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July 14, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Editor’s Note: At a time when it’s easy to get discouraged about developments in the Church and in the world, Fr. George Rutler reminds us that “to discourage is to lose heart. It is a trick of the Anti-Christ and the very opposite of Christ, who encourages: ‘Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day’ (2 Cor. 4:16).”
Reflecting on the parable of the unjust judge (cf. Luke 18:1-8), Fr. Rutler, pastor of the Church of St. Michael in New York City, compared the widow whose persistence compelled the judge to hear her case with the “Ladies in White, who are wives and mothers of political prisoners in the gulags of Communist Cuba. Mostly Afro-Cubans, they formed in 2003 to protest the large-scale arrest of their kin, who included journalists and human rights activists. From then on, every Sunday they attend Mass in Havana and process in white clothing to a park where, despite their peaceful witness, they frequently have been beaten and jailed.”
Rutler wrote in his church bulletin that “their persistence has been an embarrassment to many outside Cuba who choose to ignore the devastation wrought by Marxism. Even some leading churchmen indulge the gossamer hope that appeasement will convert evil to good. The Ladies in White were hurt but not thwarted when a U.S. presidential executive order in 2013 lifted sanctions against Cuba, while requiring no reform of its dictatorship. ‘Peace in our time’ was predictably delusional, and political oppression increased. There were 1,095 detainees in 2016, up from 718 in 2015.”
This past June, however, said Fr. Rutler, our new president “fulfilled a campaign promise by signing a directive imposing sanctions that will not be lifted until Cuba frees political prisoners and holds free elections. He also explicitly mentioned the persistence of the Ladies in White. Berta Soler, a leader of the Ladies in White, whose husband has been serving a 20-year sentence, replied: ‘These days, Mr. President, when most of the world responds with a deafening silence to the harassment, arbitrary detentions, beatings, house searches, and robberies against peaceful opponents, human rights activists, and defenseless women, your words of encouragement are most welcomed’.”
This is like the parable of the undaunted widow, said Rutler. “And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night?” His article reminds us of the importance of praying fervently for the relief of God’s elect, that is, our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world.

Q. I have two questions: 1) Is the Society for the Propagation of the Faith still a reputable organization to donate to? 2) When I lead the rosary for the Third Glorious Mystery, I always say, “The Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary.” My husband says I shouldn’t add the Blessed Mother, but I say that Mary was there on Pentecost. What do you think? — E.C., via e-mail
A. First, we contribute to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and know of no reason why Catholics should not donate to this charity, which provides assistance to priests, brothers, and sisters in the mission fields of the world.
Second, the Descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost is described in chapter two of the Acts of the Apostles, and the Blessed Virgin is not mentioned as being present. The tongues of fire came to rest that day on the 12 apostles, the first leaders of the Church, and they were inspired to leave the Upper Room and go outside to evangelize the large crowd of people gathered in the streets.
While Mary is mentioned in chapter one of Acts (verse 14) as being with the Twelve in the Upper Room at least some of the time during the 10 days between the Ascension and Pentecost (“All those with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren”), there is no indication that she was there on Pentecost. So we would suggest identifying the Third Glorious Mystery in the traditional way, that is, without including the Blessed Mother.

Q. Vatican II has done a great job in diluting the reverence and intimacy of the Mass with the feel-good practices adopted from Protestant services. Of particular note is the recitation of petitions and even inviting petitions from the congregation. The Lord said not to babble like pagans who think they will be heard because of their many words. He said that your Father knows what you need better than you and even before you ask Him. So my question is: Which of the Lord’s words does the Church not understand or, worse yet, not believe? — A.C., Tennessee.
A. We don’t see a problem with presenting our needs to the Lord during the Prayers of the Faithful at Mass since He told us: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matt. 7:7-8). He invites us to ask Him for things, so we should accept His invitation.
The reason for these petitions is explained in the following paragraph from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal:
“In the Prayer of the Faithful, the people respond in a certain way to the word of God which they have welcomed in faith and, exercising the office of their baptismal priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all. It is fitting that such a prayer be included, as a rule, in Masses celebrated with a congregation, so that petitions will be offered for the holy Church, for civil authorities, for those weighed down by various needs, for all men and women, and for the salvation of the whole world” (n. 69).
Granted, there are times when these intercessions stray far from what was spelled out in the GIRM, and this problem can be exacerbated when members of the congregation are invited to offer their own petitions. But this should not happen if the guidelines of the GIRM are followed, namely, that “the intentions announced should be sober, be composed freely but prudently, and be succinct, and they should express the prayer of the entire community. The intentions are announced from the ambo or from another suitable place, by the deacon or by a cantor, a lector, or one of the lay faithful. The people, however, stand and give expression to their prayer either by an invocation said together after each intention or by praying in silence” (n. 71).
Praying at Mass for the needs of Church, country, friends, neighbors, and self is not a “feel-good practice adopted from Protestant services,” but rather a response to the Lord’s call to come to Him with all our needs and the needs of others.

Q. At Mass the other morning, the Gospel had Jesus saying that “no one patches an old cloak with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for its fullness pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse. People do not put new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved” (Matt. 9:16-17). What point was our Lord trying to make? — G.V., North Dakota.
A. He was comparing an old cloak with the Old Covenant, implying that both were worn out and in need of replacement (cf. Heb. 1:10-12). Just as an old cloth cannot be salvaged merely by sewing on new patches, so the Old Covenant cannot be patched up with the New Covenant. The same is true of new and old wineskins, as a footnote says in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament:
“Fermenting wine is accompanied by a build-up of pressure. If kept in skins already used and dried out, the wine would certainly burst them. Jesus thus illustrates the impossibility of inaugurating the New Covenant while maintaining the Old. The abundance of New Covenant grace cannot be contained within the structures of the Old Covenant (cf. John 1:16). A new kingdom is needed to contain it — one fashioned to endure forever.”

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Catholic Replies

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