October 31, 2013

Plenary Indulgence Reminders for November

There are several plenary indulgences available for the first week in November. They are the following:

For the faithful departed

§ 1. A plenary indulgence, applied exclusively to the souls in Purgatory, is granted to the Christian faithful who:

1° on each single day, from the first to the eighth day in November, devoutly visit a cemetery and, even if only mentally, pray for the faithful departed; [Note: one plenary indulgence for each day, if the usual conditions are met]

2° on the day of Commemoration of All Faithful Departed [November 2] (or, according to the Ordinary, on the preceding or subsequent Sunday, or on the day of the solemnity of All Saints) piously visit a church or oratory and there recite the Pater and the Credo.

October 23, 2013

Vatican halts remarriage debate before it starts

The Vatican on Tuesday reiterated one of its longstanding rules about the indissolubility of marriage, making clear that a recent German initiative on the matter was contrary to church teaching.

The Vatican's chief doctrine official, German Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, wrote Tuesday that there is no way for Catholics who divorce and remarry to receive Communion unless they get an annulment, a church ruling that their first marriage never existed.

"God's mercy does not dispense us from following his commandments or the rules of the church," he wrote in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.

Church teaching holds that Catholics who don't have their first marriage annulled before remarrying cannot participate fully in the church's sacraments because they are living in sin and committing adultery. 

Coat of Arms of Pope Francis Explained

The coat of arms of Pope Francis was revealed on 18 March 2013. Francis decided to keep both the arms and motto he used since his episcopal consecration in 1991, however altered to reflect his position as Roman Pontiff.

Charges and field

The coat of arms has three charges on a blue field. In reference to Francis being a Jesuit, the uppermost charge is the emblem of the Society of Jesus. The emblem is composed of a radiating sun, within which is the IHS christogram (a monogram of the Holy Name of Jesus) in red, with a red cross surmounting the H and three black nails below the H. Below the Jesuit emblem is an eight-pointed star, which is a long-standing symbol of the Virgin Mary, and a spikenard (or nard flower) representing Saint Joseph. In hispanic iconographic tradition Saint Joseph is often depicted with a branch of spikenard in his hand.

The charges appeared on Bergoglio's previous coat of arms, used when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, but as pope he changed the tincture of the star and the spikenard from argent (silver) to or (gold). The first version of the papal coat of arms published by the Vatican adopted the five-pointed star from Bergoglio's previous one, but it was later changed to eight points; the representation of the spikenard was also slightly altered.


The Vatican has not yet released specifics on the blazon, but an approximate had been made by John Hamilton Gaylor, as follows:
Azure on a sun in splendour or the IHS christogram ensigned with a cross paty fitchy piercing the H gules all above three nails fanwise points to centre sable, and in dexter base a mullet of eight points and in sinister base a spikenard flower or.

External ornaments

Traditionally, a pope's coat of arms was externally adorned only by the three-tiered papal tiara with lappets and the crossed keys of Saint Peter with a cord. The tiara represented the roles of authority of the pope, while the keys represent the power to loose and bind on heaven and earth. Pope Francis' arms maintain the keys, but replaced the tiara (as did his predecessor) with a triband mitre. However, the tiara and keys remain the symbol of the papacy, and appear on the coat of arms of the Holy See and (reversed) on the flag of Vatican City.


Unusually, Francis also decided to retain his personal motto: Miserando atque eligendo (Latin for: "by having mercy and by choosing"). It is taken from the 21st homily of Saint Bede, which is on the Gospel of Matthew and refers to the vocation of Saint Matthew. He writes:

Vidit ergo lesus publicanum et quia miserando atque eligendo vidit, ait illi 'Sequere me'.
—Om. 21; CCL 122, 149-151

Bede is here discussing Matthew 9:9-13. The salient point is that Jesus chose Matthew as his disciple not in spite but because of his being a sinner. In the KJV translation:
9. And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.

10. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.

11. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?

12. But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.

13. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
The statement from the Vatican announcing the Pope's coat of arms and motto explained that the phrase had a special meaning for Francis as he felt it recalled his own vocation, when at the age of 17, he went to confession on St Matthew's day in 1953.

October 12, 2013

Homily for the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S. 
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

It is natural to focus on gratitude in today’s readings. I’ll get to that later.

You probably never read the 1952 book, Prisoners are People by Kenyon J. Scudder. And you probably never saw the 1955 movie Unchained, based on that book. But you have definitely heard the theme song of that film, one of the most famous love songs of all time, covered by dozens of artists. I have been humming “Unchained Melody” all week, ever since I first looked at this Sunday’s readings.

What made me think of this song is the phrase in today’s second reading: “The Word of God is not chained.” Although the Apostle Paul is in prison, the Gospel continues to spread. It is unrestricted. It doesn’t depend on him.

Another melody comes to mind, from Leonard Bernstein’s opera, Mass. There is a sung reflection, a homily of sorts, on the same passage from 2 Timothy. “You can lock up the bold men. Go, and lock up your bold men, and hold them in tow. You can stifle all adventure, for a century or so. Smother hope before it's risen, -- watch it wizen like a gourd. But you cannot imprison the Word of the Lord.”

Jesus’ healing was not restricted to Jews. He never suggested that “Samaritans need not apply.” The prophet Elisha’s ministry was not restricted to Jews. Jesus refers specifically to this fact in Luke 4:27: “There were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

St. Paul writes to Timothy of external obstacles to his preaching. The Word continues to spread and the Church grows not only in spite of persecution and imprisonment, but because of them! Around the year 200 A.D. a Christian named Tertullian told persecutors that they were wasting their time trying to wipe out the Church. He is the author of the famous saying, “The blood of Christians is seed.”

Jesus, as is evident in many Gospel scenes, did not allow his ministry or his teaching to be “chained” by the Scribes and Pharisees, when, for example, they attempted to dictate whom he should associate with.

One of the reasons Pope Francis is so popular is that he appears to be on a path of unchaining what he perceives as restricting the deeper message of the Gospel, the deeper mission of the Church. Not only is no one excluded, but he repeatedly gives the example of reaching out to the marginalized, bringing the Good News to them.

When those who have felt excluded find themselves unexpectedly welcome, gratitude inevitably follows. Naaman vows to worship no other God but the Lord. The Samaritan is the only one to return and give thanks.

In today’s world, the Word may seem in danger of being chained in two ways. There are those outside the Church who would prevent the Gospel from influencing modern life and culture. And there are those within the Church who obscure the Gospel message through an attitude of exclusivism or, worse, through scandal—a kind of leprosy that makes people want to stay away from us.

Still, anything we do that might tend to imprison the Word of the Lord in any way is ultimately doomed to failure. In fact, it may well work the other way around, and the Word might “imprison” us, that is, captivate us and transform our lives. That is something to be truly grateful for.

October 7, 2013

Homily for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

I usually sign MS after my name. It means “Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette.” I think I’ll start adding my academic titles: PhL (Licentiate in Philosophy)and STB (Bachelor of Theology). More impressive, no? Like a doctor with MA, and MD, and PhD.

This way I can show off my qualifications and accomplishments. Degrees are not to be sniffed at, much less anything to be ashamed of. What’s wrong with showing people that I’m “somebody”?

And yet, Jesus says we are to call ourselves “unprofitable servants.” We may be tempted to reply, “What? After all I’ve done for you?”

In the opening scene of Shakespeare’s King Lear, the old king asks his three daughters to say how much they love him, and he will give them a portion of his kingdom in proportion to their love. The first and the second carry on, boasting that they love him more than life, beauty, honor, etc., and that they are happy only when he is with them.

The youngest (and favorite) simply says, “I love your majesty according to my bond; nor more nor less.” In other words, she loves him as any daughter should love her father. The foolish old man takes offense and disinherits her. He learns, much too late, the she alone of the three daughters truly loved him.

St. Paul is not above comparing his accomplishments to those of others. “Are they ministers of Christ? I am still more, with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, far worse beatings, and numerous brushes with death” (2 Cor. 11:23). Much more important for our present purpose, however, are his words: “If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!” (1 Cor. 9:16).

Paul tells Timothy, in the second reading, not to be ashamed of his testimony to the Lord. In the first reading, poor Habakkuk apparently was embarrassed at having to be a prophet of doom. But ultimately, right at the end of the book: after foreseeing a catalogue of disasters, he exclaims, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord and exult in my saving God. God, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of deer and enables me to tread upon the heights.” (You might recognize here the source of the title of Hannah Hurnard’s famous book, Hinds Feet on High Places.)

Jesus’ command to call ourselves unprofitable servants is not an invitation to low self-esteem. If we are really loving and serving him “according to our bond,” doing what we are “obliged to do,” we have nothing to be ashamed of. Being God’s servant, faithful and true, is a good and beautiful thing.

Instead of boasting, we should be grateful for the opportunity.