Monday, January 24, 2005

Newsletter of 01/23/05

Thoughts from Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit.

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. Upton Sinclair

Affermation Night:
“Affirmation Night, sponsored by the parish Peace and Justice Commission, recognizes and ‘affirms’ those individuals and non-profit organizations in the Valley that are committed to works of peace and justice.”

The Pastor had the above sentence stricken from later copies of the parish bulletin inserts, publicizing Affirmation Night. This was a petty action, revealing more of our Pastor’s misunderstanding and mishandling of the parish than he realizes. The sentence describes the purpose of Affirmation Night.

Does our Pastor object to the parish’s affirmation of those committed to works of peace and justice?
Does our Pastor object to the parish’s espousal of the Church’s teachings on peace and justice?
Does our Pastor have a logically or theologically based argument that refutes these teachings?
Does our Pastor honestly believe that affirming the work of such groups as Mujeres Unidas, Comfort House and the El Milagro Clinic is inappropriate for a Catholic parish?

Or,... was this simply peevishness, an arrogant display of his personal dislike for those putting on the activity? Our Pastor will not attend this Affirmation Night, just as he opted out of last year’s, but seems very willing to judge its value, nonetheless.
¡Basta, Padre—Enough!

Affirmation Night—the Final One for the Parish
On Saturday, January 29th, at 7:00 pm, in the church, Holy Spirit will sponsor the last of its aforementioned Affirmation Nights. This activity, besides affirming the work for peace and justice in the Valley, has brought many outstanding speakers to us, including Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking.

This year’s speaker is Sister Dianna Ortiz. An Ursuline nun, Sister Dianna, while ministering in a retreat center in Guatemala was abducted, tortured and raped. She will speak of the shattering effects of torture on her life, her long slow journey toward healing, and her efforts to bring her perpetrators to justice.

Sister Dianna will be introduced by Jennifer Harbury, who is the widow of Efrain Bamaca Velasquez, a Mayan resistance leader assassinated in Guatemala by high level military officials. Upon learning of her husband's secret imprisonment and torture, she carried out an international campaign which revealed the CIA's involvement in her husband's murder.

Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton, from the Archdiocese of Detroit, Michigan, in reflecting on the Baptism of our Lord, highlights the particular way in which Jesus was called to minister and bring justice. In fulfilling Isaiah, Jesus was not to cry out and raise his voice in proclamations in the street. In the Hebrew text, the words for calling out in the streets would mean calling people to arms. Instead, Jesus was to minister with gentleness, compassion and nurturing. Jesus was not to break the bruised reed, but care for it, heal it and bring it back to life. In short, Jesus was to be a “servant-king”,.. not another military king to unite Israel.

This call to be a servant and to be people of gentleness and compassion is also our calling through our baptism. It is the way Jesus, through us, is to bring the promised peace and justice to the world.

Pope John Paul II
As we begin the next four-year chapter in the history of our country, the following words from Pope John Paul II, in his peace day statement from Jan. 1, 2005, seem especially timely:

“To attain the good of peace, there must be a clear and conscious acknowledgment that violence is an unacceptable evil and that it never solves problems. Violence is a lie. It goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity, the truth about Jesus. Violence destroys what it claims to defend, the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings. What is needed is a great effort to form consciences…to goodness, to nonviolence, to love.”

The Church in the Desert:
We are coming upon the Lenten time, the time for metanoia, a deep and fundamental conversion. As José Moya reminded us in the last newsletter, we cannot allow the desert to defeat us, but instead we need to take this time to look deep into ourselves and our community. Let’s rediscover the fundamental values of our parish, and then take what actions are necessary to implement them.

A Catholic Bill of Rights in the 1983 Code of Canon Law
According to well known canonist, Fr. James Coriden, the list of rights and responsibilities found in the 1983 Code of Canon Law possess constitutional status, and could be said to be a "Bill of Rights" for Catholics. He says: "...the contextual situation of these canons shows them to be of foundational significance. To call them constitutional is not an exaggeration. The rights stated in the code ... are concerned with matters basic to human dignity and to the meaning of church membership" [below is a selection from these rights; the references in parentheses are to the applicable canon]

1. The fundamental equality of all Christians based on baptism, and equality and dignity in action; the right and freedom to cooperate in building up the Body of Christ (c.208)
3. The right to petition, that is, to make known to pastors one’s needs (especially spiritual) and one’s hopes (c 212 #2)
4. The right to recommend: the right to advise pastors regarding the good of the church, and to participate in public opinion and informing the faithful (c.212#3)
8. The right to association: the right to found and direct associations with charitable purposes and as an expression of Christian vocation. (c.215)
9. The right to assembly: the right to hold meetings for the same purpose as to associate. (c.215)
10. The right to promote the apostolate and to one’s own proper initiative in apostolic work, based on the right to participate in the church’s mission. (c.216)
12. Academic freedom: the right to research and to publication (c.218)
16.The right to vindicate one’s rights in church court and to defend one’s rights in church court (c.221 #1) with equity and in accordance with law (c.221 #2)
18. The right to legality regarding sanctions, that is, the right to expect the church to impose sanctions only in accordance with law (c.221 #3)
From: A Challenge: Making the Rights Real. J. A. Coriden pp 7-29.

Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these or other issues concerning our parish, please contact us at If you would like to have your comments or correspondence posted on Reflections of the Spirit, please e-mail your post to, with an inclusion of "Holy Spirit" in your title line.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Newsletter of 01/09/05

Thoughts from Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit.

Thoughts About Baptism:
The readings for the next few Sundays are full of images of baptism and reminders that our baptism is not a passive event. Through our baptism we are called to actively live love and bring justice.

According to our gospel tradition, Jesus was baptized by John and then began his active ministry. Our baptism too begins our active ministry. And by our baptism we are all ministers – whether we live out that vocation as a lay person or as an ordained person. All of us are “called to be holy” and to be “a light for the nations”.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our church, in the present day, could realize and respect the voice and calling of both the laity and ordained without engaging in a tug-of-war over power. In the end, the words of the Father are meant for each of us: “Here is my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my Spirit”. From a Parishioner.

Two Mega-Trends in the Church:

Identity Pressures:
The phrase "the politics of identity" comes out of secular political science, and it describes a strategy adopted by minority groups when facing a hostile majority. The minority resists assimilation by accenting traditional dress, language, and ritual.

Today an increasing number of Christians feel that secularity itself represents a hostile majority vis-à-vis Christianity, and are drawn to an unapologetic assertion of identity. This reality means, among other things, that devotional practices such as the rosary and Eucharistic adoration, doctrines such as limbo and papal primacy, and the sacrament of individual confession—all matters that distinguish Catholicism from other branches of Christianity from other religions, and from secular modernity—are likely to draw increasing interest.

People who work on justice issues in the church, therefore, could face growing pressure to articulate why and how work on the death penalty, or Darfur, or the environment does not detract from the traditional mission of the church, which is spiritual and evangelical.

Commodification of spirituality:
Today, spiritual offerings are increasingly tailored to the consumer preferences of niche groups. Liturgical traditionalists, charismatics, peace-and-justice activists and liberal reformers all have their own publications, conferences, even movements and parishes in most dioceses. Catholics who move in one circle can sometimes go through life never interacting with someone from another.

In light of an ecclesiology of communion, this is problematic. All sectors of life in the church, including those in the social apostolate, will have to strive to carve out spaces where conversation can happen. John Allen, Vatican Correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, December 3, 2004.

Wants and Needs:
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes
You might find
You get what you need. Mick Jagger.

We want a lot in our parish:
Solid preaching that rises above the level of oft-repeated platitudes.
Liturgy that is a communal celebration, not an ornate show.
True servant-leadership grounded in the Second Vatican Council, not the Council of Trent, etc.

Any one of these is going to be difficult to have any time soon. But what we need and are entitled to as parishioners, is a Pastor who is in the parish, not one who has had 92 Masses covered by someone else in the months from March through November—a number that represents almost 25% of the scheduled liturgies during that period, and not one who is rarely in his office during the working day.

What we need and are entitled to as parishioners, are activities and services that are organized and on time, not weddings and quinceñeras scheduled at the same time (twice in the past few months), and not Masses that routinely start ten and fifteen minutes late.

What we need and are entitled to as parishioners, are parish governance bodies that meet and carry out their responsibilities as described in Canon Law (Finance Committee and Parish Council).

What we need and are entitled to as parishioners, is an efficiently run parish in which the staff has clear responsibilities, are communicated with as professionals, and are left to carry out their jobs without interference.

Are we going to get what we need? Are we not entitled?

Desert Time:
I heard somewhere that we are all angels born with only one wing. We can not fly unless we hold on to one another. At no time in the history of our parish has this been truer. The parish that many of us remember, vibrant and full of life, has been transformed into a dry husk.

Like some ancient dusty parchment with writing too faded to read, we try to decipher the words of the gospel on Sundays, but hear only disjointed homilies with little if any reference to how or why we need to live this call named Christianity. It has become our desert time.

It is increasingly clear that the parish we once knew and experienced is no longer here and there is no indication that it might rise again any time soon. It has been set aside in lieu of kneelers and cups of precious metal. It has been replaced with matching vestments and perpetual adoration.

So what are we to do? How do we as members of a community that once lived vibrantly and challenged one another, live through this dry sandy expanse?

Like the one winged angel described in the first line, we must learn to hold on to one another. We can not wander away from this house that was once home. Instead, we should challenge ourselves to bring the truth we once heard proclaimed from the altar to our brothers and sisters remaining in our house.

We all know parishioners that have wondered from home, looking for that living water that once quenched our thirst. Many of us have gone to other parishes, denominations or even stopped attending all together. Let us not give in to the desert, but like the children of Israel in their long sojourn through Sinai, we must travel together.

If you know someone that has wondered away, invite them back. Bring them to mass with you on Sunday and sit in the pew next to them. Search out a community of like minded men and women that believe in the gospel message of peace and justice. Contrary to what some in our church might believe, we are not children of a lesser god.

So, join in the flight of our one winged brothers and sisters. We can know with certainty that although we are in the desert, the promised land is there, just above the horizon, waiting to quench our thirst again. Jose Moya, a Parishioner.

Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these or other issues concerning our parish, please contact us at If you would like to have your comments or correspondence posted on Reflections of the Spirit, please e-mail your post to, with an inclusion of "Holy Spirit" in your title line.