Fr. Carl O.P.

The Chrism Mass: a little-known and appreciated celebration

This past Thursday evening many priests, religious and lay faithful of the Diocese gathered at the Cathedral to celebrate the Chrism Mass. This is a beautiful and ancient liturgy at which two important things take place: the priests publically renew their priestly promises and the Oils of Catechumens and the Sick are blessed and the Sacred Chrism is consecrated. This Mass customarily takes place on Holy Thursday morning. This is because after renewing their priestly promises, the priests will then return to their parishes and follow Jesus’ example and wash his parishioners’ feet to begin the Triduum. But the custom also assumes a diocese is the size of a city or small county, where the priests and faithful can easily be at the Cathedral in the morning and their local parishes in the evening. Many dioceses, like our own, are much larger and so having the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday would preclude a large number of people attending from all around the diocese. This is why such dioceses have the Mass either earlier in Holy Week or, as we do, the week before.

The three Holy Oils are distributed to the parishes (often via deacons, being the practical and service-oriented folks they are) and are used throughout the Diocese for the next year. The Oil of Catechumens and the Sacred Chrism are used for Baptism, the Oil of the Sick is used for the Anointing of the Sick, and Sacred Chrism is used for Confirmation, the ordination of priests and the consecration of new altars. The bishop alone blesses the Oils of Catechumens and the Sick as “high priest” of his diocese. However, for the Sacred Chrism, all of the priests present consecrate the Chrism along with the bishop. It is analogous to priests concelebrating at Mass: they shadow the gestures and pray the same words at the consecration (words of institution) of the bread and wine along with the main celebrant. This is because both priests and bishops share in the same priesthood, though to different degrees. It is a sign of unity within the one priesthood of Jesus Christ, given through the sacrament of Holy Orders.

In the renewal of priestly promises, the bishop asks his priests in the presence of God’s holy people, to renew their commitment to being united and conformed to Jesus Christ and to be faithful stewards of God’s grace by celebrating the Eucharist and other rites of the Church as well as teaching for the sanctification and building up of God’s holy people. Finally, he exhorts those gathered to pray for their priests as well as for him to be faithful to his apostolic office despite his lowliness. The final prayer of the rite sums things up beautifully: May the Lord keep us all in his charity and lead all of us, shepherds and flock, to eternal life.

Curling up with the Word

Reading Scripture is a common recommendation for a Lenten practice. After all, it is God’s ultimate love note to humanity. It is especially appropriate for Lent to prayerfully read the Gospels as we begin our observance Lent to prepare to celebrate the pinnacle of our liturgical year: Holy Week.

I dare say that as Catholics, we have gotten better in reading the Bible on our own since Vatican II’s clarion call. Better, but there is always room for improvement. One area that we are still generally awful at is talking about Scripture with each other. One of the core aspects of the students’ and young adults’ small groups and the Good News People program that I am truly delighted by is a common reflection on Scripture. The goal, of course, is for members to fall more deeply in love with God through Jesus in the Church.

The staff has begun to do this. In addition to our “business” meeting, we also take about 45 minutes every week to pray over and discuss the upcoming Sunday’s Gospel. While we bellyache how we are busy and that time could be used to do something else, we all enjoy it when we are actually there and doing it. (Even when some are 10-15 minutes late!) I look forward to it even though it is part of my busiest day of the week. I also can tell you that insights that surfaced during those times have come out in homilies and have “gone home” to staff members’ families. Our format is simple: the passage is read by someone, then follows two minutes of silence; we do that three times and then open up discussion. We sometimes even use the reflection questions I came up with beforehand. I always love it when I have to cut in and say, “OK, folks, we HAVE to stop and do some business!”

As we begin Lent, I encourage you to pick up your Bible, read it and talk about it with your family, with your friends and anyone whose insights you appreciate!

Pornography is evil. Period.

Pornography is a scourge of Western society. Most Americans, including Catholics, have their heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich, pretending this plague doesn’t exist or that “it’s not that bad.” David Horsey says in his article Internet porn is an experiment in dehumanization: “It is not fashionable or cool to suggest that there is a problem with porn. Comedians such as Bill Maher make fun of conservative religious people who suggest that there is. Feminist objections get dismissed as harangues of sexless harpies. Libertarians defend the pornographers’ right of free expression. But common sense and a growing body of evidence suggest that there is a negative cost being paid that only begins with the sex trafficking and exploitation undergirding the lower depths of the porn industry.” (The LA Times, December 15, 2014; emphasis mine) An example of the sobering, research-based findings:

  • 40 million Americans regularly visit pornographic websites (1 out of every 8 people)
  • Pornography was a $2.84 billion industry in the United States in 2013
  • 25% of search engine queries are related to pornography
  • 1 in 3 viewers of pornography are women
  • the average age of a child’s first exposure to internet pornography is 11
  • 70% of men aged 18-24 visit pornographic websites in a typical month

The film version of Fifty Shades of Grey opened in movie theaters this weekend. It was, of course, purposely done to coincide with Valentine’s Day. But did you know that most of the interactions in the book between the characters Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey fit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definitions of emotional abuse and sexual violence? (Intimidation/threats, isolation, stalking, humiliation, forced sex acts/contact against a person’s will, including using alcohol/drugs or intimidation/pressure) That Ms. Steele shows classic signs of a victim of abuse? (E.g. altered identity, entrapment and disempowerment; ‘‘Double Crap!’’ Abuse and Harmed Identity in Fifty Shades of Grey, Journal of Women’s Health, volume 22, number 9, 2013.) Almost as a side-note, the authors cite two works that note similar abuse patterns in one of the most popular book series of all time, the Twilight Saga. (Borgia DN. Twilight: The glamorization of abuse, codependency, and white privilege and Collins VE, Carmody DC. Deadly love: Images of dating violence in the ‘‘Twilight Saga.”) Same-sex couples are not immune to abuse, e.g. Pam Elliott’s 1996 groundbreaking study, Shattering Illusions: Same-Sex Domestic Violence.

This stuff is not going to go away simply by denying it or wishing it weren’t here. The battlefield is one soul at a time, one day at a time. Parents: you must protect your children; no one else can shield them as effectively you can! Talk to your kids and educate them; use resources such as Net Nanny (www.netnanny.com) if you suspect a problem. Don’t allow the porn industry to continue to be American children’s primary “sex educators.” If you or someone you love has a pornography problem or a sexual addiction, there is help. “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” Go to Confession. See a counselor or therapist. Go to a 12-Step group like Sexaholics Anonymous/SA (www.sa.org). Get an accountability partner through Covenant Eyes (www.covenanteyes.com). Start an online program like Reclaim Sexual Health (www.reclaimsexualhealth.com). Start today! (Because Sunday is the most popular day for watching porn.) Don’t give up! Don’t give in!

— Fr. Carl

Blessed Oscar of San Salvador, pray for us!

I remember going to see the movie Romero with a group of friends when I was an undergraduate. I don’t remember how we heard about it, but we had to drive into San Francisco because of its limited release. I had more visceral reactions during that movie than during any horror flick or any other movie I had ever watched. All of us were in stunned silence as we walked back to the car and started back to the East Bay. We had to stop halfway across the Bay Bridge on Yreba Buena Island because all of us were starting to blubber. We spent a long time embracing one another and balling like babies in the cold night air on San Francisco Bay. Once all of us were “finished,” we started to talk about the movie and what had struck each of us all the way back to the College. Going to breakfast the next morning, I saw the most extroverted and gregarious of our little band, quiet and subdued, sitting alone. I sat across from him; we didn’t say a word.

All of these memories came flooding back when I read the announcement of Archbishop Oscar Romero’s beatification last week. The movie covers his life from his being consecrated archbishop of San Salvador to his death on March 24, 1980. It traces his transformation from a quiet, bookish priest who everyone assumed would be a nobody-bishop to an outspoken advocate for the poor and oppressed in his embattled nation. Raul Julia played the starring role, a role that I will forever associate with him. (Having said that, you can imagine how unsettled I felt when Julia’s next major role was Gomez Addams, opposite Angelica Houston, in The Addams Family!)

Hidden in all the hype this week was an “inconvenient truth” to those who idolize Pope Francis and demonize his predecessor: it was Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, back in December 2012, who began Romero’s canonization process by moving his case from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The former Congregation (of which he was head until being elected pope) was charged with accessing Romero’s orthodoxy in light of his association with the movement called Liberation Theology which, at the time, some adherents equated with a radical, secular Marxism rampant in Central America. The fact that Romero’s case was only two years in the Congregation of Saints, light speed by Vatican standards, only confirms what many inside and outside the Church have been saying: he was a holy man and died for his faith in Christ.

Fr. Carl, O.P.

Our Lady of The Rosary

Today’s feast was originally called Our Lady of Victory and it commemorated the victory of the Christians at the battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. The victory was attributed to praying the rosary. By pious tradition, the rosary was given to St. Dominic when he asked the Blessed Mother for a tool to combat the errors of his day. Dominicans have been entrusted with the task of promoting the rosary from the beginnings of the Order in the 13th century. This is also why the 15-decade rosary is part of the Dominican habit. It is worn on the left side because that is where a knight would wear his sword: the rosary is the “weapon” always at hand.

Rosary Sunday is also the only time each year that we Dominicans are allowed to ask you, the people we serve, for your financial sup-port. For example, the Diocese of Salt Lake City paid $0 of the approximately $500,000 it took to the feed, house and educate our newly ordained Fr. Peter over the last eight years. The same is true for every other priest and Cooperator Brother that has served at St. Catherine’s

This year, Rosary Sunday is combined with our Mission West capital campaign. The goal of the campaign is three-fold: increase endowment funds available for support of the brothers in formation (our “seminarians,”), increase the endowment funds to support care for our retired, elderly and infirm brothers (Baby Boomer Friars need healthcare too!) and to pay off the debt at our Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology of purchasing and renovating a building. The latter two needs are just as great, if not greater, than the immediate need of the brothers in formation. Giving to these is a very concrete way you can show your appreciation and support of past, present and future Dominicans in Utah.

Thank you very much for your support of the Rosary Sunday collection and the Mission West capital campaign!

– Fr. Carl, O.P.