Monday, April 16, 2007

Parishioners' Newsletter - 04/15/07

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
April 15, 2007

Justice for Immigrants and Opposition to the Death Penalty
Our Bishop Peña has written columns in recent months that speak very strongly on two issues that have political content: immigration and the death penalty. In these columns, the Bishop has taken positions that are in complete agreement with those put forward by the American bishops and the Vatican: namely, justice for immigrants and opposition to the death penalty. The USCCB has taken a stand against the death penalty for a long time and has recently launched a campaign, Justice for Immigrants: A Journey of Hope (see the following for information,

Bishops are, by virtue of their office, teachers and strong, inspiring words on the issues of the day are expected from them. But more is expected than words. Where are the actions of the official Church in this Valley—actions that will make a difference—on these two issues, immigration and the death penalty, and a whole host of other issues about which Catholic Social Teaching has a lot to say? The Bishop and the priests of this Diocese (in general) are not visible at the demonstrations, are not in the corridors of power using the strong force of the authority of their offices to bring about political action.

You might argue that it is more appropriately the role of the lay Catholic to be in the forefront of such work, putting into practice what the bishops and priests teach us. If that is truly the case, then how is it that priests persecute parishioners who take up that role and bishops not only allow but seem to encourage those priests to behave that way?

Words are very easy for a Bishop to say. Putting those words into action might be difficult, but it is the height of hypocrisy for a Bishop to allow a priest of his diocese to forbid his parishioners putting those words into action and to further allow that priest to engage in a vendetta against the parishioners who object.

Until you, Bishop Peña, either put into motion some official diocesan actions on social justice issues or at least allow your flock to take such actions as part of their Catholic communities, spare us the fine words.

The Vatican will soon issue a new English translation of the texts of the liturgy. “And with your sprit,” will return, as will “consubstantial” and “I believe.” There is also a new version of the Gloria. Here is a commentary:

“What Really Important Matters will be dealt with next? Bring back the fiddle-back chasuble or not? Resurrect the pillbox hat.... oops, the biretta (six-chambered only, of course)? “On This Day O Beautiful Mother” given its rightful place of mariolatrial (?) prominence? I do hope that we get to start playing Barbie dress up with the Infant of Prague as we did when I was a kid. Oh, yes: can we start praying for the conversion of Godless communism again? Thanks so very much.” from Jimmy Mac, posted on the Commonweal Magazine Blog

Mercy, It’s Paschaltide!
“The Great 50 Days—the living out of the time between the Easter Vigil and Pentecost—is occasion for the Spirit-giving renewal of life. It is life risen from the death of all human lamentation, grieving and sorrow. Everywhere the risen Christ appears, the Spirit breathes upon Christ’s astonished followers.” Don Saliers, Emory University, in America, April 2, 2007.

Our church was about one-third full for the 8:30 Mass this weekend—the first Sunday after Easter. Those who weren’t there should consider themselves lucky to have slept in—it was the most outlandish display of complete foolishness that the Monsignor has inflicted on the Parish in his entire tenure.

Instead of the rich liturgical symbols and the joyous songs and texts of the Church’s Paschaltide that Professor Saliers talks about, we had to suffer through the treacly kitsch associated with “Divine Mercy Sunday.” This devotion was a particular favorite of John Paul II and is based on the pious writings of a Polish (surprise!) nun, Faustina. These writings consist of ponderous and saccharine platitudes mixed with statements of extremely dubious theological content. Maybe there have been errors in translation from the Polish, but the statement, “if you venerate this painting, you will not be denied salvation,” espouses idolatry and makes our entering into the Death and Resurrection of Christ some kind of magic act.

The blessing of bulletins and the display, blessing and veneration of a garish painting contributed to what amounts to a profanation of the Eucharistic celebration. The turning out of the church lights during the Eucharistic Prayer, leaving only a spotlight on the celebrant, is completely at odds with the communal nature of what is our Prayer.

Risen, Indeed!
Christ is Risen! Alleluia! I went into Holy Week with a sagging sense of hope. Would my church spend the week caught up in the torture and circumstances of Jesus’ death that it would miss the main point—His Life. What gives the passion its terrible beauty is not the pain and suffering, but the reality that a life truly lived to the absolute fullest could be gone in an instant. How could Jesus leave us? How could death touch Him? How do we go on? How do we hold on to the meaning of that life? There lies the depth of the passion and the sacrifice. And then, as Easter Sunday dawns, how do we face the empty tomb? If we are celebrating the life and words of Jesus, the empty tomb is not a dead end, but a space of hope. I pray each of you was able to find a community to share renewed hope with this Easter. I am grateful to the community I shared vigil with—thank you for the gift of a true sense of “He is Risen, Indeed! Alleluia!”

And so now we move on. We leave behind the empty tomb and hold on to hope. And most importantly, we celebrate and live the life and words of Jesus—a life that death simply did not have the power to hold. He is risen, indeed, to live in and through each of us. Alleluia! from fellow parishioner, Michelle Pena

$$$$$ Update
Since 10/15/06:
Total below budget: $29,258.88 (last year same date: $33,920.64)
Total shortfall (including expenditures over budget): $79,757.64
Projected yearly shortfall: $159,515.28.

Night Prayer, R.I.P.
Holy Spirit Parish will now have Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. four days a week or, as the mathematical scholars who produce the bulletin inform us, 208 hours a month . Wednesday Night Prayer, that tiny vestige of a Catholic practice that predates Adoration by a thousand years, has finally been killed. “Have you no decency, sir?”

Different Visions of Adult Catholicism
Speaking of changes, the long-standing Parish requirement that Confirmation candidates undertake some community service project as part of their preparation program has been dropped. There are probably some seemingly plausible explanations (difficult to organize, difficult to find meaningful projects, etc.) but these will all fall short of the real explanation: those in charge do not believe that putting into practice the social teachings of the Church is an integral part of being an adult Catholic. That being the case, there is no need to prepare youngsters to put those teachings into practice—simple, isn’t it?

Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. Copy this, and pass it on to fellow parishioners, either by e-mail or paper. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues about the parish or have any other comments, please contact us at


Anonymous said...

The 12:30 Mass was no better than the 8:30 spectacle described in the newsletter. Upon entering the gathering space, one's ears were assaulted with blaring music that was not conducive to prayer nor to contemplation. The spotlights going off and on and then shining on the celebrant during the Eucharistic prayer were sadly inappropriate and 60% of the people left right after communion as they anticipated another long winded series of announcements and repetitious babble. Lord have mercy!

Anonymous said...

This goddam church aint worth a hoot no more! Nice job, bishop!

The Bean Counter said...

Re: $$$$ Update
Is my calculator broken?

Let's see... We have reduced our payroll by about 90%, we no longer have a building to pay (but are still collecting the building fund), we have spent zero on maintenance and repairs, and according to the powers, our masses are packed and our collections are "running over"! So then, where is all our money going?

If parishioners are not informed of what their donations are being used for, they may soon quit giving... or maybe that is already the case!

Either way, it’s been almost TWO YEARS since we have been given an accounting of our parish finances.

Does our pastor not feel he needs to be accountable to his flock? How about our parish council? What say you, Bishop Pena?

I am hereby requesting that an "outside audit" be done immediately!

The Bean Counter

Anonymous said...

Night Prayer, R.I.P.
Yes we have been R.I.P.'ed. As an infrequent visitor to night prayer, I feel like my church is trying to deny me my right to pray in a fashion that I am comfortable with. Why does Holy Spirit need another day of Adoration, are we so booming with participants that we need more time for them or is this just another way to say, "It's My Way or No Way at All". Boy is someone being selfish and child like. Why can't the powers that run this parish grow up and let all join together around the table. Sign Me – Trying to Walk with the Lord

Anonymous said...

Dear Bean Counter:
If anyone is still giving money to this church he or she is a fool!

Anonymous said...

My, my, what a crabby bunch! The money counters, the complainers, the whiners, the critics, the cursers each have their say. Hopefully you feel all better now that the bile has been spewed out.

Anonymous said...

Oh look... there is one now! A fool and his/her money! Hopefully, you're feeling a little better, too. God love you!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #5 sounds like Louis Brum. I wonder. What I can't believe is how people are so willing to give their money to a fool and a man who doesn't represent Christ in any way, shape or form. Perfect example of "Pay, pray and obey."

Church Employee Who Has Seen It All said...

Michelle Pena I am ashamed of you. I am disappointed with this blog and the antagonistic attitude toward adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It seems to this unbiased reader (I am not of your parish) that you have battled the enemy to such a degree that you are becoming the enemy. Why can't it be adoration AND night prayer? Why do you have to knock what others find beneficial in their spiritual life just because you don't have a need (understanding?) of it? Isn't that what this blog documents has been done to YOU at Holy Spirit parish? And to call the image of Christ's Divine Mercy kitsch and idolotrous is unchristian of you. I have enjoyed your reflections since I started reading this site, but these statements cannot stand the test of true charity, for while attacking the pastor for his grandstanding at Mass and his ruling with an iron fist, you have decided for everyone that your wisdom and insight are superior than the Holy Spirit's guidance of the Universal Church, which instituted this Feast of Mercy for our benefit. Let's see, you keep tabs of the money spent on the Iraq war, the number of soldiers killed, the number of executed prisoners on death row (not the 4,500 daily murders of innocent children, though! I know, I know, abortion is not the only issue for the enlightened such as yourself, but for those 4,500 boys and girls slaughtered daily, it WAS the only issue) and you call the heirarchy to repentance. Don't you think that these sins, ALL of them, call out to God for justice and that we are all the more in need of God's mercy for allowing them to happen? Or are you so far evolved, a true Vatican II parish, that you no longer need, value, appreciate or want that communion with the Universal Church of which you are a part? Where was that said in Vatican II, that to be a good parish you should ridicule a universal practice of the Church? I am not as articulate as you and I will bet this won't be posted (although my other posts have always been posted, even when they were not favorable to your positions), maybe it can be forwarded to you only, but after reading this today I thought to myself, what a pity that they have turned into what they have battled for so long. I continue to pray for the healing and restoration of this parish for all of its members, only God can bring this about in a way and time that He knows best. In the mean time, an attitude as cynical as what you have had to deal with will not help you, I say this with true concern for you in particular and your faith community in general.

Gerald Brazier said...

Re: Church Employee,

First, let me get Michelle Peña off the hook—her only contribution to the newsletter was the piece, Risen, Indeed—she had nothing to do with the rest of the current edition.

After seeing your comments, I read over the entire newsletter again and couldn’t find anything that denigrated Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as a pious practice, so I am not sure what you are objecting to on that particular point. I, too, ask the question, “Why can’t it be adoration AND night prayer?” The Monsignor has been completely unapproachable about this issue and simply announced adoration on Wednesdays, not even having the courtesy to talk to affected people beforehand and possibly being open to some accommodation. As you know from following the Blog, this is not atypical and you have to realize that these attitudes and modes of operation are bound, on occasion, to give rise to strong reactions.

I gather from your comments that you were not at Mass at Holy Spirit this weekend and so didn’t experience what I did. It is hard to believe that the Church could really be promoting the mode of expressing devotion to the Divine Mercy that was employed this weekend at Holy Spirit Parish. The private revelations and writings of Sister Faustina are no doubt inspiring and comforting to lots of people and in the spirit of “whatever floats your boat,” I say be inspired and be comforted. The display this weekend was neither inspiring nor comforting, at least for me.

What I find particularly problematic is the way in which the ideas about God’s love and mercy have been closely associated with an image, both in Sister Faustina’s writings and in the outward expression of the devotion. It really does smack of idolatry: “venerate the picture and you will be saved,” just isn’t Catholic theology. Being saved has nothing to do with venerating pictures or following a prescribed set of ritual acts—that’s reducing Catholicism to magic and it’s wrong and cannot be what the universal Church means when it promotes devotion to the Divine Mercy. Pointing that out is not unchristian.

Kitsch, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder—I find the image of Divine Mercy being presented to us in the parish to be kitsch, barely rising, as art, above the level of that on the walls of a rented room at Motel 6. There is bad religious art, you know, and to point that out is not an attack on the subject of the art and is not, by itself, unchristian.

Being persistently cynical and negative is unchristian, however, and I do take to heart your expressions of concern that “they have turned into what they have battled for so long.” Your prayers for “the healing and restoration of the parish for all of its members” are the prayers of many. I cannot agree, however, when you say “only God can bring this about.” The state in which the parish finds itself was not brought about by God, it was brought about by people, primarily Bishop Peña, and must be corrected by people. Like Sister Joan Chittister has said, “Why do we pray to God to do away with nuclear weapons, when He had nothing to do with making them?—it is our job to get rid of them.”

I appreciate your taking time to comment and I appreciate the general civility of your remarks. Continue to pray for the parishioners and the leaders of the parish and diocese that together healing and restoration will be found.