct this liturgy in his own parish, and he is bound to be on guard against abuses.”

Thus it would be enough for one parish priest to have fulfilled his duty to remove abuses for the custom to be interrupted. Even if the custom is later reintroduced, the 30-year period would have to start again.

Again, no custom can prevail if specifically reprobated. For example, Redemptionis Sacramentum formally reprobates the following practices: The priest breaking the host at the time of the consecration (No. 55); priests or deacons varying the liturgical texts (No. 59); non-ordained faithful delivering the homily (No. 65); distributing unconsecrated hosts or other edible or inedible things during the celebration of Mass or beforehand after the manner of Communion (No. 96); suspending the celebration of Mass in order to promote a “Eucharistic fast” (No. 115); using common or domestic vessels for the celebration (No. 117); celebrating Mass with just the stole over a habit or ordinary clothes (No. 126); priests who are present at the celebration but abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons (No. 157).

The above-mentioned instruction lists many abuses besides those specifically reprobated, and sometimes uses other expressions such as “This abuse must be immediately set aside.” It is clear that the legislator considers all of the abusive practices mentioned in the document to be not reasonable (see Canon 24.2 above), and therefore they should cease. It would be difficult to argue for their continuation as legitimate customs after the publication of that document.

When dealing with customs that are beyond the law there is probably more room for legitimate customs to develop. Father Mark Gantley, a canon lawyer, on EWTN offered the following possible example: “A person might argue that the use of a ‘unity candle’ in a wedding ceremony is a legitimate practice on the basis of a custom that is apart from or beyond the law. The law neither prescribes nor prohibits the use of the unity candle. So a legitimate custom of using a unity candle could meet the qualifications of a legal custom, provided that it met the other requirements of the law.”

Thus, having considered all this, I would say that our reader should generally defer to the GIRM in all areas where the liturgical documents are clear, and he should direct his servers accordingly. This is also the best way to guarantee an authentically Catholic celebration of the liturgy.

If there are local traditions and customs in areas where the GIRM is silent or less specific, then it would be possible to follow the local tradition. 

A pastor is not a legislative authority and thus cannot make an authentic or official interpretation of the GIRM. Only the Holy See can do that. A pastor can, and often must, interpret how to apply the GIRM to the specific logistics of a parish building but cannot change anything that is essential.

As Redemptionis Sacramentum concludes:

“186. Let all Christ’s faithful participate in the Most Holy Eucharist as fully, consciously and actively as they can, honoring it lovingly by their devotion and the manner of their life. Let Bishops, Priests and Deacons, in the exercise of the sacred ministry, examine their consciences as regards the authenticity and fidelity of the actions they have performed in the name of Christ and the Church in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy. Let each one of the sacred ministers ask himself, even with severity, whether he has respected the rights of the lay members of Christ’s faithful, who confidently entrust themselves and their children to him, relying on him to fulfill for the faithful those sacred functions that the Church intends to carry out in celebrating the sacred Liturgy at Christ’s command. For each one should always remember that he is a servant of the Sacred Liturgy.”

* * *

Readers may send questions to zenit.liturgy@gmail.com. Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

Pope Uses Meal Voucher, Plastic Plates for Lunch With Poor of Caritas

After Meeting With National Congress for Church in Italy, Sits Down to Eat With 60 of Florence’s Poor

Here is Vatican Radio’s report on the Pope’s lunch with the poor today in Florence:

In between his meeting with the National Congress of the Italian Church and celebrating Mass in the city’s football stadium, the Pope sat down for lunch with 60 of the city’s poorest citizens, both Italians and of other nationalities.

Many had lost both their jobs and their homes, but thanks to the work of the Catholic Church’s charity, Caritas, who runs the meal kitchen where the lunch took place, they had not lost their dignity.

Pope Francis was given a meal voucher when he arrived and ate off a plastic plate, just like the rest of those gathered with him, emphasising his teaching that the Church must be with and accompany the marginalised and those on the peripheries of society.

Before lunch,
the Holy Father met briefly with the sick and some persons with disabilities in the Basilica of Annunciation.

After individually greeting those present, Pope Francis recited the Angelus prayer with them before walking over to St. Francis’ Soup Kitchen for lunch.

Be Good Neighbors, Pope Says on Trip to Prato, Italy

And Says We Must Fight Pessimism and Work Toward Justice

The Pope today in Prato, Italy, called people to get past discouragement and find a way to become a neighbor to those around us, imitating Jesus who became one of us. “No neighbor can be distant for a disciple of Jesus,” he said.

The Pope stopped in Prato on his way to the national congress of the Church in Italy, in Florence. The one-day, two-city trip was carried out as a pilgrimage, Francis said, remarking that even though he was just “passing through,” and wouldn’t spend much time in Prato, “at least there is the will.”

Prato is the home of the Holy Sash of Our Lady, and the Pope said that the city’s residents are fortunate to be in Our Lady’s care. “You are in good hands! They are maternal hands that always protect, [that are] open to receive.”

The Bishop of Rome went on to offer thoughts on themes he’s indicated as important points for his pontificate: the need to accompany others, opposing the “throwaway” culture of indifference, and the importance of truth to establish justice.

Open to others 

God exhorts us “not to remain closed in indifference, but to open ourselves; to feel that we are, all of us, called and ready to leave something to reach someone, with whom to share the joy of having encountered the Lord and also the effort to walk on the way,” the Pope said. 

Getting close to others means being ready to take risks, he continued, “but there is no faith without risk.”

“A faith that thinks of itself and is closed at home is not faithful to the invitation of the Lord, who calls his own to take the initiative and involve themselves without fear.”

Jesus “asks the Church His Bride to walk on the rough ways of today, to accompany one who has lost the way; to plant tents of hope, in which to receive one who is wounded and no longer expects anything from life,” he said.

“The Lord asks this of us,” the Pope continued, and sets the example himself.

“We were served by God who made Himself our neighbor, so that we, in turn, would serve one who is close to us. No neighbor can be distant for a disciple of Jesus.”

Cancer of corruption

Turning then to the theme of truth and transparency, the Pope said that “to seek and choose truth is not always easy; however, it is a vital decision, which must mark profoundly each one’s existence and also that of society, so that it is more just, so that it is more honest.”

In this context, he spoke of seven Chinese citizens who died last year in Prato in a fire. 

“They lived and slept inside the industrial shed itself in which they worked: a small dormitory was made in an area with cardboard and … with bunk beds to take advantage of the height of the structure. It is a tragedy of exploitation and of inhuman conditions of life. And this is not fitting work!”

Pope Francis said that the “cancer of corruption” must be battled, “the cancer of human labor exploitation and the poison of illegality.”

“Within ourselves and together with others, let us never tire of fighting for truth and justice,” he said.

And “never yield to pessimism and to resignation.”

“Mary is she who with prayer and with love, in active silence, transformed the Saturday of disappointment into the dawn of the Resurrection. If anyone feels exhausted and oppressed by the circumstances of life, count on our Mother, who is close and consoles because she is Mother! She always heartens us and invites us to put our trust again in God. Her Son will not betray our expectations and He will sow in our hearts a hope that does not disappoint.”

On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-address-to-people-of-prato-italy

Pope to New Bishop: Preach Simple Homilies and Defend the Family

In giving episcopal ring, told Rome’s new auxiliary: ‘Do not forget that, before this ring, there was that of your parents. Defend the family’

On Monday, the feast of the dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Pope Francis ordained to the episcopate Monsignor Angelo De Donatis, of the clergy of Rome, who was appointed auxiliary bishop of Rome on 14 September.

The homily pronounced by the Holy Father during the Mass was essentially the ritual homily for the ordination of bishops from the Italian edition of the Pontificale Romanum. However, Francis added some phrases dedicated in particular to the proclamation of the Word, the welcome of the poor and vulnerable, and mercy.

“Announcing the Word at every opportunity and also at less opportune moments; admonish … but always kindly, exhort with magnanimity and doctrine. May your words be simple, so that everyone can understand, rather than long homilies. … Remember your father, how happy he was to find nearby another parish where Mass was celebrated without a homily! May your homilies be the transmission of God’s grace: simple, that everyone may understand, and so that all wish to become better.”

“With your heart, love like a father and a brother all those whom God entrusts to you; as I have said, first and foremost the priests, deacons and seminarians; but also the poor, the vulnerable, and those who are in need of welcome and help. Exhort the faithful to cooperate in apostolic efforts and listen to them willingly and with patience. Often you will need a lot of patience … but the Kingdom of God is built in this way.”

“As we near the Year of Mercy, I ask you as a brother to be merciful. The Church and the world are in need of great mercy. Teach priests and seminarians the path of mercy. With words, but most of all through your attitude. The Father’s mercy always receives, there is always room in His heart, He never turns anyone away. He waits, and waits. … I wish you great mercy.”

During the rite of consigning the episcopal ring, the Pope also added: “Do not forget that, before this ring, there was that of your parents. Defend the family.”

FORUM: René Girard, Church Father

“There are some thinkers that offer intriguing ideas and proposals, and there is a tiny handful of thinkers that manage to shake your world. Girard was in this second camp”

René Girard, one of the most influential Catholic philosophers in the world, died last week at the age of 91. Born in Avignon and a member of the illustrious Academie Francaise, Girard nevertheless made his academic reputation in the United States, as a professor at Indiana University, Johns Hopkins University, and Stanford University.

There are some thinkers that offer intriguing ideas and proposals, and there is a tiny handful of thinkers that manage to shake your world. Girard was in this second camp. In a series of books and articles, written across several decades, he proposed a social theory of extraordinary explanatory power. Drawing inspiration from some of the greatest literary masters of the West — Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, Proust among others — Girard opined that desire is both mimetic and triangular. He meant that we rarely desire objects straightforwardly; rather, we desire them because others desire them: as we imitate (mimesis) another’s desire, we establish a triangulation between self, other, and object. If this sounds too rarefied, think of the manner in which practically all of advertising works: I come to want those gym shoes, not becaus
e of their intrinsic value, but because the hottest NBA star wants them. Now what mimetic desire leads to, almost inevitably, is conflict. If you want to see this dynamic in the concrete, watch what happens when toddler A imitates the desire of toddler B for the same toy, or when dictator A mimics the desire of dictator B for the same route of access to the sea. 


The tension that arises from mimetic desire is dealt with through what Girard called the scapegoating mechanism. A society, large or small, that finds itself in conflict comes together through a common act of blaming an individual or group purportedly responsible for the conflict. So for instance, a group of people in a coffee klatch will speak in an anodyne way for a time, but in relatively short order, they will commence to gossip, and they will find, customarily, a real fellow feeling in the process. What they are accomplishing, on Girard’s reading, is a discharging of the tension of their mimetic rivalry onto a third party. The same dynamic obtains among intellectuals. When I was doing my post-graduate study, I heard the decidedly Girardian remark: “the only thing that two academics can agree upon is how poor the work of a third academic is!” Hitler was one of the shrewdest manipulators of the scapegoating mechanism. He brought the deeply divided German nation of the 1930s together precisely by assigning the Jews as a scapegoat for the country’s economic, political, and cultural woes. Watch a video of one of the Nuremberg rallies of the mid-30s to see the Girardian theory on vivid display.


Now precisely because this mechanism produces a kind of peace, however ersatz and unstable, it has been revered by the great mythologies and religions of the world and interpreted as something that God or the gods smile upon. Perhaps the most ingenious aspect of Girard’s theorizing is his identification of this tendency. In the founding myths of most societies, we find some act of primal violence that actually establishes the order of the community, and in the rituals of those societies, we discover a repeated acting out of the original scapegoating. For a literary presentation of this ritualization of society-creating violence, look no further than Shirley Jackson’s masterpiece “The Lottery.”  


The main features of this theory were in place when Girard turned for the first time in a serious way to the Christian Scriptures. What he found astonished him and changed his life. He discovered that the Bible knew all about mimetic desire and scapegoating violence but it also contained something altogether new, namely, the de-sacralizing of the process that is revered in all of the myths and religions of the world. The crucifixion of Jesus is a classic instance of the old pattern. It is utterly consistent with the Girardian theory that Caiaphas, the leading religious figure of the time, could say to his colleagues, “Is it not better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to perish?” In any other religious context, this sort of rationalization would be valorized. But in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, this stunning truth is revealed: God is not on the side of the scapegoaters but rather on the side of the scapegoated victim. The true God in fact does not sanction a community created through violence; rather, he sanctions what Jesus called the Kingdom of God, a society grounded in forgiveness, love, and identification with the victim. Once Girard saw this pattern, he found it everywhere in the Gospels and in Christian literature. For a particularly clear example of the unveiling process, take a hard look at the story of the woman caught in adultery.


In the second half of the 20th century, academics tended to characterize Christianity – if they took it seriously at all – as one more iteration of the mythic story that can be found in practically every culture. From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Star Wars, the “mono-myth,” to use Joseph Campbell’s formula, is told over and again. What Girard saw was that this tired theorizing has it precisely wrong. In point of fact, Christianity is the revelation (the unveiling) of what the myths want to veil; it is the deconstruction of the mono-myth, not a reiteration of it — which is exactly why so many within academe want to domesticate and de-fang it. 


The recovery of Christianity as revelation, as an unmasking of what all the other religions are saying, is René Girard’s permanent and unsettling contribution.

Bishop Robert Barron is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.

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