Archive for the 'Catholicism – Liturgy' Category

Blog colors – why green?

Friday, May 28th, 2010

For those who are relatively new to the site, you may have noticed the color changes in the last week from a white and gold colored theme to a green colored theme. For the astute Catholic reader it probably is somewhat obvious what the reason is, but I thought I’d elaborate for my non-Catholic readers.

The colors reflect the seasonal colors of the Church. In fact, if you had logged in last Sunday you would have seen that the colors were red for Pentecost. So you’ll see purple colors or red or white or green (like now) and even a couple days of pink and one day of black. They all follow the colors of what we call the liturgical year. In the upper right hand corner of the page you can see what day of the liturgical year it is today and based on that you can come to understand why the page is whatever color it is that day.

You can read more about the liturgical year here.

Why Christmas could be on July 23rd

Friday, December 15th, 2006

I’m sure most who read the general side of my blog (hi Mom!) instead of the dedicated Cal Bears portion know of the common knowledge that Christmas is December 25th is because Christians co-opted a Pagan holiday and instead celebrated Christ’s birth on that day.

Well, here’s an interesting blog entry from an author who researched the topic that says not so fast.  (Make sure to read the entire post because the end part is critical to keeping the info in the right frame of mind.)

I think what I take away from this is how much “common knowledge” can be dangerously inaccurate.  I’ve read tons of other examples as well.

In almost all cases the truth of the matter is far more complicated than anything “common knowledge” could possible transmit.  As such, whenever “common knowledge” is used to debunk or win debates, it’s a recipe for disaster.  Generally what it means is that there are entire aspects of the situation are being glossed over and furthermore, that often the discussion is focusing on something likely irrelevant to what should really be important.

In this case that relevant point is the joy of Christ’s coming into the world.  I really don’t care if the actual day was what we today call Dec. 25th, Feb. 14, July 4, Sept. 22, Oct. 31, or whatever.  I similarly don’t care if the day we celebrate it is because of pagan holidays, jewish guesswork, Muslim calendar manipulation, bad mid-evil calendars, or Monks without enough fingers to properly count the days of the week.  All that I care about is that the Universal Church has set aside some day, any day, for us to reflect on and celebrate Christ’s birth.

A glorious Easter to all of my readers

Monday, April 17th, 2006

Well, Easter is upon us!  I hope that everyone had a repentant Lent and was able to joyously celebrate the start of Easter yesterday with friends and family.  I also pray that we’ll all be able to celebrate the entire Easter season, the 40 days in which Christ was on earth in His risen form.

May God’s blessings be upon all of us!

Hunkering down

Thursday, March 2nd, 2006

Today’s Gospel has one of the most important statements that Christ made:

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke: 9:23)

This is from Luke chapter 9 and the context is important to fully understand the importance of what Christ has said. The 12 disciples have been following Christ for a while now. They’ve seen the miracles. But yet, one can imagine, the “newness” of being a disciple has worn off. Christ send THEM out to exercise demons and cure diseases. They come back amazed, knowing that the powers they yielded did not come from themselves but from Christ.

Then, just when you think they’d understand how powerful Christ was, something amazing happens. The crowds are persistently following Christ and have no food. The disciples ask Christ to send them home so that they can eat. Christ then amazes all of them by multiplying the little food that the disciples have to feed the thousands who are following Him. Everyone, disciples included, were amazed.

It is then that Christ asks the disciples: “Who do you say that I am?”

You can imagine that these overwhelmed disciples are ready to say that he is anything he wants to be, and they do. Peter recognizes Him as the Messiah, as the Son of Man.

But then Christ throws them a curveball. Instead of telling them how wonderful He is or rejoicing in their recognition of His divinity, He admonishes them:

“The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Kind of a letdown, no?

What a challenge that was to the disciples and to us all. If you want to follow Christ, you must be ready to sacrifice more. I envision God saying, “You think you’re up for this? You think you’ve got it under control? You haven’t seen ‘nothing yet. Get ready to hunker down because we’re just starting!”

Today I’m in my second day of fasting and I am HUNGRY. I didn’t eat anything Wednesday and had my first meal of Lent today at Lunch. As I sat down to eat my taco salad, the salad that usually leaves me stuffed, it looked particularly small even though the cafeteria lady seemed to pile it unusually high (she must have seen the hunger in my eyes). I thought to myself, “this tiny thing has to last me until tomorrow until dinner!?!” Nevertheless I wolfed it down hoping that it would at least leave me filled for an hour or two. But I hadn’t even gotten up from the table and I was already hungry.

It is at these moments when remembering Christ admonision is important. I must remember that to follow Christ is to deny myself even in physical hunger. It means that we have to dig deep to find that strength to follow Him, no matter how hungry we may get.

All praises be to God for all the strength that He gives us! It’s time to hunker down.

Ash Wednesday thoughts

Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

Following Christ is always such a difficult thing because it requires balancing many things. Christ many times tells us to proclaim the Gospel in public. But in today’s Gospel reading he tells us:

‘”When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.’ (Matt. 6: 5-6)

We have to be very careful to examine WHY we do what we do in public. Are we doing it because we are actually trying to accomplish something or are we doing it so that we may get public recognition for doing it?

I think the answer to this question can often be difficult to determine even for ourselves. What is our true inner motivation? It takes a great deal of reflection to understand all of our motivations. Lent calls us to spend lots of time in prayer and I think spending a fair amount of that time examining, with brutal self-honesty, what our motivations are, is prayer time well spent.

May God bless all of you in this Lenten season.


Tuesday, January 10th, 2006

As I said in my vacation post, I went to my brother-in-laws wedding on Saturday.

Well there was one thing that bugged me very profoundly: the “minister”. Wendy’s family is not Catholic and although they went to a Christian Church for a number of years, it didn’t really stick and none of Wendy’s immediate family attend church on a regular basis. Tim, being 5 years younger than Wendy probably doesn’t even have many meaningful memories from going to church as a boy as he was pretty young when they peeter out.

For whatever they decided to get a minister to do the ceremony but instead of finding a church that they wanted to attend and finding a pastor associated with that church, they decided to get what I will forever more call a rent-a-minister. I doubt this guy has any formal religious training to justify the term minister (at least in the traditional American use of the term) and even more importantly, didn’t seem to view his job as being all that religious in nature. It was clear from the conversations I had with Tim, the “minister’s” planner and the “minister” that Tim and his fiancee only met to arrange the logistics and payment of the wedding ceremony. The ceremony was outside at a golf course and had no association to any church.

It was clear from the beginning of the ceremony that he didn’t know these two people and was just spouting out some canned ceremony he got from somewhere (maybe he downloaded it from the place he got his “minister license” on the Internet). Then to top things off, he read from scripture and picked about the worst verse I could think of that has the word love in it. I forget where he started, but I think he skipped the beginning of the passage or maybe just a few lines, but here it is from the beginning up until where he stopped:

“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love…” (Ecclesiates 3:1-8

I’m pretty sure avoided the kill part in that passage and he definitely stopped with ‘a time to love’ because verse 8 continues:

“…and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. ”

What kind of IDIOT picks a passage from the bible in regards to marriage that is not about love but just includes that word in a long passage of positive and negative things for whick the point is “all things will come to pass”. A book that starts off “Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” The book of Ecclesiates is a book about the transient nature of life and that we must look to a higher source for our meaning. Traditionally the Jewish people have had a hard time with the inclusion of this book in the Hebrew scriptures (which is of course the Old Testament) because many thought it over-emphasized that lack of meaning of our lives. Point being, this is not a book you should be quoting from as a sign of our earthly love for our spouse unless it is part of a larger sermon about needing to place your faith in God above all things (and that will sustain your marriage). But that’s not what he did, that’s the only scripture reference he made. In fact, outside of saying “in the presense of God” he made no indication of God having any role in the marriage in any form other than quoting from Ecclesiastes and saying “this is this couple’s time to love”. And don’t even get me started about that statment!

It really ticked me off. I would have much preferred that the ceremony just be done by a Justice of the Peace as they call them. If you’re going to deny the religious importance of a marriage by not actually being concerned with having a real minister do it, why put up the charade of a rent-a-minister? I’m sure Tim and his new wife have no idea what this “minister’s” theology is and what the religious nature of a marriage is in his book. And they don’t care. So why would they have him come and preside over their wedding as a “minister”? At least with the Justice of the Peace, all that their saying is that this ceremony is to legally bind the couple as man and wife, which is something that all couples that are getting married are interested in. But if you’re not interested in making a conscious statement about the religious nature of the marriage (and to do that it seems appropriate to me that the person performing the marriage has the same view (not just A view, but the SAME view) of the religious nature of the marriage) just make it a non-religious ceremony and get on with it. But to hire a rent-a-minister… that was an injustice to God and everyone seated there including Tim and his new wife.

The value of retreats and conferences

Friday, December 2nd, 2005

In our busy lives, it is easy to let “normal” activities dictate our calendar. This is even true when we plan our vacations. How often when we’re thinking of our next vacation, does it inevitably focus on relaxation, tropical locations, Europe or the other “normal” vacations.

But what about building up our faith?

While the daily and weekly and annual patterns of our faith do a great deal to help build our relationship with God, there is something unique that comes out of explicitely taking a vacation from our regular daily lives to go on a retreat or to attend a conference for the purpose of building up our faith. Towards this end I’d like to take a moment to speak to the LA Religious Education Congress that I have attended a couple times.

The first time I attended “Congress” (as it is usually called by those who regularly attend) I was overwhelmed by the number of people there and the number of options for activities to participate in. Which Masses should I go to? Would Tridentine or Celtic be better? What evening entertainment should I try out? The concert or the prayer session? Should I get up early to have some prayer time? And of course, what workshops should I go to? There were a number of workshops that I knew off the bat that I didn’t want to attend. Things like: “Soul Formation – the Foundation For Positive Self-Esteem Synopsis” (an actual workshop for 2006). No thank you, please keep your touchy-feeliness to yourself! But beyond that I wasn’t sure what I was interested in. So, when regisitering, I dabbled here and there to try different things and get a taste of everything.

That turned out to be a very wise way to go about it. Not only did I get the opportunity to discover more about what interested me, I also got an opportunity to stretch myself into areas I was less comfortable in. I learned about things I would have never thought to learn about. I also examined areas of myself I had never thought to examine before. Doing this forced me to grow.

And that’s really what a retreat is about: growing in one’s faith.

I haven’t made it to Congress the last two years but I am going to go in 2006. For me, that’s not going to be enough conference or retreat time for 2006 so I’m looking for something else to do. I recommend to everyone to try and do at least one retreat a year. There are LOTS of retreats out there with TONS of different themes. Some are very simple and are mostly an opportunity to go somewhere and pray. Others have workshops galour and a packed schedule.

You’ll have to decide for yourself what best fits you, but I encourage you to make the effort to go, no matter where it might be. Give Congress a try if nothing else. It’s only $20 a day!

Keep MASS in Christmas

Friday, December 2nd, 2005

For today’s (OK, it’s really yesterdays and there will be another one later today) reflection, I want to focus on the importance of Mass. We often hear the phrase “keep Christ in Christmas” from people who are frustrated with the over commercialization of Christmas. We hear this for good reason because many forget “the reason for the season” as they say. Heck these days Christians are fighting just to keep the word Christmas around as stores move to the slap in the face phrase “Happy Holidays”.

But lost in the phrase “keep Christ in Christmas” is the other half of the word: ‘mas’ which of course is a reference to Mass. Most people don’t know this but there used to be a number of ‘mas’ days. There was Candlemas celebrating the Presentation of Jesus in the temple as an infant. There was Michaelmas on September 29th to celebrate Michael’s victory of Lucifer. There was Childermas that commemorated the slaughter of the innocents by Herod. And there were others.

All of these celebrations/commemorations centered around Mass and with good reason. It is through Mass that Christ is made present to us in the Santuary, just like he was presented in the temple. It is through Mass that we celebrate Christ’s victory over death, just like Michael’s victory over satan. It is through Mass that we commemorate and tap into the slaughter of innocent blood in Christ that is our salvation. And finally, it is through Mass that we are able to recieve Christ in the Eucharist just as the world recieved Christ on Christmas day.

So as we prepare ourselves for the Christmas season in this season of Advent let us prepare ourselves not just for the celebation of Christ’s birth but also for that which he came into the world for: for Christ’s Mass.

(I give credit to The Fith Column’s blog entry How the Christians Stole Christmas for the inspiration for this reflection.)

The value of “forced” penance

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

It’s my plan for Advent (and yes, that is the current Church season NOT Christmas which doesn’t start until December 25th (gee, what a surprise), but I digress) to do a daily reflection on some nature of the Church and her history. This is mostly for me as a way to make the most of Advent. Sadly, it is already the 4th day of Advent, and this is my first one. Expect 3 days in the future with 2 reflections…

Today I read an article on the meaning and value of the Advent season and it was speaking of the need to do penance. He spoke of one penance he planned on doing, not eating meat on Friday, and then said, “Not much of a sacrifice, I know—especially since we’re supposed to do that every Friday throughout the year, or else undertake “another act of charity or penance,” according to an almost forgotten (but still official) decree of Pope Paul VI.”

The part of the statement that really struck me was ‘we’re supposed to do that every Friday… or else undertake “another act of charity of penance”‘. This was something I knew and had, just as the sentence said, forgotten about. See, before the 2nd Vatican council, every Catholic was obligated as a Catholic not to eat meat on Fridays all year long and not just during lent. This was an act of penance and a rememberance that Christ was killed (in the flesh) on a Friday. One of the big conclusions of the 2nd Vatican council was that there is a big risk in over-ritualizing or specifying actions for Catholics. The risk is that one may forget that these actions are not necessary for salvation but good things to do for Christ and an undue emphasis on their necessity may be placed on them. As a result of this conclusion, Pope Paul VI made the decree making meatless Fridays “optional”. However, the forgotten part of the decree was that it was only “optional” in the sense of what the weekly penance was, not that one does weekly penance.

And there-in lies the problem.

The conclusion of the 2nd Vatican council was a very good one and there is much risk to over-ritualizing and over-regulating the faith. However, there is a counter-risk as well, one that we have fallen prey to in the last 40 years. The counter risk is the failure of people to ‘undertake “another act of charity of penance”‘. See, everyone knows/remembers that we no longer HAVE to abstain from meat on Fridays but who remembers that if we choose not to abstain from meat on Fridays, we are expected to do some other form of weekly penance out of reverence for Christ’s death for us? The practical answer is: nobody.

I don’t say nobody because I want to chastize people for not upholding the faith but because it is human nature in two ways: 1. Humans are creatures of habit. 2. Humans are creatures to which peer pressure is very meaningful. We use habit routinely (yeah, I know that’s a funny sentence). We use it both to our advantage and our disadvantage. For example, I know that if I don’t schedule to play racquetball every Tuesday morning with my friend Todd and instead say, “every week when it is convenient for us, let’s play racquetball” the reality will be that we’ll end up playing infrequently. So, Todd and I play racquetball every Tuesday morning at the same time. That ritual or habit helps us to do what is good for us. Second, having that “peer pressure” of Todd waiting for me at the court is further incentive. I’m not nearly as good at lifting weights every Monday, even though I made that commitment to myself, because I’m the only one I let down. There is no peer pressure to re-inforce the habit. The reality is that a ritualized action, particularly actions that we do communally, although it risks people just going through the motions, also helps to ensure we actually do something, particularly in this era of extremely busy lives.

So, my suggestion today to all is to re-consider abstaining from meat on Fridays. Yes, it’s not required as a Catholic any more, but it is recommended and it is required that if you don’t do it, that you do something else. Are you? (I’m not.) So, let’s do it! Let’s do that weekly act of penance! And since it is something that all of us Catholics still know about and do during lent, it won’t be hard to make it a habit where my brothers and sisters in Christ can be the positive re-inforcement they should be.

‘Capital Christian’ has new radio ads

Saturday, September 24th, 2005

This week I’ve heard Sacramento’s first mega-church (we have many more now, but they were the first) advertising that they’re going to be having added choices in their Sunday church services. They advertised that there will now be 4 services: A traditional, a classic, a casual and a post-modern. I’ve been to this church, Capital Christian, before and their services were pretty standard evangelical affair. There was about 30-45 minutes of choir led praise music followed by 45-60 minutes of a sermon which included props and little plays or video as transitions from one section to the next or to illustrate a point in the sermon.

I’d be curious to know how the new services would diverge from that format. I suspect that either the traditional or classic would pretty much be the same and the other would make strides to be more like a liturgical protestant service, possibly having a somewhat baptist feel to it. Casual I expect would have more to do with how people are expected to dress and act and may “tone down” the standard service with a smaller choir and the pastor having a more relaxed persona (on average). But for the post-modern service, I have NO IDEA what the heck that means! I know what post-modern means in both philosophical and theological senses, but it’s very confusing to me to hear that term in a liturgical sense. My only thought is that there will be far more multimedia in the service.

Why do I care about this? Well, for starters, I’m very interested in how various Christians celebrate their faith. It is very interesting to me to see where groups that don’t have a big emphasis on the Eucharist go.

I guess I wish that I could impress that upon those who don’t like the Catholic Mass, that Mass has a COMPLETELY different goal that most Protestant services. The goal of Mass is not to praise God or learn about God, although those are things that do happen as a part of Mass. The goal is to receive God in the Eucharist. This is why Mass is so different. This is why it SHOULD be so different. There’s nothing casual about Mass. Christ, or said another way God, is PHYSICALLY present in front of us. How can you just walk in there with a starbucks coffee and start chatting with your neighbor? How can one spend 90% of the service focusing on other things? When one see’s Mass in this light, it takes on a completely different meaning and purpose. It changes everything. In fact, those Protestant services that most resemble the Catholic Mass are the ones that most care about Communion.

I think there are many Christians, particularly many liturgy-disgruntled Catholics who would appreciate Mass a great deal more if they understood this.