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, http://www.tfp.org/ , 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.
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 http://ncrcafe.org/node/782 ):
“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.
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 mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org