Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Altar Girls and Similar Themes

When I was a kid I remember being so disturbed by the introduction of female altar servers that I vocally expressed my dissent to the program director with tears and a refusal to be an altar server if girls were allowed to serve. Yes, I was quite the 4th grade zealot; sincere in my fidelity but lacking in understanding. All I knew is that my parents had told me that female altar servers were against Church teaching and that was enough for me.

Every once in a while I will run into this same attitude toward female altar servers; an attitude I passionately shared, and realize where I was at and where I am now. How eagerly we defended that bulwark. While easily criticized as misogyny, a word that merely casts conservatives as haters; the real root for our passion was our fear concerning independent, undiscerned, change that was happening in the Church, especially in the post conciliar time. We weren't afraid of women but skeptical of change; which is always hard because it places in doubt identity. The work of distinguishing between what is essential and what is extraneous is hard work and we can easily either dismiss what is essential or over rate what is extraneous.

The Church has reaffirmed over and over again that the ordained man is a sacramental sign. The one who stands at table and breaks bread in the memory of Christ must be a man, as Christ was a man. It’s neither a hateful or hurtful statement. The presbyter takes the place of Christ in a unique way in the complete sacramental sign of the man offering bread and wine. The priesthood is therefore not a series of duties to be performed (like the protestant vision of a minister) but a sign in himself (just as motherhood cannot be reduced to a series of tasks to be performed). The Church can no more ordain women than it can use milk for baptism. Yes, it’s that important.

However, just because the masculinity of the minister is essential to the sacramental sign; it doesn't necessarily mean that all aspects that are traditionally assigned to the priest must only be fulfilled by a man. While the fundamental seven sacramental signs are continuous; the context of their celebration has not always been the same, as anyone who has studied liturgy would know.

This, however, should not be interpreted a liturgical relativism. Determining how to celebrate the liturgy is a discernment process, an integrated process. It means being in communion with the entire tradition of liturgy and the mind of the Church; not simply creating something carte blanche.

In this discernment process the Church has seen that the restriction concerning woman altar servers, lectors, and extraordinary ministers was not essential to the celebration. Woman ministers were present in the early liturgies and the Church (Deaconesses, Eucharistic Ministers, etc) and it is right to see these past impediments as cultural strictures.

As this process of change progresses I would be in favor of greater female presence in Church councils and parish leadership; a process that is already happening. Just because the priest is a sacramental sign does not mean that participation in the discernment and defense of the deposit of Faith is a strictly male prerogative. 

In terms of Altar Servers; I think it’s important to realize that they never were “Acolytes” according to the ranking of the minor orders. They are not a preparatory stage for Holy Orders. In reality they are more closely related to the designation of choir members since their primary duty is to respond to the priest. This is why they wear choir robes (Cassock and surplice). They are respondents, singers, assistants. They stood in the place of the community who either could not hear or understand the priest during the Pre-Vatican II liturgy.

Thus, I am a supporter of woman altar servers. I think the more we cling to what is nonessential the more we undermine our credibility when it comes to what is essential. I think that girl altar servers should be encouraged and supported. That being said; there are somethings that I would like to see in the altar server programs in general.

First, I think altar server programs should be demanding and truly formative. Nothing is more uninspiring for a child than a program with low expectations. The more we give them real responsibilities and the formation necessary to fulfill their tasks the more they will take ownership of their identity.

Second, I am generally not in favor of this move to avoid the hassle of child altar servers and replace them with adults. This is simply priests and liturgists being lazy. Altar servers are generally the cream of the crop in terms of the youth and thus there is a golden opportunity to do some in depth formation with children who are invested (an opportunity often underutilized).

Third, while I support female altar servers; I think that some single sex formation has advantages. I don’t know if all the formation needs to be separated, but it does seem advantageous if some of the formation and activities are directed toward one or the other gender. I think it is also good for us to incorporate more female leadership in the altar server program. I also am not opposed to women servers wearing different vestments from their male counterparts; either a different vestment altogether, or a different style of tailoring.

Finally, clergy and religious should be more involved in their formation. Invite the group to the rectory for dinner, go camping, participate in their formation, etc... Altar servers should visit houses of religious formation and be involved in works of ministry. They should be familiar with the life of priests and religious.

In conclusion, I can truly understand the passion with which some have opposed girl altar servers, and the reasons that they have given. In the end it simply not as counter traditional as we have often made it out to be. The Church has blessed it and I think the more we embrace it the more we will be able to give it a wholesome expression instead of treating it as a tolerated rebellion. 



Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Christian Rites for the Dying and Deceased- How to Celebrate these Rites Mindfully

The sickness or passing of a loved one is always a challenging time. Part of the challenge is often the question, “what do I need to do now?” which can be applied to many different things such as medical care, funeral arrangements, dividing up property, etc... In like manner, it can also apply to the Christian rites for the sick and the dying.  Often times we are not familiar with the rites, we may even have never seen them administered; so all sorts to questions may come to mind.  “Is there anything I need to do?” “How do I help the priest?” “What should I consider?” In light of this reality, here are some helpful guidelines for understanding the rites for the sick and the deceased which hopefully can help everyone be at peace and enable you to be an active participant.

First rule, pray! “Peace be with you” is how the Rite for the Anointing of the sick begins. Be present, be at peace. The first priority is prayer; all the other details that I will outline here are secondary. They are not meant to be a burden but a means to focus on what is essential. Seek prayer; we’ll guide you through the rest.

There are several Rites for the sick, the Dying, and the Deceased. Knowing the rites and how they are used is the first step to becoming an active participant. Here is a list with a short description.

The Anointing of the Sick: This sacrament is available to any Catholic who is gravely ill. It can be received more than once, but it does not need to be administered more than once during the normal progression of an illness. An exception to this is if the sickness is chronic or lingering for a really long time or if it turns dramatically towards death, in which case it can be administered again. This sacrament involves the laying on of hands over the individuals head and the anointing of the head and hands with oil.

Confession: While obviously not exclusively for the sick and dying; the sacrament of Confession is part of the full grace of renewal available in the Sacrament of Anointing and anyone who seeks out the Anointing of the Sick should ask for confession either before or during the rite of anointing.

The Apostolic Pardon: This pardon is given when death is imminent. It is an absolution for all sins that the individual is sorry for and a remittance of any penances that apply.

The Renewal of Baptismal Promises: If the person is near death and conscious the priest will lead them in the renewal of Baptismal promises; a reaffirmation of their faith in God and the Christian hope.

Viaticum: The last reception of Holy Communion. This reception of Holy Communion is prefaced by a unique preamble for the occasion. It obviously cannot be given to those who cannot swallow or who are unconscious.

The Commendation for the Dying: This not so well known prayer is one that can be said by the laity as death approaches with a special rite for when the individual actually passes. Sometimes a priest or deacon will use this rite if the Anointing has already been given previously. It is a beautiful way to accompany the dying and mark the time of death. The text is provided at the end of this post.

Prayers and Blessings for the Deceased: If death comes suddenly before these special rites can be received there are prayers and blessings for the dead. If a body is to be cremated it is appropriate to have is blessed and honored before the cremation.

The Vigil: also sometime referred to as the wake; it is a time of prayer and visitation the night before the Funeral. A short liturgy, or prayer service, is often held during the vigil and is often accompanied by the recitation of the Rosary. This can also be a time for eulogies and sharing.

The Funeral: A Mass is celebrated to honor the dead with a procession and blessing of the body or ashes. There is a funeral rite without the celebration of Mass; but this is only used for extraordinary circumstances.

The Rite of Committal: (The grave side service) This is the rite of blessing the place of rest and placing the body or ashes in their place of repose.

As you can see, this is a multicourse banquet of love and celebration for this unique time of life. It is meant to create a space for celebration and hopefully by understanding the process you can enter into it and swim with the current instead feeling it imposed upon you from outside. Here are some more helpful guidelines by which you can get into the spirit of it all.
The Rites for the Sick are designed for the conscious. The blessing, love, and grace of the Anointing for the Sick are efficacious for anyone who is gravely ill, including those who are unconscious or mentally impaired. Do not hesitate to call the priest when death is approaching; even if they are not fully aware. However, the fullness of the rite is intended to help the individual and the family before they loose awareness. The Sacraments for the dying include Confession, The last reception of Holy Communion, and the renewal of Baptismal promises; all of which can only be provided to an individual who is conscious and who can swallow. Often time’s families wait till they are almost certain that the individual will die before they call a priest; which often removes the opportunity for the Church to embrace them with all these beautiful affirmations of love and rededication. Thus, while not always possible, it is best to look into obtaining the sacraments before the patient looses consciousness.
The Sacrament of the Anointing of The Sick is available for those who are gravely ill. It is not meant simply for the dying.  While what gravely ill means is a grey area that the priest discerns with the individual; it’s generally not given to someone with a broken arm or a head cold. This ties in well with the preceding point in that one should seek out the sacraments when you know that you or an individual has been stricken with a grave illness. This also applies to risky surgical procedures. This often creates the opportunity to receive all the sacraments at the Church itself and not in the hospital room.

You can always ask for the Sacrament again. You don’t have to get the timing for the sacraments “just right.” If an individual makes a recovery and then gets ill again, or the same illness goes from bad to worse (a dramatic change of condition), then the priest can be called in again to administer the sacraments. That being said, it is important not to abuse the priest or the sacraments. Once it has been administered it does not need to keep being administered for every turn of events. 
  Let the priest know the details. When calling a priest let him know how critical the situation is, whether or not the patient is conscious, mentally impaired, or able to swallow. This will let the priest know what he will need to bring and what priority he should give to the situation.

The Sacraments are not meant only for the infirm but also for family and community. Try to organize a time for the priest to come out when the greatest number of family and friends can be gathered. If nothing else, at least one other person should be present. While the sacraments can be administered without anyone else present; they were not designed for that purpose and it’s always a little awkward.

 Prepare a table. In the hospitals there are normally the bedside tables that work well. If at home you might be able to set up a table near the individual. If nothing else, make sure that it is cleared off.  You can also set up a nice cloth over it with a cross. Candles are also a nice addition (although not permitted in hospitals) with maybe some flowers. You can also provide Holy Water for the priest as well. The priest will be placing the oils and other items on the table.

Singing is allowed. Not that you have to, but singing is one way that some people find helpful in casting out the darkness. Liturgy can include singing and you might ask the priest if it’s Ok to sing a faith song in the liturgy.

A word about cremation. In the early Church cremation was often used by pagans as a sign against the Resurrection; and some religions use it to express reincarnation, the dissipation of the self into a universal spirit. Because of this, cremation as a form of handling the body was forbidden unless in extreme circumstances (disasters). This restriction has been lifted, and the force of economics is making it a popular way to go. This is all good, the only thing that the Church asks is that the remains be interned in a permanent place of rest (not scattered over the sea and hills or left on a mantle). What follows is my own reflection on the best way, within the context of the Christian tradition, to show respect to the body in a situation when there is a cremation. First, I think it is good to have a funeral with the body present. It doesn't need to be in a coffin (since they are expensive), but it might be carried in on a litter, placed on a table, and draped in a pawl. After the vigil and Mass it can be taken back to the funeral home and cremated. Once it is cremated it can be placed in the place of rest with a committal service. If this is not feasible, you might have a vigil with the body at the nursing home followed by a blessing of the body, the cremation, and then a funeral Mass with a committal of the ashes. If nothing else, a simple blessing of the body at the funeral home before cremation is also a great way to celebrate this important transition. Whichever way you go about it, I think it would be a shame to pass up the full pageantry of the funeral rites simply because there is a desire for cremation. I also think that the funeral liturgy with the body is an important opportunity for us all to encounter death in a direct way; an encounter that is rich in spiritual meaning, as well as an opportunity to say farewell to the deceased.

You don’t have to do everything according to the prepackaged program. In this matter I speak primarily of the standard set up provided by the funeral home. It’s a good set up; and the funeral homes know there business, but you don’t necessarily have to follow what is laid out. For example, some people like to wash the body of the deceased as a family event, some people don’t want a coffin, and some people like to see the body buried in the ground (instead of leaving it so that someone else can do it later). There are many creative ways that we might want to honor the dead, but sometimes we just presume that they are not permitted.

Eulogies: the Mass is not the proper context to give a Eulogy for the deceased; but there are other places where it can fit in beautifully. For example, the Vigil the night before, after the Committal (grave side) service, and even at the party after the event. All of these are great places for toasts, eulogies, and sharing stories (which is to be greatly encouraged); but the Mass is not the place for eulogies. This also applies to special, personal, non-liturgical musical pieces and videos.

What has been your experience of the last rites? What council would you share?

(Below I have included the text for the Anointing of the Sick and the Commendation of the dying for anyone to print out for such an occasion)

The priest greets the sick person and the others present.
- Peace be with you (this house) and with all who live here R. And with your spirit.
If Communion as Viaticum is celebrated during the rite, the priest then places the Blessed Sacrament on a table, and all join in adoration.
The Priest may sprinkle those present with holy water.
- Let this water call to mind our baptism into Christ, who by his death and resurrection has redeemed us.  
The priest may use the following instruction, or one better adapted to the sick person’s condition:
- My dear friends, we are gathered here in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ who is present among us. As the gospels relate, the sick came to him for healing; moreover, he loves us so much that he died for our sake. Through the apostle James, he has commanded us: “Are there any who are sick among you? Let them send for the priests of the Church, and let the priests pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick persons, and the Lord will raise them up; and if they have committed any sins, their sins will be forgiven them.” Let us therefore commend our sick brother/sister N. to the grace and power of Christ, that he may save him/her and raise him/her up.
If the sick person so wishes, the sacrament of penance is celebrated; If there is no celebration of the sacrament of penance, the penitential rite takes place as usual.
- My brothers and sisters, to prepare ourselves for this celebration, let us call to mind our sins.
A All say: I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words,in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, (And, striking their breast, they say) through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
The priest concludes the penitential rite with the following:
May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and being us to everlasting life.  R. Amen.
 ( For the Dieing) APOSTOLIC PARDON
At the conclusion of the sacrament of penance or the penitential rite, the priest may give the apostolic pardon for the dying
Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come. May he open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy. R. Amen.
If the condition of the sick person permits, the baptismal profession of faith follows.
- N., do you believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth? R. I do.
- Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and is now seated at the right hand of the Father? R. I do.
- Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting? R. I do.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew 11:25-30
On one occasion Jesus spoke thus: “Father, Lord of heaven and earth, to you I offer praise; for what you have hidden from the learned and the clever you have revealed to the merest children. Father, it is true. You have graciously willed it so. Everything has been given over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Father but the Son- and anyone to whom the son wishes to reveal him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
- Let us pray, dear friends, for our brother/sister N., whom the Lord at this hour is refreshing with the sacraments.
- That the Lord may look on our brother/sister and see in him/her the face of his own suffering Son, we pray: R. Lord, hear our prayer.
- That the Lord may help N. in this moment of trial, we pray: R. Lord, hear our prayer.
- That the Lord may watch over N., and keep him/her ever in his love, we pray: R. Lord, hear our prayer.
- That the Lord may give N. strength and peace, we pray: R. Lord, hear our prayer.
In silence, the priest then lays his hands on the head of the sick person
- Praise to you, God, the almighty Father. You sent your Son to live among us and bring us salvation R.Blessed be God who heals us in Christ.
- Praise to you, God the only-begotten Son. You humbled yourself to share in our humanity and you heal our infirmities, R. Blessed be God who heals us in Christ.
- Praise to you God, the Holy Spirit, the Consoler. Your unfailing power gives us strength in our bodily weakness. R. Blessed be God who heals us in Christ.
- God of mercy, ease the sufferings and comfort the weakness of your servant, N., whom the Church anoints with this holy oil. We ask this through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.
The priest anoints the sick person with blessed oil. First, he anoints the forehead, saying
Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit.  R. Amen.
Then he anoints the hands, saying:
- May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up. R. Amen.
The priest says this prayer or one of the provided options.
- Let us Pray. Father in heaven,through this holy anointing grant N. comfort in his/her suffering. When he/she is afraid, give him/her courage, when afflicted, give him/her patience, when dejected, afford him/her hope, and when alone, assure him/her of the support of your holy people. We ask this through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.
The priest introduces the Lord’s Prayer in these or similar words
A Jesus taught us to call God our Father, and so we have the courage to say:
All say: Our Father . . . .
- Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.
R. Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
The priest goes to the sick person and says: The Body of Christ R. Amen.
(Viaticum) After giving Communion to the sick person, the priest adds
May the Lord Jesus Christ protect you and lead you to eternal life. R. Amen
The priest says this prayer or one of the provided options.
Let us pray. Father, your Son, Jesus Christ, is our way, our truth, and our life. Look with compassion on your servant N. who has trusted in your promises. You have refreshed him/her with the Body and Blood of your Son: May he/she enter your kingdom in peace We ask this through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.
May the Lord be with you to protect you.  R. Amen.
May he guide you and give you strength.  R. Amen.
May he watch over you, keep you in his care, and bless you with his peace.  R. Amen.
May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, + and the Holy Spirit. R. Amen.
SIGN OF PEACE The priest and the others present may then give the sick person the sign of peace.

The Commendation of the Dying
Prayers to accompany the dying
These texts are intended to help the dying person, if still conscious, to face the natural human anxiety about death by imitating Christ in his patient suffering and dying. The Christian will be helped to surmount his or her fear in the hope of heavenly life and resurrection through the power of Christ, who destroyed the power of death by his own dying.

Even if the dying person is not conscious, those who are present will draw consolation from these prayers and come to a better understanding of the paschal character of Christian death. This may be visibly expressed by making the sign of the cross on the forehead of the dying person, who was first signed with the cross at baptism. The prayers are best said in a slow, quiet voice, alternating with periods of silence.
One or more of the following short texts may be recited with the dying person. If necessary, they may be softly repeated two or three times.

Romans 8:35 Who can separate us from the love of Christ?
Matthew 25:34 Come, blessed of my Father, says the Lord Jesus, and take possession of the kingdom prepared for you.
Luke 23:43 The Lord Jesus says, today you will be with me in paradise.
Psalm 31:5a Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
After this introduction one or all of these readings may be proclaimed. Other recommended readings are: Ps. 23, 25, 91, 121; Rev. 21:1-7; Mat. 25:1-13; Luke 22:39-46; Luke 24:1-8; John 6:37-40
A. Job 19: 23-27 Oh, would that my words were written down! Would that they were inscribed in a record: that with an iron chisel and with lead they were cut in the rock forever! But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives, and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust; and from my flesh I shall see God; my inmost being is consumed with longing. Whom I myself shall see: my own eyes, not another's, shall behold him.
F. 1 John 4:16 We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.
John 14:1-6, 23, 27 Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way." Thomas said to him, "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”
After the readings, or at another appropriate time, the litany of the saints – or at least some of its invocation – may be prayed. Special mention may be made of the patron saints of the dying person, of the family and or the parish.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. // Christ, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. // Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for him/her  //   Holy angels of God, pray for him/her

Abraham, our father in faith, pray for him/her  //  David, leader of God's people, pray for him/her
All holy patriarchs and prophets, pray for him/her //  Saint John the Baptist, pray for him/her
Saint Joseph, pray for him/her  //  Saint Peter and Saint Paul, pray for him/her
Saint Andrew, pray for him/her  //   Saint John, pray for him/her
Saint Mary Magdalene, pray for him/her  //   Saint Stephen, pray for him/her
Saint Ignatius, pray for him/her  //  Saint Lawrence, pray for him/her
Saint Perpetua and Saint Felicity, pray for him/her  //  Saint Agnes, pray for him/her
Saint Gregory, pray for him/her  //  Saint Augustine, pray for him/her
Saint Athanasius, pray for him/her  //  Saint Basil, pray for him/her
Saint Martin, pray for him/her  //  Saint Benedict, pray for him/her
Saint Francis and Saint Dominic, pray for him/her  //  Saint Francis Xavier, pray for him/her
Saint John Vianney, pray for him/her  //  Saint Catherine, pray for him/her
Saint Teresa, pray for him/her Other saints may be included here. All holy men and women, pray for him/her
Lord, be merciful, Lord, save your people.

From all evil, Lord, save your people.  //  From every sin, Lord, save your people.
From Satan's power, Lord, save your people.  //   At the moment of death, Lord, save your people.
From everlasting death, Lord, save your people.  //  On the day of judgment, Lord, save your people.
By your coming as man, Lord, save your people. //  By your suffering and cross, Lord, save your people.
By your death and rising to new life, Lord, save your people.  //   By your return in glory to the Father, Lord, save your people.
By your gift of the Holy Spirit, Lord, save your people.  //  By your coming again in glory, Lord, save your people.
Be merciful to us sinners, Lord, save your people.

Bring N. to eternal life, first promised to him/her in baptism, Lord, hear our prayer.
Raise N. on the last day, for he/she has eaten the Bread of Life, Lord, hear our prayer.
Let N. share in your glory, for he/she has shared in your suffering and death, Lord, hear our prayer.

Jesus, Son of the Living God, Lord, hear our prayer.
Christ, hear us.  Christ, hear us.
Lord Jesus, hear our prayer.  Lord Jesus, hear our prayer.
When the moment of death seems near, some of the following prayers may be said:
Go forth, Christian soul, from this world in the name of God the almighty Father, who created you, in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who suffered for you, in the name of the Holy Spirit, who was poured out upon you, go forth, faithful Christian. May you live in peace this day, may your home be with God, with Mary, the virgin Mother of God, with Joseph, and all the angels and saints.
Immediately after death has occurred, all may kneel while one of those present leads the following prayer.
Loving and merciful God, we entrust our brother/sister to your mercy. You loved him/her greatly in this life: now that he /she is freed from all its cares, give him/her happiness and peace for ever. The old order has passed away: welcome him/her now into paradise where there will be no more sorrow, no more weeping or pain, but only peace and joy with Jesus your Son, and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. R. Amen.

Those present may conclude these prayers with a simple blessing or with a symbolic gesture, for example, signing the forehead of the deceased with the sign of the cross. A priest or deacon may sprinkle the body with holy water. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Absolutism of Same Sex Marriage

There are three primordial covenants.

The first covenant is that of body and soul; the most intimate union. This union we protect through the directive, “do not kill.”

The second covenant is between parent and child. This is the bed rock of human community.

The third is that of man and wife.

These three covenants carry with it the warning “what God has joined man must not divide.” And their inter relatedness is expressed beautifully in Genesis when it says “a man leaves his mother and father and clings to his wife and the two of them become one flesh.” The relationship of marriage is like the relationship of parent to child and body to soul.

These primordial relationships form the natural institution of the family. This primordial institution is the foundation of the institution of the state and of religion. Religion seeks to elevate, redeem, and celebrate these primordial covenants and the state seeks to protect them and build them up.

In the recent discussions on same sex unions, the state, and religious freedom a certain power play is going on. Throughout history there has been this tug of war between the state and religion, and it was for this reason that the founding Fathers of the United States sought to protect these realms of influence through a philosophy of the separation of Church and State. However, throughout history there have also been power plays between the state and the family (and religion and the family). We can see examples of this in the one child policy of China and state restrictions on home schooling.

Now, the boundaries between three institutions are not absolute. All three are codependent and therefore must continually be in healthy dialogue with each other. For example, sometimes the state has to intervene in unhealthy family relationships.

However, same sex marriage is the ultimate power play of the state over the family. This is because the state not only claims the right to redefine marriage, but it now claims the right to redefine the family. Through same sex marriage the state nullifies all special claims of Fatherhood and Motherhood. Any special preference for motherhood and fatherhood is now discrimination. If an adoption facility prefers to give the child to a mother and father over a same sex couple that is now discrimination. If a child prefers a mother and father over a same sex couple that is now a perverted attitude and they will have to be reeducated, taught how to get over it.

Ultimately it leads to the homogenization of all relationships, even the relationship of man and wife, to the same level under an absolutism of the state. Taken to its extremes, the state can now arbitrarily redefine which relationships would be the right one for children. It is the ultimate state take over.

In abortion we saw the state divide body and soul; in divorce we saw the state divide man and wife; in same sex unions we see them separate mother from child.

(for a more extensive discussion on same sex marriage follow this link)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Divorce Does Not Exclude Anyone From Communion!

A short blog; please read to the end.

I've run into it again; somebody saying that because they are divorced they cannot receive Holy Communion.

Can we yell this out to the mountains; Divorce does not stop anyone from receiving the Sacraments!

Women, if you are in an abusive relationship do not hesitate to leave him. Men, if you are being manipulated by a woman then perhaps you need to separate.

Let me repeat it again; divorce is not a separation from the Church, it may even be something you need to do. In fact, if you are going through a divorce you need to draw even closer to the Sacraments, to the Faith community.

I don’t know what knuckle head nun, catechist, or priest instilled this into our people that divorce is a separation from the Church. Please, let’s stop this terrible and hurtful heresy.

In fact, there needs to be an avenue by which the state can intervene and assist in the separation of a couple. The state calls this divorce; the Church calls this physical separation. The state believes that a “divorced” couple can remarry; the Church does not; this is where there is a disconnect between the two. However, as I said, Christians often have no option but to seek a physical separation by means of the intervention of the state in the form of a divorce.

Therefore, the point of conflict between divorced individuals and the Church only comes when they attempt to remarry, to enter into a pseudo marriage. The previous covenant, established to last until death do us part, is still binding even though they are forced to live apart. Presuming that the original covenant is solid, there are no grounds for a remarriage.

It's not divorce that separates a couple from Communion but remarriage.

The reason that a Christian who is attempting to live in a second marriage is unable to receive Holy Communion is because they are persisting in a continual state of adultery. It’s not because their crime is more heinous than any other sin and it’s not because the Church is denying them mercy. The mercy is there, they just need to say they are sorry and ask forgiveness. However, part of asking for forgiveness is stating that you will amend your ways; that you will not sin anymore. That means that they have to stop living as man and wife and honor the covenant of marriage. It’s not the Church that is keeping them from Communion, its they who are keeping themselves from Communion, because communion is not simple receiving the Blessed Sacrament, it is also a sign that you are in Communion with the rest of the Church in what you believe and how you act. Even if the priest “absolved” you of your sin, you would still not be in communion because your way of living is not in communion. If a person was a stripper, bank robber, belonged to the mafia, etc . . .  and didn't want to change their life style it would be the same situation.

Now there is a caveat here. If you seek a divorce for a flippant reason, believing that it gives you the right to remarry, i.e. as a disparagement of the marriage covenant; then yes, that is a grave sin, and you need to confess it and recommit to living your marriage covenant. Once you have confessed, you are free to receive the Sacraments.

But, please, tell your relative and friends, divorce does not (in itself) separate you from Holy Communion.