Saturday 22nd February 2020

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February 14, 2020 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. In an exchange with a fellow on Facebook, he wondered how God could be a loving Father when He abandoned His Son Jesus on the cross. How can I answer him? — R.Q., Massachusetts.
A. Your questioner is referring to Jesus’ words from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). But Jesus was not being abandoned by His Father. Christ knew exactly what He was doing, namely, carrying out the Father’s will by offering His life for us. He knew His sacrifice would not be in vain, but He wanted to experience the deepest depths of desolation and mental agony, as if He had been completely forsaken, so that He could encompass all the loneliness and abandonment of those who have rejected God and could show us the price He was willing to pay for our sins.
Jesus was not giving in to despair. He was reciting the second verse of Psalm 22, which begins with cries of anguish and abandonment, but moves on to words of praise and thanksgiving to the God who “has not spurned or disdained/ the misery of this poor wretch,/ Did not turn away from me,/ but heard me when I cried out” (22:25). The Psalm concludes with words of triumph:
“All the ends of the earth/ will worship and turn to the LORD;/ All the families of nations/ will bow low before you./ For kingship belongs to the LORD,/ the ruler over the nations./ All who sleep in the earth/ will bow low before God;/ All who have gone down into the dust/ will kneel in homage./ And I will live for the LORD;/ my descendants will serve you./ The generations to come will be told of the/ LORD,/ that they may proclaim to a people yet/ unborn/ the deliverance you have brought” (22:28-32).

Q. In a column last summer, Dexter Duggan quoted Suzanne Hammons, director of communications for the Diocese of Gallup, N.M., as saying that the ad orientem posture of the priest at Mass, in which the priest and the people both face the Lord and not each other, “is still the default” after Vatican II. Explaining the policy instituted by Gallup Bishop James Wall, Hammons said that some people “mistakenly thought this was our attempt to return to pre-Vatican II rubrics, without understanding that even Vatican II documents themselves assume the priest says the Mass ad orientem.” If this is so, how did the current repositioning of the priest come about? — B.W., via e-mail.
A. There were a lot of things that became part of the Mass promulgated by Pope St. Paul VI in 1970 that were never mentioned in the documents of Vatican II, particularly in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium). For example, Vatican II never called for removal of Communion rails or statues in the sanctuary. Nor did the council eliminate the use of Latin in the liturgy. It said that while vernacular languages could be introduced into the Mass, “the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites” (n. 36).
However, the implementation of the revised Mass was hijacked by teams of liturgists, who imposed their preferences on the Mass and badly distorted what Vatican II intended. Pope Paul VI had expressed the hope in 1969 that the liturgical reform would put “an end to uncertainty, arguments, and misguided experiments,” but his hopes were quickly dashed.
The liturgical termites operated with impunity throughout the 1970s, prompting Pope St. John Paul II to ask the bishops of the world for forgiveness for the failure to rein in these runaway liturgists.
In his 1980 letter to the bishops (Dominicae Cenae), John Paul apologized “in my own name and in the name of all of you, venerable and dear brothers in the episcopate, for everything which, for whatever reason, through whatever human weakness, impatience, or negligence, and also through at times partial, one-sided, and erroneous application of the directives of the Second Vatican Council, may have caused scandal and disturbance concerning the interpretation of the doctrine and the veneration due to this great sacrament [the Holy Eucharist]” (n. 12).
Later that same year, the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, in the document Inaestimabile Donum, listed many of the liturgical abuses and said that “we are face to face with a real falsification of the liturgy.” The foreword to this document went into detail:
“. . . The confusion of roles, especially regarding the priestly ministry and the role of the laity (indiscriminate shared recitation of the Eucharistic Prayer, homilies given by lay people, lay people distributing Communion while the priests refrain from doing so); an increasing loss of the sense of the sacred (abandonment of liturgical vestments, the Eucharist celebrated outside church without real need, lack of reverence and respect for the Blessed Sacrament, etc.); misunderstanding of the ecclesial character of the liturgy (the use of private texts, the proliferation of unapproved Eucharistic Prayers, the manipulation of the liturgical texts for social and political ends).”
It took a while for some of these abuses to be corrected, and not all of them have been totally eliminated today, but two documents in the waning years of John Paul’s pontificate (the revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal in 2002 and the document Redemptionis Sacramentum in 2004) made clear how the liturgy was to be celebrated and what abuses were to be proscribed. The reign of Pope Benedict XVI (2005-2013) saw more emphasis on returning to what one of his books called “the spirit of the liturgy,” and he of course cleared the way for the celebration of the Church’s ancient Latin Mass.
It was these developments that led Bishop Wall to introduce the ad orientem Mass in his diocese in the summer of 2019. Referring at that time to a recent letter from Pope Emeritus Benedict on various topics, including the Eucharist, Bishop Wall wrote that the Holy Father “acknowledged, and rightfully so, that we have become too lax in our approach to the Eucharist. There were a number of reasons for this, even extreme cases when Holy Communion has been distributed to non-Catholics at weddings and other large events for the sake of ‘inclusion.’ We know, however, that such ‘inclusivity’ is actually quite dangerous, for it can put someone’s soul at risk in the name of not hurting feelings. We would do well to remember, then, that the Eucharist is not simply a nice ‘sign’ or ‘symbol’ of communion with God, but rather truly is communion with God. . . . Pope Benedict’s letter thus provides an opportunity for us to reflect on how better to respect the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist.”

Q. In his First Letter, St. John says that “if anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly” (1 John 5:16-17). Can you explain what this means? — S.M., via e-mail.
A. While it is not completely clear what St. John meant by sin in the first instance, he was probably referring to mortal sin since he said that life would be given to the sinner who petitions God, primarily through the Sacrament of Penance. The “deadly” sin probably refers either to apostasy (the total rejection of the Catholic faith by one who was baptized in the faith) or to final impenitence (the stubborn rejection of God’s love and mercy at the moment of death).
John was not saying that we shouldn’t pray for those who are steeped in mortal sin because only God knows whether a person is finally impenitent or not. We know from Scripture that God wants all persons to be saved (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4) and that He takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, but rather in the wicked man’s conversion, that he may live” (Ezek. 33:11). So by all means pray fervently for sinners, for as Our Lady of Fatima said, “Many souls go to Hell because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them.”
That’s why she taught the three children this prayer to be said after each decade of the rosary:
“O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fire of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.”

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Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

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Catholic Replies

Q. In an exchange with a fellow on Facebook, he wondered how God could be a loving Father when He abandoned His Son Jesus on the cross. How can I answer him? — R.Q., Massachusetts. A. Your questioner is referring to Jesus’ words from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). But Jesus was…Continue Reading

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