Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Holy Spirit Parishioners' Newsletter 02/17/08

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
February 17, 2008

Correspondence from the Bishop
“Thank you for your expression of concern in regard to Monsignor Louis Brum’s ministry in your parish. I have received expressions of approval of his ministry, as well. The parish is seriously divided, and we must evaluate Monsignor’s ministry as well as that of the entire staff….

“I will cancel a personal trip…, so that we can address this urgent matter. In accord with the Church’s Code of Canon Law, I will then meet with the parish priest consulters whose counsel I must seek, as a first step, in these matters. I anticipate being able to take some action relatively soon.”

This correspondence from Bishop Peña was in February of 2006. Is there any evidence that “parish priest consulters” had their counsel sought? Was the Monsignor’s ministry ever formally evaluated? Was any action taken, ever, even if not “relatively soon” to resolve what the Bishop himself then called serious divisions? The answers to those questions are obvious and reveal the disingenuousness of the administration of the diocese—they acknowledge that there are (or were) problems at Holy Spirit and express commitments to solve those problems, but do absolutely nothing to create solutions. This is leadership?

This week the Bishop celebrates his 74th birthday, which means that next year at this time the diocese will have a new bishop or will be in the process getting a new bishop.

“Unless it is legitimately established otherwise, whenever a diocesan or coadjutor bishop must be appointed, as regards what is called the ternus to be proposed to the Apostolic See, the pontifical legate is to seek individually and to communicate to the Apostolic See together with his own opinion the suggestions of the metropolitan and suffragans of the province to which the diocese to be provided for belongs or with which it is joined in some grouping, and the suggestions of the president of the conference of bishops. The pontifical legate, moreover, is to hear some members of the college of consultors and cathedral chapter and, if he judges it expedient, is also to seek individually and in secret the opinion of others from both the secular and non-secular clergy and from laity outstanding in wisdom.” from the Code of Canon Law (C. 377.3)

This canon can be read very restrictively, emphasizing phrases like “if expedient,” “in secret,” and “laity outstanding in wisdom” which could justify a closed and minimally consultative process for selecting a new bishop. That restricted reading is not required, however. Prior to John Paul II, wide consultation with priests and laity was commonplace—Bishop Matthiesen of Amarillo (in an article in the NCR) recalled that about 100 lay people in his diocese were part of the consultative process that led to his being named bishop.

No one seriously believes that an open election of bishops by the clergy and laity of a diocese is workable in this day and age, but everyone should know that such elections were the norm in the early Church (St. Augustine was chosen bishop in exactly that way). From the early Middle Ages until the nineteenth century, bishops were more often than not chosen by the secular authority and ratified by the Pope. It is only with the collapse of the close relationships between church and state that that practice changed. In fact, the first bishop of the United States, John Carroll, was named after Rome consulted with the most well-known (at least in Europe) political figure in America, Benjamin Franklin, an anti-clerical agnostic.

The faithful of the Rio Grande Valley, clerical and lay, should have an opportunity to express their opinions about what sort of bishop they want and who should be their bishop. It is an ancient prerogative and one for which the law of the Church provides.

Slain In The Spirit?
“Being slain in the Spirit is a term related to the Charismatic movement and Pentecostalism which describes a religious phenomenon in which a person enters a state with loss of all motor control over their body and falls to the floor during an event perceived as a personal encounter with God's glory power, usually associated with occasions of public prayer ministry when the laying on of hands is practiced.

“Being slain in the Spirit occurs in many contemporary Charismatic or Pentecostal church meetings. It was also extremely common in early American (late eighteenth-century) Methodism, particularly at camp meetings and love feasts. Many refer to the phenomenon as ‘falling under the Spirit's power,’ ‘falling before the Lord’ or ‘resting in the Spirit.’ ” from Wikipedia

There is persistent talk that some parishioners have been “slain in the Spirit” during adoration at Holy Spirit. It is difficult for many people to take this sort of religious phenomenon seriously. We all admit the possibility of intense personal experiences of God, but most of us also recognize the huge potential for self-delusion that exists when we begin to deal with the mystical.

Traditionally, Catholicism has been extremely skeptical of the Charismatic movement and has been particularly pointed in its criticism of the practices of Pentecostal churches. It seems that the Parish should have the same healthy skepticism about being “slain in the Spirit” and other such phenomenon, particularly if they occur as part of an organized service in the parish.

Mixed Signals
The Diocese has announced that due to poor financial support for Public Radio from local listeners (only 15% of needed donations have been received) programming may have to been drastically modified or the station may even go off the air. Monsignor Briseño chastises listeners for not contributing and surmises their dissatisfaction with the technical quality of the signal is the cause.

The Good Monsignor might also consider the possibility that the small group of traditional supporters may be unhappy with more than the signal; they may be unhappy with the management of both operations (radio and television). The Hand of God fiasco, the purging of the board of directors, and rumblings of other personnel issues may the cause of disenchantment. Maybe it is time for the University of Texas, through its Pan American and Brownsville campuses, to buy the radio and television stations and operate them in the public interest, with proper oversight from the entire local community.

Cast Iron Beauty
There is a simple and elegant beauty when an object fully serves its purpose. We can sense this especially in handmade objects. We have a quilt that was made for us by my aunt. It is beautiful not just because of her sewing skills or because of the material. It is beautiful because it wraps us in warmth—physical warmth and her warmth.

I just recently learned how to cook with cast iron pans. There is a certain amount of respect and care you must treat a cast iron pan with—you can’t let it sit in water, it must be oiled and it must be preheated. But in learning to treat the pan correctly I was reminded that we all need to be treated with care and respect. And when that happens, we can beautifully fill our purpose. My cast iron pan is no longer a clunky mystery. It is beginning to take on the role of a cast iron pan from my husband’s memory. A pan his aunt would cook for them with, a pan whose appearance in her hand and headed for the stove immediately reassured you that something good was being prepared.

Scraps of material and simple cast iron that become beautiful as they serve their purpose. We are the same. As we treat each other with care and respect we can all discover our purpose. And in filling that purpose we can be transfigured, and the beauty our Creator crafted in us can be revealed. from Michelle Pena

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

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