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Friday, July 02, 2010

To genuflect and bow or not to genuflect and bow

The Sacred Liturgy – Reverent Gestures toward the Holy Eucharist

In various times and places it is said that the current standard for Liturgy would have minimal distractions during the Mass: hence no genuflections, crossings, etc. The context for this statement would have been the changes brought about in the Liturgy by Vatican II and the subsequent reforms in the Liturgy. In the Mass celebrated since Trent, the priest made many crosses over the bread and wine, crossing also himself, and so on. The truth is that the Latin Rite then was closer to the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic rites, which have always made a point of making the Blessed Trinity visible throughout the Divine Liturgy.

It is true that since Vatican II our Church did simplify the Liturgy, and what the priests and deacons are to do is spelled out in the relevant rituals and accompanying documents. Another truth is that by simplifying the Liturgy and reducing the elements that spoke of the august Mystery of God present among us, we have widened the gap with the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy and hence with those sisters and brothers, making their Liturgy even more incomprehensible intellectually. But the simple truth is that whenever we attend one of their Divine Liturgies, the visuals are so eloquent and the accompanying words so significant that it takes a hard heart or an extreme intellectual not to be moved to tears.

The fundamental principle governing the Roman Sacred Liturgy is the full and distinctive participation of all the members of the Body of Christ, each with his or her own particular part, without infringing on the parts of others; so that the variety, multiplicity, and distinctiveness of the roles during the Sacred Liturgy reflect the variety, multiplicity and distinctiveness of the members of the Body of Christ. It is in truth the Risen Christ Jesus who makes himself visible, speaking, and acting in varying degrees in each and every member of the sacred assembly.

You may or may not know this, dear Reader, but there are currents in the Church invoking Vatican II in order to promote agendas that are actually the opposite of the reform of the Liturgy as it has taken place, by people who are frustrated that the reforms did not go far enough, that is, did not incorporate changes they favor. These tendencies would reduce our Liturgy to something much closer to the sterile evangelistic worship service that is full of words and almost devoid of symbols and visuals.

For example, Bishop De Roo of Victoria BC, now retired, almost forbade people kneeling at any time during the Mass, and would refuse permission for new churches to include kneelers in them, except when there was intense pressure of devotion from ethnic communities, but even for them he only allowed pews in the first few rows. I know this from good friends who have lived in that diocese since the late 1980's or early 1990's.

That is an example of open rebellion, which is not too strong a term, given that the proper authority to interpret Vatican documents on the Liturgy belongs to the national episcopal conferences, never to individual bishops, and certainly not to individual priests, and even then, only a few aspects are up to the bishops. The ritual itself is not open to interpretation or changes except by the proper authorities at the Vatican.

Specifically about kneeling or genuflecting, the ritual of the Mass states in red ink (rubrics) when the priest genuflects, that is, right after the consecration of the bread into the Body of Christ, and again, after the consecration of the wine into the Blood of Christ, and finally, just before presenting the Body of Christ for Holy Communion to the assembly. That is the proper protocol specifically spelled out in the ritual for the Holy Eucharist.

There is nothing in the ritual itself about going to the Tabernacle, but this is not because nothing should be done but rather because it is considered so obvious that it need not be spelled out everywhere. What is spelled out is that those approaching or leaving the sanctuary at the beginning and end of Mass should genuflect at to towards the Tabernacle, the only exception being in a large church such as St Peter's in Rome, where the Reserve of the Blessed Sacrament is nowhere in the church but deep in a side chapel beyond the pillars on the right side. Hence, the Real Presence is nowhere to be seen; so no genuflection.

Also, anyone passing by the Tabernacle is to genuflect at all times; however, this is generally meant for outside the Liturgy, since people generally don't pass it by during Mass. Here, where there is much commotion near the Tabernacle repeated genuflections would make no sense and actually distract from the Mass. Definitely no genuflections at Communion time when the focus in on Jesus as we approach and receive Him. Any who are specifically passing by even during the Mass could genuflect, as it is proper to bow to the Altar whenever crossing over the center aisle from one side to the other, as a sign of respect to Jesus who is the Priest, the Altar, and the Lamb of Sacrifice according to our Liturgy.

In our Church where the Tabernacle is visible, unlike St Peter's, the genuflections at the beginning and end of Mass are considered standard practice, whether or not they have actually been practiced in recent history. The role of the pastor is to preserve and hand on the tradition and rituals, so if I have stood out like a sore thumb with these genuflections, it is not to be difficult or irk everyone or offend the pride of local tradition and practice, but all for the glory of the Lord and the growth in faith of the people. The Liturgy not only celebrates, it also teaches and forms.

Anyone going to the Tabernacle during the Mass, usually before and after Holy Communion, opens the Tabernacle door, genuflects, takes out ciboria, closes the Tabernacle door, brings the ciboria to the Altar.... then after Holy Communion, returns with the ciboria to the Tabernacle, opens the door, replaces the ciboria inside, genuflects, and closes the door.

These gestures are spelled out in the various rites related to the Holy Eucharist and generally contained in what is called the Roman Missal. In English we don't use it, but only what is called the Sacramentary, which is a partial extraction of whatever is needed from the Roman Missal for celebrating Mass in a Parish setting for all occasions.

The Sacramentary spells out what priests and deacons do. Some of the details are not in the Sacramentary but only explained in detail in the General Introduction to the Roman Missal. The proper gestures when doing something at the Tabernacle are spelled out in the rite for Eucharistic Adoration, but are mostly taken for granted as standard practice and passed on. In a family, for example, when parents give specific task related instructions to their children, the fact that they omit reminding the children to say Please and Thank You does not annul those practices, because they are so common and obvious that they may be taken for granted. So it is with much that is traditional regarding the Liturgy and church Sanctuary.

It is traditional practice, which expresses our faith in the True Presence of Jesus, that anytime we approach the Tabernacle to extract the Body of Christ in one or more ciboria, one genuflects after opening the door - acknowledging Jesus and adoring Him - and again just before closing the door after having returned one or more ciboria to be reserved. This practice both expresses and teaches our faith in Jesus truly present in his risen Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist and reserved in the Tabernacle. It is an abuse of the respect, reverence, and obedience we owe to the Lord to deliberately refuse this practice or teach others to ignore it. To do so opens the door to the erosion of the faith and attacks against the faith by beliefs, ideas, and practices in the culture and society in every time and place that militate against the Lord and his presence, word, and work or salvation in the world.

There are those who would make the presence of Jesus in the whole assembly, with the Presider at the head, the exclusive point of focus, annulling any form of reverence for the Body and Blood of Christ either on the Altar or in the Tabernacle. Reality is not so monolithic, but multifaceted. It is no contradiction to have the Presider genuflect at the Altar during the Singing of the Lamb of God as he says the relevant priest's prayers before Holy Communion, and simultaneously for a deacon or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion genuflect upon opening the door to the Tabernacle. On the contrary, this merely makes visible the many facets of Jesus' presence, word, and action among us.

None of this is open to interpretation or change, because no one but the bishops together with the Pope can make major changes, and the pertinent Congregation can give interpretations and publish duly designed and authorized reforms. What we mean by authority is not power to impose in the midst of conflicted views, but rather faith in Jesus' ongoing presence among us, and in particular his own will to speak and act through the sacrament of Holy Orders in the roles and persons of the Pope and bishops. In order to respect the full magnitude of Jesus' presence, word, and action among us, we must respect them all.

That includes zealous attention to the rituals and other manifestations of our Church's traditions, the handing on of rituals, teachings, and practices of faith as handed on by our parents, teachers, catechists, and pastors, and as interpreted and corrected when necessary by the competent and pertinent authorities. This entire network is Jesus speaking, acting, and present among us.

In view of the constant erosion factor from our culture, I'd love all of our collaborators at St Luke St Luc to adopt with one mind and heart what I began over a year ago with regards to the Our Father sung in English, namely, regarding the 5 repetitions of Amen at the end and the related gestures. This is the only part that never made sense to me: the gesture for the 4th Amen is just a repetition of the 1st, i.e. a lifting up of the hands towards Heaven. It would make for sense for the gesture accompanying the 4th Amen to point towards Jesus truly present in his Body and Blood on the Altar, which we are about to partake.

1st Amen - hands lifted up side by side and arms fully extended towards the heavens = Amen to

You O Blessed Trinity!
2nd Amen - hands lowered to the horizontal and arms fully extended straight ahead, then fanning

out on either side in a sweeping embrace and inclusion of of everyone = Amen to everyone

here and in the world and all creatures in the universe!
3rd Amen - hands lowered to the ground and arms fully extended on either side = Amen to your

presence in me, Lord!
4th Amen - hands and arms fully extended towards Jesus on the Altar = Amen to You Lord Jesus in

the Holy Eucharist!
5th Amen - hands folding and joining at the chest in the traditional prayerful gesture = Amen to

your holy will in all things Lord!

“Were not our hearts burning within us as He talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us

Saturday, April 10, 2010

When friends feel they are losing their faith....

When friends feel they are losing their faith... and they call upon you, trust in God, listen with great interest until they have poured out their heart, only then share from your mind and heart, and put your confidence in God to save them from their trouble and bless them through it.

Question: What do you do with a friend or anyone who comes to you with doubts about their faith or feelings they are losing or have lost their faith? When I try to reassure this person and tell them we all have doubts so it's not a big deal, to try to diminish their distress, it doesn't work, doesn't help.

Response: First I must say it is commendable that you care about your friend, and he or she is blessed to have someone like you willing to be touched, moved, and concerned with their faith struggle. Now, there really is no ready made answer or strategy for such situations. However, I can tell you how I approach these things with people.

So far, from what you have written, if you don't mind my saying so, you have been far too quick to try to supply answers to her questions. That is not what she needs from you, and you can get out from the burden of feeling responsible to make her feel better. That is not our calling in life as Christians, to make others feel better, although we are called to give comfort, but not by resolving other people's struggles for them.

1. She must find her own answers, as we must all do. We are called by God to give meaning to our lives by the decisions we make, by the questions we ask, and by the answers we find, sometimes in what others have said but most often in reflecting on our own experience and questions.

2. Make more effective efforts to take interest and show your interest in what she is experiencing. Gently and with interest ask her to tell you more about what she is experiencing, thinking, wondering, and so on. As she sees you are really interested and will no longer try to stuff your own answers into her, she will slowly open up and share with you what it is she is experiencing, feeling, thinking, asking, wondering.....

3. Before you even approach her again, pray intensively to God for her with all the love you have for her. As you pick up the phone or go over to her place or anticipate seeing her at work or wherever, pray for her some more. While you are with her, keep prayer and love for her simmering on the back burner of your soul deep inside. In other words, let the Holy Spirit keep prayer going on inside you for her constantly... and you will find the Holy Spirit guiding you in your approach to her.

4. Don't worry about making a fool of yourself, or not knowing what to do or say next, and so on.... We are called to make fools of ourselves for Christ, as Jesus made a fool of himself before others for our sake. This is how the love of God makes itself known in the world, through the faithful hearts of those who have been touched by the love of God.

5. Know that in the journey of love, faith, and hope, even our mistakes are used by God for his glory and the good of others....

Be at peace dear friend.... in Jesus....

“Were not our hearts burning within us as He talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us

Christ is Risen ! Alleluia ! Alleluia !

Christ est ressuscité ! Alléluia ! Alléluia !

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Sexual abuse - let's make room for the truth, all of it

The truth will better serve the safety of children and all those at risk from abuse of all kinds.
Any children or anyone hurt by us priests or bishop need our immediate protection and help.
Anyone responsible for hurting others must face the consequences, but they need help too, since most often such heinous acts are not only crimes, but they are also manifestations of profound psychological dysfunction and illness.

If the media feeding frenzy turns its voracious appetite on people like Pope Benedict XVI, who is leading the way for us in dealing with sexual and other forms of abuse, it is not surprising. This time of year we commemorate and enter deeply and personally into the events surrounding Jesus of Nazareth, because through these events He has obtained for us salvation, rescue from our mortal human condition. The feeding frenzy existed then, as it will until the end of time, and though He was perfect, that did not deter the sharks from devouring Him. Once He was swallowed up by hatred, evil, sin, and death, He burst out and destroyed their hold of fear on us.

We must be wary. The unfettered frenzy with which we turn on others, at even the possibility they may be guilty, may be a function of our own fear of being caught, or if not guilty of the same thing, then of being found out to have at the very least thoughts and temptations of which we are not proud. The most likely person to accuse others is the one who refuses to accuse himself or herself. As Jesus himself said, our vision can only become clear enough to see the truth about the other once we have taken the log out of our own eye, that is, once we have admitted to ourselves and to others our own faults and sins.

Then beyond our actual sins, there is always the realization that in the end I am capable of doing much harm, and the only thing that saves me is opening myself up to the grace and mercy of God. You remember the saying, "There but for the grace of God go I"? Lord, have mercy on us, on our children, and on all those among us who carry from infancy or childhood hurts that twist our personalities out of shape and make us dangerous. As a Church, as a society, as a family, as parents, as pastors, as any with responsibility to care for others, open our eyes to see those around us in need of protection and in need of help, and those in need of careful, strong boundaries, for the safety of those in vulnerable states. In Jesus' Name we pray.
Fr. Gilles

Please check out the Ottawa Citizen via the link at the end of this piece.

Pope deserves better credit


Columnist Randall Denley

Columnist Randall Denley

Photograph by: The Ottawa Citizen, The Ottawa Citizen

Palm Sunday is as good a day as any to be defending the Catholic Church against the latest onslaught of media smears, and the tireless efforts to tarnish Pope Benedict personally.

I desisted from writing this column for St. Patrick's Day, when the issue was whether in 1979, Joseph Ratzinger, then Archbishop of Munich and Freising, had knowingly transferred a pedophile priest to another assignment where he could abuse more children.

The truth was that he had removed the offending priest from his station promptly, and sent him into therapy; and that without Ratzinger's knowledge, that priest's parochial vicar, no doubt falsely believing he was "cured," later put him back in a parochial setting. To suggest that Ratzinger had knowingly put other children at risk was a calumny. But I notice the journalists are still combing old cc'd memos to find mud that will stick.

As I write, the latest -- originating in the New York Times, amplified by the BBC, and thus carried in some uncritical form on most wire services -- is that as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in the 1990s, Ratzinger had failed to reply to a letter about a child-molesting priest in Wisconsin. The story is self-refuting: the Vatican did not intervene because U.S. civil authorities had themselves dropped the case.

The BBC website headline reads: "Pope Benedict faces child-abuse cover-up queries." I have written before about the deceitful journalistic practice of waving such insinuations about in headlines and leads. Only those who read carefully to the end of the piece discover how empty, and how unsubstantiated, are the implied charges. But the great majority of readers, who merely scan with half-attention, are left with the impression of accumulating grievous wrongs.

Here in Canada, the National Post gave prominent play to a characteristically smug, malicious and factually reckless attack on the Pope by Christopher Hitchens, which originally appeared in the Slate web magazine. Readers who believed a word of it should be referred via Internet to a carefully referenced point-by-point refutation by the Canadian Catholic layman Sean Murphy.

As Mark Twain (himself notoriously fast and loose as a journalist) is purported to have said, "A lie can travel half-way round the world before the truth has put its boots on." Or words to that effect. I am inclined to stone my reader with innumerable other quotes about the salience of half-truths -- how, like half-bricks, they are easier to hurl than whole ones, etc. But in the end the world is the world.

These half-brick thrusts are mounted from the top of a much bigger groundswell. A number of past cases of pedophile priests, and other male and female church figures, have been exposed in Ireland, and the journalistic taste for uncovering more has spread across Europe.

While the ground is littered with allegations that are hearsay, and while the scandal has been magnified by a routine failure to supply qualifications and context, it must be painfully admitted that there is also much truth mixed in with the charges.

The best way to appreciate this is by (actually) reading the Pope's excoriating letter to Irish bishops, sent on the Solemnity of St. Joseph (March 19) to emphasize its gravity. The letter was airily dismissed in the liberal media with, "Pope Offers Apology, Not Penalty, for Sex Abuse Scandal" (New York Times). This is a total misrepresentation of the contents of a document that is proposing to tear the Irish church apart in pursuit of malefactors and of the people who covered for them.

Nor is it an empty threat, given the scale on which North American dioceses, seminaries and religious congregations were scoured by "apostolic visitors" after scandals came to light here.

Pedophilia is by no means confined to the Catholic Church -- and the Boy Scouts -- though they are the exclusive institutional targets of liberal media. Nor is there evidence, beyond the selectivity of news coverage, that the plague is not worse in secular institutions. It is a problem to be confronted throughout our society, wherever children are left in trusted adult care; and it is a problem that would seem to have been vastly compounded by the collapse of traditional sexual morality over the last couple of generations.

Rome has, in fact, taken the lead in dealing with it, and has already put in place the most exacting safeguards against the depredations of sexual perverts inside the Church. Pope Benedict has, personally, done more to this end than, so far as I can see, any other living human, and is thus the least appropriate target for attacks.

Within the church, the need of renewal remains much deeper than the pedophile scandals. In the time both leading up to and since Vatican II, the faithful have experienced one of her greatest historical crises: a catastrophic retreat before, and compromise with, the "Zeitgeist" of modern worldly "libertarian" moral values and norms.

The answer isn't more retreat and compromise. The answer is to return to the splendour of the Mandate of Christ. And this necessarily involves implacable opposition to that Zeitgeist.

David Warren's column appears

Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lord purify my heart to look upon all my sisters with pure, life-giving eyes!

Spring is not yet here, but already the parade of flesh is beginning, and what about the heart that is behind my eyes? Is it Spring itself, are hormonal levels what they have always been, or then again, maybe it gets worse with aging? There are such days even for celibates when the mind plays games with one's inner peace....

Lord, I give you thanks for all the wondrous creatures You have made.... Each more beautiful than the other, they provoke my imagination and rush my heart, and how easily I can forget each is your child too.... In our culture and time, as in other times and places, those who have allowed themselves to become obsessed with profit and influence, greed and serving their own self, have abused even the image of woman, yes and even of man, in various marketing ploys, appealing to the baser instincts of the herd.

It has become so grave that little girls are deeply troubled in their imaginations and spend many years searching for their identity, often losing their dignity or never even having a taste of it.... They become what the marketers have made them to be, and they exhibit themselves for the thrill of manipulating the passions of others.... Most of the time, they have no clue about what depths of dignity, true intimacy, friendship, and interpersonal love that they have lost, or have never yet tasted.

And what can we say about little boys? What has happened to their imaginations? Have they ever tasted the dignity that is theirs as children of God, and have they been offered examples of manliness, which draw us to become life-giving wholesome minds, hearts, eyes, and hands for others? Everywhere a good and just man walks, people are lifted up and catch glimpses of their best inner selves struggling to emerge into the light of day....

Grant us a heart to command our eyes to look upon them with manly, fatherly, brotherly love, and give them the gift of a look that will give them a taste of that dignity which is theirs, and which they were perhaps prevented from tasting. Lord, make the world new, and let it begin with me....

“Were not our hearts burning within us as He talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us

Suivons Jésus Christ, Lui donnant la 1ère place en 2010 !

Let us follow Jesus Christ, giving Him 1st place in 2010!

PAX + CARITAS Year for Priests – Année Sacerdotale

L’abbé / Fr. Gilles Web Site:

Operation Renew to propose Jesus Christ to all – 2009–2014

Opération Relance pour proposer Jésus Christ à tous – 2009–2014

Visit Madonna House Visitez Madonna House!

“Were not our hearts burning within us as He talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32

«Notre cœur n’était-il pas tout brûlant au-dedans de nous, quant Il nous parlait en chemin, quand Il nous ouvrait les Écritures?» Luc 24 :32

A friend wrote:

Perils of a Catholic upbringing?

As I walked down the busy sidewalk with my wife, knowing I was late for Mass, my eye fell upon one of those unfortunate,
ragged vagabonds that are found in every city these days. Some people turned to stare. Others quickly looked away as if the sight would somehow contaminate them.

Recalling my old pastor, Father Gilles, who always admonished me to "care for the sick, feed the hungry and clothe the naked," I was moved by some powerful inner urge to reach out to this unfortunate person.

Wearing what can only be described as rags, carrying her treasured worldly possessions in two plastic bags, my heart was touched by this person's condition.

Yes, where some people saw only rags, I saw a true, hidden beauty..

A small voice inside my head called out, "Reach out, reach out and touch this person!"

(Then there appeared a suggestive photo of an ill clad beautiful person carrying two plastic grocery bags....)

So I did. .. . .
I won't be at Mass this week.

In response to this playful email message from a friend, I wrote the blog above it.... Given all the torment around sexuality, I find that even playful stories are no longer appropriate. As a species human beings are profoundly wounded in our apprehension of our own dignity as conferred by God in both our spirit and our flesh. We are inclined to view things amiss, and tempted to make wrongful use of the power of tenderness inscribed in our human sexuality. We must resolve to do nothing to encourage such wrongful use and do all we can to work towards the restoration of our human dignity and both of our capacity and willingness to live in the truth of that dignity in both ourselves and in others, all others, especially the most vulnerable. Fr. Gilles

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Elderly Adolescents – Senior Teenagers – a new phenomenon

What do you do when one of your parents, especially in a situation where they are separated and divorced, enters into an "affair" or illicit relationship with another person, a situation which at face value at least very much resembles adultery?


There are people who want advice and those who don't, those who look to be guided by authorities greater than themselves and others who are allergic to authorities and want only to follow their own heart, mind, conscience. The problem is original sin, which causes us to delude ourselves, and makes our own hearts unreliable as guides. We need God, we need others, we need to repent as Jesus said in order to welcome and believe the good news.

Your Mom is your Mom, not your daughter, and if it's your Dad, then he too is your Dad and not your son. You are not responsible for him or her, but of course you do care for them. St Monica was not able to tell her son Augustine what to do because he wasn't looking to her for advice; he was trying to find his own way. So she prayed for him, suffered and wept, and prayer some more, fasted, and kept on praying for years....

The only thing the commandments tell us to do with our parents is honor them. You can continue to honor your Mom and Dad for giving you life, and caring for you all those years, but you don't have to approve of their behaviour. You need to have pity for them and have mercy on them in their current state of weakness, confusion, or disorientation, and pray for them.

You know that we must all grow up sooner or later, and for many, it is later. Those who went from childhood straight into adulthood, having children and raising them, never got to fully grow up and discover for themselves the truth of all that they were told by their elders. That is why we find more frequently today the odd situation of "elderly adolescents" or "senior teenagers" who are of retirement age or older but behaving not unlike teenagers, doing strange things, acting as though they suddenly had no conscience, and so on.

It's not all bad news.... By the grace of God they will discover the hard way, if not the proper way, what's true and what's false, what's good and what's evil, and may come around to having room within them to consider what God wants of them.... 

Just as parents must be patient with their teenagers, so must we be patient at times with our parents, since God is patient with all of us, so that we might in time repent and come back to Him with all our hearts....


"Were not our hearts burning within us as He talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us

Suivons Jésus Christ, Lui donnant la 1ère place en 2010 !

Let us follow Jesus Christ, giving Him 1st place in 2010!


PAX + CARITAS       Year for Priests – Année Sacerdotale

L'abbé / Fr. Gilles      Web Site: