[THE FOLLOWING IS THE TRANSLATION OF THE ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN POLISH IN POLAND BY THE ORATORIAN FATHERS OF ST. PHILIP NERI, IN THEIR SPECIAL EDITION TO COMMEMORATE 45 YEARS OF THE BEGINNING OF THE PONTIFICATE OF ST. JOHN PAUL II]
It was January 1979. I had just turned 8 years old and I was in the 2nd grade in elementary school. For the first time, the Pope elected a few months earlier, in October, was on an apostolic trip. His destination, the country where I was born: Mexico. He traveled to participate in the conference of the bishops of Latin America (CELAM). Until then, the world was not used to seeing popes travel. For John Paul II, this trip would mark an inflection point in his incipient pontificate. In Mexico he would discover the Lord's call to go all over the world, as he sent his Apostles before ascending into heaven —over time, he would be dubbed "the pilgrim Pope."
The day John Paul II arrived in Mexico City, January 26, everything was expectation and excitement. We must bear in mind that, back then, there was no internet or social media, so the information and photos of the pope were scarce, not as quotidian as it is today. So the way to get to know the Pope was to see him on television or better yet, go out on the street and see him pass by.
Everyone was surprised by his gesture of humility and good will when he got off the plane and kissed Mexican soil —that would become his signature gesture every time he traveled to any country for the first time.
When I got home from school, I was able to watch him on television with my family, celebrating Mass in the Metropolitan Cathedral. From there, he would go to the apostolic nunciature and his route passed a few blocks from my house. A passenger bus was adapted. The ceiling was removed and a pedestal was placed where His Holiness could stand, blessing all the people —that was the first version of what would later be the popemobile.
Millions of Mexicans ran to the streets to see him pass by. My parents and grandparents carried stools out of the kitchen so that two of my younger sisters and I could stand atop them. My youngest sister was barely a five-month-old baby. We stood on the corner of our street. There were a lot of people around. Suddenly, we heard closer and closer the screams from the crowd. A policeman passed on his motorcycle and then others and suddenly there he was! Pope John Paul II! He had a smile full of tenderness and a penetrating gaze. Standing on his roofless bus, holding a bar with his left hand, with his right he turned to one side and the other blessing us.
People shouted with thrill “¡VIVA EL PAPA!, ¡VIVA EL PAPA!” I heard my grandfather, who was next to me, screaming just like everyone else. I wanted to scream, but I couldn't. The emotion paralyzed me and I couldn't say anything. Literally, John Paul II left me speechless. I felt in my heart as if Jesus himself was passing in front of me. Even as I write these lines, 44 years later, I shudder and my eyes are in tears.
It was love at first sight. The Pope fell in love with Mexico and the Mexicans with John Paul II. He told us words that resonated: "Of my Homeland it is usually said: Poland Semper fidelis. I also want to be able to say: Mexico Semper fidelis! Mexico always faithful!" In addition, he spoke to us in the almost perfect Spanish that he learned in as a young poet in order to savor the poetry of Saint John of the Cross, recognized as the best poet of the Hispanic language.
We were able to see it one more time and my feeling was the same. At 8 years old, those ephemeral encounters with John Paul II had given me the full conviction that it was worth being a Catholic and living as such. Since then, I have taken my faith very seriously.
His departure was sad and at the same time, exciting. The Pope asked us to go up to the rooftops and say goodbye to him with mirrors when his flight took off. The pilot flew over the city twice and as the Holy Father passed over our houses, we all pointed our mirrors at the plane. Then, he left... John Paul II stayed in my heart in a very special way. It was the beginning of an friendship in pectore that would last a lifetime.
On Wednesday nights, I did not miss in the news the weekly report given from the Vatican by the Mexican correspondent Valentina Alazraki, a prominent journalist who became an endearing friend of John Paul II. That's how I learned what he was doing, saying and teaching and already in high school, I began to study his encyclicals.
The second time he traveled to Mexico, I was 19 years old and was a college student. It was 1990 and we were in finals. That didn't stop me from taking to the streets once again. And once again, the same thing happened to me. People now shouted “¡JUAN PABLO II TE QUIERE TODO EL MUNDO! (John Paul II, all the world loves you!)“, but I couldn't. I was mute and my heart was palpitating at a thousand beats hour. His sweet eyes as he passed by shuddered me to the deepest. It was then that I understood the power of the shadow of Saint. Peter referred by Luke in The Acts of the Apostles (5:15).
At the university, between classes, I listened to all the Pope's events through my walkman. This is how I heard John Paul II's meeting with the youth, in which he told us, "You have in your hands, as a fragile treasure, the hope of the future... Do not lose hope, you are pilgrims of hope." I always remembered those words and later, when in another meeting with the youth the Pope told us, "You are the hope of the Church. You are my hope," I took them to heart forever. I promised myself that I would not disappoint the Pope. This is why I have devoted so much of my time, since my youth, to the work on adult faith formation.
I was no longer a child, nor a young man. I was now a 28-year-old adult. Shortly before I got married, in January 1999, the Pope returned to Mexico. He already looked old and tired, but unstoppable. That time I saw him on the streets more than ever, several times together with Lulu, my fiancée. I confess, on more than one occasion I arrived late to the office because I preferred to stop near the nunciature to see him pass by when leaving for his first event of the day. As he passed by, people yelled at him “¡JUAN PABLO, HERMANO, YA ERES MEXICANO! (John Paul, our brother, you’ve become a Mexican!)” In an exciting and memorable event at Estadio Azteca, where two Soccer World Cup opening games and two finals have been played, in 1970 and 1986, the Pope told us words that we would never forget: "Today I can say to myself: You are Mexican!"
The morning he returned to Rome, I stopped near the nunciature. I was surrounded by men in a jacket and tie, because from there we would go to work. When the popemobile came out, the only way to see the Pope, for the last time, was jumping over the crowd. Something very curious and at the same time very beautiful happened. Without thinking about it and without asking for permission, we began to jump leaning on the shoulders of the two next to us to get higher. When we fell down, those next to us did the same, leaping while leaning on our shoulders. And so, like pistons that went up and down, all in a jacket and a tie, jumping and helping us jump, we were able to say goodbye.
I didn't go to the office as I should. I preferred to rush to my house to watch his farewell at the airport on TV. John Paul II brought back the lyrics of a song and left us all with tears in our eyes: "I'm leaving, but I'm not leaving. I'm leaving but I'm not absent, because my heart stays here."
A few weeks before getting married, during that trip of the Pope, I made the decision that my first son would be named Juan Pablo, so that one day, when Karol Wojtyla went to heaven and became a saint —I had no doubt he would—, my son would have a great patron saint to watch over him.
We got married in February and in June we moved to the United States, where we have lived ever since. Three years later, in 2002, our son was born in February and his name was Juan Pablo. The Pope then announced that he would go to Mexico in June to canonize Juan Diego, to whom our Lady of Guadalupe appeared. His Holiness kept her a special love because her dark skin reminded him of his beloved Black Madonna of Cheztochowa. We then decided to travel to Mexico and take our little Juan Pablo so that the Pope would bless him as he passed through the streets.
We did so. I was shocked to see the same thing always happened. We stood on the sidewalk surrounded by thousands of people, under the summer heat, waiting for hours for the Pope to pass in his popemobile. After so long, our baby was desperate, crying at the top of his lungs because of the distress caused by the heat and by being surrounded by so many people screaming. Every time the popemobile approached, people began to scream even louder and our little Juan Pablo cried with more desperation. But when Pope John Paul II passed in front of us, our baby became instantly peaceful despite the fact that the cries of the people were to the maximum at that moment. Every time we saw the Pope, our baby entered into peace after crying desperately. Without a doubt, he himself felt the shadow of Saint Peter, which covered him as the Holy Father passed through the street.
I knew that would be the last time I would see the Pope in person. He also knew it was his farewell from Mexico. It was sad to see him leave on his plane for the last time. But sadder was the day he died, April 2, 2005. Like millions of people around the world, I was glued to the television for more than 24 hours watching what was happening in St. Peter's Square, until Cardinal Leonardo Sandri announced that John Paul II had passed away —That was the saddest day of my entire life.
I fell in love with John Paul II at the age of 8; at 19 he made me decide to devote my life to the apostolic work; about to get married, he renewed my conviction in my Catholic faith; and being a father, he blessed and gave peace to my baby who bore his name. My personal life, my life of faith and my apostolic life were marked by the Pope's visits to Mexico and by his teachings throughout his pontificate.
My second child, Marcos Iván, had just been born in 2006, when a redemptorist priest invited me to lead a pilgrimage with him to Poland "Following the footsteps of the pilgrim pope." We went to Cheztochowa and the basilica of Divine Mercy. I enjoyed every moment visiting his apartment in Wadowice, imagining how he lived with his father and brother and I sat for a long time contemplating the ceiling of the church where he was baptized, appreciating the paintings that represent each of his encyclicals. Of course, I didn't leave there without trying a delicious kremówka papiezka! The Pope's favorite dessert. We went to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, as Karol Wojtyła did with his father and also to the cathedral of Krakow, which was his cathedral as archbishop.
On that trip, John Paul II would to lead me to another Polish saint, marking a cornerstone in my apostolate: Saint Maximilian Kolbe. A day before the last in Poland I was able to contemplate the cell in which he died in Auschwitz —I felt something very strong in my heart, not knowing what it was. The next day, we celebrated Mass in the chapel built by Maximilian in Niepokalanow, where he celebrated Mass. Serving at the altar, I felt the call to consecrate myself to the Immaculate Conception and join this way the Militia of the Immaculata. It is since then that my apostolate of evangelization has been done through radio, the written press and the internet, following the example of Maximilian Kolbe.
That pilgrimage to Poland culminated in Rome, visiting the original burial site of John Paul II in the crypt of St. Peter's Basilica. We were able to visit it after celebrating Mass at 7 in the morning. It was not yet open to the public, so I was able to pray in front of it for a long time. I will never forget how, before the tomb of John Paul II, I felt inside me exactly the same as I felt every time I saw him pass through the streets in Mexico.
The next day, I would meet Benedict XVI and it was like a change of baton. John Paul II had prepared me to dedicate the rest of my life to an apostolate of evangelization in the media, which I would now begin under the pontificate of Benedict XVI, to now continue with Pope Francis.
My personal story with St. John Paul II has been one of endearing friendship, deep love and abundant learning —It was John Paul II who taught me to be passionate about my faith!
Mauricio Pérez is a computer scientist, journalist and writer. He works in a computer network technology company and is dedicated to evangelization through the media as an apostolate. He has received five national awards of Catholic journalism in the United States. He was born in Mexico and has lived in the United States since 1999 with his wife and two sons.
In many dioceses throughout the United States, parishes are being consolidated or combined in groups of two, three and even four. A lack of priests make it hard to cover all the pastoral needs. In addition, dioceses struggle financially as tithing diminishes, while attendance to Mass keeps dropping. Closing churches and consolidating parishes might help manage the resources and make the pastoral work of priests more efficient, but this measure just won't help to increase the participation of the lay faithful and their attendance to Mass, let alone increase the number of priestly vocations. What's the root of the issue? A problem of faith.
In 2019, the Pew Research Center revealed something alarming: 7 out of 10 Catholics in the United Sates don’t believe Jesus is present in the Eucharist —To them, consecrated bread and wine are mere symbols of his presence. This lack of faith can be perceived, Sunday after Sunday, in so many churches that don’t fill up during the Eucharistic celebrations.
Every time we Break the Bread, God our Father sends out his Holy Spirit to transform bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. Only for those who are certain in their mind, and convinced in their heart about this, attending mass is not an obligation, but a vital need. As Pope Francis warns in his recent apostolic letter Desiderio desideravi, on the liturgical formation of the people of God, “Christian faith is either an encounter with Him alive, or it does not exist” (Number 10).
For those of us who still believe, it is clear that we experience such an encounter with the living Christ in mass, which we attend with four purposes: to adore God (latreutic), to give him thanks (eucharistic), to ask for his forgiveness (impetratory), and to offer up our lives in sacrifice (propitiatory).
For those who have deserted mass and even for those who still attend, but thinking consecrated bread and wine are nothing more than just bread and wine, it is clear that their life lacks of that encounter with the living Christ, whom they are unable to sense.
What has led us to this lack of faith? Persistent liturgical abuses, shallow liturgies, homilies that talk about everything but the Gospel —which is the Living Word of the Living Logos— have contributed, without a doubt. Who can seriously believe Christ is truly present when Mass is celebrated that way? "(Liturgical) abuses contribute to the obscuring of the Catholic faith and doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament”. Thus, they also hinder the faithful from “re-living in a certain way the experience of the two disciples of Emmaus: ‘and their eyes were opened, and they recognized him’” (Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, 6).
Another factor is the insufficient sacramental catechesis. Many catechists don't receive a thorough preparation, and many just volunteer for the year their child gets ready to receive their first communion, loosing continuity and dept. In addition, liturgical formation, both of the clergy and of the lay faithful is undeniably deficient. This poor formation leads to those liturgical abuses and shallow celebrations that make it difficult to believe that Chris is truly present. There is always a temptation of falling into a spiritual worldliness (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 93-97). This matter that has caused great concern to Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, who issued last year an apostolic letter devoted to the liturgical formation of the people of God, Desiderio Desideravi: “We are in need of a serious and dynamic liturgical formation” (Desiderio desideravi 31).
What do we do? Taking this situation to his heart, some bishops in the United States proclaimed in 2020 a diocesan Year of the Eucharist, in an effort to give focus to the Most Holy Sacrament. The COVID-19 pandemic came in between and made it hard to live such local jubilees when churches needed to be closed. But also, many priests didn't follow through in some of these dioceses, preventing parish communities from even knowing such jubilees were taking place.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has taken the Pew study to their hearts, launching the National Eucharistic Revival movement, to restore in our country the understanding and devotion of the great Eucharistic mystery. It spans along three phases: diocesan revival (which ends this month), continued by a parochial revival (through July 2024), followed by a year of Eucharistic mission (through Pentecost 2025).
On Corpus Christi 2023, the parochial revival phase begins. It's intended to foster Eucharistic devotion at the parish level, strengthening our liturgical life through faithful celebration of the Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, missions, resources, preaching, and organic movements of the Holy Spirit. Its success depends on the commitment of bishops, priests, and the lay faithful. Eucharistic missionaries are needed for this initiative. You may learn more at www.eucharisticrevival.org
As we celebrate Corpus Christi, the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, let’s not lose our amazement for the beauty of the Eucharist, neither our hunger to be satisfied with the Bread of Heaven that has within it all sweetness.
Mauricio Perez is a Catholic journalist and author. He holds diplomas in Sacred Liturgy by the Pontifical Liturgical Institute at the Anselmianum in Rome, and the Pontifical University of Mexico.
Did you pay attention in Mass today? We celebrate Good Shepherd’s Sunday. Now, WHO IS THE GOOD SHEPHERD ACCORDING TO TODAY’S MASS? Without thinking, an immediate answer would be, “Jesus is the Good Shepherd”. Well, not exactly.
Actually, in today’s specific Mass, the one portrayed as the shepherd is God the Father, while Jesus is portrayed as “the gate”: “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.” (Jn 10:7). We must not overlook two things in this affirmation:
1. Jesus says "Amen, amen", "In all truth I tell you", which is a formula he always uses before making a solemn statement, so the fact that he is the gate, is utmost important.
2. This is one of the 7 times in Jn when Jesus speaks of himself using God's name: I AM, once more, stressing the importance of him being a gate to the sheep.
The Responsorial Psalm in this Mass is Psalm 23, which reminds us of God the Father as the shepherd who gives us repose in verdant pastures.
The Prayer after Communion, following the same motif, makes the point of the Father being the shepherd once more: “Look upon your flock, kind Shepherd, and be pleased to settle in eternal pastures the sheep you have redeemed by the Precious Blood of your Son.”
It will be later, in Jn 10:11, when Jesus will speak of himself as “the beautiful shepherd” (ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλός in Greek), but not today.
The fact that Jesus is the gate for the sheep is represented in properly designed churches through their main door. The main door of a Church is a symbol of Christ the gate, so doors shall be designed in a way that reminds us of Jesus as we enter and exit the sacred space.
1. Holy Thursday of the Lord's Supper: A EUCHARISTIC PROCESSION, OUTSIDE OR AROUND THE CHURCH AND EVEN AROUND THE BLOCK IS MADE TO TAKE THE CIBORIUM TO ITS PLACE OF REPOSE, AND SETTING THE PLACE OF REPOSE SUMPTUOUSLY. An outside procession of this kind belongs to Corpus Christi, but not today. The ciborium is to be taken, inside the church and through it's shortest route, to the place of repose which *must* be sober and simple and not majestic.
Rubric 37 in the Roman Missal prescribes that: /The Blessed Sacrament, accompanied by torches and incense, is carried *through the church* to a place of repose./
Number 49 of the Norms for the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts emphasize: /For the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, a place should be prepared and adorned in such a way as to be conducive to prayer and meditation; that sobriety appropriate to the liturgy of these days is enjoined, to the avoidance or suppression of all abuses./
2. Good Friday: GENUFLECTING AT THE EMPTY TABERNACLE. It is empty, for the Lord is dead. There is no one to adore. The tabernacle doors are left wide open so we can see and sense his absence.
3. Good Friday: EXITING THE CHURCH AFTER THE LITURGY OF THE LORD'S PASSION WITHOUT GENUFLECTING AT THE HOLY CROSS.
Rubric 32 of the Roman Missal indicates: /All, after genuflecting to the Cross, depart in silence./
4. Holy Saturday: In bulletins, flyers, posters, and parish websites, ANNOUNCING THE EASTER VIGIL IN THE HOLY NIGHT AS THE LAST ACTIVITY OF HOLY SATURDAY. The Easter Vigil is celebrated after dark on our calendar Saturday, but liturgically, as all Sundays, it is Sunday already, so the Easter Vigil belongs to Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord. The Norms Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of Easter Feasts stress that:
/95. In announcements concerning the Easter Vigil care should be taken not to present it as the concluding period of Holy Saturday, but rather it should be stressed that the Easter Vigil is celebrated "during Easter night", and that it is one single act of worship./
5. Easter Vigil in the Holy Night: BEGINNING THE VIGIL SO EARLY THAT THERE IS STILL NATURAL LIGHT OUTDOORS. The Norms for the Preparation and Celebration of Easter Feasts strictly remark that:
/78. "The entire celebration of the Easter Vigil takes place at night. It should not begin before nightfall; it should end before daybreak on Sunday". (Roman Missal 82) This rule is to be taken according to its strictest sense. Reprehensible are those abuses and practices which have crept in in many places in violation of this ruling./
6. Easter Vigil in the Holy Night: LEAVING THE LIGHTS OFF THROUGH THE LITURGY OF THE WORD AND TURNING THEM ON AT THE GLORIA. The sacramental sense of the rite of the Lucernarium is to express how the Risen Lord (whose symbol is the Paschal Candle) sheds his light gradually, from the Pascal Candle at the fire pit (the first time the deacon sings "Lumen Christi"), to the local church (the second time the deacon sings "Lumen Christi" at a higher tone and the faithful share the flame taken from the Paschal Candle), through the entire world, when the deacon places the Pascal Candle at the solemn candlestand next to the ambo, and sings "Lumen Christi" at an even higher note". Because at this third moment the Risen Lord is shedding his life upon the entire world, all lights in the church are turned on. Even the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet) is sung with all the lights of the church on and all the faithful hold their lit candles. Only the altar candles are not lit, and they will at the Gloria.
The Roman Missal makes this very clear:
/17. Then the Deacon places the paschal candle on a large candle stand... And lights are lit throughout the church, except for the altar candles./
All these errors and abuses can be very easily corrected and avoided if everyone responsible for the preparation and celebration of these liturgies take the diligence to read carefully what the norms prescribe, and to study and understand the liturgical theology behind each of these norms and the sacramental meaning of each of the rites of these liturgies.
(The aforementioned norms are rubrics of the Roman Missal and norms from the Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts issued by the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments at the Holy See).
Mauricio I. Pérez, Liturgist
13Marco Sanz, Valentin Diaz and 11 others
More often than not, Catholic publications make the mistake of calling all celebrations a "feast". I just kept seeing this recently three times in a row: on Pentecost, on the Most Holy Trinity, and on Corpus Christi. The three of them are solemnities, not feasts, as magazines, and parish bulletins, websites and Facebook pages alike wrongly announced them.
In the liturgical calendar, celebrations have three degrees of importance: solemnities, feasts and memorials.
SOLEMNITIES are the celebrations of greatest importance. They begin on the prior evening with first vespers (evening prayer) and several of the solemnities have their own Vigil Mass. Both the Gloria and the Creed are recited. If a solemnity falls on a Friday in Lent, the observance of meat abstinence is not applied.
FEASTS are of second importance and are celebrated on a particular day. These do not have a first vespers or Vigil Mass the prior evening. An exception would be the feasts of the Lord which occur on Sundays in Ordinary Time and Sundays in the Christmas season. On these days, the Gloria is recited but not the Creed.
MEMORIALS have the lowest importance, and are classified as either obligatory or optional. Memorials commemorate a saint or saints. Obligatory memorials must be observed whereas optional memorials do not have to be observed.
EXCEPTION: There is an exception in which feasts and memorials become a solemnity: If they belong to the patron saint or mystery of faith of a parish. In those cases, at a parochial level, they are celebrated liturgically and treated as solemnities (including skipping the meat abstinence on a Friday in lent).
I am convinced that one of the main reasons 76 percent of Catholics in the United States don't believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is the shallowness of a big number of liturgical celebrations as well as the numerous and audacious liturgical abuses that have proliferated all over. Nowadays, attending a liturgical celebration free of errors, if not of abuses, is strange. It might seem simple: just follow all the rubrics in the Missal. Nonetheless, this doesn't happen ordinarily. How can we make people truly believe Jesus is present in the Eucharist when the sense of reverence before the sacred mysteries doesn't exist? Who will believe bread and wine really become the body and blood of our Lord when priests, deacons, and extraordinary ministers of the holy communion alike handle the sacred species so nonchalantly? Who will take seriously the fact that Mass is a Eucharistic sacrifice when so many jokes are heard from the altar and the attention seems to be centered in the choirs, who receive a big applause at the end as if they were the pop idols of the moment?
The faith crisis the Catholic church in the United States is going through, demands a sense of utmost reverence and sacredness as well as liturgical correctness. Mainly, from priests, as celebrants of the sacrifice of the altar, during which they act in persona Christi. Yet, when it is nearly three out of four Catholics who won't believe in the Real Presence in this country, it won't be surprising to accept the fact that among those, there are also priests and deacons, who can recite by heart all the Eucharistic dogmas, but who won't believe Jesus in their minds when he says, "This is my body. This is my blood."
Traveling to Mexico for Christmas, as I do every year, I had a great and joyful surprise on the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday. For the first time in my life, I attended mass at one of the parishes close to the home where I used to live. My parents began attending Mass at this parish lately, and dad insisted I would love it -I gladly went to Mass with them.
The demeanor of the priest as he approached the altar in the entrance procession, struck me. He was focused on the altar and not on greeting the faithful -I could sense he was one of those who take Mass very seriously -And I would be right.
I could see him incensing the altar, the crucifix (thrice), the image of Mary (twice), and of the patron saint (twice). I noticed the Reading explanations were read from a lectern, while the ambo was properly reserved for the Readings, the Gospel, the Homily, and the Universal Prayer. The homily was precise and to the point. The Eucharistic Prayer grasped my attention. The reverence of the priest was evident, and would reach its climax during Consecration. The celebrant priest elevated the consecrated host first, followed by the chalice, and kept holding each in the high for a long period. I could sense the contemplative silence of the faithful, who amidst the stillness, focused their attention on the host and the chalice as the priest held them with utmost reverence. I was moved by the delicate way the priest handled the host and made it rest on the paten, very carefully, as if it could break on his hands. It was clear the priest knew and felt in his hands he was holding no one else but Christ himself, a fact he reaffirmed with the two genuflections after the elevations. The priest did not just touch the floor with his knee and bounced back up to his feet. On the contrary, he remained touching the floor with his right knee for a long period, adoring Christ, present in the Eucharist.
The priest's reverence before the Most Holy, who had become present in his hands by the power of the Holy Spirit after being sent by the Heavenly Father, made me feel a lump in my throat. After communion, I could observe the priest was taking the same care as he handled the sacred vessels during Purification, evidently not taking any chance whatsoever of spilling any particle of the body or the blood of Our Lord.
This happened to be only the second Mass correctly celebrated, with no flaws or liturgical abuses, from beginning to end, that I have attended both in the United States an Mexico in the past 10 years.
Don't take me wrong. It is not that I am some sort of liturgical critic, who focuses on every subtle detail, as a film critic does, to make a commentary on every Mass I attend. No. But it happens that, by means of speaking, writing, and teaching about Sacred Liturgy, the same as speaking so extensively about liturgical abuses as part of my apostolic work, I have developed some sort of sixth sense that detects instantly when something is wrong. It is similar to the skill I have developed as editor of a Catholic magazine. By means of thoroughly chasing typos, spelling, and grammar mistakes before the magazine is sent to the printer, I cannot help but noticing errors of this kind every time I hold any kind of publication in my hands, even when my intent is not to chase errors but to read its contents.
Just the same, as Mass progressed, I could notice the priest was following every rubric in the Missal to a T, including the hand positions, the corporal inclinations during the Eucharist prayer -so commonly disregarded by priests-, and the sacred silence after the readings, the homily, and communion. Indeed! Both the organ and the cantor kept silent after communion.... Believe it or not.
I certainly couldn't care less about liturgical orthodoxy for the sake of fulfilling the rubrics and the prescriptions listed in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. That would be pharisaic and pedantic. My interest rather, as well as my passion about forming the faithful in liturgical correctness, is helping to safeguard the sacredness of the sacred mysteries that unfold at the altar during the celebration of Holy Mass. For sure, the pristine celebration of this Mass helped the faithful to have a full experience of God throughout the liturgy.
When Mass was ended, I came to the priest. I introduced myself and thanked him for the Eucharist. I also praised him for the pristine liturgy he had just celebrated and asked him for an interview to chat more about this experience. He gladly accepted.
I went back two days later in the evening, and held with Fr. Carlos a delightful conversation, sitting in a pew outdoors, going deep into each of the parts of his liturgical celebration that had struck me. I was not interested in asking Father why Mass has to be celebrated correctly. I was rather interested in exploring the feelings that burst in the heart of a priest who takes the Holy Mass so seriously. Every time I present my lecture At the Lord's table, understanding the Holy Mass, I focus on the ways Mass shall become an experience of God to the faithful, as we actively participate from the pews. But I had never pondered how priests experience God as they go through the celebration. This was the best chance to reflect on the latter, hand in hand with a priest himself.
I offered Fr. Carlos to record the interview in video for my YouTube channel, or in audio for my radio program. He preferred me to publish it in writing. Every answer from the priest merits an article on its own. So I will being to translate each answer Fr. Carlos shared with me and will publish them with a commentary of my own. This is the first of a series of articles that, without a doubt, will benefit all those who know the Holy Mass is the personal experience of God par excellence.
Be passionate about our faith!
What struck you from today’s Gospel reading? Here’s my take on it, based on my scribbles at mass on a piece of cardboard I found in the pew.
On the 26th Sunday in ordinary time, we read the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19.).
Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received
what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’
He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’
But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’
He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”
The important question is why the rich man was condemned. At a glance, one might suspect because of his richness -He is condemned while Lazarus (short for Eleazar, “the one who is helped by God”) goes to the Bosom of Abraham.
Others could say he was condemned because he ignored Lazarus at his doorstep. But, was that the reason?
Doing a quick narrative analysis of the pericope during mass, I realized how accurate the antithetical parallel between the two actors is.
The interlocution that follows, not between the rich man and Lazarus, but rather between the rich man and Abraham, gives us the key to answer the question. If you paid attention to the Gospel, Abraham never reproaches the rich man for not tending to Lazarus. The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his alive brothers so they don’t get condemned as well. But Abraham answers that if they *don’t listen to Moses and the prophets* they won’t believe even if they see a man rising from the dead.
When Jesus refers to “Moses and the prophets” (in this case he does so through the words of Abraham to the rich man), he is using the common way of the Jews to refer to the Torah (we call it Pentateuch, which they attributed his writing to Moses) and to the Nebiim (The prophetic books). So he is not referring to Moses the liberator and to the prophets themselves, but rather to Scripture.
Hence, Abraham is telling the rich man that if his rich brothers “Don’t listen to Scripture”, in other words “If they don’t listen to God (who spoke through Scripture, through Moses (Torah) and the prophets (Nebiim)), they won’t believe even if they see a dead man resurrecting”.
So why was the rich man condemned in the first place?
Sending Lazarus to his rich brothers won’t save them. After all, the rich man had Lazarus sitting at his doorstep when both were alive and that didn’t save him. What condemned him in the first place is that like his rich brothers, *he did not listen to Moses and the prophets* which means that he didn’t listen to God (who spoke through Scripture).
An important lesson
And that is an important lesson to each of us: we can have a Lazarus next to us in our life, but if we ignore the Sacred Scripture, if we don’t listen to God, we won’t be saved either. Even if we see a man rising from the dead.
Be passionate about our faith!
© Mauricio I. Pérez. All rights reserved.
It’s Pentecost Sunday. 50 days since Easter, when Jesus resurrected. In fact, the word pentecost comes from the Greek penhékonta, which means fifty.
Pentecost Sunday is also known as Wheat Sunday, because 50 days after Passover, Jews celebrated the Shabuot festival, to give thanks for the wheat harvest.
Later on, Shabuot was intended to celebrate the anniversary of the institution of the Law of God, received by Moses at Mount Sinai (Ex 19:3-20).
Precisely on this festival, the Holy Spirit descended upon Mary and the apostles, gathered right at the Cenacle, where Christ instituted Eucharist and Priesthood and established the Law of Love.
The Holy Spirit appeared to them as tongues of fire, and each of the apostles began to speak in different tongues. The faith of more than 3,000 people was converted.
The Solemnity of Pentecost means to us the birthday of the Church. It was on Pentecost when the Church was born by the power of the Holy Spirit.
There are two theological keys that we can’t ignore: First, the fact that the Holy Spirit descends and the Church is born. The Spirit of God descends upon the Cenacle so the Church sees its birth among Mary and the apostles. The descent of the Holy Spirit to transform a community of people into the Church, reminds us of every time when the Holy Spirit descends to transform a given element into a sacrament -bread and wine to be transubstantiated into the Eucharist, for instance. So when the Holy Spirit descends upon this community – formed by Mary and the apostles – they are transformed into a sacrament of salvation. The Church that is born in Pentecost is then, a sacrament of salvation.
The second theological key is found in the fact that this account takes place precisely during the celebration of Shabuot, when Jews celebrated the institution of the Law of God at Mount Sinai, establishing the covenant between YHWH and the people of Israel. Jesus had said that he had not come to abolish the Law, but rather to fulfill it (Mt 5,17). Hence, by seeing its birth on this day, the Church fulfills the original People of God and its Covenant with YHWH. From this point on, the People of God will not only be the Jews, but the people of every corner of the world who opens their heart to the Gospel preached by the Apostles.
From a Biblical standpoint, the account of Pentecost, as referred by Luke in his the Acts of the Apostles, is the antithesis to what happened at Babel thousands of years earlier (Gen 11:1-9). As you may recall, back then the people intended to build a tall tower, not as an architectural big endeavor but rather as the fruit of their collective arrogance. The Lord considered that by allowing them to finish their work, they would forget of Him, and decided to mix up their tongue. Babel means confusion. People at Babel, by not speaking the same words, split up into nations -The beginning of the Era of Nations.
Now at Pentecost, by the apostles speaking different tongues, they begin to gather the people who spoke other tongues into one single community, the Church, the new and eternal People of God.
In Pentecost Sunday, between the Second Reading and the Proclamation Before the Gospel, we pray a beautiful Sequence to invoke the Holy Spirit on this very special day in the History of Salvation. It is worth our while to pay attention to every verse of this sequence, and at the same time, to make these words ours:
Come, Holy spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the por!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within the bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.
Be passionate about our faith!
(c) Seminans Media and Faith Formation. All rights reserved.
Can John Paul II’s trust in the founder of the Legion of Christ nullify the Pope’s holiness?
Divine Mercy Sunday 2014 will be remembered because of the historic canonization of two popes on this date: John XXIII, the Good Pope, and John Paul II the Great. The canonization date was not chosen randomly. John Paul II himself instituted the feast of Divine Mercy during a visit to the site where Saint Faustina shared the request she received from the Lord to promote his Divine Mercy. John Paul II was a fond devout of Divine Mercy. The Lord would grant him years later to die and enter into Heaven exactly on Divine Mercy Sunday vigil, the beginning of the feast. For these reasons it is impossible to try to dissociate the life, death and entrance into heaven of the new saint from our Lord’s Divine Mercy.
The beatification decree was issued after acknowledging formally that a miracle had been performed under the intercession of John Paul II, servant of God. The advanced Parkinson of sister Marie Simon Pierre Normand was unexpectedly healed after asking John Paul II for his intercession. Years later, the canonization decree was issued after acknowledging that the brain aneurism affecting Floribeth Mora was instantly healed with no medical or scientific explanation. This happened after praying for the intercession of now blessed John Paul II on May 1st, 2011, right on the day he was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI.
Alas, we see how in spite of the overwhelming joy in the Church around the world, several Catholics and non Catholics complain or at least doubt about the validity of the canonization of the Polish pope, affirming he protected Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ.
Marcial Maciel had earned Pope John Paul II’s trust. Maciel founded the Legion of Christ and of the Regnum Christi movement in 1941 and 1951 (originally, the Legion of Christ was named by Maciel “Missionaries of the Sacred Hear and the Virgin of Sorrows”). But he was accused in the nineties of having sexually abused seminarians. In addition, the Legionaries acknowledged publicly in 2009 that Maciel had had at least one woman and some children. We also know he was addicted to dolantine, a morphine derivative. Pope Benedict XVI sentenced Maciel in 2006 to a life of silence and penance, away forever from any exercise of his priestly ministry. A little after one year later, in January 2008, Marcial Maciel died.
The moral harm provoked by Maciel was immense. He caused sexual damage to some. To some others, he left in their soul the same pain suffered by a child who discovers his father has been unfaithful to his wife. Some left the Legion and the Regnum Christi. A few -very few- abandoned priesthood. Yet, in the other hand the priestly order and movement founded by Maciel were bearing abundant fruit and doing good to thousands of people through their work in schools and missions in several countries. If all Christian life is a chiaroscuro with lights and shadows, Maciel’s life was painted in black and white.
Recently the Legion of Christ concluded an extensive process of renovation prescribed by Benedict XVI. Their constitutions were reviewed and renewed with Pope Francis’ final approval, marking a new chapter in the history of the Legionaries, this time with no connection to their founder, Maciel. Since long ago, the General Director of the Legionaries, Fr. Álvaro Corcuera at the time, had ordered the Legionaries and consecrated men and women of the Regnum Christi to remove all pictures from Maciel from their houses, schools and all facilities. Also, they received the order to refrain from publishing any writing from Maciel. We know now he also plagariazed some spiritual writings, which published as his own.
There are many who cannot understand how come Pope John Paul II didn’t take action againts Maciel early enough. Even worse, they cannot understand how the Pope could trust so highly someone who his successor, Benedict XVI, qualified as a “false prophet” (Seewald, P., Light of the world).
In reality, understanding why John Paul II trusted Marcial Maciel is not complicated. Their first contact took place back in 1979 when the recently appointed Pope was making plans to join the Conference of Latin American Bishops (CELAM) who would gather in Puebla, Mexico. For Pope John Paul, it was a top priority making that trip, but at the time Mexico did not have diplomatic relations with the Vatican State, which prevented the Pope from traveling to Mexico as a Head of State. It was Maciel himself who reached out to the mother of Mexico’s president José López Portillo. She convinced her son of allowing the Pope to make the trip, opening the doors to what would become the very first trip of John Paul II. It was in Mexico where he appreciated the potential of visiting every country as pastor of the Catholic Church, becoming the first “pilgrim Pope”.
Besides, Maciel had founded the Legion of Christ. A very orthodox priestly order, totally obedient to the Pope and faithful to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. A flourishing order with increasing vocations year over year. In addition, Maciel had founded the Regnum Christi movement. John Paul II was a big sponsor of the sanctification of the lay faithful and this movement was indeed a good means to achieve this purpose. The schools of the Legionaries were providing very high quality Catholic education to thousands of students around the world, from pre-school to college. And all this work had been started by Marcial Maciel. Why would Pope John Paul have a reason not to trust him?
Something of particular importance to understand this matter, is the undeniable reality of the constant persecution to the Catholic Church. In early times, christians were cruely persecuted and put to death by the Roman Empire. In our times, the Church is persecuted through communication mass media by means of a very obvious tactic: seeking ways to discredit its moral authority. The moral strenght of Jesus’ teachings in the Gospel is a hurdle to the selfish interests of many. The best way to harm the church -many think- is making people doubt and distrust. It becomes necessary making public any negative conduct of a priest or Bishop. And when this is not possible, it is common to present to audiences manipulated information in an effort to slander good priests and bishops.
Slandering cardinals, bishops, and reknown priests is common. Accusing priests and bishops of crimes they never committed happens also frequently. Pope John Paul II was well aware of this reality. Not only because he himself was subject of persecution and espionage as the Archbishop of Krakow, when government would place hidden microphones in his confessional. But also, because first as a Bishop and then as a pope, he was aware of unfounded accusations made with the intention to discredit those who strive to build the Kingdom of God. Both the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi worked earnestly to build the Kingdom of God on Earth when the first accusations against Maciel became public. Why would the Pope doubt about Maciel?
It is impossible to disregard as well the Pope’s very heavy workload. We all know John Paull II spent very long hours working every day, even at a very advanced age. The number of matters a pope has to attend is overwhelming. Time for John Paul II, was never enough. For this reason, the majority of the work has to be delegated to the dicasteries in the Vatican. A pope cannot attend personally every accusation against a priest that is submitted to the Holy See. The responsibility to handle the matter in question belonged to the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, whose prefect at the time was Card. Joseph Ratzinger.
In Light of the world, the book-interview by Peter Seewald, Pope Benedict XVI has acknowledged that in fact, this matter was handled slowly and lately. However, he explains this happened because somehow, everything was very well concealed. And it was not until 2,000 that the Congregation had finally solid evidence of what had only been mere accusations up to that point.
No one can proceed against anyone without real evidence. And as I mentioned before, false accusations against priests is part of the ordinary life of the Catholic Church. Without a doubt, this made matters more complicated and explains in a big part the lack of a disciplinary action against Maciel by John Paul II for so long.
Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki, corresponsal at the Vatican since the late seventies, wrote a book titled John Paul II's eternal light). The book presents an explanation about the ways the Pope lived each of the cardinal and theological virtues along his life: prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, faith, hope, and charity. This becomes a summary of the Pope’s “heroic life of virtue”. Proving the heroic life of virtue of a servant of God is a due step in his beatification process. Alazraki’s book is based on her interview to Msgr. Sławomir Oder, appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as promotor of the cause of beatification -and later of canonization- of John Paul II.
In “John Paul II’s Eternal Light”, Msgr. Oder explains Maciel’s case was analyzed as part of of the investigation around the holiness of the Pope. He concludes that indeed, no culpability is found in John Paul II, who trusted a man that in reality, was deceiving him. Sławomir Oder explains that Pope John Paul II had the tendency to blindly trust people. Hence, in different occasions he entrusted important responsibilities to people who ended up betraying him: “During the beatification process it was determined that, in fact, John Paul II delegated a good part of the curia’s internal government to the Secretariat of State. In several occasions, following the advise of some of his closest collaborators, he gave important appointments to people in reality unworthy from a moral perspective, or not apt given their limited skills. Theologians concluded that a beatification candidate is not a super man with no defects or mistakes and that a pope is not an infallible executive in the Church. The pope is only infallible in relation to doctrinal decisions concerning faith and morals.” Msgr. Oder reveals that for John Paul II, it was very upsetting to find out that someone had betrayed him: “If they have lied to me, they have lost already. It is not I who leads the Church, but Jesus Christ.”
John Paul II trusted Marcial Maciel, whose Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi made immense good to many people, but whose double life provoked also an immense moral harm to those he abused and to those who trusted him, loved him, and regarded him as “our father”.
In any case, the culpability does not lie in the one who trusted Maciel, based on the fruit of his apostolic works. Rather, in addition to Maciel’s crimes, he is guilty of having deceived the pope himself. He is guilty of having betrayed, among many others, John Paul II, who had trusted him fully. Certainly, a sad episode in the history of the Catholic Church. But nothing new after all -Jesus himself was betrayed by one of his beloved disciples, in exchange of 30 silver coins.
John Paul II’s goodness is unquestionable. From that goodness sprouted the ability of trusting everyone beyond being able of thinking bad of anyone. Maciel knew how to take advantage of this goodness
John Paul II’s holiness fame impelled the faithful to display banners during his funerals claiming in Italian “Santo subito!” declaring him an instant saint. At the end of the day, John Paul II’s holiness guarantee does not require any explanation or justification whatsoever. Whoever saw Pope John Paul II with his own eyes, even for just an instant passing by the streets in his popemobile, felt deep in his heart the presence of God, coming out from the Pope himself. A powerful feeling impossible to explain, but vividly blunt and undeniable. It is there, in the heart of people, where the truth of God makes its dwelling. In those millions of hearts which vibrated as eyes saw a saint riding a popemobile.
Be passionate about our faith!