Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Honolulu to Restore the Sequence of the Initiation Sacraments

Wednesday greetings from the sunny but cool Midwest.

I read with excitement a post yesterday about the bishop of Honolulu, Bishop Larry Silva.

You can read the article from their Catholic newspaper here. The bishop is inaugurating a process for the restoration of the order of the sacraments of initiation (Baptism-Confirmation-Eucharist). Many dioceses across Canada and the United States have done so, some with great success, others with limited success or even failure, resulting in a "un-restoration." The process to return to the original sequence of the sacraments is one that takes courage, lots of catechesis, and the bringing on board of an entire diocese, both clergy and the lay faithful.

The argument against restoration, which I hear so often, is that we will "lose the kids" if we confirm them at the time of the First Communion at the age of seven or eight. Bishop Silva's letter addresses this point:

Some may point out that we have been doing what we are doing for 100 years, so why change now? The reason is simple: What we are doing is not working very well. Confirmation is often experienced more as a graduation from the Church than as a free gift of God's grace. Pope Francis acknowledged this: "There was this experience: the sacrament of Confirmation--what is this sacrament called? Confirmation? No! Its name has changed: the 'sacrament of farewell.' They do this and then they leave the Church . . . Many young people move off after receiving Confirmation, the sacrament of farewell, of goodbye, as I said. It is an experience of failure, and experience that leaves emptiness and discourages us. Is this true or not?" (Sept. 22, 2013)

He goes on:

The challenge, though, is not just to put the sacraments into their proper order. The challenge is to provide a transformed youth ministry approach that empowers young people to live as disciples of Jesus in our world today, draws them to responsible participation in the life, mission and work of the Catholic Church, and fosters the personal and spiritual growth of each young person.

Having two distinct pastoral practices for the sequence of the sacraments has created confusion and theological obscurity. The "theology" of the sacrament of confirmation (that this is the person's turn to make their "adult commitment" to the faith) is simply a "made up" theology that was invented to somehow give substance to the separation of the sacrament from its original order and placed later in the person's life. Pope Benedict XVI, in Sacramentum Caritatis called the Church into a conversation about the practice:

The Eucharist, the fullness of Christian initiation
17. If the Eucharist is truly the source and summit of the Church's life and mission, it follows that the process of Christian initiation must constantly be directed to the reception of this sacrament. As the Synod Fathers said, we need to ask ourselves whether in our Christian communities the close link between Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist is sufficiently recognized. (46) It must never be forgotten that our reception of Baptism and Confirmation is ordered to the Eucharist. Accordingly, our pastoral practice should reflect a more unitary understanding of the process of Christian initiation. The sacrament of Baptism, by which we were conformed to Christ,(47) incorporated in the Church and made children of God, is the portal to all the sacraments. It makes us part of the one Body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 12:13), a priestly people. Still, it is our participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice which perfects within us the gifts given to us at Baptism. The gifts of the Spirit are given for the building up of Christ's Body (1 Cor 12) and for ever greater witness to the Gospel in the world. (48) The Holy Eucharist, then, brings Christian initiation to completion and represents the centre and goal of all sacramental life. (49)
The order of the sacraments of initiation
18. In this regard, attention needs to be paid to the order of the sacraments of initiation. Different traditions exist within the Church. There is a clear variation between, on the one hand, the ecclesial customs of the East (50) and the practice of the West regarding the initiation of adults, (51) and, on the other hand, the procedure adopted for children. (52) Yet these variations are not properly of the dogmatic order, but are pastoral in character. Concretely, it needs to be seen which practice better enables the faithful to put the sacrament of the Eucharist at the centre, as the goal of the whole process of initiation. In close collaboration with the competent offices of the Roman Curia, Bishops' Conferences should examine the effectiveness of current approaches to Christian initiation, so that the faithful can be helped both to mature through the formation received in our communities and to give their lives an authentically eucharistic direction, so that they can offer a reason for the hope within them in a way suited to our times (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

Kudos to Bishop Silva and the other bishops in the United States and Canada for responding to the call to examine the Church's pastoral practice and move toward a process to restore the sequence. Challenging, for sure. Your thoughts?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


World events unfolding in the past few days can suck the hope right out of us. The tragedy in Nepal is unfathomable to me. Ancient temples reduced to dust. Lives snuffed out in the night. Parents losing children. Children losing parents. People on the trek of a lifetime wiped out in an instant on a mountainside. And then there is Baltimore. Our own citizens fighting one another on the streets. Racial tension on the rise once again. One of our iconic U.S. cities under curfew. Where is the hope?

Well, I got a little ray of hope over the past few days. Usually I do not single out nor name the folks who work here at World Library Publications. I walk a fine line sometimes because I am "the boss" around here and also someone who loves and cares for his "people" so deeply. Ah, the Catholic manager!

At any rate, as many of you know, nearly two years ago, our marketing director, Jennifer Odegard, lost her husband, Charlie, to pancreatic cancer. Our little family here at work grieved deeply for Charlie and our hearts were broken for Jennifer and their families.

Keith Kalemba, one of our music editors, and a composer himself, has been working on a musical tribute to Charlie to mark Charlie's upcoming 50th birthday. The piece, still needing some minor tweaking, is now complete. It is scored for cello and piano. We had arranged for a marvelous cellist here in Chicago to play at Charlie's funeral Mass, so there are echoes from that day of celebration of Charlie's life in the piece. Keith posted a photo on Facebook last night, which I am sharing here, with his permission:

You know, it's stuff like this, the creation of a composition written at the piano in a small house in a village outside of Chicago, that pierces through the darkness of despair and bursts into a dazzling ray of hope in my own eyes. John 13:35 in action in our little corner of the world: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Look for the hope today. It's probably all around you, just waiting to be found.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, April 24, 2015

"What We Have Given Away:" The Funeral of Francis Eugene George

Friday greetings to all.

As I said in Tuesday's post, my plan was to pay my final respects to Cardinal George on Wednesday. So, after reading the schedule of events on the Chicago Archdiocesan web site, I rushed home, ran to the bus, then got on a train and arrived at the cathedral a few minutes after 6:00 P.M. The schedule of events had said that public viewing would take place until 6:30 P.M. I climbed the steps of the cathedral, only to be told that the doors were now closed and that a "ticketed event" would occur at 7:00. I calmly told the person that the Archdiocesan official schedule said otherwise, but there was no way that any of us were going to be allowed in. "You can come back at 9:00 when public viewing continues through the night." So, instead of paying my respects in the cathedral, I toasted the Cardinal with a glass of Cabernet at a local Italian restaurant not far from his residence and ate a nice bowl of mushroom risotto.

Late that afternoon, I had been asked by the owner of our company if I wanted to accompany her to the cathedral the next morning; she had an extra ticket for the funeral. So, at least I knew that I would be able to pay my respects more formally the next day.

I arrived at the cathedral for the Noon funeral at about 10:15, in order to stand in line. As I stood in line, I looked across State Street and saw a sign, indicating that that particular portion of State Street had been named in honor of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin. Difficult to read, but here is the photo I took of that sign.

The memories of Cardinal Bernardin flooded across my mind. Two very different shepherds; two very different eras in Chicago, American, and global Catholic history.

When we finally entered the cathedral, we were fortunate enough to be seated in the seventh pew; the Cardinal's body was still in full view. I sat there and gazed at his remains and prayed hard for him and for his sister, Margaret, and his family.

The funeral was simple. There were cardinals, archbishops, bishops, ecumenical leaders, the governor, the mayor, the city council, the chief of police and the fire department commissioner; there were hundreds of priests and deacons; the cathedral was packed. Yet, it was a simple funeral. Archbishop Sartain's homily was moving and painted an accurate picture of Cardinal George. He quoted the Cardinal and this was the heart of the homily: "The only thing we take with us when we die is what we have given away." I think these words will stay with me for a very long time. I sat there and asked myself, "What is it that I have given away in my life here on earth?"

The music was superb; the congregation's chanting and singing filled the cathedral. Two very poignant moments for me: 1. The singing of the Pie Jesu from Fauré's Requiem. It was sung just before the introductory rites began. The single soprano voice coming from the choir loft was sublime. Very moving; 2. Following the final hymn, those priests whom the Cardinal had ordained the last time he was the celebrant at the ordination here in Chicago came forward to escort the casket down the aisle of the cathedral one last time. As the casket began to move, the choir sang Ecce Sacerdos. I had to catch my breath.

You can see the entire funeral Mass here, via CatholicTV.

After exiting the cathedral, I looked back and this was the view.

I am grateful for the life and ministry of Francis Eugene George. May he rest in peace.

Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem,
Dona eis Domine, sempiternam requiem.

Blessed Jesus, Lord, I pray in your mercy O grant them rest.
Blessed Lord Jesus, I pray in your mercy grant them everlasting rest.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My Shepherd

It was a very cold day on November 21, 1996. I had been asked by colleagues at the Office for Divine Worship here in Chicago to help coordinate the liturgical rites at Mount Carmel Cemetery for the burial of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin. I remember arriving very early that morning and being allowed into the "Bishops' Chapel" at Mount Carmel, where the Cardinal's remains would be laid to rest.

It was an eerie feeling as I stared into the open vault in the wall in which the Cardinal's coffin would soon be placed. I had never witnessed an entire city pour out its grief like Chicago did on that day; etched in my memory forever.

A few months later, I found myself in Portland, Oregon. I was there to interview for the position of director of the office of worship for the Archdiocese of Portland. After the lengthy interview, I was told that the Archbishop, Francis George, wanted to spend about a half hour with me; he did so with all the interviewees who were interviewing as potential members of his cabinet.

Here's a photo of Archbishop George at his Mass of farewell to the Archdiocese of Portland in April of 1997.

When I was introduced to the Archbishop and entered his office, I remember distinctly how friendly and cordial Archbishop George was. Simply, he was easy to be around. He spoke passionately about his hopes for a new era of liturgical catechesis once a new translation of The Roman Missal was received. I was a doctoral student at the time and remember how excited the word and worship faculty was at Catholic Theological Union as the new ICEL translation was being voted upon by the US bishops. The Archbishop said that, by and large, the Church had failed in its attempts to catechize the laity about the celebration of Mass when the Mass was first celebrated in English after the Second Vatican Council . The new translation, he said, would be a watershed moment for liturgical catechesis in the Church. The Archbishop spoke about his family; I spoke about mine. He asked if I had any questions and I asked him about the makeup of the Archdiocese of Portland. I remember this as if it were yesterday. There was a map of Oregon on the wall next to him in his office. He pointed at the map and said that the city of Portland itself was a center of liberalism. Then he pointed to the rest of the Archdiocese and said that from the coast to the Cascades, the rest of the people were "a bunch of rednecks." I was taken aback by this comment and I remember that right then and there, the Archbishop made it easy for me to decide not to take this position if it were offered to me, which it eventually wasn't.

Many of my colleagues here in Chicago knew that I had applied for the position in Portland. Just a few short weeks after my interview, it was announced that Archbishop George was to become the new Archbishop of Chicago. My phone was ringing off the hook, with friends and colleagues asking me about this stranger who was to become our new Archbishop.

So, my impressions of Archbishop George were mixed. When he came to Chicago, I was asked to coordinate the music for two of the Masses he celebrated. The first was for the consecrated religious brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese. I remember walking into the sacristy of the Basilica of Our Lady, Mother of Sorrows to speak with the Archbishop about what we would be singing at the Mass. When I walked into the sacristy, he looked up and, with delight in his eyes, said, "Jerry, how are you? How goes the job hunt?" Frankly, I was impressed that he remembered me at all and, once again, I was struck by his personal touch and genuine friendliness. We chatted for a little while and then he celebrated the Mass.

I have spoken with Cardinal George many times over the years. When the translation of The Roman Missal finally came around (distinctly different than the translation of which we had spoken so many years before), the Cardinal was clear that he was glad that our publishing house had decided to publish the Missal. He made it clear to me that we in Catholic publishing, particularly liturgical publishing, had a deep responsibility to God's people to see to it that the reception of the new translation was as smooth as possible. I remembered his passion years earlier when he talked about this being a watershed moment of liturgical catechesis.

A few years ago, when I was still a parishioner at Saint James Parish here in Chicago, Cardinal George came to our parish to announce that Saint James would live on and that property had been purchased by the Archdiocese for the building of a new church, which would replace the crumbling structure (now torn down). It was one of the happiest days of my Catholic life.

Tomorrow night, I will make my way to Holy Name Cathedral to pay my final respects to Cardinal Francis George, the man who has been my shepherd here in Chicago for the past 18 years. I will remember him as an absolute straight-shooter in my conversations with him. I will remember his kindness and genuine friendliness. I will remember some of what I would call the "odd ways" he would phrase things. Most of all, I will remember this man, who struggled physically for most of his life, as a man of the Church. The image I have of him is from the prophet Isaiah: "A man of sorrows, familiar with suffering."

May God grant him eternal life.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Rest in Peace Francis George

Masses for the Dead

For a Bishop

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that the soul of your departed servant Bishop Francis Cardinal George,
to whom you committed the care of your family,
may, with the manifold fruit of his labors,
enter into the eternal gladness of his Lord.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Benedict Living and Enjoying this Gift of Life

Friday greetings on a beautiful Spring day here in Chicago. When I give RCIA talks and tell people that the Church envisions an apprenticeship model when it comes to Christian formation, I always remind folks that we need to get catechumens and candidates introduced into the Catholic life as it is lived by our parishioners. I always say that "Catholics know how to party well. Just look at the social calendars of most parishes, with their New Year's Eve celebrations, their post-Easter Vigil soirees, their Saint Joseph's tables, their Saint Patrick's Day dances, their various ethnic festivals. Get your catechumens and candidates to these events!"

Yesterday's news about the way Pope Benedict celebrated his birthday brought joy to my heart and an affirmation of the Church's teaching about the catechumenate. Catholics and Catholics-to-be, enjoy life! Grab a beer and thank God for the precious gift of this life! Happy Birthday Pope Emeritus Benedict!

I hope your weekend is filled with fun and joy.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I'm Gettin' Married in the Mornin' . . .

Thursday greetings.

Last evening I attended the annual "Celebration of Mundelein Seminary" gala here in Chicago. It is one of those Catholic social events that brings together the bishops and priests of the Archdiocese, as well as hundreds of seminarians who are studying at Mundelein Seminary. Here's a view of this amazingly beautiful property:

This is an event like no other that I attend. One of Chicago's local newscasters, Allison Rosati, is the MC.

The live music is provided by the City Lights Orchestra. There are award presentations and a wonderful meal. Over $370,000 was raised during this fundraising gala.

This is what I would call an "old-school" society gathering. The live orchestra provides music as people are called forth to give a speech or accept an award.

Last night, I had the opportunity to meet our new Archbishop, Blase J. Cupich, for the first time. His photo graces my desktop here at the office, along with another one of my favorite bishops.

When Archbishop Cupich was introduced last night, the City Lights Orchestra's music filled the ballroom as the archbishop walked to the podium. If you were to pick an appropriate song to accompany the walk of an archbishop to a podium, what would that be?

I bet none of you would ever have guessed what they played.

"I'm Gettin' Married in the Morning . . . Get Me to the Church On Time."

Many of us just stared at one another in wonder. The Archbishop glanced over at the orchestra as the music came to a close and said something like, "I guess some people might think that I am late arriving at things sometimes."

Here was my view as the archbishop began his inspiring remarks about the priesthood.

I was glad to be there and to support the work of Mundelein Seminary and the Archdiocese I call home.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Paschal Joy and Urban Development

Wednesday greetings on a beautiful Spring day here in the Midwest. The daffodils and forsythia are finally in bloom here.

I am the kind of guy who appreciates the mystery and miracle that is Spring. The early morning and late afternoon sunshine this time of year is like none other. As the buds and leaves begin to awaken from their long hibernation inside those grey, lifeless branches, the way they capture that sunlight is magical around here.

Last week, while in Orlando at the NCEA convention, I got to spend time with some of my Australian colleagues and friends. They travel home this week, where the autumn season is taking its grip. For me, the paschal joy of this Easter Season is magnified by the joy of seeing the earth come to life again. I always wonder how our friends in the Southern Hemisphere feel when, as the weeks of the Easter Season unfold, winter begins to creep closer and closer. Would love to hear their perspective on this.

There is some sadness mixed in with all this paschal joy for me. Anyone who follows me on Facebook or reads this blog knows that I try my best to take full advantage of a small balcony at my home here in the city of Chicago. I live downtown and green space is at a premium. So, I fill that balcony with flower boxes and herbs, cultivating them all summer and really enjoying this little urban oasis. The balcony overlooks the courtyard of a restaurant adjacent to my building. It is filled with birds and squirrels, pines, and flowering trees. Well, urban development seems to be winning out over the urban oasis. The restaurant property has been sold to a developer. I attended a community meeting last night and voiced my own objections over what amounts to a complete destruction--the technical term, I found out, is "scraping"--of the entire property to make way for a congested two-building, 127-unit apartment complex. No more trees. No more birds and squirrels. No more pines or flowering trees. If this comes to pass, this will be a kind of death for me. I know this is definitely a "first-world problem," but this is all centered on corporate greed, in my opinion. I will still have the little balcony; perhaps those who will live just a few feet away will somehow appreciate the creation of my own little bit of paschal joy in downtown Chicago in the form of flower boxes and herbs. It's still a big "gggrrrrr" for me at this point, however.

Thanks for listening to this urbanite.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Opening the Door to Commemorate the Closing

Monday greetings. Last week's NCEA convention in Orlando had me running around, back and forth between the hotel and the convention center; just no time to post; my apologies. The convention was wonderful and I was so proud of our WLP clinicians Mary Birmingham, Andrew Chinn, and Br. Mickey McGrath.

Have you had a chance to read Misericordiae Vultus, Pope Francis' document inaugurating the Jubilee Year of Mercy? This just lifted my heart this morning. I think I am in great need of this Jubilee Year. How about you? Here is a section which touched me greatly. I am not sure I agree that the "walls" which "had made the Church a kind of fortress" have been torn down quite yet. But Pope Francis sure is doing an amazing and wonderful job at getting us back to the basics of what the Church's mission is all about as it continues the teaching and presence of Christ in the world.

4. I have chosen the date of 8 December because of its rich meaning in the recent history of the Church. In fact, I will open the Holy Door on the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. The Church feels a great need to keep this event alive. With the Council, the Church entered a new phase of her history. The Council Fathers strongly perceived, as a true breath of the Holy Spirit, a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way. The walls which too long had made the Church a kind of fortress were torn down and the time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way. It was a new phase of the same evangelization that had existed from the beginning. It was a fresh undertaking for all Christians to bear witness to their faith with greater enthusiasm and conviction. The Church sensed a responsibility to be a living sign of the Father’s love in the world.
We recall the poignant words of Saint John XXIII when, opening the Council, he indicated the path to follow: “Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity … The Catholic Church, as she holds high the torch of Catholic truth at this Ecumenical Council, wants to show herself a loving mother to all; patient, kind, moved by compassion and goodness toward her separated children.”

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Missal and Near the Missal, But Not Quite

Easter Monday greetings from Orlando. I am here to speak at the annual convention of the NCEA (National Catholic Education Association).

I hope you all had a wonderful Triduum. I was unable to attend the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper but attended the Passion at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Chicago. Paul French is the music director there, and has been for a number of years. This parish's choral program has to be one of the finest in North America. The chanted Passion was superbly done and really drew me into John's account. Individual veneration of the cross occurs after the final prayer at the end of the service at this parish, during which the choir sings a number of pieces from the sacred choral repertoire. It was moving and splendid and stunning. Everything was done right out of the Missal, and it was a beautiful liturgy.

Then came the Easter Vigil. I attended the Vigil with a few friends, one of whom is an occasional worshipper at a parish on the far north side of Chicago. I am not going to name the parish here.

The fire was lit inside a Weber grill actually inside the church, in the back. Pretty minimal. I am simply going to recount what occurred from there.

After an excellent proclamation of the first reading from Genesis, we all sang one verse of "How Great Thou Art." No psalm. After the Exodus reading, proclaimed amazingly powerfully, we sang a refrain about freedom. No psalm. After the Isaiah 55, we all sang verses one and four of "Come to the Water. Then the Gloria, then the Romans reading then the Alleluia, then the Gospel.

Then the homily. The celebrant talked about not being able to "wrap his brain around Easter" this year because of all the suffering going on in the world today. He said that the only conclusion that he could draw was that it was all "absurd." And he told us that there are two ways of reacting to the absurdity of it all. We can get lost in consumerism and fill our lives with things until we finally end up in the eternal dark abyss. Or, we can laugh. He said that Jesus probably simply giggled when he emerged from the tomb, then erupted into a big belly laugh.

The celebrant then took out a Kazoo and played a section of the "Hallelujah Chorus" on it, as a sign of laughing in the face of absurdity. He then invited the person being baptized and the three being received into communion to join him. They were all given Kazoos and they played the same section. Then, you guessed it. People suddenly appeared with large baskets filled with hundreds of Kazoos and they were passed to members of the assembly. We were all invited to stand and the trumpet and piano and choir led us in the final section of the "Hallelujah Chorus," with all of us playing Kazoos. The regular parishioners seemed to love it all. Folks, it was one of the strangest experiences of my life.

A young woman was then baptized in a large temporary font in front of one of the side altars. We were all invited to gather around the font for the baptism. Then three people were received into full communion. Confirmation was simple and lovely. Then we celebrated the Eucharist.

The singers, to the very last one, were wonderful. The Exsultet was chanted superbly. The music director used a baton, which she also used to conduct us, which I found kind of annoying. There was no Triduum program; everything was sung from the missalette and the singing was very strong throughout.

I don't have much more to say, except that I am not lying about this experience. This is exactly what happened. All I can say is that it is quite interesting to see how one parish on one night (Good Friday) can celebrate exactly as the Missal says and another parish, not five miles away on Holy Saturday, can have arrived at a point where some of what was done was an adaptation that had clearly gotten out of hand at some point and had veered away.

How was your Easter?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Startling News

Received startling news from my inside sources at the Vatican this morning. Apparently the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has reversed its decision and, beginning on Pentecost Sunday of this liturgical year, a special indult will be in place for dioceses throughout the English-speaking world. The indult will allow for the celebration of the Mass using the 1998 rejected ICEL translation.

Of course, this presents a nightmare for a publisher of worship resources for the Church. We are scrambling here to create a side-by-side resource, with the current translation of The Roman Missal, third edition, on one side and the 1998 ICEL translation on the other.

We have been trying to think about a name for the resource. Perhaps the words April and Fools should be in its title?

Happy Spy Wednesday!

Gotta Sing. Gotta pray.