Monday, March 21, 2005

Newsletter of 03/20/05

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—March 20, 2005

The Good Fathers
Priests of the diocese have made the news in the past week or so. Father Juan Nicolau has been removed from his very prominent position at the Basilica (don’t believe for a minute the official party line of his stepping down willingly—he was forced out because his continued presence there had become an embarrassment).

Also, Father Ivan Rovira was identified as an accused pedophile and his continued public priestly ministry in the Diocese of Matamoros over the past two and half years was revealed.

Father Ivan was removed from public ministry by the Diocese of Brownsville in 2002 and is therefore unable to minister as a priest (say Mass, etc.) in the United States, but this prohibition is not binding on a diocese in another country.

Until being “outed” by the Dallas Morning News, Bishop Peña and the diocesan administration never commented on Father Ivan’s removal from ministry and continued to deny any knowledge of Father Ivan’s whereabouts, even though he was working in a Catholic institution just a few miles away.

The diocesan administration has followed a strategy of minimalist compliance with its interpretation of the directives from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In sharp contrast with many other dioceses, the "Faithful of the Rio Grande Valley" have not been afforded full disclosure of the numbers of abusive priests (religious order priests have been excluded); we have not been afforded full disclosure of the total amount of money spent on lawsuit settlements, payments for counseling of victims, and payments for treatment of abusive priests; we have not been told the names of the abusive priests; and we have not been told what steps the Diocese took in dealing with each of the abuse cases in the past.

Father Bert Diaz, Chancellor of the Diocese, has said some truly silly things when commenting on the diocesan policies concerning sexual abuse by priests. For example, he said that the diocese does not reveal the names of accused clerical sexual abusers, “to protect the victims.” On an earlier occasion when discussing the same issue, he said, “We're talking about the issue and the problem as a church.”

Well, the issue and the problem are not being talked about with the faithful, and since the faithful are the Church, it is difficult to know to whom Father Diaz (and the Bishop) are talking—it is certainly not the Church.

Ashes, Penance, and Fasting
Isaiah clearly tells us how God defines Penance and Fasting. It is not by wearing "garments like sackcloth" and ashes that satisfy God. It is in the living of justice that God delights. “Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed, and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
Releasing those bound unjustly,
Untying the thongs of the yoke
Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
Sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
And not turning your back on your own.

“If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation, and malicious speech; if you offer your bread to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.” (Isaiah 58: 5-7, 9-11)

It is by personally practicing the works of mercy and by assuring that structures of oppression are brought down that we please God. This is the fast that we are called to—an active pursuit of personal and social transformation.

This text was submitted by the Peace and Justice Commission for inclusion in the Sunday bulletin. The Pastor refused to include it, saying “it was repetitious of what I have preached from the pulpit.” Darn, I must have missed those Sundays!

When I was a child, my speech, my outlook, and my thoughts were all childish. When I grew up, I had finished with childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11)

Those of a certain age will remember that Holy Thursday used to be called Maundy Thursday, from the Latin, mandatum, meaning command. What command is being referred to? It is the command Jesus gave to his disciples at the Last Supper: “I have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example: you are to do as I have done for you.” (John 13:14-16)

What Jesus did for the disciples and calls us to do for one another was the work of a menial servant, a slave (in Greek, diakonos). “Diakonos is a person whose function is not determined by his own will; he is entirely at the disposal of others. Jesus not only washes the feet of others, he puts his life at their disposal.” (Father John McKenzie in Authority in the Church, p. 24)

Like all the rich liturgy of Holy Week, the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday is not a dramatic pageant or even less a reenactment of an event, but it is a celebration of the living Christ today in His Body, the Church.

As children, Holy Week probably struck us as historical drama, but as adults we cannot satisfy ourselves with being an audience—peeking around the corner and eavesdropping on the Last Supper, as it were. We are celebrating a fundamental truth about our lives today: the Eucharist binds us to Christ and to each other; we are diakonos, as Christ is
Good Friday Stations of the Cross
In that same spirit of looking upon Holy Week as events of the present, not the past, everyone is encouraged to participate in the annual Stations of the Cross through downtown McAllen.

For over a decade this has been an activity of the Peace and Justice Commission, but under the unenlightened leadership (sic) of our Pastor, official Parish sanction has been withdrawn.

Ignore that bit of clerical idiocy and join in prayer with and for those through whom the sufferings of Christ lives on today.

The activity starts at 12 noon on Good Friday at Archer Park, winds its way through downtown McAllen, and ends at approximately 2:30 pm. Bring rice/beans/canned food to leave at the Food Pantry, wear comfortable shoes, and bring drinking water (it will be a warm day!).

He did not consider his divinity something to be clung to, but instead took the form of a slave (diakonos). (Philippians 2:6-7)

Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier:

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