Calendar of Confusion

Two Sundays ago I was staying in the city in Auckland and attended Mass at St Benedict's in Newton. It was the feast of the Baptism of Jesus and the priest, in his sermon, told us that the Christmas season was coming to an end and that the next day we would enter into Ordinary Time. I remember it distinctly because I remember thinking, "No, I'm not ready for Ordinary Time". As a teacher, the return to Ordinary Time also signals the end of the holidays and the return to "real life".

So, last Sunday I was in Hamilton and attended Mass at the Cathedral. Their newsletter said it was the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time. After Mass Dad and I had a chat about it – how could it be the second Sunday in Ordinary Time when the week before the priests were in white garbs and it was still Christmas Time? In the end we did what any Catholic would do and got out the good old Columban Calendar. 

That didn't help much. It says on Sunday, 11th Jan "Baptism of the Lord", on Monday, 12th Jan it says "Begninning of Ordinary Time" and then on Sunday, 18th Jan it says "2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time". How can it be the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time when Ordinary Time only began on the Monday?

Then we started looking at feast days of saints. How does that all work? I know that priests will wear red on the feast day of a Martyr, but when do they wear white. And why do the colours change for some Saints and not for others? For example, this week, yesterday was the feast of Saint Sebastian, a martyr, but the colour is green. Today is the feast day of St Agnes, and the priest wears red, Saturday is St Francis de Sales and it's white. How does this work? And is it different in different countries? I notice that St Peter Chanel's feast is a day the priest wears red, but surely in other countries St Peter Chanel would be a very minor saint?

I know I could probably google all of this, but when I have such learned friends here on Being Frank this way is much more fun!

Also, while we're (kind of) on the topic of feast days – what do you remember from your childhoods about celebrating feast days? I'm looking for some good ideas. I remember that on the feast of the Queenship of Mary, we would always have a Mass where a Year 1 child was chosen to crown Mary, Queen of Heaven. I also remember travelling to the Cathedral in Hamilton to a Mass for St Peter Chanel and seeing his relic there. I'd love to hear some of your own memories.

Does it matter?

I have to admit I was a bit shocked by some of the comments posted on here last week about a blog claiming our new Cardinal is gay. Not shocked that he may be gay, shocked at the hateful and judgemental tone of the blog.

It lead to an interesting discussion with my brother over lunch today. Does it matter whether or not a priest/bishop/cardinal is gay if they are celibate? 

My brother was arguing that what makes a person gay is their entering into a sexual relationship with someone of the same gender. So if they are not in a sexual realtionship then they are not gay. I disagree with that. There are many people who are not in sexual relationships, but that doesn't make those people asexual does it? And just because they are not in a sexual relationship doesn't mean that they are not attracted to people of the same or different genders. I believe that attraction to one gender or another is what defines sexuality.

So I believe that we do have gay priests, probably in the same proportion as in the general population.Priests are celibate, but they must still struggle at times with attraction to women (or men). What counts is that they stick to their vow and that they put the Church and their commitment to it first. 

So, for me, it wouldn't matter in the slightest if our new Cardinal was gay. He's celibate so what difference does it make? But then I don't have a problem with the whole gay thing anyway so maybe that's just me. I believe it's not my job to judge, it's my job to love.

Pick and Mix

Is Catholicism becoming a "pick and mix" religion? And is this only to be expected?

I have lots of Catholic friends who have hugely varying commitments to the Church. They say things like:

"I'm Catholic but I don't believe in going to Mass every Sunday, we go at Christmas."

"I'm all with the Church when it comes to issues of abortion and euthanasia, but I'm on the pill and I think contraception is OK."

"I love attending Mass and I'm Catholic through and through, but I think the Church needs to update it's thinking in the area of gay marriage."

"I'm Catholic and I receive communion every week but I don't really agree with the teachings about divorce. I'm divorced and remarried and it hasn't damaged my relationship with God."

Is it OK to belong to a church but not agree with everything it teaches? Or should those people just go and find another church to belong to?

There is also growing discontent in some circles with our Holy Father and his teachings. Is that OK, or should those people also be looking for a different church? If the Pope is our head and you can't agree with what he is saying, teaching and changing, then is it time to find a church whose leader you do believe in? The catechism tells us:

882 The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful. For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered."

883 "The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, as its head." As such, this college has "supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff."

Our Pope, like him or not, agree with him or not, has been appointed by a group of holy men, under the watchful gaze of the Holy Spiit and by "reason of his office as Vicar of Christ… has full, supreme and universal power." He is the leader of our Church, he is our shepherd and regardless of whether he says things we agree with or not, he is in charge and we are asked, as members of the Catholic Church, to obey and respect him. If we don't, we are as guilty of making this a "pick and mix" religion as all of the people listed above.

I kind of see it a little bit like your workplace. I remember being in a job in Auckland when we got a new principal I didn't get on with. She was changing the direction of the school and I didn't agree with the changes. I was not on board with her vision. So, I found another job. If you are in profound disagreement with core beliefs or the leader's vision, then you are in disagreement with the Church itself.

And as for those priests and bishops who are constantly bagging Pope Francis, the catechism makes it clear that they have no authority, so perhaps we shouldn't even be reading or listening to the things they say. They are in direct disobediance to the Church and its teachings. That sounds dangerous to me.

I know lots of you feel that some of Pope Francis' teachings are directly against Church Tradition, and therefore equally dangerous, but as Catholics we are asked to submit to him in his "full, supeme and universal power". Peter was the rock on which Jesus founded his holy Church, our Church and Francis is his successor. 

Looking forward to reading the comments!

A year of light

Happy New Year Being Frank people!

I love the new year season. I have a friend I usually spend new year's eve evening with and we debrief the past year – pick out themes that have run through it, discuss highlights and lowlights, successes and failures. And then we set new year's resolutions and goals for the coming year. What I love most is that it's impossible to predict what will happen over the course of a year and as you look back at the past year you realise that you couldn't possibly have guessed all of the things that have happened. 

I love this quote which was in Monday's first reading "the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining" (1 John 2:8). That's how I'm feeling about 2015. To be honest, 2014 hasn't been the best year for me. If I had to pick a theme, I would call it a year of loss. But I am FULL of hope for 2015 and I'm going to start it right by attending 11.30pm Mass on new year's eve. Maybe I'll see some of you there.

I wish you all a very happy new year and pray that God will bless us all abundantly in 2015.

 

 

Happy New Year Being Frank people!

I love the new year season. I have a friend I usually spend new year's eve evening with and we debrief the past year – pick out themes that have run through it, discuss highlights and lowlights, successes and failures. And then we set new year's resolutions and goals for the coming year. What I love most is that it's impossible to predict what will happen over the course of a year and as you look back at the past year you realise that you couldn't possibly have guessed all of the things that have happened. 

I love this quote which was in Monday's first reading "the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining" (1 John 2:8). That's how I'm feeling about 2015. To be honest, 2014 hasn't been the best year for me. If I had to pick a theme, I would call it a year of loss. But I am FULL of hope for 2015 and I'm going to start it right by attending 11.30pm Mass on new year's eve. Maybe I'll see some of you there.

I wish you all a very happy new year and pray that God will bless us all abundantly in 2015.

 

 

Are you sick?

On Monday in his Christmas address to his staff, Pope Francis spoke of the 15 "illnesses" of the curia. Humble, as always, he didn't exempt himself from being affected by these "illnesses and temptations that weaken our service to the Lord."

It is interesting to reflect on these spiritual illnesses in our own lives. Which ones are prevelant? Which ones do we struggle with most in our own faith lives? Which ones do we immediately recognise ourselves in? Which ones ring true in the way we relate to others and to our Church? They are listed below for your reading pleasure…

1. The sickness of considering oneself immortal, immune or indispensible 

2. "Martha-ism" or excessive industriousness

3. The sickness of mental or spiritual hardening

4. The ailment of excessive planning and functionalism

5. The sickness of poor coordination and collaboration

6. Spiritual Alzeimers

7. The ailments of rivalry and vainglory

8. Existential schizophrenia

9. Chatter, grumbling and gossip

10. The sickness of deifying leaders

11. The disease of indifference towards others

12. The illness of the funereal face

13. The disease of accumulation

14. The ailment of closed circles

15. The disease of wordly profit and exhibitionism

If you'd like to read in a little bit more detail about each one, here's a short article from The Washington Post or for a more in depth reading, here's our Holy Father's address via the Vatican Radio website.

For me, I'm definitely going to take some time to reflect on these over the next week. I think they may make for some good new years resolution material. Certainly numbers 4, 7, 9 and 13 hit a nerve with me on initial reading. I think 2015 may well be a year of simplifying and focusing on what's really important. 

Continuing on a personal note… Merry Christmas to you all! I hope tomorrow is filled with Christ's peace and joy for all of you and that the Christmas season may be one filled with many, many blessings for us all. Being Frank really is a wonderful community to belong to. I look forward to reading your comments every week and I particularly enjoy the personal things that are shared via this blog and the way we keep each other in our prayers when needed. God bless, M&M

 

Comedy of Errors

Some Christmas comedy for you… I was delighted, if not a little surprised to read a headline during the week about Pope Francis saying that we will see our pets in heaven. I clicked on the link and my sceptism grew when the article mentioned that St Paul had written that we will all be reunited with our pets one day. That was not something I ever remembered reading in Paul's epsitles. Hmmm.

So, it turns out that this whole thing, that has since gone viral,  was a massive exageration of what was actually said which was, "Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us." And it was Pope Paul VI who said that we would one day see our pets in paradise. It was, as the article below puts it, a "journalistic train wreck" of a story. Have a read of the article below that spells out how this comedy of errors went down.

 

 

Sorry Fido, Pope Francis Didn't Say Pets Go To Heaven

Stories swirled this week that Pope Francis said animals can go to heaven, warming the hearts of pet lovers the world over. Unfortunately, none of that appears to be true.

"Paradise is open to all of God's creatures," Francis was reported to have said to comfort a distraught boy whose dog had died.

If true, the story would have been a sparkling moment on a rainy November day, and the setting in St. Peter's Square would only have burnished Francis' reputation as a kindly "people's pope." The story naturally lit up social media, became instant promotional material for vegetarians and animal rights groups, and on Friday even made it to the front page of The New York Times.

Yes, a version of that quotation was uttered by a pope, but it was said decades ago by Paul VI, who died in 1978. There is no evidence that Francis repeated the words during his public audience on Nov. 26, as has been widely reported, nor was there was a boy mourning his dead dog.

So how could such a fable so quickly become taken as fact?

Part of the answer may be the topic of the pope's talk to the crowd that day, which centered on the End Times and the transformation of all creation into a "new heaven" and a "new earth." Citing St. Paul in the New Testament, Francis said that is not "the annihilation of the cosmos and of everything around us, but the bringing of all things into the fullness of being."

The trail of digital bread crumbs then appears to lead to an Italian news report that extended Francis' discussion of a renewed creation to the question of whether animals too will go to heaven.

"One day we will see our pets in the eternity of Christ," the report quoted Paul VI as telling a disconsolate boy years ago.

The story was titled, somewhat misleadingly: "Paradise for animals? The Pope doesn't rule it out." It wasn't clear which pope the writer meant, however.

The next day, Nov. 27, a story in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera by veteran Vaticanista Gian Guido Vecchi pushed the headline further: "The Pope and pets: Paradise is open to all creatures."

Vecchi faithfully recounted the pope's talk about a new creation, and also cited Paul VI's remark.

According to The New York Times, which issued a massive correction to its story Friday, Pope Francis actually said: "Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us." The writer of the article concluded those remarks meant Francis believed animals have a place in the afterlife.

But the headline put Paul VI's words in Francis' mouth, and that became the story.

The Italian version of the Huffington Post picked it up next and ran an article quoting Francis as saying "We will go to heaven with the animals" and contending that the pope was quoting St. Paul — not Pope Paul — as making that statement to console a boy who lost his dog. (That story, by the way, is nowhere in the Bible.)

The urban legend became unstoppable a week later when it was translated into English and picked up by the British press, which cited St. Paul as saying that "One day we will see our animals again in (the) eternity of Christ," while it has Francis adding the phrase: "Paradise is open to all God's creatures."

When The New York Times went with the story, along with input from ethicists and theologians, it became gospel truth.

Television programs discussed the pope's theological breakthrough, news outlets created photo galleries of popes with cute animals, and others used it as a jumping off point to discuss what other religions think about animals and the afterlife. At Americamagazine, the Rev. James Martin wrote an essay discussing the theological implications of Francis' statements and what level of authority they may have. It was all very interesting and illuminating, but based on a misunderstanding.

A number of factors probably contributed to this journalistic train wreck:

• The story had so much going for it: Francis took his papal name from St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of environmentalism who famously greeted animals as brothers and sisters.

• Pope Francis is also preparing a major teaching document on the environment, and almost since the day he was elected in 2013 he has stressed the Christian duty to care for creation.

• Francis also blessed a blind man's guide dog shortly after he was elected, an affecting image that was often used in connection with these latest reports of his concern for animals.

• Moreover, the media and the public are so primed for Francis to say novel things and disregard staid customs that the story was too good to check out; it fit with the pattern.

In most accounts, Francis' comments were also set against statements by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who insisted that animals did not have souls. That apparent contrast fit a common narrative pitting the more conservative Benedict against the ostensibly liberal Francis.

That may be true in some areas, but probably not when it comes to animals.

Adding insult to injury, the Times article cited St. John Paul II as saying in 1990 that animals have souls and are "as near to God as men are." But that, too, was a misquote, as media critic Dawn Eden explained at the website GetReligion.

There should have been warnings signs: Francis has frowned at the modern tendency to favor pets over people, and he has criticized the vast amounts of money spent by wealthy societies on animals even as children go hungry.

Contributing: Katharine Lackey, USA TODAY