Sunday, September 11, 2016

Recalling an education in Gregorian Chant

"... other things being equal, it [Gregorian Chant] should be given pride of place in liturgical services." (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 116)

My conversion to the Catholic Church started with the joyful discovery of sacred polyphony and Gregorian Chant, while I was a teenager living in Bombay. The chief means of my education in chant was a little black book I stumbled across in the library at St. Xavier's College (where I studied for five years, from 11th grade through college). It was a 1910 edition of "A Manual of Gregorian Chant According to the Solesmes Books." I read it eagerly, and used it to learn how to read Gregorian notation. Certain books could be checked out for a semester at a time, and I'm pretty sure, that every semester of my stay at St. Xavier's, this little book was in my possession. It was the description of Dom Gueranger in this book that was my first exposure to the Mass (along with copies of old, Latin-English pew missals, in another dusty corner of the library. These, however, were not able to be checked out, alas). The first prayer that I ever memorized, was the Gloria, in Latin. Eventually, I would end up going to the beautiful college chapel at least once a day, and pray the Gloria. I did not know any other prayers!

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Mother Teresa wasn't really Catholic?

As Catholics the world over (and no doubt countless others) rejoiced at the canonization of St. Teresa of Kolkata this past Sunday, it was expected that the criticisms and attacks of her from the secular left would appear on the internet and in mainstream media. Yesterday, on my FB page, I shared an excellent rejoinder, written by a non-Catholic Christian: "The Most Evil Woman Who Ever Lived." (yeah, it's a click-bait like title, but well worth the read!). What I was less prepared for was attacks on Mother Teresa from Catholics. To be more precise, from certain elements of the Catholic right. I first saw this on a FB post by a friend (the author of a popular blog about the traditional liturgy), where he was defending Mother Teresa, as various commenters attacked her fidelity to the Gospel, to the Great Commission, or questioned the infallibility of canonization decrees. On my own FB post (mentioned above), a commenter shared some links she'd come across of Catholics accusing Mother Teresa of, well, not being Catholic enough.

Let me state that again: Catholics who think that Mother Teresa wasn't faithful to the Gospel! I don't know whether to laugh or cry! (Fr. Longenecker is a little more sanguine about the "crazy uncles" in our vast family ... also with some links to the various accusations against her)

Monday, September 05, 2016

Liturgical Texts for the Commemoration of St. Teresa of Kolkata


At the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta today (Sept. 5, 2016), the Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated as a Solemnity (Gloria, Credo), with readings taken from the Common of Virgins (Song of Songs, 1 Cor. 13, and Mt. 5), and the Orations were from the proper of Saints with the new texts for the Memorial of Saint Teresa, including a Collect, Super Oblata, a proper Preface and a Postcommunio. It was a beautiful celebration, with the Cathedral packed to the gills! As Archbishop Gregory put it in his homily, Catholics do so love their saints! Especially this one!

Thanks to priest friends and social media, I've uploaded the PDFs of the following to Scribd:
  • Letter from Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuck MC, Postulator for the cause of canonization of Mother Teresa, for the proper liturgical commemoration of Saint Teresa of Kolkata on September 5. 
  • Proper Prayers in Latin.
  • Proper Prayers in English.

With much joy, in front a huge crowd, and to almost universal acclaim, Pope Francis canonized Mother Teresa of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), yesterday, September 4, 2016.

I've seen no guidelines for the liturgical celebration of her cult, now extended to the universal Church, on September 5, 2016. I presume it will have the rank of an Optional Memorial (to be marked as a Feast or Solemnity in houses of the Missionaries of Charity, and parish churches or oratories under her patronage).

There is a proper prayer, composed for her Beatification, which should remain.
Deus, qui beatam Teresiam, virginem, vocasti,
ut amori Filii tui in cruce sitientis
eximia caritate in pauperrimos responderet,
da nobis, quaesumus, eius intercessione,
in afflictis fratribus Christo ministrare.
Per Dominum... 
O God, who called blessed Teresa, virgin
to respond to the love of your Son thirsting on the cross
with outstanding charity to the poorest of the poor,
grant us, we beseech you, by her intercession,
to minister to Christ in his suffering brothers.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The other Orations of the Mass can come from the Common of Holy Men and Women: For a Woman Religious, or For Those Who Practiced Works of Mercy.

For the Liturgy of the Hours, at the Office of Readings:

  • Hymn: Common of Holy Women
  • Psalmody and Scriptural Reading from the current weekday
  • Patristic Reading from the Common of Holy Women: Religious, or Those Who Worked for the Underprivileged
  • Proper Collect

Lauds & Vespers:
  • Hymn: Common of Holy Women
  • Psalmody: Current weekday
  • Short reading & responsory: weekaday or Common of Holy Women
  • Antiphon for Benedictus/Magnificat: weekday Religious or Underprivileged
  • Preces (Intercessions): weekday or Common of Holy Women 
  • Proper Collect

Daytime Hours: from the weekday entirely

The Patristic reading for the Common of Holy Men and Women: For Those Who Worked for the Underprivileged, has this selection from Sermon 15 of St. John Chrysostom's Sermons on the Epistle to the Romans (the translation used in the current LoTH is not found online. This one is from New Advent). It is worth our meditation as we commemorate the life of this remarkable woman of faith.

Yet did God give up even His Son. But you will not so much as share your bread with Him, Who was given up for you, Who was slain for you. 

The Father for your sake spared not Him, and this too when He was indeed His Son, but you do not look upon Him even when pining with starvation, and this too when you should but spend of His own, and spend it too for your own good! What can be worse than such a breach of law as this? He was given up for you, He was slain for you, He goes about in hunger for you, it is of His own you should give, that you may yourself get the gain, and still thou dost not give! 

What sort of stone is there than which these are not more senseless, who in despite of such great inducements, continue in this diabolical cruel-heartedness? For He was not satisfied even with death and the Cross only, but He took up with becoming poor also, and a stranger, and a beggar, and naked, and being thrown into prison, and undergoing sickness, that so at least He might call you off. 

If you will not requite Me, He says, as having suffered for you, show mercy on Me for My poverty. And if you are not minded to pity Me for My poverty, do for My disease be moved, for My imprisonment be softened. And if even these things make you not charitable, for the easiness of the request comply with Me. For it is no costly gift I ask, but bread and lodging, and words of comfort; but if even after this thou still continuest unsubdued, still for the Kingdom's sake be improved for the rewards which I have promised. Have you then no regard even for these? Yet still for very nature's sake be softened at seeing Me naked, and remember that nakedness wherewith I was naked on the Cross for you; or, if not this, yet that wherewith I am now naked through the poor. I was then bound for you, nay, still am so for you, that whether moved by the former ground or the latter, you might be minded to show some pity. I fasted for you, again I am hungry for you. I was thirsty when hanging on the Cross, I am thirsty also through the poor, that by the former as also by the latter I may draw you to Myself, and make you charitable to your own salvation. 

Hence also of you that owest Me the requital of benefits without number, I make not demand as of one that owes, but crown you as one that favors Me, and a kingdom do I give you for these small things. 

For I do not say so much as put an end to My poverty, or give Me riches, and yet I did become poor for you; yet still I ask for bread and clothing, and a small solace for My hunger. 

And if I be thrown into prison, I do not insist upon your loosing My bonds and setting Me free, but one thing only do I seek after, that you would visit Me, Who was (or am) bound for you, and I shall have received favor enough, and for this only will I give you Heaven. 

And yet I delivered you from most galling bonds, but for Me it is quite enough, if you will but visit Me when in prison. 

For I am able indeed to crown you even without all this; yet I would fain be a debtor to you, that the crown may give you some feeling of confidence.

Saint Teresa of Kolkata, pray for us! 

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Cardinal Sarah's Address at Sacra Liturgia 2016

The Catholic corner of the Internet is abuzz with the call of the Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship to return to ad orientem worship this Advent, in an address given at Sacra Liturgia 2016. There is much much more in this address. NLM has a good summary (and also see this piece by an English Benedictine monk who was in attendance at the talk).

Sacra Liturgia's Facebook page has published a series of excerpts from His Eminence's talk in English and in French, as separate posts. I've copied and pasted them all (without any editing) below (only the English ones). I'm sure the full text will be online fairly soon. 

This is big. About as big as it's gotten since 2007. 


In the first place I wish to express my thanks to His Eminence, Vincent Cardinal Nichols, for his welcome to the Archdiocese of Westminster and for his kind words of greeting. So too I wish to thank His Excellency, Bishop Dominique Rey, Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, for his invitation to be present with you at this, the third international “Sacra Liturgia” conference, and to present the opening address this evening. Your Excellency, I congratulate you on this international initiative to promote the study of the importance of liturgical formation and celebration in the life and mission of the Church.

In this address I wish to place before you some considerations on how the Western Church might move towards a more faithful implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium. In doing so I propose to ask “What did the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council intend in the liturgical reform?” Then I would like to consider how their intentions were implemented following the Council. Finally, I would like to put before you some suggestions for the liturgical life of the Church today, so that our liturgical practice might more faithfully reflect the intentions of the Council Fathers.

"It is very clear, I think, that the Church teaches that Catholic liturgy is the singularly privileged locus of Christ’s saving action in our world today, by means of real participation in which we receive His grace and strength which is so necessary for our perseverance and growth in the Christian life. It is the divinely instituted place where we come to fulfil our duty of offering sacrifice to God, of offering the One True Sacrifice. It is where we realise our profound need to worship Almighty God. Catholic liturgy is something sacred, something which is holy by its very nature. Catholic liturgy is no ordinary human gathering."

I wish to underline a very important fact here: God, not man is at the centre of Catholic liturgy. We come to worship Him. The liturgy is not about you and I; it is not where we celebrate our own identity or achievements or exalt or promote our own culture and local religious customs. The liturgy is first and foremost about God and what He has done for us. In His Divine Providence Almighty God founded the Church and instituted the Sacred Liturgy by means of which we are able to offer Him true worship in accordance with the New Covenant established by Christ. In doing this, in entering into the demands of the sacred rites developed in the tradition of the Church, we are given our true identity and meaning as sons and daughters of the Father.

It is essential that we understand this specificity of Catholic worship, for in recent decades we have seen many liturgical celebrations where people, personalities and human achievements have been too prominent, almost to the exclusion of God. As Cardinal Ratzinger once wrote: “If the liturgy appears first of all as the workshop for our activity, then what is essential is being forgotten: God. For the liturgy is not about us, but about God. Forgetting about God is the most imminent danger of our age.” (Joseph Ratzinger, Theology of the Liturgy, Collected Works vol. 11, Ignatius Press, San Francisco 2014, p. 593).

We must be utterly clear about the nature of Catholic worship if we are to read the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy correctly and if we are to implement it faithfully.

For many years before the Council, in missionary countries and also in the more developed ones, there had been much discussion about the possibility of increasing the use of the vernacular languages in the liturgy, principally for the readings from Sacred Scripture, also for some of the other parts of the first part of the Mass (which we now call the “Liturgy of the Word”) and for liturgical singing. The Holy See had already given many permissions for the use of the vernacular in the administration of the sacraments. This is the context in which the Fathers of the Council spoke of the possible positive ecumenical or missionary effects of liturgical reform. It is true that the vernacular has a positive place in the liturgy. The Fathers were seeking this, not authorising the protestantization of the Sacred Liturgy or agreeing to it being subjected to a false inculturation.

I am an African. Let me say clearly: the liturgy is not the place to promote my culture. Rather, it is the place where my culture is baptised, where my culture is taken up into the divine. Through the Church’s liturgy (which missionaries have carried throughout the world) God speaks to us, He changes us and enables us to partake in His divine life. When someone becomes a Christian, when someone enters into full communion with the Catholic Church, they receive something more, something which changes them. Certainly, cultures and other Christians bring gifts with them into the Church—the liturgy of the Ordinariates of Anglicans now in full communion with the Church is a beautiful example of this. But they bring these gifts with humility, and the Church in her maternal wisdom makes use of them as she judges appropriate.

One of the clearest and most beautiful expressions of the intentions of the Fathers of the Council is found at the beginning of the second chapter of the Constitution, which considers the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist. In article 48 we read:

My brothers and sisters, this is what the Council Fathers intended. Yes, certainly, they discussed and voted on specific ways of achieving their intentions. But let us be very clear: the ritual reforms proposed in the Constitution such as the restoration of the prayer of the faithful at Mass (n. 53), the extension of concelebration (n. 57) or some of its policies such as the simplification desired by articles 34 and 50, are all subordinate to the fundamental intentions of the Council Fathers I have just outlined. They are means to an end, and it is the end which we must achieve.

If we are to move towards a more authentic implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, it is these goals, these ends, which we must keep before us first and foremost. It may be that, if we study them with fresh eyes and with the benefit of the experience of the past five decades, we shall see some specific ritual reforms and certain liurgical policies in a different light. If, today, so as to “impart an ever increasing vigour to the Christian life of the faithful” and “help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church,” some of these need to be reconsidered, let us ask the Lord to give us the love and the humility and wisdom so to do.

I raise this possibility of looking again at the Constitution and at the reform which followed its promulgation because I do not think that we can honestly read even the first article of Sacrosanctum Concilium today and be content that we have achieved its aims. My brothers and sisters, where are the faithful of whom the Council Fathers spoke? Many of the faithful are now unfaithful: they do not come to the liturgy at all. To use the words of St John Paul II: many Christians are living in a state of “silent apostasy;” they “live as if God does not exist” (Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Europa, 28 June 2003, 9). Where is the unity the Council hoped to achieve? We have not yet reached it. Have we made real progress in calling the whole of mankind into the household of the Church? I do not think so. And yet we have done very much to the liturgy!

In my 47 years of life as a priest and after more than 36 years of episcopal ministry I can attest that many Catholic communities and individuals live and pray the liturgy as reformed following the Council with fervour and joy, deriving from it many, if not all, of the goods that the Council Fathers desired. This is a great fruit of the Council. But from my experience I also know—now also through my service as Prefect of the Congregation of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments—that there are many distortions of the liturgy throughout the Church today, and there are many situations that could be improved so that the aims of the Council can be achieved. Before I reflect on some possible improvements, let us consider what happened following the promulgation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

While the official work of reform was taking place some very serious misinterpretations of the liturgy emerged and took root in different places throughout the world. These abuses of the Sacred Liturgy grew up because of an erroneous understanding of the Council, resulting in liturgical celebrations that were subjective and which were more focused on the individual community’s desires than on the sacrificial worship of Almighty God. My predecessor as Prefect of the Congregation, Francis Cardinal Arinze, once called this sort of thing “the do-it-yourself Mass.” St John Paul even found it necessary to write the following in his Encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (17 April 2003):

The Magisterium's commitment to proclaiming the Eucharistic mystery has been matched by interior growth within the Christian community. Certainly the liturgical reform inaugurated by the Council has greatly contributed to a more conscious, active and fruitful participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar on the part of the faithful. In many places, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is also an important daily practice and becomes an inexhaustible source of holiness. The devout participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic procession on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is a grace from the Lord which yearly brings joy to those who take part in it.
Other positive signs of Eucharistic faith and love might also be mentioned.
“Unfortunately, alongside these lights, there are also shadows. In some places the practice of Eucharistic adoration has been almost completely abandoned. In various parts of the Church abuses have occurred, leading to confusion with regard to sound faith and Catholic doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament. At times one encounters an extremely reductive understanding of the Eucharistic mystery. Stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet. Furthermore, the necessity of the ministerial priesthood, grounded in apostolic succession, is at times obscured and the sacramental nature of the Eucharist is reduced to its mere effectiveness as a form of proclamation. This has led here and there to ecumenical initiatives which, albeit well-intentioned, indulge in Eucharistic practices contrary to the discipline by which the Church expresses her faith. How can we not express profound grief at all this? The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation.
It is my hope that the present Encyclical Letter will effectively help to banish the dark clouds of unacceptable doctrine and practice, so that the Eucharist will continue to shine forth in all its radiant mystery (n. 10).”

There was also a pastoral reality here: whether for good reasons or not, some people could or would not participate in the reformed rites. They stayed away, or only participated in the unreformed liturgy where they could find it, even when its celebration was not authorised. In this way the liturgy became an expression of divisions within the Church, rather than one of Catholic unity. The Council did not intend that the liturgy divide us one from another! St John Paul II worked to heal this division, aided by Cardinal Ratzinger who, as Pope Benedict XVI, sought to facilitate the necessary internal reconciliation in the Church by establishing in his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (7 July 2007) that the more ancient form of the Roman rite is to be available without restriction to those individuals and groups who wish to draw from its riches. In God’s Providence it is now possible to celebrate our Catholic unity whilst respecting, and even rejoicing in, a legitimate diversity of ritual practice.

We may have built a very new, modern liturgy in the vernacular, but if we have not laid the correct foundations—if our seminarians and clergy are not “thoroughly imbued with the spirit and power of the liturgy” as the Council required—then they themselves cannot form the people entrusted to their care. We need to take the words of the Council itself very seriously: it would be “futile” to hope for a liturgical renewal without a thorough liturgical formation. Without this essential formation clergy could even damage peoples’ faith in the Eucharistic mystery.

I do not wish to be thought of as being unduly pessimistic, and I say again: there are many, many faithful lay men and women, many clergy and religious for whom the liturgy as reformed after the Council is a source of much spiritual and apostolic fruit, and for that I thank Almighty God. But, even from my brief analysis just now, I think you will agree that we can do better so that the Sacred Liturgy truly becomes the source and summit of the life and mission of the Church now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, as the Fathers of the Council so earnestly desired.

In the light of the fundamental desires of the Council Fathers and of the different situations that we have seen arise following the Council, I would like to present some practical considerations on how we can implement Sacrosanctum Concilium more faithfully today. Even though I serve as the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, I do so in all humility as a priest and a bishop in the hope that they will promote mature reflection and scholarship and good liturgical practice throughout the Church.

It will come as no surprise if I say that first of all we must examine the quality and depth of our liturgical formation, of how we imbue our clergy, religious and lay faithful with the spirit and power of the liturgy. Too often we assume that our candidates for ordination to the priesthood or the permanent diaconate “know” enough about the liturgy. But the Council was not insisting on knowledge here, though, of course, the Constitution stressed the importance of liturgical studies (see: nn. 15-17). No, the liturgical formation that is primary and essential is more one of immersion in the liturgy, in the deep mystery of God our loving Father. It is a question of living the liturgy in all its richness, so that having drunk deeply from its fount we always have a thirst for its delights, its order and beauty, its silence and contemplation, its exultation and adoration, its ability to connect us intimately with He who is at work in and through the Church’s sacred rites.

That is why those “in formation” for pastoral ministry should live the liturgy as fully as is possible in their seminaries or houses of formation. Candidates for the permanent diaconate should have an immersion in an intense liturgical life over a prolonged period also. And, I would add, that the full and rich celebration of the more ancient use of the Roman rite, the usus antiquior, should be an important part of liturgical formation for clergy, for how can we begin to comprehend or celebrate the reformed rites with a hermeneutic of continuity if we have never experienced the beauty of the liturgical tradition which the Fathers of the Council themselves knew?

If we attend to this, if our new priests and deacons truly thirst for the liturgy, they will themselves be able to form those entrusted to their care—even if the liturgical circumstances and possibilities of their ecclesial mission are more modest than those of the seminary or of a cathedral. I am aware of many priests in such circumstances who form their people in the spirit and power of the liturgy, and whose parishes are examples of great liturgical beauty. We should remember that dignified simplicity is not the same as reductive minimalism or a negligent and vulgar style. As our Holy Father, Pope Francis, teaches in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: “The Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized through the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of her renewed self-giving.” (n. 24)

Secondly, I think that it is very important that we are clear about the nature of liturgical participation, of the participatio actuosa for which the Council called. There has been a lot of confusion here over recent decades. Article 48 of the Constitution states: “The Church...earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration.” The Council sees participation as primarily internal, coming about “through a good understanding of the rites and prayers.” The Fathers called for the faithful to sing, to respond to the priest, to assume liturgical ministries that are rightfully theirs, certainly, but it insists that all should be “conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration.”

If we understand the priority of internalising our liturgical participation we will avoid the noisy and dangerous liturgical activism that has been too prominent in recent decades. We do not go to the liturgy so as to perform, to do things for others to see: we go to be connected with Christ’s action through an internalisation of the external liturgical rites, prayers, signs and symbols. It may be that we whose vocation is to minister liturgically need to remember this more than others! But we also need to form others, particularly our children and young people, in the true meaning of liturgical participation, in the true way to pray the liturgy.

Thirdly, I have spoken of the fact that some of the reforms introduced following the Council may have been put together according to the spirit of the times and that there has been an increasing amount of critical study by faithful sons and daughters of the Church asking whether what was in fact produced truly implemented the aims of the Constitution, or whether in reality they went beyond them. This discussion sometimes takes place under the title of a “reform of the reform,” and I am aware that Father Thomas Kocik presented a learned study on this question at the Sacra Liturgia conference in New York one year ago.

I do not think that we can dismiss the possibility or the desirability of an official reform of the liturgical reform, because its proponents make some important claims in their attempt to be faithful to the Council’s insistence in article 23 of the Constitution “that sound retained, and yet the way remain open to legitimate progress” and that “there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.”

Indeed, I can say that when I was received in audience by the Holy Father last April, Pope Francis asked me to study the question of a reform of a reform and of how to enrich the two forms of the Roman rite. This will be a delicate work and I ask for your patience and prayers. But if we are to implement Sacrosanctum Concilium more faithfully, if we are to achieve what the Council desired, this is a serious question which must be carefully studied and acted on with the necessary clarity and prudence.

We priests, we bishops bear a great responsibility. How our good example builds up good liturgical practice; how our carelessness or wrongdoing harms the Church and her Sacred Liturgy!

We priests must be worshippers first and foremost. Our people can see the difference between a priest who celebrates with faith and one who celebrates in a hurry, frequently looking at his watch, almost so as to say that he wants to get back to the television as quickly as possible! Fathers, we can do no more important thing than celebrate the sacred mysteries: let us beware of the temptation of liturgical sloth, because it is a temptation of the devil.

We must remember that we are not the authors of the liturgy, we are its humble ministers, subject to its discipline and laws. We are also responsible to form those who assist us in liturgical ministries in both the spirit and power of the liturgy and indeed its regulations. Sometimes I have seen priests step aside to allow extraordinary ministers distribute Holy Communion: this is wrong, it is a denial of the priestly ministry as well as a clericalisation of the laity. When this happens it is a sign that formation has gone very wrong, and that it needs to be corrected.

I have also seen priests, and bishops, vested to celebrate Holy Mass, take out telephones and cameras and use them in the Sacred Liturgy. This is a terrible indictment of what they understand they are doing when they put on the liturgical vestments, which clothe us as an alter Christus—and much more, as ipse Christus, as Christ himself. To do this is a sacrilege. No bishop, priest or deacon vested for liturgical ministry or present in the sanctuary should be taking photographs, even at large-scale concelebrated Masses. That priests often do this at such Masses, or talk with each other and sit casually, is a sign, I think, that we need to rethink their appropriateness, especially if they lead priests into this sort of scandalous behaviour that is so unworthy of the mystery being celebrated, or if the sheer size of these concelebrations leads to a risk of the profanation of the Blessed Eucharist.

I want to make an appeal to all priests. You may have read my article in L’Osservatore Romano one year ago (12 June 2015) or my interview with the journal Famille Chrétienne in May of this year. On both occasions I said that I believe that it is very important that we return as soon as possible to a common orientation, of priests and the faithful turned together in the same direction—Eastwards or at least towards the apse—to the Lord who comes, in those parts of the liturgical rites when we are addressing God. This practice is permitted by current liturgical legislation. It is perfectly legitimate in the modern rite. Indeed, I think it is a very important step in ensuring that in our celebrations the Lord is truly at the centre.

And so, dear Fathers, I ask you to implement this practice wherever possible, with prudence and with the necessary catechesis, certainly, but also with a pastor’s confidence that this is something good for the Church, something good for our people. Your own pastoral judgement will determine how and when this is possible, but perhaps beginning this on the first Sunday of Advent this year, when we attend ‘the Lord who will come’ and ‘who will not delay’ (see: Introit, Mass of Wednesday of the first week of Advent) may be a very good time to do this. Dear Fathers, we should listen again to the lament of God proclaimed by the prophet Jeremiah: “they have turned their back to me” (2:27). Let us turn again towards the Lord!

I would like to appeal also to my brother bishops: please lead your priests and people towards the Lord in this way, particularly at large celebrations in your dioceses and in your cathedral. Please form your seminarians in the reality that we are not called to the priesthood to be at the centre of liturgical worship ourselves, but to lead Christ’s faithful to him as fellow worshippers. Please facilitate this simple but profound reform in your dioceses, your cathedrals, your parishes and your seminaries.

We bishops have a great responsibility, and one day we shall have to answer to the Lord for our stewardship. We are the owners of nothing! As St Paul teaches, we are merely “the servants of Christ and the stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1). We are responsible to ensure that the sacred realities of the liturgy are respected in our dioceses and that our priests and deacons not only observe the liturgical laws, but know the spirit and power of the liturgy from which they emerge. I was very encouraged to read the presentation on “The Bishop: Governor, Promoter and Guardian of the Liturgical Life of the Diocese” made to the 2013 Sacra Liturgia conference in Rome by Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland in Oregon in the USA, and I fraternally encourage my brother bishops to study his considerations carefully.

At this point I repeat what I have said elsewhere, that Pope Francis has asked me to continue the liturgical work Pope Benedict began (see: Message to Sacra Liturgia USA 2015, New York City). Just because we have a new pope does not mean that his predecessor’s vision is now invalid. On the contrary, as we know, our Holy Father Pope Francis has the greatest respect for the liturgical vision and measures Pope Benedict implemented in utter fidelity to the intentions and aims of the Council Fathers.

Before I conclude, please permit me to mention some other small ways which can also contribute to a more faithful implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium. One is that we must sing the liturgy, we must sing the liturgical texts, respecting the liturgical traditions of the Church and rejoicing in the treasury of sacred music that is ours, most especially that music proper to the Roman rite, Gregorian chant. We must sing sacred liturgical music not merely religious music, or worse, profane songs. 

We must get the right balance between the vernacular languages and the use of Latin in the liturgy. The Council never intended that the Roman rite be exclusively celebrated in the vernacular. But it did intend to allow its increased use, particularly for the readings. Today it should be possible, especially with modern means of printing, to facilitate comprehension by all when Latin is used, perhaps for the liturgy of the Eucharist, and of course this is particularly appropriate at international gatherings where the local vernacular is not understood by many. And naturally, when the vernacular is used, it must be a faithful translation of the original Latin, as Pope Francis recently affirmed to me.

We must ensure that adoration is at the heart of our liturgical celebrations. Too often we do not move from celebration to adoration, but if we do not do that I worry that we may not have always participated in the liturgy fully, internally. Two bodily dispositions are helpful, indeed indispensible here. The first is silence. If I am never silent, if the liturgy gives me no space for silent prayer and contemplation, how can I adore Christ, how can I connect with him in my heart and soul? Silence is very important, and not only before and after the liturgy.

So too kneeling at the consecration (unless I am sick) is essential. In the West this is an act of bodily adoration that humbles us before our Lord and God. It is itself an act of prayer. Where kneeling and genuflection have disappeared from the liturgy, they need to be restored, in particular for our reception of our Blessed Lord in Holy Communion. Dear Fathers, where possible and with the pastoral prudence of which I spoke earlier, form your people in this beautiful act of worship and love. Let us kneel in adoration and love before the Eucharistic Lord once again!

In speaking of the reception of Holy Communion kneeling I would like to recall the 2002 letter of the Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments which clarifies that “any refusal of Holy Communion to a member of the faithful on the basis of his or her kneeling posture [is] a grave violation of one of the most basic rights of the Christian faithful” (Letter, 1 July 2002, Notitiae, n. 436, Nov-Dec 2002, p. 583).

Correctly vesting all the liturgical ministers in the sanctuary, including lectors, is also very important if such ministries are to be considered authentic and if they are to be exercised with the decorum due to the Sacred Liturgy—also if the ministers themselves are to show the correct reverence for the mysteries they minister. 

These are some suggestions: I am sure that many others could be made. I put them before you as possible ways of moving towards “the right way of celebrating the liturgy inwardly and outwardly,” which was of course the desire expressed by Cardinal Ratzinger at the beginning of his great work, The Spirit of the Liturgy. (Joseph Ratzinger, Theology of the Liturgy, Collected Works vol. 11, Ignatius Press, San Francisco 2014, p. 4). I encourage you to do all that you can to realise this goal, which is utterly consistent with that of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

Thursday, June 02, 2016


At some point in the late 1880s or early 1890s, a young man left the little town of Visnagar, then part of the northern division of the territory ruled by the Gaekwads of Baroda in western India, and traveled to Bombay, to make his fortune. And that he did, in the gold bullion trade of India's commercial capital. He married and had one daughter, before being left a widower. Several years later, he married again, and had seven children with his second wife.

That man was my maternal grandfather, Sheth Dosabhai Maganlal Parekh. My mother is the youngest of his four daughters, and along with a younger brother, the only living children today. My grandfather died in 1935, when my mother was four years old, leaving the care of his business, and his children, to his 29 year old widow, Jasumatiben. My mother has very faint memories of going to his pethi (office), in Bombay's share bazaar (stock exchange) as a little child. The family home -- Dosabhai Mansion in Khetwadi, as well as the later Chandan Niwas on Chowpatty (of which I have fond memories from my childhood) have both long gone the way of so many of Bombay's old buildings -- razed, to make way for modern condominium skyscrapers.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Trip Report: Kolkata to Yangon

6E77, A320 service CCU-BKK, May 1, 2016
In the beginning of May, I made a trip to the other side of the country, to Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), to visit the Missionaries of Charity (separate post on that soon), with a good friend, currently living in Delhi. At his recommendation, I took advantage of geography to continue the journey eastward to Myanmar. This post is on the journey from Kolkata to Yangon, via Bangkok.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Jai Yesu! Victory to Jesus! Easter with the tribal Christians of South Gujarat

A few months ago my friend Fr. Saby of the Diocese of Baroda called up to invite me to celebrate Easter at his mission in a remote corner of south Gujarat. I readily agreed.

Fr. Saby, along with two other priests (one is a senior priest in residence), live in the village of Relva, about 140 km south of Baroda, in Narmada District of Gujarat State. The nearest town, Dediapada is 18 km away. The Catholic Church has a presence here dating back three or four decades, when a Spanish Jesuit started the mission at Relva (the Spanish Jesuits are owed a huge debt for their pioneering work in Gujarat state). A sizeable community of Christians (a few thousand, if I recall correctly, according to Father) now exists, mainly from the Vasava Bhil tribe, in the surrounding villages. In Relva itself, there is a boarding school ("ashram shala" in Gujarati), which houses 380 children.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil safe, working on release: MEA

Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil SDB, an Indian Salesian priest, abducted on March 4 during the horrific attack in Aden, Yemen, that where several, including four Missionaries of Charity, were brutally murdered, and whose whereabouts have been the subject of speculation and rumors, is safe, according to the Minister of External Affairs of India, Ms. Sushma Swaraj.

The following is a Press Statement issued by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) at 6:30 pm today, April 2, distributed via email to Indian news media. My thanks to Fr. Suresh Mathew of the journal Indian Currents, who shared this, via my friend Benwen Lopez. Please keep your prayers coming for Fr. Tom!

New Delhi: 2nd April, 2016, 6.30 p.m.

The CBCI Delegation met the Hon’ble Minister for External Affairs, Smt. Sushma Swaraj, at her Office this evening and discussed all matters related to the release of Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, a Salesian Priest, abducted by the suspected IS Militants from Aden, Yemen, on March 4, 2016.

The CBCI Delegation expressed the deep concern and distress of the Catholic Church in India over the fate of Fr. Tom, whose whereabouts are yet not known, even after 29 days of that sad incident. The Delegation firmly requested the Hon’ble Minister to throw some light on the mystery involving the abduction and the truth regarding the present state of Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, SDB, especially now, when wild rumours are being spread at home and abroad about the fate of Fr. Tom.,

Ms. Sushma Swaraj has categorically assured the delegation that Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil is safe and that the Government is adopting all possible means for the quick and safe release of Fr. Tom. The Honorable Minister further said that the details of the negotiations and the technicalities involved with the negotiations cannot be divulged now, as it would endanger the process of release itself. Ms. Sushma Swaraj also shared with the delegation the strenuous effort taken by the External Affairs Ministry, and personally by her to procure a safe passage for Sr. Rema, the only surviving  nun, from the terrorist attack in Yemen. The Honorable Minister also said that the wild rumors being spread about any harm done to Fr. Tom, are totally baseless

 The members of the Delegation expressed the sincere gratitude of the whole Church in India for the various steps taken by the Government of India and, in particular, the Hon’ble Minister for External Affairs, to trace and rescue Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil from the abductors.

The Delegation consisted of the CBCI Deputy Secretary General, Monsignor Joseph Chinnayyan; CBCI Spokesperson, Fr. Gyanprakash Topno; CARITAS India Executive Director, Fr. Frederick D’Souza; CBCI Secretary for Education, Fr. Joseph Manipadam, SDB; and the Secretary for CBCI Legal Matters, Advocate Jose Abraham.

The Delegation handed over to Smt. Sushma Swaraj the same Letter, which was earlier handed over to the Senior Officials of the External Affairs Ministry, as the Hon’ble Minister was not in Delhi on those days.

Msgr. Joseph Chinnayyan,
Deputy Secretary General, CBCI

(Emphases added)

CBCI delegation with Ms. Swaraj. (Image courtesy, CBCI) 
[This blog belongs to Fr. Gaurav Shroff, a priest of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, USA] 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"I am so tired of you liberal church in America"

Thank you, Mother Angelica!

"For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion." 
(Blessed John Henry Newman, "Biglietto Speech," 1879) 

Twenty five years ago, the Lord Jesus changed my life, when He revealed Himself to me on Good Friday.

I started going to Mass every Sunday after that. I longed for the Eucharist. I remember trying to explain the Eucharist (and failing miserably) to my father, when he asked me why I needed to become Christian, "to join their club," when I could so easily just follow Jesus' teachings, and worship Him, as a Hindu.

A few weeks after that Good Friday, I knocked on the doors of the parish offices, and was ushered in to see the parish priest. He seemed rather flummoxed that a high-caste, upper class, Gujarati Hindu boy would want to become Christian. As reading, he handed me the first volume of "Sacramentum Mundi," a theological anthology by Karl Rahner! (Thankfully, I couldn't make head or tail of it.)

As I expressed my desire to become Christian, I was told that baptism was not necessary. That some lived as "Hindu Catholics." That evangelization meant that the Church wanted everyone to be better in their own religion, not that they become Catholic.

In a parish Scripture study class which I attended during what was (effectively. It didn't exist in actuality as an organized process) my catechumenate year, the Jesuit transitional deacon taught from the texts of the Jesus Seminar, demythologizing and deconstructing left, right and center. I saw the scandal on the face of the old ladies who attended. I remember thinking quite explicitly, "If this sh*t is true, why bother with the Scriptures? Why bother with the Church? With anything?"

Monday, March 28, 2016

On naming the evil we face

As a follow up to the post below, I also want to put on here what I wrote on Facebook the evening that Islamic terror made its presence felt in Brussels. Of course, since then, we've seen the suicide bombing at a soccer match in Iraq, and the gruesome, cruel, godless act of a suicide bomb at a park full of children on Easter Sunday in Lahore.

We cannot discount the religious nature of the threat facing us. Part of it, in the West (and as I've seen on the editorial and op-ed pages of the Indian Express all week, also in that stratum of Indian society most influenced by Western liberalism), is really a distaste for Christianity by the reigning secularist ideology (written after the Charlie Hebdo attacks -- was it just last January?)

It's late here -- I still have to pray my Rosary (which will be for a defeat of Islamic terrorism, and the conversion of the world to Christ) and my thoughts have been with my brother priests in Atlanta (see post below, on the Chrism Mass). I have a bunch of thoughts churning in my head as the horror of Brussels rippled through the world, that will have to wait till another day. However, this much I do want to say:

What we face in the world today is yes, a political ideology that is hate filled. But to assert, as so many do, that this has NOTHING to do with religion is at best naive. It is blind. It is stupid. It may even be culpably, sinful to keep saying that.

Whether this is the "real" Islam or not, this ideology is extremely powerful, vocal, potent, attractive and widely popular in the Islamic world.

No "Muslims" as a category aren't "The Enemy." They are human beings, loved infinitely by God. Christ died for them as much as He did for anyone else. I love Muslims, and I will continue to defend their civil liberties as citizens of our democracies.

However, Islam is not the same as Muslims. Yes, reality is complex. However making FACILE comparisons with other world religions, or asserting that all religious fanaticism is the same, or that, all religions are the same, or that because there are those who kill abortionists, therefore one cannot criticize Islamic terrorism as ISLAMIC, is both false and blind. Dangerously so.

Criticism of Islam is not the same as hatred or bigotry towards Muslims or anyone else. [You won't find me, or any serious Catholic asserting that criticism of Christianity is hatred of Catholics or Christians. It can be, but it isn't always.This distinction is vital. Or, it is not the same thing, to criticize, say the policies of the State of Israel, and be anti-Semitic.]

The sooner we realize this, the sooner we'll be able to actually see what faces our societies and our world. Responding to reality means acknowledging it first, in all its complexity, but without blinders.

Pray for Brussels. Pray for the millions of victims of Islamic terror around the world.

Our Lady of Peace, pray for us!

Tremble hell!

The week before Holy Week, I came across the report of the eyewitness account of Sr. M. Sally, the one Missionary of Charity who escaped the brutal attack in Aden, Yemen, by goons from the so-called Islamic State, on March 4.

Around the same time, we learned of Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil SDB, an Indian Salesian priest who had been abducted in the same attack. Rumors of his supposed crucifixion on Good Friday are circulating, but with no confirmation so far, and little reliable information. On Tuesday of Holy Week came the horrific bombings in Brussels. On Easter Sunday, terrorists bombed a park in Lahore, Pakistan, killing at least 69, mainly children (!), injuring hundreds. 

It seems appropriate to publish here, what I wrote on Facebook after reading Sister M. Sally's account of the martyrdom of heroic nuns in Aden. 

Tremble, Hell! Tremble, enemy of the human race! Your vile machinations may end the life of the body, but you will never win. You rage for all eternity, because you FORSAKE Him who created you! You have lost! Your kingdom has been DESTROYED. Your rule is over! Your reign is embittered, abolished, mocked, purged, bound in chains, for Jesus Christ the Lord has won the victory!*
You may crush the heads of the Lord's servants, but it is your head which is crushed (Gen 3:15)! It is your kingdom which is crushed! You have lost!

Your minions who scurry about killing and sowing fear, thinking they are following God's prophet -- they are following only you who is the deceiver, the father of lies and murderer from the beginning! And they who think paradise awaits them for their savagery, will only find ruin, will only find your fearsome and dark embrace.

You followers of Daesh, repent while you still have time! Turn to Him who is Mercy, whose Face is Mercy! Turn to Him, whom your own writings call Isa Masih and acknowledge Him as your Rabb, your Lord, your God, and beg forgiveness! Acknowledge Jesus, Isa, ibn-allah, the Son of God, for there is no other name given under heaven by which men can be saved! (Acts 4:12) Even you, with your sins like scarlet, can find forgiveness! Even you, mired in the horrific filth of your diabolical violence, we, the People of the Cross, qawm-al-salibi, we pray for you, and we beg the Lord to reveal Himself to you. Submit to Him, and find, lo, not slavery, but freedom, not a terrible master but the face of the loving Father! Repent, turn away, seek baptism, rise to new life!

If the Victorious Lord permitted this horrific cruelty to those called to follow Him in virginal chastity, evangelical poverty and holy obedience, those who live to love the poorest of the poor, it is because in His Providence, He will bring an even greater good out of it, so that, through the courage of those who stand firm, and wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:14), many more may turn from their torpor and sins, and find life and forgiveness!

Oh foolish people, who seek to destroy the Bride, whom He died for ... how many have raged against Her down the ages! The blood of the martyrs brings life, because it is His life, His sacrifice, His victory, in them!

O holy martyrs of Yemen, pray for us, the Church militant! May your glorious martyrdom bear abundant fruit!

Please continue to pray for peace in the world, for the defeat of this hideous evil ideology that is Islamism, which underpins global terrorism today, for the conversion of terrorists, the release of Fr. Tom, and the continued spread of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

I also want to add, as a disclaimer of sorts, what I had also put on my FB page as a comment: "
Ok. I got really impassioned! It is easy to write this on social media. Pray that I -- that any of us -- if we were to face these horrible murderers -- or any such test of faith -- will persevere, and in His mercy and by His grace, be able to give the final witness." 

The litany of verbs in this line is taken from St. John Chrysostom's epic Paschal Homily

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

My evil and His mercy: the annual renewal of priestly commitment at the Chrism Mass

Image courtesy Archdiocese of Atlanta (link to video of last year's Chrism Mass)
In a few hours, the priests of the Archdiocese of Atlanta will gather around their Archbishop and Auxiliary Bishops, and concelebrate the Chrism Mass. Ordinarily celebrated on Holy Thursday, the Mass is quite often held earlier in the week, or even during the previous week, given the geographical size of dioceses, and the need for priests to be at their parishes to prepare for the Sacred Triduum on Holy Thursday itself. At the Mass, the Holy Oils are blessed by the Bishop -- the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Infirm and Sacred Chrism -- which will be used by the priests (and deacons) in their sacramental ministry throughout the coming year. The other central part of the Chrism Mass is the renewal of priestly commitment. The presbyterate of the particular gathers around their Ordinary, and recommits itself to priestly service.

My first Chrism Mass as a priest was on Tuesday of Holy Week in 2014, and it was a very moving and powerful experience. This year, I was cognizant of the fact that I would be away from the Archdiocese. Last week, I had originally scheduled my travel to arrive in Mumbai on Thursday morning, so I could attend the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of Bombay that evening -- most Chrism Masses in India, it seems, are held a week before Holy Thursday.  However, the funeral of Fr. Joseph Michael Peek intervened, and I extended my stay; so I am missing participating in a Chrism Mass this Holy Week.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Consummatum est: Fr. Joseph Peek's funeral Mass

Image courtesy All Saints Catholic Church
Fr. Joseph Peek, priest of Jesus Christ, presbyter of the Church of Atlanta, was laid to rest today in an amazing funeral Mass at All Saints Catholic Church in Dunwoody (where he had resided for the past few years, as his illness progressed).

You can read all about his beautiful life in the obituary:
On March 14, 2016, Father Joe, surrounded by the songs and prayers his parents and siblings, drew his last breath, completed his life on earth, and began his eternal life with Christ. Father Joseph Peek is survived by his parents, Mary and Joseph of Atlanta, his ten siblings, and his thirty-nine nieces and nephews.
Photo courtesy Aileen Barreca on Facebook
 I didn't know Father Joe very well. He was always very solicitous of me as a seminarian (as he was, all of us), and in his online ministry, joined in the occasionally vigorous discussions on my Facebook page. I recall a few years ago when, after an Ordination Mass at the Cathedral, he accompanied me (I think I was a Deacon), and several seminarians, to Finelli's on Peachtree. I've been scouring around for the inevitable photograph that I took, as is my wont ... but no luck. With all the best of intentions, I didn't get to say goodbye in person ... Athens was far away, and in November, I was called away rather suddenly from the Archdiocese for family reasons. I've relished hearing the stories of my brothers who went to visit him and pray with him -- of his prayerfulness, his grace, and his quiet, unassuming embrace of the Cross of his physical suffering. What graces his "yes" to Jesus has won for us over the years! We truly do not realize the benefits we reap from such spiritual giants in our midst -- those who, from a purely secular perspective we would see as a "loss." A loss? An incredible gift that the Lord gave us, and as we were reminded in the homily today, a gift that Fr. Joe offered up so much of that suffering for the sanctification of the priests of the Archdiocese.

Photo courtesy Aileen Barreca, on Facebook.
Today, I joined over a hundred of my brother priests (109, according to a post on Facebook), with our three bishops, with Archbishop Gregory presiding, to celebrate the funeral Mass at All Saints. Nearly 3000 faithful crammed into every corner of the church. It was a beautiful service -- the Holy Mass, which, as Msgr. Marren reminded us, was at the center of Fr. Joseph's life -- renewing again the eternal sacrifice of Calvary. The spirited singing, eloquent and moving homily by Fr. Joe's brother, and brother priest, Fr. Kevin Peek (I just knew he would reference Fr. Paul Scalia's amazing homily at his late father's funeral!), musical tributes, and moving words from Fr. Joe's father, and Msgr. Marren, who welcomed Fr. Joe into his residence at All Saints, and the parish that took care of him in his last journey.

One of the most moving moments for me was when we gathered around the casket outside, just before the hearse bore it away. Fr. Kevin invited all the priests present to come up one by one and bless the casket. We did. And turning to our Mother, a full-throated Salve Regina rose up to the heavens from all the priests gathered.

Thank you Father Joe. Thank you for your "yes." We will pray for you. You knew how much you needed -- and need -- our prayers. But pray for us too, soon I beg the Lord in His mercy, from your mansion in heaven, for all of us, but especially your brother priests on the Archdiocese, to whom, the Lord in such a special way, offered as a gift, a holy and living sacrifice.

Thank you Lord Jesus for your priesthood, and that priesthood lived so beautifully in the life of Fr. Joseph Michael Peek.

A couple of links:

Fr. Peek's obituary.

A blog with details of the last stages of Fr. Peek's life, as well as links to videos and photos.

Photo courtesy Aileen Barreca on Facebook

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Mission Haiti

On Saturday, I am accompanying thirteen young adults from the Athens area (all students at UGA and several, parishioners at St. Joseph parish) on a Spring Break Mission trip to the St. John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization in the Diocese of Miragoane, Haiti, run by LifeTeen.

In my experience, LifeTeen is one of the few places in the Church in the United States which provides serious formation for young adults to grow in their faith, and their commitment to Christ. I've gotten to meet and hang out with several of their full-time and part-time missionaries on my various visits to Camp Covecrest near Tiger, GA, accompanying our youth group, or being invited to hear Confessions from different parish groups from the around the Archdiocese.

The missionaries are all committed disciples, i.e. at some point Jesus Christ became a real person who mattered in their life, and they're giving of their time, of themselves, to help youth and teens encounter Christ in a new way, and follow Him in His Church. All the one I've met have a contagious, infection joy, which is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, and an inspiring generosity of spirit.

I've also had the privilege of knowing three guys in my parish whose faith has deepened tremendously by serving as LT missionaries. One is currently a full-time missionary -- if you feel moved, check out his page, and drop him a line, some prayers, and a few bucks!

Last year, one of these guys returned from a spring break trip to Haiti, on fire. He asked if I'd be open to coming along on a future trip. I agreed readily, and here we are.  [In God's mercy, my mother's health has much improved, and even though I'm on leave from active ministry to spend time with her, it's worked out for me to go to Haiti with this group!]

Check out this little bit from a blog by one of the missionaries in Haiti.
Me “When you pray, what do you ask God for?” 
Ti-Malen: “To be able to find food every day.” 
I know enough about Ti-Malen’s life to know that she doesn’t eat every day. That was what prompted me to ask the next question. 
Me: “So if God doesn’t give you food that day, does that mean He doesn’t love you?”? 
Ti-Malen: “No, He loves me a lot. He just wants me to make a sacrifice for Him.”
Wow. Read the rest!

Here's a promotional video about the apostolate in Haiti.

So, pray for us please as we journey to Haiti, and seek to be instruments of the Lord's mercy, and to experience His mercy! 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Liturgical life in India in the 1950s

While writing the post below, I stumbled upon this video from the 1950s. It seems to be an American documentary from 1953 about life in Goa.

Starting at around the 11:50m mark, till about 13:30, one gets a rare glimpse of liturgical life in India from that era, prior to the liturgical reforms of the mid-20th century, at what seems to be a packed church during a (presumably) Sunday Benediction service.

I've never seen Benediction given with the Blessed Sacrament covered entirely, the way it is here. I can't make out what the chants are, but they're clearly in Latin. There is also beautiful footage of the decennial exposition of the relics of St. Francis Xavier (I was privileged to assist at, and concelebrate, the closing Mass of the exposition, last year.)

The Lord used the musical heritage of the Church, especially Gregorian Chant (which is supposed to have "pride of place" in the reformed liturgy, according to the Second Vatican Council), to draw me to Him and to His Church. Sadly, I've never experienced anything quite so beautiful or traditionally Catholic, as what I saw in this little segment of this video. [My conversion story, which was published in Asia News in 2010, seems to suggest that I heard chant in a church setting. That's simply not correct, unfortunately.]

Now a note about the video itself.

The video is clearly a political propaganda piece in support of continued Portuguese colonial rule in Goa. India gained independence from Britain in 1947. The Salazar dictatorship in Portugal refused to follow suit, until the Indian Army invaded in 1961, and Goa was annexed to the Indian Union. One of the claims of the video is that the Roman Catholicism of nearly half of Goa's population constitutes a "natural tie" with European Portugal. This claim is based on the false premise that Catholicism, or Christianity itself is an European religion. While this view might have been widespread at one point (and, from the little I know about Goan history, many within the hierarchy of the Church in colonial times, would have subscribed to this view), there is nothing essential in the Christian faith that ties it to Europe as such. 

Besides, a survey of Christian history will show Churches taking root all over the known world, including India (the St. Thomas communities, from the 1st century), the huge Christian centers in what is now largely Muslim north Africa (think Edessa, or Nisbis, or Mosul, or Babylon), as well as Syria, Iraq, as well as the Nestorian Churches of Persia, Central Asia and China, the Ethiopian Church, and so on. Furthermore, the latter half of the 20th century has shown just how rapidly. Furthermore, the latter part of the 20th century has seen an explosion of Christianity in the global South, especially in Africa, while Europe has seen the Christian faith evaporate and practically vanish. Portugal is hardly a Catholic country any more. 

While it can (and has) be argued that many external forms of the Catholic faith were "Eurocentric" and alien to Indian culture, and while the Second Vatican Council encouraged "inculturation" of liturgical forms, a discussion about which I do not want to enter in this post, I would like to point out that it is quite normal for the Gospel (and the liturgy) to find a variety of "inculutrated" expressions. Unlike, say Islam, no one culture has a monopoly on the Gospel. One can think of the various Rites of the Catholic Church as an example. Both Syrian Rites in India, for instance, while maintaining their Syrian character, are also unmistakably Indian. And whereas the Roman Rite was closely tied to the colonial culture, a rich local Catholic culture developed, in the  five hundred years since the arrival of the Portuguese in 1498! This did not exclude Indian artistic expressions for traditional Christian themes, for instance, this image of Our Lady and Child, by Goan artist Angelo da Fonseca (whose work was not without controversy in pre-Independence Goa). It dates from 1942. I found it hanging in the corridor of the seminary in Rachod, Goa, and used it as one of the holy cards for my Ordination to the Priesthood. 

Our Lady and Child, by Angelo da Fonseca, 1942.
This was one of the Ordination Holy Cards I had prepared
for my Ordination to the priesthood in 2013
The claim that Christianity is alien to India is one that has dogged the Church throughout the colonial era, as well as since. It is used as a political excuse to intimidate the Christian community, especially in the form of anti-conversion laws, and as part of hatred-inciting rhetoric coming from the Hindu-nationalist parties. Ironically, it seems, they agree with colonial sympathizers, at least according to this video! 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Goans emigrating to Portugal

Thanks to a quirk of Portuguese nationality law, a number of Goan Indians are eligible for Portuguese citizenship, and, as a consequence, of all the benefits of being a citizen of the European Union. Many use this a path to the UK (No one, it seems, wants to actually migrate to Portugal), and is, apparently, one factor in the discontent involving "Brexit." This weekend's Business Standard has an interesting feature story on the phenomenon of Goan Indians seeking Portuguese passports.
Sources within the consulate say 50 to 60 passports are issued each day. In 2015, an average of 2,000 people are said to have surrendered their Indian passports. Real numbers could be higher since non-resident Goans also give up passports at Indian missions abroad. Around 40,000 Goans are known to have registered births in Lisbon, although unofficial estimates put that figure between 300,000 and 400,000. 
The subject became controversial after it was revealed that several politicians, police officers, and bureaucrats hold Portuguese passports. Two legislators, Glen Ticlo and Caetano Silva, were found to be Portuguese citizens. The singer Remo Fernandes was reported to have changed nationalities as well. RTI activists in Goa are pushing for cases of dual citizenship to be pursued against them. Charges of unpatriotic behaviour are flying thick and fast.
Most of these Goans are Catholic -- thanks to Church records, it tends to be  much easier for Catholics to document the ancestry requirements for establishing a claim to Portuguese nationality, than others.

I would think that Portugal is the only country to keep a Consulate in Goa. This piece is an interview with the current Portuguese Consul General, Mr. Baceira. (I didn't know that the Portuguese Prime Minister is of Goan descent!)
Old links of family and kinship between Goa and Portugal apart, migration over the decades has seen the rise of an influential Portuguese elite of Goan ancestry. Antonio Costa, Portugal's Socialist prime minister and former mayor of Lisbon, is of Goan origin; so are some of the country's leading judges, politicians and artists - Prime Minister Costa's father Orlando was a distinguished poet and writer.

Though the Portuguese colonizers in India were, arguably, a lot more brutal than the British, the missionaries that accompanied them brought a new vigor to the spread of the Catholic faith, so that Goan Catholics, with their 500 year old Indian Catholic culture, are an important and, indispensable, part of the Church in India.

Of course, the most famous Goan Catholic is neither of Goan origin, nor Portuguese, but a Basque Spaniard, whose tireless efforts were the seed of the Catholic faith in Goa, and who continues to exercise spiritual influence, and attract devotees, sometimes up to half a million, of all religions. I am sure Goencho Sahib will continue to intercede for his spiritual children, even if they leave the shores of Goa to seek a better life for themselves and their children, in the West.

Postcard from Portuguese India showing the facade of the Basilica of Bom Jesu
India Post stamp honoring St. Francis Xavier

[I always want to remind Indian priests, who fret that the Church in India isn't "Indian" enough, and who concoct all kinds of artificial ways of "inculuration" that seem to downplay or deny essential parts of traditional Christianity, of this history. One cannot just claim that 500 years of Goan Catholicism is irrelevant, or un-Indian. To do that, one would need some other standard of "Indiannness," and it baffles me that Indian Catholic theologians would put forward Brahmanical Hinduism as the proper criterion of "Indianness." This would be more appropriate coming from the Sangh Parivar than Catholic theologians!]

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Mr. Joe Sheth (1945-1991)

[Image courtesy the Times of India]

"Be First Class."

A whole generation of boys in South Bombay's exclusive Campion School were taught by a simple, unassuming, giant of a man. He died unexpectedly, in the prime of life, twenty five years ago today, at the age of forty five.

He taught English. His love and passion not just for the subject, but for life itself, was obvious, and contagious. Every single one of us was hooked. A whole world came alive. Shakespeare was infinitely more interesting than whatever slop the TV slung up, or the Alistair Maclean and Louis L'Amour pulp fiction that was the staple of boys our age. In a short tribute to the teachers in my life for Teachers Day on this blog a couple of years ago, I wrote:
Shakespeare came alive in his classes: Julius Caesar in 8th grade; The Merchant of Venice, in 9th.  His voice still rings in my head at Shylock's "Hath not a Jew eyes?" or Portia's "The quality of mercy is not strain'd." Byron, Shelley, Milton and Tennyson dripped from our tongues. (I could possibly still recite "Ozymandias" from memory!) We loved Sheth wildly, deeply.

Indeed we did. "Be first class," was Mr. Sheth's constant refrain, one that we've shared, among other tributes, all afternoon in the WhatsApp group for our batch (the class of 1988, the year we graduated from Campion, after the 10th grade). Not a few of us feel that he was our own John Keating from Dead Poets' Society. Don't just aim for First Class (grades), but be first class. He called all of us to be men of excellence, of virtue.

The day of Mr. Sheth's funeral is etched in my memory, vivid, all these year later. In 1991, I was in my first year of college. I always recall this as being in 12th grade, but memory is treacherous about some things! A number of us at St. Xavier's College took the train up to the distant suburb of Andheri and joined a packed congregation (it seemed like there were a thousand folks there!) in the fan-shaped Holy Family Church in Chakala. I recall being at the very back, and following the Mass (this was three years prior to my baptism), and mumbling the responses (in Latin! I clearly recall kneeling and saying dona eis requiem at the Agnus Dei and wondering why no one else did).
The coffin was surrounded by the distraught family, and we surged out behind it after the Mass, to the graveyard outside, as the sun set, and darkness fell.
Twenty five years later -- all of us in our early forties, in a variety of fields of work, scattered across the globe, most with families and kids about the same age as we were back then -- the impression and experience of this quiet man hasn't left us. It is not just that we have fond memories of him. We certainly do. But the root of these memories lies in the fact that in the presence of this man, in the experience of his care and love for us, something about us changed. We were transformed, and for the better. Indeed, we have all, I am confident, striven to be first class, ever since.

On this twenty-fifth anniversary of his death, what a privilege and blessing it was, to offer the Holy Sacrifice for the repose of the soul of this good and faithful servant.

Thank you, Mr. Sheth. Memory eternal!