Month: March 2013

Francis, Footwashing, and the End of Misunderstanding?

I have often gone to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at a parish where everyone washes everyone else’s feet… during the Gospel. The people remove their shoes and socks when they stand for the Gospel, the priest reads up to the point where Jesus says, “Do you know what I have done for you?” and thereupon starts singing the mandate. He then goes to wash, and the whole Church then begins to move, coming forward to wash and be washed in turn. Ten minutes, with a musical setting of the mandate being sung and played throughout. Then, when this is complete the priest returns to the Gospel, and concludes, “The Gospel of the Lord.” It is, without doubt, the most powerful liturgical action I have ever seen. Maybe until Pope Francis. Pope Francis, in his Holy Thursday Mass, washed the feet of women, prisoners, non-Christians. Rita Ferrone, over at dot Commonweal, links to the reaction in some quarters, which is so virulent that some express a hope that Benedict will rescind his resignation and Francis will become an “anti-pope.” Another says he is “almost tyrannical and very determined in his demolition of papal authority.” The fact that some find the actions of Pope Francis and the parish described above as incredibly moving and extraordinary manifestations of the Faith, while others find them ugly and verging on sacrilege, is...

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“Unction, not function” – Pope Francis’ Chrism Mass

Sometimes it is just best to let others’ words speak for themselves.  Our new Pope’s reflection on the purpose of anointing is profound, and this line in particular struck me as a good summary of the moral life in particular: When we have this relationship with God and with his people, and grace passes through us, then we are [anointed] priests, mediators between God and men. Read the whole sermon...

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Renewing Parish (Final): Influencing Society

Our society presents several problems facing the parish.  Consumerism or politics tends to be the dominant lens through which we interpret our lives, including our faith.  These frameworks are difficult to change because relationships and communities are hard to sustain.  It takes almost all of our effort just to survive and take care of the ones closest to us. In my previous post, I recommended 10 Practices that would, I believe, foster a Christian framework for understanding the world and a community capable of living it:  vibrant liturgies, engaging homilies, strong religious education programs, personal prayer, frequent reconciliation, socializing with members of the community, building a network of families, welcoming people, visiting people, and personally inviting people to serve. These practices might seem like they turn people in the parish toward themselves and neglect the neighbor, the stranger, and the enemy.  How will a vibrant parish affect the larger society, its social isolation, fear, and exhaustion?  How can a church community challenge the economic or political way of interpreting the world?  We are in need of a soteriology that encompasses the broader culture, a social soteriology as David Cloutier called it. Whereas noting practices for a parish can be fairly concrete, mapping out how these practices affect the broader society is more general.  One cannot say, “if you do A, B will happen.”  People and movements do not work...

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Man Up! A Male Perspective on Masculinity & Rape Culture

Guest Blog By Hoon Choi,  Assistant Professor of Theology & Religious Studies, St John’s University (NY) Bodily experiences are unique.  They can be vehicles to an immediate knowledge of reality. The human body–and the sexual experience enjoyed in the body–can reveal to us “what is beyond our conscious rational apprehension,” according to Mircea Eliade. When I reflect on the experience of my body, I notice that it is soft most of the time, unless I am excited or tense, or when I exert force onto or within it.  I think this recognition—a fuller identification of the complexity of maleness and of the male body—can contribute to the call, by Meghan Clark and others, to fight against every element of the rape culture. Just as women are not dimorphic beings (“Virgin or whore”), men are also not simply fragile or aggressive.  The culture of rape, which Dr. Clark so evocatively discloses, will not disappear, until men are able to embrace a more authentically integrated sense of manhood. I first moved to the States when I was 12 years old. I struggled to fit in to this new culture. I did not look like most people, and I did not speak their language—literally or figuratively. Like many other students of color, I hung out with my own (Asian) folks. In high school I began climbing the proverbial social ladder, trying to reach...

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The Mass of Easter Sunday

Lectionary 42 Acts 10:34a, 37-43 Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23 Col 3:1-4 Jn 20:1-9 Lent is finally over and now in the Church we feast. And yet we should be changed by our Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We should go on from Easter a little more prayerful, a little more temperate, and a little more charitable. For Christians, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has normative significance.  The promise of resurrection ought to lead to a change in our basic attitudes, dispositions, and behaviors that reflects the hope that we have that this earthly life is not the end.  This is what Paul is getting to in our second reading from Colossians when he says,   If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.   Just how is the resurrection transformative?  First of all, the resurrection is transformative on the level of our experience of fear, suffering, and death. Allen Verhey in his recent book on the Ars Moriendi argues that when faced with death, Christians ought not to “pray for a miracle” because the...

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