Echoes from the Rectory: On Christian rituals, Advent and death
(POSTED: 12/14/11) One of the things I hear a number of older Catholics lament is that many of our children today are not being exposed to the wonderful rituals of our faith that used to be observed. Whether this is actually the case is for each person to determine, but I do agree that helping our youngsters get to know them is very important. On a secular note, we have the Parade of Lights that takes place on the Magnificent Mile the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Likewise there is the Thanksgiving Day Parade that wends its way down State Street early Thanksgiving morning. It’s great to see so many young families coming from all parts of the city and the suburbs to experience these holiday treats. The same is true for the lighting of Chicago’s Christmas Tree in Daley Plaza. Some families make having a meal in the Walnut Room at Macy’s (formerly Marshall Fields) an annual event between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But what about some of our Christian rituals? More and more children who attend Catholic elementary school or are involved in religious education programs become aware of the Stations of the Cross during Lent. Many young people, until recently, were completely unaware of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction.
–The Rev. Kurt Hartrich, St. Peter, Chicago, Dec. 4
“The Lord be with you.” “And with your spirit.” This revised dialogue occurs five times in the revised translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal and poses a challenge. Some struggle to develop habits. Others struggle to accept and understand a change that separates us from other English-speaking Christian assemblies. What is the difference; why has the response changed? The Latin words “Et cum spiritu tuo” have been the response in all three editions of the Missal of Paul VI. While “And also with you” is a valid dynamic translation of the original Latin, most other languages chose the formal translation, “And with your spirit.” This literal equality is one intent of the new principles for translation established in 2001. “And with your spirit” emphasizes a distinction between the assembly and the ordained presider that troubles some, but that also speaks to a Catholic understanding of sacrament.
–The Rev. Bill Tkachuk, St. Nicholas Parish, Evanston, Nov. 27
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King finalizes the liturgical calendar and liturgical cycle each year. The new liturgical cycle begins the Sunday following the feast of Christ the King, and is always the First Sunday of Advent. In general, and most particularly on this feast day, we solemnly and respectfully refer to, and speak of, Our Lord Jesus Christ the King. The word “king” normally refers to that exalted person, who possesses great wealth, power and dominion within his particular kingdom. In medieval times, kings were absolute rulers to whom even other powerful leaders bowed and offered deference and homage when in their presence. Clearly, there are few “kings” in today’s world who even approach such power. And so, while this feast is named the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King, there is little, if anything, our King has in common with the ancient kings of the world.
–The Rev. Jim Schulz, Mary, Queen of Heaven Parish, Cicero, Nov. 20
The whole People of God desire that what is true and beautiful should find an important place in liturgical worship. There is still a need for what is sometimes poetically described as the “splendor of worship.” There is still a place in worship for evoking in the individual a sense of wonderment which is one of the first steps on the road towards contemplative prayer. Many, especially young people want to learn of the Church’s tradition of contemplative prayer, a prayer nourished by the Liturgy. It would be short sighted to see in the revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal a mere concern for externals. A mere formal correctness has little value if not accompanied by internal dispositions. It is however rare to find that where externals are neglected, interior dispositions are well cultivated. External discipline is a support and a safeguard for interior dispositions.
–The Rev. Joe Cook, St. Kieran Parish, Chicago Heights, Nov. 20
These final weeks of the liturgical year have given us scriptural selections that reflect on the nature of the reign of God. This final Sunday of the liturgical year (Cycle A, when St. Matthew’s Gospel is read) raises the theme of the End and Judgment. In the Reign of God the metric for our future (the Judgment) will be the way we have treated those who are less fortunate than we are. The way we treat the Lord is the way we treat them. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people that you do unto me” as we sing in the song.
–The Rev. Len Dubi, St. Victor Parish, Calumet City, Nov. 20
Today we begin a new liturgical year with the celebration of Advent. Advent is a season to help us prepare for Christmas when we remember Christ’s Incarnation, his acceptance of human nature and the human condition so that he could restore us to our dignity as sons and daughters of God. But Advent is also a season that reminds us to prepare ourselves for Christ’s second coming at the end of time. The theme of Advent thus becomes one of hope, of devout and joyful expectation of our Savior. We humans cannot live without hope, without something to live for and to look forward to. Our hopes and dreams guide our lives and actions and form us into the people we are. The presence of so much depression and despair in our world reminds us of the urgency for Christians to be people of encouragement and hope. Perhaps during this season of Advent we could focus and pray on how we might better live the virtue of hope each day.
–The Rev. Patrick Rugen, St. Dismas Parish, Waukegan, Nov. 27
That fleeting news story about the one 100th anniversary of Chevrolet, though, triggered a vivid memory from the past. I did not remember the year, but now I know it must have been 1961. Back then General Motors was flying high and spared no expense in celebrating the 50th anniversary of Chevrolet. In fact, there was a big prime time television special on one of the three networks to celebrate the anniversary. We watched it as a family. Since I was eight years old, my memories of the show are rather vague. I think it was mostly a musical variety show with a little automotive history thrown in — and of course as many Chevrolet commercials as the law allowed. Right at the end, though, the host or announcer said, “We invite all of you back in fifty years to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Chevrolet.” That was an audacious boast. Fifty years was a heck of a long time. Who knew what the world would be like in 2011? Yet no one really doubted that a company like General Motors and its most popular car would be part of that future. We laughed like the people in the studio audience at these closing remarks. But then I remember my father turning to me and saying, “Well, you’ll be here in fifty years, but we won’t.” It was one of those sudden “growing up” moments. Of course, I knew about death and I knew that in the normal progression of things I would outlive my parents, but up to that point no one close to me had actually died. This was the first time I can remember thinking seriously about life going on without all the familiar faces present. Within a year or two several people in my grandparents’ generation had passed away. And that began a lifetime of going to funerals — which in time also became a professional responsibility.
–The Rev. Joseph Chamblain, Assumption Parish, Chicago, Nov. 13