Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Posts Tagged ‘Reflection’

10 Years

September 10th, 2011, Promulgated by Nerina

There are so many thoughtful and passionate reflections on September 11th available in the blogosphere.  The Anchoress has been writing about a stubborn Mayor Bloomberg in NYC who continues to refuse to allow first responders and clergy to attend commemoration ceremonies.  In part, she writes:

I thought public outcry might move the mule, but without any push from mainstream media, he is comfortably sticking to his guns.

She goes on to note that Victim 0001 on that day was recorded as Fr. Mychal Judge, chaplain of the FDNY.  He was killed while ministering to victims in the North Tower when debris from the collapsed South Tower flew into the lobby and killed and injured many there.  He was one of the first people on the scene to provide pastoral and physical care to victims.  Yet, clergy are not allowed to be present at this year’s ceremonies?  There is something fundamentally wrong with Mayor Bloomberg’s decision.  While he tries to justify it by saying “there isn’t enough room,” would anyone have said that on that horrific day?  “Sorry, Father.  Not enough room for you and your praying and your giving succor to people completely adrift in the most traumatic event of their lives.”  It is truly infuriating.  Oh, and let’s remember that the majority of the 343 firefighters killed that dreadful day were members of the Roman Catholic Church.  But, sorry.  No clergy and no First Responders allowed.

Mark Steyn, never one to mince words, decimates Mayor Bloomberg and his “no room” defense:

As Mayor Bloomberg’s office has patiently explained, there’s “not enough room” at the official Ground Zero commemoration to accommodate any firemen. “Which is kind of weird,” wrote the Canadian blogger Kathy Shaidle, “since 343 of them managed to fit into the exact same space ten years ago.” On a day when all the fancypants money-no-object federal acronyms comprehensively failed — CIA, FBI, FAA, INS — the only bit of government that worked was the low-level unglamorous municipal government represented by the Fire Department of New York.

I mean, can we ever give the firefighters too much credit for the bravery displayed on that day?  While others ran out of those burning towers, they ran in.  Peggy Noonan writes eloquently:

And there were the firemen. They were the heart of it all, the guys who went up the stairs with 50 to 75 pounds of gear and tools on their back. The other people who were there in the towers, they were innocent victims, they went to work that morning and wound up in the middle of a disaster. But the firemen saw the disaster before they went into it, they knew what they were getting into, they made a decision. And a lot of them were scared, you can see it on their faces on the pictures people took in the stairwells. The firemen would be going up one side of the stairs, and the fleeing workers would be going down on the other, right next to them, and they’d call out, “Good luck, son,” and, “Thank you, boys.”

And they weren’t the only ones.  Peggy Noonan also talks about a man who wouldn’t leave his wheelchair bound coworker stranded in the tower and so, they left this world together hopefully clinging to God as they clung to each other.  Can any of us imagine that moment?

And it is not just in New York City that the gods of political correctness have worked their magic.  At the 9/11 ceremony hosted by the Episcopalian National Cathedral, the “prayer service will include the President of the Islamic Society of North America, a Buddhist nun, and a Hindu, evangelicals and conservative Protestants were omitted, though they represent 30-40 percent of Americans.  No Catholic is listed on the event website.  So liberal Episcopal clergy apparently will represent Christianity.  On Thursday, a cathedral spokesman told The New York Times that a Baptist may be invited.

Apparently, the aversion to Christianity extends to what is popularly referred to as the “Cross at Ground Zero.”  The Association of American Atheists has filed suit in the New York State Supreme Court asking for the removal of the cross from any publicly funded memorial museum.  It doesn’t matter that over 85 percent of Americans identify with Christianity (which uniformly identifies with the Cross), the Atheists insist “it would diminish the civil rights of atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims and all other non-Christians, in so far as the cross promotes Christianity above all other religions.”  Frankly, when I read statements like this, I am left speechless.

Johann Christoph Arnold, from the Catholic Planet, gives the best response to the atheists saying:

Amid the smoke and rubble at Ground Zero, rescue workers came across a twisted steel cross that became a landmark of hope for firefighters, police officers and other emergency workers. As if in answer to the question burning in so many minds–Where was God on 9/11?–this cross reminded us again of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. The cross was God’s answer to the world’s sin and suffering; it remains the only answer. (emphasis mine)

Finally, there’s been a lot of discussion about how people will remember 9/11.  At our house, we will hang the flag.  We will talk about that awful day and my husband and I will share our memories with our children.  We will go to church.  We will pray for the victims of 9/11 and their families and we will turn to the Cross on bended knee because it remains the only answer.


Installation of Archbishop Chaput

September 9th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

I tuned in to watch the Installation of Archbishop Chaput yesterday, and I really couldn’t help but be profoundly moved by the extreme reverence and humility of Philadelphia’s new Archbishop. His sermon, in my opinion, is one of the best ones I have ever heard (ranking alongside Bishop Slattery’s sermon at the Pontifical Mass at the National Basilica, which you can listen to here). I have taken certain parts of his sermon and put them here for your enjoyment. We must pray that, when Bishop Clark submits his resignation, we receive someone as dedicated to Truth as Archbishop Chaput is.

The relationship of a bishop and his local Church — his diocese — is very close to a marriage. The ring I wear is a symbol of every bishop’s love for his Church. And a bishop’s marriage to the local Church reminds me, and all of us who serve you as bishops, that a bishop is called to love his Church with all his heart, just as Christ loved her and gave his life for her.

Of course, my appointment to Philadelphia is an arranged marriage, and the Holy Father is the matchmaker. The good news is that romance is a modern invention — and given the divorce rate common today, it’s not everything it’s cranked up to be. In fact, history suggests that arranged marriages often worked at least as well as those based on romantic love. When arranged marriages were common, there was an expectation that people would get to know each other and then come to love one another. Good matchmakers were aware of the family history of each of the spouses and their particular needs. And the really wise matchmakers could make surprisingly good choices.

Our life together is part of the story of salvation, which God continues even into our own time. Mary didn’t expect the Annunciation. She didn’t expect to be mother of our Redeemer. And yet her act of obedience changed the course of history and led to a new covenant of love and fruitfulness. I have no illusions of being worthy of this ministry, but I do trust the wisdom of the Holy Father. So I’m deeply grateful for his confidence and the privilege of serving this local Church.

Along with a ring, two other symbols really define a bishop’s ministry. The first is the pectoral cross that rests next to the bishop’s heart. And Jesus tells us that if we want to be his disciples, we need to do three things (Mt 16:21-27): We need deny ourselves, we need to take up our cross, and we need to follow him. It’s vitally important for the bishop to really believe this, to live it, and to preach it, even when calling people to accept very difficult things in fidelity to the Gospel.

The second symbol is the crosier, which is a symbol of the shepherd. The Good Shepherd was the first image of Christian art created by the earliest disciples in the catacombs in Rome. One of first representations of Jesus we have is the Good Shepherd who carries a lamb on his shoulders. All of us, especially the people of Philadelphia, should keep that image in our hearts in the months ahead because the Good Shepherd really will bring the Church in Philadelphia through this difficult moment in our history to security and joy and a better future.

This installation today takes place in the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. The word cathedral comes from the Greek word cathedra, which means “the chair.” The cathedral is the church that houses the bishop’s chair, which has always been seen as another key symbol of the bishop’s role – in this case, his teaching authority. St. Augustine of Hippo, speaking in the 4th century captured the role of the bishop in these words. He said:

“Jerusalem had watchmen who stood guard . . . And this is what bishops do. Now, bishops are assigned this higher place” — the bishop’s chair in the basilica – “so that they themselves may oversee and, as it were, keep watch over the people. For they are called episkopos in Greek, which means ‘overseer,’ because the bishop oversees; because he looks down from [his chair] . . . And on account of this high place, a perilous accounting will have to be rendered [by the bishop] – unless we stand here with a heart such that we place ourselves beneath your feet in humility.”

Another time, on the anniversary of his episcopal ordination, Augustine described the bishop’s duties in the following way. He said (this is a big job):

“To rebuke those who stir up strife, to comfort those of little courage, to take the part of the weak, to refute opponents, to be on guard against traps, to teach the ignorant, to shake the indolent awake, to discourage those who want to buy and sell, to put the presumptuous in their place, to modify the quarrelsome, to help the poor, to liberate the oppressed, to encourage the good, to suffer the evil and to love all men.”

My dear brother bishops, it’s crucial for those of us who are bishops not simply to look like bishops but to truly be bishops. Otherwise, we’re just empty husks — the kind of men St Augustine referred to when he said, “You say, ‘He must be a bishop for he sits upon the cathedra.’ True – and a scarecrow might also be called a watchman in the vineyard.”

God bless Archbishop Chaput, and all our bishops, that they might not be mere scarecrows in the vineyard of the Lord.

(Below is the full video of Archbishop Chaput’s sermon. Please do watch it!)

Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia: Installation Homily from Rocco Palmo on Vimeo.


Getting Our Priorities Straight

August 22nd, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

“The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’ ‘The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.'” – Catechism of the Catholic Church

We are blessed to have such a dynamic population of practicing Catholics in the Diocese of Rochester, and for as much as there is which is wrong or disordered, there is a great deal that is good and godly. And, at the end of the day, Our Lord is present in our tabernacles, regardless as to whether or not the Sacrifice of the Mass was properly celebrated. In addition to this, we have a vibrant population of lay faithful, intent on spreading the Gospel through their charitable and spiritual works. And I think that where all of us can agree, even our liberal friends, is that the Mass is, as the Church tells us, “the source and summit of the Christian life.”

Why, then, is good liturgy dismissed as too “over the top” by some Catholics who otherwise defend the Church with zeal and integrity? Why is the prerogative of the Church, which is the absolute pinnacle of human achievement, deemed secondary, or considered a disordered priority by those who, ultimately, are called upon to defend and uphold it? It seems that we have a rupture between those who profess “ora et labora,” and just plain “ora.” St. Benedict famously directed his followers to pray and labor, together and in all things. He did not direct his monks (some may think unfortunately so) simply to pray, and let God take care of the rest. Throughout the history of the Church, we see this theme of prayer and labor, of faith in action. Jesus fasted in the wilderness, but then he presided at the Passover seder, the First Mass. Monks in the Dark Ages lived often within the confines of some sort of cloister, but they preserved classical antiquity and tended to the spiritual and temporal needs of the locals. Even now, our Carmelite sisters live within their monastery, but recognize the need to order their day around prayer and labor.

Now, of course, labor can be many things. It could be running a parish. It could be running a choir. It could be running a youth group. But when the labor is not directed where it ought to be, namely, the Eucharist, the “source and summit,” the labor is in vain. As the psalmist wrote, “Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watches in vain that keeps it” (Psalm 127). For us who are Roman Catholics, this “city” is the Church, and if we labor in ways that are not productive, or even counterproductive, we are not standing in solidarity with Christ. We are called to be vigilant, and to do Our Lord’s bidding, especially at the Mass. He commanded, “Do this in memory of me.” That is one of the most explicit things said by Our Lord in the Gospels. We look to the cryptic, metaphorical tone of the parables, and find the same Truth, but the way in which it is given is entirely different. God Himself commanded that we take this most sublime gift, a gift formed by God Himself, and partake of it with frequency.

Indeed, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says of the Mass, “in brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: ‘Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking'” (CCC 1327). If our thoughts, our prayers, our labors, are not directed towards the dignity of the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar, we must rethink our priorities. It is lamentable that our Protestant brethren devote such time in studying and preaching the Scriptures without their complete and total application. It is certainly commendable to know the history of the Jewish people as outlined in the Old Testament, to know the connotations of the original Greek in St. Paul’s epistles, and to see in the Gospels the hand of the Divine Author, but that is not enough. All of this is aimed, not at the breadth and depth of Scripture or service or fraternity, but at the Holy Mass. Without the Mass, we are nothing, for it is that most sublime gift which links us physically and directly to God and the Heavenly Jerusalem.

To have a love and knowledge of Scripture is to understand that our lives are ordered in such a way as that the Mass is should be our highest priority, for in the Mass we are presented with Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. The Mass is that instrument used by God to give us Himself on a daily basis, an instrument which uses the Word as an integral part to that Mystery. But what happens when we strip the Word of its liturgical focus? We strip our Faith of its liturgical focus, and in so doing, lose sight of what our priorities really, truly are. The Mass is like a ciborium, in that it is the vessel of God’s Sacramental Presence here on Earth. Sacred Scripture is the gold lining that cradles the host, but we must realize that it is not the host itself, but a support to it. For what is more precious, the Word or He or spoke it? This is not to say that the Word is somehow not precious – it is. But God is perfection itself, and needs nothing to adorn that which is already the most beautiful thing imaginable. The Holy Scripture gives life to Our Faith, and is coupled with Tradition to present us with Christ’s Mystical Spouse, the Church, but the Word is not God. The Blessed Sacrament is.

So what should our priority be – the manifestation of God on our altars, or our own “ecclesiastical ministries” and “works of the apostolate” (which, we can all agree, are most beneficial to us as Christians)? The Church is very clear that the Mass is central to salvation, for through it we encounter Christ Himself.

And so it follows that, should we have the ability, we must strive to do our best to make the Mass beautiful. If one is a priest, it is up to him to say Mass with dignity and fidelity, not to fall into some sort of worship of the rubrics of the liturgy, but to offer high praise to God. If one is a layman, it is up to him not to profane the Mass with any of his God-given faculties. Our Lord deserves the best, and it is the sin of sacrilege to purposefully and willingly deprive God of the honor due to His Name. We see in the Gospels that we must love and serve the poor, but that we must be even more aware of the importance of He who is our God and King, He who gave us our Eucharistic Meal wherein our souls find themselves spiritually sated and our minds given to holy thoughts. St. Augustine presents us with excellent insight into this notion:

6. But Mary, the other sister of Lazarus, took a pound of ointment of pure nard, very precious, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. Such was the incident, let us look into the mystery it imported. Whatever soul of you wishes to be truly faithful, anoint like Mary the feet of the Lord with precious ointment. That ointment was righteousness, and therefore it was [exactly] a pound weight: but it was ointment of pure nard [nardi pistici], very precious. From his calling it pistici, we ought to infer that there was some locality from which it derived its preciousness: but this does not exhaust its meaning, and it harmonizes well with a sacramental symbol. The root of the word [pure] in the Greek is by us called faith. You were seeking to work righteousness: the just shall live by faith. Romans 1:17 Anoint the feet of Jesus: follow by a good life the Lord’s footsteps. Wipe them with your hair: what you have of superfluity, give to the poor, and you have wiped the feet of the Lord; for the hair seems to be the superfluous part of the body. You have something to spare of your abundance: it is superfluous to you, but necessary for the feet of the Lord. Perhaps on this earth the Lord’s feet are still in need. For of whom but of His members is He yet to say in the end, Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of mine, you did it unto me? Matthew 25:40 You spent what was superfluous for yourselves, but you have done what was grateful to my feet.

7. And the house was filled with the odor. The world is filled with the fame of a good character: for a good character is as a pleasant odor. Those who live wickedly and bear the name of Christians, do injury to Christ: of such it is said, that through them the name of the Lord is blasphemed. Romans 2:24 If through such God’s name is blasphemed, through the good the name of the Lord is honored. Listen to the apostle, when he says, We are a sweet savor of Christ in every place. As it is said also in the Song of Songs, Your name is as ointment poured forth. Song of Songs 1:3 Attend again to the apostle: We are a sweet savor, he says, of Christ in every place, both in them that are saved, and in them that perish. To the one we are the savor of life unto life, to the other the savor of death unto death: and who is sufficient for these things? 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 The lesson of the holy Gospel before us affords us the opportunity of so speaking of that savor, that we on our part may give worthy utterance, and you diligent heed, to what is thus expressed by the apostle himself, And who is sufficient for these things? But have we any reason to infer from these words that we are qualified to attempt speaking on such a subject, or you to hear? We, indeed, are not so; but He is sufficient, who is pleased to speak by us what it may be for your profit to hear. The apostle, you see, is, as he calls himself, a sweet savor: but that sweet savor is to some the savor of life unto life, and to others the savor of death unto death; and yet all the while a sweet savor in itself. For he does not say, does he, To some we are a sweet savor unto life, to others an evil savor unto death? He called himself a sweet savor, not an evil; and represented himself as the same sweet savor, to some unto life, to others unto death. Happy they who find life in this sweet savor! But what misery can be greater than theirs, to whom the sweet savor is the messenger of death?

8. And who is it, says some one, that is thus slain by the sweet savor? It is to this the apostle alludes in the words, And who is sufficient for these things? In what wonderful ways God brings it about that the good savor is fraught both with life to the good, and with death to the wicked; how it is so, so far as the Lord is pleased to inspire my thoughts (for it may still conceal a deeper meaning beyond my power to penetrate)—yet so far, I say, as my power of penetration has reached, you ought not to have the information withheld. The integrity of the Apostle Paul’s life and conduct, his preaching of righteousness in word and exhibition of it in works, his wondrous power as a teacher and his fidelity as a steward, were everywhere noised abroad: he was loved by some, and envied by others. For he himself tells us in a certain place of some, that they preached Christ not sincerely, but of envy; thinking, he says, to add affliction to my bonds. But what does he add? Whether in pretence or in truth, let Christ be preached. They preach who love me, they preach who hate me; in that good savor the former live, in it the others die: and yet by the preaching of both let the name of Christ be proclaimed, with this excellent savor let the world be filled. Have you been loving one whose conduct evidenced his goodness then in this good savor you have lived. Have you been envying such a one? Then in this same savor you have died. But have you, pray, in thus choosing to die, converted this savor into an evil one? Turn from your envious feelings, and the good savor will cease to slay you.

9. And now, lastly, listen to what we have here, how this ointment was to some a sweet savor unto life, and to others a sweet savor unto death. When the pious Mary had rendered this grateful service to the Lord, straightway one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was yet to betray Him, said, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? Alas for you, wretched man! The sweet savor has slain you. For the cause that led him so to speak is disclosed by the holy evangelist. But we, too, might have supposed, had not the real state of his mind been revealed in the Gospel, that the care of the poor might have induced him so to speak. Not so. What then? Hearken to a true witness: This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the money bag, and bare what was put therein. Did he bear it about, or bear it away? For the common service he bore it, as a thief he bore it away.

10. Look now, and learn that this Judas did not become perverted only at the time when he yielded to the bribery of the Jews and betrayed his Lord. For not a few, inattentive to the Gospel, suppose that Judas only perished when he accepted money from the Jews to betray the Lord. It was not then that he perished, but he was already a thief, and a reprobate, when following the Lord; for it was with his body and not with his heart that he followed. He made up the apostolic number of twelve, but had no part in the apostolic blessedness: he had been made the twelfth in semblance, and on his departure, and the succession of another, the apostolic reality was completed, and the entireness of the number conserved. Acts 1:26 What lesson then, my brethren, did our Lord Jesus Christ wish to impress on His Church, when it pleased Him to have one castaway among the twelve, but this, that we should bear with the wicked, and refrain from dividing the body of Christ? Here you have Judas among the saints—that Judas, mark you! Who was a thief, yea— do not overlook it— not a thief of any ordinary type, but a thief and a sacrilegist: a robber of money bags, but of such as were the Lord’s; of money bags, but of such as were sacred. If there is a distinction made in the public courts between such crimes as ordinary theft and peculation—for by peculation we mean the theft of public property; and private theft is not visited with the same sentence as public—how much more severe ought to be the sentence on the sacrilegious thief, who has dared to steal, not from places of any ordinary kind, but to steal from the Church? He who thieves from the Church, stands side by side with the castaway Judas. Such was this man Judas, and yet he went in and out with the eleven holy disciples. With them he came even to the table of the Lord: he was permitted to have intercourse with them, but he could not contaminate them. Of one bread did both Peter and Judas partake, and yet what communion had the believer with the infidel? Peter’s partaking was unto life, but that of Judas unto death. For that good bread was just like the sweet savor. For as the sweet savor, so also does the good bread give life to the good, and bring death to the wicked. For he that eats unworthily, eats and drinks judgment to himself: 1 Corinthians 11:29 judgment to himself, not to you. If, then, it is judgment to himself, not to you, bear as one that is good with him that is evil, that you may attain unto the rewards of the good, and be not hurled into the punishment of the wicked.

11. Lay to heart our Lord’s example while living with man upon earth. Why had He a money bag, who was ministered unto by angels, save to intimate that His Church was destined thereafter to have her repository for money? Why gave He admission to a thief, save to teach His Church patiently to bear with thieves? But he who had formed the habit of abstracting money from the bag, did not hesitate for money received to sell the Lord Himself. But let us see what answer our Lord gave to such words. See, brethren: He does not say to him, You speak so on account of your thievishness. He knew him to be a thief, yet did not betray him, but rather endured him, and showed us an example of patience in tolerating the wicked in the Church. Then said Jesus to him: Let her keep it against the day of my burial. He announced that His own death was at hand.

12. But what follows? For the poor you have always with you, but me ye will not have always. We can certainly understand, the poor you have always; what He has thus said is true. When were the poor wanting in the Church? But me ye will not have always; what does He mean by this? How are we to understand, Me ye will not have always? Don’t be alarmed: it was addressed to Judas. Why, then, did He not say, you will have, but, ye will have? Because Judas is not here a unit. One wicked man represents the whole body of the wicked; in the same way as Peter, the whole body of the good, yea, the body of the Church, but in respect to the good. For if in Peter’s case there were no sacramental symbol of the Church, the Lord would not have said to him, I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. Matthew 16:19 If this was said only to Peter, it gives no ground of action to the Church. But if such is the case also in the Church, that what is bound on earth is bound in heaven, and what is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven,— for when the Church excommunicates, the excommunicated person is bound in heaven; when one is reconciled by the Church, the person so reconciled is loosed in heaven:— if such, then, is the case in the Church, Peter, in receiving the keys, represented the holy Church. If, then, in the person of Peter were represented the good in the Church, and in Judas’ person were represented the bad in the Church, then to these latter was it said, But me ye will not have always. But what means the not always; and what, the always? If you are good, if you belong to the body represented by Peter, you have Christ both now and hereafter: now by faith, by sign, by the sacrament of baptism, by the bread and wine of the altar. You have Christ now, but you will have Him always; for when you have gone hence, you will come to Him who said to the robber, Today shall you be with me in paradise. Luke 23:43 But if you live wickedly, you may seem to have Christ now, because you enter the Church, signest yourself with the sign of Christ, art baptized with the baptism of Christ, minglest yourself with the members of Christ, and approachest His altar: now you have Christ, but by living wickedly you will not have Him always.

13. It may be also understood in this way: The poor ye will have always with you, but me ye will not have always. The good may take it also as addressed to themselves, but not so as to be any source of anxiety; for He was speaking of His bodily presence. For in respect of His majesty, His providence, His ineffable and invisible grace, His own words are fulfilled, Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Matthew 28:20 But in respect of the flesh He assumed as the Word, in respect of that which He was as the son of the Virgin, of that wherein He was seized by the Jews, nailed to the tree, let down from the cross, enveloped in a shroud, laid in the sepulchre, and manifested in His resurrection, ye will not have Him always. And why? Because in respect of His bodily presence He associated for forty days with His disciples, and then, having brought them forth for the purpose of beholding and not of following Him, He ascended into heaven, and is no longer here. He is there, indeed, sitting at the right hand of the Father; and He is here also, having never withdrawn the presence of His glory. In other words, in respect of His divine presence we always have Christ; in respect of His presence in the flesh it was rightly said to the disciples, Me ye will not have always. In this respect the Church enjoyed His presence only for a few days: now it possesses Him by faith, without seeing Him with the eyes. In whichever way, then, it was said, But me ye will not have always, it can no longer, I suppose, after this twofold solution, remain as a subject of doubt.

By focusing on things to the exclusion of the Holy Mass, to profess a love for the Mystical Banquet but then label its most zealous defenders, to make sanctimonious pronouncements – all of this robs the Mass of its dignity. For 2,000 years, we have had the Mass, and for 2,000 years, certain Christians have diminished its apparent worth by whoring it out to this agenda or that, by sitting back and permitting sacrilege, by removing the “labora” from the “ora et labora.” The Church, however, has never ceased to teach the absolute importance of the Mass, the “source and summit.” So, yes, serve the Church through whatever apostolate you feel called to, but remember, your first priority is always to the Mass, not its parts. Love the Gospel, preach it, defend it, but recognize it as a part of the Mass, not something which stands alone, but something which totally depends on the Mass (and on which the Mass is totally dependent).

It pains me to think of how some people over the years have mistaken a zeal for good liturgy for that as its own end. Good liturgy is never an end in itself, but a means to a more perfect end, namely, the presence of God in our tabernacles. People have criticized me and my friends for “worshiping the liturgy” – what sense does it make to worship worship or to praise praise? To love the Mass is to love praying the Mass, and to love Him who is made present through it.


Melius Illi Erat . . .

August 16th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

So many times when I have an argument with a “progressive” Catholic, I’m struck how he or she always falls back on the same old crutch. “But Jesus wouldn’t be so judgmental.” Or maybe, “Jesus wouldn’t say/act like that.” Or even, “Jesus wouldn’t have a problem with that.”

Two minor objections, which are ultimately matters of personal sentiment on my part, are that (1.) the “progressive” seems to throw about the Holy Name a bit too casually. The spirit in which we say the Name of Our Lord, Jesus, ought to be one of reverence, not justification. (2.) It’s just a trite way to avoid a more mature discussion. It’s called, in technical terms, “a fallacious appeal to authority.” Basically, “We can’t eat the cookies because daddy said ‘no'” becomes the mentality of the progressive’s argument.

However, the biggest objection I have to this sort of thing is that Jesus was not some passive, all-embracing social activist. You say Jesus wouldn’t condemn “X” or punish Fr./Sr./Msgr./Bishop “Y”? Well, then you seem to be forgetting the dialogue Jesus had with His Apostles on Holy Thursday:

And whilst they were eating, he said: Amen I say to you that one of you is about to betray me. And they being very much troubled began every one to say: Is it I, Lord?  But he answering said: He that dips his hand with me in the dish, he shall betray me. The Son of man indeed goes, as it is written of him. But woe to that man by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed. It were better for him, if that man had not been born.

“Melius illi erat, si natus non fuiset.” “It were better for him, if that man had not been born.”

We are exceedingly and unworthily blessed with God’s mercy. However, that is not some Divine “get out of jail free” card. We must strive always to serve Our Lord and to be obedient to His Church, and pray most earnestly that we never take the place of Judas. Remember, Judas was at the Last Supper, the First Mass. He was called by Our Lord personally. This should remind us that if we feel “called,” we may well indeed be so. However, it isn’t an easy way out of falling into sin. If I felt called to be a father, I would pursue it in a valid, licit, and holy way, through the Sacrament of Marriage. I wouldn’t say, “I feel called to be a father . . . so I’ll just snatch a kid and call him Gen Jr.” No. I may have discerned the right calling, but most certainly not the right path to answering it.

Remember, ultimately, that we ought to act with all love, all humility when serving Our Lord. He is always first, and when we manipulate His Church to achieve our own ends, be they political, social, or personal, we assume the role of Judas. And in that moment of demonic transformation, we should do well to remember that Christ Himself denounced the traitor, and Christ Himself has the same ability to denounce us if, through our selfishness, we have denounced Him.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

I Like Not Fair Terms and a Villain’s Mind

August 2nd, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

. . . or “the creative games liberals play.”

Isn’t it funny, friends, how one can be made to feel as if he or she is in the wrong when, in all truth, he or she is in the right? Have you ever noticed how when someone kneels to receive Communion in the Diocese of Rochester, there is a momentary lurch wherein the communicant doesn’t know whether he will be permitted to receive in that manner or not? Have you ever noticed how our mothers, sisters, and wives are looked at with pity (or even derision) when they place their mantillas on their heads? Have you ever noticed how our young men are pushed away from the altar, and then the diocesan officials are boggled as to why vocations are so fleeting? Have you ever noticed how those in error will play word-games to push the blame away from themselves and onto those who are, in fact, blameless?

Now, what is even more intriguing than all of this, is how so-called “liberals” fail to celebrate the diversity of the community. A genuine liberal, someone who thinks that all paths lead to God, “or, at least it stands to reason, there must be something out there, a higher power like gravity or something,” will not be moved to anger when he or she sees a tradition-minded young couple spend an hour in silent adoration. A genuine liberal will find it charming and beautiful that there are so many ways to pray. But, dear friends, we don’t have “genuine liberals” in Rochester. We have in our midst and in our diocese individuals whose idea of liberality is putting an end to the plethora of diverse worship communities in favor of imposing one overarching method. It has been said here and elsewhere that, “if you scratch a liberal, you get a Nazi.” And there is tremendous truth in that.

But, of course, these brothers and sisters in faith decline to see the logic in this. After all, many of these souls are as entrenched in their views as we are in ours. The only difference is that they’re wrong, but that’s for us to discuss another day. It is plain to see that where orthodoxy is promoted, and where “diversity” isn’t a dirty word, the Church thrives. When you have individuals such as Bishop Clark, as kind and personable as they might be, the Church withers and dies. And why is that? It’s simple: our Christian duty isn’t “be nice.” It’s to spread the Gospel, through word and action. Charity is a great part of that, but to be “charitable” doesn’t mean to be pushovers, weak-kneed Catholics who would rather yield to the local norms than to pursue what is Truth and Beauty itself, regardless of the cost.

But, surprise of surprises, liberals don’t like that. It hurts their feelings. Well, I’m sorry, but sometimes feelings need to be hurt to actually achieve something. Was our salvation procured without tears, blood, sweat, and anguish? No. As Christians we are called to be passion-bearers, suffering all things patiently, but never yielding, never submitting to what is wrong or indecent.

And this brings me to the title of this post, “I like not fair terms and a villain’s mind.” The liberals in this diocese have set up a playing board, festooned with disobedience and cluttered with the detritus of a failed experiment. It’s a hazardous game, but, thanks be to God, they have set up rules to keep us safe, and to prevent us from losing in the long-run. Rule #1 is to be obedient to the local ordinary in all things. “We answer first to Matt, then to the Vatican.” This breed of liberal is big on obedience to authority, presuming that the authority is competent and in-line with the agenda they push. Rule #2 is to be accepting of everyone. Sure, you might be offended to see Susie Q. get up to preach a sermon, and you might even feel somewhat scandalized to see a nun standing at the altar with a priest. But remember: the Mass isn’t about God, it’s about us, so if you think about it, there’s nothing really wrong with all that. It’s just “diversity.” Rule #3 is not to splinter the community. Whatever you do, don’t rock the boat. If everyone else is receiving Our Lord while doing a headstand, then, by God, you better do it too. It’s better to blend in with the community than to do something somewhat questionable, like receive Our Lord on the tongue or, (dare I even think it?) even kneeling. Whenever you do something old and out-dated, you’re not doing it out of obedience or fidelity to 2,000 years of Tradition – you’re doing it to sow dissent and discord in our Diocese.

So these are the three rules of the game here in Rochester – Obey Bishop Clark. Accept everyone. Celebrate the community. Now, I will be the first to say, that if someone didn’t know the amount of pure lunacy going on in the Diocese of Rochester, these would be three perfectly wonderful rules. The game would be an easy and enjoyable one. But folks – these rules, these “fair terms” that are oh-so-appealing, they’ve been conjured up in the minds of villains. No defender of the Faith, no champion of the Church would ever rig a game with such rules as to protect Women’s Ordination Conference advocates and lay-people who run parishes saying that they “are basically priests”. This game is rigged, friends.

But who is saying we actually need to play? Lift up your heads from the mire around us. This is just one “playing board” in the Church. In other places, the rules are pretty much the same – obey the Bishop, accept brothers and sisters in faith, and take joy in the community. But guess what – in other places, the Bishop isn’t overtly flirting with disobedience. In other places, when you’re told to “accept everyone,” it’s presuming that “everyone” is actually Catholic and orthodox. In other places, the “community” has no problem with the Latin Mass and other things of extraordinary value.

And so, essentially, this is the problem in Rochester. We have these fair terms conjured up by the minds of villains. But what is precious and valuable for us is that we have the ability to say “no,” to get up and “play another game” as it were.

The prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola is very appropriate for this post, so here it is for your spiritual edification:

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.

All Saints Parish in Corning to Offer Extraordinary Form Mass

July 26th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

All Saints parish in Corning, NY will offer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (aka “Traditional Latin Mass”) on Sunday, August 7th at 1:45 PM. The Mass will take place at St. Mary’s church and be offered by Fr. Johannas Smith. This is exciting news and may very well be the first exposure that most Catholics in Corning will have to the Extraordinary Form considering the long drive involved in attending the diocese’s only EF Mass at St. Stanislaus in the city of Rochester.

While it is certainly encouraging to see a parish open to offering the Extraordinary Form, the commentary on this Mass as produced in the All Saints bulletin by the parish’s pastoral administrator, Deacon Dean Condon, is a little upsetting. I do not believe that Deacon Condon intended to be hostile toward this form of the Mass. Instead, some of his comments demonstrate, perhaps, ignorance about the EF and why some people prefer to worship in this form over the Ordinary Form. Below are excerpts of Deacon Condon’s comments with emphasis and commentary:

“The Council document set out a vision for what the truly universal church should be all about. The Church ought not to be stuck as single-cultural institution, using a dead language of an ancient and irrelevant empire. We now worship in the many languages of all world cultures. While acknowledging our Roman roots, we are now more truly catholic in the way we worship, teach, and practice.” [The use of Latin is not so much clinging to a particular cultural institution as it is a means of producing unity in a Church comprised of people from different nations, languages, and cultures. The use of Latin serves to remind us that we are one people, though many, in Christ united as part of the Roman Catholic Church. Wherever you might travel, the Extraordinary Form of the Mass will be celebrated the same way and in the same language. It is a true unifier.]

“Admittedly for some, having a Latin Mass is like running a Confederate flag up the pole [An inappropriate analogy that would have been best avoided], symbolizing a protest against the accomplishments of Vatican II [It is debatable whether or not much of what has transpired since the Council have been “accomplishments.” I don’t consider the poor state of Mass attendance in this country and Europe to be an accomplishment by any stretch of the imagination. A lot of what we have seen take place in the Ordinary Form of the Mass isn’t even faithful to the Council documents!]. However, this need not be the case. The Church has moved toward being more universal, especially by moving the Mass into the vernacular [In actuality, the use of the vernacular has proved to be more divisive than unifying. For example, take a look at the various petitions that were created in protest of the revised English translation of the Roman Missal. Another issue, and a reason why we are revising the English translation of the Roman Missal in the first place, is that some vernacular translations of the Mass contain several inaccuracies when compared to the official Latin text. Even in our diocese, one can observe divisions from parish to parish  (one parish will use “inclusive” language, another follows the texts faithfully, and still another has inserted made-up rituals into the order of Mass).] Yet, the Latin Mass remains part of our heritage. Now, nearly fifty years after the Council, the understanding is clear that the Church is not reversing back, but is allowing for greater access to the experience of this bygone tradition [Very poor word choice. The definition of bygone is “belonging to an earlier time.” This is not correct. The Extraordinary Form of the Mass belongs this time just as much as the Ordinary Form. We have two forms of the Mass, sitting together side by side, both equally valid]. So, in that respect, the Tridentine Mass can still be celebrated and will be offered at All Saints Parish on Sunday, August 7 at 1:45 p.m. at St. Mary’s Church. Presiding at the Tridentine Mass will be Fr. Johannas MM Smith, FI from Mount St. Francis Monastery in Endicott, NY. Our own Schola Choir will provide Gregorian chant for this special celebration.”

Once again, I believe that the deacon’s comments were made out of ignorance rather than malicious intent. The fact that his parish will be offering the Extraordinary Form of the Mass at all demonstrates that he is at least open to the request of our Holy Father to make this Mass more widely available. If you are in the area, please attend the Mass of Ages in support of our Catholic tradition. Who knows, maybe the Extraordinary Form will become a regular offering in Corning in the near future?

See also here.

Bishop Matthew Clark Turns 74 – One More Year Until Retirement

July 15th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

32 years down, one to go.

Birthday greetings from the Holy Father

An even ‘74‘ as displayed at

What happens next…

As of  now, there has been no word about Bishop Clark requesting a coadjutor to assist him during his final year and to take the reigns upon his retirement. It could still happen over the next 365 days (technically 366 because 2012 is a leap year), though I do not anticipate that happening given what I know about this bishop. The positive of no coadjutor is that Bishop Clark would have little to no hand in the selection of his successor. The negative is that he may linger around a little longer after he submits his resignation on July 15th, 2012 while his successor is chosen.

So how are bishops selected?

1. Every bishop submits a terna to his local archbishop. A terna is a list of three priests who the bishop believes would be strong candidates for the episcopate. This list is discussed among the area bishops and recommendations are made to the apostolic nuncio.

2. The nuncio receives the various recommendations and conducts investigations into these men. Approximately 25 people are interviewed as part of this process. The nuncio also consults with the diocesan bishop, other bishops in the province, and the head of the USCCB (Abp. Dolan). Eventually the nuncio comes up with a list of three recommendations and sends this to Rome.

3. The Congregation for Bishops discusses the matter. The U.S. members of the congregation include: Cards. Rigali, Levada, Law, Burke, and Stafford.

4. The Holy Father makes the final decision on a diocesan appointment, whether it be the reassignment of an auxiliary or diocesan bishop to a new post, or the consecration of a priest to the episcopacy.

5. The candidate is contacted and he either accepts or rejects the appointment.

6. A Mass of installation occurs whereby the new bishop assumes leadership of the diocese. The nuncio will likely be present for this.

Who might succeed Bishop Clark?

It’s anybody’s guess right now who will take over for Bishop Clark and when this might happen. It is my prediction that our bishop’s resignation will be accepted by the end of 2012, possibly in late November right before Advent. A replacement is unlikely to be assigned much sooner than that because the Vatican often moves at a snail’s pace. Many dioceses do not receive a new bishop until at least a year after the sitting bishop submits his resignation. Don’t expect Bishop Clark to hang around much longer than he needs to with Pope Benedict in charge (by the way, please pray for the Holy Father’s good health!). Bishop Clark’s successor could be announced when his resignation is accepted, or the resignation could be accepted and then the diocese remains vacant until a successor is named.

Presently, there are six vacant sees and nine sees with bishops serving past 75. Between now and July 15, 2012, seven additional bishops will reach retirement age. This does not take into account those who may retire early or who may be pressured to resign because of scandal.

I am guessing that our next bishop will be an auxiliary from another diocese. Bishop Joseph Perry of Chicago is still a strong potential candidate! We shouldn’t exclude the possibility that our next bishop will be fluent in Spanish with a growing Spanish-speaking population in the diocese, albeit much smaller than other dioceses with this ethnic group. I guess it’s also possible that we could receive a current diocesan bishop, though he’d more than likely come from a diocese of comparable or smaller size.

The X-Factor

I have stressed this before and I will do so again. Bishop Clark is required to make his ad limina visit to Rome approximately in November of this year. That’s only four months away. This will be the bishop’s first face-to-face chat (that we know about) with Pope Benedict as head of the Catholic Church. This is sure to be an interesting conversation given the long history between these two men and the mountains of complaints the Rochester faithful have sent his way throughout the years. It is not outside the realm of possibility that the bishop’s upcoming retirement could be a topic of discussion.

Well friends, we have come this far by faith! The winter is almost over in Rochester. In the words of a local schismatic, “you can’t hold back the Spring!”

One more year.

A Tale of Two Masses – Part II: Good Liturgy Done Poorly

June 14th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

Part I here.

Most of the time, when we discuss liturgy here at Cleansing Fire, it’s in reference to a certain abuse, a particularly tasteless occasion at Mass, or some irreverent incident taking place within the sanctuary, regardless as to whether it’s a part of Mass or not. We have devoted hundreds of posts on these matters, exposing countless acts of sacrilege and profanation alongside abuses that were more akin to one-time mistakes than malevolent and intentional disobedience. However, chronicling these events of the City of Bad Liturgy Done Well is only half (or even less than that) of what we, as Catholics, ought to be doing. And I don’t mean simply as a blog, as a parish, or even as a diocese – I mean universally.

While bad liturgy done well customarily betrays some political agenda (i.e. massive gender-neutral/race-neutral foam puppets at the Call to Action “Mass”), good liturgy done poorly betrays the exact opposite. Rather than the people of the parish having a clear mission, the inhabitants of this second city are complacent, knowing that they’re doing what is asked of them . . . nothing more, nothing less. While the abuses we witness in far too many places thrust the lance ever deeper into Our Lord’s Sacred Heart, those who are apathetic custodians of Truth are like those “disciples” who simply walked away from Calvary thinking to themselves, “Well, that was a wretched end.” It is regrettable that many of those who defend dignified worship simply give up on their mission when they bring about change in one Mass, one parish, or one priest. No, the mission before us to restore the liturgy to something beautiful is something which never wanes, never goes away in its pressing and undying necessity. Good for you, you have your Latin Mass. But does it have life and energy? Wonderful, you’re starting to sing Gregorian chant. Are you actually going to pursue its use at Mass? You should be commended for your piety at Mass, but does your catechesis end when you genuflect and walk out of church?

Good liturgy means absolutely nothing if we do not seek to find God in it, through the ceremony and devotion unfolding before us at Holy Mass. However, when good liturgy is done with the right spirit, not one of arrogance or conceit, but of praise and singular devotion to Our Lord and Our Lady, that is the pinnacle of human achievement. Seeing as how the Mass is the one place where humankind comes into contact in such a physical, undeniable way with God, it is our duty to make it seem that special. This being said, there is one caveat: make it special, yes, but do not make it special in our sight alone, but also in God’s. In a recent post at the Chant Cafe, Fr. Wadsworth says the following:

Another example may serve to illustrate how far we have deviated from the path (of genuine worship): I have deliberately removed any details which will enable you to identify where this Mass took place. Suffice to say, that it could reasonably have been witnessed in just about any large city in the English-speaking world. The occasion was a youth Mass involving a large number of young people of school and college age. The nature of the occasion meant that it would be reasonable to assume that the majority of those present were what could be described as practicing Catholics, at least in relation to the frequency of their liturgical life.

As the entrance procession began, so did the entrance song. It was sung by a male singer who accompanied himself on the guitar and he was joined by a female singer with a very nice voice. I did not know the song (something I have come to expect) but neither, it would seem, did anyone else and despite the text of the song being reproduced in the participation aid, the only ones singing were the two singers I have already described. The song was certainly religious in content without being noticeably liturgical or scriptural in its text. Musically it was entirely secular in character but skillfully sung and played in genuinely affecting manner. As this beginning to the liturgy unfolded, it became more and more obvious that this was a performance and we were cast in the role of the audience. This intimation was further confirmed as the song ended and it was greeted with enthusiastic and prolonged applause, curtailed only by the celebrant beginning the Sign of the Cross.

This experience was repeated at several subsequent moments in the Mass and notably during the Liturgy of the Word, at the Preparation of the Gifts and during the distribution of Holy Communion. Each time, the dynamics were those of performance and the liturgical assembly slid perceptibly into another mode but one clearly familiar to these young Catholics, that of the concert. At each subsequent moment, the pattern was repeated and the performance was recognized by applause. Am I the only person who is profoundly ill at ease with this, or can we identify that style, content and delivery all determine whether our music is truly liturgical or not? Once again, it would be a mistake to identify this difficulty with purely contemporary musical styles, I have witnessed much the same phenomenon with traditional liturgical music in some of our great churches and cathedrals.

This concert-mentality described by Fr. Wadsworth is exactly what we see in the City of Bad Liturgy Done Well. It’s catchy, it’s fun, it’s stimulating, but it’s not suitable for Mass. To reduce the Mass, the summit of human achievement, to a mere show, wherein the congregation has no life and no awareness of the Sacred Mysteries, is to lose touch with the immensity of the occasion.

And here we see the commonality between these two cities: there is a fundamental lack of understanding of the Holy Mass. On the one hand, the Mass is not some celebration of community – that’s what parades and festivals are for. On the other hand, the Mass is not just having a mastery of liturgical functions. Good Liturgy Done Poorly has lost just as many souls as Bad Liturgy Done Well, because the inhabitants of both cities are forced by their lords to thrive on a diet of gruel. It pains me just as much to see a “traditional” parish act with indifference as it does for me to see a parish act in blatant opposition to the will of the Church and Her Mystical Spouse. A lack of understanding is a lack of understanding, whether it’s trimmed in lace or festooned with rainbow ribbons. What the Church calls for, and what is demanded of us by God, is genuine devotion, as made manifest through dignified liturgy.

However, we ought to consider also the spirit in which these two liturgies are, for lack of a better word, “put on.” Both are unsuitable, for in the one is irreverence, and in the other is lukewarmness. But in the City of Bad Liturgy Done Well, there is a sense of unbridled arrogance. “This is what we want to do, so we’re going to do it.” This is, in my opinion, much more sinister than the mindset of inhabitants of the City of Good Liturgy Done Poorly. “Well, it’s good enough.” Nothing we can do is ever “good enough” for God, and the fact that some people are content simply to do the minimum is shameful indeed. Naturally, sometimes the bare minimum is all that’s possible. Maybe there’s not enough people. Maybe there’s not enough money or patrons. Maybe there’s just not enough “young blood” to get things done. That’s fine, and God knows that these people are doing their absolute best, much like how the woman who gave her last penny in the Gospel is praised by Our Lord, whereas the rich man who withheld his maximum donation was admonished. This can and ought to be applied to the liturgy.

When we have the ability to do great things for the glory of God, in humble obedience to the norms of Holy Mother Church, we are obligated by God and all that is decent and good in His world to render our greatest efforts to His people through dignified, reverent, and majestic liturgy. Apathy and complacency are not virtues, nor are they gifts or fruits of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, to see parishes sitting back without any care to excel “for the greater glory of God” is appalling. Is God not worth our every thought? Is He not worthy to receive our attention for all eternity? Can we not give Him His due for just one hour, and to do so in a way pleasing to Him and pleasing to His Church?

(Part III will be coming along shortly.)

A Tale of Two Masses – Part I:The City of Bad Liturgy Done Well

June 11th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

While Charles Dickens was most definitely not writing of Rochester when he published A Tale of Two Cities, there are certainly a great amount of parallels to be had, even in that oft-quoted first paragraph. Indeed, while Dickens was speaking of London and Paris as the “two cities” in his novel, we have two different “cities” before us. The first city is Bad Liturgy Done Well, and the second is Good Liturgy Done Poorly. Naturally, the “golden city,” that “heavenly Salem” I call Good Liturgy Done Well, needs no real discussion in this post. After all, it is the predominant theme of this site.

So what is this City of Bad Liturgy Done Well? It sounds like some kind of misnomer, maybe even an oxymoron. Alas, is is not. In truth, it seems that this is the city towards which the powers-that-be in the Diocese of Rochester constantly strive. Anyone who had the privilege to attend this morning’s ordination Mass at Sacred Heart can surely agree that no expense was spared to enhance the worship experience. A magnificent Festival Choir, a top-notch organist, stellar instrumentalists, and rhythmically-gifted bell-ringers all demonstrated that those in positions of authority at the Cathedral Community have a very clear vision of the liturgy. They recognize it as something special and set-apart, something deserving of a great deal of thought and effort.

Unfortunately, much of this thought and effort is misdirected. Rather turning liturgy into something both horizontal (the community of believers) and vertical (addressing the Divine), the liturgy stays flat, hugging the ground and afraid to soar beyond the realm of being, quite simply, a good musical performance. No one is debating that the music or general mood of the Mass was disingenuous or hollow. On the contrary, the Mass embodied the yearnings, strivings, and labors of many people whose lives are dedicated to the service of God and His Church. However, what Catholics must realize is that just because something sounds beautiful, or looks majestic, or makes us feel enriched or spiritually nourished, it doesn’t make it worthy of use at Mass. The Mass is not about our tastes or aesthetic inclinations. It transcends those, leaving all these personal desires and ideas within ourselves, and uniting them all under the vast and permanent mantle of the Church’s liturgical heritage.

So, quite simply, we must not treat the Mass as something dependent on us. On the contrary, we depend wholly on the Mass and, thus, on the priesthood. When we bend the Mass into a celebration of community, into a mere commemoration of a meal, we lose the richness of what the Church has built into the Mass for us. We may belt out beautiful hymns with gusto, and we may have fleets of well-trained servers, deacons, priests, etc., and we may have great numbers of professionals “making a joyful noise unto God,” but if we allow the Mass to reflect our desires, our opinions, and our inclinations, we lose focus. We gather at the table of the Lord, not because it’s an opportunity to have a parish meet-and-greet, or because it’s a chance to show off our Halloran All Saints pipe organ, but because He commanded us to do so. “Do this in memory of Me.” Notice, Our Lord commended us to do this, not to do something. The “this” to which He referred was the Passover seder, a highly ritualized ceremony in which there was no clapping, no dancing, no showing off of mortal capabilities. It was a profoundly intense service in which the presider left his personality at the door, a service wherein the participants do what is asked of them, not what they feel “called” to do.

The city of Bad Liturgy Done Well is one that looks beautiful, but whose foundations are rotten, and whose buildings are only shells whose elaborate exteriors mask the lifeless faith of the inhabitants whose only desire is to feel good and pull God down to our level, rather than aspire to raise ourselves to His. The citizens of this city are good, loving, Christian people, but they approach the liturgy from a flawed understanding of it. When we enter a church, we should be silent, in respect for the God who dwells in our tabernacles at His desire to do so. We are nothing, and no matter how glorious our celebrations may appear, they are nothing compared to the unrivaled splendor of the heavenly liturgy, of which even our most elaborate and solemn occasion is but a shadow.

This being said, the major flaw of this city is its lack of humility, its presumptions as to what is right and wrong. Again, just because something looks beautiful does not mean it actually is so in God’s sight. “He that rejects instruction, despises his own soul: but he that yields to reproof, possesses understanding. The fear of the Lord is the lesson of wisdom: and humility goes before glory” (Proverbs 15:33). It is humble to obey, and to obey is to endear oneself to God. Vainglory is not something that serves us well in the sanctuary. It serves only to divert our praise from Our Lord and redirect it to some perverted worship of our own abilities. Anything that draws attention to individuals as opposed to God should be re-evaluated as to its prayerfulness. That is one of the many benefits of having Mass “ad orientem,” with the priest and people facing the same direction. Even the most rubrically-unsound of our readers will have to admit that it is far less distracting to look at the back of someone’s head than the front. That isn’t high liturgy, folks, it’s just common sense.

(Part II should follow within the next few days.)


Desperation at the D&C

June 10th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

In New York State, the Democrat party is largely in control of the government. The state Assembly’s majority is Democrat, and so is the Governorship. For some time now, the liberals in Albany have been trying to push through a law that would legalize homosexual marriage. They have been unsuccessful so far thanks to the slim Republican majority in the state Senate. Noticing that a handful of conservatives lawmakers are standing in the way of their goal of legalized gay marriage, the D&C’s editorial board is doing whatever it can to eliminate the Republican majority in the senate and pave the way for gay marriage in New York. It appears that the paper hopes to achieve full Democratic control in the NYS government by pushing for a redistricting bill that would benefit the Democrat party.

Here is the conclusion of the D&C editorial board commentary on this bill:

“Given this scenario, Cuomo should force the hand of the GOP Senate majority. He must push harder for a floor vote on his independent redistricting bill, which has strong Assembly support.

Let New Yorkers see that this time the special interests that usually run Albany from behind the scenes are mainly Senate Republicans who desperately want to cling onto the power they’re holding by a thread [emphasis].”

For the sake of marriage in New York, let’s hope that Senate Republicans “cling onto the power.”

Now in Fifty-Two Languages!

May 31st, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

Realizing that we have a growing assortment of readers whose primary speaking language is something other than English, we have decided to enhance the inclusivity of Cleansing Fire by providing our readers with a handy translation feature. If this interests you, direct your attention to the right navigation bar on the main page ( To translate this page, hover your mouse over the “Translate” button and select your language of choice. If your language does not appear in the 16 shown, click on “36 more languages” to [hopefully] find what you are looking for.

The translation button also appears on individual articles situated between the article text and its comments. The procedure to translate an article is the same; hover your mouse over the translate button and click on the desired language.

The feature may not be perfect, but it provides a pretty good translation using the Google Language API. Performing a translation will translate the entire page, including the article and reader comments.

Happy Memorial Day

May 30th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

Enjoy the holiday, folks. Here’s a little something for your consideration:

“O mother! What do they mean by blue?
And what do they mean by gray?”
I heard from the lips of a little child
As she bounded in from her play.
The mother’s eyes were filled with tears;
She turned to her darling fair
And smoothed away from the sunny brow
The treasure of golden hair.

“Why, mother’s eyes are blue, my sweet,
And grandpa’s hair is gray,
And the love we bear our darling child
Grows stronger every day.”
“For what do they mean?” maintained the child,
“For I saw two cripples to-day,
And one of them said he had ‘fought for the blue,’
The other had ‘fought for the gray.’

“The one of the blue had lost a leg,
And the other had but one arm,
And both seemed worn and weary and sad,
Yet their greeting was kind and warm,
They told of the battles in days gone by
Till it made my blood run chill,
The leg was lost in the Wilderness fight
And the arm on Malvern Hill.

“They sat on the stone by the farmyard gate
And talked for an hour or more,
Till their eyes grew bright and their hearts seemed warm
With fighting their battles o’er;
And parted at last with a friendly grasp,
In a kindly, brotherly way,
Each asking God to speed the time
Uniting the blue and the gray.”

Then the mother thought of other days,
Two stalwart boys from her riven;
How they’d knelt at her side, and, lisping, prayed:
“Our Father, who art in heaven;”
How one wore the gray and the other the blue,
How they passed away from sight
And had gone to the land where gray and blue
Merge in tints of celestial light.

And she answered her darling with golden hair,
While her heart was sorely wrung
With thoughts awakened in that sad hour
By her innocent, prattling tongue;
“The blue and the gray are the colors of God;
They are seen in the sky at even,
And many a noble, gallant soul
Has found them passports to heaven.”

– Author Unknown

Don’t Get Tangled in the Web

May 19th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

A friend of Cleansing Fire has sent us a copy of “Charlotte’s Web.” No, this is not the weekly bulletin article Ms. Bruney publishes detailing the goings-on at St. Vincent de Paul. Rather, this is the friends edition of the newsletter (which is far more enlightening to say the least). A couple of readers have mentioned that in a previous edition of the newsletter, Ms. Bruney described getting the Brockport pastorate over two priest applicants as a coup. That would appear to be one of the benefits of being a layperson on the bishop’s Priest Personnel Board. Below is an excerpt from the most recent article where the new Nativity pastoral administrator reveals that she will be working with a familiar yes-man in Fr. Ted Auble, and that the “dynamic duo” plan to win over the people of Brockport with their “love”.

Let’s take a look at what she has to say, with emphasis:

“We also learned that Fr. Ted Auble, my ministry partner here for the last eleven years, will be moving with me to Brockport. As sad as it will be for us to leave St. Vincent’s, we are thrilled to be able to continue our collaboration. There is still quite a bit of “noise” coming from small pockets in Brockport who are angry about my appointment there, feeling that a priest should have been appointed pastor. I know in time this “dynamic duo” will prove to them that there are far worse things than not having a priest pastor, but in the interim, we need to be paitent [sic] and thick-skinned. “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love….”!!!”

Surprise surprise, Fr. Auble is coming with Charlotte to Brockport. What has been the fruit of this “dynamic duo” you might ask? Take a look below at the weekly Mass schedule and imagine how well this is going to go over at Church of the Nativity:

St. Vincent de Paul schedule

Your vision is not failing. Under the “dynamic duo” (I’ll use her term), St. Vincent de Paul has only one weekday Mass. Meanwhile, the parish has four Scripture and Communion services every week. This has got to be a dream scenario for any priestess wannabe. But don’t worry… As Ms. Bruney admits in Bishop Clark’s lay ministry apologia, Forward in Hope, when it comes to Masses and communion services at her parish, “at this point, it matters not which it is” (page 73). Expect the same kind of confusion to come to Brockport. Irreparable damage is going to be done no matter how hard parishioners fight back, whether it be in the form of lower attendance or apathy toward the growing priest shortage in Rochester.

A reader sent us an e-mail late last night to inform us that Fr. Auble has a job apart from his priestly duties selling and grooming pets for his company, “Happy Tails.” If only this priest would spend a little more time doing the Lord’s work instead of pursuing entrepreneurial ventures! I don’t think it would be unreasonable for the people of Nativity to request that this priest offer more than one weekday Mass, unless grooming animals is a higher priority than saving souls.

Ms. Bruney concludes the article with her plan to squelch opposition:

“[We] will prove to them that there are far worse things than not having a priest pastor, but in the interim, we need to be paitent and thick-skinned. “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love….”!!!”

The win them over with love strategy is a familiar one which has been employed to varying degrees of success by pastoral administrators across the diocese  — fool the flock with a fake smile and they will become putty in your hands. I hope that the people of Brockport will see through any attempt to win them over with kindness. A smiling pastoral administrator does not make the appointment of a pastoral administrator any more acceptable; it’s still illicit and a gross misinterpretation of the provision provided under Canon 517.2. Laypersons may collaborate in pastoral care, but they certainly can not direct it.

Remember folks, the law of the Church is on your side. You don’t have to put up with laypersons delivering homilies, taking a leadership role in the Mass, and/or presiding over parish councils. Remind the administrator about what the Church says. If she quips back that the bishop has granted permission for these illicit activities, inform her that the bishop is wrong, and furnish proof. If this still fails, send faxes and letters to Rome ASAP (specifically to the Congregation for Bishops). Bishop Clark will make his ad limina trip to Rome either late this year or early next. If you voice your concerns now and in large numbers, they could very well find their way into the discussion when the bishop sits down with Pope Benedict.

A little over a year to go until change comes to Rochester. Keep praying.

Not Much of a Difference

May 13th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

ex-Bishop William Morris of Toowoomba  in a 2006 pastoral letter:

“Given our deeply held belief in the primacy of Eucharist for the identity, continuity and life of each parish community, we may well need to be much more open towards other options for ensuring that Eucharist may be celebrated. As has been discussed internationally, nationally and locally the ideas of:
ordaining married, single or widowed men who are chosen and endorsed by their local parish community;
• welcoming former priests, married or single, back to active ministry;
ordaining women, married or single;
• recognising Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church Orders.”

Bishop Matthew Clark of Rochester, from a Democrat & Chronicle article in early 2004:

“The bishop can imagine a day when married men become priests.

“There’s no inherent contradiction,” he said, pointing out that some married clergy from other denominations are permitted to remain married and become Catholic priests.

But it’s hard for him to see the ordination of women in the church’s future because it hasn’t been part of its tradition or its understanding of scripture.

Were it possible, I’d be pleased to ordain women.”

The only difference between the two bishops is that ex-Bishop William Morris proposed recognizing Protestant ministers while Bishop Clark did not. Still, both bishops publicly supported the ordination of married priests and women “were it possible.”

Why was one removed at age 67 while the other chugs along merrily until 75?

Bishop Sheen on False Compassion

May 12th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

Where’s the Men?

May 3rd, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

The Diocese of Rochester will soon be handing out their first ever “Excellence in Catechesis” awards, a honor which will be given to those who “exemplify leadership, creativity, and collaboration in the many manifestations of catechesis.” Eight members of the diocese will be honored at a May 20th award banquet, and of these eight winners, zero are men. Yes, not a single male catechist in the Diocese of Rochester has been found worthy of this honor.

The Diocese of Rochester under the leadership of Bishop Clark has done everything that it possibly can to alienate male Catholics. Take a look at our parishes if you require proof. How many pastoral associates are men? How many “liturgy coordinators”? How many music directors? How many “youth ministers”? The answer to all of these questions is: very few. Reaching out to the allegedly alienated women of the Church has been a major pet project of Bishop Clark. He even wrote a pastoral on this topic. Could it be that while our bishop has been focusing so hard on reaching out to women that he  has neglected the men under his care? I think the dwindling number of men in the pews is the answer. Where are the young men in many of our parishes? Where are the altar boys? Related to this, where are all the seminarians and priests which we should’ve had these past 30+ years?

It is not women who are alienated in the Diocese of Rochester; it’s men. I hope that our next bishop will deviate from the Bishop Clark course and find ways to bring men back into church. We need to focus on making ALL people welcome, not just one gender.

Here is a conversation starter from Michael Voris:

Our Lord Is Risen!

April 24th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

Happy Easter to one and all

Pastoral Councils in the Diocese of Rochester

April 12th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

In every parish within the Diocese of Rochester, a pastoral council has been established, per the discretion of Bishop Matthew Clark, to act as a consultative body to the pastor of each community. There is nothing wrong with that, as many dioceses have decided to implement these structures. I was scanning through the Code of Canon Law the other day and came upon Canon 536, which happens to be the section of the code which describes the pastoral council. Here is what the Canon says, with my emphasis:

“Can. 536 §1 If, after consulting the council of priests, the diocesan Bishop considers it opportune, a pastoral council is to be established in each parish. In this council, which is presided over by the parish priest, Christ’s faithful, together with those who by virtue of their office are engaged in pastoral care in the parish, give their help in fostering pastoral action.”

The Canon states that the pastoral council is to be presided over by the “parish priest.”  This got me to thinking. We have a large number of parishes in the diocese currently headed by lay pastoral administrators (16 parishes spanning several churches). Is it appropriate for a lay person to preside over meetings of a pastoral council?

One local parish recently quoted the Diocese of Rochester guidelines on pastoral councils, which would appear to permit these to be led by lay administrators:

Not trusting anything coming from the Diocese of Rochester on Church law, I decided to dig a little deeper. Once again, Ecclesiae de Mysterio, a Vatican document which deals with the collaboration of laity in priestly ministry which is ignored by the Diocese of Rochester, provides us with a clear answer. The following is from Article 5, section 3:

“It is for the Parish Priest to preside at parochial councils. They are to be considered invalid, and hence null and void, any deliberations entered into, (or decisions taken), by a parochial council which has not been presided over by the Parish Priest or which has assembled contrary to his wishes”

In parishes led by pastoral administrators, it would appear that the lay administrator does not enjoy a right to preside over a parish pastoral council. Only the parish priest may do this, as clearly stated in the Code of Canon Law and verified by Eclessiae de Mysterio. How many Diocese of Rochester parishes led by lay persons are obeying this law? Does the mythical priest “moderator” of lay-run parishes preside over each of these parish council meetings as they are required to?

We continue to tread in murky waters with this whole pastoral administrator nonsense. I pray that our next bishop will cut loose all of these administrators and restore our parishes once again to priest control. After all, lay persons are not permitted to run parishes.

“[Canon 517.2] is participatio in exercitio curae pastoralis and not directing, coordinating, moderating or governing the Parish; these competencies, according to the canon, are the competencies of a priest alone.” (source)

The Equivalent of a Middle Finger to the People of Rochester

April 11th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

At Bishop Clark’s retirement discussion at Peace of Christ, the bishop made sure that everyone present was aware that he is going to be the recipient of this year’s Lumen Gentium award from the Conference for Pastoral Planning and Council Development (I am unfamiliar with the organization). This information has been officially confirmed on the Diocese of Rochester home page. The following is a description of the award and selection criteria:

“The Lumen Gentium Award is given in recognition of distinguished pastoral leadership in utilizing planning and broad consultation processes; initiative and creativity in responding to parish or diocesan changing needs, and significant contributions to raising awareness of the principles of the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, which greatly influenced the role of laity in the Catholic Church.”

According to the diocese, the bishop has earned this award for his “nationally recognized” Pastoral Planning for the New Millennium (PPNM) program; a program whose fruit over the past twelve years has been approximately 30 closed churches, the appointment of 16 lay pastoral administrators to run parishes and direct pastoral care as pretend priests while our real priests serve as sacramental pez dispensers, and more than 36,000 souls leaving the Catholic Church in frustration and heartache. In other words, the bishop is receiving this award on the backs of countless Rochester Catholics who have suffered as a result of this man’s actions.

The following is a quote from the diocese’s director of Parish Support Ministries, Bernard Grizard, speaking about Bishop Clark’s PPNM program:

“Pastoral Planning for New Millennium was unique nationally “in that it offers to the people in the pews the key role of forming for themselves a plan for the future and then making recommendations to the Bishop. They truly have a voice.””

The above statement is a lie. The people in the pews do not enjoy a key role in planning for the future of their parishes, but rather are given the illusion of having a say in the process. These various planning committees have been composed of hand-picked yes men by the planning region leaders. Few if any people were permitted to serve on these groups who would offer resistance when it came to deciding to close churches. Look at the Irondequoit planning group if you require proof. Margi Ochs was hand-selected by Fr. Norm Tanck because she was going to implement his will when it came time to “reaching consensus.” Not surprisingly, she decided to support the IPPG decision to close St. Thomas the Apostle church. The people of STA were very unhappy about this betrayal and demanded a new representative. Fr. Tanck would not allow one. So much for the people in the pews having a voice, as Mr. Grizard dishonestly claims.

Listen folks who drink the DoR kool-aid, if you are in a position to influence pastoral planning in this diocese, the reason you’re likely there is because the priest or administrator expects you to do whatever they want. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the laity of Rochester have a say, because they don’t. In the end, it’s the bishop’s agenda that gets implemented in full. Meanwhile, he comes off as this great champion of the laity because he has fooled you into thinking you have influence over your parish’s future. Wake up and smell the roses! You are just pawns in a game. The role you serve is to take the heat off the bishop, so that parishioners will direct their anger at you instead of Bishop Clark.

Anyways, back to the award… Bishop Clark will be joining a distinguished list of Lumen Gentium award winners. You know, like Bishop Howard Hubbard (2000) and Bishop Kenneth Untener (1999), two men who have/had done a wonderful job attacking the Catholic faith in their respective dioceses. Also, the oft-dissenting Leadership Conference of Women Religious won the award in 2001. As you can see, our bishop will be entering a very exclusive club of progressive visionaries.

May Bishop Clark enjoy this earthly glory, because I am highly skeptical that our Lord will honor him for what he has done to the Diocese of Rochester in the life to come. Congratulations, Bishop Clark!

In related news, Diocese of Rochester pastoral planning liaison, Karen Rinefierd, will be giving a presentation at the same conference:

Solemnity of the Annunciation

March 25th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

The Solemnity of the Annunciation is one of my favorite feasts of the liturgical year – so much of our Catholic heritage comes from this one glorious day. Of particular note is the first “Hail, Mary,” said by the Angel Gabriel when visiting Our Lady. Here is how St. Luke records the Annunciation:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the Child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

For your spiritual edification, here are some various settings of the Ave Maria from composers throughout history: