Archdiocese of Washington Offers a New Feature on Website:”Marriage Matters”

marriage_logoIf wedding bells are ringing in your near future, getting spiritually prepared is essential. Getting married isn’t just about preparing for a ceremony or a reception. It isn’t just even about preparing for a live together. It is ultimately about preparing for eternal life. Marriage is a call to holiness. What are some of the things you should know? When should you call the Church. What does the process of preparing look like?  What are some “must have” conversations? What exactly in the Christian and Catholic understanding of marriage?

Questions like these and more are dealt with at the Marriage Matters web page at the Website of the Archdiocese of Washington. You can find it here: MARRIAGE MATTERS.

At the site are links to other sites and resources including the Bishop’s Website on Marriage: FOR YOUR MARRIAGE

Websites such as these are efforts to spend extended time teaching on Marriage. It is clear today that many marriages are in crisis. Further there are attempts to redefine marriage. It is essential that we return to teaching on Biblical and doctrinal roots of this sacrament for many have more secular notions of marriage. In the predominant secular view the earthly happiness of the couple is paramount and children are more of a way of “accessorizing”  marriage should this enhance the couple’s happiness. Missing from this notion is any concept of sacrifice, self-giving, the common good, and the call to holiness (as distinct from mere emotional happiness).

It is to be hoped that we can begin to more systematically and creatively teach on the Sacrament of Marriage and recover a more Biblical, traditionally and doctrinally correct understanding of marriage. If you are married, or thinking of getting married or if you know of anyone in these categories visit the site, click on the Links and spread the Word: Marriage Matters!

In Marriages, little sacrifices can mean a lot and make a big difference. This video from the Bishop’s Website makes that point

A Rather Shocking Eucharistic Procession

The Diocese in Linz, (northern  Austria) is infamous for liturgical strangeness. In a land of some of the world’s most beautiful rococo Churches liturgy has gone unhinged. If something is crazy, ugly or just plain illicit it is on display is this diocese. The latest sadness comes with a Eucharistic Procession held through the streets. Rather than use a traditional monstrance (see photo to the right) this particular parish nailed a rather large pita like lost to a stick and carried it through the streets; strange, ugly and unnecessarily provocative.  Well, look for yourself.

The Mass in Slow Motion – The Creed

If an outsider knowing nothing of Catholics were to walk in during the creed. He might think we are pretty smart. After All we say some pretty sophisticated stuff: Begotten not made, one in being with the Father and so on... We can sound pretty smart. But truthbe told there is often a lot of day dreaming going on during the Creed and many a Catholic would be hard pressed to say what the phrase above really means. But we ought to shake off the daydreams and pay attention to what we are doing. We are confessing our faith, a faith that many died for. The creed stands at the center of the Liturgy and fundamentally declares: I believe what we are celebrating here. I believe what we have just heard proclaimed in the readings and the homily. I believe in God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe what God has done for me and that it is possible for me to be saved, sanctified, and share in God’s glory. I standing here declare that I believe these things which we declare and celebrate.

The history of the Nicene Creeditself is a bit complex. The basic outline of the creed as we know it today was given at the Council of Nicea(325 AD). This does not exactly coincide with our present Credo. The text we have today was actually formally approved by the Council of Chalcedon(451 AD With one exception: the word, “filioque” which was added by the Council of Toledo in 589. The Eastern Church never accepted the insertion of this word ). Until this time there were slightly different versions in existence. With the approval of Chalcedon, the one version that we have today gained wide acceptance and use. Hence the creed at mass is a summary of faith expressed by the Councils of Nicaea (325) and of Constantinople (381) as ratified by the Council of Chalcedon (451).

The use of the creed was originally associated primarily with baptismal liturgies. At first it was in the form of questions. Later the whole creed was memorized and recited just before baptism. (One vestige of this is that the Creed is recited (at least in the Latin) in the first person singular: Credo (I believe)). It entered the Mass first in the East in the early 6th Century at least indirectly due to difficulties with heresies. It was ordered recited at every liturgy by the Timotheus, Patriarch of Constantinople between 511 and 517. This example was copied everywhere in the East.

Its entrance into the western Church came through Spain which was strongly influenced by Byzantium. It was recited just before the Our Father so that, before the Body and Blood of the Lord were received, the hearts of all might be purified by faith. Thus, with the Our Father, it was considered a prayer of preparation for communion. By the 8th Century is appeared in the Gallican (French) liturgy. Once again, a struggle against heresy seems to have been behind its adoption. Charlemagne obtained permission form Pope Leo III and introduced the Creed into the Mass at his palace and, largely through its influence, its use slowly spread throughout the Carolingian empire. From here it spread to England and Ireland, slowly.

Still, by this point it was not in the Liturgy at Rome. This greatly surprised the Emperor Henry II who, in 1064 heard Mass in Rome without the Creed. The Roman priests explained that, since heresy had never been a problem in Rome, it was not necessary to profess the Credo so often. But for some reason, Henry pressured to have the Credo included and Pope Benedict VIII directed it be included but only on Sundays and certain feasts.

The creed was recited by the whole congregation at first. But the text came more and more to be sung. Even so, simple melodies were employed. But they grew in complexity and gradually slipped from the people; especially as polyphony came more into use. Today, the preference is expressed in the norms that the people ordinarily be able to recite the Creed together. But, this does not forbid it’s being sung; even elaborately. However, as we have seen with other texts, a balance between congregational participation and preserving the rich musical heritage of the Church is presumed.

Pastoral Reflections. –

In contrast withthe Apostles’ Creed (in which the faith is asserted simply and forthrightly) the NiceanCreed is a characterized by its theological clarity and richness. It is a theological and polemical profession giving orthodoxy a clear exposition. But it must be recalled that the Creed’s purpose is not so much to oppose heresy as it is to unfold the contents of our faith. Hence the Creed, occurring as it does at the end of the Liturgy of the Word is seen as the joyous “yes” of the congregation to the message they have received. Tapering with this text, a text that martyrs died for is surely uncalled for.

The profession of faith is said by the priest and the people. At the words: “By the power of the Holy Spirit, etc” all bow. On the feasts of the annunciation and Christmas all genuflect. Despite this rather clear directive, this is not often done in the average parish. Once again, it is good to appreciate that the mystery of the incarnation is so wonderful that we, in reverence are to bow. Until the recent past, a genuflection was always called for, now a bow is the directive. Nevertheless, we are to indicate by our posture our awe of the mystery.

The English translation is basically pretty good but there are a few problems. In particular, the English translation seems to imply that Jesus became man only at his birth (which is not what the Latin says). This is no small error in an age which allows abortion. 

Notice the basic structure of the Creed: We believe in One God:

  1. The Father Almighty
  2. In Jesus Christ
  3. In the Holy Spirit
  4. The Church.

This structure shows figuratively how the Church under-girds the teaching about the Trinity. The Church is an object of faith! It is through the Church that the faith is given and hence she is the foundation of and the safeguarder of the Faith.

This Video is the Creed sung in Latin (Creed Setting V)

The Mass in Slow Motion – The Homily

The Homily – So now comes the part of the Mass that is often the most loved and the most hated moment. Preaching consistently well can prove to be a challenge for priests (and deacons) who often live very busy lives and are called to preach all week long at weekday masses, funerals and weddings, in addition to being thoroughly prepared to deliver “a barn-burner” every weekend. No excuses here, just explanations. The homily is obviously a critical moment in the Mass and there are high expectations  that the people of God will be edified and instructed. Sadly, Catholic priests do not have the reputation of being great preachers. We often think we are better than our people think we are. 🙂  One of the chief reasons people say they leave the Church is uninspired preaching compared to the relatively inspired and interesting preaching found in many non-Catholic denominations. There is work to do on improving our preaching to be sure but DON’T leave the Blessed Sacrament to go an sit in a “Word Church!” Even if the preaching is entertaining and informative it just isn’t worth the price of leaving behind Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.   (Also, good preaching can be over-rated. Paul, according to his own words was not a great preacher (1 Cor. 2:1; 2 Cor. 11:5;  Acts 20:7ff) and yet he was the greatest evangelist the Church has known).

So, What is a Homily? Years ago we just called it a “sermon.” Yet, in recent decades the Church has preferred the term “Homily.” This is probably due to the communal nature that the ancient word homily evokes. Homily comes from the Middle English omelie, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin homilia, from Late Greek homilein, and emphasizes a more interpersonal “conversation”, or “discourse” The Greek work homilein means to consort with or to address a kindred or related people. The root word homos meaning “same” is included in the word homily. Hence, this is more than an impersonal address to crowd of people only vaguely known (i.e. a sermon or lecture). Rather, this is a family conversation, a conversation or address to kindred spirits who share much in common (at least we hope!)

History – This is a pre-Christian element in the Liturgy. It was part of the Jewish synagogue service.  It is recorded in scripture that Jesus Himself preached in the synagogue (cf. Luke 4:16-31) Likewise Paul makes use of the synagogue homily to proclaim Christ (e.g. Acts 13:14ff). The early Christians brought the synagogue service into the Mass and thus the homily was tied to the reading of the scriptures. The preaching of a homily was the particular duty of the Bishop but priests were also allowed to preach. In the fourth century in the east, it was the custom, if several priests were present for all of them to preach in turn and then, finally the Bishop (Whew!).  After the fall of Arius (A third Century priest-heretic who denied the divinity of Christ and widely disseminated his views leading countless others into error) priests were forbidden to preach in Alexandria and North Africa. Likewise, in Rome they were also forbidden. This restriction was variously applied and enforced in different areas. Perhaps it should be stated that  the priests of this time were not always the most learned of men. The seminary system as we know it today did not exist and there would be concerns  about the orthodoxy of the sermon as well as its effective delivery. In general then, preaching at Mass seems to have declined after the problems of the third century but it would not be fair to say that it disappeared entirely. This is especially true when we consider that in many of the well established areas of North Africa and Italy there was a bishop present in even the smaller towns.

By the beginning of the Middle Ages there was a strong return to preaching of the Word of God. However, the character and liturgical role was changing. It was modeled more on sermons outside of Mass. There was the rise of the mendicant preaching orders (eg. Franciscans and Dominicans) at this time and they preached outside of the liturgy in town squares and meetings. This form of preaching began to enter the churches and influenced the nature and content of the Homily which became less and less a textual explanation and applications of the readings and  more and more was replaced by a catechetical format in which and an exposition of the Creed, the Our Father and the Ten Commandments was often the focus. This practiced continued to be the norm as a general rule.

The present Instructions emphasize that the homily is a part of the Mass itself and seems to nod to both traditions above. Namely, the homily is not merely to be an explanation of the readings but also should explain the mysteries of faith related to the readings and the liturgy of the day applying them especially to the norms of Christian life (cf. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy # 52.)


Norms- The homily should develop some point of the readings or of another text from the ordinary or from the proper of the Mass of the day, and take into account the mystery being celebrated and the needs proper to the listeners. The Homily is required on Sundays and holy days of obligation at all Masses that are celebrated with a congregation; it may not be omitted without a serious reason. It is recommended on other days, especially on the weekdays of Advent, Lent, and the Easter season, as well as on other feasts and occasions when the people come to church in large numbers. The homily should ordinarily be given by the priest celebrant.

The homilist must be an ordained member of the clergy. A deacon, a priest, or a bishop may preach. This is not merely a question of being learned, for many members of the laity are quite learned in theological matters. Rather, as Catholics we are convinced that  the sacrament of Holy Orders confers a unique charism and grace which empowers the priest to speak for God in a supernatural manner. The Third Instruction On the Correct Implementation of the Constitution on the SacredLiturgy has the following to say: “…the Purpose of the homily is to explain the readings and make them relevant for the present day. This is the task of the priest. and the faithful should not add comments or engage in dialogue or anything similar during the homily.”(Liturgicae instaurationes # 3, 2.)

Finally we might be end with St. Paul’s Instruction to Timothy regarding the preaching and teaching task of the clergy: Loquare quae decet sanam doctrinam (speak that which befits sound doctrine).

One of our Greatest Catholic Preachers was Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. Here he gives the homily on Matthew 6.


Watch Our Father in Educational |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Pentecost Sequence Hymn – Veni Sancte Spiritus

There are several Feasts of the Church wherein a “sequence”  hymn may be sung.  The sequence hymn is sung Just before the the Alleluia (Gospel acclamation). The feasts with sequence hymns are these:

  1. Easter – Victimae Paschali Laudes (To the Paschal Victim give praise)
  2. Pentecost – Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit)
  3. Corpus Christi – Lauda Sion (Praise O Sion)
  4. Our Lady of Sorrows – Stabat Mater (Stood the Mother sad and weeping)
  5. All Souls – Dies Irae (Day of Wrath)

Since today is Pentecost we ought to sample the sequence hymn for today: Veni Sancte Spiritus. Here is the Latin text and a translation (fairly literal) of my own.

VENI, Sancte Spiritus,
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.
COME, Holy Spirit,
send forth from heaven
the rays of thy light
Veni, pater pauperum,
veni, dator munerum
veni, lumen cordium.
Come, Father of the poor;
Come, giver of gifts,
Come, light of [our] hearts.
Consolator optime,
dulcis hospes animae,
dulce refrigerium.
Oh best Comforter,
Sweet guest of the soul,
Sweet refreshment.
In labore requies,
in aestu temperies
in fletu solatium.
In Labor rest
in the heat, moderation;
in tears, solace.
O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium.
O most blessed Light
fill the inmost heart
of thy faithful.
Sine tuo numine,
nihil est in homine,
nihil est innoxium.
Without your spirit,
nothing is in man,
nothing that is harmless
Lava quod est sordidum,
riga quod est aridum,
sana quod est saucium.
Wash that which is sordid
water that which is dry,
heal that which is wounded.
Flecte quod est rigidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium.
Make flexible that which is rigid,
warm that which is cold,
rule that which is deviant.
Da tuis fidelibus,
in te confidentibus,
sacrum septenarium.
Give to thy faithful,
who trust in thee
the sevenfold gifts.
Da virtutis meritum,
da salutis exitum,
da perenne gaudium,
Amen, Alleluia.
Grant to us the merit of virtue,
Grant salvation at our going forth,
Grant eternal joy.
Amen. Alleluia.

Here is the trational Gregorian Chant of this sequence:

And here is a rather nice modern version of the same text:


Diversity on Display – The Catholic Charismatic Renewal

Vibrant prayer and singing, hands uplifted and enthusiastic preaching are all characteristics of the liturgies of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Within the Charismatic renewal is also an expectation of deep prayer and an intense love for Scripture and a serious acceptance of the call to conversion.  The vibrant liturgies and prayer gatherings of this movement express an openness and powerful awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Some have criticized the Renewal as too emotional or focused too heavily on personal experience and not enough on Church teaching. My own experience with the Charismatic Renewal has been more positive. Generally I find Charismatic Catholics to be very orthodox in belief and enthusiastic about what the Church teaches. The Charismatic preaching and teaching I have heard have good and solid substance, beyond mere emotional appeal. Like any movement there can be extreme interpretations of it by certain individuals but as a whole the Charismatic Renewal has been just that, a sign of renewal in the Church and an important help to the faith of those who are attracted to it. The vibrant liturgies may not be everyone’s cup of tea but my experience is that the liturgies are sincere and filled with the expectation that the Holy Spirit will “show up.”

My own parish is predominately African American in membership and while we don’t use the word Charismatic to describe how we celebrate many, if not most of the elements are there. Vibrant music, exuberant gestures and acclamations by many in the congregation, animated preaching and the expectation that the Holy Spirit will surely manifest himself.  And while not everyone shouts, not everyone stands or extends their hands, not everyone claps, but everyone makes room for the Spirit who will manifest Himself differently in each individual. Everyone has “permission” to be led by the Spirit.

Whether you like Charismatic worship or not, just remember that there are diversity of gifts, but the one Spirit who manifests them in all. An old song says, “King Jesus hath a garden full of diverse flowers.”

The Mass in Slow Motion – The Congregation is Seated

After the opening prayer the congregation is seated for the first time. Sitting is the posture of learning. We have already remarked above on the commentary on the presider’s chair how in the ancient world teachers, including Jesus sat to teach. It is also true that their students also sat to learn.  Hence the congregation now sits in order to be instructed in God’s Word. Now the picture at the right shows a mighty strange looking congregation but it’s OK to have a little fun here.

The following video describes not  only the sitting posture but also standing and kneeling.

The Mass in Slow Motion – The Kyrie (Lord Have Mercy)

Now if I were to ask you if the Kyrie Eleison (Translated “Lord Have Mercy”) were part of the Penitential Rite most likely you’d say “Of course it is.” After all we are asking God’s mercy. But interestingly enough it serves more as an acclamation of praise both historically and liturgically as we shall see.

The History of the Kyrie – the Kyrie is often thought of as a part of the penitential rite but this is not necessarily the case. The General instruction describes it this way: “After the penitential act the Kyrie Eleison is begun unless it has already been used in the penitential act. It is a song in which the faithful acclaim the Lord and ask for his mercy therefore it is usually to be sung by all, that is by the congregation as well as the schola or cantor.” Hence the Kyrie may or may not be a part of the penitential rite. As we shall see in its origins, the Kyrie is historically more a hymn of praise than a penitential act.

The early history may be seen in pagan antiquity. There was the  custom of imploring the help of the gods with the phrase “eleison.” Likewise, the phrase was used in reference to the emperor. A singer would announce some praise of the emperor and the people would respond with this or another cry of homage. However, there are also scriptural roots in the Old Testament. For example, in the Greek translation of the O.T. (the Septuagint)  there are many phrases particularly in the psalms such as, “eleison me Kyrie.” (Have mercy on me Lord) (Psalm 6:2 inter al.) Also in the New Testament there are many places where the phrase is used: Son of David have mercy on us. This phrase is indeed quite common in the N.T. Nevertheless Kyrie litanies where not common in the Church until after the Age of Constantine (4th century) likely due to their connections with paganism. After the persecutions ended and paganism move to the background it was deemed appropriate to use these forms of courtly honor to honor the Lord.

The entrance of the Kyrie into widespread use in the Church may be described as follows. The practice was first reported in use in  Jerusalem wherein the phrase “Kyrie Eleison” was sung in response to a series of petitions sung by a deacon. This practice was noted both within Mass (where it took place after the Gospel) and outside of Mass (for example at Vespers). The practice was brought back to the West probably by returning pilgrims and it was considered widely appealing. Eventually its  use came to be quite universal in the Church. In some areas it was located at the beginning of Mass while in other areas it had its place after the Gospel. Eventually it came to be generally located at the beginning of mass. It was specifically introduced into the Mass by Pope Gelasius in the later half of the 5th century.  The form of the Kyrie was retained as a litany of praise and supplication before God and these prayers grew in elaborateness. You can see the Kyrie Litany of Gelasius HERE .

In a desire to simplify and shorten the liturgy, Pope Gregory the Great in the early 7th century removed the prayers and kept only responses Kyrie eleison and Christe eleison. First this was done only on ordinary days, leaving the prayers on more solemn feast. Later their use faded completely leaving only the responses. The Kyrie responses were said at first only by the people. But gradually the priest and the people began to alternate, responding back and forth with a nine-fold response (KKK,CCC,KKK). Gradually the singing of these became more elaborate and tended to be done by a choir of trained singers. In the Tridentine mass the Kyrie was recited by the priest alternating with the servers in the ninefold Kyrie. In solemn Mass it was also sung by the Choir or schola. But it was NOT considered part of the penitential rite which had take place at the foot of the Altar and was separated from the penitential rite by several things: the ascent of the altar steps, kissing the altar, possibly incensing it, making the sing of cross to begin Mass, reading the Introit (entrance song) and only then reciting the Kyrie.

Today it is returned to having the priest and people alternate in what is usually a sixfold Kyrie. There is also the option of introducing the Kyrie into the penitential rite in which case it is returned to its older litany-like form with certain petitions and/or praises attached to each Kyrie and Christe.

Complicated enough?? The Kyrie has somewhat of a dual personality. It may serve either as a penitential rite or a hymn of praise. However, even when it is used as a penitential act, we still give glory to God on account of his great mercy. The history of the Kyrie Litany gives rise to an appreciation of  the source of our practice today of the intercessory prayers after the Creed (sometimes called the “prayer of the faithful”). In fact, it should be remembered that the response “Kyrie Eleison” may in fact be made instead of “Lord hear our prayer.” More will be said of this later on.

Here is a polyphonic Kyrie, a Kyrie in Gregorian Chant, and a Modern Kyrie litany: