Monday, October 15, 2007

Holy Spirit Parishioners' Newsletter 10/14/07

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo

Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
October 14, 2007

Fatima in Brownsville
The diocesan Fatima celebration, held last weekend at the Basilica, was sponsored by something called America Needs Fatima, an outreach of The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property. Any organization with that sort of name just cries out to be looked into—at least a little bit.

This group is the United States version of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), an international organization founded in Brazil and based on the writings of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, particularly, Revolution and Counter-Revolution. According to the aims laid out in this book, TFP acts to oppose the anti-Christian process that has undermined Christian civilization since the 14th century, the “Revolution” of the study's title. TFP opposes liberal and egalitarian ideas, policies, and trends in both society as a whole and in the Catholic Church. It argues for the need for authentic elites in society that raise, above all, the moral tone of general society. Corrêa de Oliveira seeks to balance the notion of “preferential option for the poor” with support for the “natural elite” that exists in all societies.

Corrêa de Oliveira says that there have been three phases of “the gnostic and egalitarian Revolution,” which progressively undermines the Church and social order, have taken place: 1) the renaissance up to and including the “Protestant pseudo-reformation”; 2) the “Enlightenment” and French Revolution which ushered in modern political liberalism; 3) the Communist revolution. The final phases that follow (now taking place) seek to eradicate the Church and Christian civilization while applying more radical egalitarianism and implementing neo-paganism. [excerpted from Wikipedia and TFP’s website, , emphases added]

Aside from the right-wing kookiness that attacks the basic notions on which our own country has been founded, this group puts itself in direct opposition to virtually all the social justice teachings of the Church since Leo XIII. Note also two examples from the website which are simply incorrect representations of Catholic teaching:

“If we want our acts of love, praise, thanksgiving and reparation to reach the throne of God, we must place them into the hands of Mary Most Holy.”

“This teaching of the Church condemning contraception is infallible through the ordinary pontifical Magisterium of the Church, that is to say, the common and constant teaching of the Popes.”

It is stunning that the Diocese of Brownsville would officially associate itself with a group that puts itself so much at odds with Church teaching. TFP isn’t calling for structural reform of the Church (as many progressive groups do), but is calling for the Church’s repudiation the Gospel mandate: peace and justice.

Graceful Steps
My last two weeks have involved a significant amount of time spent with doctors and nurses. That time has reminded me about an aspect of respecting life that we all tend to push aside – taking care of ourselves. All life has dignity and is created and loved by God, and we are to respect and treasure all life—including ourselves. That means the time worn catch phrases like “you are what you eat”, “make time to take time”, and “5000 steps a day” have a spiritual significance that we cannot ignore. Part of our daily prayer of gratitude to God is to take care of the gifts He gives us, including the gift of our health. Watching the unraveling of a family member’s years of ignoring a health problem and how many lives and emotions were affected was a great wake-up call to me. Maybe Adam and Eve aren’t that far removed from us, even if the forbidden fruit is now more on the lines of over-processed and fast food, the challenge is still the same. God loves me and cares for me, and I should do the same. A prayer of gratitude can be not only what comes out of my mouth, but what goes in it—not just on my knees but in my walking shoes.
from fellow parishioner, Michelle Peña

This month is a busy one for those interested in traditionally Catholic things: feast days of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Therese of Lisieux, The Guardian Angels, and Our Lady of Fatima; the month of the Rosary, and (if the Monsignor is to be relied upon) yet another Respect Life Month (how many of those are there each year, anyway?).

What about the Rosary? Saying it is an ancient prayer custom, going back to apostolic times, right? It is one of those essential things about being Catholic, like going to Mass, right? Actually, no on both counts.

The Rosary as a meditative prayer (with the Mysteries) began in the 16th century and as simply a recitation of 150 Aves began in the 12th century—the legend about St. Dominic is just that, a legend. In its beginnings in the 12th century the Rosary was a way in which the illiterate populace could mimic the monastic tradition of reciting all 150 psalms as part the monks’ weekly recitation of the Divine Office. The use of beads to keep track of prayer is something many religions have employed, particularly Islam. The Church functioned through the first 60% to 80% of its existence without the Rosary, so its recitation is hardly essential to the practice of Catholicism.

Many people find meditative praying of the Rosary to be a powerful spiritual experience; others don’t, choosing different forms of prayer and practice—it’s a big Church with lots of diversity of religious expression—St. Francis offers an example that inspires a another sort of expression of Catholicism: Pace e Bene, Peace and All Good Things.

Catholic Identity and Mega-Trends Revisited
Pope Benedict has spoken a lot about Catholic Identity in his brief pontificate and John Allen considers this one of his Mega-Trends in the Church today (see ):

“Another major force is the relentless press for a stronger sense of Catholic identity, an impulse felt in virtually every area, from liturgy to education, from religious orders to the church's engagement with secular politics…. Like John Paul II before him, Benedict is keenly concerned that Catholics do not assimilate to this broader secular mentality. As the practical translation of this imperative, the church has seen a growing emphasis over the last 25 years on what sociologists call the “politics of identity”—efforts to reinforce distinctively Roman Catholic language, practices and belief systems, our markers of difference in a rapidly homogenizing world.”

Maybe this concern, more than any other, is at the heart of much of the emphasis, in some quarters, on traditional (and Catholic-only) pious practices (the Rosary, Adoration, Marian devotions, etc.), which arose in the Middle Ages when the celebration of the Liturgy became distant and removed from ordinary Catholics. It also may be at the heart of some people’s almost fanatical refusal to see Catholic social teachings as essential to living out the Gospel—these teachings demand that we be “in the world” in a way that some see as being “of the world,” a secular, hostile and definitely, not Catholic, world. An extreme emphasis on identity can distort authentic Catholicism by emphasizing the peripheral and runs the risk of re-ghettoizing Catholics in cocoons, detached from society at large.

$$$$$ Update
This weekend completes two years since the last financial report to the Parish, so here is a version of an “annual report,” for the 52-week period from 10/15/06 to the present.

The collection total of $674, 155.20 (taken from bulletin notations) fell $79,854.80 short of the supposed parish budget and was $2,536.85 less than the previous twelve-month period. If spending continued at the rate reported two years ago, the total shortfall was $180,852.32. As more and more time goes on, the relationship between budget, spending and income becomes difficult to keep track of.

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...

Thank you for another great and educational newsletter.
I didn't know anything about the origins of the Rosary. Can you please shed some light on the practice of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I understand that is a relatively new practice.

Church Employee Who Has Seen It All said...

Why is it that to prove a point, that your expression of faith is attacked by the powers that be at Holy Spirit Parish, you must put down and ridicule the rosary or other traditional devotions? What is that about, really? You argue about being progressive and evolving and growing in the faith, yet you completely disregard the expression of popular piety, yes, popular piety, of the people, guided by the Holy Spirit, that beautiful meditative expression of faith that HAS been around since biblical times. Wasn't it Saint Gabriel the Archangel who first pronounced the Angelic Salutation to Our Lady? Wasn't a woman, Saint Elizabeth, credited with exclaiming the following verse of the Hail Mary? Didn't the Church, the People of God, compose the final verse of that prayer? So the angel didn't appear with a rosary in hand but does that mean that it is not valid? You do yourself a great disservice by linking fringe groups to the recitation of the rosary as if they have a monopoly over it or as if they invented it or worse still, as if reciting the rosary automatically means one concurs with the ridiculous ideas you claim this group espouses. I cannot understand, and believe me I have tried, the hostilit in your last post, toward this prayer to the Mother of God. Meditating on the life, ministry, passion, death and resurrection of Christ can be a wholesome exercise for all, but if you don't want to pray it or feel you have no need for it, don't put it down either. That is not right and no wonder people there misjudge you without wanting to get to know you more. Do you think you do God a service by putting down the prayer of the rosary, as if Christ and His Most Blessed Mother are at odds with each other? That is so fundamentally Protestant and not worthy of this blog. True devotion to Mary only draws one closer to Christ! Or do you think you are so above the ignorant masses that pray the rosary that it is your mission to set the record straight and explain to us why we no longer need the rosary, i.e., it was only good for a time, but now we can pray just like the monks and nuns so we don't have to pretend or hide behind these 150 beads? Come on, either God speaks through His people or He does not, and the rosary is of the people. An Archangel, the mother of Saint John the Baptist, even Saint John the Baptist himself rejoiced at the Incarnation of Christ, but we don't have cause for rejoicing here when meditating on this and many other events in the lives of Jesus and Mary? I for one would rather follow their example for they are in God's presence as I want to be one day. I had not posted in a long while, but remember I told you that you would fight the enemy so passionately that you would become the enemy one day? It appears to me that when even the rosary can't escape your criticism, this has already come to pass. What a shame. I remember the Divine Mercy image being ridiculed by you as well, but still I hoped and prayed you would be listened to, and yes, I prayed my rosary for you! God knows what to do with the merits of those prayers, I just hope you realize that you will never convince the Church to abandon the rosary, nor should you try to in this blog. If you can find another way to honor the Mother of God, do so, but don't ridicule Her rosary that all those October saints you mentioned were so devoted to. I just don't understand how even progressives would have disdain for this prayer. Our Lady alone cooperated most fully in the life of the Holy Trinity, but we can do better, is that it? That is not realistic.

Anonymous said...

I am a little confused by Church Employee's post, I read the same newsletter but didn't find any attack on the rosary. I thought it was just a look at the history of the rosary and a recognition that for some catholics it is a very powerful form of prayer while others find different forms more powerful. Was the reaction because of the quote included from megatrends? I too find the rosary to be a beautiful and meditative prayer, and just thought the megatrends quote was pointing out that there seems to be a movement of attaching to the rosary simply as a way to cling to or prove identity. Kind of like I must be a good catholic because I show up for mass every sunday and the rest of how I live my life doesn't have to enter the equation. I do think any form of prayer has the ability to transform us, and that wasn't mentioned in the quote. I think the quote was just intended to point out that just knowing a prayer or wearing a cross isn't the end all expression of faith. I didn't see it as an attack. Did I miss something?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Yes, Anon #2, you did miss something. You missed the arrogant, self righteous judgemental attitude that peers down its nose as those little people who humbly pray the Rosary.

Former Supporter said...

I don't care about the quote from megatrends, it is not the first anti-traditional item to be posted here. Even so, I would read, comment and, by and large, support the positions of this blog. But I must say that from time to time, there were mean spirited attacks on traditional devotions, like an "our way or their way" but not a true diversity of religious expression as this blog claims to favor. You're just the same as the powers that be at HSP. Now you are asked to research adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I shudder at what personal opinions will be proffered next for our spiritual benefit by your otherwise excellent writer. Whole religious Orders have been founded with this spirituality at the forefront, but Adoration is perhaps too Catholic, too traditional, and not progressive for our times, so let us dismiss that also like the Rosary? Come on, where will it end? Won't we be adoring God in heaven one day? Isn't that our hope? Why can't we start now if He chose to stay among us in this Sacrament? Why do the rosary and adoration = simplistic piety at best or hypocrisy at worst for you people? You can't accept that people who pray the rosary or worship the Lord in the Eucharist are also out there doing good for others (social justice) as you advocate? What of Mother Theresa and others like her? I know you ask for acceptance and diversity of expression but it seems to me you are not so generous in giving it out and that is sad. I earnestly hope I am wrong once again in this case.
On the one hand you want to be like the primitive Church, on the other hand you want to be progressive and modern; on the one hand you quote Church rubrics and documents; on the other hand you dismiss entire encyclicals written on the Rosary and the Eucharist. You are not communicating a true balance and your posturing will only alienate you further here in the Valley. Think of the Shrine in San Juan built by the people to honor God's Holy Mother and ours. Next, will you be advocating selling it off to build low income housing or something because a Marian shrine may be offensive to non-Catholics? I know it is silly and far-fetched, but indulge me. Don't you see that you won't ever be taken seriously this way, putting down Church sanctioned prayers such as the Fatima devotions? Do you think that monks and nuns don't pray the rosary because they know how to pray the psalms? You are quite mistaken if that is the case. Until I see this attack on traditional devotions addressed, clarified and disavowed, sign me...

sheeple said...

How dare you attack my mindless piety!

Former Supporter said...

Is that what Anonymous #1, 2 and 3 and Sheeple believe? That those devoted to the Rosary are mindless zombies reciting meaningless prayers? Everything that Christ said and did is important for a follower of Christ. How can meditating upon His sinless life and saving acts be mindless piety?
When one is in love, one wants to know all about the object of one's affection. If we love Christ above all others as we are supposed to, should we not want to think about Him often, the historical living person whose earthly life is recorded in the Gospel? Most of the mysteries of the rosary are from the Gospel!

I hope you know that Saint Francis of Assisi, mentioned in this latest newsletter, did in fact use that greeting "Pax et bonum", Peace and Good, to all he met, but a greeting was not a substitute for prayer for this great saint. Did you not know that the Franciscan Crown Rosary promoted by his Order consists of the five joyful and last two glorious mysteries of the Rosary? If Saint Francis didn't care for the Rosary or had no need for it, why did he adapt it for his Order in this way? Because he was a proponent of the Immaculate Conception, that doctrine of the faith that may have been officially pronounced only in the 19th century but was already a belief of the people even seven hundred years earlier in Saint Francis' time. You see how not only your religious expression, moved as you say by the Holy Spirit, is valid? How can aids to prayer that helped so many a great saint grow in their knowledge and imitation of Christ no longer be worthy of your consideration?

Anonymous said...

you said it sheeple, you are mindless.......

sheeple said...