Saturday, November 18, 2017

Greeting the Beatification of a Simple Priest--Blessed Solanus Casey

Blessed Solanus Casey on Life

"Barney" Solanus Casey is being beatified in a ceremony  in Detroit, Michigan on November 18, 2017.  Casey will be the second  American born male to be beatified. Cardinal Angelo Amato, the head of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints will celebrate the Beatification Mass. Among the 70,000 in attendance at Ford Field will be four Cardinals and 218 Capuchin Friars.

The beatification of Fr. Solanus Casey is remarkable for a  Wisconsin farm boy born in 1870.  When Casey was called to the priesthood, he academically struggled at the seminary since instruction was in German.  Thus, Casey was just ordained just a sacredos simplex and served in the early and mid-Twentieth Century as a lowly porter for the Capuchins friaries in Yonkers, Harlem, Manhattan and for 21 years in Detroit.  


Despite not being able to give homilies or hear confessions, Fr. Casey had a remarkable impact.  His reputation grew as a compassionate holy man who founded a soup kitchen in Detroit in 1929.  Casey became well known as a priest  who could relate with people. Fr. Casey was also known as an ordinary Detroiter who enjoyed Coney Island hot dogs and the Detroit Tigers.  

Yet Fr. Casey drew people to him from his holy reputation and as a miracle worker who had a knack at helping get prayers answered.   In his vocation as porter, Fr. Casey lent a listening ear and a caring heart to those who came to him. Fr. Casey would also offer visitors an opportunity to join a Capuchin Mass Memorial Society, in which he scrupulously wrote down their petitions and updated the log with how prayers were answered.  

In 1954, Fr. Casey suffered a severe case of eczema over his entire body and was transfered back to Detroit to receive better medical case.  Alas, complications set in and he died of untreatable psoriasis.  It was estimated that 20,000 people showed up to mourn Fr. Casey's passing from this world. But when Fr. Casey's remains were exhumed in 1987, his corpse was incorrupted, save for a little decomposition around the elbows.  

After Fr. Casey's death, lay friends of the Capuchins sought permission to create a Father Solanus Guild.  As early as 1966, there were 24 reports of cures attributable to Fr. Solanus. Fr. Casey was named Venerable in 1995. 

Normally, the Catholic beatification process involves the recognition of a miracle associated with a Servant of God.   The Miracle which was recognized by the responsible Vatican  dicastry is from 2012 when a Panamanian woman who visited Fr. Casey's tomb who suffered from an incurable skin disease but was healed by praying for Solanus Casey's intercession.




Thursday, November 16, 2017

On Pope Francis on Pre-Mass Silence and Lex Vivendi

Pope Francis on Pre Mass Silence


Recently, Pope Francis lamented the tendency of Catholics to engage in small talk before Mass when they ought to be spiritually preparing for the liturgy.

This may be related to how the Mass is considered by the faithful.  The Council of Trent affirmed the holy sacrifice of the Mass.  The spirit of Vatican II considers it a family meal, thus what would be wrong with some pre-supper conversation?

While it is laudable to have pre-liturgical silence to encourage the People of God to prepare for the Liturgies of the Word and the Eucharist, it should be tempered by fostering community.

It is my experience that at least in America, parishes are no longer the tightly knit and stable discreet communities that they once were.  Folks typically move around.  There are volitional parishes where people choose to attend.  People often do not make a day of worship, sticking around for coffee or pot luck.

The infrastructure can also be an issue.  My parish's main church was built in the 1850s and has a very small narthex, so there is not a courtyard for people to gather and make small talk before going into the sanctuary.  Many modern churches have incorporated a gathering area for such purposes.

So what would be the best way to cultivate more reverence prior to Mass?  I would suggest catechesis and clues.

While I want thoughtful exegesis from a homily, it can sometimes be edifying to also have some instruction.  I regret that I did not hear more priestly presiders educate the faithful about the change from dynamic translation to static translation of the new Roman Missal in 2011.  I sought to educate myself and attended some additional talks which helped me understand the logic of the syntax changes as well as to become accustomed to the "clunky" new sound.

Pope Benedict XVI observed that the essence of liturgy disappears when we applaud in church and it becomes religious entertainment.  While the Mass that I frequently attend has a wonderful contemporary choir,  it still garners applause "from the crowd" after Mass.  Being shepherded by our Holy Father, I curbed my enthusiasm for post-prandial celebration.  It would have been instructive if clergy discerned if such a critique was praiseworthy and shared it with their flock.

Another moment where reverence not revelry ought to be instructed is during the "sign of peace". In some liturgies, it becomes a "half time" where people will briefly socialize with their neighbors.  Some celebrants campaign, needing to shake the hand of every Catholic "constituent".    Liturgically, we are sharing the unity coming from the altar after the fraction rite that comes sharing one body of Christ. So several years ago, the Congregation for the Divine Worship  published a piece which discouraged irrational exuberance during the sign of peace.  Yet this instruction received nary a mention from the pulpit.

One parish which I attend while visiting relatives has a barn-like sanctuary.  Several minutes before they start they dim the lights to get the People of God in the mood. Visually, they are giving them a clue.  Where I believe that they go off the right path in making announcements or having brief secular speakers come up front "before the show". 

For me, good liturgy is key.  However, community is also important.  There is probably not a one-size-fits-all approach.  But pastors and sacristans can discern what will work best for their "faith community".  And homilists ought not to be afraid to challenge their congregation to  prayerfully consider how we comport ourselves in the sanctuary before, during and after our liturgies.  And may the clergy not dismiss righteous chaffing from the faithful just because they are in charge. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Pope St. John Paul II on Faith

Pope St. John Paul II on Faith

The Polish Pope's predilections on faith can be seen through a Marian prism, which Pope St. John Paul II insisted was Christocentric, as true devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary always leads to Christ.