Thursday, September 3, 2009

God's Mercy in Portland, Boston, and Chicago

It is a glorious Thursday here in the Windy City - bright sunshine and low humidity. Started the day with a vigorous workout at the gym, then joined my carpool colleagues, and arrived here at the buzzing publishing house.

I noticed the copy of AIM Magazine on my desk when I arrived. AIM is WLP's music and liturgy planning resource, edited by Alan Hommerding. A previous issue is pictured to the left. In the issue that arrived today (November 29 to February 14), the feature article is "The Entrance Rite: At Your Own Risk," by Fr, Ronald Raab, CSC. I found the article deeply moving. It parallels some of my own experience at my own parish of St. James. Fr. Raab is the associate pastor at the Downtown Chapel Catholic Parish in Portland, Oregon, pictured here.
The parish serves people living in poverty in the downtown area. Fr. Raab's immersion in the lives of the poor has shaped within him a unique and helpful perspective on the Church's liturgy. After having read the entire article, I know that my experience of the entrance rite will never be the same. 

Here's a brief excerpt:
"The reverent procession to God's altar is not only for the well-mannered, the prayerful, and the pious. This inclusive procession is a visible reminder that we all come home into God's kingdom, no matter the awkward lives we lead or the cumbersome sins we carry. The cross carried in procession during the entrance rite is the outward sign of the many crosses people carry deep within their lives. The sign of the Crucified leads us beyond our fears about whether or not we belong within the Church. The cross escorts us when we are sidetracked by worldly materialism, our own goals, and the dead end of our greed. The journey to the Kingdom encompasses those strangers who refuse to enter our parish as well as friends who sleep among our judgments and fears."

The entire article is well worth reading. As I read this article, which reminded me of my own judgments and fears, the funeral for Senator Kennedy came to mind. As you probably know, there were people voicing all kinds of judgments on Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley for both allowing a Catholic funeral for Senator Kennedy in his diocese and for actually attending the event. This, of course, was in response to the senator's strong support for a woman's right to choose an abortion. Here is an excerpt of what Cardinal O'Malley had to say about his critics.

"There are those who objected, in some cases vociferously, to the Church's providing a Catholic funeral for the Senator. In the strongest terms I disagree with that position. At the Senator's interment on Saturday evening, with his family's permission, we learned of details of his recent personal correspondence with Pope Benedict XVI. It was very moving to hear the Senator acknowledging his failing to always be a faithful Catholic, and his request for prayers as he faced the end of his life. The Holy Father's expression of gratitude for the Senator's pledge of prayer for the Church, his commendation of the Senator and his family to the intercession of the Blessed Mother, and his imparting the Apostolic Blessing, spoke of His Holiness' role as the Vicar of Christ, the Good Shepherd who leaves none of the flock behind . . . At times, even in the Church, zeal can lead people to issue harsh judgments and impute the worst motives to one another. These attitudes and practices do irreparable damage to the communion of the Church. If any cause is motivated by judgment, anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalization and failure. Jesus' words to us were that we must love one another as He loves us. Jesus loves us while we are still in sin. He loves each of us first, and He loves us to the end."

Cardinal Sean's words echoed what I read in Fr. Raab's article on the Entrance Rite. God's mercy is proclaimed and praised at the beginning of Mass for a reason. Using the Cardinal's words: "Jesus loves us while we are still in sin." I know that I would be lost in my own life without the assurance of God's mercy. This is what gives me hope; that even while I am still in sin, the Lord Jesus' love for me is still there. Every time I gather for Mass with other sinners, I acknowledge this love and ask the Lord to pull me closer and closer to him, and further and further away from sin.

I can think of no better reason to lift my heart in praise and thanksgiving. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Meredith Augustin said...

Thanks for your blog Jerry! You are the best! So true about our gathering rite. I will bring this to future meetings to enlighten those who don't fully grasp it. As for Kennedy's funeral.... I am having a very hard time getting past the fact that it was a Mass of Resurrection... And the word Alleluia was not even uttered. Agee thinking more about the liturgy... It dawned on me that it was a perfect example of 'why Catholics don't sing!'. Would be interested in hear your opinion! Much love and thanks for your hard work and dedication! xo Meredith!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, one of the prominent features of rhetoric is the mischaracterization of those who voice opposition. I have not talked to one individual either in person or online (there may be such individuals though...) who objected to Sen. Kennedy receiving a funeral Mass. That is his right as a Catholic, and the church's obligation. What was objected to was the "public and lionizing" nature of the televised Mass which, it surely cannot be argued, gave very much the impression of an approval of the Senator's political views. For millions of non-Catholics watching across the country, and even some Catholics, the message was "being pro-abortion is OK to the Catholic Church". This would have been an opportunity for the Bishop to clearly enunciate the Church's position, followed by an earnest prayer that the Senator's soul be shown mercy for his transgressions. I was personally not so hung up on the speech given by your President Obama...that is to be expected that politicians will speak when they are given a public forum. In the end, it is not what was said at this funeral, but what was not said.

Anonymous said...

"it was a Mass of Resurrection."

I was told by a priest that other than on Easter, there is no such thing as a "Mass of Resurrection" that that is just jargon people came up with because they don't like the actual term, "Mass of Christian Burial" or the more common "funeral."
He suggested it was an intentional disassociation from the real purpose of such a Mass to PRAY FOR THE SOUL OF THE DEPARTED.

No one wants to admit they NEED prayers.

Chironomo said...


You are right on. Nobody, even Senator Kennedy, is "gauranteed" eternal life in heaven. That has to be prayed for and worked for throughout our lives, and hopefully once we end this earthly life, will be prayed for on our behalf in the Church's duly prescribed liturgy in the hope that we might be judged to spend as little time as possible atoning for our sins. I cringe every time I'm at a funeral (several times a week) and I hear a Priest say "I know that so-and-so is up in heaven, standing next to Jesus looking down at us right now".

REALLY!!?? You KNOW that??!!?? Sign me up for THAT religion because that sounds way better than all of this praying for mercy and forgiveness stuff....