Our community decided in 2008 that the mission of our parish was life-long learning. Everything we do centers around teaching the depth and richness of the Roman Catholic Faith. Our weekly 3-Minute Catechesis is read from the Ambo prior to Mass beginning. A written copy is made available in our weekly bulletin along with additional information for those who want to learn more. Visit us online at www.risensaviorcc.org for more information.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Liturgical Change

On November 29, 1964, at the beginning of Advent, the first of a series of changes in the Mass was implemented. Instead of having his back to the people, the priest faced the people. And Mass was not just being "said," it was "celebrated" – and not all in Latin, but with most parts in the language of the people. This was the first step toward the "full, conscious and active participation" by the people in the Church's liturgical life.

Additional changes came about in the following decade. Scripture readings from both the Old and New Testaments were added, along with a plan: a three-year cycle of Sunday readings and a two-year cycle of weekday readings. The sign of peace was placed between the Our Father and the Lamb of God.

The obligation to fast before receiving Communion was reduced to one hour, and those receiving Eucharist stood instead of kneeling at a Communion rail, and were given the option to receive the host by hand. The 1969 General Instruction on the Roman Missal permitted Communion under both species: bread and wine.

The music changed, too. In keeping with the times, the "folk Mass" sprang up, primarily with guitar-driven choirs. Other local, ethnic elements were incorporated into liturgical celebrations as well.

With these changes came more roles for lay people. Besides singing in the choir, the laity could be lectors, a role previously reserved for seminarians, as well as help distribute Holy Communion. Ushers, who had passed around the offertory baskets and directed people for Communion for generations, were now expected to be ministers of hospitality, welcoming all to Mass.

Since then, only minor changes have been made in the way we celebrate Mass.

With this new year, however, more changes are anticipated. The Vatican has approved a new English translation for the Roman Missal, meaning that Catholics will be using the new version beginning in Advent 2011. These changes include some of the common responses: for example, when the priest says "The Lord be with you," the faithful will respond "And with your spirit" rather than "And also with you."

There will be opportunities throughout the year for you to learn about the new translation. It may seem difficult at first, but as we study and adapt to these changes, it is important to remember that while our beliefs are unchanging, the way we express those beliefs can and will change over time. The words we say will be slightly different, but the Eucharist will continue to be the source and summit of our Christian life.

Feast of the Holy Family

The Feast of the Holy Family is always celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas Day. The gospel accounts that we hear during Christmas give us an idealistic image of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as a family. It’s easy to gaze on the images in the stable and recognize the holiness of the newborn Savior, his mother, and his stepfather. It may be harder to look at your own children, or parents, or brothers and sisters and see reflections of that same holiness in them. Living together day after day, you see your loved ones, warts and all.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us of how important the family is to society. Paragraph 2210 tells us that “the Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.” Our Church recognizes the family as “a domestic church…a community of faith, hope, and charity; it assumes singular importance in the Church.” (PP# 2204)

Jesus chose to come into this world as part of a family, and so we need develop the ability to see our own families as holy. We should see a reflection of the baby Jesus’ holiness in each child in our own families. We should see the holiness of Mary and of Joseph reflected in ourselves as parents and in our own parents.

The gospels are silent about Jesus’ childhood, but because he was truly human as well as truly God, Jesus no doubt had nosebleeds and skinned knees, tried dangerous stunts, didn’t get enough sleep sometimes and was cranky. Jesus would have been expected to study Hebrew and the Scriptures, and perhaps there were battles over homework. We get a glimpse of Jesus at age twelve in the Gospel of Matthew, wandering off in Jerusalem, causing Mary and Joseph to panic. He may not have had the opportunity to take Driver’s Ed or ask for the car keys, but no doubt there were other, similar parent-teen encounters!

Some may find such speculation to be sacrilegious. “Jesus is perfect,” they’ll object. “Jesus is God!” How very true. And Jesus was also a baby, a teenager, and a young adult, too. True God, true man. Maybe one of the delights of this Christmas season is that some of the small quirky things about us as human beings – the terrible twos, the teenage struggle for independence, parents’ angst about their child – maybe all of these are saintly and part of what it means to a holy family.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Awakening Faith

In the letter to the Hebrews, written by Paul or one of the members of the communities he served, we are given a definition of faith: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Generically defined, faith is a belief that is not based on science or able to be proved using the scientific method. For a Christian, it is belief in salvation, in eternal life, that comes from – as Paul says in his letter to the Romans – confessing that Jesus is Lord and believing in your heart that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10).

Religion is not the same as faith. Religion is a set of practices based on one’s faith. For example, as Catholics, we believe that everyone is made in God’s image; out of that belief, we practice love of neighbor. We believe that baptism cleanses us of original sin and makes us children of God, so we engage in a ritual involving water. Our Church tells us that we should come together as community once a week to worship God, so here we are at Mass. These practices are the outward expression of our faith.

In many of his letters, Paul talks about the people’s preoccupation with the law, which is much like our practice of religion. His fear is that they are simply going through the motions, that they have forgotten what's supposed to motivate their actions. Throughout the letter to the Hebrews, We hear what our Biblical ancestors did in faith and how their faith inspired and sustained them. The message is that our actions, our religion, should be an expression of our inner faith in God.

So what if we’ve lost our faith, or find that our faith is waning? This is not a new problem. In the time of the Old Testament, the Israelites, who heard the voice of God and experienced miracle after miracle, nevertheless occasionally lost faith. Perhaps it is part of human nature that we often need to renew our relationship with God.

A few years ago, there was a program called Renew, where small groups formed for the purpose of faith-sharing. Today, the Church is still here to help you form and grow your faith, this time through Awakening Faith, a small group process that helps inactive Catholics renew their faith.

Saint Paul went to great lengths to establish communities of believers throughout the Roman Empire. He understood, as we do today, that faith is meant to be shared with and nurtured by one another.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Our Lady of Guadalupe

On the morning of December 12 in 1531, a poor Aztec Indian man woke up and made his way through the hills to Mass in Mexico City, as he did every morning. Juan Diego was 57 years old, a humble and devout Catholic in a still largely pagan country. As he walked the familiar path, he suddenly heard beautiful music and a woman's voice calling him.

Turning from the path, Juan climbed Tepeyac (ta-PAY-yek) Hill and found a beautiful young Indian woman waiting for him at the top. Addressing him in his native language, she told him that she was the Virgin Mary and that she wanted a church to be built on that very spot. “This church,” she told him, “will aid the conversion of the Mexican people and be a source of consolation for many."

Leaving the Lady, Juan Diego hurried to obey her request. He was finally allowed to see the bishop who, predictably, did not believe Juan. He returned to the hill and told the Lady what had happened. She reassured him, and told him to return to the bishop, who then asked for a sign from the Lady to prove that she was, indeed, the Blessed Virgin.

The requested sign was provided in the form of beautiful, fragrant roses appearing on the hillside. After Juan gathered them, Our Lady herself arranged them in his tilma, or cloak.

In the presence of the bishop for a third time, Juan opened his tilma, and the roses tumbled out. Awestruck, the bishop fell to his knees because, in addition to the roses, on the inside of Juan's tilma was a miraculous image of our Lady.

Soon, a church was built on the site of the appearance of the Virgin Mary, and in less than 20 years, some 9 million people were converted to Christianity.

Saint Juan Diego's tilma with its miraculous image hangs to this day in the splendid Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the most visited Marian shrine in the world, with an estimated ten million pilgrims visiting each year. Although more than 500 years have passed, the coarse cactus fiber shows no sign of disintegration.

In 1945, because of her special role in the evangelization of the Americas, Pope Pius XII declared her the Empress of all the Americas. She is celebrated and honored every year on December 12th, the anniversary of her first appearance to Saint Juan Diego, for her message of hope and compassion, and her promise of protection.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fair Trade

Everyone loves a bargain. No doubt on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, many of us were up before the sun to find those great prices only good from 5:00-7:00 AM. In this economy, who isn’t concerned about saving a dollar or two? As Catholics, however, we are cautioned to be concerned and educated consumers, to think beyond the products we purchase to the people and communities that produce them.
We are connected to people across the globe in many different ways, from the clothes we wear to the coffee we drink. As budding global citizens, we are expected to be aware of our connections with the rest of the world, and to take responsibility for the impact of our actions on human communities and the environment. This involves looking beyond the low price to the people behind the product.
In response to unfair trade practices, Fair Trade was born in the middle of the 20th century. What is Fair Trade?
While it may seem counter-cultural for us bargain-hunters, Fair Trade is a practice of paying an equitable price rather than as little as possible for products, with an emphasis on social responsibility. Careful consideration is paid to how business transactions will affect issues in the country of production, including natural resources, cultural traditions, working conditions, worker income and business sustainability.
Fair Trade is in line with Catholic Social Teaching, seeking to empower millions of disadvantaged producers worldwide while protecting the environment for future generations. Fair Trade also empowers U.S. consumers to make a difference in the world simply by adjusting their shopping list. The dramatic growth of Fair Trade products proves that consumers are voting for a better world with their purchases, demanding sustainable, ethically-produced goods.
Certified Fair Trade is a network of growers, artisans, processors, testers, transporters, sellers, and purchasers collaborating to guarantee quality products and a fair wage for all involved in production and marketing.
Who benefits from Fair Trade? All of those people involved in making the item and getting it to market benefit because they all receive a fair wage according to their country’s standard. Others who are interested in becoming Fair Trade growers and artisans also benefit: this is because if you purchase Catholic Relief Services’ Fair Trade items, part of the proceeds are used to help Catholic Relief Services expand participation in Fair Trade. Last but not least, you benefit from Fair Trade because you know that you are purchasing in ways that are fair to all. And that’s a bargain for your soul!