Catholic Church: February 2004 Archives

Do Sundays Count?

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There is some question about whether one should continue to observe one's Lenten practices on Sunday or whether Sunday constitutes a "day off." While I understand and acknowledge those who say Sundays are "little Easters" I come down firmly on the side of maintaining your practice.

Lent is not merely a season of forty days of unpleasantness after which we all return to the routine before Lent. Lent is a time of spritiual training. We are all aware for a habit to "take" it must be habitual--that is, done without exception. When you jog every day, you jog every day, not skipping days because it is convenient or you need a day off. A master pianist doesn't decide to take a day, a week, or a month off. So too with Lenten practices. You are practicing two main things encompassed in the one phrase, "I must decrease so that He might increase." That is you are practicing surrender and self-control (always with the help of God's grace) so that His presence in your life comes to dominate and be truly central to all that you do. So long as you view the Lenten penances as simply pious diversions of the season, they can have no lasting effect. But if the point is to love God more at the end of the season, then constant practice is something to carefully consider.

Whatever you choose to do, judgment should not be levied on those who choose otherwise. The Lord leads each one as He chooses, and in a matter where the Church has not spoken definitively, it is up to the conscience of the individual to determine which path to tread. For my part, Sundays should continue whatever observance I have chosen for Lent. I want my Lent to continue into my whole life--I want it to be a season of transformation that leads me into God's embrace. And I know myself well enough to know that "time off for good behavior" is simply an extravagance that puts me into the wrong mindset. I cannot view Lent and its penances and practices as a fundamental good if I am spending time trying to get away from them.

So here's a dissenting argument, one I suspect you will not hear repeated, nor is there likely to be significant concurrence within our community. But that's okay because we each must follow as the Lord leads.

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He Said It--On Holding Hands

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Mark at Minute Particulars has summed up what I've always thought about holding hands during the Our Father. And while it may not be in the rubrics, I am quick to point out that frequent confession was not always the practice either and a groundswell of popular opinion moved it into the realm of the blessing that it is.

Too often we cut ourselves off. The very gestures we use in prayer tend to indicate a closed circle, an isolated fortress, a Man alone Before God. I like the connectivity of holding hands, and even if I hold no other hands, I must be connected to the family I love, my lifeline and my tangible, visible, constant, gift from God. But holding a stranger's hand is good as well--perhaps even better because it indicates a willingness to unite our fates, to both go willingly where the Lord leads, and to some extent to help one another. The gesture forces us to break the closed circle of our prayer and to momentarily step into community.

Now, I'm not for forcing this on anyone who is not so inclined. But I have to say that I am always favorably impressed with the congregation, if not necessarily the liturgy in the place where I see this done. I enter into the gesture willingly because it is only in each other that we receive the tangible sign of God's love.

However, not all are comfortable with this, and each must have the freedom of his or her conscience. It is not up to me to impose rules, and I do try to obey those imposed by the Bishops. However, this one always overcomes any qualms. Sometimes it is necessary to express what is in the heart and move forward with it--perhaps the Bishops might perceive what is being silently spoken there and recognize both its worth and its necessity. Perhaps not. But I suppose one of the advantages of not being raised Catholic is I don't have the burden of the past to deal with. I can go with my heart.

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On The Liturgy of the Hours

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I started to answer this in the comments box below, but both the question and the answer seems far too important for a mere comments box reflection:

Tom asked the question whether Liturgy of the Hours were really necessary to the pursuit of holiness. My long answer follows. My short answer is undoubtedly (and most assuredly from a personal, experiential perspective), "Yes it is." As difficult as it may be to fit into a life, whatever life it is fit into is made better by the discipline of following this great work of the Church.

With the advent of works like Magnificat a version of the litrugy tailored to those with strong time constraints is available to all. Moreover, as the name implies the "Liturgy of the Hours" is the work of the whole body of the church. It is liturgical prayer second in importance only to the Mass itself. Finally, the liturgy of the hours provides structure to the day. It would seem, to instill the discipline necessary to start the practice of the presence of God.

Personal prayer, while commendable, and indeed sanctifying often tends to be somewhat loosely regarded and on-the-fly. The Liturgy serves to structure this otherwise rather free-form mode of expression.

That's not to say you can't become holy without with Liturgy--but rather that the liturgy is so helpful to the process that it should not be remanded to a mere recommendation, but put forth as a sacred treasure whose usage greatly increases the probability of success on the road to holiness by virtue of the grace of obedience and discipline.

Finally, to address the objection, " After all, people in the world do not always have the luxury of living as though they occupied a cloister," I quote from the work of the Holy Father regarding lay participation in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Apostolic Letter Novo Millenio Inuente #34 John Paul II

It is therefore essential that education in prayer should become in some way a key-point of all pastoral planning. I myself have decided to dedicate the forthcoming Wednesday catecheses to reflection upon the Psalms, beginning with the Psalms of Morning Prayer with which the public prayer of the Church invites us to consecrate and direct our day. How helpful it would be if not only in religious communities but also in parishes more were done to ensure an all-pervading climate of prayer. With proper discernment, this would require that popular piety be given its proper place, and that people be educated especially in liturgical prayer. Perhaps it is more thinkable than we usually presume for the average day of a Christian community to combine the many forms of pastoral life and witness in the world with the celebration of the Eucharist and even the recitation of Lauds [Morning Prayer] and Vespers [Evening Prayer]. The experience of many committed Christian groups, also those made up largely of lay people, is proof of this. [emphasis added]

and from Sacrosanctum Concilium

from Sacrosanctum Concilium

83. Christ Jesus, high priest of the new and eternal covenant, taking human nature, introduced into this earthly exile that hymn which is sung throughout all ages in the halls of heaven. He joins the entire community of mankind to Himself, associating it with His own singing of this canticle of divine praise.

For he continues His priestly work through the agency of His Church, which is ceaselessly engaged in praising the Lord and interceding for the salvation of the whole world. She does this, not only by celebrating the eucharist, but also in other ways, especially by praying the divine office.

84. By tradition going back to early Christian times, the divine office is devised so that the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praises of God. Therefore, when this wonderful song of praise is rightly performed by priests and others who are deputed for this purpose by the Church's ordinance, or by the faithful praying together with the priest in the approved form, then it is truly the voice of the bride addressed to her bridegroom; lt is the very prayer which Christ Himself, together with His body, addresses to the Father.

85. Hence all who render this service are not only fulfilling a duty of the Church, but also are sharing in the greatest honor of Christ's spouse, for by offering these praises to God they are standing before God's throne in the name of the Church their Mother. . . .

88. Because the purpose of the office is to sanctify the day, the traditional sequence of the hours is to be restored so that once again they may be genuinely related to the time of the day when they are prayed, as far as this may be possible. Moreover, it will be necessary to take into account the modern conditions in which daily life has to be lived, especially by those who are called to labor in apostolic works.

and this, from "Instructions on the Liturgy of the Hours"

27. Lay groups gathering for prayer, apostolic work, or any other reason are encouraged to fulfill the Church's duty, [103] by celebrating part of the liturgy of the hours. The laity must learn above all how in the liturgy they are adoring God the Father in spirit and in truth; [104] they should bear in mind that through public worship and prayer they reach all humanity and can contribute significantly to the salvation of the whole world. [105]

Finally, it is of great advantage for the family, the domestic sanctuary of the Church, not only to pray together to God but also to celebrate some parts of the liturgy of the hours as occasion offers, in order to enter more deeply into the life of the Church. [106]

It would seem to me far easier to become holy if one were to spend some time "sanctifying" and "consecrating" the day with the form of prayer specifically designed for that purpose.

For additional comments see here (Cardinal Spellman, 1950), John Paul II, 2001, and John Paul II, 2001

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This page is a archive of entries in the Catholic Church category from February 2004.

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